Paul Jaussen’s ambitious Writing in Real Time, ranging from Leaves of Grass to Kenneth Goldsmith’s Weather and Juliana Spahr’s This Connection of Everyone with Lungs, attempts to comprehend serial poems and related longer forms as they have evolved from Walt Whitman to the present in terms of cybernetics, systems theory, and the contemporary study of complexity. In Jaussen’s book, modern science is called on once again to shed light on literary practices that, however much they may spring from modern and postmodern cultural conditions, are also rooted in one of the most archaic impulses of poesis, the creation of what Nathaniel Mackey (about whom Jaussen writes quite ably) names “the long song.”1 For Jaussen, “The history of art is . . . the history of system evolution and adaptation, one that generates the condition for future operations through...

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