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False Memory is a major political poem of unusual ambition, written through the events of the 1990s, representing the damaged world that we know in all its violence and inequality. Making a radical turn to renew the language of political poetry, Lopez rejects the traditional search for authentic personal experience and its individual subjective voice. False Memory is overwhelmed by the globalized slogans of advertising, consumerism, and all the special jargons that atomize our contemporary experience from the spheres of marketing, biochemistry, military, medicine, management, history, finance, fashion, theory, poetry, painting and so on. Driven by an acute social anxiety that engages these public languages, the poem is comic in its proliferation of banality and impossible desire. The memory of Elizabethan sonnet sequences and the soft haze of their Arcadian sunlight meets the postmodern car-advert in a shiny retro-pastoral: a modular sequence of 110 fourteeners in gleaming halogen-lit chrome. “Virgil knew all about ethnic cleansing”.
Andrew Crozier writes that “In any of these stanzas language emits the toxic glow of an intertextuality for which a functioning media awareness is its sufficient context.… From the start this writing anticipates the post-modern as a future condition of the person”. Widely anthologized and excerpted in poetry journals throughout the English-speaking world, False Memory is published complete for the first time by Salt in 2003.
‘Salt published by far my favourite individual volume of poetry this year, Tony Lopez’s False Memory (£8.95): a series of sonnet sequences collaging and remixing the white noise of 1990s Britain into a disorienting, sometimes hilarious, often sinister, and always satirical challenge.’ —Robert Potts, The Guardian, December 6 2003
‘My favourite book of this year was Tony Lopez’s False Memory (Salt), a collection of cento-like sonnet sequences which samples and blends the white noise of 1990s Britain – economics, politics, genetics, fashion, real estate, entertainment, literature – in a surreal and satirical collage, sinister, elegantly amusing, and ultimately asking demanding political questions.’ —Robert Potts, New Statesman, December 2003
‘Tony Lopez’s intricate sonnet sequence (a shorter version was published in 1996) is called False Memory, a wonderfully deceptive title for no one ‘remembers’ better than Lopez, for whom everything that happens, that he reads about or witnesses, becomes grist for the poetic mill. These eleven sets of ten linked unrhymed sonnets, written primarily in alexandrines, are full of startling aperçus and unexpected wisdom. And yet nothing is obvious in Lopez’s poetic universe, alternately commonsensical and surreal, down-to-earth and utterly fantastic. The book’s ‘casualness’ is highly crafted and designed: one reads through the sequence without wanting to pause for breath, its poetic premise being that ‘deferred closure is our only chance of attendance / When we finally step out of the taxi and begin to play.’’ —Marjorie Perloff
‘I’ve been engrossed in False Memory: the clean implacability of the style is arresting – and to a wretched Faustian like myself – even lovely. The world I see is very like the world I see in these poems, and there are many ways of registering being stunned. ‘Brought Forward’ is to me beyond praise.’ —Jerome J. McGann
‘Lopez’s writing, more than ever, engages with dystopian anxiety the grievous fictions of contemporaneity: it is beset and irked by its inexaustible material on every occasion, but by its denial to Lopez of his own voice, so fully has he read himself into and written himself out of it, genuine horror is forestalled.’ —Andrew Crozier
‘The pleasure of ‘False Memory’ is its consistent wit: its challenge is that, in presenting back to us the world we live in, but making it newly strange, it makes no prescriptions of its own, and indeed can be read wholly pessimistically... It may alternatively, be read as an act of defiance, suggesting that an abused public language can be repossessed to some degree. Either way, it is a strikingly accomplished work of art.’ —Robert Potts, TLS