"A Field of Nopes" by James Ducat

  • "A Field of Nopes" by James Ducat

This book of blackout poems is a mostly lighthearted, occasionally philosophical journey through selected application and rejection materials from the many teaching jobs the author applied for and did not get between 2011 and 2014. None of the materials come from their current employer.


A Field of Nopes will touch anyone who has ever put heart and brain on the line for a job—particularly those who have ever had to fend for their dignity and sanity in the brutal yet cruelly tactful academic market. These poems quietly blast through the wall of mystique surrounding rejection. Drawing from redacted official letters and other application materials, Ducat has delivered a collection that echoes the satiric tradition of Kafka and Vonnegut, the economy and wordplay of Dickinson and cummings, the lyricism of Rilke and Neruda. Readers will find here a kindred of yeses.
—Jo Scott-Coe, Unheard Witness: The Life and Death of Kathy Leissner Whitman (UT Press)
In this witty and brutal series of erasures, James Ducat lays bare the “rhetorical angels” of academic discourse. He guides the reader through the depersonalizing language of HR, making us question whether there can be room for any human person in such a machine. The combination of the original black-out drafts with lineated versions of the poems works beautifully to construct a feeling of dialog. Ducat evokes moments of unexpected lyricism amidst the fragments of corporate-speak. Somehow, the poems open a space for “courage,/ courage in the open/ sea” of endless nopes.
—Phoebe Reeves, author of Helen of Bikini (Lily Poetry Review Books)
An adjunct’s lot is hard, and the current academic field is ripe for sociopolitical reexamination. James Ducat’s new chapbook uses erasure as engagement, taking control of the emotional possibilities of rejection and turning the offensive language of aggressively polite rejection letters into wry, empathic self-compassion (“I seek I,/I am”). Nearly multi-media, the book shows its work—or perhaps we might say, its play. “I waive my right/to be considered valid,” Ducat’s opening poem “Release” wryly begins. If the eraser on a pencil is a tool of correction, and the blacking/whiting out model of erasure is an annihilation, Ducat’s use shows its political bona fides, correcting what is imperfect, setting aright what’s amiss, and smiling along the way.
—Jenny Factor, finalist, Lambda Literary Award, author of Want the Lake (Red Hen Press) and Unraveling at the Name (Copper Canyon Press)

James Ducat


James Ducat’s poetry has appeared in Carve, Bellingham Review, CutBank, Apogee, Spoon River Poetry Review, has been featured on Verse Daily, and is anthologized by The Inflectionist Review, Orangelandia and others.
James holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles, and is associate professor of English and creative writing at Riverside City College. He is the co-advisory editor of MUSE art and literary journal.

Wordpress: https://jamesducat.wordpress.com

Facebook: James Ducat - poet, photographer

Instagram: @ducatpoetphotographer

Linktr.ee: @jamesducat

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Tags: poetry, poems, blackout, erasure, hybrid, Mary Ruefle