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Fresh Failure: New Poems by John Tottenham

Fresh Failure: New Poems by John Tottenham




* This title is on pre-sale. Pre-orders ship March 2024

Softcover with French flaps, 96 pages
5 in. x 7 in. | 127 mm. x 177.8 mm.

Fresh Failure is the eagerly anticipated—by a knowing few—new volume of poetry by John Tottenham, whose previous slender collections, The Hate Poems; Antiepithalamia & Other Poems of Regret and Resentment; and The Inertia Variations, have led to him being described as “our preeminent contemporary poète maudit.”

Fresh Failure features a deepening and broadening of Tottenham’s trademark Magical Cynicism and Magnanimous Misanthropy. With hilariously ruthless ruminations on the artistic ego and the romantic id, he gives voice to the kind of thoughts most people prefer not to express but will automatically relate to and be entertained by. It is the kind of poetry accessible to people who don’t read poetry, i.e. everybody. Fresh Failure is ultimately a Triumph of Failure, and proves, as Jean-Luc Godard once remarked, that poetry really is “a game of loser takes all."

Cover design by Matt Dorfman


John Tottenham is the author of one novel, numerous essays, and three volumes of poitry: The Inertia Variations (Kerosene Bomb 2004 & 2010), an epic cycle on the subject of work-avoidance, indolence and failure; Antiepithalamia & Other Poems of Regret and Resentment (Penny-Ante 2012), a sequence of mean-spirited love poems with particular respect paid to the institution of marriage; and The Hate Poems (Amok 2018), in which he adopts the persona of an embittered middle-aged man with frustrated artistic aspirations and a healthy ambivalence toward the accepted pieties of romantic involvement.

A unique purveyor of “magnanimous misanthropy” and “magical cynicism,” Tottenham has been described as “our preeminent contemporary poete maudit.” 

His paintings and drawings have been exhibited in solo shows at galleries in Los Angeles and New York. His essays and criticism appear frequently in ArtilleryLA Review of Books, and other periodicals. His long-standing column in Artillery is widely read.

Tottenham performs regularly in Los Angeles—at rock venues, bookstores, bars, and comedy clubs. His performances include elements of stand-up and have been described as “confrontational self-deprecation.” 


Matt Dorfman is a designer, artist, and art director for the New York Times Book Review. While also maintaining a one-person office specializing in culture-centric projects and storytelling, Dorfman counts Serial, Penguin/Random House, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, The Atlantic, New Directions and Fresh Air with Terry Gross, among others, as his partners. He was recognized by the Society of Illustrators with the Richard Gangel Award for Art Direction in 2022.