Sunday, March 29, 2009

Poem According To World

I’ve been asked what each poem and world are made of and might start here

and might end they are made of the same thing which is text

Poetry should avoid using that should avoid accusation as a poem is the guiltiest thing there is. Poems are cannibals, but they’re sorry.

You might be worried I think poems aren’t made of language.

No worries. Poems are made of language.

Do you think you’d know a cranberry seeing it for the first time without language? I’d say no. Then I’d gather all the red things and crush them into paint to show you and feel sorry. Because the cranberry would be gone.

At least you’d recognize the color. Do you think a cranberry intends to be a cranberry?

Let’s say Mother made the cranberry. Now what? Let’s say I’m writing this.

If we assume everything is simultaneously mother and mothered, how might a poem made of language indicate that without upsetting its conscience? How might a woman

You might be worried I think women are poems.

While women were once made of poems, most have realized poems are cannibals and are asking for their parts back.

But like I said, poems have consciences now.

A poem with a conscience realizes it shares material with the world and does not take without giving back. A poem with a conscience acknowledges the mother while rearranging the mothered’s skins on its back. A poem might spare the heart, a lymph node for instance.

I, Jade Hudson, have been labeled Daedalus

I don't know why, but yeah...

The previous post is mine.

The Out of World Poet:

Must, 1, be willing to embrace the poem as both dissonant truth and beautiful lie-- the truth/lie being the poem's leniencies outside of its design, where it's patterns yearn for destruction of patterns, where it's oblivious self-destruction signifies its yearning for order. Where its call to order is its own, where its disobedience is its purpose.

Must 2, contemplate the following:

If I am the poet, I am being the poem I write,
in that
my maker earnestly made me not as I can make myself

and I desire to make myself, in the absence
of how I am designed to be, truly
what I am meant to


reject what the writer is to the poem
and care not.

Must, 3, view himself/herself/itself as a creator incapable of designating interpretation; A beginning of a process, a participant in eventual reapplication of the process, but not the process itself. The provider, a one provided for, but never the providence. To construct art "to be for the sake of institution" is no more creating "institution" than simply creating being. To create art with a function is to remove from the art the function of art.

While art can serve a function, its function neither exhibits the purified intention of the creator or the intention of the perceiver. While a crate of unavoidably damageable goods can be carried from one continent to another, it is neither purely the packager of the goods nor the receiver of the goods that contributes to the shape of the goods. The vehicle in which the goods traveled from one destination to another is not merely a distance, but something of material.

Must 4. See poetry as an opportunity in which the material intended (in relation to material understood) predestines the creation of counter ground. No matter what a poet seeks to employ in his/her poetry, success or failure (as it is wrongfully sought out) can only be witnessed from a moment separate than both creation and re-perception. The poem, when existent on the page, has become a separated clone of the writer's intention (an Out-of-World) (a construct of both its replicated half and a new half gained though its separate existence).

Must 5, realize the relationship of what was internal and what has become the externalization of what was internal, as neither the pure externalization of the internal or an externalization, but also an alternate "internal" based upon its exhibitionist quality. What is accomplished on a stage is not merely what was intended for the stage or the arena (the stage) where what was intended happened. Instead, a poem has the capability of being a third area (one which is created through the unavailability of a solid transfer). The concept of "the poem" becomes more or less, less in the more, more in the less, more in the more, or less in the less "the poem" when it becomes "the poem." The conscious materialization of poetry is not materialization of poetry, but the synthesis of material that materializes itself.

Thus, the Out of World poet, who seeks to better understand the inner world of poetry as an outsider, must 4, allow the poem to materialize itself. How the poem materializes itself in the minds of multiple others (though direct relation or through relationship) must be upheld as the creation of a successful, organic, self-sustaining creation. An act as simple as denying the poet's self is not the correct course of action, as this negates the poem's ability to relate to its creator.

Yet, understanding the poem as a mere relationship between artistic consciousness and page is restrictive to the unique relationship the poem comes to obtain through being perceived. The Out of World poet should not merely produce to understand self, as the poem is an opportunity to create an alternate self much more easily understood, and thus, of much more consequence.

Poems in Pockets: Poem Among World

1. The world is personal. It is composed of the environment that immediately surrounds us. The Poet may pretend that the world as a whole concerns her, but any and everything that amuses or inspires the Poet can be traced back to the spaces she has temporarily inhabited or continues to inhabit. This is not to say necessarily that the Poet is self-obsessed, only that she writes his spaces most comfortably and accurately. The Poet’s World is not interchangeable with her experiences. All experiences take place in some sort of space, whether that space is physical, metaphorical or figurative, and a Poet’s space is thus her World.

2. A Poet who aspires to be “worldly” (that is, one who consistently chases a profound idea in her own work or who expects to discover infinite horizons in every poem she encounters) is a shallow Poet. By always defaulting to the universal ideal, this sort of Poet doesn’t even manage to scratch the surface; the extent of her poetic aspirations is simply too broad. The successful Poet does not resist her inclination to write about her spaces and thus, she write more genuinely.

3. Poems are eventually suspended among the Poet’s World in pockets. These pockets are invisible and are akin to an isolation of sorts, (an incident, perhaps, but not consistently). Pockets are found everywhere among the Poet’s World, but the Poet’s entire World is not a pocket in and of itself. Pockets are comparable to vacuums, but instead of holding Nothingness, they accommodate a Something. These Somethings can be objects, people, concepts, and events, but they are ultimately limitless. Pockets and the Somethings inside them are always informed by the Poet’s World or atmosphere. Two Poets may inhabit a similar World but the ways in which they navigate and interpret it will always vary.

4. A pocket with a gripping (to the Poet) Something inside is fodder for a Poem. This phenomenon should not be confused with inspiration in the traditional sense of the word. Inspiration is too often associated with the romantic, the positive, the uplifting. The inspiration that is derived from the Something is comparable to a stimulus of some kind. This stimulus is always able to be traced back to the Poet’s World. It is up to the Poet to take the Something and shape it into a Poem in whatever way she sees fit. In this way, the Poet acts as negotiator of the Something. The Poet places her aesthetic upon the Something and readies it for turning back out into her World as a Poem. A Poem is a Something that is manifest, but not fundamentally blatant. A Poem is not always “wordable.” Because Somethings are limitless, it can be assumed that a Poem is not always a word.

5. There is no such thing as a small Poem or a small-minded Poem. No Poet or person otherwise is equipped to judge a Poem as such because they do not have the same knowledge of the author-Poet’s space. Criticism is encouraged when it comes to Poetry, but only if it is acknowledged as basically arbitrary. There is no such thing as a Master Poet in the sense that a Master Poet supposedly masters the entire spectrum of past, present, and future Poetry. A Poet can only master his own Poems and these Poems are forever changing. A Poet’s World is always evolving and not always by the choice of the Poet, particularly when it comes to the mind space. The Poet is hardly in control of the majority of these changes, therefore any Poet’s attempt to guide or influence another Poet’s work will ultimately fall flat or derail the Poet’s work from its natural course. Poetry-writing can be learned, but it is also a natural inclination and a natural process

Beyond a Poetic Manifesto

To determine what defines one’s poetry is not a simple process. Creating a series of guidelines in which to write is a difficult endeavor. In order to create said set of manifesto ideas it is necessary to question what is important in one’s poetry and from this importance define clear characteristics that are applicable to one’s method of creating poems. As a poet you must go beyond the simple ways in which humanity lives and search for meaning through different mediums and in the world beyond the actual.

My Poetic Manifesto

Appreciate all forms of artistic expression and actively engage yourself in experiencing these forms. Attend plays, view art, listen to music, go to museums, read books and in the end synthesize these experiences and let them affect your life and your poetry.
In all forms of poetry we must push our limits and live artistically to our fullest capability, exploring and realizing every element that we encounter and making use of its’ utility.
All failure in poetry is subjective. Even when one feels that failure is unavoidable, one may have just succeeded at creating something greater than one could have ever have imagined.
Respect all the poets and poetic movements that have come before you, regardless if one feels that the poetry does not warrant high esteem. Learn from previous works; learn from other poets’ mistakes.
Do not be afraid to take risks and chances in your poetry. Write poetry that you don’t know if it will work out in the end. Make mistakes, appreciate the mistakes and then learn from your mistakes.
Everyday try an experiment or attempt to discover something new. Do something you have never done before and let your work reflect the element of discovery.
Question the choices that you make and try to understand why these choices will eventually have a specific impact upon you and your poetry when all is said and done.
View life and your surroundings as if today is your last living day. Breathe your last breath into your poems. Let this outlook consume you and your poetry in a positive manner. Shine your own light into everything that you do.

-Ellison Hitt

The Poem Between World Manifesto!

The Poem Between World Manifesto is a call for poems that revels in their Betweeness! As the World moves ever closer (because time as humans know it is linear) to oblivion, everything in it has been defined to radical poles. Every object and thought has received a name, a place, a symbol, an ideology. The new radical is the space in middle that is at neither end of a pole, but where the poles mingle among each other and are muddled. This is not to say that between poems do not take stances; they do! They take stances that recognize themselves as transitory and without absolutes, except in the fleeting moment. Because as we (the human race) move forward in technology and thinking we somehow only move towards chaos and destruction. The only poetry that makes sense than is the one that captures and exposes this entropic state’s energy.

A Between Poem’s characteristics:

1. It enjoys and plays in liminal spaces. It attempts processes that elicit the liminal and forms that invoke it.
2. A Poem Between World’s medium is language. Language is what resides between the World and the mind. It is one step of removal from the world as object. It is the Meta-World waiting to be heard or read. Because Language is the symbolic system for defining the object-ness of the world it is the perfect medium for Between Art.
3. It exists in middle of the world and attempts to hold the energy of its subject in place with language. The language must demonstrate the energy of the world. The world on the edge of oblivion has a great deal of energy and a long history for the poem to reside in, so it must find a way to jump off the page into an even more Between place.
4. Its favorite subject is anything that may be considered liminal (dream, the apocalypse, dates, time, airports, engagements, pregnancies, walks, conversation, the internet, etcetera).
5. It holds a high regard for conversation. Whether it’s putting several seemingly irrelevant “things” (objects, ideas, subjects, voices, disciplines, or ways of thinking) in conversation with each other, the meeting of voices, or only conversing with itself and its reader—The Between Poem enjoys the exchange of ideas and sentiments. It believes that the exchange and process of the conversation is more important then the results or thought that follow.
6. It is not necessarily polite conversation (Although it does like to talk about the weather). It is preferably anything but polite conversation. It looks to throw completely opposing or unrelated “things” in the ring together to box it out or just stare each other down and surprise the audience.
7. A Between Poem’s purpose is not necessarily a didactic one. The point of the conversation is for it’s own sake. It’s not interested in teaching its reader anything. It’s only interested in the exchange—the moment that the brain begins to process just before it creates reactionary or complacent thought and it’s buzzing with the energy of the poem itself.

PoemUnderWorld: The Death of Poetry and Its ReBirth

The Poem is dead! And so are its Poets. The great historical promenade that has overshadowed to overtake us is no more. Poets turned mythic by time, that great alchemizer, who created once-fresh, once-new works are gone! But still we are haunted by them. We are told to marvel at their works, cadaverous poems propped up in rotting anthologies and musty journals, untouchable & immutable in their agedness to the pedestrian reader—we are told. After a poem is born, if it ages well, it is killed by the Academy of Undertakers, plucked & stuffed, then displayed in the Graveyard of the Canon. They stare at us with glazes from gassy eyes, the life sucked out of them, taken down sometimes to be dusted off then beaten senseless with questions: What did you mean when you said—Who are your accomplices—Explain yourself!
A curious thing, admiration; a curiouser thing, vengeance: for those who can’t do punish those who did. The time has come to off them all. The Poems, the Poems, in musty old tomes, we’ve come to settle the score. No—we’ve come to kill you once more. No! We’ve come to feed on your gore. The Poems are dead, but there’s life in them still—it is our job to give them the proper burial and let their bodies decay into the soil to be sucked up into budding new life that gives birth to new poems. Do we embalm our ancestors and esteem their tombs more highly than our children’s houses? No! We pay tribute to them by living and (pro)creating—therefore we will acknowledge from whence and from whom we came and birth new children that may resemble them (a nose here, the curve of the lip, unfortunate ears) but they will be of our own creation.
But we will not merely wait for the soil to suck nutrients from their decayed corpses to feed the Poetic Rhizome, we will suck the flesh from the fingers themselves. Chop old Poems, stripped of their fat, and bake them into new poem pies, splatter their blood on the walls and eat their hearts and intestines. We must be irreverent! For this is the reverence they demand. Rotting in the realm of High Art is no tribute, and coffins of books are no Afterlife. For life is cyclical, and the death of a poem is not to be mourned but celebrated, for new life will spring from it!
We must remember that a poem is true as a life is true—it is part artifice, part reality, and at its best, true to itself. Perhaps in its later incarnations, a poem will come closer to Truth, though surely the Truth it seeks will be different. The form it takes will be different, as well—it might be found useful to mimic the earlier forms, but newly birthed poetry will not be bound by form or genre. The birthright of this new poetry is all genres, all forms, the past and present, looking to the future—for we will not cannibalize old meat exclusively. The poem will be fed from many sources—namely new sources unavailable to our predecessors; we will mine everything from the quotidian to the most advanced technology, and create life from death before we become shadows ourselves!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jade Hudson's Review

"Collapsible Poetics Theatre"
Rodrigo Toscano

To say that Toscano’s “Collapsible Poetics Theatre” is a mere reflection on what has become an all-consuming Globalism (in poetry, art, industry, and the society mirrored by the interconnectivity of these arenas) would be a vast understating of what appears to be the book’s objective. Instead of mere polarization into rejection of what is (for an acceptance of what can be) or an acceptance of what is and a satire of where we seek to change, Toscano’s work is a marked attempt at defining the inner relationship driving our decision either way. While there is a concentrated aim to modern art, which results from the experience of the past, Toscano means to create a counter institution or counter ground. The “Collapsible Poetics Theatre” is a theatre/poetry anti-school-conversation, a side-perspective from which we can see all sides tugging and how we have been tugged.
Toscano opens his book with an interesting statement: “Alienable Dividuals. Entities. Seek a freedom in, not from.” As suggested by “Alienable Dividuals” Toscano is toying with the idea that we are portions of a whole acting in (an almost geometrical) relationship with each other:
(1) How’s it that we’re four distinct entities here?
(4) How’s it that we’re singular and one-at-a-time ?
(2) How’s it that we’re each one quarter of a whole?
(3) How’s it that we’re each four times more than the other

For an explanation to why we are in Geometry with one another, according to Toscano, one need only look as far as our unconscious, daily activity. As Toscano opens “TRUAX INIMICAL,” there is a distinct mechanization in what seems to be our computer usury:
(1) Scrolling
(4) Pointing
(2) Clicking
(3) Selecting

The poem builds upon this concept. These options/ anti-options become more overwhelmingly inclusive of personalities and people. Until, in eventuality, externally, we see this mechanical structure to represent ourselves and what we expect out of art.
The ways in which Toscano means to reveal the mechanical mold of the modern artist are perhaps even more clear in (within the context of “Eco-Strato-Static”) needing to read “Group B” and “Dance” “In the approximate rhythm of their twinkling” or by drawing out a “spokesperson” (accomplished through dangling “…a giant mic from a giant crane” [as though fishing out the means to stardom by hooking others on the self]). Indeed, the creation of this counter or perhaps actual reality is reflective of the poets plight, that he/she must sell himself/herself (at times, regardless of worth).
In general, worth or the attaining of this worth is something pivotal in “Collapsible Poetics Theatre,” as in every differing piece the poetic voices are unnamed. While they are referred to in the introductory piece as numbers (which almost makes them seem like mechanical components), they are later referred to as equally ambiguous “players” (as though they are simple components of a mathematical calculation). Additionally, different characters are indicated by left alignment or right alignment (which in the case of “Eco-Strato-Static” may signify a mirroring artistic leniency) and Bold, Italic, or normal text (which might again be a signal to archetype). The relationship between voices and their ambiguity (the created space) become a yearning for identity that often reinforces their ambiguity (as well as greater points about it [another alternate area of discussion]).
While this worth is something that Toscano is directly concerned with, he is also content to point out the function of modern art. In “BALM TO BILK,” voice 1 counters counter voice 2 “you can’t… ‘blick’ that.” Mainly, this is because
“…any formula
based purely on affect
outside the realm of
objects, object’s origins, relations
logic, counter-logics
nth degree determinations of—” [cannot be regarded as poetry]

Voice one additionally asks “where are the imbedded social demands; in this stuff.” Yet, down the page, voice 1 begins to speak with the terms of voice 2 (as voice 2 speaks to the logical yearnings of voice 1). What results is a counter artistic ground where one can see both functional sides of the artistic self. The reader is led to think about themselves as one voice or the other and (upon re-examination) to think about themselves completely differently.
There are more overt ways that Toscano seeks to create a combined alternate ground. In certain portions, differing voices depend upon each other to syntactically construct the meaning of the whole:
(1-2) I
(1-2) Deep
(3-4) Of
(3-4) Night
In other cases, the voices interact with the perceptions of one another. “Eco-Strato-Static” is a poem where a voice mentally drives the actions of the different voice, as though one voice is the process of thought and the other the externalization of that thought. This internal relationship gets cloudy, as at one point there is a complete disconnection:
Start acting like you have an innovative product.
What’s happening?
I’m acting like I have an innovative product.
It seems that even the disconnection of one aspect of a person to another creates a complete counter conversation. After losing track of the mental portion, the previously quoted poem regains its bearings and argues with itself.
As the continual creation of a counter-ground, Toscano’s “Collapsible Poetics Theatre” is just that. It continually stresses its own demands and then demands more. Theatrical components of “Clock, Deck, and Movement” become a purposely over-demanding poetry of direction. Where directions might previously be conceptualized as simply inclinations, exhibited in performance, it seems Toscano means for the performance to exhibit the intricacy of the cues. Moreover, Toscano means to create additional counter-ground in how we are meant to take this predestinated material and construct the play on the page.
Eventually, what results in the “Collapsible Poetics Theatre” is a collapse of the known world into itself (much like a curtain [surrounding us at all times] bunching up as it streams to the ground). A vision is made available through newly gained perceptional ground. We see things about culture, politics, society, economy, and identity we’ve never seen (or have, in hopes of retaining certain delusions, refused to see).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Body: An Essay by Jenny Boully

Jenny Boully’s The Body: An Essay is an exercise in the stripped-down economics of the page and the poem: filled with mostly-blank pages, the only text present appears in the form of footnotes. Annotating a nonexistent text, The Body’s form immediately disarms the reader: with no “body” to speak of, the narrative happens solely in the non-sequential asides at the bottom of the page. Boully leads us, blindfolded, through the underbelly of the poem; sensing our unease, she responds, “2. Let it exist this way, concealed; let me always be embarrassed, knowing that you know that I know but pretend not to know.”

Okay, but what can we know? Certainly that this is pushing genre boundaries to their breaking point: like Thalia Field’s Point and Line, Boully’s Body incorporates the song and the stage, the privacy of internal monologue and the clamor of polyvocalism; like Samuel Beckett’s Malone Dies, Boully empties the book and the narrative of all convention, yet manages still to paint pretty pictures and make them dance; like Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, the dominant narrative happens, however disjointedly, in the annotation; and yet, in the wake of all of these tricks, Boully manages to perform one final sleight of hand—the “actual” text has disappeared, and the reader is left, somehow, to identify her narrative card in the footnotes. It’s worth speculating, however briefly, what the invisible text might look like—a text footnoted with stage directions and personal anecdotes, snatches of journal entries and brusque editorial remarks—for what such text could feasibly exist? But the daydream is mostly folly; Boully is not concerned with what the text might be doing, but what it is doing.

Boully’s footnotes shift in and out of first and third person, nearly always focusing on a woman—easily read and often directly referenced as Boully herself. (“14. Ms. Boully must have been confused, as it was actually_______, not _______, who uttered ‘_______’.” or, “33. All the same, how sad and strange that I, Jenny Boully, should be the sign and signifier of a sign, more-over, the sign of a signifier searching for the signified.”) Spliced with quotes from Joyce, Derrida, and Dante, Boully guides us through the hell of the loss of a lover (“35. I was the lonely tripod. I was the cup of tea left behind”) down the right road lost to memory’s gaps and conscious erasure.

In Boully’s under-text world, everything’s gone awry: “100.n. In the morning, the doves cooed their fuck-yous. And she departed, taking the wrong baggage, the wrong flight of stairs. Over the fire escape, the dress fluttered in the misdirected wind. Because he never said the word, the bits and pieces of her: lipstick and rose petals, sugar-spoons and pink envelopes, ended up in the wrong pockets. And damn-it-all-to-hell if someone didn’t, overnight, uproot and replant the road signs in all the most-traveled but wrong intersections.” Another character in the notes, Tristam, tries to orient himself in these accounts, “…curious as to which papers the footnotes corresponded” and discovers that “…the ‘footnotes’ were actually daily journals of the author’s dream” (143). Boully adds, “143.z. Dreams themselves are footnotes. But not footnote to life. Some other transactions they are so busy annotating all night long.” But these notes are not just a recording of fantasies, for dream, like its twin, memory, is a meaning-maker, and although she’s not left with much, Boully usurps control: “106. After all, in the editing room, the editor often wields greater control than the director.” For it is Boully herself who has been left on the periphery: perhaps writing there, then, “will provide something explanatory for later, while gaps of time when one failed to write would mean that one had no record of the affair—love with no proof of purchase, and therefore, no hopes of redemptions or exchanges” (94); perhaps she is embodying the residue like Alice Notley’s lonely protagonist of In the Pines, living in “grief stripped to shape alone.” Regardless, this distillation is given on her terms, to her end.

Though clearly preoccupied with its protagonist’s own loss and subsequent erasure, The Body is also playing a seductive withholding game in its relationship with the reader: a fissure exists between what Boully knows/is and what she’s revealed to us in the text. Boully is herself the departed lover, stringing us along with just enough of the right words to keep us baited. This coyness often feels delightfully earned: “98. ‘You will never find the life for which you are searching.’ 99. Except, perhaps, for poets and prostitutes”; other instances are simply cloying: “87. To properly protect one’s hard drive, one should take great care not to open attachments (k) from unknown users. k. Consider love here.” These moments, well-executed or less-than, salvage the poem from the graveyard of elegy and propel the reader through the fragmented text.

Which isn’t to say that The Body isn’t elegiac; however, though it mourns a death, it offers hope: “115. Everything I do, I do because I know I am dying…Poetry is an instant, an instant in which transcendence is achieved, where a miracle occurs and all of one’s knowledge, experiences, memories, etc. are obliterated into awe. Is anything I say real? And by real, I mean sincere—or is everything an attempt to procure love? I know now why the line breaks: it is because something dies, and elsewhere, is born again…” Perhaps here lie the answers—the only meaning to be made isn’t meaning at all, but awe; the experiences must be suffered to be transcended after in poetry. The Body delivers: in its resurrection of the dead, it transcends mere annotation to take its place on the page and in the mounting number of provocative new voices.

Monica de la Torre between "Public Domain

Monica de la Torre’s book, Public Domain, is a crowded express train ride where only the most important stops are made and viewed momentarily before the individual is propelled into the next shared space with new riders. While on the train ride that is Public Domain the reader enjoys the narrative voice’s unique perspective and wit on her personal life while throttling toward the larger public space. Like a public transit ride the reader encounters many voices with different destinations. The voices are in many forms, they are multi-lingual, and have various agendas while simultaneously funneled through De La Torre’s unique perspective and wandering eye.

The opening poem, “Is to Travel Getting to or Being in a Destination,” establishes the books as a liminal space. De la Torre throws us in the mix with a captivating opening line “the next poem was inspired by something I overheard” (7). Through the line she immediately establishes the players as an individual entangled in a world of others where everything is open to the possibilities of poem. The poem “travels” by stating what “the next poem” is “called” or “about” and then moves to the speaker’s observations of others while side stepping the poem’s self-proclaimed subject matter.

The rest of the book chugs along by shifting gears into different poetic forms yet continuing to explore the space where identity is caught between the individual and public realm. The next long piece, “The facts”, plays in prose and lyric, the space of the page, and bilingualism to establish the speaker as an ironic Confessionalist through her admittance of being told by her “therapist” that if she “could only put down her obsession” in her work she would “be much happier” (13). One of the speakers “obsessions” is of her “crush on a musician” known as “Blank” (15). Through “The facts”, De La Torre continues to examine the theme of people as public objects in list poems. The speaker plots ways in which to discover more and more out about her crush, Blank. As a celebrity, Blank becomes an object subject to the public domain. Meanwhile, at the bottom of each page the reader finds more out about the speaker’s obsession with “lists”. De La Torre is allowing the speaker to have a kind of identity crises on the page as her opinion on lists changes and seems to suggest the poem as another kind of “list”.

The book continues along its path from the public to private sector and begins to pull out all the formal stops. De La Torre examines erasure as a vehicle in which political information is withheld from the public. And for this non-Spanish reader, even the language becomes a gap in understanding between members of the public space. Her multi-voiced piece, “The March Papers”, begins to turn the power back over to the individual while also keeping the reins on it through editing. Voices gathered from the editorial sections of The New York Times merge together while De La Torre tells the reader “texts can be read in any order” and “circular reading and repetition is encouraged” (45). Of course much erasure was performed while treating the texts, but De La Torre has left the rest of the performance up to the reader, allowing for his or her own bit of agency while en route.

Finally, De La Torre steers the reader to the more familiar but liminal space of the World Wide Web. Here identity is up for grabs in the form of an email conversation between many Monica de la Torres and at In “”, De La Torres pokes fun at poorly written websites and the self-help culture. By continuingly repeating the word “self” in the piece, De La Torre suggest the lack of meaning in the word and possibly in identity itself. In “Doubles”, one woman’s attempt to understand herself better through a lost mother (Monica de la Torre once of Argentina) is the catalyst for an email correspondence. Thus each new Monica de la Torre contacted is left to disclose her identity aside from her name and stake claim in her identity.

Of course by arriving at the end of the book with “Doubles” the reader is left to ponder who is Monica de la Torre? The author of Public Domain is a witty poet invested allowing the self to conflict with the public sphere and the other individuals contained there. She has the irony and play of any New York school poet but carries whole bag of new tricks. She’s invested in the additional layer the forms she chooses add to each poem but largely the writing holds up on its own with a playful but sharp voice. The writing is conscious of it’s poetic state at many times suggesting that one way to find the space where identity may reside in flux among an ever-growing public sphere is to poem it out.

The Landscapist, Pierre Martory

The Landscapist comes from an interesting void. As John Ashbery, the collection's translator, points out, “French poetry in the decade following World War II was in a period of the doldrums”; of Martory's poetry he notes: “he seldom even showed it to anyone (myself excepted)”. So in reading Martory's poetry, it is often difficult to locate a style with which to associate it. The language is unobscured enough, and yet there is something deeply disconcerting when the relatively familiar deep images of stagnate bodies and dreamscapes turn on an article into fragmented musings on the troubled presence of the subject. The poetry collected in The Landscapist navigates a dizzying half reality that is interrupted each evening and morning, but it also straddles a desert of sorts, with on the one side, a profound interest in and respect for the classical plastic arts that both preceded Martory's writing by a chasm of years and figure into his work as its nearest possible contemporaries, and on the other, an Anglophilic and media saturated readership.
And then there is Ashbery's momentary quip in the Introduction, that “French poets must struggle to escape the crystalline tyranny of the French language” that seems at once a gesture at locating some of the aloofness of Martory's writing and a rationalization for the inclusion of the French originals of each poem alongside their English translation. Not to say that the writing is wholly without precedent: it is strongly grounded in the symbolist tradition of Baudelaire and its sometimes dense images are reminiscent of Hugo's Fuilles d'Automne, and its tone almost expressly conveys a profound douleur that smacks of Rimbaud in lines like “Was it me alive nailed to the trace of dreams / Weeping for my bound hands that a departure has cut of / Me weighted with mourning a forgotten happiness?”. Yet the poems manage a subtle but resounding freshness in the ways that they slowly turn in on themselves and implode, from the Ashbery-esque staccato revisions, “...the gesture of eternity / seized by the eye the hand the mind”, to its more frustrated auto-engineered disasters: “In this country how do you say Love? / Or does each word multiplying its power tenfold / Crush the ideas it expresses”.
At its worst, Martory's poetry is trapped in its attempts to be richly evocative and heavily meaningful. Blame it on the translation, blame it on a cultural misunderstanding, but the somber tone the poetry carries can't sustain the respect of the reader through lines like “The depth / Of closed eyes reveals the universe in its chasms” or the peremptory attempts at insight in endings like: “And with them the barely recognizable clown // Standing before the mirror cheeks dulled / Who looks with candor over his shoulder / At the ashes of the diamonds that vanished yesterday”. Its as if the figurative language game has been turned on its head and, rather than “ashes of diamonds” elevating a simple yearning for days past and bringing it into a new relationship with the reader, the flabby verse only makes the nostalgia expressed in the poem seem banal and a little funny.
And yet one gets the impression that the writing is somehow working to resurrect all of its own failings, the images that are lost to their own grandiosity, the snubbed quotidian that is bloated with classical references—it's best in “Prose des Buttes-Chaumont” : “A book begun in a manuscript by a monk / And finished on the screen of a computer terminal / In a bruised language like overripe figs / Where the perfume of a little-known alphabet stagnates...?”. So if the stumbling block in reading Martory's poetry is its overripeness of images then it's the sudden moments of frankness that bring the reader back into the work. It's best expressed in “Serenity”: “I let this rhythm beyond limits live in me, / And carry me beyond every resolution”. One gets a sense of this “serenity” in lines like “Bathing in th lights of a false past I unroll / Landscapes and faces, accidents and good fortune / To please the one who listens to me, and with him perhaps / To exorcise time”; the beauty isn't resurrected, but there's a conceptual frailty to the generalizations and the limitless negative spaces of the poetry that transports it outside of its own failings.
The lack of a literary milieu to contextualize Martory's writing returns to mind and I realize that what the poetry is really transporting me out of aren't the failings of the poetry, but the supersaturated landscape of anglophile literacy—the media that consumes and commodifies; as Martin Earl puts it, “the mediatic deity is, if anything, over-communicative, the big brother that never shuts up, drowning out any of the feeble piping we might muster”. Martory's work is breath of familiar but fresh air, perhaps resembling a long line of canonical French poetry, but only superficially. The poetry may not be sui generis, as Ashbery claims, but it is straining against everything it so closely resembles, and the result is a poetry that is negotiating a sort of purgatory, always drifting just to far from the discourses in which it ought to be involved; from consistently interrupting its own picturesque dream narratives with blood, fluid, and waking, to the very fact that Martory had few, if any, contemporaries, the poetry remains aloof. “It was from now on precisely too late for me”. And here we find the pleasurable, meaningful aspect of Martory's poetry—it never quite fits, and it's aware of this fact. This is especially poignant as it comes to an American audience in translation; the poetry is curiously foreign in its phrasings and choices, but only subtly so, noticed at a distance. It doesn't politely ask you to pause and consider the machinations of language, rather, it settles in the mind and disturbs it, haunts it, and forces you to try to correct it, to make it fit. The text is alone, it doesn't fit—and not for want of trying—and I'm resigned to not force it.

Renee Gladman's Newcomer Can't Swim

Stephanie Carpenter
Review of Newcomer Can’t Swim by Renee Gladman

Renee Gladman’s 2007 release, Newcomer Can’t Swim, resists spatial binaries, forcing the reader to reevaluate “common ground,” to morph and change in both familiar and unfamiliar environments. Though Gladman writes in prose for the duration of this particular volume, we are forced to commit to the shifts in time and space that are just as likely to occur within a single sentence as they are within an entire paragraph. An unsettling anchor in reality is ever-present in these dreamy domains. While the poems fit in spaces both confined and broad, from the paradox of sexuality to a vast multi-cultural city to the seat of a folding chair, they are truly reminiscent of territories only a mind can go to thrive. Leave your body at the door.
Narrative and point of view play a dual role within the seven individual vaguely-titled “chapters” of the collection. These narratives are mind personas or forms rather than tangible bodies carrying out physical deeds in a concrete setting. We are taken from place to place (a city, a restaurant, a painting, a chair) all nonspecific where unique details are concerned. Gladman’s impressive use of somewhat cryptic and obscure description ensures that each word in every poem counts. From “Untitled, Park in City”:

Against the back, the mouth, when having to turn away from
It. Bodies move closer through the night, but remain sepa-
rate here in this park. The impulse hovers. Time makes the
long body short, small-waisted now: yellow skin, a brown tuft
of hair, you or I dreaming. With the back up.

Description is secondary. The subject of the poem links and thereby roots ambiguous, blobby people (small-waisted things with yellow skin, brown hair) to a generic, unnamed park. A separation between “bodies” or forms in this environment is crucial, but also allows for the impulse to draw nearer.
Similarly, in “Untitled, Woman on Ground,” Gladman navigates a habitat with her sketchy mapping. This time, the subject, a female form, is positioned on the ground, having been struck by a cab. Others perch on the sidewalks to catch a glimpse of her and to gain knowledge of her plight. This particular section is told in second person so as to invite the reader into her metamorphosing mind-over-body experience:

A woman bends down and wipes your forehead with a
cloth, perhaps a bandana taken off her hair. ‘The car that
hit you is parked around the corner,” she reassures. You
reach out for her retreating hand and bring it back towards
you. “Honey, you were crushed,” she whispers.

In the fourth section, “Untitled, Colorado,” Gladman’s sharp, dry wit is showcased as she sketches a scene from a restaurant in which two women (designated by letter rather than first name) leave their table to have a brief sexual encounter in a bathroom stall:

A. towers above me as we walk to the lady’s room. The restaurant is
working out fine, but the conversation we need to have can’t take place
at the table where we’re sitting. So we agree to continue it in the bath-
room. A. worries that her beer will be taken while we’re gone, and I’m
worried about my wallet, which I left in the middle of the table, under
a pile of napkins surrounded by hot-sauce bottles. The bathroom is un-
occupied. Once inside, I pull her tank top over her head and seize her
left nipple with my mouth. I have to stand on the toilet to do this. Well,
I have to kneel on the toilet. I tug on the nipple, and wrap my arms
around her waist. She does next what all day I’ve been hoping she
would do, and afterwards screams, “Re…!”

Time to go back to our table.

One gets the sense that the occasional body (form) in Gladman’s work is a wanderer and that we are merely invited to wander alongside them. In the “chapter,” “Louie Between Cities,” our chief subject is a dog whose understanding of the world both mirrors and contradicts that of a person-body’s and smudges the lines so that animal blends into human:

From the ship, as we made our approach, I watched the mud in dis-
belief. Something had happened to the sand, to the absolute blue of
the sky. When I was young, I stood between the two and burned. My
skin blistered and my ass wagged; I was excited. We called it “eating
heat.” We scavenged across the plains, like dogs, for the sun, and by the
end of the day, found enough to return home happy. This time, the
mud made everything brown, from the sky to the grass surrounding our
houses—yes my house was still there, just miserably brown—even my
family exhibited the cast.

Here, the reader is given disjointed clues as to the species of the speaker. While “ass wagged” would certainly suggest a canine narrator, “like dogs” challenges and disputes this theory. We recall the section, Untitled, Woman on Ground,” in which a speaker we can assume is somewhat human has a ground-level view of her surroundings. Here, too, we are back on the ground, this time as a dog-body, looking up at passersby. This is a fine illustration of Gladman’s literal attention to positioning, how it shapes and mold perceptions and informs environments.
Gladman doesn’t necessarily strive to fulfill specific goals in her work, nor does she attempt to operate in themes other than the overly general theme of disjointed dream-space. Rather, much like Thalia Field and Nicole Brossard, she blurs the boundaries between genres, expanding and tightening the perimeters of the traditional story with what I imagine is a great deal of ease and an enormous success. While her non-sensible (though, not at all senseless) outcomes may be somewhat standoffish, they’re always a surprise. Gladman, in writing Newcomer Can’t Swim, aims perhaps to challenge the conventions of prose, poetry, space, subject, and point of view. In this capacity, she doesn’t disappoint.

Renee Gladman's Newcomer Can't Swim

Warhorses Reviewed

Brett Strickland
Review of Yusef Komunyakaa's Warhorses

Like Aphrodite rising from the foam of Uranus’s severed genitals, the poems in Yusef Komunyakaa’s most recent volume, Warhorses, begin in violence and birth a warped sort of love. Komunyakaa draws heavily from stories of ancient war for the first section, “Love in the time of War,” referencing the Gilgamesh Epic, Greek heroes Achilles and Odysseus, and biblical characters such as Samson and Cain and Abel.

The first poem begins with the juxtaposition of two phrases, “The jawbone of an ass, a shank” a line which recalls the biblical story of Samson, who used a donkey’s jaw to kill one-thousand Philistines. But this first line also illustrates one of the major themes of Warhorses—the nature of humanity is intertwined with violence, and people will twist everything around them—animals, objects, and even emotion—toward violence. A jawbone in itself is not naturally a weapon. Perspective created a shank, just as it is human proclivity for violence that molded an animal—a horse—into an instrument of war.

Each poem in the first section is written as a sonnet, and although Komunyakaa breaks the stanzas differently in various poems, the first eight lines consider war, and the final six are devoted to the breed of love that exists in wartime.

The separation between the two is clear in poems such as “They swarmed down over the town,” which begins:

They swarmed down over the town
& left bodies floating in the ditches
& moats. Bloated with silence,
blue with flies on the rooftops.

The second half concerns the manifestation of love that arises after the violence:

On the wild forgetful straw beds,
they created a new race, a new tongue
to sing occidental prayers & regrets.

Once readers understand the way Komunyakaa is organizing the stanza’s, however, he begins to erase the boundaries between the love and war. No longer at opposite poles, the two become, at times, inseparable. Constant warring surrounds love, and as a result, love retains qualities of violence, such as in the first section of “Hand-to-hand: the two hugged each other”

Hand-to-hand: the two hugged each other
Into a naked tussle, one riding the others back
locked in a double embrace. One
forced the other to kiss the ground.

Although this stanza begins the poem, it just as easily could have ended it according to Komunyakaa’s method of organization. The two men are locked together “Hand-to-hand.” Whether in combat or in love is unclear, and because of the way that Komunyakaa chose to separate the stanza, they could well be the same thing. This blending continues into the final four poems of the section, which depart ancient warfare and offer brief meditations on modern battle.

Humans continue to bend nature in “A bottle-nosed dolphin swims midnight water”, in which a trainer and his wife make love in their water bed, while “A bottle-nosed dolphin swims midnight water/ with plastic explosives strapped to her body.” In “Someone’s beating a prisoner”, an interrogator beats a prisoner until he “makes him piss on the stone floor,” then “orders the man/ to dig his grave with a teaspoon.” This immersion in violence is not without consequences. In the final poem, in an unidentified place of war a name is called during role, someone who is both a son and a lover, and there’s no response. The soldier has hung himself, “his name hangs high in the rafters,” and all that’s left are “his propped up boots & helmet” one man’s leftover tools that “refuse to answer.”

In the second section, “Heavy Metal”, Komunyakaa steps away from any sentimentality he’s begun drifting toward at the end of the first section and returns to scrutinizing humanity’s obsession with turning objects toward war. The first poem in the series, “The Helmet,” is an imagining of how men first dreamed up basic tools of war during a time “before/ bronze meant shield and breastplate…”

Perhaps someone was watching
a mud turtle or an armadillo
skulk along an old interminable footpath
armored against sworn enemies.

As the poems once again progress toward present times, Komunyakaa devotes more lines to exploring humanity’s obsessive relationship with weaponry. In “The Catapult”, men struggle to turn back the winch and use a catapult for their own gain. After loading the rocks, however, the warriors “bowed at the foot/ of the cross,”—though they created the object they worshipped it, believing that the weapon they created had the power to save. The theme of weaponry-as-god surfaces again in “Grenade”, which begins with the line, “There’s no rehearsal to turn flesh into dust so quickly,” a reversal of the Genesis passage about the creation of man.
The final section of Warhorses, “Autobiography of my Alter Ego” is a long memoir poem spanning Komunyakaa’s childhood in Louisiana through when he returned from the Vietnam War. The same themes from the earlier two sections are revisited, as Komunyakaa remembers back to “the first person I ever loved,” a “tall black woman/ named Roberta.” After he’s drafted, he seems startled to encounter love even in the thick of the violent jungle, writing that, “I felt as if I were falling/ in love with the wives, daughters,/ & sisters of the dead NVA/ & Vietcong.” Still, this strange love never alters Komunyakaa’s actions, and he returns home a haunted individual.

The final section of the poem transitions to a new theme: forgiveness. It’s what Komunyakaa’s troubled father begs for at the end of his life, and it’s an idea that begins to weigh on Komunyakaa as well. We get the sense that it’s not simply personal forgiveness he’s concerned with, but all of humanity’s, who as a race are never far from potential violence. Ultimately, he seems to believe we don’t deserve it, having resigned himself to the idea that by nature, we are a violent race. “Forgive my heart & penis” he pleads at the end of the book, believing them both to be faculties of instinct, “but don’t forgive my hands.” The human heart may be a mysterious force, but our hands—our tools—are not subject to every desire, a belief that Komunyakaa spends all of Warhorses trying to explain and atone for.

Ellie's Review

Best Thought, Worst Thought
By Don Paterson
Graywolf Press
Ellison Hitt

Scottish poet Don Paterson, winner of the 2003 Whitbread Poetry award and the T.S. Eliot Prize impresses audiences once again with his most recent book, Best Thought, Worst Thought. This interesting and profound addition to Paterson’s prolific written works provides an entertaining and engaging way for a reader to go beyond the typical form of poetry. Paterson is already an established poet, dramatist, composer and musician, as well as being a professor of English at the University of St. Andrew. And while the creation of new poetry in Best Thought, Worst Thought is an important conception, the book has less of a focus on this creation and more on the importance of poetic ideals with the construction of aphorisms. For anyone unsure of what exactly an aphorism is, an aphorism is a short sentence or statement that concisely contains a subjective truth or observation of the world, quite often through the author’s own point of view. Aphorisms are usually poignant and quite clever in their reflections and considered to be a constricted form of the poetic genre. Paterson can already be considered to be somewhat of an established aphorist with the publication of his other books of aphorisms, The Book of Shadows (2004) and The Blind Eye (2007).
Though Paterson has produced this current book of aphorisms to reflect different parts of poetry, he goes beyond the general subject and explores it’s relation to four key ideas; art, sex, work and death. Paterson takes on this subject matter from his own viewpoint, weaving in personal experiences and memories to demonstrate the importance of specific moments in his life. The moments that he chooses however are often general enough to hold substance to individual readers (break-ups, friendships, work-related dilemmas, etc.). Paterson’s aphorisms may seem simplistic, but in actuality they go beyond the reader’s initial perceptions.
“Whenever we return with music from our dreams, it retains its beauty; the beautiful line of verse, through, oxidizes on its exposure to daylight, and turns to gibberish before our eye. No better proof that music pays its line far more deeply into the unconscious. Poetry is the music of consciousness.”

A basic reading may lead the audience to believe that the aphorism is simply an interesting statement about the beauty of music in our lives. Yet Paterson’s resounding ending, “Poetry is the music of consciousness” demonstrates the beauty of art in our lives and especially its importance and necessity to the genre of poetry. While Paterson explores ideas of beauty in connection to his four ideas, he also expresses opinions of irony and sarcasm in the book.
“Such is E.’s need to be loved, he experiences the casual indifference of a stranger and a snub from his closest friend as the same torment.”

Paterson demonstrates via the language of his aphorisms of the pettiness of the need to be loved that we can encounter in certain people. Through the aphorism Paterson demonstrates the pain that individuals may undergo with love, but mainly the irony he perceives when someone places such an emphasis on needless love. This aphorism also contains personal references which Paterson disperses throughout his aphorism, using only the abbreviated initial of his acquaintance’s name.
While Paterson focuses much of the book on the four key ideas of art, sex, work and death, he also treats some of his aphorisms as direct guidance to his audience. Quite often Paterson’s aphorisms appear to be written like they are part of an entry from his diary in which he reflects on happenings and occurrences in his life and offers up advice to his audience.
“Forty next year. Excellent; that’s broken the back of it. Officially, time will be short. I can stop pretending that I will ever read George Eliot, that one day every woman will love me, that I will find Mozart anything but a huge bore…”

The reflection on the significance of the loss of time in one’s life that Paterson discusses here is often repeated throughout his advice-aimed aphorisms. And while aphorisms like these may come across as condescending educating lecture, the statements seem to read more like a meditation than an instruction in which Paterson is simply cautioning his audience to be aware that life is short and time is precious.

Although the content of Paterson’s aphorisms possesses cerebral qualities, the form is much barer. The book is created in a simplistic manner. The aphorisms occasionally occur in paragraphs, but normally are two to three sentence statements. The promptness of the aphorism is beneficial to the audience because it allows for Paterson to get his point across in a direct manner. Paterson’s construction of the form also includes cleanly listing the different aphorisms on the page and separates them with the section sign (§).There is no specific order or segment that divides his four key ideas; rather Paterson chooses to combine different aphorisms from the groups. The reader jumps from an aphorism about a sexual encounter, to an aphorism about the loss of one of Paterson’s friends. The combination of Paterson’s minimalist form, as well as the scattered placement of his aphorisms reflects how life occurs. There are not just sections of life pertaining to art, sex, work and death; rather these events are interspersed throughout our lives.
Best Thought, Worst Thought may not be a conventional way of looking at poetry, but it is an entertaining and witty foray into a reflection of life. Paterson is able to capture his reader’s attention and use his words to make the aphorism new and pithy.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Goetta reviews

This is a space for you all in ENG 651 to post your performance reviews, book reviews, manifestoes and whatever else suits you as long as it's vaguely relevant. You'll need to sign in to post. Find the email I sent you inviting you to become an author on this blog and follow the instructions. Keep posts to about 1000 words or less (500-1000 words). Cathy