A mid-weekend review session: two new books by above/ground press.
“Advancing negligible inches, the reeds are porous barriers, beige poles sharp tall, we are not soldiers, this is not a battlefield at present, but was it?” In Brenda Iijima’s SWAMP SWAMP, a response to the 1971 film SWAMP by Robert Smithson, concepts of terraforming and terra-informing lead to better knowing the form of humans. Feminist, postcolonial, journalistic, what starts at the beginning of the swamp leads through it, the element of the surprise, the unexpected, and the unpredictable binding us to new relationships with knowledge, besieged by and through white settler imperialists, entire systems of militaries, and the shadows of society that rear their head through and through by a revisiting of recent and subconscious representations. Released in 2017.
“If you cannot be honest with yourself, how can you get the truth out of anyone else?” Life’s ride’s most enjoyable moments are enjoying the moments of life. Livelihood and the inclusion of experience is a theme erupting from the strands of language threaded together in Carrie Hunter’s Series out of Sequence, which collages together lines from at least a handful of contemporary and nearly-contemporary films and television shows, from Minority Report to Daredevil. The result is a book of poetry that feels as alive as the maximalist culture we live within, an ecology of its own. Here, in this anti-sequence, there is the sense of the ecological, but also the sense of the chaotic, as contexts morph and blend and merge into one another. And yet via Hunter as the peripheral artist of the craft, the language feels universal and total, allowing an experience wholly unique and of itself, but beyond itself, magnetically envisioning the limits (and limitlessness the same) of our world. Released in 2017.
Recommended listening: "Endangered Species" by Pat Metheny and Ornette Coleman.
Sans by G.L. Ford (Ugly Duckling, 2017)
Review by Greg Bem (@gregbem)
On the periphery: Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating into Space by Spiritualized
To have found loss
promised in the promise
of all fulfillment [. . .]
What is memory to a poet? What is time to a poet? What is that briefest moment, feeling so frail and vulnerable, to a poet who describes it as fully as possible? There is still recklessness. There is still absence. There still remains the challenge of coming to terms with the fullness of our reality. In Sans by G.L. Ford, I find a degree of sorrow that is overturned by a degree of complacency that is overturned again by a degree of power exhibited by the sake of the poet for the sake of the poetry. It represents a valiant core with frilly, vigilant edges, and yet, like the best and most provocative and equally successful, equally failed poetry of the everyday, of the every time, this is poetry that is confused, represents a challenged and perplexing realm of liminal servitude. The poetry is the result of undertaking the vastest realms of the possible, and that is the horrific, deadpan flatline of the question of humanity.
The categories I’d invented
to justify my
treasons gnawed at
the deep and gathered
reservoir of breath my
flesh had [. . .]
As I read Ford’s work, I couldn’t help but think of more romantic notions of the human, of that spirit that pervades us, that energy which spurs us on toward a sense of enveloping light and dark, cascading or crescendo, transient or crisis-complete. The definitions of this verse are excellently stark, with voices behind the poems that feel bold and daring and rupturing of the current milieu of the contemporary voice. This is work that is craft-laden, but evokes a respect for an egalitarian sense of the heart, of that which humanity once worshipped but has long abandoned. A book of time, a book of memory, this book is existentially offbeat and living in a world that has surpassed it. Which is why it is like gold within a pit of rust. Which is why it sits with the reader uncomfortably. Imagine holding a gold nugget while sitting in a pit of rust. Imagine the awe, and that horrific menace of the gleaming light of beauty that cannot do anything other than oppress through imprint of impression. Ford’s poetry glints and gleams disruptively in a world of image-obsessed droning and dreariness. Sadly, not even the reverberations of a pertinent poetry are ever enough to shock reality into new complexion and composition—just as the golden nugget exists, so it will never be more than an object that can be sold, or inevitably sold through immense, obsessive planning.
Water flowed beneath the ice
and ice beneath the water
and all I forgot, I forgot
by choice [. . .]
In a more practical sense, the poetry in Sans is hardly without, though it certainly stands in its own right on a platform that notices emptiness. The form of the poems is crisp and shuddering: short lines that wrap down the page in lingual maneuvers that remind me of the first time I read Susan Howe, the first time I read Rae Armantrout. That is not to say this poetry is like that of those writers, but there is a jolt, a door left ajar, a burst of light that drags the target in, like moths burnt crisp by that soft buzzing electric light. There is a sense that what is being read is not what it seems. That there is much being left out, and perhaps that is directly in line with the perch of memory as a motif sitting upon this book, or perhaps not. Nothing is totally explicit, another benefit to Ford’s work—the upbringing of the obscure is one that rallies. There is a warping of time and the perception of all the energies through the psychedelic-level of hypnosis existing within these lines. They are horrifying. They are monstrous. They are enchanting and distracting and impervious and they brighten the page, let the day of the reader become more kind, sit like an unkindly idol in the corner of the page, in the corner of the room, the eye directly facing outward, filled with belief, filled with mystique, filled with the trance of the unassuming, the unassumable.
Like worship stripped
of prayer, the relics I chose
to keep took the place
of moments lost [. . .]
Another Ugly Duckling author, Alan Felsenthal, wrote a similar collection of works earlier this year: Lowly. But in Lowly, Felsenthal evoked the image of the fire handler, the warrior, and the alchemist. The aims of these masculine figures, driven by the balance of Eros and Thanatos, are carried by the creative impulse. That alone corresponds with a significant beauty, a true ringing of the ears, pulling open of the eyelids toward the burst. But where the impulse and impassioned exploration of creativity’s edging and ownership sits with Felsenthal, we have the line drawn with separation from Ford. With Ford, there is warning, and “weeping” (to take from Ford’s “Enkidu’s Lament (5)”). As archetypal and magical these pages sit, they are still pages in Sans and there is a desperate sense of wonder and retrograde that spins all sense of knowing and leadership within the poems’ tones themselves toward dead-ends and graying zones.
I spent a week
cataloguing mouths, all
of lips and teeth [. . .]
Like with a 2017 read through the bodies of Lautreamont or Mallarme, I know little of what to do to resolve my understanding of Sans, which is where its sequence of inspiration becomes more and more fabricated, instilled (or distilled), a product of satisfaction through its grotesque level of unhandling. It is pleasurable but distorted. It is fulfilling but wrecking. It is settled but filled with the echoes of writhing. These qualities reflect through the grubby mirror of literary landscape as powerful, outlasting, and antagonistic in the grand scheme of the canon, which means they are served forth as an offering of cryptic goodness, messy rebellion, and a vague representation of a reality that is certainly before and bleeding into that reality of right now. The weeping, I think, is the true harmony of Ford’s poetry which is destined to continue, to continue, to continue, the algorithm corrupted, Sisyphus in unfazed agony, the full moon missing from the sky.
Nihil by Alfredo de Palchi, Translated by John Taylor (Xenos Books, 2017)
Review by Greg Bem (@gregbem)
On the periphery: Coral Rock by Archie Shepp
“More generally, such a poetics represents still another aspect of de Palchi’s search for what is primary, rudimentary, that is, for whatever underlies our experience of ourselves, the sexually desired Other, humanity, and the cosmos.”
(from John Taylor's introduction, page 8)
it’s my mythical river and I intend to drift down it, with anecdotes and poems, into the youthful years before my life was hunted down [. . .]
(from Nihil 1)
I read the words of an author whose realm of existence is one of absence, whose realm of absence is one of existence. Pendulums we’ve known from a godless, egotistic damnation swing. The 20th century moves into the 21st, and none of the tensions have been relieved. The grand lights of forever turn on only to turn off and bring us a black, blank space, and then, flip the page, and there they turn on again. There is balance in the universe as there is balance in this book, Nihil. A causeway of varying energies and reciprocations. Yin and Yang. Open, closed. Closed, open. Stomping about, or dormant. Presence and the presence of abstained presence.
Italian Alfredo de Palchi’s Nihil is a complicated book that evokes the substance of something arriving at and through the power of nothing, where nothing may be but does not need to be emptiness, negativity, suffering, or violence. It is all here, in this autobiographical manifest claiming life as what cannot be claimed. Here we have a heart wrenching naturalism for the 21st century. It is one that relies on the empathy of the reader, and is leveraged by the undiminishing necessity for human bondage. Its core is a sinking grit that sits beyond the skin, impressing itself into muscle tissue, bone, and the spell-dazed marrow of our walking throws and waking abatements.
where are you, and me, where am I in the morning as my mind explores the reason why we have to perish because of the return from nothingness?
(Nihil 3, #14)
Translated by the smoky, casual tumult of John Taylor, a skilled and ongoing poet of his own verse-mind, this book’s three-section sequence (composed of Nihil 1, Nihil 2, and Nihil 3) is an ouroboric burst wrapping within itself, creating patterns, passageways, and ambient scenarios that are fascinating doorways into the grueling, effervescent transience of de Palchi’s migration to and duration with an American reality. Nihil contains marveled subtext, elongated entwining vocalism, and a stirring of emotional endurance that wraps the book up neatly from cover to cover.
With this collection’s writing ranging from 1998 to 2013, the reader is capable of being substantially absorbed in the conflux of de Palchi’s experiences through life in the US, as well as his earlier years living in a world-stricken Italy. The experiences are represented through short emergences of image and narrative with each pass from one page to the next. As the nature of the book through its title and thorough introductory text suggests, much of Nihil deals with an astute and antagonizing degree of nothingness, and nothingness becomes idealized through the white space on the page, through the poems themselves.
Not always on my knees and spitting out blood . . .
I’m the battered old tower
of the caved-in local church
--from the worn-out bell
from the electrified crackling
(from Nihil 2)
The poems themselves are like inhalations and exhalations in a gaseous world of forever. They are the vacuum before the cosmos. These poems are the disheartening fleeting of time. With everything there is, there is also lack. There is nothing, and there is everything all the same. What is being left out in any given poem becomes part of the challenge in better understanding the foundational, spiritual tones of the book.
I find that de Palchi’s use of form is where we find these effects most clearly. This experience arrives through a harmonious presence of prose poems and verse poems, and those that blend both together. While the forms do not have blunt intentionality, their duality (and triangulation when brought together) reflect the craft in this poet’s practice. The shifting and shaping of the image between prose and verse often feels like a rupture or furrow that one becomes drawn into, entrapped by. It is maddening and beautiful. It is unstoppable and ecstatic. The reading experience, by extension, is one of intense pressure. There is an outstanding quality to the inclusion of prose and verse that results in a mind on the verge of both curiosity and confusion, but also at the mercy of presence: the poems continue, and they continue, and they continue. We hope to find more meaning, and perhaps we will, but nothing is certain.
with a syringe in my vein, you’re staring with your oriental eyes, you’re transfusing the poisonous serum into my blood to banish the evil poison; I call you Leukemia [. . .]
(from Nihil 3, #49)
Nihil is a bold and daring book. It is one of blood and ether. A book of trial and the damnation of witness. It is a book of residue and result, but also a book of assuage and critique. That hidden vortex of meaning behind each of the poems, from their levels of biography to the reason behind such brilliant emotional resilience, is one that can be interpreted, making this not only a fantastically challenging void of poetic work, but a fantastically impressionable sequence of writing to be enjoyed. All of its qualities spin it into the fever dream today’s maddening world of everything and nothing demand.
Actualities by Norma Cole and Marina Adams (Litmus Press, 2015)
Review by Greg Bem (@gregbem)
On the periphery: Didn’t It Rain by Songs: Ohia
a woman looks at the toe of her boot inventing the present
(from “The Dream I Had Ended”)
In the collaboration notes at the back of Actualities, both Norma Cole (the contributor of poetry to the book) and Marina Adams (contributor of visual art) discuss ideas of being. Cole references the startling quality behind Adams’s work, and “startling” may be the perfect way to describe the book. Within are peaks and glances, emerges and submerges, echoes of experience, and drips and drops of engagement with the world, but outside of the flow of the book itself, a lack of stability and consistency allows the book to startle, and startle again. The effects are surprising and enjoyable.
Red flowers on our left, his right, in the background, some apples and green grapes. “That’s not why you sent me here.”
The book is a large format for poetry, with engorged fonts and visual smatterings. Cole’s writing is often (though not always) sparse and concise, occasionally delicate and occasionally pointed, and the effect of seeing such language is one of enveloping presence. When paired with the line drawings and greater, colorful paint smears from Adams, the effect brings forward additional startles: emotion is an intricate weave of push and pull, paper lift and nudge, pupils dilating and constricting.
As the visuals often feel like they are serving as buffers, medians, or padding, there is a sense of containment within that fulfillment of flow. The poems, which are each uniquely constructed and offer limitless paradigms, thus feel contained and isolated for greater accessibility. Cole’s language benefits from such structures and support mechanisms; the collaboration transforms what would otherwise be a scatter of ideas and images and moments of experience, and disconnected beauty sent into a channel, funnel, or pathway. Though Cole’s writing is unforgivingly vague, and, despite roots through epigraphs and locales, challengingly mysterious, the thorough splicing creates a generally enjoyable poetic experience.
crystal of resistance
mountain of desire
A closer examination reveals Cole’s deep concern and reverence for transcription of space and the things that inhabit it, which is an appropriate extension of the exploration of being. What is “to be” within the world is accentuated through an exploration of things transitory through travel, exotic through discovery, and often very specific. The sense and tone of the personal wraps each poem up quite neatly despite the fleeting quality of these works. Indeed, the level of personable reflection makes these works almost feel like a day book, though where they are being written and when is left to the reader’s imagination.
Throughout Actualities at key, pivotal moments, the concept of being is explored directly. When Cole speaks “materiality of language / & / defamiliarization” (in “Roger One”), and it is paired with Adams’s textured-while-abstracted streaks of turquoise, magenta, orange, purple, green, black, and white, an unlocking effect occurs. It appears like the book is formed out of the tools and materials of language (and poetry) itself, and yet there is a certain degree of distance from it. And yet, oddly too, I would not describe the effect of this writing as “ethereal” or “transparent” or “ghostly.” The use of the language is very tactile, enduring, and openly visible. Perhaps Cole writes “defamiliarization” as a form of loss or disconnect between the act of the poem’s creation and the resemblance of it after the act has been completed.
What is that boat behind you? Just the moon. Stars’ gaze. Not the moon. A clock face. An hour a month.
(from “In Myriad Store”)
In this book, there are problems and there are solutions, and the exploration of the actualities of life, of the building blocks of existence, are touched upon with grace. And yet beneath all the ideas, there are strong poems waiting to be read just as poems, as the visual art sits and plays throughout as something pleasing to look at without significant analysis. The power of the book to make itself casual is perhaps the hidden power, the hidden beauty, in an otherwise complicated work. Perhaps this book in all its collaborative angles is a lesson to take lightly more artistry that we pass by in our lives, for more diverse understanding and enjoyment.
There are two brief reviews today, both books of poetry, both very suitable for serving as inspiration, illumination, evocation this weekend, or otherwise.
First: This Glittering Republic by Quenton Baker. Charged and driven by the harsh and enduring realities of race, inequality, and identity, Baker's voice and persona is one of utmost will. There is an independence, a brightness, that illuminates in these words, a tear across the page knowing the brutality and societal failing at this book's thematic core. Released in 2016 by Willow Books.
Second: Inherit by Ginger Ko. Upturning and unrelenting, this book captures many essences in a single space, and does so without withstanding, withholding, or covering. It is a book of revelation as it is a book of invitation: Ko brings the reader into the challenging, brute truth. Despite its difficulties and rigid clarity, this book and its poems follows Ko's trajectory through precision, persistence, and power. Released in 2017 by Sidebrow Books.
How to Keep Full in February by Michelle Gottschlich (Released by Monster House Press, 2017)
Review by Greg Bem (@gregbem)
Casual periphery: Sound Sun Pleasure!! by Sun Ra
with a splash of water, the red, at best,
begins to thin. but it’s me too, thinning,
nearing my clearest, like adding salt
to water, a kind rolling boil starts
and all my thoughts quietly let go.
(from “stress, cleaning”)
Michelle Gottschlich writes transitory poems. These poems deface dualism, embracing the wide arc of knowing and defining, calling understanding inward, and then: expulsion. In How to Keep Full in February, a landscape of the Midwest is a zone of reimagination. There is certainty presented as the root of the metaphor. A certainty of image, common but mysteriously out of reach and intrinsically personal. Of typing and typology. What we all know but all know differently. Of truisms and a collective, matter-of-fact presence of culture. But one that is niche and of the poet’s life. The poems in this pamphlet, like arrows splicing open the image, form the dimension excising the binary and bringing it into a context of new, emergent, lively reality.
Poems here that are drawn strings. Poems that are imaginations. Poems that are dreams. Poems that are acts of recreating one’s world as it has happened, continues to happen, and will happen. Gottschlich’s work is assembled here, in a typographic angle as incising and minute as the unique and curious images themselves, for quick and rapid escalation, to quick and rapid release. Here is a sequence appearing brief but is in fact bold, enduring, daring, and relentlessly available, here is poetry that cries of body, of world, of the wavering, quivering tensions of identity.
[. . .] Hey, I’ll show you, here’s me
eating a lavender cupcake and wiggling around the quiet kitchen,
stepping on a grape, freezing a mouse mid-nibble. Here’s me.
The ideas that form who we are come forward in these poems like flames bringing light. It is like a gift. What we call ourselves, and what we relate to, what we know and abstractly utilize to understand ourselves better, understanding how we each operate and function. From poem title to poem title there is organic matter: representation of life, representation of decay, representation of the vulgar, grotesque transformation of the self.
Food. Consumption. Health. Humanity. These broad headings lead to themes of tension, mesmerization, and subtly intimate awareness. Gottschlich writes line by line like naturally formed steps across cliff or coast, but jutting too, a literary syncopation of unexpected rhythm. A challenge to some, a burden to others, a definite mastery of experimentation and again with the subtle: in this case, the fragments of near-rhyme, alliteration, consonance, assonance, and all other manners of sonic embodiment. But never disembodying the other qualities of these very narrative and sometimes lyrical, always-musical works. The reader only needs to slow down to allow this poet’s dramatic undertones to rise to the surface. Like walking slower down a forested path, the details emerge in vibrancy through a quiet and a calm.
i don’t know
how to begin
to just start
the way they can
as if on a glass road
with none of this
(from “the saint of auscultation”)
Most importantly, and a quality at risk of being overlooked by the common read either quick or slow, there is a setting in place here, in this book, of exquisite attention. This observed presence, this omniscience, is so powerful as it’s matched with moments of absolute concision, as described above. The poet brings a very powerful level of poetic play to the work, unquestionably beyond pretention. It is through this exploratory current that the book’s vision carries forth those qualities of the personal, the spectrum of the stories of life and potential life. Gottschlich’s craft matches the whirlwind of experience shot across these pages, binding them to one another.
Entrancing and filling, this book is only an early step for a writer whose work illustrates and describes in an elegant and ecstatic space. I sit here and imagine how others will read them, and think about how I will reread them, these poems, and see further in my own craft.
i feel everything
i want growing out of
an unswallowable stone.
Note: In the recorded reading of this review, I use the word "pamphlet" in error. This work is not part of the publisher's pamphlet series, but rather the chapbook series.
Piles of the misformed distinguish themselves from the night. A purple glow to its sky. They are all shadows, all cut black, and their particular shapes are angular and inorganic. No dirt among the machine piles. The floor of the compound is compound stone, composite stuff that is so broken from the weight of the metal and stuff it keeps. High walls, thick structure, band the massive courtyard of piles, gapped in places by great jaws, steel, molar, gnashing imaginable but stale and static. A scree-raw flock passed just overhead the wires that make some partial ceiling to this little dark cloister. A light blinked on a panel near one of the doors, almost a breath. A few bodies move among the wreckage in misguided motion, graceless things that pull at the junk occasionally. These are the scrappers and they are here through the holes in the walls which are not large, plugged iwth larger rocks too. Only the smallest scan enter anymore, a few of the scrappers. One has eyes among a pile of fibers and cords, eyes with the flat pupil of a goat —a copper-wild nebula spread to each wide lid. Only four fingers, it pulls part a variety of the dangle, searching.
—Whatsit? says another, younger, scrapper, a hood-lamp in its fingers.
—Lightsit, says the scrapper searching the wires.
A quiet sorting continues, and among them, the four pull together in the night at the corner a pile of what can be moved between the gaps in the concrete hole-plugs: a fluid-leak sealant pack, a broken sheaf of square steel and iron, a network of sorted cords, and the severed ends of some female insets.
They look it over, and the oldest of them passes the fluid-pack sealant down below and goes with, eventually fire-lining the remainder of the goods out to a trio of lounging characters and their reptilian mounts.
Not enough to encourage excitement, another night in Warrendale, another night passing the rough dyke-laned tarmac, the city’s peculiar waterways dull and dun under the violet overhead. An odd light blinks and the mounts shoulder the light load, pressed ahead by a gorgon-haired scrapper whose removed its mask and watches the blank lanes ahead for stray dangers. The conversation that might take place among a similar caravan through deserts of the past or forests of the past would fall to the meat of the group, seven of the tiny clan, but until they’ve reached the rough access point, a sewage park where the grate can be slid back and a darkness entered, no one bothers a word. There is something of a chain gang to their movements. The ditches of city dispersal follow the tribe until a subterranean twist passes a natural fork.
Their cavern Home is lit there by the striping of a myriad of mismatched lights, in steady sway criss-cross and rising into the bulged space. They throw back a few of the curtains that break the cavern and reorient them for privacy, unloading and clicking a few foot switches that light a near-clinical examination space. A scrapper with furred leggings slides from the group and returns with a set of the Oldest, inspectors who have wild hairs sprouting around their eyes. The sack of equipment is drawn up. The whole ensemble whistles, and each cable is tried against its respective port. None are discarded but few fit and each is taken by the younger rovers and rubbed of its basic slime and coatings by, allocated by color to a set of hanging racks; one drawer-casing slides out and the little ones fill it with the female ends. The day-workers will adjust those, fit them suitably. Splice if necessary.
So ends a night in the yard. Each scrapper takes a plate form the kitchen nearby, another of the tribe just done scrubbing the lint of old food onto a set of buckets. Skirts swish. Everyone moves to casual dress and the conversation gives us names, foreign names that can’t be written and hardly spoke.
—Say, have to.
The object in question between them as a hundred tiny fibers sprouting from. Coated in oil. It is a plate of some kind, and it, by the nimble hands of the rover who plucked it and refused its donation can be slid into a crystalline box wet with oil too. They pass it amongst themselves.
—Will. But whatsit?
One holds it longest. The others pay deference to its opinion, chewing.
It points its skull, smells the oils with a flat snout and slides the plate in and out, rubs away some of the oil to expose embossed initials O and Z.
They leave it there between them like a dying fire and eat the lentil mash without utensil. Retirement.
Another day. The hive warms during the day and the sound of the city’s maintenance purrs overhead. The processing plant aboveground is drummed by a series of membranes, great rubbers which like levees or dams will hold back the uglier flows, to be scrubbed by some long-armed characters with long tools, too, passing them through a labyrinth of suction and pressurization, eventually matted in a series of metal mesh weaves, electrified, and dosed, pumped out, towards the fields distant where farmers of bean, oat, corn, and larger-scale cereals await. Beneath the plant though, it is simply warm and busy. The rovers are a tribe numbered three-hundred at census, allowed a child to each, thirty children under-age to occupy themselves. Thirty exactly to match the Antiques, who in beds—or hammocks if in one of the older famiiles—roost higher towards the warmer-light-lit regions of the roost, throughout the day slowly losing their minds, charged with passing the morals of the clan to the new ones.
The remaining two-hundred and forty work. The sections encircling the center of the cave place are broken by panes of cloth which can be run down whichever track to create something of a room if necessary; during the day, hardly a break in the place, except around the the feed. The rovers bustle around old scav and new. They match and clean, scrub, splice, sort. When enough has been rung from a certain rag, there is a cart that shifts the dirtiest bits out into the tunnels whence it further layers the walls by a set of the reptilian patchers, friends of the tribe who live among the dyke waters.
There are repairs made to the things which are broken: the hunters’ weapons, the long scale kitchen with its broad-wire electrics, and recently, a boat. The lead electrics and metalworkers patched a plan together from various pages of advertisement and encyclopedias laying among the trash heaps to make a metal-hulled thing floating in the large channel nearest the grates. All the rovers are swimmers. Nearly amphibious with coarse hides and coats. Now that the boat’s large parts are floating, important to reinforce its basings. A team apply the water sealant discovered last night, moving alongside the vessel in the brown water with the self-pressing bottles above them in a flexed arm, tread, apply, tread. The boat is a trimaran with webbing, old mesh from the water plant spread in bedded warp over the individual canoe-shaped floats. A series of overhead tarps are easily unrolled.
The hunters were out among the tunnels, looking for desperate homeless from the cities, or runaways, children, whatever is. The humans are larger, but in groups of three or four, one can be hobbled and brought low. There are eight groups of four each, who communicate in clicks not so different from the patchers underwater language. They’ve learned language of the overland types, English and some Spanish, from a child who they freed eventually rather than eat.
—Too much, is what the Antiques had said when the fires were being stoked.
The girl’d been with them for months by then, huddled in the larger cell they kept feed in. She’d never been unkind and always spoke of her father’s morals and the way he treated others. Fond memories for the tribe, who still treasure the bracelets the girl had made while among them. This was years ago. Her name’d been Iole.
The box and its port was brought to attention and reported by the rover who had hidden it. Naturally it was punished for withholding, seven straps and a public sleep for weeks. The rovers were all quiet on this, since they were punished as much as it when exposed to its sleep. The box was investigated though and the wild-haired scrapper’s suspicions were brought before the Antiques who’d not seen something this advanced. They performed tests, and it purred electric and grew hot among the small caucus of considerate experimentation, so they shut it down and another day went into a night within the den.
The scrappers went out that night. The hunters returned as they left with a field-dressed corpse. They acknowledged each other as they passed, both with their respective dangers, neither arrogant to a particular self-importance. The reptilian mounts crept behind, and the gorgon-haired scrapper scanned with its wide eyes for stray dangers.
The violet twinges of the overhead world drew out from the city yonder. It rose, grainy in the pollutant, buildings like big stone geometry. There was nothing unnatural about it any longer because it had nothing to compare to. As far as anyone in the tribe knew, the world stretched to the horizon and stopped, out where the dykes dried in the fields, the furthest. Few felt need to walk beyond: the dykes brought food because all living things follow the water; the plant generated warmth.
The young rover who’d been strapped earlier held a part of the boat plan and a sketch of the strange box it’d found the night prior. It knew which pile to start searching, even if it didn’t know for what. They spread out, each their own orders.
The machine caused the footing underfoot to both wrestle for the rover’s feet and claw at them. Each was dextrous enough. But the noise when a salmon-skinned rover let it’s foot down too abruptly gave rise to a shrieking: metal on metal and then as it fell down the pile, on metal on metal and glass. It hardly ended when the tumbled equipment had based out. All them stared up at the doors that rung the second floor. There were dogs the men kept—they’d lost count of the bodies gone to the dogs. They didn’t count anymore. This would draw them. They retreated into the cracks of the base and slid past the crumbling tunnels and mortar, and warned the waiting loungers without much need: apparently the noise’d gone past the walls and all were hidden, alert, near the set of powerboxes that kept the lights on.
The dogs came around. Their barking preceded. The rovers understood the whole family would be on the chase. No luck staying togheter.
They pushed the reptilian mounts into the water and the loungers who held their bridles ducked in beside them, laying horizontal and clucking their mounts to swim. The dogs and men might not know them. They removed the saddlebags. Let them drop. Hoping, unlikely, that someone down river would comb up the valuable leather and stitching. They breathed just through their noses and the dyke-muck threatened to drown.
The youngest simply ran. They pulled forward onto their arms too, fingers tearing at the scrabble of the long lane. The smallest dogs passed into a street light maybe bigger than the largest scrapper by a half-body. If it reached the runners it would turn them belly up so the bigger, slower dogs behind, the dads and brothers, would eat its belly first. Then they would circle back in similar, looping speed because this is what the dogs had always done, and it was effective to an infinite degree.
At home it would be hours later. The investigators would’ve risen twice to find only each other. They would’ve pissed and the lights changed as the overhead plant kicked out of gear because it ran at night. The hunters leave then, the butchers passing them, and the lone rover would pull itself just far enough into the tunnel, back hips so twisted to make it look as though it’d been pressed in. Round black eyes as wide as could go, chattering. They’d cover it in bedding in a warm edge of the tunnel and it’d never speak but just moan and even the knowledge how great the pain was in it’s dying, they’d believe, this little tribe, that the pain of it was the most important part, the coins it paid to cross.
They found the mounts’ satchels and the mounts came too. It wasn’t much. The tribe was delinquent, all deeply mourning. It took that long for the overseers to consult the Antiques who said that always after this kind of push, the body deserves a rest, and so, with the exception of the kitchen, a silence overtook the savengers and they rested or walked in very pedestrian, pinned steps.
So passed a night and a day.
A new group of scavenger were shifted to raid the scrapyard, positions replaced. An upswell in momentum meant the boat was vigorously attended. Several electrics solved the power of its motorworks, and the propulsion allowed forward and back. The wheel gave it maneuvering and the odd craft puttered through the wide network of canals with eager and proud crew, who alternated as captain. The pieces recovered from the scrapyard on That Night were cleared and sorted. There was another box of thick, wildly-colored metal with an oil sheen and a pill, the length of a hand filled with blue crumb-powder. The plug unit on the exterior of the box was adaptable. Thin silver-spider wires waxed inside, stubble and an old one took a finger to the oils, matching them by scent. The adapter was linked through a set of powerboxes to screens and gauges and some trays were brought up, plus a spare powerbox. The kitchen was called to bring a vat of their rendered fat which was separate and melted and poured into the box. All was plugged in—electricity shaking the obscuring fat in plaintiff whine and no one would get too close but several of the Ancients had crawled to a low-deck staircase on wheels to witness from above how the spider-slim wires wove discriminate among the chunk of the kitchen fat.
Simultaneous a robotic voice from the affixed speakers and a printout display said the question “Location?” then a spawn of data points printed as more wires linked, the system’s internal mechanisms bypassing the manual demands, networking to satellites thick as rings in the overhead, invisible sky. This was Dimsbury Plant, 1014.67 N, 232.33 E of Charlottesville, about 161ft below ground, off the dyke maps by fifteen hundred feet. Without eyes, cameras, without heat or short-range censors, Ozone was just a spill of components but he was booted, and asked aloud and to the screen.
—Who composited me?
Several of the rovers went for plugins to install auditory input and the language and translation workers who spent days among the audio and newspaper components they’d scavenged began to talk and explain who they were, gleaming from the robot that what it’s primary function was a mapping solutions intelligence. No records of a past subsisted. All ownership had been dismissed.
They wondered what to do with it and decided to install it in the boat.
Previous: Ozone : Volley
did you go to school? has someone supposed to teach you the difference between what is real, and what is imagined...in order to protect you from a fast car in the street, or from a conviction that you would be able to breathe underwater? did someone who knew that you couldn't fly tell you so, in order to protect you from a big jump? later, someone who loved you less may have taught you, in a classroom of science, the difference between dead and living. just as a matter of course.
by various methods, a world of imagination was obscured from your vision. people who stayed in a pretend world, who didn't discern between "real," and "imagined" came to be known as un-well. we're the grown-ups now. the sacred tenets of your childhood world of imagination, ringing cleanly through your heart and mind in communion with so many others of your tribe, got obscured... no longer a matter of collective choice. childhood rules for dead, for invisible, for what can be changed are no longer listed in some shining script, on a stone door, impenetrable by influence of logic. whereas you had played. and others with you, now you get to share, with other grown-ups, what's known as "time."
a round, blank face, or a digital facsimile of the same, patterned concept in replacement of the moon and sun. we sharing time, now. you could call this concept of time a sort of "base," or zone of commonality to which we are all continually running. grown-ups running, checking in. see who has, or has not made it to join us, within a sequence of events. no going back, now. no rules for invisible. a clock has twelve neat numbers engraved upon it, and others quantified finely, between. a grown-up game. no invisible. life is, and will be newly quantified by the "done," or the "undone," seeing as you've got the time.
what could be the point of such a transition, for us all? of shunting imagination to the perimeters of a new, shared culture, so that what is "known" is represented by logic, and dominates the wealth of information we deal in, have parlance in. so that what's "unknown" is reduced to a grab-bag, a random variable, at which one might throw the imagination, after logic runs its courses and continues to come up dry. and logic sans heart, sans imagination has come up dry--has pillaged resources with no feeling for sustainability. the logic of profit, as an end unto itself, for example. to sum it up: it is as if the whole culture were jumping from a plummeting airplane, without enough parachutes to go around, and those who get a parachute yell to the ones who are left behind: "use your imagination!" imagination is viewed as an afterthought, as a wild-card, as a thing to be entertained with great reluctance. such is the ready willingness with which most any culture will forgo any real agency in the processes of imagination, once its children have grown. and its children are left with the burden of this imbalance, as a legacy. their attention rests in deficit, in the disorder of minds and hearts starved of the chance to fully live.
is there a culture which places value on the merging of imagination with logic, rather than replacing the former with the latter? which culture stems from what the Zen masters would call "beginner's mind?"
the culture of children. children everywhere. in every part of the world.
a few grown-ups are beginning to learn to act more like children...starting to head out into the field, from the factory,.because logic--logic sans heart,, the kind of logic lacking in imagination--has outrun its own, real resources, as it deemed them. logic sans heart, sans imaginations has used up all of the real stuff, burned it, pillaged it. some of our species have up trying to exist in a heartless, depleted world of the mind. crickets, frogs recede. a species of bird you hear at sun-up dies. the grown-up word for this is "extinction." there is also the phrase, "climate change."
the writer Ray Bradbury had a name for the human who has beginner's mind. the one who could flip it, make it all a different way--so that it wouldn't hurt people.
he said that you are a Dreamer. he said that any sane society should protect you.
note: this darth post has been cross-published via Facebook.
Sonoma by Lehua M. Taitano (Released by Dropleaf Press, 2017)
Review by Greg Bem (@gregbem)
Casual periphery: Stubborn Persistent Illusions by Do Make Say Think
So I found a boat. And a lake. And I thought of the way the lake had come to be. And the way of history that floods and flushes out those who would call the land at the bottom of the lake home. And the stories and languages of those displaced people--the Pomo, the Miwok--whose sacred sites were drowned to make the place where boats like mine could float above on any given Wednesday in spring. Which made me think of my own displacement and of being in maybe love, too [. . .]
I am practicing my review of a pool of water. I am practicing the breathing toward and from the glassy place. Imagining the artist as the center of the elliptical ripple. Atop a watercraft or a leering bank. Glancing across or beyond, the sheen of light radial, but also fractal. An ordinary reverb of light.
i will let you in on joist and
(when is there not
In Sonoma by Lehua M. Taitano, I imagine water everywhere. In all of the spaces, covering all of the objects, all of the environments. This is not true: water cannot be everywhere. But it can, like voice, be anywhere. And in Sonoma there is a range of presence: actualized and potential. To make, to make do, to make through a sacred realm of possibility. Where life has lived, and will continue to live.
In Sonoma, Taitano resonates through observation, through quest, through pressure. Fragility of time and the fleeting realm of the natural image in tandem with the abundance of the landscape. Pause. New tab. I begin typing “Lake Sonoma” but then stop. No. I have not been there, and it is not about me, per se. Sonoma as rigor meets gentleness. Sonoma as inclusive. More: invited. To enter, to step forward.
To slide in a wall as if the banks were grooved and push back a flowing river.
A readiness, an inspiring acceptance of a wondrous and unknown body of water, thanks to Taitano’s voice, which scatters and collects from page to page, utterances utter and known meets unknown in aquatic bob and glide.
To the Lake Sonoma beyond from that voice found here, found now, presently found, possibly found. Imagery, the whirl and whir of the author. A lens of inquiry through a context divinatory, poetic. The experience is one that is pursed, and also bold: to read Sonoma is to listen through layers of story. Actualized and potential.
water shadow. lichen. / the nose of a swimming creature, / slick.
So I am practicing thinking of a pool of water. I am standing beyond the water, looking across it, wondering if there is sunlight, or darkness. Wondering how human this body of water is. Wondering how disturbed or how wild, how at rest, how succumbed to its own privacy. These exercises as a result of a book that is a result of experience. Of infinitudes of experience. Transcendental. Overcome with transition. The roar of the risen, or the rising. There is breath in this lake. A breath in the lake right now, right here.
Outside the windows of the apartment I call home, the late spring light shines on small green trees I can’t define, know not the names of, and the light still shines and through the sense of the unknown the light feels dignified, purposeful. Sonoma as a book of dignity and definition. As the result of craft. As a result of the poet as present, to siphon, funnel, perceive, relay. Taitano as the investigator, but there needs to be another word: a form of investigation that exhibits respect, is careful, is intensely aware and is resolved to an acceptance of the emerging beauty.
but i can give you
kettle. wool hood,
the right weight.
i can say gristle and
The words in Sonoma feel energetic. They feel etched: temporal but placed with a fixed and impressive effort. Or they feel engraved: to be as permanent as witness, actualized or potential. A poetry that sits like a body of water on a body of land. A poetry that grips the land through immense weight, and there are countless angles, and there is constant possibility.
The mind returns to the visage of the pool. In a blended and arresting moment of imagery, I imagine Lake Sonoma at night and at day, moon and sun merged into one orb, our planet spinning forward and backward at once, all of the occupying figures, the life, the presence, together in a single frame of time. There is a harmony to acknowledge and there is opportunity to be aware. All of this brought into the reader from Taitano’s Sonoma, of which we owe many thanks.
There Are Trees by Maxwell Shanley (Released by Dropleaf Press, 2017)
Review by Greg Bem (@gregbem)
Casual periphery: Ison by Sevdaliza and Green Twins by Nick Hakim
What’s in your life? What’s in your realm of documentation? What’s lies in the tact of your observations? Are there tress, or are there other proximal things? Are these things seen up, or seen down? And where are you standing when it all comes together, presses in, at once, like textured pages tied together with red thread. Like Springtime in a hot and dry landscape.
For that which stands. For that which falls.
As Maxwell Shanley says, opening the book, opening the outwardly, which we need, which I felt the pressure to absorb, language, this communication, this zealous ideal. I think of how I think of standing. I think of how I think of falling. I think of what I owe to these positions, what we all, each of us, owe to these perspectives. A dominant discord, but also a fantastical optimism. It is not a poetry of complacency or nicety. It is a poetry of mature design, precise like a joust, widening like breeze.
So, then, there is movement throughout, then. And movement relates these things. This is how we lead from point A to point B. I suppose, and I suppose a lot, that we also must gauge how these things, these spasms of inspiration, these lives within the life we live, creep upon us, how they actually arrive, how they arrive from once where they were before heading off to their next position. These, then, are the extended lines of autonomous thought, trained lenses of our organs of vision, and we give them purpose, or purposes as a result of such knowledge. As is the most inductive, and intimate, of poetries and their lines, and their weights carried within their own contexts and essences.
I suppose. And then I shudder, I spasm, and I look back at Shanley. At his work in There Are Trees. At his earnest undertaking, like shovel to sunlight, filled with matter, raised, offered, a gift, a proposition, propped up, or extended, muscles aching, but strong is the response to the ache. Like a smile.
Regressive. What’s in your life? And upon identification, what to do? To find the components and take them? Track them? Expand upon them, or break them down to their own components? Macrocosmic designations. Microcosmic designations. Other, similar waves, arcs, ownerships: of truth, of an exquisite motion toward the image.
We were phosphenes, a hypnic jerk
on the back of the lid, all of us
in the same sleep.
In Shanley’s essence we have a realization of the extended act. We have pages that alter us, that are altars for us. There is composure. There is hiding. There is the realm of Shanley’s beauty, and it’s been delivered. A delivery, yes, the tone embraces the delivery! It is beautiful here, in There Are Trees, where we have arrived, or where everything has been brought to us, all along, we have been here. The aspect of the lettering, There Are Trees versus THERE ARE TREES, a mere perfection in the distinct clatter of organization, like wooden shoes sounding the echoes off the walls and across the recently empty room, or the slump of a tree falling, to rest in its composition and decomposition at once.
To open enough to allow the connotative experience requires effort and effortlessness. Paradoxically, Shanley’s voice is as much a voice of breath as it is a voice of calm and rest. The breath as it speaks these lines showers the landscape, merging the liquidous with the earthly, creating an exemplary murk. Again, dualities: primitive meets exceptionally complex; grandiose meets straightforward. The words speak themselves. The wielder unpacks their own reward through their own efforts.
[. . .] and you are a piano and let me be the crack in the glass, the salty water drinking away your walls.
The breath as the statement is intoned, carefully, as a book should be: wrapped, wondering, wandering forward. Roots to expansions of growth. Poems as the format. A carrying capacity. A capacity to carry, to preserve, to infuse, through collection, with the beautiful, and the paramount too. But only such as it is matter of fact: a calm, an inhale meeting an exhale in a common boundary of excellence.
These poems here are statements. As trickles of water, or distant lightning, or the bold maneuver of the limbs of a being, or the shadow complete and perfect edging along and beyond, to wherever you might not remember to give your attention, but promise to through the arrived epiphanic moment.