EDRIC MESMER Reviews
Publications by Karen Mac Cormack, Nathaniel Mackey, Janet Kaplan, Giles Goodland, Rosaire Appel, Tony Burhouse, Tim Gaze, Marco Giovenale, Gareth A. Hopkins, Satu Kaikkonen, Gary J. Shipley, Christopher Skinner, Lin Tarczynski, Orchid Tierney, Sergio Uzal, Nico Vassilakis, Danny Hayward, Jared Schickling, Elizabeth Frost, Lary Timewell, Tim Wright, Carrie Olivia Adams, Hailey Higdon, Camille Martin, rob mclennan, Kate Schapira and Hugh Thomas.
[Previously published in YELLOW FIELD #9, Edric Mesmer, collator]
Against White by Karen Mac Cormack
In a book composed of occasional poems (birthdays, elegies, found text, travelogue) it may be effortful to recall it has been scribed for one voice. Sample:
[…] slowed echoes afar spelling bell pronounced anecdotes combinatory own its intention paraphrased another prevents certainly local nowhere a tension from answers subtracting as cumulus since combination present elsewhere’s scene visible am its deliciousness swoon a signature […] (45).
Such noncontingent contiguity functions in the mode of transmission, which is not as to say in the medium of. (These are not search engine poems.) The blending of seme into seme runs parallelly, beside the stream of thought—it is the metaphor. Text held then—as with “white balance” in the visual arts—works “to keep neutrals neutral” (Wikipedia). So with the enlarging font size that grips Part 2, where the eponymous Shorthanded meets subgenre in subtitle of “a melodrama.” These tiniest of incursions tell the rags-to-riches of it all!—the learning lists from shorthand manuals at the crux of a gendered economy:
nobody robbed (robed
rubbed) pride (pried)
proud coupled speed.
As the lists grow more densely packed on the page, the kerning is nearly ruled out, simultaneously made more equal. Closing out with “TAI1 PING2,” a title taken from two acronyms, the font engorges the page so as to force the reader to a remove—to become estranged even from the most familiar of phrasings, now monumental if also evermore disposable. We should remember not to underread this typographic gesture…For the author may be thinking in the details of occasion, of wage, and of the leading between lines—in and of the [form] [to write] itself.
Anuncio’s Last Love Song by Nathaniel Mackey
Three Count Pour, 2013
A word bank for subjectivity? Personae adrift in narrative; narrative adrift in personae: Self, Soul, Solito, Alone, Nut; Huggy Boy; Queen Biscuit. And this to say nothing of Anuncio|Anuncia, subjectivities bifurcating love, loss, and perhaps, purely, memory. Even unproper nouns get up to riffing melopoeically refrain, as with Double Octet; also with Would, past tense verb of will: “would’s acquiescent wont. Would / what rescue there was, weak rescue, / “Would / I were there,” he thought…” (). The stanzas of these “last songs” are honeycombed rooms through which tonality wafts, passage to passage. It may feel difficult to enter such a long work as “mu,” from which these poems come, media res; but consider that the music is continuous, never done or undone by that most modernist of nemeses: closure. And these sex-marked annunciating characters? They continue the poetic-jazz axis across the gendered-lingual: “Who’d been oh to Anuncia’s ah Solito / now, not to be swayed he called her hag, / haggard, Hecate had he been Greek… / Botched entente. Mock serendipity…” (). If the paradigm be H.D.’s, sampled remix from Guest’s “The Farewell Stairway,” consider these cadences what’s new within the idiom. Allusion rife—phrase within phrasing—we revise as to reach register, “lower limit song, / upper limit scream” (). And as for our eponymic archetypes as with Woolf’s “Lappin and Lapinova”—they are the beginning end of this most Roman- alphabetic song of a love affair: “…Being as / they / were Zeno and Zenette, there was no / goodbye, every step only a half step, / infinitely in-between bust-up, infinitely / bent / blue note” ().
Chronicles by Janet Kaplan
These tiny notes of grief and being, ceaselessly aflutter in and among reflexivity…“It could be some people love the bible because we don’t know who wrote it. Go back far enough, you’ll find someone writing Genesis, thinking God isn’t writing this—I am!” After this: blank space, measured as prose…And then: “I’m fabricating this story!” (). So self-conscious a chronicler knows the subjectivity of fact and event, the osmosis within signs: “I was afraid of repeating myself, but I wanted to live forever. A sideways loop ∞ appears in the marketplace. I’m an endless repetition! it says. Think of two round mirrors facing one another. Now stand between them” (). These accounts are themselves fixed within such titular genera: Writing Chronicle; Repetition Chronicle; Internet, Ax, and Museum chronicles. “Or both shoes, falling, falling. Ark-worthy, the pair of them” () leaves the subject flooded in scriptural lore, whereas dicta like Forster’s strands paradoxically without modern strata: “To connect! To be inter! To be net!” (). And as for permanency of record: “She took the mood of her time and put it outside. Why should everything fit in a museum?” (). “Fountain repeats itself” ().
Gloss by Giles Goodland
Knives Forks and Spoons, 2012
I would like to propose this book is one of fables—fables between letter and word, or the orthography of the lexical fable. In a state of constant refraction, Goodland’s definitional luster waffles between the incandescent and phosphorescence. It may be allusional [Tristanunt, isold losslieder] or pop cultural [Handsolo, onanymous starwarrior]—it may even involve punning off capitalist critique, as found in Tesco, n sumer, wherein the British grocery super-chain deploys the modern day “consumer” within umbrellaed referent to ancient civ via commerce. For Goodland, Well-defined [is] well defiled is imperative of ecology as well as the linguistic. Several themes are atavistic to the work. First, the literary—never more enjoying itself than when playing off Johnson, Joyce, and Plath. Also, of course, the orthographic, as witnessed in the play between Manuscript, bluried unhand and Manyscript, palimpsestuous heterogloss. Not least, the sand kicked up along the gendered littoral (I refuse to hazard the contraction) and elsewhere: Gene, et alia. This is a devil’s lexicography! And if this devil be bookish: Bookself, oluminous ursona.
A Kick in the Eye: a collaborative graphic novel
by Rosaire Appel (USA), Tony Burhouse (UK), Tim Gaze (Australia), Marco Giovenale (Italy), Gareth A. Hopkins (UK), Satu Kaikkonen (Finland), Gary J. Shipley (UK), Christopher Skinner (UK), Lin Tarczynski (USA), Orchid Tierney (New Zealand), Sergio Uzal (Argentina), Nico Vassilakis (USA)
[the authors], 2013
“The visual on one hand, the lyric on the other, seems not a necessary distinction,” says Marten to Tim and me over coffee and a beer. Not only is this true of the collaborative graphic novel at hand, but what seems equally true of this work is that there needn’t be a distinction between concrete and the asemic. Composed by contributors from various countries within a shared episteme of community—similar perhaps to the friendship scroll of Ling Shuhua—these pages riff between, off of, and against a diversity of mark-bearing identities: character; line; cell; mark; erasure; positivity of space, and negativity of; principles of design; the messy. Also active: a self-consciousness of the graphic novel’s discursive idiom and technological neologisms turned antique. I don’t know page to page if this is work silently screaming, but I’d like to say it’s more similar to a portrait of [*sigh*—kablooey!]
People by Danny Hayward
As though our most inwardly-turned gaze should return the most public of intimacies, Hayward’s tract of poetics-cum-dramatic verse might be said to point out how capitalism has become not only our modus operandi but also our means: “it goes in one mouth and it comes out the other” (30). That this would be the art of Occupy seems evident in the homogenous plurality he is attuned to; our happenstance, en corporating; or: how the corpus is peopled and The People corporeal: “There will be no developments in inner geography without urban redevelopment; no internal chit-chat that does not raise a skyscraper to its banality” (23). Hayward ably nets a flight of terms, such as “economics,” “desire,” and “truth” (elsewhere, “ultimately,” “compliant,” and “pre-condition” (93)) and plies these one to another until they are resolved of culturally remunerative value. Sometimes the lyricism fails me, feeling more the dramatic device of a distancing technique, letting beautiful bits (like those on page 63) risk being lost to their out-of-breathiness—a feature threatening to suck the oxygen away from the reader. This risks deafening the textual listener to such lines as “The true and the contestable / grammar, frescoing the abyss” (89) and “the centre for correction, in which all mere aberrations of feeling are destined to be incarcerated” (154). Ultimately, and despite overcareful checkbook balancing, a Trotskyan bridge is offered here: between poetics and lyric, polity and social agency—our aesthetics and our passion.
Prospectus for a Stage by Jared Schickling
Little Red Leaves Textile Series, 2013
Hence, prospectus; thus advertisement. Advertisement for a staging that will necessitate mirrors, pattern, symmetries, and spacing. In other words, kaleidoscopic prose in which the dramatis personae are the issues of our day in guises from an epicurean’s wardrobe. (Picture Lucretius in your carpool...) Hence: thus: a nature of quotidian thinking amid current affairs: “China’s mark, Taiji, or the Te, in a Japanese village in ‘The Cove’ of reversal (a documentary) was the way, of the Tao, around that corner, sea turns red” (0016), bloodied by the necessity of its truth-telling. The sign by which this staging is underwritten may be Olsonian: “within five seasons, earth wobbling round its axis—the graphicized fibonacci of these tree rings no longer need distinction (or feedback, like ripples), the quadrant of one Mayan day-glyph approached it, the long arc curving by ninety degrees times four and flux”()—mirrors, pattern, symmetries, spacing. Should you have thought the nature of thought had that much changed, better attune your carpool’s wavelength to this “radio that remembers” (0003).
A Theory of the Vowel by Elisabeth Frost
Red Glass Books, 2013
Particulate, in the theories of meaning-making, are the units of discourse: Noun. Vowel. Particle. Diphthong. Consonant. Deictic Center. In the physics of Frost’s page take these units for matter; and for energy, the spatial. You will need negotiate the page by bracket and italic, space and term. “ruby-throated hummingbird” and “trochilidae archilochus colubris )” linnaeate their own register, against which squares “[ what the bird hears ]” (3-4). As for theories…Why—these are anti-postulates! taking for granted only, as in “A Theory of the Consonant,” that we might recognize our vocality against such discursive ‘cursions; might pluck against voice’s strings with pic: “- gress / - graph / / th sh cz zb ż ng” (15). And weren’t always these theories—the very reading, the ‘riting, the ‘rithmetic?
see my hand pointing at
my hand holding
my hand ?” (17)
tones employed as loss by Lary Timewell
Of poetry concerned with the nature of poetry, add to that list this title. Unthrough as we should be with Modernism, Timewell is well traveled in the space-time canonicity, “setting / The Way-Back Machine to conjure / / to conjure-up the serious business / of fiscal harps and apotheoses” (). Canonical titles are satirized via pop culture slipups [i.e. Pound’s Cannelloni], and soon we breeze by geographical allusion via Stein and Toklas’s address. If “the answer is here, but the message turns / out to be a grocery list” (), how now the medium? We may be in a state of serial thought—defied if not also reified by an illusory fixity of the digital—nowhere better exemplified than by Timewell’s loudly mutable slices of poetry defined—from “an echo losing insistence” to “living in the lap of lechery” to “kinetic seed.”
weekend’s end by Tim Wright
Baulking Ewes Press, 2013
Take the opening poem, “notes,” the notes of which are marginalia stet. Thus a line from a lecture on political theory like Jodi Dean’s “communist desire as a collective desire for collectivity” () goes slack as a loosening bowstring about again to be taut—twofold, Wright’s arc. Somewhere across field you find mark’s end, say, within the poem “abandon pencil,” where the technology of the implement organizes metonymy: “even tenured seagulls / dovecoted assemblies / grizzle in an interstice” around the circadian, “blundered to bed / in the stinging / kitchen light / early october” (). Materiality is never far from the conditional, as where “written with a bike torch dragging against the page” follows quickly on the heels of: “sun or shade / i take the table / with the chiaroscuro” (); as tower is never far off from citadel: “a fang loose feudalism / in the outer heuristic” (). For poetics read, as from under Raoul Vaneigem’s sign: the [poetry] of everyday life read—as it never was—again.
6 more from above/ground press