Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A Sharp Double-Edged Luxury Object Rodia Draghincescu

A Sharp Double-Edged
Luxury Object
Rodia Draghincescu
Translated by Adam J. Sorkin & Antuza Genescu
Cervena Barva Press
ISBN 978-0-9910091-2-1  $17.00

A Sharp Double-Edged Luxury Object, poems will enchant and intrigue the reader.  Very few books use language in the way Draghincescu does. Most experimental or contemporary poetry seems to me self-conscious. Reading Draghincescu's poetry is like slipping into warm water:

“my loveliness flung her panties in the street
we made a decision to wear everything in the open
(the history of this movement and its glory can be toasted
at its memorial between the first bench in the military park
and the first bench in the tribunal
a clothesline with panties in royal black)”

The first poem, Sight Doesn't Take Everything In, the reader will take a step back and adjust their  perception. The poem's 3 D vision requires consideration and a willingness to be in the poem. At once, the sentence’s tense is part of the present and the past at the same time. It also flings immediacy into another person and syntax. Another reason to read Draghincescu's poems with an open unfettered view is to see what a poem can be and become. We find sense in certain words that help to fuse the poem into its meaning and there are many meanings in the poems' relationship with words. Word like 'military park' and 'tribunal.'  Are we about to be invited to a tribunal of sorts. The end of a relationship --that may or may not encompass everything? It will take much thought to connect the intention:

“I'll exhaust myself saying aaaaaaaaaaaaah into the gizmo
innermost essentials will prick my skin up to
and over my head among white scarves / veils
my scream thanks to which the most abstract of experiences
gets hypostatized in war rivers
will come into intimate contact with the image
of water within”

 And I love the word gizmo. Like the word contraption it confers and shutters with resentments. The poet continues using fragments, Dada deconstruction, or the ordinary as poetry, done in an extraordinary manner; the Surreal clips cut into the poem and form visions, collages, broken watches. The poem ticks. We get to envision how the poem rounds itself, winding timelessly:

“so confusingly concrete I’ll be swimming in myself
anyhow the silence outside has abandoned this place
when I write the word loneliness I write participation
in an inward fanfare of birds
in demonstrations of laid-off virginity
short words muscular pathways still remain
gray hair too (a tendency towards intellectualization
makes itself known in the synapse / thigh in debate versus buttocks)
miss photo so tall so special rendered real as much by affections
as by intelligent ideas”

Disjunction works extremely well in the poem, yet, it flows into the next phrase with the ease of polished slashes and phrases. Rodica uses contemporary images, contemporary language with great skill and confidence. I don't get the sense that Rodica is different in her use of language. I get the sense that she is comfortable using all the nuances of modern poetry and how modern poetry can be made to sound like great poetry. Rodica is not afraid of words and using tense and words in her own tongue:

“where it rains best color with fuji
so much imaginary plasma so much conscious flesh
felling the fact that it's a wrongly perceived concept
miss process with her navel thinking of an everyday brain
without the supernumeraries of mental principles
anyhow my loneliness can be said to be poetry
and poetry wears no panties”

It would be a mistake on the readers’ part to think this poem more than it is. In fact it is what it is in so many ways we get to read about anger, love, intelligent musing about our world and its trappings, its politics, its religions. I find it all there and the poet herself appears ready for the next poem, always ready to write and write she does with the brilliance of any writer I’ve ever read. Bravo:

“but deep psychic phenomena instead
where the world parades with a bare bottom
and it won't depend on sight because sight doesn't take
   everything in
in the final analysis I’m not even lonely
as I lie here under the nightlight”

This is indeed a, “luxury object,” a must buy. Writing at its best is not self-conscious. A poem need not contain the world but I think it speaks to everyone in a language the poets deems understandable. The contemporary reader will adore this universal book.

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor: Wilderness House Literary Review
Reviewer: Cervena Barva Press

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Eating Grief at 3 a.m. by Doug Holder: Review by Former Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish

 (Sam Cornish-Left  Doug Holder-Right)

Eating Grief at 3 a.m.
Doug Holder
Muddy River Books, 2013

Review by Sam Cornish

Doug Holder is a poet of the old city, the city of our fathers, of the 1950s and later. His most recent chapbook has been published by Muddy River Books, a new literary press. Mr. Holder writes poems like notes in a diary. I found myself struck by their economy, wit and urban melancholy. Holder is also a publisher and lecturer at Endicott College, as well as founder of the Bagel Bards of Somerville. As these poems demonstrate, he has a voice unlike that of any of his contemporaries:

There are no places anymore
Where I can sit at a threadbare table
Pick at the crumbs on my plate...

This poem opens a book with the bleak humor of early Beat writing and it is a welcome change from the evasive realism of current poetry from the mainstream and literary press. It is like reading a newspaper written by journalists who records the life of the city in the poem instead of prose. It’s like reading a white blues poem. From “Abandoned Warehouses”:

Sometimes you must follow
The rat’s path
The vagrant,
The scrawled invective of the graffiti

Doug Holder is a poet of the street and coffeehouses, an observer of the everyday. He writes of old Marxists, security guards and his relationship to his deceased father — themes of the common life. I am drawn to these poems as I am to the poetry of Philip Levine and the prose of James T. Farrell. But Holder’s poetry is deeper than that. He sees the world not for what it is, but on his own terms. He is living in the poem rather than in poetry.

It is late at night
And the fruit
Has gone bad...

These poems are to be read almost as if the reader is observing a photograph, centers the composition and the stories within stories. The poems are not only about what Mr. Holder sees, but how he feels. These are his words and no one else’s. From “Transcendence”:

You see when I am
84 floors up
my feet are still
cemented to
this goddamn floor
and I don’t know
who I am anymore.

This collection, if read slowly, pausing, will break your heart. I recommend it for its honesty and its purity.

— Sam Cornish