Friday, October 16, 2015

Chloe Garcia Roberts amid the Spaces of Poetry

Chloe Garcia Roberts

Chloe Garcia Roberts amid the Spaces of Poetry

in her new book THE REVEAL

article by Michael T Steffen

There’s a great joy in recovering lost and forgotten things, even the old lost things of language we call archaisms. This accounts for one of the true delights Chloe Garcia Roberts brings us with her new book of poems THE REVEAL (ISBN 978-1-93489-45-6) from Noemi Press. The titles of the poems, somewhat elaborate, hinting at paradox or suspended with grammatical complexity, are reminiscent of old anthology titles, first lines from Emily Dickinson (“After great pain, a formal feeling comes”) or one of Shakespeare’s sonnets (“That time of yeeare thou maist in me behold”). Thus Garcia Roberts gives us: IN ORDER TO SEE A TRUTH IN DARKNESS ; THOUGH TRANSPARENT IN THE DAY, AT NIGHT LIKE GLASS I BECOME A MIRROR. Some of the titles go postmodern in their old Baroque constructions and metaphysical evocations: I AM A SUSPENSION, NOT A SOLUTION ; ONCE WHEN LIGHT RETURNED AFTER A BLACKOUT, I FOUND MY FACE PRESSED INTO A WALL ASKING FOR HELP ; FREEDOM IS THE THICKET WITH WHICH YOU FILL YOUR DELINEATED AIR.

     The book’s leading title, THE REVEAL, does something of its own. Words such as “shoot”, “fly” and “find” like Brock Holt play different positions with ease. Without changing forms, they can be either nouns or verbs. You play on the stage when you stage a play. But “reveal” does not do this so readily. Only very recently, mostly in context of media disclosures or TV drama denouements, has it been used and accepted as a noun. “Revelation” is its normative noun form. So the effect of the title THE REVEAL, especially in context with the other grander, old-style titles, is one of peculiarity. On the book cover the article THE is set almost a line above REVEAL, denoting spaces, perhaps for a fill-in-the-blank sentence, like THE_____ REVEAL______. This is not “reveals” with an “s”, so we are dealing with a third-person plural, required by the definite article, for the subject noun. For example: THE MOVEMENTS IN THE CURTAIN REVEAL THE CAT IN THE WINDOWSILL.

     Because the titles are given all in capitals (mimicking the majority solution to resolving grammatical and typographical uncertainties), there is support for the idea of gaps between THE and REVEAL. This carries over to the furled lining of the hemi-stitches in the poems themselves, leaving gaps of delineation and silence down across the page. One very concrete definition of poetry lies in the deliberate margins of its composition and presentation, denoting the metaphysical speech of silence, transposed as “DARKNESS” in the book’s first title and remarkable opening statement:

                                                IN ORDER TO SEE A TRUTH IN DARKNESS

            Listen for its edge.

            The border always                   —silhouetted, glancing—

            divines the real from

                                                the form.

The fragmentary lining gives rise to different contextual possibilities. Written out as an ordinary sentence, there is a definite sense to the statement, “I know only one voice in the swarm and am not interested and refuse to see the cloud, the skin, you wreathe it in.” The meaning draws particularly to “the one voice in the swarm.” But lined out as it is in the poem, we get something with more amplitude and a much wider reach:

                                                            I know

            only one voice                          in the swarm

            and am not interested

                                                            and refuse to see

            the cloud,

            the skin,

            you wreathe it in (page 3).

Given these spaces, the eye is apt to land on “I know…and am not interested…and refuse to see…”—a credo of diffidence we may generally own while not wanting to, yet helpless in the barrage and volume of information we are prone to, in the spill out 24/7 holding the world in our hands, in our cell phones, IPODs and tablets, everywhere we go, let alone whatever newspaper or book in non-updateable print we happen to pick up. These notions from the first page reflect back to the contemporary sense of “REVEAL” as a noun, indicating a media news disclosure, that a Hollywood couple has had a fallout, or that another personality has come out of the closet. Trivia. In its short form, the word means substantially less than it does in its traditional form, revelation, which distinguishes poetry as a created and significant form of writing.

     It’s reassuring when poems delving at confinement, within one’s room, can be suggestively reflective of what’s going on outside around the house. It affirms the continuity, in Seamus Heaney’s terms, between center and circumference, fruit and tree. This is so even if Garcia Roberts’ poems robe themselves with much referential plumage in the way of language poems, anonymously assertive without formal regard for completion: I AM A SUSPENSION, NOT A RESOLUTION—speaking by turns in defense of her sources of inspiration, by turns in her own defense.

     Who precisely her counterpart is… In one passage she describes the process of disintegration between structure and surface:

            Bathe the body from the bones

            and only the us is left,

                                    leafing silently beneath. (page 7)

Most captivating about Garcia Roberts is her deliberation in earnest. These poems are written, not scribbled or edited like show poodles. She keeps her readerly self, that inheritance, at hand for light in its different senses of wit, affirmation and elucidation.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Underworld of Lesser Degrees By Daniel Y. Harris

The Underworld of Lesser Degrees
By Daniel Y. Harris
NYQ Books
New York, NY
ISBN: 978-1-63045-000-7
148 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Betwixt the poetry of Bandersnatch and martyrdom’s bleakness comes Harris (Daniel Y.) the Hadean all sulphured up. Spleen-bound, prettified Priscoan, he bocks and burbles to Madame or Sir, real as the darker angels. He chirtles away behind the scenes. Consider this rite of ecclesiastical longing, an introduction, Hypostasis, an opening here,

Pray to appease Asmodai
zombied with fog horns in the dark, hollow
hole of salted ousia. Antic disposition
or ontic dispossession? Never feigned.
Always canonic. To be the tilted palm,
Packing in the prick-light of prayer,
Asmodai is Iago bloated as faith’s
Negation. Tongues are unsigned.

Notice the Bard’s bilious one cleaves into the wrathful king of nine hells, a heart of unrestrained lust. The Book of Tobit says more.

The poet propanes another bauble bilious from the scatological heap of sacred syllables, the cause before the cause, the original bubble beneath. In the sixth part of his piece, Excerpts from Seven Dead Kafkas and a Fork, credulity strained, he divulges in a way his train, his thoughts go further,

… back to the dipshittery of Holy shit:

better to be the shit, hot shit and louse shit,
than the shit of fans, etiolated and crotchety
to constipated drives to buy a shit remover:

stick it up your argumentation ex stercore
tauri—money talks bullshit walks arse up
and arching, shoots the shit on a book tour

Oh The Last Man shines his decrepitude and faltering immortality, for now in the eyes of his shadow partner fading into the synthetic sheets. As the description swells among chocolate and kelp into the new man, the modern erasure of animal flaw maximizing absolute pleasure, the porn male of nothingness crowned in misbegotten strewed  moments doomed to be first tolerated before immunity takes hold. So you think nonsense fires these Pascalian wagers! 

Well-named and prickly the Prophet Daniel demands our damned attention, preaches the Viagra vicissitudes of deadly lust and mortality celebrating the Prometheus moment of procreation telemetry.  Give us our daily climax and deliver the last Olympic player from passivity. Here Harris effectively touches the religiosity of his orgiastic subject,

…From the heights, the numen
coded in copper scrolls, redacts the tasty
shibboleth of lust. Persists a sore ganglion

below the rub-flutter of thighs, waits to
spit glitter, arches neck-face projectile in
the crease with nitric oxide. Groans and

grinds. The hung light and forepangs, this
athlete’s chemical curse to stay aroused,
tosses pillow at these gods of perineum.

Blasted by sand, a desert dirge, the parched air pirouetting out a century of beauty as souls (the unmentionable word) evaporate over the melting transcontinental highways running beside the River Styx, yes the poet dishes this and more in the entitled Threnody of Reach. He minimizes with motels, suburbia, and small bills. Charge cards would not fit the neutered world of suicide luck. The ode well-wrought, the sorrow collected in rain barrels. Says Harris in a geologic trekking out,

Fires of stone and sedge, dried below a mantle
of basalt. Walls of pink clay shaped like teeth
clenched on bone. Mineral stained arcs high-
striped in cracks. Petrified sand dunes layered
in conical rings. Evapotranspiration in a matrix
of orange runoff. Rainshadow tundra littered
with red spiked prickly pears…

Invention, like playing God for fun, comes from grave-like depths and a density beyond documentation. Demons flit about the creators as they work up a storm of life, a day of days with mockery and humor. Drink from this cup, The Fabulist, all of you. Do you hear me! Dead story tellers walk among us. The word “shard” must be cut from their flesh before cleared to jump. And they do jump into the moonlight, mid-phrase.  The poet observes the game, calculates the odds, then the rewards, and concludes thusly,

I double take standing up to flip
in stills of rote spin and win
repeat play, lost in some Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern are Dead
limbo of an uncertain likely day.
Reflexive as we are we reify
the effect the causes rebuke
and settle scores left on the edge
of an edgy place. If I anoint
you catalyst then you may
anoint me. You may go first
and share the fabulist call
to inspire, each a well of living
sight, mingling cohorts in a lit
loci of chance from which we
mime the daft and shapely puns
of circumstantial fun.

This experimental baseball breathes its uncomfortable prolepsis into the routine of everyday life and colors the rush and run etching with remnants of mystical oddness and daft ethos. Bravo the pastrami sandwich infused with mustard-seed rapture. Bravo Harris.