Thursday, February 29, 2024

TRIBUTARY (poem)

  

Thousands of voices reverberate the ancient gong. in the way,,, present moment,,, implicates all

 

Molten roots of falcon fang,,, the diocese of carnal visitations

 

2024 the year of black-tailed jack rabbit

 

The year zero watches yer back when forgetfulness is an attempted perfection

 

You who hunt the birds are hunted,,, haunted by a bottomless nothingness

 

You who name the birds closed to the reality of yer moats around yer words grinning & bearing starry nights

& yer throats prefer barley wine

 

As long as my tombstone reads: By Candlelight,,,

 

There's no need to question the stark contrast between the picture in the advertisement & the actual thing in real-time

 

He lived & died making certain the women of the night are well represented in his poetry,,,

 

Passing the transfer fare to a stranger, pulling a loosie to a flame & counting the money & conjuring the ancestors with the same hand over fist

 

If there is anything as close to god's work,,, i haven't yet lived & died enough times to see it

 

Whatever they make of my poetry,,, whatever you do,,, please just try to remember the hands of yer breath,the breath in yer hands, the breath, the wind,,, a solitary drop of rain floating from evergeen's pinecone sermon, the waters & none of this found amusing to hawk eye,,, seeing above particular matters of transience,,,

the waters & the hands of yer breath

Monday, February 26, 2024

MEDITATION (poem)


i'm more worried
about where
the war machines
in the sky
are going
from here

one breath in
one breath out

the lotus in the pond
& the AK-47 in the closet

one breath in
one breath out

it is said that finch
would rather die
than stop singing
the lands to which
she belongs

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Friday, February 23, 2024

Review: A Phalanx of Insight—Reading Will Alexander’s DIVINE BLUE LIGHT

 


“L.A. Unified is typical, man. Down there where I was at, nobody hardly made it out of there. Only a few of the cats made it out of there. It’s an isolated situation. You’ve got to keep going on your own without the so-called encouragement that you get in so-called upper-class schooling systems. I meet you, I meet other people, it works, but individuals have to do a lot of their work by themselves—be that lone figment that magnetizes other lone figments in order to commence alchemical communication.”

~ Will Alexander (Colloquy At The Abyss: A Fugitive Amalgam, with Harold Abramowitz, Insert Blanc Press 2020)

 

Will Alexander is not necessarily a “protest poet.” Though I often experience a form of protest within his poetry. I often experience the reverberating NO within Will Alexander’s poems. Will Alexander is not necessarily known or revered as a lyrical poet, though his poems are often musically layered, nuanced & lyrical. This is just to say that Will Alexander is a breaker of boundaries, his poetic seems to scoff at or laugh in the face of labels.

It is because of my observation here, that I hope I can safely posit that Will Alexander seemingly breaks all barriers and transcends all labels within his poetry practice, it is because of this that I feel all poets need to read & experience the work of Will Alexander. It was said in the Ron Carter documentary on PBS that anybody who is interested in Jazz needs to go back & study Ron Carter. Because of his immensity, because of the multitudes of connections to a plethora of musicians, to each era and decade of Jazz—to each evolution of music itself—Ron Carter is absolutely vital to Jazz & to music. Without trying to compare these two artists, I will say with absolute certainty that this can be said of Will Alexander as well—

If you are interested in poetry, either as a poet or as a fan of the form, or both—you need to tune into & study the work of Will Alexander. And his latest book DIVINE BLUE LIGHT (City Lights 2022) is a great place to begin (or continue) one’s journey with his poetry.

One thing I need to say, when writing about, or reading, the work of Will Alexander, is that I can only share what I see from my own subjective & very relative vantage point. I can only see what I can see. And I’m inevitably going to miss some things, especially in a review like this. Aye, se la vie. This is the predicament for nearly all modes of communication, sure, and with a poet of depth & magnetism to the degree of a Will Alexander; one needs to be particularly keen in holding the facts close within one’s perception. There are so many layers, so many avenues of possible exploration & discovery in Will Alexander’s poetry, that it can be difficult to synthesize or try to focus on a single essay-length set of observations. I think there’s goodness in the attempt though, so here it is in any situation, my initial observations & reactions to Will Alexander & his latest book of poems, DIVINE BLUE LIGHT.

Because Will Alexander writes & works in the realm of the possible. And I perceive Alexander as a poet who can reveal possibilities of language, and thus of this world, possibilities of this life; possibility in relating to this world & this life in a way that isn’t confined to language. Language is our gateway, our open door, as a species; into the creative process, into creating our world(s) & forming a mind which can begin to grip & peel back the layers of meaning which can ultimately lead us to our own salvation. For our freedom, we speak! For our freedom, we write. So yes, Will Alexander being a poet of possibility, with DIVINE BLUE LIGHT, I found a similar spiritual richness in my reading as I find with, for example, my listening to Coltrane’s The Night Has A Thousand Eyes—and I don’t think Alexander has illy thrust himself into a conversation linking his poetry & Coltrane’s music as much as it feels like the poet is driven or impelled by an inner connection to Coltrane, an inner connection which is so sincere, vast & real, that when expressed outwardly, it can be hard to distinguish between the spiritual implications of, say, Blue Train, and, say, the spiritual implications of Alexander’s poems from DIVINE BLUE LIGHT, which remain as “simultaneity alive.”

My first, perhaps subconscious, connection to Will Alexander’s work was not via Coltrane at all, in fact…these two spiritual seers occupied perceptibly different universes in my mental space (before encountering DIVINE BLUE LIGHT for the first time), but instead my first connection to Will Alexander’s poetry was via the stoics. More specifically, the stoic idea that uncertainty is possibly not a human flaw or weakness. This idea that uncertainty is the grounds for discovery, for curiosity to grow & evolve…this idea that we can sometimes & often do think our way out of & through hardship as pre-requisite to action—after all, it was a Black, American (perhaps) stoic, Richard Wright, who wrote that dreaming is the prelude to action— that we can use our human minds to generate some form of intangible power(s) within our midst capable of transcendence, that our minds are perhaps the frontline of action…which is no small detail & a rich dreamlife & friendship with one’s subconscious mind could in fact be the grounds for a marvelous poetry practice (& life) to flourish. Riffing here, as well, from Lucille Clifton’s philosophy that poetry, to her, is a way of being in the world. Having a bit of knowledge of Will Alexander the man and Will Alexander the poet; it becomes clear, even through the mystery & unknown aspects of these, that Alexander’s poetry practice is his way of being in the world. And with this idea posited by Seneca that one should…Think your way through difficulties: harsh conditions can be softened, restricted ones can be widened, and heavy ones can weigh less on those who know how to bear them.

For example, in DIVINE BLUE LIGHT, the fact that this is a poet who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, during a time when the first gangs were being formulated as a communal defense mechanism on the part of the neighborhoods, against the oppressive police presence within those communities—that Will Alexander grew up under seemingly endless hardship, and indeed learned how to flourish in spite of the oppression & destruction aimed at his being—these facts need not be a spotlight to Alexander’s poetic, rather, these facts instead can be felt more deeply as the backdrop for an undeniably sound & innovative poetry to manifest & take shape.

So that when his poetry observes: “A continent / that has made a covenant with its own ruin / has made the skies starved / has made stone momentarily disadvantage itself...” there is a sense of experience, there is a sense that Alexander’s vision within & on this “continent that has made a covenant with its own ruin,” has grown beyond geographical confines & is not at all guided by an attachment to the systematic oppression, to the propaganda machine that seems to grow in stature on the daily. Alexander is an outsider to all this, it is clear that he has found a source of strength within, and that this source of strength emanates without attachment to the phenomena he labels, names & in turn is positioned entirely against within his poetry.

One thing I learned from Will Alexander's connection to Uche Nduka's poetry: I can often become suspicious of protest poetry, because protest poems can sometimes lack in providing alternatives, they can lack in providing or building towards something different. I mean, I don’t think it is enough to stand against oppression, it is not enough for one’s voice to grow in opposition to a wicked & corrupt system of control. We need to be more. The poets need to be more. Poetry needs to be more than a set of complaints about the present reality of oppression, suppression & regression.

We, people of good conscious & desire, need something more, we need to be actively creating a world simultaneously worth striving towards, when presented with the world we are striving against, as peoples, as a species. So, when I read Will Alexander poems, these are rich in alternatives (live within!), Will’s poems are deeply ingrained in the building of, the movement towards a more just & compassionate world for all of us. Sometimes the diagnosis comes first, and sometimes the medicine isn’t allowed to arrive until the diagnosis is wholly sounded out.

So that, Will Alexander’s poetry is concerned with that “being [that] conjoins with itself as aboriginal revelation.” This facet of Will Alexander’s poetry, this providing of a diagnosis & medicine often in the same poem, simultaneously connects him to great & brilliant Black poets of the past, as well as connecting him to brilliant & great Black poets of the present moment. I see Alexander’s poems establishing an authentic communion in the present moment with, say, the poetries of Tongo Eisen-Martin, Uche Nduka, Darius Simpson, Aja Monet, and Mahogany L. Browne; to name only a few.

With some of this in mind, it seems that Will Alexander is thee poet who connects us (readers/poets) to the past and simultaneously to the present. It was Alexander’s connection to Philip Lamantia, for example, that thrusted me forward into my first reading of Kaleidoscopic Omniscience (Skylight Press 2013)… more than a few years ago. Amiri Baraka’s Black anger, Black genius and keen eye for seeing his place in this predicament is present within the poetry of Will Alexander. This is not to say that Will Alexander “borrowed” from Baraka, more so that Will Alexander & Amiri Barka (and others) seem to be intrinsically connected via a spiritual vitality, a spiritual point of view that never truly dies. And of course, we need not be confined by the mental or otherwise real blockades of the borders of the United States either. Will Alexander’s poetry is intrinsically connected to the surrealists of older days as well, specifically & most apparently to that towering poetry of Aimé Césaire.

With the release of DIVINE BLUE LIGHT, it appears that Will Alexander has made another successful effort in reinforcing these authentic connections to past & present poets, to past & present poetries, to the realm of the possible. And indeed, this is a poet who reaches through time, who sees through time; a poet who is a living manifestation of Black & surrealist genius which has not ever been absent from the world of poetry, if not severely neglected altogether by the American mainstream consciousness.

To bring this all back to the stoics, which in a weird way, I find Will Alexander’s poetry also intrinsically connected to—Will Alexander is a poet who deeply cares about the human trajectory, the fate of the human being, the strength & vitality of the human mind & spirit…because it feels like with Will Alexander’s poetry, we are gifted a compass, an esoteric map leading to the promised land…the promise of peace & justice, the promise that any answers worth repeating, any good news worth sharing & any light worth bearing will be found on the inside, any solace or sense of direction is to be found within your very being. And it is true that this is the message of the great prophets before us as well—this is the message older than time itself—that the human heart & the human psyche is the place to be! What we’re seeking is seeking us, what we truly need is to be found by inquiring within our very being—the answers we seek are to be found & created within the being of the humanquoting now from Marcus Aurelius: How can the general rules by which we live perish unless the particular circumstances which they govern cease to be? […]  Understand this and you have nothing to fear: It is in your power to restore life simply by reviewing the life you’ve lived. This is what it means to live again…bear in mind that the measure of a man is the worth of the things he cares about. 

 

Mantric Blizzard as Space

A continent
that has made a covenant with its own ruin
has made the skies starved
has made stone momentarily disadvantage itself

Its circumstance deeper than tremors remains equational habit
     miming itself
via counted tablets of time

not a mantric blizzard of space into empty air
but every piece of ice as mathematical symbol

not a living quotient
but a dazed nutrient gone awry

a dark veering
stumbling over its own loins

& because
I am at nerves’ end
I can only breathe mantras
& live within 



Click here to order your copies of Will Alexander's DIVINE BLUE LIGHT (for John Coltrane), via City Lights Books.




From City Lights Publishers:

Against the ruins of a contemporary globalist discourse, which he denounces as a “lingual theocracy of super-imposed rationality,” Will Alexander’s poems constitute an alternative cartography that draws upon omnivorous reading–in subjects from biology to astronomy to history to philosophy–amalgamating their diverse vocabularies into an impossible instrument only he can play. Divine Blue Light is anchored by three major works: the opening “Condoned to Disappearance,” a meditation on the heteronymic exploits of Portuguese modernist Fernando Pessoa; the closing “Imprecation as Mirage,” a poem channeling an Indonesian man; and the title poem, an anthemic ode to the jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. Other key pieces include “Accessing Gertrude Bell,” a critique of one of the designers of the modern state of Iraq; “Deficits: Chaïm Soutine & Joan Miró,” in homage to two Jewish artists forced to flee the Nazi invasion of France; and “According to Stellar Scale,” a compact lyric that traveled to space with astronaut Sian Proctor. The newest installment in our Pocket Poets Series, Divine Blue Light confirms Alexander’s status among the foremost surrealists writing in English today.


Friday, February 16, 2024

Review: Joel Dias-Porter's Ideas of Improvisation




 

One facet of Joel Dias-Porter’s poetic that I find nearly endlessly fascinating, is that this is a poet who is able to meet the reader where they are. For example, I don’t have much knowledge of Pittsburgh, which is clearly held dear to the poet. I don’t quite fully grasp every aspect of what Dias-Porter is doing…there’s layers to this poetic…..what the maroon highlighted words are doing, although it appears these highlighted words are creating an entirely new/alternative poem...or another picture within the big picture of Ideas of Improvisation. There are aspects of the poet’s craft which remain a mystery to me, and I’m okay with that. Some of this stuff is likely above my head no doubt, however, Joel Dias-Porter writes an inviting stanza, with lively music & a keen eye for that which moves!  It is because of these valued aspects of his craft that I am eager to keep exploring, keep returning to this collection & opening the door for further discovery. I’m good with part of this being a mystery to me, if not lost altogether in certain respects.

Off the bat, Ideas of Improvisation & its music are delightful! Like a delving upon the lingual dance floor of an audacious sound selector who was raised on Emily Dickinson poems, all the while remaining just as studious with Ornette Coleman’s body of work as with Whitman or the Greek classics. Ideas is less verbal acrobatics & more relatable to verbal yoga—the speaker(s) are ever centered in their prowess for stretching & imploring & pushing the body of sound towards meaning & connection…whether you be a regular on Joel Dias-Porter’s dance floor, or whether you be a newcomer—there is much delight, many motions, many linguistically dexterous ignitions of vision…there are many possibilities on this dance floor of language.

The second aspect of this collection I noticed right away, and is an area of further exploration in continuing to read Ideas of Improvisation—I am surprised, curious & inspired by the movement of Dias-Porter’s lines. The ebb & flow. The peaks & valleys. If I didn’t know Dias-Porter, and I really don’t, aside from what can be gleaned from this body of work…I would guess this is the work of a trained or maybe self-taught Jazz musician. Don’t take my word for it though, just check this out:


…let’s say your brain is a Pittsburgh bound train

but your mouth is a horse drawn Amish wagon

and what dances across the stage of your cranium

isn’t always projected on the scrim of your skin,

or your voice twists trying to signal “I believe you”

since she believes inflections the way Crayola

once believed in a peach crayon called “FLESH.”

 

One reason to appreciate Jazz music, to my mind, is that the unadulterated, unexpected & unknown can shine through any given piece of music, at any given moment & often in moments extended & imbued with the player’s spiritual imprint, with the player's personality. There are no mistakes when your human spirit is the compass. And maybe you as a listener don’t know what is coming next, and maybe the human being behind the saxophone doesn’t know what’s coming next. This is the truth of the human predicament. And this is the ground where truth telling is allowed to flourish. Perhaps the only ground that truth telling is allowed to flourish: when the player’s spirit is intrinsically connected to the instrument, when the instrument is an extension of the player's very being. The above excerpt begins with an evocative music, the poet is connected to the instrument, the instrument flows from poet's being...the instrument in this case, language—

With this connection, the grounds of the poem are made fertile for planting of the truth. In this excerpt, (one aspect of the truth) is the absurdity & failure of human imagination to call a peach crayon “FLESH.”

What if, instead of “excerpt,” I use the word “sample” when speaking about pieces or tidbits of a poem removed from the overall context of the poem—when a portion of a Joel Dias-Porter poem is removed from its overall context within the poem itself—a sampling of the original composition—sure, the original context may be lost, but we also, as readers, get something new. One of the vividly exciting aspects of spending time with Ideas of Improvisation, is that the poems can be sampled, the lines can be flipped & time-stretched & tuned & pruned & each time you get something new.

Perhaps the original context is not lost at all. Perhaps the sampled lines can grow to enliven & enrich the textures & context(s) of the original composition…perhaps we as readers can develop a richer understanding of the poem as a whole, by using this sampling technique. Not unlike the technique that, say, the indelible A Tribe Called Quest producers, Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Q-Tip, would have used to craft the timeless work of art that is Scenario, for example. Have you ever listened to a Tribe record, and then found yourself sonically time-traveling back to Kool & The Gang, Stevie Wonder, Ohio Players? This is a similar situation with Dias-Porter's poems. Sample Joel Dias-Porter poems & you may wind up time-traveling back to Whitman, Dickinson, The Last Poets, Komunyakaa, etc.

So yeah, there is a rich & vital spiritual connection to Jazz & Hip Hop, to Black music, which is front & center in Ideas of Improvisation. I also want to explore something that seems to be uniquely Joel Dias-Porter’s. Actually, I am aware that there are other poets who do this. However, I haven’t yet encountered the level of style, the smoothness—the coolness—the down to Earth & simultaneous flyness—with which Dias-Porter manages this. Because when I’m reading these poems, I feel like I’m having a conversation with the poet & with the speaker(s). These poems feel like conversations.

And this feeling is emboldened by actual quotes interspersed throughout the collection. The spiritual connection to the instrument is made even stronger here again...by the poet choosing to address the reader with directive commands. Not a command from any outside authority, but a command in the sense that seemingly extends from an inner-authority, an inner-confidence, an inner-knowledge—and the spirituality of these poems being rich & of depth—I’m reminded of the beauty & poetry found within the Quran.

When the speaker directs reader to, “Say / Buffalo buffalo buffalo,” or to “Say your friend Gigi claims it may storm later,” or to “Say the Creator my OG,” there is an authority established, but I don’t see it as an authority over anything or anyone, more so an authority that comes from the knowledge of oneself, and how one fits in & contrasts with the world, with society—an authority that comes from a direct knowledge of suffering, an authority derived from an understanding of human joy & toil & grace…an authority that comes from an understanding of the human predicament.

The speaker is seemingly consoling the reader, via a voice of understanding, a voice of connection. A voice rich in empathy. The directions are warm, I posit here, only because the sense of authority is coming from within. The speaker is rich in empathy...because of the authentic spiritual connection between player & instrument. After all, aren’t all poets to a certain extent speaking to themselves as well as to the reader/listener? Aren’t we also simultaneously speaking to ourselves in conversations with others. Walt Whitman is mentioned early on in this collection, so it seems Joel Dias-Porter may also sing a song of himself! Hypothesis!

There is a deep well of wisdom in this form of conversation, simultaneously poet to self & poet to reader. Are you looking for something? What are you seeking? Say the Creator my OG. Had your heart broken yesterday, last week, an hour ago...months ago and don’t know what to do about it now? Say your friend Gigi claims it may storm later. Do you see systematic injustice and obvious violations of the public’s trust on the part of those in positions of power..do you see something or anything at all? Are you presently fighting for your life? Are you on the ropes? Are you taking those corners slowly? At high speeds? Or maybe you just want to dance with language, and with ideas and with time. Maybe you know this world is fucked up & it feels that way beyond measure sometimes, maybe you just need a reminder, maybe you want to remember that there is another human being out there somewhere, perhaps in Pittsburgh writing a brilliant poem right now, who sees that despair is always an option & continues to choose against it anyhow. Say Buffalo buffalo buffalo.


 

PORTRAIT OF THE AUTIST AS A STARFISH IN COFFEE
for Fritz, Harro, Ernst and Hellmuth

Say your friend Gigi claims it may storm later,
but the primary aspects of your spectrum
are aspic, raspy, an aspirant. So perhaps you
beam an asparagus smile because your brain
just conjured up Oran “Juice” ones singing
“I saw you (and him) walking in the rain.”
Is this why Benjamin Franklin invented the internet
so that people could talk, but not face to face?
When you look at people you can read the ratios
in the bone structure beneath their skin, almost
the way other folk can read people’s faces
like a vegan scanning a list of ingredients
but what if every expression was pimpled in Braille
and you had only catcher’s mitts below your wrists,
or suppose when told to let sleeping dogs lie,
you wondered how a Doberman could be dishonest?
Fact: The U.S. has over 95,000 miles of shoreline,
but on some plates the border between the country
of carrots and the province of peas will never meet—
let’s say your brain is a Pittsburgh bound train
but your mouth is a horse drawn Amish wagon
and what dances across the stage of your cranium
isn’t always projected on the scrim of your skin,
or your voice twists trying to signal “I believe you”
since she believes inflections the way Crayola
once believed in a peach crayon called “FLESH.”
And maybe you can instantly multiply and divide
four or five digit numbers in your head, but
what if—for once—grasping a metaphor wasn’t
like finding a formula to solve cube roots?
OK, perhaps Ben Franklin didn’t exactly
invent the internet, but the internet does
contain pictures of him inventing electricity.
Fact: Pittsburgh has over 400 bridges,
most of which don’t cross rivers, and say
she extends her hand to pat your arm
yet you jerk away because every finger
broadcasts radiostatic charge, and alright
Ben Franklin didn’t really invent electricity
but he certainly earned many pennies cutting
off lights during a thunderstorm,
so you try to stop to collect he new coins
of thought spilling from your pockets
even as you spot the pot on the back
of her electric range approaching a boil.
And we all know how you can hear even
incandescent bulbs like humming mosquitos
but as you attempt to read her tone spinning
like a Sinatra single on the platter of a Victrola,
Gigi just perplexes her head, peering
into your conch-like mouth as your arms
splay like a sea star mired in mocha sand
and her boat slowly begins to turn to steam.


Click here to purchase your copies of Ideas of Improvisation by Joel Dias-Porter, via Thread Makes Blanket.

 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Checking in 2 | Celebrating the release of RESUSCITATIONS

 


 

Greetings & Salutations,

I'm pleased to announce that my first full-length collection of poetry is now available for purchase. This has been quite the journey, getting this book ready for publication. In fact, up until 2 weeks ago, I wasn't even certain that this book was going to happen. The idea hadn't crossed my mind yet. I wouldn't recommend attempting to do the work of 3-4 months in 2 weeks, but hey, se la vie! It was a worthwhile, if not trying, experience with the end result (hopefully) magnifying the beauty & strength of poetry!

RESUSCITATIONS is kinda the result of a split decision, 2 weeks ago I just realized that with my poems stash from 2021, 2022 & 2023...I had enough poems for a full-length collection (99 pages) & went ahead on the path to preparing this book. It was kind of unplanned, although I knew I wanted to release a book at some point, I had no idea that now would be the time. I guess sometimes a human being just needs to create a space of their own and keep moving forward with that space in mind.

I didn't send this manuscript to any publishers, for real, because up until 2 weeks ago—there was no manuscript! Ha ha. 

In any situation, RESUSCITATIONS is now available for purchase, please click here.

As well, if you have a few minutes (or 21 minutes, if you watch the entire thing), I held court via an impromptu poetry reading on Instagram Live last night. That video is below. 

Thank you to everyone who made this book possible. Thank you to anyone supporting the cause. I'ma be back with more books on the way. I have 2 completed manuscripts in the stash, one which I am shopping around, although I may end up self-publishing that one as well. And another manuscript which is in the nascent stages of laboring & loving. All in all, it's an exciting time for poetry around here, and I am working on a few very exciting things which have to be mum's the word right now. I promise to share good news though, when the time is right. Peace & Grace to you & yours, cheers to the poets & cheers to poetry.

Also, I wouldn't be me if I didn't mention this here. While I was putting the finishing notes & edits on RESUSCITATIONS, Rafah was being bombed & more than 100 Palestinians, including young children, were murdered. None of us can truly be free until Palestine is free.

For those that don't know, Rafah is located on the southern strip of Gaza, and it is the most densely populated piece of land on this planet. Rafah is also the place that Palestinians were told by the Israeli government to evacuate to when they began their attempted genocide 4 months ago. And now they are bombing Rafah & continuing the attempted genocide of the Palestinian people. None of this is lost on me, and the murdering of human beings in this manner, especially young children, is evil & insane, and should not & cannot ever be taken lightly.

If you are an American citizen, I implore you to use this link, via Jewish Voice For Peace, to call your representatives to DEMAND a cease fire NOW: 

https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/take-action/

 

 

FREE PALESTINE.

 


 



Monday, February 12, 2024

Review: Checking In by Adeena Karasick


 

 

Languish in the puissance of simple discipline; in the

swerved curse of pursed posits cresting rhizomes of

creped pursuit. Like sun-drenched penchance partita’s

gedichte seeds of oculus. Condiments tickle synecdoche.

- Adeena Karasick, Lorem Ipsum

 

The advancement of language, the evolution of musical language appear to be a cardinal concern, or aim, for Adeena Karasick.

These poems are endlessly musical. These poems are a sobering & tender slap to the face, and pat on the behind; at the same time. This is not to say that these poems are violent, because they are not. Moreso, these Checking In poems seem to serve as catalysts…they seem to be an attempt to wake up the reader’s psyche, to kick-start the human mind into a state not unlike ecstasy, or a trance-like state where the mind can let go of pre-conceived notions & bias…to find & create a sense of joy, to find & create something good within oneself. Yeah, Adeena Karasick writes spark plugs! Adeena Karasick writes keys into the ignition! Start your mind-engine, put your foot to the proverbial pedal & move! With the ebbs & flows, with the rising & falling, with the contradictions, expansions & contractions of the multi-verse. All is mind, baby! Adeena Karasick sees potential & possibilities where maybe nobody else does, and indeed, where none existed…until she created them.

At the opening of Checking In, a social-media-like timeline flows for multiple pages. Everyone from Ornette Coleman to Emily Dickinson to Papa Smurf is mentioned. They’re all “checking in,” as it is these days, with this poem / hybrid social media timeline. I couldn’t help but think of the absurdity of social media in general, as well as the connections made to these historical figures: “Charles Lamb is drinking Lambrusco” and “Walt Whitman is waiting for a Response!”

It seems reality is an ailment many of us are trying to heal from. Or, at minimum, reality out shines our understanding of it. I wonder what the poet would think about this statement, as she doesn’t hesitate to make attempts to bridge the gap between the known and unknown, seen and unseen. Each line weaves an array of wild & raucous wonder, momentarily tamed only by the one to follow. Each poem is an amalgamation of past, present and future oratories.

Let’s not forget this fact: poetry is often (& supposed to be) a fun endeavor. If not, dear reader, I implore you to find perhaps other reasons you choose to read or spend time with poems—do you want to enjoy yourself? Do you want to enjoy the time you spend with a book? Checking In is immensely enjoyable.

Part of what makes Checking In enjoyable is the light. What I mean, more precisely: the light of laughter. The light of a perspective that seems to recognize the absurdity of living on this planet, in this time; and can sort of trace this absurdity from the very ground the poet, or speaker, is standing on; to the immensity of the sky above—keeping in-heart everything in between, life can often be hilariously tragic, and tragically hilarious. I was reminded of the adage that: A tragedy can become a comedy with time & distance.

So, when Karasick writes lines with her inimitable wit & flare: “Al Green Day,” or “a leak of extraordinary gentlemen / a leak of their own,” I am not so sure that I always understand the path I’m being shown, as reader or viewer, yet somewhere along the path, it could be at the “end” of the poem, or somewhere in between the beginning & the end; I realize I’m thoroughly having a great time. This process feels almost unconscious. But the realization is made somewhere in my reading, and Karasick, like any great magician, has changed my mood! Has changed something within my being, has presented something fresh to my psyche which has evoked a positive reaction to being in communion, if only for a page or a poem, with her poetry.

Following the “path” metaphor further…I liken my reading of Checking In to walking a blindfolded stroll down a seemingly treacherous path, in which the poet also seems to also be blindfolded, yet guided by an internal source of music, and with this music as the guide, she leads my spirit, by hand, down this treacherous path. Meanwhile, the poet is whispering, singing, saying, cackling different tonal & vocal enchantments—different word formulations which I did not really expect to hear, to witness; different ways of speaking through the human spirit that allows this otherwise treacherous journey on rocky & wobbling ground to become akin to a walk in the park. Karasick’s determination in evoking the heart to laughter, to introspection & indeed to connect with the reader in this unique form & fashion is highly appreciated.

So, it is in this manner which I experience Adeena Karasick as a great seer, with a humorous mind’s eye which is inventive & courageous in its approach to language. I say courageous because comedy, humor; an eye for the absurd—these are “things” or endeavors which take an incredible amount of courage to emit & express—to see & be witness to the absurdity of life, the contradictory nature of the human predicament, the human mind, the often unwavering tragedy, the death, the violence following the human mind—to truly see this & to communicate our shared predicament in a way that I find unique to Karasick,  to be able to communicate an often heavy, an often dark & fear-inducing situation we human beings find ourselves in on this planet in a way that evokes & summons the light of laughter, of rejoicing, this can be an incredibly risky & potentially volatile undertaking.

Karasick seems to be acutely aware (& desirous) of the possibility of a symbiotic relationship between poet & reader, between speaker & listener, between poetry & life. The magic of this symbiosis seems to be that, what I see on the page, what plays in my mind, and what plays in the air as I attempt to speak these poems out loud—the magic seems to be a mysterious aura surrounding, enveloping, swirling & twirling around the vicinity of these words, these poems are magic, in part, because perhaps, aside from the default magic of poetry & art—creating something from nothing—these poems are magic perhaps because there seems to be vivid & ancient dance happening—Karasick almost invites you as a reader to dance through the pages, dance with the poetry…from the poet’s own mind & being to the page and eventually to the reader’s own mind & being. Beautiful.


 

I’d Like to be Under the [ ]

 

For inside Aleph, “the teeming se[e]”

~ Jorge Luis Borges

 

See Lily, si papa! See Poppies See Garden Sea Rose Sea

Iris Sea Violet awkward Veus posing among chimneys

with a rag of sea. See the Under Swam Fish thickening

logos star of the sea mother. See shrouds shrewn seared

with the cedilla under the C see. A holy thing to see

Sea laps as the lapis lapse. See Horses: Who will do it?

Out of manes? Words airs, birds. Si! Sea heroes horror

eros Rrose Selavy see here: Stained among salt weeds

see une saison en enfer the singing gut

 

Drenched as they pass see / when you have no eyes,

when your legs are wood. See them riding seaward

lingering in the chambers of the sea with sea-girls

wreathed with seaweed; an old time sea-flight. Seeth

no man Gonzaga his errs and his conquered lines   sea-

surge, wretced outcast hail-scur see the lofty moans of

dating ado see pieces poiesis a mirror of the depraved,

extacy ciphers sensorious

 

Son of a sea biscuit! see the best minds, season slays

sprawls sluff starved sunstruck see la mer, mercredi, claro

que Si! sea the wood for the trees, the trees for the forest

the colour of money how the land lies see double see

eye to i n’ sink into emboucher cool brush see; o

say can u [ ] as the dead see sees which way the wind

 

the eros of ways, the glass half mast, see the writing

on the whorl, the whirl up see.

 

 

From Talon Books:

 Checking In comprises a long poem and a series of other post-conceptual pieces – concrete poems, homolinguistic translations, Yiddish aphorisms – that offer exuberant commentary on the timelessness of digital information and our ravenous appetite for data and connection.

The title poem, composed as a series of faux social-media updates, is a parodic investigation of contemporary literary and pop culture. As a euphoric parade of “alternative facts” or “fake news,” “Checking In” offers satiric comment on the state of American politics. Each ironically investigative line erupts as a self-reflexive mash-up, speaking to our seemingly insatiable desire for information while acknowledging how fraught that information can be.

 

To order copies of CHECKING IN by Adeena Karasick, via Talon Books, click here.