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.

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