Wednesday, November 28, 2012



Desiring Map by Megan Kaminski
(Coconut Books, 2012)

Flash Bang by James Cummins
(Burner Veer, 2011)

Gloss to Carriers by Ian Heames
(Critical Documents, 2011)

HGFED.JANVr; some stars by Jo Cook
(Perro Verlag, 2012)

The Katechon: Lines 101-200 by Michael Cross
(Compline, 2012)

Peaches and Bats, Issue 9, Spring 2012 edited by Sam Lohmann

the relational elations     of ORPHANED ALGEBRA by Eileen R. Tabios & j/j hastain
(Marsh Hawk Press, 2012)

Sorry you’re Occupied: Spontaneous Order, edited by James Louden
(Idiot Society Press, 2012)

wherein? he asks of memory by Jeremy Balius
(Knives Forks and Spoons, 2012)

Words on Edge by Michael Leong
(Plan-B Press, 2012)

[Previously published in Yellow Field 6, Buffalo, N.Y., Edited by Edric Mesmer.]

Desiring Map                         
Megan Kaminski
Coconut Books                                                 

In Sarah, Plain and Tall, an eponymous heroine struggles to reconcile her displacement from the east coast to the plains—nowhere more palpably than, in the film adaptation, Glenn Close likening the wind in the grains to the ocean. So with Megan Kaminski’s Desiring Map wherein place is its own sympathy, and where amid “the estuarine marsh / the signifying process joins us.” The piscatory and the pastoral needn’t be sutured for Kaminski; they are her forte and her field: “walled in the forested gorge / upriver she hears whispers from the Pacific / belated by five years.” And such translation, or mapping, is not without its casualties, where the poem rends lucidly how “sentences accumulate   spread across country lines / soak up lake-water / silt   strangle invasive plants.” The map desired is all-at-once nowhere and accumulatively dispersive, as in my disjointed pairing of this diarist’s cartography—

Here I am                      Here I
carving rivers                am resting
silken space                  glub glub
partitioning                    plodding towards
lake to                          clumps
tree                               of grass


Flash Bang                              
James Cummins
Burner Veer                                            

Flash Bang is James Cummins’ explosive foray into the syntactic, emphatic, atrophied and chaotic field of war from Veer books. The opening line reflects on Clausewitz’s maxim: Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. Taking the quotation and the parenthetic thought through the broken narrative plain, argot, technical language and the explosive articulated space of the experiential rupture and redouble the subjective expression in the poem. There is a highly charged energy to the “movement / as if / neo industrial” a concatenation of discourses trailing through the poem’s twenty segments. Meta-structural details as if readerly direction, “each section / subjugated and subsumed” by the last calculated look into a personal history, but a movement also cadenced in remembrance: “the lights / in a row / one by one / around the outside / the colour green / next to yellow / your scrawl / reminds me / yet again.” Compounding and transformative, “the sound stops.”                                                             


Gloss to Carriers                                      
Ian Heames
Critical Documents                                 

From Critical Documents is Ian Heames’ Gloss to Carriers, which is one of the most beautifully crafted Documents in recent recall. A post-Prynne war report, replete with a refined and caustic utilization of war argot. Heames title poem is scintillating in its mix of reportage and the contestation of notions of objectivity, safety and the privilege of exemption associated with the long-standing war in the Middle-East and the Abu Ghraib photo release. The collection’s integration of pastoral motifs admixed with reportage holds to antecedents prevalent in recent English poetry, but does so with a striking lyricism that disintegrates the subjective identity of the speaker and casts the experiential account of the war in a technical, maligned, cupric light. Gloss to Carriers is an exemplar of a thread of modern British poetry which has managed to grapple back the vernacular of war and media reporting [see also: James Cummins’ Flash Bang, reviewed above] and used it a brilliant effect, instilling within language an understanding of its efficacious and deleterious means, its potential to create and form violence. As Heames writes: “Holding a copy of The White Stones / Cropped gun show I walk on / Or a stars weight in keystrokes / Up the hill, in the warm last line.”                                                     


HGFED.JANVr; some stars
Jo Cook
Perro Verlag

“As we leave now the shore of the textual,” elsewhere written…This thought, already apprehended by poet, bookmaker and publisher Jo Cook, in evidence between Cayman-green covers bound in black cloth strip; doubled front endpapers of black enclosing stars straight-edge drawn in white (reminding anyone local to Buffalo of the ceiling at Sixth Dimensions glassworks on Lexington Ave., where leaded glass snowflakes of mathematical model hang above a moveable glass-paneled helix). So with the paginated directory to Cook’s vocabulary: celestial charts, navigational grids, preambles, glossaries, letterpress leading—all unfix the textual from the typographic, as well as from the literal. How warm, the overlain textures referencing, like “To make a [        ] oyle of of talck and ƒalt nitre,” partially obliterated by the measure marks along a scalene’s base. Or where ess-shaped brackets hold open the diagrammed pendula of skirmishing parallels smudge envelops. And elsewhere, in negative and on blue paper, where protracted rays share occupancy with figures “IN SIGNIS BOREALIBUS,” the reader fully grasping now a whole lexicon of the visual.


The Katechon: Lines 101-200   
Michael Cross

Picture Jonah, yet to be vomited, bolas in the thorny belly of humanity, “stretching / the meat of my death, stretching to meet real intimacy so the sun might eat (a sacrifice / which only posits a second, more sacred, ‘thing’)”. We recall, per Syria, per our own poverty, how human rights are born of civil rights, rather than self-evident: “blush spread rather than blood spread -- not so born to blush for his begetting, ass-begotten, / sort would have brought a blush to your rule all this time --” What is the Jonah fish’s debt in this economy? Where place this economy asea? These brittle whorls sustain the quasi-epic’s embarrassment for ignobility present and past—for the false currency of high modernism’s polity, for the debts of empty policy—“every disfigurement / of the human face is god’s image elapsed (pander rather than panther).” Or, Rilke qua Moore, “You must change your”— —“innocence, / what is our guilt?”


Peaches and Bats                 
Sam Lohmann, ed.
Issue 9                                                      
Spring 2012

Blue thread matches the light blue free endpapers illustrated by Nate Orton in partially raised flags, wilted husks, mown trees; this within orange papers letterpressed with red circular motifs linking the title font to numeric issuance of “9”…such are the carefully stitched and stamped aesthetics of Peaches and Bats’ ninth number, edited by Sam Lohmann out of Portland, Oregon. This mag remains seated in its Portland locality—as it should be—but with hands, feet, shoulders, knees & toes spread from Gloucester to Buenos Aires; its head, so to speak, is in the contemporary canopy. For example of this far-reaching body politic, Glenn Mott’s “A stereo on / Satie has threatened // thought,” Maryrose Larkin’s “no infinite structure labeled The Canon // extends   throughout illness //  may you find / the sentence a part of // it occurs to all,” Andrew Hughes’s “Bee & fly, side by side, making love / like cold lemonade in the sun,” and Allen Edwin Butt’s “We want ‘a government // that works for us’ / —on this point / I have excellent assurance.”


the relational elations     of ORPHANED ALGEBRA                     
Eileen R. Tabios & j/j hastain
Marsh Hawk Press

The gift, we recall, of feminist theoreticism is the paradigm shift. Tabios and hastain place this at the crux of collaboration, and that’s its success: that the recognition of difference might make unlike circumstances empathetic frameworks. Begun through appropriated “word problems” from grammar school math equations, Tabios is able to ask: “What algebraic relationship moved you to bestow on mundane pigeons the halos of peace and other faux debris from trawling old memories of desire-ridden imagination that would come to plummet into ruin?” Transcendent then of equation, the series is abler to interrogate “remainders” of information fallen outside the easiness of “whole sets,” or any given. In response, hastain posits xir own questions regarding the crepuscular—O favored of poetic words!—and relational identities: “Patina does relate to positing. Scratches secrets into the underside of blocks or blocs. That stone did hold that child’s expression.” The pairing also invites each poet’s critical reception of xir collaborator, as well as a startling sequence of stances through which hastain permutates “different set[s] of lovers” approaching the limit of Tabios’s partial problematic: What is a[p]parent?


Sorry you’re Occupied: Spontaneous Order  
James Louden, ed.               
Idiot Society Press

From James Louden’s Canmore, Alberta based Village Idiot Society Press, comes a curious collection ruminating on the occupation movement and working to provide discursive space for the Occupy Movement’s most well known activists and theorists. This chapbook houses appropriated manifestos of Slavoj Žižek, Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, and David Suzuki, mixed with video transcription, poems and the narratives of witness. The poems which appear offer a predream of the fall, a response to the call to arms and placards of Kalle Lasn’s ‘invitation to act’ against the hegemonic power structure of economic factionalism and subjugation. Predominantly based on experiences of the poets Dave Eso, James Louden and Tim Murphy this is a collective response specific to the city housing Canada’s main oil and gas companies, Calgary, Alberta. A troupe of these poets are soon to be touring the Eastern Seaboard as Death by Pedestrian, and the book will be freely distributed wherever they land.  


wherein? he asks of memory  
Jeremy Balius
Knives Forks and Spoons                       

I was talking to a friend about Dorn, per Michael Boughn’s: “Why not Dorn?” I had posed this to a more informed reader than I, who told me of Dorn’s more graceless latter days of defamation. Ah. Perhaps it is the fraught persona that plagues the poetics, now brought back to us from Canada, and from the UK and Ireland, as from Australia via Jeremy Balius’s triptych. Rife with epigraphs from Dorn, its companion sign is sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard. Her work, For Paul, operates on Balius’s mien like stylus on slate, layering, occupying, and obfuscating ultimately any elegiac ersatz in memoriam. From I: “Stop For Paul! Ok? / Just cut it right there: / momentum negates, / discontinues, / makes obsolete / in the floods of progress—” II: “No. Words are / Echoes For Paul says. // Cruel comes the HOPE that / whiles away Time seductively…” III: “Our For Paul here, our dear Paulismo, our dear // come in from the dirty mist, antediluvian FERN-SEHER / out from beyond the VAGRANT ‘n all of that double-speak.”


Words on Edge                                     
Michael Leong
Plan-B Press                                          

An aspect of Leong’s poetics I like best is his thoughtfulness untoward the grammatic (dia- & ana-) sensibilities of the visual (see Yellow Field #5). One finds this allover his latest chapbook, whether it’s through the flowchart synergies connecting ‘A RIM EDGE’ to both ‘A MERGED I’ and ‘RED IMAGE’ and the last again to ‘MIRED AGE’; or the curving wing of etymologies flung as to Hyacinth in “Oath”—“But if / to dis is to curse, / then I’ll slur / my words”; or the title poem’s horizontal brackets which enclose coinage described in arched asides, such as in action: “Lights, camera, painting!” and in sign: “Language on the dotted line of the times.” Lastly, the tango of phoneme and grapheme found in the poem “Acronymic Bliss,” like “Incunabular séances shall / bridge lacunae in subjunctive stereotactility,

because life is somatic seriality,
because likeness is sampled sustainability,
because longing is stalagmitic supplementarity,
because language is scintillating surrogacy […]”



All reviews initialed “ESM” are authored by collator, with those marked “MH” by Matthew Hall, with thanks by EM for his invaluable input.

Matthew Hall, doctoral candidate at the University of Western Australia. Matthew writes on poetics and the arts; his most recent collection, hyaline, is forthcoming from Black Rider Press.

Edric Mesmer is the collator of Yellow Field. To receive a copy of Yellow Field, contact the collator at yellowedenwaldfield(at)yahoo(dot)com.

You are welcome to send books for review care of Yellow Field, 1217 Delaware Avenue, Apartment 802, Buffalo, New York 14209, USA.




Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988-2008 by Norma Cole
(City Lights, San Francisco, 2009)

[First published in Steven Fama’s Blog and LARYNX GALAXY (Black Widow Press, 2012))

From “Mint, Mnemosyne, And Metal: Making Language Tangible”

Norma Cole was recently in town and I enjoyed her reading and bought her book, Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988-2008. I have had a special fascination for Norma’s work for some time now and this is why: the words have a shiny, tangible brilliance, like knives. Not ordinary knives or hunting knives or those bizarre commando knives I sometimes see in the windows of the Army Navy Surplus store downtown, but Japanese knives, those beautifully balanced knives with linen textured resin handles and blades sharp enough to cut a proton in two.

The key word is ‘tangible.’ There is a peculiar sense in reading some poems that the words have three-dimensions, like rocks or gems, and that the phrases have been soldered together, so that their structure resembles the filigree of brooches or pins. This is not new. There has been a notable drive toward this presentation of words since at least Chaucer, in the western world. Its most salient address appeared with Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, nearly a hundred years ago, in 1914, and Sherwood Anderson’s famous description of their effect on him as “rattling words one can throw into a box and shake, making a sharp, jingling sound, words that, when seen on the printed page, have a distinct arresting effect upon the eye, words that when they jump out from under the pen one may feel with the fingers as one might caress the cheeks of his beloved.”

I don’t know how to describe this phenomenon neurologically -- that would take the expertise of an Oliver Sacks -- but the sensation is acute, quite real.

What is the importance of this? Does it have any importance? To this day, Gertrude Stein is not generally the part of any college curriculum. And poets who choose to focus on the materiality of the language as opposed to its emotional charge or ability to convey sentiments and ideas still find themselves marginalized in the hapless alleys and lonely shelves of the small press ghetto.

Words, like money, are intended to symbolize ideas and experience so that we don’t have to lug around sacks or wagons full of objects we might want to assemble in order to make a sentence like “I want to marry you” or “I would like to eat that meat you are cooking.” It would be a complication to try to communicate the beauty of a sunset with two shoes and a rabbit pelt. So what is the point of setting one’s immediate feelings aside to communicate the very medium you rely upon to communicate anger, love, or hunger?

I don’t know. I just find it fascinating.

My real inquiry is focused on how poets like Cole are able to achieve this effect. In “Nano-Shades” the effect is apparent in her coupling of images and the way she delicately coerces attention on the individual words. It is pertinent that a “nano” means “extremely small.” A nanosecond, for instance, is one-billionth of a second. And we are talking shades here. The shade of a nano, which would not be sufficient to cool a Death Valley gnat, much less play in the retina of an attentive reader.

Or would it?

Here is the poem:

the male deliberately positions himself
over his lover’s fangs

the key is gravity
blankets, personal items

and clothing, extra-solar planets (class M)
like our sun, the memory

of history, empty or full
scared the daylights out of the name

The extreme dissimilarity between the first pair of lines, the male poised over his lover’s fangs, followed by the brusque non-sequitur (nano-sequitur?) “the key is gravity,” which itself is followed by the illogical blankets and personal items, generates a circuitry of hectic and broad associations. The human mind craves meaning, and will look for meaning where none apparently exists. So that in a situation such as the one created here, where the circuit is not, and cannot, ultimately be completed in any way that would satisfy the tenets of mathematics or logic, the process is ongoing. It is a virtual perpetual motion machine.

It’s important to point out that this would fizzle were it not for the artistry in its making. A lot of poetry I find online and in the few magazines and chapbooks that have made it to print attempts to imitate this structure, but is rarely successful, because it’s either too affected and obvious, or too oblique to work. The reason “the key is gravity/ blankets, personal items” works is because we can immediately see the folds of blankets, have felt blankets when we folded or slept under them. Blankets have a strong association with gravity; we are generally supine in relation to them. “Personal items” is a little more teasing, a little less obvious, but here I see perfume bottles, a can of shaving lather, little handheld mirrors, a set of keys, pocket change and combs, all arranged on a bureau, or bathroom countertop. These things may not pop into Stephen Hawking’s mind when he thinks about gravity, but I see a vivid relation there.

“The memory/ of history” is funny. Aren’t history and memory pretty much the same thing? Or has history disappeared, leaving a nano-shade of itself in memory? What a peculiar thought.

“Scared the daylights out of the name” is pretty funny, too. Is a name alive? Is a name an organism? Does it have scales? Cells? Cytoplasm? Are syllables cilia? The cartoonish character of a name (and what name? Jim? Martha? Galicia? Clarksville?) having the daylights scared out of it adds a comical and hallucinatory dimension to this curious work.


John Olson, a resident of Seattle, is the author of eight books of poetry and prose poetry, including Larynx Galaxy; Backscatter: New and Selected Work; THE NIGHT I DROPPED SHAKESPEARE ON THE CAT; OXBOW KAZOO; FREE STREAM VELOCITY; ECHO REGIME; Eggs & Mirrors; Logo Lagoon; and Swarm of Edges. He has also published three novels: SOULS OF WIND, which was shortlisted for a Believer Book of the Year Award in 2008; The Nothing That Is; and THE SEEING MACHINE. Some of his articles and essays have appeared in The Stranger and Seattle Weekly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


A wide shot:

A close up:

A poetics lesson brought to you by Santa Shepherd--HAPPY HOLIDAYS!