Thursday, December 13, 2012


EDRIC MESMER (Micro-)Reviews

Armed Cell, Issue 3, edited by Brian Ang

Custom by Rae Armantrout
(above/ground press, Ottawa, 2012)

Eight or Nine Antiquely Styled Onzaines Cast in Long-green Bronze by G.N. Gabbard
(Flea King, 2012)

LandForms by Yvonne Reddick
(Seapressed/ meta, 2012)

Observatory [Bucky Fleur]
(Perro Verlag, 2012)

Poems 1952 by Robert Duncan
(Shuffaloff/Eternal Network, 2012)

Sextet: six poems from Songs for little sleep by rob mclennan
(above/ground press, Ottawa, 2012)

Steel Bellow, Vo. 1, issue 1, edited by Vincent Cervone, John Cuttito and Paige Melin
(Buffalo, November 2012)

the time factor: Selections from the Letters of Albert Glover and John C. (Jack) Clarke
(Rootdrinker Institute, 2012)

we / cum ::: come / in the yield fields / amongst statues with interior arms by j/j hastain
(above/ground press, Ottawa, 2012)

Armed Cell
Issue 3                          
ed. Brian Ang

This number takes for meditation the currency of conceptual poetry. Offering what one loves of these oftimes stapled phenomena known as Small Press—the poem and the critical (usually, as here, in that order)—this journal is an enumeration of example, analysis, and theorization. As enumerating such, Armed Cell 3 enlists the happenstance police blotter found text of Steven Zultanski and the more diagrammatic flowcharts of Nicholas Komodore’s “Moon Contours.” The latter, an Ashbery as by Osman mash-up, draws critical and (dare I say) conceptual linkage between nouns, such as “MONACO ßà MONASTERY” with “monastery” pointing next to “gender” then onward. A further lunar contour from Komodore yields word associations at play with game theory, like in: “KING / ANGLOSAXON / PAWN / PRESIDENT / QUEEN / KILL / BISHOP / BLUECHIP / ROOK.” It’s a full deck at only thirty-four pages, and Ang, contributing the analysis, puts forth as afterword a lineage from Language Writing to Goldsmith and Dworkin’s conceptual anthology. Whether reading is truly displaced by the act of thinking remains unclaimed, as Hejinian’s “The Maddening of Connections” closes the issue, casting negative capability upon the kinds of light that inform thought—an act itself contextualized within the concept of reading(-)writing.

Rae Armantrout
above/ground press

Practices inhabited herein might include: the role of the maternal under patriarchy, the engendering of personal memories, the cloak of downward American mobility—commonalities and not—or, emo-hipsters and reality TV stars, “with that small fist pump // now used / to indicate / irony’s uselessness.” No stranger to techniques minimalistic or the over-read line made modernly familiar by Jean Rhys, Armantrout’s work continues—here in small scale, else writ large—to [decipher phatically] the obscurantist’s archaeology of speech made poetry: “let volumes speak volumes.” To quote from is nearly to quote in entirety these four poems! As always, Armantrout’s syllables are scant but not underwhelming, tensile in prehensility: “Water-strider, pond skater, / Jesus bug // skitters across the surface / tension // and // the ‘least-area surface’ / (flat, smooth) // has a surface tension / of zero.” Why strand that and, uncoupleted? Just as deity and insect reconnect and make anew construct, so surfaces work, rework, make riptide of ripple.

Eight or Nine Antiquely Styled Onzaines Cast in Long-green Bronze
G.N. Gabbard
Flea King

That the title tilts between this count and that [it turns out to be nine] of an imaginary French form based on eleven lines should indicate something of Gabbard’s poetics. A newly imagined imagination in the digital plane of fractals won’t necessarily square with the traditions of the lyric; and startling will be the places where our once-iconic geometries refold “at a point hardly definable but def- / initely on the next curl of our spiral / outward.” Also: how estrangements from our existential norms can become givens, no longer the modernist invention of collage but the taken-for-granted of modernity: “Dews gather, across the white cinquefoil, / shades of night: and so with all the rich earth’s flowers. Unlike Sappho, I / cannot resist poikilochromously.” Referencing suggests here a cut-up method, and one that is contemporaneously characteristic with the age of the haphazard, the multifarious, the unerasable, “being transferred into electromagnetic / media at this moment”! 

Yvonne Reddick
Seapressed/ meta

“[C]ochlea channelling wavesounds into the skull’s shell” should tell something of Reddick’s listening; its measure; the strum on an ultrasound of her mind. Mostly by stanza, these lines betray navigational lyric, resplendent with lean overtures of isle: “Around you scatter those aerial spirits — / locusts, some nymphal, some adults with bat-wide wingspan.” They add something for the isle-goer, as how a poem like “Images and Nocturnes” is For piano…The indication blurs with dedication; the object the muse: “You cradle the halved pear of a curved guitar on your knee, stroke / its voice. / The Professor whistles a phrase allegro: / The parrot indoors imitates him. / The blackbird outside mimics him…” The binary is itself the uncomfortable site of negotiation, laying waste to and galvanizing its own division and divination. As in the Orogeny series near chap’s end, the cradle of thought gives way to landscape, where “skull-plates fuse, lock, buckle,” a phrase repeated in recidivist indifference. Likewise, the “[s]low cooling of magma lopoliths slumps strata” reminds that declaration and question may also be binary: “How forms are deformed into other forms.”

[Bucky Fleur]
Perro Verlag

Against transparency have our words become destabilized. When presented in between the renegotiated sheen of faux-vellum leaves, the anagrams for ourselves become all the more tellingly “Luv, Eroses.” In Observatory, the tinker-thinker of just-off-Vancouver continues the quest for hermetic rationalism, present in the subtitle “OBSERVA’s star sTORY.” That codes break into and along lines of repetition and remainder can’t shortchange the ghosting codex that haunts language like unconsciousness. By way of “oyster orb” lolls “star oar,” as from “verso boat” by way of “sea tar”, “Boötes bay” washes up—permutations as horizoned as the neo-mariner’s still unfurling star chart. What is home to the observer? All these ciphers vellum-printed and sprayed over the undercurrent images of actual observatories, those unblinded domes Brunelleschi’s, newly tiled in the dewy dreams Polyphemus’s.

Poems 1952
Robert Duncan
Shuffaloff/Eternal Network

Crayon-colored covers defy waxiness to touch. This, because the chapbook is facsimile—Michael Boughn’s Buffalo Poetry Collection-sanctioned reproduction of a handmade notebook of poems from Duncan to his partner, the artist Jess. They splay a tapestry of the poet’s trains: of thought, of life, of process. For processional they proffer sculpture against as within the confines of page: “But pleasures themselves ones finds / are not domestic,” encased in scattered crayon scribble of emerald and mustard, spreads recto to former verso with “the / dreams of a kind, ruthless in his omni potence,” the thread of book spine breaking that last word. The variedness of Duncan’s practice issues from the hand-illuminated “E” in “Eluard’s death” down through the hand drawn dual-suckling dragons (gryphons?) making symmetric the goddess of “An Imaginary Woman.” The Romantic is betokening. That Romance betokens culminates in “From My Notebook,” a draft and then an issuance, “a tribute to Mary Butts,” reminding of Boughn’s work on Duncan’s The H.D. BookI, that the poet’s quest was the knight’s, was night’s, and vision the revision—

            now the pupil instructs the treacherous teacher
            now I the dictator dictate my nonsense
            now how big is the enormous small of at all

Sextet: six poems from Songs for little sleep,
rob mclennan
above/ground press

As a feather, falling. So might go a line in mclennan’s latest, off his Ottawa-based press, above/ground. Modernity on the half-shell, emphasis plays folie à deux; as though Woolf were whispering to Robert Lax through a hearing[,] trumpet filled with water. These poems, each writ in dedicatory fashion and epigraphed, fall halved in binomial sets. They may be lean, stark, like “Laden, speech. A poor frail body. Swims. A mouth shapes words.” Other times they forget their own rules, at best, as in one for Pearl Pirie, titled “The learning curve that sometimes manages, itself”: “The gathering place of something, we. I can’t recall. It was I who called, who called, who.” And, in an uncommon third section, a coda, from the same—“Was contemplating an action. In, action. Inaction. We were, contemplating, we. Action. We were simply, in. This was, simply. This simply, was.” Minimalism is not wager against the sentence, nor: it is here a direct action in media res that may append its own apprehension. How, like a comma.

Steel Bellow
Vo. 1, issue 1
November 2012

“He / has started his little / magazine,” wrote O’Hara of “A Young Poet”—though in this case the young poet is Vincent Cervone, is John Cuttito, is Paige Melin. These editors have planned their city issue, the city the City of Buffalo. They have offered work by three poets, namely themselves, not as immodest gesture of ego, but by that same hand the turning of wrist, of risk. As such, they offer by Cervone how “fish / know nothing / of weather,” by Cuttito that “[t]his is the crisis of chrysalis,” and by Melin what “held in that snowy fragile lace can not / devise its own bastion.” Many are the publications clasped in the hand that come to us this way, from a collective urge to put down, press, band, hand out a chapter for these times. What is its instinct? As Fanny Howe, wondering at the how-to of how hip-hop gets done: “Dunno—but it’s wonderful.”

the time factor: Selections from the Letters of
Albert Glover and John C. (Jack) Clarke
Rootdrinker Institute

This cache, as specified by editor Alan Casline, describes the arc of Glover and Clarke’s construction of the Curriculum of the Soul fascicles, designed and designated to carry out an Olsonian education; particularly, the letters pertaining to Creeley’s ambivalence toward or putting off of the project, eventually resultant in refusal. (The other unwilling participant would be Ed Dorn.) The excerpted correspondence also portrays the role Clarke had in the near-gnostic dissemination of Olson’s poetics: “Blake was genius at it // imagine saying, straight out // as you live // ‘From every one of the four / regions of human majesty’ // { why Charles said he’s post-mod / & belongs to 21st Century}” In Buffalo, Clarke played triad to Olson and Creeley. His letters, often written as poems, advise and at times chastise Glover toward the ends of his editing: “You are, / in over re-action, tearing down all that / was built up, the trust between / you” he writes to Glover of his critique of Creeley. As documented, the letters also unveil Glover’s coming to terms with his own role as poet, academic, and editor: “Most helpful, perhaps, was the realization that Glover doesn’t really mean anything to R[obert] D[uncan]. He can visit. we can get along, he can get his $$ and be gone”—“I was told […] such work will not be valued highly in reviewing my performance nor will further fascicles find financial support”—“They (everyone in our project) have given me my life, have given their lives for me.”

we / cum ::: come / in the yield fields / amongst statues with interior arms
j/j hastain
above/ground press

“Tears are a way of staring.” Perhaps, wrote Kristeva, also a form of nonverbal articulation… There are so many such articulations—verbal, at least partly—that one has the feeling of watching Balla’s dog awalk with feminism’s theoretician. I am reminded of the sway Irigaray’s words have long had over me: that there may be no way to utter outside the patriarchal forms of language inherited, but we try anyway. Such utterances iterate in one of hastain’s latest, as where the reader encounters “non-articulable gender,” “how to be other-than,” “You wanted me to name you there,” “Oh female he,” “our interactive contour,” “To be gripping and gridding differential like this,” “Tactics and tacits. Creamy ratios,” “Like scaling a curve.” Prose sections find again and over definitions we knew of ourselves but had no way to say, as where asking: “a rainbow when there is no sun?” A lunar rainbow then, known to appear over Niagara Falls on nights of full moon, as Margaret Fuller went looking for (but didn’t see) in 1843. It’s that hastain’s images continue to find embodiment that make xir work—not so far beyond the concept, so much closer than theory—“A form full of noise.”


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.

1 comment:

  1. Another view of j/j hastain’s chap is offered by Eileen Tabios in GR #18 at