The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2011

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FEB 2011 Issue

RAPID TRANSIT: A Final Kiss To 2010

“Silk on silk” is how Jimmy Schuyler sounds in Other Flower: Uncollected Poems from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. The “poetry and fragments had been idly waiting” to be found by James Meetze who worked with Simon Pettet to put this collection together. While understandably uneven, the substantial addition to Schuyler’s canon is a joy.

Experiments and divergences would be expected in a grouping like this, though Schuyler’s intimate and natural brand of New York School remains smooth. His eye for detail and ear for metaphor form a perfect pair. This ghost-ride, beginning in the era of Frank O’Hara and artist Fairfield Porter (and later Joe Brainard), poignantly resurrects the voice of one of our greatest poets.

Kahlil Almustafa gives us a new voice, one that directs us to a higher, collective purpose. From Auction Block to Oval Office: 100 POEMS for 100 DAYS of Obama’s Presidency published by MVMT Milk Publishing, offers an obvious and accessible structure. The abrupt and engaging entries alternately chastise, excoriate, bless and deliciously defy.

Mixing meditations on old utensils with moments extracted from her life, Robin Schiff lauds the “lines of poems Chinese woodworkers once carved into joinery of portable furnishings.” Sharply detailed and self-propelling, her long, complex sentences are durable and hefty.

In Revolver, from University of Iowa Press, Schiff animates the famous “Colt Rapid Fire Revolver” as well as the “Singer Sewing Machine.” “McCormack’s Reaper” talks to you even as it takes your place. In the humorous “Dear Ralph Lauren,” an anachronistic narrator orders a “Winchester Tote” continuing Schiff’s substantial ability to add extra dimension to her subject.

Birth and death elegantly do their pas de deux as daughter and mother in Sarah—Of Fragments and Lines by Julie Carr who was selected by Eileen Myles for the National Poetry Series. Sarah is the first matriarch in the Torah and her eternity is fused here with our mortality. “The body’s a hole through which other bodies move.”

The poems are composed of fragments, lines, and abstracts that leave spaces for the “pillaged language” to make new connections. Lyrically a Contralto, Carr’s music is deeply resounding. From Coffee House Press.

Fence Books published another selection from the National Poetry Series, The Network by Jena Osman, chosen by Prageeta Sharma. In prose, Osman rails against our “countrymen pillaging.” Paragraphs alternate with charts, asides, and significant dates (like when cans were invented). Family trees show the derivations of words. Connections ripple into shockwaves. Osman’s documentative methodology is revealing as she investigates slavery, exploration, and finance. Potent and poetic.

Prom Night is a slick date: a poetry/ collage collaboration by Jerome Sala and Tamara Gonzales. With echoes of Poe and H. P. Lovecraft, the camp and sultry verses are paired with eye-dazzling images of equally camp and sultry sirens in full color. Sala, like one of Gonzales’s blackbirds, is listening to the “ruler of an underworld” in “Lost Planet.” Pluto’s demotion and its attendant emotion is dissected in Sala’s tight style.

The Goth undertones are reflected in Gonzales’s punk-glam shades of Frida Kahlo and Kiki Smith. A stiletto combo in a pop package: “a psychic feedback loop that celebrates our universal damnation.”

“Marginalia” figures big in Valery Fox’s new collection from Texture Press. Who wouldn’t want to peruse the thumbed notebooks of Descartes or Diderot? The Glass Book crunches the oblique into the familiar. In the title poem, a secure rhythm runs along in a kind of dual monologue.

Breaking away from her leading lady’s vexing circumstances, Fox inserts herself into her mini-novella “movie treatment.” In parentheses, she shifts gears and tenses by naming the pages, archly tugging the reader with bright lures. With “the sound of the bus” adding just enough atmosphere, Fox’s lists and listings pass “the animated tests of prophesy.”

Clearly injecting themselves into the future, you have to give it to Mitch Corber, founder of Poetry Thin Air, and George Spencer for their ongoing interviews of scads of poets. Steve Cannon, Thad Rutkowski, Jackie Sheeler, Cindy Hochman, Eve Packer, and Erik La Prade have all been on lately and many more like Allen Ginsberg and Amiri Baraka can be seen on YouTube. Maybe see you there.


Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

JEFFREY CYPHERS WRIGHT is a poet, publisher, critic, collage artist and eco-activist involved in the community gardens of New York City.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2011

All Issues