Saturday, December 31, 2022
Monday, December 26, 2022
SIMMERING (A NOVELLA-IN-PROSE-POEMS)
And for my last 2022 book, I'm delighted to release SIMMERING (a novella-in-prose-poems) from Otolilths! More information (including for orders) is available HERE.
Simmering is comprised of 25 prose poems carved out of Eileen R. Tabios’ novel-in-progress, COLLATERAL DAMAGE: A Literature With No Minor Characters. While each poem was written individually and joined randomly, together they create a novella as a narrative surfaces through the rub of language. Each of the prose poems also was written in response to opening lines from some of the greatest English-language novels as written by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, George Orwell, Vladimir Nabokov, Alice Walker, Albert Camus, Zora Neale Hurston, Ray Bradbury, Edith Wharton, Raphael Sabatini, Margaret Atwood, Graham Greene, Anne Tyler, William Gibson, Jeffrey Eugenides, Gertrude Stein, Ralph Ellison, William Gaddis, Gilbert Sorrentino, Carson McCullers, G.K. Chesterton, and Laurence Sterne.
Saturday, December 17, 2022
WILL ALEXANDER'S DIVINE BLUE LIGHT
[Click on images to enlarge.]
I was rocked again by the sophistication of Will Alexander’s poetics when I read his transcolonial Preface to his newest book, DIVINE BLUE LIGHT (City Lights, 2022), where he mentions “nanogram.” I’d long heard the term surrealist applied to his work; while I see its logic, I empathize more with blurber Jeffrey Yang’s assessment —Alexander’s poems are “not surreal escape but vibrational engagement.” That vibration can redeem even subjects that can drag, e.g. Alexander’s biographical poem for Pessoa, “Condoned to Disappearance” whose first page I show below at end of review. One could be dragged down easily by (banal) biographical elements but his poem insists instead on “poetic infiltration according to the sound of anonymous hives.”
(Based on that same Preface, I apply the term “transcolonial” which I use for postcolonial work that transcends the colonial context. The idea of upending what Alexander calls “prior lingual aristocracy” speaks to me as a Filipino writing in English.)
Alexander’s language results in diamonds valuable not for the stones but for the manner in which they are cut. Each facet reveals a light able to exist only through Alexander’s diction. The effect shows up well in such shorter poems as “Inner Palpability” and “Oneiric Liminal Memo” (see images below). The latter is clearly a very personal poem made off-putting to the reader not used to this heightened vocabulary but then pulled to join intimately through the (perhaps wry) paradox of the last two words “transactional scintillation,” a phrase that after all concedes the role of anothers.
Still, I feel Alexander’s prowess shows most in longer poems that must maintain the paradoxical charisma of his unique vocabulary—words that retain a distance through an unsparingly nonnormative diction. It’s also where the multiplicity and variety of his pre-poem homework shines.
By being so textually and texturally muscular, I also feel the strength of the line breaks in Will Alexander’s poems. So I was intrigued by a prose poem, “Nervous Incomparable Dictation.” What would be significance of a prose poem form to Alexander? Well, for this poem, the form was required by its ruminative nature: ruminations that require space for uncertainty vis the thinking-out process that require the breadth of the sentence versus the definitiveness of the manner in which a line is cut or broken. The poet here may be nervous (per first word of title) but he’s certainly got nerve.
Energy, the vibrancy of vibratory currents, might be the ultimate test. That is, read any poem out loud and you’ll feel a sonic transportation that transcends meaning. These poems empathize with body and musically transport. Try it with “Human Presence That Lingers As Distorted Molecule” (see below). I am reminded yet again by how, years ago, I read one of his poems during a City Lights reading. It was the first time I’d read a Will Alexander poem out loud. It was, uh, surreal—by the end of the first line of that poem, I felt my body transformed into a physical instrument for sharing the dynamic energy contained within that poem’s lines.
I was so affected by the experience that when I later walked out of City Lights, I did so without paying for the Will Alexander book from which I’d read. Yes, for Will Alexander I stole a book. I did email City Lights afterwards with apologies and promise to pay (they probably laughed as they said, No problem). Someday, I will repay my debt—and not just for the book but for the pleasure the poems provided. Salamat, Will Alexander.