Saturday, March 29, 2008



list'n by Karri Kokko
(dbqp, Schenectady, N.Y., Jan. 2008)

I love everything about this "tiny publication"! It's basically a 4 1/2 x 5 1/2 card with the front presenting one poem and a second poem presented inside. That's it. Except that this minimalist project is deceptively modest. A lot of thinking clearly went into Kokko's creation of this pair of "pwoermds" as well as dbqp's presentation of them.

dbqp is operated by Geof Huth and, according to its publisher information, "is a micropress that publishes all manner of experimental poetry and poetic investigations into language....its focus has always been on visual and minimalist poetry." Huth defines "pwoermd" as follows:
any one-word poem, such as Aram Saroyan’s famous "lighght" or Jonathan Brannen's "pigeoneon" {This word is a veritable pwoermd itself, since the "pw" at its beginning mirrors the "md" at the end, leaving the pseudo-archai-poetic "oer" in the middle of the word.}

The first of Kokko's two pwoermds in list'n is


Obviously, it hearkens (I first typed "heartens") the word "listen". But Kokko's revision encourages imaginative flight. When I first saw the pwoermd, I immediately thought of "list" as a verb. And thought it so perfect because I feel that consciousness (if not the body itself) lists -- as in leans toward what is to be listened -- in order to hear.

I also thought that what one hears -- given the vagaries of sound and distractions in the environment -- is mostly approximated from the actuality of that sound, i.e., it can be reduced to a list or series of words/sounds that only scumble the intended meaning of what was noise-ed (sic, deliberately). Thus, the approximation of "e" with an apostrophe is appropriate since the apostrophe cannot fully indicate the letter "e", just as what we hear is often an imperfect version of what was noise-ed.

I could go on with my interpretations. But suffice it to say that "list'n" (at least to my sight's hearing) is way more complex than "lissen", which is what I've noticed as a more common revision to the word "listen". At least where I come from, "lissen" is a more accurate phonetic version of "listen." But Kokko's version wisely understands that meaning is not often fully captured by mere sound. And by spelling the word in a manner that disrupts a common pronounciation of the word (including making me sound out "t" when I normally wouldn't were I to pronounce "listen"), Kokko thereby draws more attention to the word. And isn't that the role of poetry, too? To make us ponder more deeply ...

... and ponder more what we might have ignored? By spelling "listen" as "list'n" instead of the more predictable "lissen", Kokko makes me pay more attention to the word -- thus, act; thus, significance -- of listening. Kokko reminds that listen is a verb, which is to say, it is a proactive act. Kudos to this project's author and publisher!

Though it's easy enough to see the 2nd poem that comprises the pair that comprises list'n, I encourage you to order the actual print publication. First, IT'S ONLY TWENTY-FIVE CENTS! Secondly, there's just something so nifty about how dbqp presents it in print. The beige cardstock is stark and yet warm. It's elegant but not coolly off-putting; the publication's body encourages intimacy: it's minimalist with a maximalist heart. I'm blathering this all to say that its production values are high. Contact dbqp; this was produced, after all, in an edition of 100.


As remuneration for editing Galatea Resurrects, Eileen Tabios doesn't have her books reviewed here ... but she's pleased to point you elsewhere to Thomas Fink's review of her SILENCES: The Autobiography of Loss.

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