Once Upon a Neoliberal Rocket Badge by Jules Boykoff
(Edge Books, 2006)
[First appeared in Traffic # 2, 2006, Edited by Elizabeth Treadwell]
Once Upon a Neoliberal Rocket Badge first appeals to its reader by way of welcome, then entreaty:
welcome to bait & ammo per capita rapture at my favorite sheriff’s tinted
cemetery now please put your plywood reparations in the craven heart
factory cubby by the door
Rasta’s off to
significant asphalt tryst significant shiny shoes significant Pinto logic
[But being young & ambitious, the zenith never saw its nadir coming]
And thus begins surely a most staggeringly preternatural and apt fairy-tale written for and to the 21st century. Multi-layered from the start, OUANRB challenges its readers to perhaps get even more than its pages plentifully allow or intend, in part with the cover and inside prints of the author’s own Cornellesque shadow-box design. The prints mostly serial past President Reagan or one of his numerous consorts, are relevant and fresh, modern, and satiric and no doubt political (all of which created with found objects or things as source-material). These prints also add another layer to the already many-layered and complex appeal of OUANRB. Having had the chance to see most of these in their organic surroundings, I am pleased to have the visual & textual take-out version as well, some of my favorite’s being Reagan alongside the blessed Mother, or Reagan as a young actor in his tightey-whiteys to the backdrop of the ever-illustrious and multitudinous skew symbol. In one piece amidst several opaque layered images of Reagan, the visage of Hitler is eerily present—but can you find it? I hardly think this is an accident on part of the artist or wild interpretation on my part.
The process of the book and its fairy-tale like or epic appeal successfully acts as medium or vehicle thus transporting the reader at once on a visual and meditative journey. The linguistic tickle, which is at once flirtatious and daring, unsettling and stunningly cognizant and abreast is at once poetic and political, as well as poetically political and politically poetical, hip and undauntedly informed--resonating throughout the book as a soundtrack might, one of the most successful, I think, in being succinct and true with its intended voice and should be noted that, no is metronome necessary. Lay all previous dogma and ideological workings and poetic prescriptions aside this modernist invitation though also playful and quirky, puts me in way of another warning/invitation:
"Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric moved:
To rear me was the task of Power divine,
Supremest Wisdom, and primeval Love
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon, ye who enter here."
Dante, Canto III
Boykoff not only challenges his reader’s perceptions and views in the wake of the 21st Century, he challenges the near impossible task on part of the reader to leave all misgivings, prejudice and apprehension at the door. Though, I will venture to say that hope not being one of those things we must cubby away while in the text, but are put to task toward the very preservation of. OUANRB should be read as an active modernist-epic, with all due challenge and provocation for the adventuresome reader to take part in, all the while refuting well-established and accepted modernist concepts as well. Even the commandments might seek refutation or at least a more generous interpretation.
commandment #3 being don’t covet thy neighbor’s spiritual
connections with his powerful icon for capitalism or thou shall besmirch
thy cattle-tonic glum hopper with unnecessarily forlorn animosity
No ideas but in things, is rightfully challenged as somewhat privileged and bourgeois, capitalistic and materialistic in its many evil and centric trappings, in part of the longer sequence in Commandment #8, to ‘bowdlerized & Venderlized & come we go easy now’ (17)
While Ginsberg wrote of the angel-headed hipster who defined the beat-generation, Boykoff writes of the rainbow-headed hippy, and protest-weary punx, challenging the reader into a different kind of knowingness, and experience— as last years war or last weeks enemy and its continued obfuscation in the hands of its ever-continued seedy power-source becomes vaguely surreal and thus difficult to decipher or ingest easily (ahem, corporations, misshapen misnomers, big-wigs, big money, etc). Boykoff gives credence to these wayward cast-offs as rebels, who rightfully pissed off, are all too easily cast out and made deviant and miscreant by those in power. Still, the new displaced rainbow-headed hipsters of today continue in their search for understanding, in their cradling of all that seems left, hope, for a much needed revision and change, in demanding a rightful share of worldly stewardship, as they continue scratch at the surface for truth.
Susana Gardner is the publisher/editor of Dusie.