Monday, March 31, 2008


March 31, 2008

[N.B. You can scroll down for all articles or click on highlighted names or titles to go directly to the referenced article. Since this is a large issue, if it takes too long to upload the entire issue, you can click on the individual links below to more quickly get to a review that interests you.]

By Eileen Tabios


David Goldstein reviews TWENTY-ONE AFTER DAYS by Lisa Lubasch

Patrick James Dunagan reviews CADENZA by Charles North and DOING 70 by Hettie Jones

Séamas Cain reviews SKINNY BUDDHA by Sheila E. Murphy

Raymond John A. de Borja reviews NOISE PICTORIAL NOISE by Noah Eli Gordon

Shanna Compton reviews DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION by Cathy Park Hong

Eileen Tabios engages MAUVE SEA-ORCHIDS by Lila Zemborain, Trans. by Rosa Alcala and Monica de la Torre

John Bloomberg-Rissman reviews RAPID DEPARTURES by Vincent Katz

Eileen Tabios engages IMAGINING A BABY by Bob Marcacci

John Bloomberg-Rissman reviews PRAU by Jean Vengua

Thomas Fink reviews WHEN A WOMAN LOVES A MAN by David Lehman

Kristi Castro reviews SOMETHING BRIGHT, THEN HOLES by Maggie Nelson and [GROWLING SOFTLY] Edited by Juliet Cook and "drilled" by David Foster

Nicholas Manning reviews TEXT LOSES TIME by Nico Vassilakis

Stephen Vincent reviews WHAT’S IN STORE by Trevor Joyce

Eileen Tabios engages ZAMBOANGUENA by Corrine Fitzpatrick


Tom Beckett reviews HARLOT by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Patrick James Dunagan reviews HOME AMONG THE SWINGING STARS: COLLECTED POEMS OF JAIME DE ANGULO, Edited by Stefan Hyner with an essay by Andrew Schelling

Juliet Cook engages FEIGN by Kristy Bowen

Anny Ballardini reviews DAYS POEM, VOLS. I and II by Allen Bramhall

Patrick James Dunagan reviews THE FINAL NITE & OTHER POEMS: COMPLETE NOTES FROM A CHARLES GAYLE NOTEBOOK 1987-2006 by Steve Dalachinsky

Karen Rigby reviews THE BEDSIDE GUIDE TO NO TELL MOTEL: SECOND FLOOR, Edited by Reb Livingston and Molly Arden

Nathan Logan reviews THE BEDSIDE GUIDE TO NO TELL MOTEL, Edited by Reb Livingston and Molly Arden

Eileen Tabios engages MY NAME IS ESTHER CLARA by Laurel Johnson; a FOURSQUARE SPECIAL EDITION OF FIVE POEMS by Maureen Thorson; and HERE, LOVE by Jess Rowan

Jeffrey Side reviews BEAMS by Adam Fieled

Jon Cone reviews LITTLE BOAT by Jean Valentine

John Bloomberg-Rissman reviews OVERNIGHT by Paul Violi

Jeff Harrison reviews OPENING AND CLOSING NUMBERS by Anny Ballardini

Eileen Tabios engages AN ARCHITECTURE by Chad Sweeney

Jessica Bozek engages DUMMY FIRE by Sarah Vap

Ryan Daley reviews THE FRANK POEMS by CAConrad

Eileen Tabios engages CLEAVING by Dion Farquhar

Abigail Licad reviews THE ANCHORED ANGEL, SELECTED WRITINGS BY JOSE GARCIA, Edited by Eileen Tabios

Christopher Mulrooney reviews SELECTED POEMS OF GABRIELA MISTRAL, Trans. by Ursula K. Le Guin

Christopher Mulrooney reviews THE BEGINNING AND END OF THE SNOW by Yves Bonnefoy, Trans. by Alan Baker

Lisa Bower reviews TERRAIN TRACKS by Purvi Shah

Laurel Johnson reviews THERE ARE WORDS by Burt Kimmelman

Ivy Alvarez reviews A F I E L D by Anthony Hawley


Eileen Tabios engages 2 POEMS FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL by Logan Ryan Smith

Kristin Berkey-Abbott reviews BLUE COLONIAL by David Roderick

Eileen Tabios engages LIST'N by Karri Kokko

Laurel Johnson reviews INDIAN TRAINS by Erika T. Wurth

Eileen Tabios engages THE HEART THAT LIES OUTSIDE THE BODY by Stephanie Lenox

Patrick James Dunagan reviews DON'T SAY A WORD by F.A. Nettelbeck

Eileen Tabios engages BEHIND THE WHEEL: POEMS ABOUT DRIVING by Janet S. Wong

Four Poems by Ivy Alvarez: "Pear", "dumb", "The Tree" and "Parsonage Parlor"

"NOMADIC WAR" by Amy Levine


Susana Gardner reviews ONCE UPON A NEOLIBERAL ROCKET BADGE by Jules Boykoff

Gina Myers engages LEARNING THE LANGUAGE and CASE SENSITIVE by Kate Greenstreet

Andrew Joron reviews BROKEN WORLD by Joseph Lease

Alfred A. Yuson reviews AT THE DRIVE-IN VOLCANO by Aimee Nezhukumatathil and PASSAGES: POEMS 1983-2006 by Edgar B. Maranan

Alfred A. Yuson reviews SORROWS OF THE CHAMELEON by Ella Wagemakers

Meritage Press' "Tiny Books" -- A Tool for Poetry to Keep Feeding the World!

An Editorial Board Meeting?!


A lot can happen in two years, especially in the internet. Two years ago when I began Galatea Resurrects (GR), blogged reviews weren't so common. But GR obviously fulfilled a need. A blog that I thought -- hoped! -- would manage to muster at least five reviews per issue just took off. And now reviews on blogs have blossomed elsewhere.

But this only makes me more honored that reviewers -- all volunteers, y'all -- continue to send GR their reviews or engagements. And I am delighted to share that, with Issue No. 9, GR continues to thrive -- bringing total new reviews to date to 470 (a summary can be seen at GR's List Of Reviewed Publishers). I had thought that last issue's new reviews/engagements numbering 64 would be a record. Instead, Issue No. 9 offers 65! Here are the stats showing showing Poetry's loveable relevance:

Issue 1: 27 new reviews
Issue 2: 39 new reviews (one project was reviewed twice by different reviewers)
Issue 3: 49 new reviews (two projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 4: 61 new reviews (one project was reviewed thrice, and three projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 5: 56 new reviews (four projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 6: 56 new reviews (one project was reviewed twice)
Issue 7: 51 new reviews
Issue 8: 64 new reviews (3 projects were each reviewed twice)
Issue 9: 65 new reviews

Of such, the following were generated from review copies sent to GR:

Issue 1: 9 out of 27 new reviews
Issue 2: 25 out of 39 new reviews
Issue 3: 27 out of 49 new reviews
Issue 4: 41 out of 61 new reviews
Issue 5: 34 out of 56 new reviews
Issue 6: 35 out of 56 new reviews
Issue 7: 41 out of 51 new reviews
Issue 8: 35 out of 64 new reviews
Issue 9: 42 out of 65 new reviews

I continue to encourage authors/publishers to send in your projects for potential review. Obviously, people are following up with your submissions! Information for submissions and available review copies HERE.


As I've said before, your Editor is blind, so if there are typos/errors in the issue, just email Moi or put in the comments sections and I will swiftly correct said mistakes (since such is allowed by Blogger).


The poet-scholar-critic Timothy Yu recently presented a paper on poetry blogs at the "Markets: From the Bazaar to eBay" conference held by the University of Toronto's Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. You can see the paper HERE, but here's an excerpt:
Tabios also edits the blog-based book review Galatea Resurrects, a mixture of original reviews and reprints of print reviews that she regards as a form of “cultural activism” because it calls “more attention to poetry in all its forms, schools, approaches and other variety.” She also argues that blogs may allow “poetry to expand its audience beyond other poets”—in part, I would add, because most blogs do not require one to be a subscriber to read their content.

But, of course, Poetry is a gift economy -- hence, GR. And, yes, based on various emails, I know that it's expanded the audience for poetry -- it's even been a reference for some poetry/creative writing classes!


For the past several months, I've spent much time on airplanes and other non-U.S. terroir. I, indeed, write this as I have one foot (with a non-matching shoe I suddenly realize) pointed to yet another airport tarmac. And so, no new dawg photo this issue, but I happily cheat with an oldie here with Achilles

because it's become a warm Spring in Napa Valley, purrr-fect for eating the French way, to wit, with a dog by your table at your favored eateries. May you eat well, drink well, and nuzzle well.

With much Love, Fur and Poetry,

Eileen Tabios
St. Helena, CA
March 31, 2008



The following books, all by John Yau:

Paradiso Diaspora
(Penguin, New York, 2006)

The Passionate Spectator: Essays on Art and Poetry
(University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2006)

Ing Grish.
With Illustrations by Thomas Nozkowski
(Saturnalia Books, Philadelphia, 2005)

Borrowed Love Poems
(Penguin, New York, 2002)

The United States of Jasper Johns
(Zoland, Cambridge, 1996)

Radiant Silhouette
(Black Sparrow, Santa Rosa, 1989)

Corpse and Mirror
(Holt, New York, 1983)

(Sheep Meadow, New York, 1979)

100 More Jokes from the Dead,
an etchings-based collaboration with Archie Rand
(Meritage Press, St. Helena and San Francisco, 2001)

What Does John Yau See in Mirrors?

Frame 1: The first Yau book I read was Corpse and Mirror, back in the late ‘80s—the paperback edition with the Jasper Johns on the cover framed by black. One of my roommates had picked up a used copy for who knows what reason. I flipped open to “Variations on Corpse and Mirror” and was hooked. I was young. It had never occurred to me that one way to exercise the imagination was to thread together a few phrases, tear them apart, reconstitute them, Frankensteinish. It seemed like fun.

Frame 2: In the seventies a show for kids on PBS called Electric Company had an animated character named Letter Man. Letter Man’s special power was to change reality by rearranging the letters of words.

Frame 3: I was in New York on one of my trips in from Binghamton for some reading or another, slumming bookshops. In one shop, on 8th St., I think, from a table near the front of the store, a blast of blue and orange caught my eye—Radiant Silhouette. By now I’d read Corpse and Mirror many times over and Broken Off by the Music with similar joy at what I had believed to be sheer playfulness--the anagram taken to the level of the sentence, the poem, the book. But there now, the “Genghis Chan” poems and “Halfway to China” played off the “Radiant Silhouette” sequence and the prose poems of Childhood. Something slightly more complex than fun. Slightly. The cover—with mandala sun flaming in the field of gold, framed by blue—suddenly itself become an icon, a mirror.

Frame 4: Mirrors and things standing in for mirrors: moon, paintings, water, sky, snow, ice, corpse, parents, daughter, lover, shadows, frame, lens, photograph, window, memory, face, fish, an empty dish, poem, silhouette, cell phone caller ID, “John Yau,” a question, “the world through the camera of your own eyes,” jewels, eyes, light. Pick up any book of John Yau’s poems and see how long it takes you to find a poem without one of these in it.

Frame 5: Gradually a young reader might wake up. Realize that in “Cameo of a Chinese Woman on Mulberry Street”

                  Her face this moon a house

is something more than just lovely. That a poet’s early poems might provide keys to reading the more complex work to come, however different that later work might seem to be. Might come to ask what the poet seems to ask himself—what do these language games have to do with these other poems of diaspora? In either case, where is home?

Frame 6: On the train heading into New York from Connecticut to hear Yau read at Fordham, I hand Chris Gallagher (who had never read Yau) my copy of Radiant Silhouette, open to page 121. He reads “Two Kinds of Song” and “Corpse and Mirror,” asks “Where is this set?” “I don’t know,” I say, “In a land that doesn’t exist?” “I thought maybe China,” Chris says, “because of the soldiers and the statues and the king, the horses and chariot buried with him.” “I don’t know. Maybe it is China,” I say.

                  What the king remembers of his dream is not the dream itself.

Frame 7: In his most recent book of poems, Paradiso Diaspora, the language game is home; I myself am hell. Two words on different sides of the looking glass, just as

                  When a corpse meets a corpse there is a mirror between them

And it all takes place in the shadow of two towers falling, one corpse holding the hand of its daughter.

Frame 8: November 29, 2006, St. Mark’s, A Reading for Frank O’Hara’s 80th Birthday. Vincent Katz reads “Poem (At night Chinamen jump),” followed shortly by Yau, who introduces himself, “And now a reading by the Chinaman himself. What’s so bad about that word? I never understood what was wrong with it. It’s accurate.” He reads “To My Dead Father” and two other poems.

Frame 9: At the Fordham reading in October, 2007, Yau reads with Mei-Mei Bersenbrugge and Tan Lin. Janet Kaplan gives a knockout of an introduction for Yau that focuses on his language play, his innovation, his insistence upon the poem of active imagination during the moment of composition, and his resistance to easy autobiography. Yau gets up to read and says “That was a wonderful introduction. But I’m going to display my contrarian nature by starting off with my most autobiographical poem.” He reads “Ing Grish.”

Frame 10:

Frame 11: 100 More Jokes from the Book of the Dead—a book from Meritage Press, collaborations between Yau and Archie Rand—etchings of covers to books that exist only within this book. “Noir Heraclitus in the Mirror Rain” could be an actual Yau title, and it is. Yau describes their method: The book began with long tables covered with copper plates, all more or less the same size. The challenge was to write backwards and do each in one shot, all of them without pausing to stop or look back… It was like listening to a tune that comes out of the air, note by note, and then transcribing it. Who knows who wrote the song?

Frame 12: “What I am saying right now is not being said by me” Osip Mandelstam, epigraph to Yau’s Borrowed Love Poems.

Frame 13: The funhouse mirror distorts by exaggeration, making the parts of oneself that are difficult to look at even more grotesque. It’s hard to look at oneself; in the funhouse mirror it’s hard to look but also fun to look, fun to distort even more. A poet who has difficulty looking directly at himself, for whatever reason (perhaps because he doesn’t believe that there is anything there to see, that the image in the mirror is simply “Noir Heraclitus in Mirror Rain”), might find use of the funhouse mirror. It doesn’t seem easy for Yau to talk about himself, and if it’s hard to talk about oneself it might be even harder to talk about identity, about ethnicity, about racism (unable to speak of the subjective as an objective—Wittgenstein). The funhouse mirror might be a way to use humor (but not humor, but humor, but not humor) to look at something that is hard to look at, something that the poet may not want to look at directly, especially difficult things that he may be expected to look at directly because of his ethnicity.

The funhouse mirror shows an image in flux of self at a moment, of not self, of parents, of daughter, of language, of imagined self, of inversions and anagrams and palindromes and sestinas, a cutup version of an absent original, rejoicing in incognito (Baudelaire). Over time and after the right changes, he might move on to a plainer mirror, smooth out some edges.

Frame 14: “830 Fireplace Rd.”—multiple variations on a Pollock sentence,
When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing.

When I am my painting, I’m not aware of what I am.
When painting, I am what I’m doing, not doing what I am.

Frame 15: The modus operandi of tricksters is to have multiple meanings (to mean the opposite of what they say), to lead others to believe one thing is happening when in reality another thing is happening. A trickster might talk about issues he doesn’t want to talk about directly by approaching them obliquely, playing at silhouette. The trickster’s playfulness masks a deep seriousness, an absence, or a deep sorrow.

Frame 16: When is a silhouette radiant?

Frame 17: Richelle Ivarsson sent me a link to a video of Yau at a Jasper Johns opening at Matthew Marks gallery—the cameraman tries to interview Yau about Johns, but Yau mumbles his preference not to be interviewed, looks away at the work on the wall, as though looking to someone for help in getting him out of an uncomfortable encounter.

He may be uncomfortable speaking about Johns on camera, but he certainly has no trouble writing about him. Yau also cites O’Hara on Johns in The Passionate Spectator: O’Hara says Johns recognized “that technique could transform matter (paint) [words], as well as subject (American flag) [diaspora], into an experience that was meaningful rather than purely aesthetic.”

Yau likes O’Hara’s word “pain” to distinguish Johns’s from works of formal irony. That mirror, “pain,” reflects back, distinguishing Yau’s work from mere formal experimentation but also from confession, in the first case by its presence and in the second by its difference. His instinct is against confession, but his instinct is also for a “free-wheeling” openness (O’Hara’s term), and how can one be open without including personal history? Yet, as Yau says when talking of Johns: he recognizes that the individual lives in a world of uninterrupted change but that society, which is the collective expression of individuals, repeatedly denies this fact. If reality, which is to say the world we inhabit, is continually reformulating itself, then how does one both recognize and accept a process which eventually subsumes us all? How can the individual be true to change and entropy, which is the stuff of life, rather than uphold the social ideals of stasis and its concomitant illusion that any one of us can exist outside time and chaos, which is the stuff of much art?

Frame 18: you have only to look through the camera of your own eyes to see what you’re talking about

Frame 19: Looking in the mirror, it is impossible to capture the past or even the present of what is there, just as it is impossible to capture both the speed and exact location of an electron. Yau explores the linguistic aura that surrounds the particle in the mirror, knowing it’s impossible to get a fix. His is a poetry of doing what it’s possible to do. Yau quotes Ashbery quoting Hélion: “I realize today that it is the abstract which is reasonable and possible. And that it is the pursuit of reality which is madness, the ideal, the impossible.”

Like Creeley, Yau is “skeptical of the ability of words to ground him in the actual world, its unfolding here and now.”

Frame 20: A Jasper Johns mirror:

Frame 21: In his “Introduction” poem to Paradiso Diaspora Yau stakes his territory: he’s visiting the land of those early poems, the 1974-79, some from Sometimes, poems like “Cameo” and “Their Shadows,” but making it clear that that old author isn’t him, cannot be him; nor is the author of these poems. He wants to take us there, but constantly realizes he can’t get there; he pulls the magic carpet from beneath our feet and his—
Doesn’t this sound like it might turn into a love poem or a prayer
Well, you are wrong, because a man of the people,
which I am not nor will I ever be,
doesn’t single out one above all others
as this is a hierarchical construction

The author is “someone who didn’t exist / before this poem / began writing itself down;” by the end of the poem, by the end of each line, both poet and reader are someone else. The face in the mirror is always the face of a corpse.

Frame 22: What am I now? And what am I now? And now? The unfolding poem, language, work: places to “be in ambiguities”—to subsist on the Diasporan’s question: “what if?” All stories become stories about beginnings.

Frame 23:

  Parents              —              self              —           Child
  Corpse              —              mirror              —           Corpse
  Paradiso              —                  —           Diaspora

Frame 24: Andalusia [1-8] = And I lose ya. He says it to the mirror, to the poem, to the lover, to the daughter, to the parents, and we say it along, we can’t help but look—even the birds / have stopped to look at their reflections.

Frame 25: He asks himself—what is the point of all of these language games? Pushing the same buttons repeatedly is sentimentality. What can that statement mean in the face of war, genocide, 9/11?, asks Genghis Khan—Private Eye / Private I.
“This lexical fracturing has something to do with the poet’s minority status in American culture. Not that he’s ever exactly gone in for identity politics; quite the opposite, his cross-grained stance could probably better be referred to by the yet-to-be-defined program that might be called “difference politics.”
--Barry Schwabsky

“The point is neither to assert the self, which would be redundant, nor to escape it, which is impossible, but to question it, to find out what it is made of—and at minimum, to be “able to tell others / that I am not who they think I am.”
--Barry Schwabsky

If Yau’s is an identity politics of someone who seems not to believe in persistent identity (W. B. Keckler), it is also complicated by the fact that he has been perceived as not-Chinese because he doesn’t speak it and not-American because he looks Chinese. One’s identity as a poet might provide some workingspace in the triangulated distance between what one is, what one isn’t, and how one is perceived.

Frame 26: In the last lines of “Ing Grish,”
I do not know either English or Chinese and, because of that,
I did not put a headstone at the head of my parent’s graves
as I felt no language mirrored the ones they spoke

For Yau, the struggle to find identity, to self-identify (and denial of identity is the same as struggle to self-identify) is a struggle to find language; thus the restlessness of Yau’s poems, the anagrammatic structure looking to hit on right combinations, the wanderings of an exile.

Frame 27: If the world is made by the combination of things in it and a sense of self is made by combinations of personal facts, knowledge, experience, then is the poem an attempt to compose reality or a reflection of it? It is both. The poem is the diasporan home: language dispersed and resisting dispersal. The old world and the new world, the now world, the head of Orpheus floating downriver.

Frame 28: It’s cliché by now to say so, but 9/11 changed most of us—not because it ended an age of irony as some have ridiculously claimed, and not because it forced us to see more clearly, but because it gave us an urgent desire to see more clearly.

From Yau’s last poem in Paradiso Diaspora, “In the Kingdom of Poetry:”
Don’t write poems
about yourself….

Don’t write about
what is happening in the world…

Whatever happened there
isn’t a poem…

Throw away
your memories,

bury your mirrors.

A litany of things a Poetry King might prohibit in a time of increased security measures, things not to do in poems, most if not all of which Yau himself has done, and more often in recent books. Yet under the irony there’s a sense that Yau really does have a distaste for many of these things. Is he uncomfortable with what he’s done? Is this simply irony? Trickster saying one thing, meaning another? Or does he simultaneously both mean it and not? It is redundant to assert the self, impossible to escape it. Of course he means it, and he can’t possibly mean it. If you followed his instructions in this poem, what would be left to write about? The desires engendered by catastrophe can ultimately lead to impossible strictures, the death of freedom, death of imagination (“The only war that matters is the war against the imagination/All other wars are subsumed within it”—Diane DiPrima, “Rant”). Better to embrace one’s “contrarian nature”—do it the way you’re not supposed to, under the radar, incognito, questing, now.


Brian Clements is the author of Disappointed Psalms, poems forthcoming in Summer 2008 from Meritage Press, and of And How to End It, prose poems forthcoming in 2008 from Quale Press. He coordinates the MFA in Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State and edits Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics.



Twenty-One After Days by Lisa Lubasch
(Penngrove, CA: Avec Books, 2006)

With all due respect to Hemingway, the sun never rises in Twenty-One After Days. The book’s opening line gives us light, sure enough, but not sunlight:
lampshades will admit of the spectacular—are they hosts to other things? (11)

At the close of the first of the book’s five sections, the sun is setting, “in astonishment.” At other points one glimpses it fleetingly, through trees or via the uncertain technologies of vision:
opening in the sun (31)
nonetheless trying/ to escape, as sunlight (35-36)
sunlight filtering (56)
revealing in the trees, where light has splintered— (60)
where the sunlight streaks into visibility (67)
light settles in (75)

The closest one gets to an unambiguous sunrise occurs in this profoundly ambiguous passage:
Lately as the imperative mounts
towards the sun
(morning unchaining itself

from constancy),
it murkily invokes
its own despair:

Could momentum be lost
like a target
shaken from the wall?

It is morning in these verses, but the sun is up there already, awaiting us; it is the “imperative” that rises, or morning itself, “unchaining.” But the acts of “mounting” and “unchaining” are hesitant, conditional. As the imperative mounts, “it murkily invokes/ its own despair,” darkening itself both elementally and psychologically. Murk is, after all, an aquatic term, describing the turmoil of disturbed depths—it is strange and poignant to find it here, in what appeared to be a climbing toward light. Nor is this a singular action, as evidenced by the word “Lately”: this murky invocation, this ambivalent unchaining from constancy, well it’s been happening for a little while now. “Could momentum be lost…?” asks the poem, shaken from its own murky speaking by a sudden flush of italics, like a blush of anxiety. The two stanzas leading up to this question are a perfect poetic description of momentum’s loss. No heroic flight of Icarus for this poetic speaker. This snippet of song—likewise the poem as a whole—is not about hubris, with its brave and silly climb and plummet. It is about the work of staying aloft, about the turbid and beautiful flapping of a speaker with wings.

Twenty-One After Days is Lubasch’s fourth book of poems. In the first, How Many More of Them Are You?, she had already found a voice; each volume since has deepened the complexity and range of her poetic project. Ironically, this deepening has taken the form of an increased focus on the poetics of failure, incompletion, and errancy; a quieting of the speaker; an interest in what falls into the interstices of meaning. The more confident and lyrical the work becomes, the more the speaker “murkily invokes/ its own despair.” The failures of sunlight in this book point to a truth of the larger work: Lubasch’s poetry is most engaged at the points “where light has splintered,” revealing “severance of each thing.” (60) In Twenty-One After Days, poetry is involved in “raising care to the level of error” (13), in observing, patiently, the incompleteness and fragmentation of the given world.

Pursuing the book’s interest in sunlight and its substitutes opens out into several questions. One of these concerns the poet’s relation to the imagery of the natural world. Descriptions of nature are everywhere—the entire lived space of the book seems rural or pastoral, with virtually no hint of urban landscape. But the pastoral geography is kept vague, indistinct. When images do anchor us, they do so only paradoxically:
Inner resting
Can produce
A translation

Becoming very quickly
More quickly than
Barns peaking in error

Leaving all windows to the door (39)

When barns peek into the poem, they “peak in error,” as if it were a mistake for barns to form triangles or to point upward; as if they should know that their role is being, not becoming. The stanza preceding this image offers a kind of koan upon the scene. But what is the status of this adage? The grammatical subjects of the phrase are meticulously evacuated—whose inner resting? a translation of what? how does resting produce something? And the connection between the two stanzas is murky—Does inner resting become very quickly? Does the translation? Or are the two stanzas tangential, touching and then heading in separate directions?

We are used to reading images of nature as encodings of symbolic regimes. In movies, rain at a funeral tells us we should feel sad; when the ground heaves as Eve bites into the forbidden fruit in Paradise Lost, it is because the reader should be mourning. Twenty-One After Days, by contrast, eschews this regime. The fact that nature in the poem produces almost no points of concrete reference transforms those referents into signs unmoored from significations, so that imagery becomes part of an emotional language rather than forming an analogy to it. Weather and landscape constantly interweave with descriptions of writing, reading, and other creative acts: “its lights are brimming—the cursor is dragged—speech is taking” (16); “Hovering there, on the sill,/ as everything/ moves towards revision…” (40); “Then the river recalls itself/ erasing the scheme” (61); “the day is leashed/ to words/ and endings” (68); “So the path of privacy burns out,/ is retraced” (74).

This crossfade of world, writing, and subjecthood reminds one of the great French theorists of writing such as Cixous, Derrida, Ponge, and Edmond Jabès, who writes, in The Little Book of Unsuspected Subversion, “For place, all you will have had is the hope of a mild place beyond the sands: a mirage of repose.” Place in poetry for Jabès cannot exist beyond the mind of reader and writer; it emanates from and participates in the topography of existence. Lubasch attempts to capture just this aspect of (dis)location. In the book’s first section, “winter enters fretfully” onto a page and immediately “is diverted” into a mental and verbal landscape, or was always in that landscape in the first place:
winter enters fretfully—is diverted—murmuring—almost without frond […] they were compared—to apprehend the difference—as I recall—and the whitening of the book […] the cat embarrassed—or growing violent, even, in a certain climate—where it sleets more often—

Winter in this passage registers somewhere between a season, a character, and an aspect of language. In fact, winter in this passage is a passage, ushering us through a series of changing states, motioning us toward the poetic speaker. “As I recall”… we do not know who this “I” might be, but the act of recollection becomes the central action of this movement, this passage. We move backward in memory while moving forward in writing. The passage ends “in a certain climate” that both is and isn’t part of the winter where it began. Sleet, that border between rain and snow, constitutes a kind of fretful winter; yet the stinging unpleasantless of sleet seems closer to a violent cat than to a murmuring hesitation. In the midst of what might be called this motion without change, we are led to understand that “winter” is entwined with the “whitening” (the wintering, the erasing) of the book. There is no experience of weather, climate, or season without the experience of writing, reading, thinking. These acts do not mirror each other, but rather are always in the process of becoming each other. The experience of the book becomes “some unknown variable,/ of the climate” (72).

A poem constantly in motion is difficult to form words around. As Lubasch reminds us, “identity fastens—loosely” (60). Elements of the work are constantly moving “toward”—towards revision, beauty, completion, conclusion—but never reaching them. The poem is filled with imagery of interruptions, “a failed recourse to gesture” (60), currents that flow only “to reach an ordinary aim” (19). Movements upward are imbued with heaviness, while the interior is “escaping—unhooked as weight” (18). In one of the many moments that sounds like a microcosm of the poem, the speaker tells us in curt, grammatically torqued lines that “melancholy may be guarded—inwardness as shift—so states renew and become dazzling” (15). Indeed, if such grammar seems almost inert in its slow, patient turns (guarded by or from what? what verb governs “inwardness”? if inwardness is a state, how does it shift? if it is not, then what is the referent of “states”?), we are reminded that “the grammar of the action—could be stalled” (25), or that “The room is unmoving,/ but its punctuation/ is stirred” (40).

Perhaps a poem that both elevates and enacts the virtues of patience, interruption, rehearsal, and even “dreariness” (a word that recurs throughout the book) sounds like a frustrating read. But the genius of the work lies in the fact that it is both dreary and “dazzling.” Or rather, its dazzling and dreary moments are the same. Living in this book is like living in the unmoving room of stirred punctuation: it is simultaneously static and turbulent, a moment-by-moment tracking of the process by which “a meaning disentangles/ from its own philosophy” (59). The result is a work of almost unbearable delicacy and beauty, and one that repays multiple readings by continually opening upon new prospects. Each reading will be an erroneous one, in the ancient sense of the word “error”—a wandering, a non-linear path. To embrace error, to raise “care to the level of error,” is to be willing to stop and listen in strange and difficult places, even when the noise is unintelligible, or silence. For as the poem explains quietly, “the quietness is furnished” (26). It is a quietness into which we stumble, or within which we awaken:
the case of the
waking to a disinterested art (68)


David B. Goldstein is the author of the chapbook Been Raw Diction (Dusie, 2006), and his poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel—Second Floor, Jubilat, Typo, Pinstripe Fedora, Epoch, Alice Blue Review, and The Paris Review. He teaches creative writing, Renaissance literature, and food studies at York University.



Cadenza by Charles North
(Hanging Loose, 2007)


Doing 70 by Hettie Jones
(Hanging Loose, 2007)


Hanging Loose Press has been around since 1966 and is going strong, dedicating time and energy to supporting work by a variety of poets who often go under-recognized in the crowded world of small press poetry publishing. Doing 70 by Hettie Jones and Cadenza by Charles North are recent publications demonstrative of the broadness of poetry the press covers. The poems in both collections are strong although there is much disparity between the respective styles. Regardless of whether the reader favors one poet over the other, it’s to the credit of Hanging Loose for making the new work available. Jones and North are both residents of New York City and Hanging Loose is based out of Brooklyn, both poets amply reference east coast city living, yet neither is easily categorized. Each of the works demonstrates a committed dedication to observation and the poem as documentation.

Charles North began writing poems in the latter half of the 1960s and shortly thereafter enrolled in the last workshop Kenneth Koch taught at the New School. His work bears resemblance to some of what has been termed “New York School,” but stands distinctly on its own merits. Reading the poems there is no doubt that North would be writing them with or without there being any such grouping. He is pursuing his own interests and the result is a unique blend of humor, sharp observation and bare statement.

The pizza crawling with government buildings, three-star hotels,
equestrian statues,
staircases wandering in stone… that’s piazza.
Actually, no, it’s the present sitting casually on its wall of
wet paint,
rush-hour traffic grinding past, people beginning to parachute
out of a murky sky…men in business suits, women in “flame-colored
—one cradling a baby in one arm while gesturing to would-be rescuers
who paddle furiously or hold out a powder blue sheet like a
and the brillig evening, I don’t know what else to call it,
drives a Mercury Cougar past barns and disappearing farms.

The descriptive approach North takes is appealing in a philosophical manner. Awash with action, the lines glide into one another, hesitantly distant but a richly visual appreciation remains. As unusual as it gets there’s a deliberate stillness that holds the attention. It’s not surreal, more of an ultra-real visionary scene of city life at the rush hour escape: the “brillig” hour, a term coined by Lewis Carroll for four o’clock in the afternoon, time for broiling things for dinner. The pizza (most likely a frozen substitute rather than the real thing) that awaits the zooming driver of the Mercury Cougar, on the mind from the first line of the poem, & the farms disappearing while so many continue to go out to live among them, a lament for all that is being lost amid consuming suburban spread. With subtle references to well known recent tragedy and also everyday sort of observations, the poem awaits further readings.

The opening title poem lives up to the improvisation implied in its name, a long piece that explores the attention given to the writing itself. North writes towards writing and even when he appears merely to be going along without any useful agenda, surprising rewards arise.
“Thinking on paper”
is one aspect. Another is
the ghostly traces of mind that hover
over whatever is in the process of being constructed,
whether lyric poem or midtown office building.
“Ghostly” because the connections between
mind and world are invariably impossible to make out,
not to speak of the “rewriting aspect” seemingly built
into the nature of things.

He starts in the middle of a thought and takes it from there. Beginning in medias res (“The longer the life / the roomier the harbor. // Well, not exactly…”) North not only locates an immediate grounding but builds momentum and comes to a conclusion by the end of the writing. The piece doesn’t just trail off. It is a pleasurable a performance, North captures the unusual and surprises, his hold is superb.
In a crowded off-Broadway theater,
a heckler refuses to sit down despite mounting threats
from the relatively large audience. Several of the costumed and in
             some cases masked actors
(they are doing Shakepeare’s A Mid Summer Night’s Dream in
             traditional dress)
though visibly distracted climb down from the stage
and form a protective ring around him. Bottom
appears to be the ring leader.

North appears to be writing away from any sign of influence of other writers, past and present. His interests are uniquely his own. Repeatedly, there is a heavy emphasis on the visual image.

It must be daylight
Your painting of chicory dividing a dark green field
Fills on all sides with light.
It must be daylight.

Some of the portions which are out of sight
Become what the painting yields.
It must be daylight:
Your painting of chicory dividing a dark green field.

The embedded repetition of the patterned lines yields a visualization of the painting, itself a simple enough sounding landscape. What strikes North is the attention the painter has placed upon the light streaming in from beyond “some” of the given field of vision, his poem in turn marks the crispness of a meditated landscape turned mindscape, the visual made mental to give back a further visual.

This well rounded collection closes with a lengthy set of journal notes “SUMMER OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY” a continuous tracking of North’s reflections on day-to-day visuals.
June 25. Rainy and esoteric.
July 30. A Hunt Cantata of clouds.
Aug. 2. A water pipe crawled out of the woods.
Sept. 25. The ghost of a day. Partly rainy. Partly sunny. Partly not there.

North places poetry in the hands of words (where else would it go?) sloughing off his own thoughts and preconceptions as chair and desk give way to visually layered ruminations of language at work within itself.


Hettie Jones is vibrantly alive inside her poems. This is popular poetry. She celebrates life, the joy, along with the sorrow, that accompanies the run of days. Jones isn’t so much concerned with furthering poetry as an art but rather utilizing it as communication of one’s inner beliefs and thoughts to others. She seeks to celebrate community, poems offering up praise and recognition of friends and family, and attend to her daily business.
For Margaret of Sixth Street

               who is probably dead, RIP

Whenever I met Margaret
the rest of the day was magic

Margaret might have been ninety-some,
she never would say. One day

after years of meeting her
on the street

I took the plunge
and kissed her cheek

then watched her grin
around her three
remaining teeth.

The language is simple and to the point, sounding out a gritty little bit of song. Jones knows precisely what she wants to get said and does so. She captures quick, accurate transcription of speech.

Jones is aware that one of poetry’s greatest values is of testament. She writes of her own immediate experience and that of others she discovers to declare that it was lived, not forgetting the importance maintaining social and cultural awareness.

The author:
known only as Debora
fought and died with the Underground
in Warsaw, 1944

Her diary:
twenty torn, burned, fused-together
pages the size of playing cards
written in secret, stashed, and
as she has instructed

from behind a radiator
in the ruins of Resistance headquarters

By her friend, Lusia,
who held it sixty years, then
dying instructed:              restore
and share

Some words from a preliminary translation:

bombs       fire       angels       Nazis
mother’s coffin       a pile of corpses
Ghetto is certain death

To not record the words is to forget and to forget is to deny. Jones isn’t about to allow for anything or anyone she cares for to be forgotten. She is adding to the historical record of her generation a voice of celebration, a passionate refusal against silence.

The long title piece of this collection, “Doing 70: A Passion Play,” is a delightful recounting of a flirtatious adventure Jones found herself having after car trouble returning to home from Boston: “On the Mass Pike, at first rest stop past Boston, / the starter breaks.” The dedication is to the recently deceased Helene Dorn, the correspondent whose letters she has driven to Boston to pick up. Dorn and Jones having known each other since the fifties when their husbands at the time, poets Ed Dorn and Le Roi Jones (Amiri Baraka) were close friends and the families often visited together, it’s clear that the relationship between the women ran deep.
The box of letters is heavy every
way. Thirty pounds, four decades,
two women, one dead, the other
stuck. Fuck.

Luckily for Jones when the tow truck arrives the driver is a very capable young man, whose masculine prowess is not lost on her.
a flatbed roars into the sunburnt parking lot.
Waving and pointing, I run the rest of the way,
and soon

an audience has gathered, a three-generation family
with two awed children. Everyone likes a driver,
and here’s a young, good-looking, acrobatic one,
who parks precisely, load-ready, then
in one quick movement swings out,
takes my keys, turns on the lights and radio, and says
it’s probably the starter.

Well I know that.

But Ryan, as I’d know him, notes
at once that I’ve gone past cause to effect.
He tells me the terms, admits he’s been
to New York twice, though not in many years.

In no time Jones is riding home, sitting next to this young driver with her car loaded up on the back of his truck. And it’s clear that she enjoys every minute of being so close to a new strange attractive man. Despite her age Jones expresses her delight and the reader shares in it with her.
But of course we haven’t gone far
before I’m in love. Every time
we hit rough road the glove compartment
falls open into my lap, and my bare foot
closing it seems
though I know doing seventy means
giving up the pretty boys

The urge is of course to reassure Jones that one never does know.


Patrick James Dunagan lives in San Francisco and works at the library of USF. Recent reviews have appeared in Artvoice (Buffalo), St. Mark's Poetry Project Newsletter, and Jacket. Poems recently appeared in Cannibal and One Less Magazine.



SKINNY BUDDHA by Sheila E. Murphy
(Dusie, 2007)

1. (The Explorer)
"Give of selves we have not known
Or counted. All the integers
Have been browned beneath
The clouds of sea and broad ideas."

S.E. Murphy's Skinny Buddha, page 22

Sheila Murphy writes, I might describe, as a prism, seen through which drab reality, never apprehended by her under its obvious aspects, is transmuted into the stuff of Sokratic or pre-Sokratic philosophy — or dreams. The crystalline, mineral world of words which is her domain bursts asunder like a lump of flint brought to a white heat. The feeling of vertigo induced by many of her writings is rather like the sensation one has at County Clare in the west of Ireland, at the Cliffs of Moher, haunted by crows & herons, & haunted by the manifestational ghosts of the goddess Badb, to whose slopes cling precariously the low, faintly sinister mists that seep out of disintegrating cairns.

Sheila Murphy is always trying — & how difficult it is! — to grasp that invisible bluewhite filament of marvels which, vibrating in the dialectic of philosophy, or vibrating in the music of the void, emits dreams & objects with the sound of a stream rippling over tiny, living pebbles. Everything Murphy describes or presents is recognizable, even when it relates to composite beings or objects. That strange world known to her alone, whose secrets she elicits & reveals in the course of ardent explorations, belongs to the domain of travelers' tales, those imaginary ocean voyages in which the helmswoman of a ship of dreams watches for the faint faraway signals that will orient her to long-lost lands.

However, the composition of Skinny Buddha itself is extremely daring: the central plane revealed by the cleft in the printed texts & the mostly white of the paper, on which the words are lying, opens out into a great spiral of words culminating in the sphere containing the vision; this is linked with the foreground group of images by a triangle of convergent perspectives. The symbolic & structural complexity of the work is obscured only by the dramatic intensity of the figure of the Skinny Buddha himself, as but an echo of the "vision" theme.

2. (The Trembling Insect)
"... gray feathers tingle in a mittened wind
and sundry long waits
spawn a parakeet-like riffing
joie de vivre projected onto imagery
tucked between pages
sliced by chance ..."

S.E. Murphy's Skinny Buddha, page 18

Sheila Murphy brings to her writing a wholly personal sensibility, the grace of a trembling insect or the grace of a quivering bird, which lends a poignant beauty to her recent works, notably her Incessant Seeds, or the stunningly beautiful Case of the Lost Objective (Case), or the Skinny Buddha. In this latter poem, verbal objects & verbal figures reshape themselves in a welter of flames, & we see their elements hovering in turbid air, as if upheld by unseen magnets. Nevertheless, Murphy leads us into verbal forests of verbal trees that weep or bleed or laugh with joy. These verbal images of everyday objects transform or combine in such a way that their agreement with our preconceived ideas, simple or sophisticated, is obliterated. But it is the unique way in which the verbal parts are assembled that gives these (verbal) images a new identity.

Sheila Murphy takes to burying the eerie figures of her private verbal carnival under verbal cairns of ice-cold stones, or volcanic stones, or the dialectical & musical stones, as in a landscape of harrowing but humorous desolation. Yet nevertheless, it seems clear that precise & charming evocations of the mystery of the Skinny Buddha are furnished best by the verbal images of everyday encounters combined or transformed.

Indeed, the composition of the Skinny Buddha is if anything more lyrical & sublime than Incessant Seeds itself; & it bears the unmistakable imprint of Murphy's imagination. For in a broad landscape, as transparent as the landscape in the Incessant Seeds, the verbal figures are disposed according to a plan which is perfection in itself. The wonderfully straightforward, monumental design flows so smoothly & harmoniously from the figure of the Skinny Buddha, that this is surely a great achievement in Murphy's art, & a milestone in this reader's experience. Thus indeed, this work is based on a perfectly symmetrical design realized with the utmost of sculpted poetry.

3. (Musicality)
"Maligned worth ceases speech
A divination clusters its way safely
Through chance light's
Fidelity as triumph waits
To formulate momentum
Factors seen to magnify
A calculated speech."

S.E. Murphy's Skinny Buddha, page 17

My own poetry is typified by "visionary landscapes." Unfortunately my landscapes have always been bounded by a distant horizon line & located in a space in which all seems strangely remote, petrified in ice-cold light. However, in Sheila Murphy's work both horizon & weight cease to exist; undulations of verbal images, beams of verbal light, & streams of verbal "force" interpenetrate, whirling up & up like spiral nebulae. She is one of those rare poets who, by veiled allusions & in a discreet light, reveal the deadliest, most lawless urges & passions of the mental underworld. Her skies are peopled with winged & beaked clouds, verbal clouds, hovering above archetypal soundscapes or archetypal spacescapes.

Many years ago, Billy Butler Yeats was counted up as one among the Modernists — even though he did not experiment greatly with structure, form, etc. Yeats, however, was reluctant to move too far away from the human voice, or the music of the speaking voice. Thus, even when he struggles with "difficult" or "complex" ideas there is an impression (from the music of the voice alone) that he is accessible in his inaccessibility.

Sheila Murphy does not hesitate to plunge into one wild experiment after another with content & form & structure, etc. However, like Yeats, & almost always, she expresses herself through her writings in the music of the speaking voice, the human voice. Thus, even when she is inaccessible she does not seem to be so.

In the Skinny Buddha, we see vast expanses reaching out into infinity & dappled with bone-like verbal objects, wisps of mist, pebbles or round boulders sometimes standing on end like the cromlechs of old Ireland, & the music of a dialectic of the human voice. Sheila Murphy surrenders wholly to an instinctual drive seconded by technical gifts of the highest order.

Sheila Murphy's work, in which images & ideas are tossed to & fro in terms of a "metalogic" peculiar to herself, appeals to the mind by the witty byplay of her humor & the unfamiliar, fascinating soundscapes it opens up to us. Nevertheless, there is something of Shakespearean comedy in Murphy's handling of the themes of anguish, human solitude, & the elusiveness of human desire, which always slips through the fingers just when we think we grasp it.

It seems to me that the Skinny Buddha is set in a scene of utter tranquillity, beside a lake; from the distance comes a flight of birds, some of them landing on the strand, giving definition to the perspective. Then the strand curves round two circular groups of figures, which are separated by the standing figure of the Skinny Buddha as such. The right hand group of figures is full of dramatic tension, but this is dissipated in the elongated forms of the text itself, stretched in supplication before us. The Skinny Buddha himself, with a gesture, stills the turbulence of the drama & leads our eyes on into the peaceful air over which the herons & crows fly.

4. (The Goethean Perspective)
"One limbered up the body to recast the point of mind space. Buildings full of toys nested alongside square points. Referenced panes lifted from scorch points. There were Everest spiels beside a person's striking hair. The kind of smile one held when blessed or so. With nest egg sizable by craft. Unless the suddenness retracts her best."

S.E. Murphy's Skinny Buddha, page 12

The world of Sheila Murphy is wrought of dreams & light & dark obsessions, teeming with incongruities, at once disquieting & lyrical, joyful & amusing. At times her writing is so greatly simplified as to evoke, through dialectic, some protohistoric chant. Verbal seeds burst into furious life, verbal leaves grow dagger-sharp & malignant & non-malignant orchids blaze forth in magic swamps where the civilized people & the savage people meet on common ground in a quest for truth, multi-dimensional truth. For, in this context to be sure, I greatly admire Murphy's subtle sense of marvels & her transposition of everyday reality into a wonderland built of the golden dreams of childhood. These figurations of the verbal marvels, so strikingly remote from the disincarnate poetry of our time, may console us for the passing of the superb illustration of post-symbolist & post-surrealist literature.

Sheila Murphy's inspiration, like Goethe's, is essentially warm & life-affirming & optimistic if not childlike but it is tinged with melancholy: with constructive or constructivist (not nostalgic) yearnings as well as with the spirit of play. Her poems & texts seem like natural growths, each form giving birth to another, without any logical necessity, but in accordance with the promptings of some wholly personal compulsion.

In the Skinny Buddha, the way the two groups of images revolve is brilliantly original, & so is the contrast between the static hieratic figures in the center of the text & the twisted motion of the Skinny Buddha in the foreground. & thus certainly Sheila Murphy is capable of turning an abstract intellectual proposition into pure poetry (if not pure music & pure geometry). In the Skinny Buddha, she has introduced a more majestic & dramatic use of space, & in effect this will be the occasion of the collapse of the proportional schemes that have seen fashionable use by poets until this time.

5. (The Dialectic)
"I thought participation
once a fair disturbance
then some vatic change
of scope to sequence
images from lurid
to the topic brand of
white blue satchel hope"

S.E. Murphy's Skinny Buddha, page 6

The space of Sheila Murphy's poem becomes a meeting place of lamellated figures, gliding like hieratic robots along sloping planes & caught up in electric storms. Indeed, Sheila Murphy places the whole world under the sway of hieratic & sacred incantation, always, which rules the fashionable districts of the mind & the body, where the old mills of old Ireland grind out pearl necklaces & other philosophical jewellery in a hard metallic light. Murphy, depicting with rare expertness & fine precision the joys & fears of woman & man, blends up meticulous description with verbal figures materializing in a misty, curiously sensuous ambience.

The general effect this Skinny Buddha produces might be described as one of a humorous or desperate & musical dialectic between nearness & remoteness, charged with sculptural overtones rarely found to this extent in poetry. Hmmmm, but this is not the dialectic of the Marxists. No, it is the dialectic (or, the yin vs. yang) of Hegel & Kant & St. Thomas Aquinas & Plato & Sokrates. Yes, & it is the dialectic of John Eriugena, the Irish philosopher of the Ninth Century. Sheila Murphy makes a point as far as possible of presenting only sculptural texts that evoke the mystery & the music & the dialectic of all existence with the precision & charm essential to the life of thought.

But in this rationalized space the story unfolds around verbal architectural protrusions, some of which are in motion, like the high wall on the left, almost hidden by the splendid figure of the young man climbing down from it, & some holding firm, like the colonnade on the right between whose pillars the magnificent procession of women is moving. Verbal architecture plays an unprecedentedly important part in the narrative action of the Skinny Buddha. & indeed, this is a new departure in the work of Sheila Murphy.

6. (The Golden Geometry)
"Temptation's like a latitude remaining on full throttle. Maybe she induces fragile reach. Perhaps not near the tundra. Equally perhaps apart from strings in keepsake midsect springs. For nautical to work, there need be stray mammalian glands. And this was how she tried to work, foregrounding in the midst of improvised quick winter."

S.E. Murphy's Skinny Buddha, page 5

Sheila Murphy, not haunted by nostalgic yearnings for Proustian intoxication, mysterious subterranean halls of long ago, conjures up in her writing verbal wonderlands of voluptuous delight, & her verbal figures, masked & fancifully attired, roam a mesmeric world of magnetized water & gold-veined rocks of words bathed in the light of dreams. She creates a new space filled with a haze of broken lights in which transparent & opaque objects alike are bathed in the prismatic radiance of sunrise, yes the Goethean sunrise. In her art remarkable inventiveness is joined to writerly craft & precision & she has a gift for blending fantasy & humor in compositions where recur, like leitmotivs, objects diverted from their practical uses, & in which asteroids of ice gyrate in frost-bound forests.

Skinny Buddha is a ship in which page by page Murphy sets sail to uncharted lands whose spacescapes & soundscapes, bathed in the light of dreams, she records with meticulous precision. The verbal figures in the Skinny Buddha are constructed according to a golden geometry, yet it has a subtle vigor & urgency, & an airy majesty with the total abstraction of a vision.

The space around the verbal figures is almost non-existent, & the figures themselves are linked together in perfect circular motion. Like a reflection in a convex mirror the sphere seems to protrude towards the reader. Nevertheless, the reader is drawn into the orbit of the sphere in the same way, & led breathlessly through a series of rotations & oblique angles. The light, beating in on the solid figures from behind, shows the careful delineation of the verbal forms, & seems to be the source of visions rising from the darkest depths of the mind & the body.

Indeed, & to be sure, I think that Sheila Murphy succeeds in rescuing poetry from the doldrums of academicism & the sterile disputations of the literary claques, & in restoring it to its place as an active element of life, a burning topic of the day, & a means to probing the utmost possibilities of being.


Information about Séamas Cain are available at HERE and HERE. See also his websites:



Novel Pictorial Noise by Noah Eli Gordon
(Harper-Collins, New York, 2007)

There are many ways to represent noise. In the Shannon-Weaver communication model(1), noise is an input signal -- isolable from, and transforming the transmitted message:

Or another way, pictorially (2), as Gaussian white noise, in its bell-like distribution across the frequency spectrum:

Then Wittgenstein:
“Do not forget that a poem, although it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language-game of giving information.”(3)

If I say that I am quoting this not from Zettel, but from Marjorie Perloff’s Wittgenstein’s Ladder(4), what difference does it make that I say so? Just how important is a putting into context?
Comes a night-light’s landing beacon leads me to pick villainy from a bouquet of the places I’d left to yesterday’s map of the future, rubber-necking unintentionally oblique articulation. Loosen a rivet from the lapsed mind and out pours the obvious like thick rain. A sterile neighbourhood, a standing ovation, centuries of labor congealing into the desk lamp that let’s me mold my own two cents from this paper-clip panopticon. I’m not pushing anything here. Power’s got a fulcrum that’s half self-portrait, part handicraft. The lever will pivot regardless of where it’s placed down. It’s the primacy of motion drafts sound. (page 1)

A rain of contexts, a thick rain moving from the L’s of light-landing-lead-villainy-places-unintentionally-oblique-articulation….. Centuries of labor giving us a desk lamp allowing the possibility of a miniaturized version of surveillance from a paper-clip panopticon….

Then Archimedes:
“Give me a place to stand, and with a lever I will move the world.”

Let’s revise the Shannon-Weaver communication model, into a model where noise is both input and message, transformed instead by syntax and a choice of form (transmitter).

The essence of pictorial fact aspires to describe itself as a panorama, an impossible cultivation of pictorial elements. I hold that thinking is an image of art. Therefore, in proposing the helicopter as the only subject retaining any seriousness, one is concurrently giving rise to the fundamental ineptness of abstraction. For example, suppose I see an aesthetic accident rather than the intension expounded in the translator’s preface. Might we then say that the architecture of the gallery space is an analogy for the plasticity of the figurative? The neutrality of such a proof is no more erroneous than the landing pad one might position on one’s roof. (page 15)

“Poetry, an alternate less linear logic” – Rosmarie Waldrop, On Lawn of Excluded Middle(5)

In this less linear logic, therefore, suppose, might, are extracted from their regular logical use and serve to mark the digressions as sharp turns, as unexpected swerves, as “reposition(ings)”:
The first option is to rattle the world in its frame. The second frames the world in its rattle. Between them, an amplifier without its instruments. This is not a metaphor. Each paragraph requires the participants to reposition themselves. From up here, I can make out the action as if it were taking space. Several ants beelining back to headquarters. Reportage lacks ideology as painting lacks performance. Some of these statements are false, including the present example. If one were to take transgression as one’s starting point, then it would be limitation that throws one satisfyingly out of joint. (page 83)

The output is neither message nor noise, but a kind of generative sampling of both. In one instance a flow of conditional clauses lacking their main clauses:
If the function of the camera is to explain itself to the operator. If the page on which the wall appears does not allow for the casting of a shadow. If the shadow is absent from the photograph (…) If this is a picture. (…) If the operation is contorted. (page 55)

*(omissions mine)

There are examples that are closer to the linear than most of the other prose blocks, but these lead only to a recognition of how much “defense” the senses put-up in such linearity:
Already the metaphors seem stale, having stalled in their attempt to carry us over, attention drawn to axle instead of wheel, hinge instead of door, to the slope of an animal’s vertebrae over the phylum under which it’s calcified, cracked into place, in essence, a privileging of anonymity, of unlikeness as a focal point, as though a bridge were to appear suddenly before us, crossing neither treacherous body of water nor maze of roadway, simply offering one another way of going on, an obligatory amazement with the plentitude of defenses guarding all our senses. (page 39)

Such that, when we are given statements of intent (there are quite a handful in Novel Pictorial Noise), there is a sense that these intentions are random rather than intended, generated by sound; by the prose blocks loose logic rather than regular logical sense:
(…)As a mechanical delivery system fails to account for the weight of another clause scratched onto its surface, so I attempt via the unknown to give grammar a purpose (…) (page 45)

(…)Two letters lie on the white table top: one personal, and one impersonal. The desire to create a space in which one might avoid both romantic posturing and ironic detachment(…) (page 43)

Yet to read the prose blocks, is to read only half of Novel Pictorial Noise. The other half (even pages) consists of white spaces punctuated at the beginning by fragments, here are the first three:
composition of noise A thought is music is
                  concept (page 2)

between What draws
equates of (page 4)

as through
definitive (page 6)

If the prose blocks clank with one digressing sentence chinking against the other, these fragments, though set on the small upper portion of the blank page, might seem silent, but are in fact noisier, lacking both regular syntax and an obvious form present in the prose blocks.(6)

One might be a bit clueless until the last fragment is read:
from a bouquet of place – articulation
and labor’s sound of primacy (p.100)

Going back to page 1, one observes that the words constituting the above fragment are extracted from the first prose block. The fragment in page 98 is extracted from page 3, page 96 from page 5, and so on. Reading it this way, I will not readily conclude that the prose blocks came before the fragments, or vice versa; or now, whether the fragments are indeed fragments, or wholes – serving either as germ for the prose blocks, or as extracted from the prose blocks like snatches from a conversation.
thought’s course again arranged
the same which with it’s surplus

But this was supposed to be a review, so did you like it?

“If you enjoyed it, you understood it, and lots of people have enjoyed it so lots of people have understood it” -- Gertrude Stein (7)

I’m not sure I understand it. How is it to understand.
Is the corollary.

Seeing As or Or from a Rorschach instead of House or Cows.

Perhaps the value is in perhaps.


1. A brief discussion of the Shannon-Weaver model is at
The picture of the Shannon-Weaver model was also had from this website

2. The string like markings on the title page of Novel Pictorial Noise are most probably graphs of noise in the time spectrum.

3. Zettel, ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright, trans. G.E.M Anscomber (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1967)

4. Wittgenstein’s Ladder, Marjorie Perloff (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press 1996)

5. Curves to the Apple, Rosmarie Waldrop (New York: New Directions 2006)

6. “The world is clanking: noun, noun, noun” from Elizabeth Willis’ The Similitude of this Great Flower and “so silence is pictorial/when silence is real” from Barbara Guest's An Emphasis Falls on Reality were used by Noah Eli Gordon as epigraphs for Novel Pictorial Noise. These two suggest/may have informed the structure of the prose block and fragment used in Novel Pictorial Noise

7. Excerpt from Interview 1934, from ubuweb:


Raymond John A. de Borja works as a technology consultant in an IT consulting company. He graduated with a BS in Electronics and Communications Engineering from the University of the Philippines Diliman. He was a Fellow for Poetry in the 6th UST and the 45TH UP National Writer’s Workshop, and has won in the poetry category of the Amelia Lapena Bonifacio Awards for Literature and the Manining Miclat Poetry Awards. He is a member of Pinoypoets.