I received Cedar Sigo's Selected Writings (Expanded Edition) (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2005). Cedar has added ten new poems to the original four of that manuscript, along with a slight change in one of the sections of the long poem "O Twist No Inferno." As I've been reading through the book, I love how the additional poems provide a new context for the first four. I get the sensation of familiar music being played through new instruments, remixed or extended versions of favorite songs. Like many poets I admire, Cedar is a subtle DJ who uses repetition and slight variations on lines to amplify his sound.
Rereading "O Twist No Inferno" two years later, I see it as an ambitious and effective long piece. The section from the 2003 edition that began "The maps were advertised..." has been taken out and replaced with another poem that begins "With a promise of blood I took the car..." (published online last year as "I Know I Love Them.") The replaced poem has now been printed as a broadside dagger w/ sheath included.
I hadn't noticed before how the first poem in the book, "O Fantasma," serves as a prologue for "O Twist No Inferno," its precise tercets setting an irregular and effective meter for the longer poem:
"I stand outside
Of my dark past
And applaud for hours"
I'm probably projecting my own affinities onto the long poem when I read it, but it does make me think of Rimbaud's Une saison en enfer. In the sense that Cedar's poem is manipulating verse and prose, commenting on a semi-mythical past and never flinching from the blood or ghosts that the poem conjures within itself.
There's a hardness to Cedar's lines and stanzas that signals a serious dedication to poetry and her affiliates. In "An Ancient Tomb East of the Village," the poet draws a self-portrait in a pastoral mode, with its opening lines:
"Frost on my temples and books
I hold onto a harp that I am too lazy to play.
The books I open read like wallpaper.
The smoke is a filthy yellow.
Rushes from my mouth and bends down from my ears."
This sense of sacred power and knowledge is eventually overshadowed by a blood-soaked block that waits for the poet's head, seeking rest. These nightmare scenarios are sometimes taken seriously and sometimes mocked.
The repetition of certain words and objects throughout Selected Writings (blood, knives, books, smoke) brings to mind a series of choruses. As in hip-hop, repetition here becomes an emblem, a means of decoding and challenging ghosts. The poet aligns himself with that portable music, carried for protection and as a torch. The music is often royal, to be heard by those who recognize the lines, their lineage:
"She must have known
how I would adore its design
having a weakness for
the coronations of poets."
Much like Juan Sánchez Peláez did in his final collection, Aire sobre el aire (1989), Cedar accomplishes a great deal with only 14 poems. "O Twist No Inferno"'s epic allusions spread throughout the entire collection, allowing individual lines to serve as chapters, books within the book. This expanded edition is exquisitely edited by Ugly Duckling Presse, with the same antique paperback cover, now smaller and in red. It has the look of a French paperback from the 1940s, relatively anonymous and practical. Again, a portable music.