After you, dearest language

Ugly Duckling Presse recently published Marisol Limon Martinez's new book of poems/dreams/entries, After you, dearest language, in a beautiful paperback edition. This is another book I had the privilege of reading in manuscript form. What I had noticed about Marisol's manuscript when I first read it was how it serves as a primer of sorts for the reader. With the manuscript in looseleaf, I found myself shuffling through the pages at random sometimes, at others following the lead of specific words.

Now, as I've been reading the elegant grey paperback, I've become aware of its precise and impressive structure, which is based on an alphabetical listing of words and names, as well as a sequencing of dream scenarios, leading the reader into a novelistic experience.

One notices that her name is only to be found in two places on the book, on the spine and on the copyright page at the very end. In this manner, she's maybe reiterating the primacy of the language she so skillfully identifies and sings, word by word, above the author. In the process of reading through this list of words and their definitions, one is constantly side-tracked by the bolded references (links) to other words, backwards & forwards into the text. Thus, Julio Cortázar's Rayuela is an inevitable echo for me as I read these episodes. Most of the words and their definitions involve dream-like situations recounted, with all the illogical, magical and nightmare implications the worlds of sleep imply.

The entries in After you, dearest language (one could also call them alphabetical poems, chapters, portraits, dreams, reading notes) serve as both a narrative and as a means of disrupting the act of reading. In their private self-referential moments and in their citation of literary texts or of unususal dream occurences, the words pay homage to an English that's inflected with Spanish and French. This serves to remind the reader of how flexible and ambiguous the English language should be, when used by a poet worthy of attention. Her entry for André Breton offers a sense of her book's lineage, while also underlining the beauty of the images that course through the text:

"BRETON, ANDRÉ My name is NADJA. I am Breton's WIFE. We live in a two story HOUSE with WINDOWS and SHUTTERS. Someone is making THEATER out of my life. I watch the REHEARSALS take place in a BOX PUPPET theater. My BODY parts are connected by STRINGS tied to little HOLES. When I watch the various SCENES, I turn into PAPER. My LEGS and ARMS in the theater box are the only parts to be seen."

It's that sudden transformation ("I turn into PAPER") that aligns this book with the type of illumination writers like Cortázar or Breton ask of the reader. A painterly attention to precise & vivid imagery sustains the book's focus, no matter how far adrift reading. We're presented with a constant stream of trapdoors that open into other words and scenarios, miles away, across the book's alphabet. The entry for NOTEBOOK, reads: "PEN." One flips a few pages and arrives at:

"PEN Simone gives me a BLUE pen exactly like the ones I use for this NOTEBOOK."

My reading of this book brings me inevitably to my own private references, to the wonder of Aimé Césaire's notebook lines, Cahier d'un retour au pays natal. As with Césaire's text, Marisol is inventing a language in her writing, not destroying past traditions, reshaping sound to fit her vision. She's written a dream-book of intimate but far-reaching scope, ambitiously blurring forms for the sake of a language.

No comments: