At the end of his Syrup Hits (Kenning Editions, 2004) David Larsen has an image of a generic map of Florida, with the city of Tampa prominently marked by a star. Next to the map are the following lines:
The preceding pages are images, narrative and freestyle collage. It's a sequence of poems with hardly any verses, using instead images and juxtaposed musings on an allegorical "syrup," maybe an elixir, a drug, a potion or a style. The middle pages of the pamphlet open up to four cartoon-drawn episodes of Dr. Jekyll framed by the words "ALWAYS TIME FOR SYRUP." The narrative includes a remixed Beetle Bailey stationed in Iraq, too busy procuring syrup to bother fighting, a lapse for which he's eventually jailed.
The two Florida stanzas near the end of the pamphlet spark my allegiances to that state. On the map, just below Tampa, you can see an outline of the Peace River, where I camped out with old friends on New Years Eve, 2003-2004, surrounded by mangroves and stars. I keep associating Syrup Hits with Sonic Youth's The Whitey Album, maybe because both works thrive on improvisation and chance as a form, allowing mistakes or stumbles to provide a structure,"REPPIN.' "
Syrup Hits arrived in my mailbox on the same day as his book The Thorn (Cambridge, MA: Faux Press, 2005), which uses a similar improvised looseness, but with more poems, most of them typed but several handwritten. I think of Jean-Michel Basquiat's texts when I read the poems written in block letters. He titles a central long poem "WILD SPEECH," a style as aura:
"COMING DOWN FAST
COMING WITH ME YOURE PERSUADED
THAT ITS MUSIC TIL YOU HEAR IT
AND THEN ITS A FIST
DESK CHAIR SQUEALING
MY INTELLECT CRAWLS ON ME
LIKE A CRAB
MY TREES ARE TIGHTER
JUST ASK CEDAR SIGO
HES HEEDING WHISPERS WHERE YOU
A few days ago I was listening to 88.9 and heard a rapper say: "I break trees over MP3s," like this erudite, quick, tragic and funny book, amplified by flickers of Islamic history and legend, suburban odes & city/wonders.
In an interview with Geraldine Kim, Larsen mentions his affinity for rappers like Nas and Raekwon. What he shares with them is an ability to combine the most extraneous materials into a poem that reaches viscerally and resonates in one's memory by a grace of exact image and phrasing. Q-Tip's short intro to a verse in The Low End Theory:
"And the abstract rapper says:
I want chicken and orange juice
That's 'cause I'm a writer..."