A Few Books & Some Advice

I'm still immersed in Syd Barrett's songs, tunes I hum aloud to myself, along with lyric fragments, portable poems to admire. The song I keep humming tonight is "Dolly Rocker," off his album of miscellaneous tracks, Opel. The liner notes mention it was recorded on the first take in July of 1970 and was produced by David Gilmour. It's the opening seconds of staccato guitar strums and the beginning verses that make me love this song so much. The way the the guitar drops you into his voice as he starts to sing. Barrett manages to make a guitar & voice sound richer than most bands.

When I arrived back in town I had several books waiting for me in the mail (thank you):

1. Aaron Tieger After Rilke (Albany, NY: Anchorite Press, 2006)
2. Cedar Sigo, Micah Ballard, Will Yackulic Death Race V.S.O.P. (Portland, OR: Red Ant Press, 2005)
3. Brandon Brown Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (Cincinnati, OH: Cy Press, 2006)
4. Magazine Cypress 4 (Cy Press, 2006)
5. Ana Teresa Torres, Héctor Torres De la urbe para el orbe: Nueva narrativa urbana (Caracas: Alfadil, 2006)

Each of the books deserves its own separate review but I have no time. Aaron has talked about the process of writing After Rilke at his blog recently. I want to include the opening poem here because it sets up the rest of the book so beautifully:


Having crossed this sea
I find myself alone.

The world is new
as the moon.

The things I brought
look different."

I love the simplicity of the language in these stanzas, each couplet compact and pulsing with narrative allusions. The book, for me, reads like a single poem built of a sequence of short chapters, the travel motif established immediately and returned to from varying angles. Being friends with Aaron, and knowing of his love for punk rock, I can't help noticing some of that music's rawness and brevity in these poems. For instance, when he writes lines like this:

"The dawn wind blowing hard.
Strangers in the mirror table."

There's a precise silence in this book, a desire to make the poems reach the reader immediately, with sharp hooks and feedback. This edition, like everything else I've read from Chris Rizzo's Anchorite Press, is beautifully constructed, down to the two green staples that hold the 16 poems together.

A few days ago I posted a text taken from the collaborations in Death Race V.S.O.P. There's no indication as to who among the three authors wrote what, though I do recognize fragments from other poems by Cedar. There's a quickness and playfulness to this book that might reflect the comradery implied in collaboration, some of the lines or images reading like inside jokes, objects tuned in from a distance & wrapped in cellophane colors. Drugs, music & sex are sometimes evoked as stages on which the poems move, ever eloquent and tough. At one point, they seem to find an image for their collaboration:

"two painters of mixed blood
unlocking the mask
mixed with the blood pooling
beneath the sweat lodge
floor boards"

Memoirs of My Nervous Illness is the only work I've read by Brandon Brown. I had seen an excerpt from this book at a blog recently and liked it very much. The book opens with a sequence of poems all titled "Hello," establishing a conversation with the reader. The texts often veer into hilarous moments such as:

"Call me Lupe, motherfuckers, and
I am suffering acute anxiety and it

The "illness" of the title seems partly ironic, maybe even giddy at times. There are continuous skips in the record as you read this book, allowing a rich texture to build up around the poems. Along with Memoirs, Cy Press also sent me a copy of Magazine Cypress 4, which begins with a poem by Brown called "The Real Iliad":

"It could be as commonplace a tale as the
character departs from the person she's in
love with in order to become a tourist,
someone who tries to find meter everywhere."

The issue also has excellent poems by Christina Strong and Stephanie Young.

I've only just begun to read the last book on the list. It's an anthology of emerging Venezuelan fiction writers. The work included in the anthology is centered mainly in Caracas, a city that can feel like a country, much like Los Angeles, New York or Mexico City. One of the writers included, Iria Puyosa, was kind enough to send me a copy of the book (which is next to impossible to find here in the US). At one point in her text, she begins to filter in fragments from songs, including "Debaser" by the Pixies ("But I am un chien andalusia!"). Her short story, called "Litio" (Lithium), concludes with the following paragraph:

"Toda la ciudad está llena de luces. Todos se pasean como hormigas que perdieron la entrada del hormiguero. Nadie quiere ser un sabio, ni seguir soñando, sólo quieren un dedito merodeando por sus genitales. Este juego es tan largo, a veces estoy tan harta. Y tengo que ponerme la sonrisa."

Last May, the writers included in this anthology gave a series of readings in Caracas when the book was released.

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