Wednesday, May 15, 2013


[N.B. You can scroll down on blog or click on highlighted titles or names to go directly to the referenced article.]

By Eileen Tabios

T.C. Marshall reviews CHINESE SUN by Arkadii Dragomoschenko; DISTANCE WITHOUT DISTANCE by Barbara Einzig; THE BOOK OF A THOUSAND EYES by Lyn Hejinian; ON THE TRACKS OF WILD GAME by Tomaž Šalamun; THE RELATIONAL ELATIONS OF ORPHANED ALGEBRA by Eileen Tabios and j/j hastain; and ON THE PLANET WITHOUT VISA: SELECTED POETRY AND OTHER WRITINGS, AD 1960-2012 by Sotère Torregian

Neil de la Flor reviews CEMETERY CHESS: SELECTED AND NEW POEMS by Sandy McIntosh

Eileen Tabios engages MERIDIAN by Kathleen Jesme

Laura Madeline Wisemen reviews SALEM IN SÉANCE by Susana H. Case

Eileen Tabios engages CLARITY AND OTHER POEMS by Thomas Fink

j/j hastain engages AFTER SWANN with text by Marthe Reed, animation by Yeon Choi and music by joshua carro. Directed and produced by Keith Dorwick

E.E. Nobbs reviews A MARZIPAN FACTORY—NEW AND SELECTED POEMS by Grzegorz Wroblewski, translated by Adam Zdrodowski

Eileen Tabios engages THE ROMANCES AND OTHER POEMS by Micah Cavaleri

Tom Beckett reviews RECALCULATING by Charles Bernstein

Rhoda Rosenfeld and Edric Mesmer engage SEVEN CONTROLLED VOCABULARIES AND OBITUARY 2004. THE JOY OF COOKING by Tan Lin

Eileen Tabios engages ROUNDING THE HUMAN by Linda Hogan

Patrick James Dunagan reviews WESTERN PRACTICE by Stephen Motika

Carrie Hunter engages MERRY HELL by Sara Larsen

Thomas Fink reviews “ONLY TO PRY”, a poem in TINY GOLD DRESS by John Godfrey

Eileen Tabios engages THE GRAPEVINE by Richard Lopez

Neil Leadbeater reviews THE WHITE MUSEUM by George Bilgere

Genevieve Kaplan reviews THE IMPORTANT THING IS … CARD GAME by Marjorie Tesser

Eileen Tabios engages WAXWINGS by Daniel Nathan Terry

Neil Leadbeater reviews THE LOST COUNTRY OF SIGHT by Neil Aitken

Judy Roitman reviews three books by Kim Hyesoon, all translated by Don Mee Choi: ALL THE GARBAGE OF THE WORLD UNITE, MOMMY MUST BE A FOUNTAIN OF FEATHERS, and PRINCESS ABANDONED

Eileen Tabios engages RENEGADE // HEART by Lisa M. Cole

Melissa Fry Beasley reviews ELVIS PRESLEY’S HIPS & MICK JAGGER’S LIPS by Susana H. Case

Eileen Tabios engages BRUSHSTROKES AND GLANCES by Djelloul Marbrook

John Bloomberg-Rissman reviews WARSAW BIKINI and MOTHER WAS A TRAGIC GIRL, both by Sandra Simonds

Eileen Tabios engages ALL THIS FALLING AWAY by Tim Armentrout

Neil Leadbeater reviews EDGE EFFECTS by Jan Conn

Eileen Tabios engages ARSENIC LOBSTER: POETRY JOURNAL 2013, Issues 26, 27 & 28, Editor Susan Yountz

Carrie Hunter engages THE PRECIPICE OF JUPITER by erica lewis and mark stephen finein

Carrie Hunter engages THE RECITATION OF FORGETTING by Franck André Jamme

Eileen Tabios engages MEMORY CARDS by Susan M. Schultz

rob mclennan reviews SCARED TEXT by Eric Baus

Eileen Tabios engages THE BODY DOUBLE: A LONG POEM by Jared Harel

G.E. Schwartz reviews LIFE SENTENCES: APHORISMS & REFLECTIONS by Michael Perkins

Eileen Tabios engages IN MIXED COMPANY by Caleb Puckett & Friends, edited by Walter Ruhlmann and co-edited by Caleb Puckett

Jeff Harrison engages THE MORPHINE POEMS by Bobbi Lurie

Sally Deskins reviews SPRUNG by Laura Madeline Wiseman

Eileen Tabios engages WORK IS LOVE MADE VISIBLE by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

Neil Leadbeater reviews LIFE’S A BEACH by Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan


jim mccrary reviews BLAME FAULT MOUNTAIN by Spencer Selby

Eileen Tabios engages MODULATIONS, ADDENDA and THE READER, all by Márton Koppány

Nicholas T. Spatafora engages LAST CALL AT THE TIN PALACE by Paul Pines and PRESENT TENSE by Anna Rabinowitz

Eileen Tabios engages PRIOR by James Berger

Eileen Tabios engages ITEMS by Tom Jenks



Joi Barrios



Kenneth Warren reviews BIBLIODEATH: MY ARCHIVES WITH LIFE IN FOOTNOTES by Andrei Codrescu

Lea Graham reviews VICTORY AND HER OPPOSITES by Amy England

Amaranth Borsuk reviews FRACTAL ECONOMIES by Derek Beaulieu

Lea Graham reviews HEAT LINES by Michael Anania

Amaranth Borsuk reviews DOG EAR by Erica Baum

Lea Graham reviews BELOVED IDEA by Ann Killough

Richard Lopez engages RIMBAUD by Graham Robb

Amaranth Borsuk reviews REVOLVER by Robyn Schiff


A Catty Review by Iris McCrary


Thanks as ever to Galatea Resurrects' generous volunteer staff of reviewers. In addition to some wonderful feature articles, we have 64 NEW POETRY REVIEWS this issue! 

Galatea Resurrects is alway looking for new ways to engage the poem.  So we are pleased to announce that this issue contains our first audio engagement: j/j hastain's engagement of After Swann with text by Marthe Reed, animation by Yeon Choi and music by joshua carro, and directed and produced by Keith Horwick. Enjoy!

Poetry has enhanced my love of lists so here are GR's latest poetry-lovin' stats!

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
Issue 10: 68 new reviews (1 project was reviewed thrice and 1 project was reviewed twice)
Issue 11: 72 new reviews (1 project was reviewed thrice)
Issue 12: 87 new reviews (1 project was reviewed twice)
Issue 13: 55 new reviews (1 project was reviewed twice)
Issue 14: 64 new reviews (3 projects were reviewed twice)
Issue 15: 72 new reviews (1 project was reviewed thrice and 4 projects were reviewed twice)
Issue 16: 73 new reviews (2 projects were reviewed twice)
Issue 17: 108 new reviews (3 projects were reviewed twice)
Issue 18: 104 new reviews (3 projects were reviewed twice)
Issue 19: 68 new reviews (1 project was reviewed twice)
Issue 20: 64 new reviews


In addition to 1,265 new reviews, with Issue No. 20 GR also provides 97 reprinted reviews (to bring online reviews previously available only viz print or first published in now-defunct online sites). With this issue, we increase our coverage of poetry publishers by 18 to 478 publishers in 17 countries. This is important as I feel that much of the ground-breaking poetry work is being published by independent and/or relatively small presses who (by the nature of their work) are not always as well-known as they deserve. 

I continue to encourage authors/publishers to send in your projects for potential review—note that because we believe in Poetry's immortality, GR does not limit reviews to just "recent" poetry publications. And, obviously, people are following up with your submissions! Information for submissions and available review copies
HERE. Future reviewers also should note that the next review submission deadline is Nov. 27, 2013.

Of reviewed publications, 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
Issue 10: 46 out of 68 new reviews
Issue 11: 46 out of 72 new reviews
Issue 12: 35 out of 87 new reviews
Issue 13: 38 out of 55 new reviews
Issue 14: 40 out of 64 new reviews
Issue 15: 43 out of 72 new reviews
Issue 16: 49 out of 73 new reviews
Issue 17: 73 out of 108 new reviews
Issue 18: 84 out of 104 new reviews
Issue 19: 41 out of 68 new reviews
Issue 20: 50 out of 64 new reviews


Please compassionately remember that your editor is BLIND. So if you see any typos, feel free to let me know as I can still correct them even after the issue's release.


As befits Poetry, here at Galatea we are open-minded to difference.  Hence, I give you Missy Scarlet and Achilles getting along just fine:

With much love, poetry, vino and fur,

Eileen Tabios
St. Helena, CA
May 15, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013



Chinese Sun by Arkadii Dragomoschenko
(Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2005)

Distance Without Distance by Barbara Einzig
(Kelsey Street Press, Berkeley, 1994)

the book of a thousand eyes by Lyn Hejinian
(Omnidawn, Richmond, CA, 2012)

On the Tracks of Wild Game by Tomaž Šalamun
(Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2012)

the relational elations     of ORPHANED ALGEBRA by Eileen Tabios and j/j hastain
(Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2012)

On the Planet without Visa: Selected Poetry and Other Writings, AD 1960-2012 by Sotère Torregian
(Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, 2012)

a review of six books

itzok you are not making me dizzy you are making me a dangerous
light bulb there are two octosyllabics but don’t disperse yourself
over the language don’t disperse yourself with such a force
that the language actually disperses itself
the language here is a very ANCIENT clay
you’re skidding the brakes you’re a hat but I need no hat
because I’m directly in this bright hallway this ought to be
the description of the situation but that’s not what this is all about
and yet it is exactly what this is all about

            --from “World Touch Venice” in “Good Day, Itzok”
in On the Tracks of Wild Game by Tomaž Šalamun

When we as poets read a book of poems, we see how the poems probably were made. A process we might learn from is implied in our envisionment of how and why this writing got written. Popular concepts of poetry include the one about how “a poem shows us a new way of seeing the world.” We as poets know how often that kind of freshness can be nothing but an old hat worn at a new angle, but all poetry readers have their favorite hats. Recently, I chose half a dozen books from Galatea’s review lists, mostly on the basis of my favorite “hats”; these were books by poets I have favored over the last few decades, an odd assortment really, though what I noticed as I read them was how they showed us a variety of ways to focus into poem-making. These six poets had fashioned “hats” that stood out from others, even from their own other ways of poesis, in these books. Each book made things new in a renewing way, even though some of the poetry was actually from decades back in times that might almost seem long ago now.

I saw several approaches to poem-making among them, some conditioned (as they would be) by the times and places they came from but with some engaging commonalities that could also be learned from. Those common threads also connect these books and their poets to long-standing approaches to poetry-making. They are reminders of where we continue to look for poetry in our lives and minds.

I found myself viewing those six books under four simple headings: Narrative, Dream, Lyric, and Thinking. There were, of course, cross-over connections between these headings; a book like Barbara Einzig’s Distance Without Distance (1994) made poetry out of narrating a story but reached into dream material or dream reportage in doing so, and also made it clear that narrative can be a way of thinking. It is a book that took part in the let-thinking-be-done-without-thinking-in-logic’s-forms experiments of its day. Its value for our on-going search for possible poetics lies in poems like “A Distance Without Distance” that are written by a voice trying not to go lyrical but also finding ways not to be too analytical.

This poem is written in prose paragraphs. There may be a way in which these could be said to serve as the “lines” of the poem, but because of the use of narrative they fit Stein’s definition of the prose paragraph best: they are “emotional.” The second one reveals that this is a dream narrative, and it comments on time and tense. “The tense is uncertain: the changes that occur in the dream are like the flushes of color that pass through the skin of a dying fish or over the face of an enraged person.” That sentence comes in the middle of a long-ish paragraph that presents the feeling of “street action” in an “organized strike” that “quickly loses definition,” by this action “turning in to a riot” around our narrator. We can feel her near-panic in the narration, in its analytical observations (“Each person ran up the stairs to escape the crowd, but each person composed the crowd and crowded the other, in a rising spiral of panic”), and in its imagery (“Each person was aware of composing the crowd, aware of the spiral they were assuming”). This swings us back to that sentence about “tense”; that sentence puts the feeling of time, the key element of narrative, into imagery for us. That imagery expresses a mini-narrative of developing action (“the flushes that pass through…or over”) associated in our likely envisionment with emotion (dying…or…enraged”). (49)

Here, Stein’s definitive quality for the prose paragraph meets the concept of a naming-&-image quality by which she defined poetry. This shift and blend worked out by Einzig is illuminated by a piece called “Calibrations.” This poem combines at least three fields of reference: scientific observation of nature, observations about linguistics, and a bit of a poetic myth. Between-ness and disappearance take precedence over appearances in this poem that begins by saying it is “not possible to write when one has an object” (21). The poem opens the space it will play with, between those three topics, by first commenting that “object” is used “in the sense of purpose” and then shifting its footing toward narrative by wryly adding “although they term the purpose of a story to be its subject” (21). Subject and object, concept and thing, all are made fleeting in this overlay of scientific inquiry where the scientist says “the value of a particular species … becomes clear through the effects of its absence” (24) and a philosophical kind of linguistics where Whorf and Benjamin are paraphrased regarding the idea of a space of “pure language.” There information, sense, and intention are “extinguished as the subject … shifts and floats, fighting its placement” (24). This poem enacts, as does this book in larger ways, a demonstration against simple “placement” of the object and objective of any writing—especially poetry. “Calibrations” asserts that “Poetry is a theater in which the natural forces that shift the meanings of words in times and contexts play” (22).

From its opening piece (“The Miracle of Tenses”) through its pieces playing off of the narratives and imagery in favorite films and paintings and stories, stitched together with personal narrative and thinking, Einzig’s book makes good use of such a theater. That she is able to say it is a theater of “natural forces” is beautifully startling and true to her work. There is a cover blurb from poet Geoffrey O’Brien that calls the book a “novel” with “dramatic action … in … a process of constant re-framing in which the smallest detail can trace a cataclysmic shift (back cover). The book is, for all that, “novel” but certainly by Stein’s standards also poetry; it fits best its own description of poetry as that little theater. It might even be, by its use of “framing,” a kind of film or painting too. Under my four headings, it would fit anywhere but best as a play between the “natural forces” of Narrative and Thinking.

The other poet’s book here that plays across these two aspects fiercely is Arkadii Dragomoschenko’s Chinese Sun. The “Introduction” to this book by Jacob Edmond avoids calling it a novel but describes its momentum of “unruly caprice” (xiii) in which things “that ‘never happened’ are seen” (x). Chinese Sun actually looks like a novel, with 300 pages of narrative in paragraphs. Its translator says in his afterword that its “author calls his book a novel” but then comments on how “it refuses to introduce any temporal markers” (cccxxx). Edmond congratulates translator Evgeny Pavlov on having “retained the length and weight of Dragomoschenko’s sentences” in a Russian that allows a “great complexity in which each thought extends outwards, unwinding in multiple, intertwining threads of meaning” (xv). Both Edmond and Pavlov comment on how Chinese Sun is a book of “memory,” just as the book itself declares on its first page: “Remembrance is direct speech raised to the power of interminable obliqueness” (21). This is followed by a sentence that might seem to deny the lack of “temporal markers”: At that time my life was carefree and dissipated.” OK; we can feel a novel, even maybe a Russian novel, getting going here. But then the next sentences show the poetic composition that Edmond was talking about: “No matter whom we asked, no one could tell us the composition of dirt. We were the sum of mirror splashes, running water, clay silt, and heavy nocturnal words (we are you) on whose spherical surfaces the crystalline sweat of a file of moons stood out like an August wind marching through gardens” (21). Image and action that we can follow, but in what direction? A clue on the next page says: “Every crystal included the next one in which the preceding was contained” (22). Impossible nested boxes of moments appear here in a sentence that has only one word of imagery, that “crystal” apparently referring back to the crystalline sweat” of those “moons” on the “surfaces” of those “words.” Unfolding this enough to get enough to go on on is tricky. On the next page, we are given a clue in the author’s reflection on meaning: “Significance moves by inconceivable trajectories from the event to its constant shadow, intention” (23). This sounds like the kid of meditative consideration that 19th-century novels often voiced. Chinese Sun is full of them, and they help a little in the process of what Pavlov calls “a significant learning—or rather unlearning—effort” called for by this book (cccxxx). Dragomoschenko has constructed a mass of utterances that, in reflecting (and reflecting upon) each other, create for us the sense of a narrator. There is also a sense of ourselves as “translators” of this nest of reflections into our own familiar idiom. Translator Pavlov comments on this by paraphrasing an idea from Proust that he remembers from Gilles Deleuze: “Literature opens up a kind of foreign language within language, which is … a becoming other of language, a delirium that carries it off, a witch’s line that escapes the dominant system” (cccxxxii). What Dragomoschenko pulls off here is a delirious hilarity of child’s-play witchery that never quite leaves the system behind but always recalls it just in time to keep us flying with it. That word “intention” back there on page 23 was on page 24 of Einzig’s book too, where it casme from Walter Benjamin’s concept of a pure language” space opened when the shift of a subject fought against exact “placement.” Pavlov calls upon Benjamin, as the translator of Proust and theoretician of translation, to help explain the procedure and effect of Dragomoschenko’s opening up a foreigness within the work and how that appeals to the translator in all of us (cccxxxii).

The trick worth learning, for poets, in this is best expressed in Edmond’s intro when he points to the pretense of writing. There is always a “not-so” about it, a “non-being” in the intent to create an experience for the reader that might implicate a sense of something that once was, for the writer, and now is to be re-presented in the reader’s mind. This is the crystalline “next one in which the preceding was contained” (22). “Meanwhile, the walkers must continue carefully treading on stones. An approach made present” is all we have here as we cross this expanse of time and tale (252). As the narrator comments: “We were trying to grasp the mysteries of a single dream and the possibilities of reality in its limitless worlds” (251). This may refer back to the “we” who were, on page 21, that “sum” of things, the companions who “asked” about “the composition of dirt” like schoolkids. Or it may be a nice inversion of what we the readers normally have to do in “the dominant system” of living or reading. We now get to conceive of “a single dream” instead of a single reality, and of “limitless worlds” of “possibilities of reality” instead of relegating them to our dreams.

Another translator of Dragomoschenko’s work, Lyn Hejinian, has recently put out a book that seems greatly based in dream-work. the book of a thousand eyes incorporates dream with waking-mind reflections in a dialectic of cross-information that questions what we see. “But doesn’t visibility block our view?” is its most important inquiry (138). 1000 eyes works with several kinds of “visibility,” but they are all related to the threads of investigation running through the books by Einzig and Dragomoschenko. The poems in it date  from a long period extending from the mid-nineties, when those other books were published, up through the first decade of this century. The dedication and epigraph to the book quoting Bourdillon’s “night has a thousand eyes” emphasizes the book’s relation to what we see in dream and to the narrative quality that extends through all our tellings. This is a long book, also over 300 pages, and made of poems and prosier pieces. In the first dozen pages (15-27), they set its foci: telling/narrative, truth/philosophy, sleep/dream, sentences/language, substitution/metonymy, consciousness/unconsciousness, and genre/poetry. The classical Thousand and One Nights are here, and so is Spicer in a poem like “Then the singing man” (27). Mythic fictions join with dream reports and reflections sometimes quotidian and often loosely philosophical to compose a space where an assertion like “the universal is an hallucinogen” (217) makes good sense. This book is fun, with lyrical bits, stories to follow, metonymous tales and dreams, list poems, sound poems, and clever critiques like this one that shows us all up as critics:

Isn’t sleep fitted to this world?
Aren’t dreams a form of internal criticism?
Doesn’t each dream catch a previous day of the world in an act of criticism?
Isn’t this itself dreamed / criticized by an expert?

The Book of a Thousand Eyes is odd; it seems a bag of odds and ends in one way, and in some other way something all about narrative and its sense of wholes. Dreamers’ narratives vary, but this book seems also lyrical in the way it carries the sense of one dreamer dreaming and thinking and having things occur to her. The book’s odd juxtapositionings of differently voiced poems and the poems’ own odd juxtapositionings from line to line, from image to thought, from narrative to free lyric (à la free jazz), these give off the sense of consciousness as a cobbling. This book is not the reflection of a world, nothing so whole, but writerly reflections in a world or some worlds: “But don’t we share words rather than or much more than we share worlds (or even this world)?” (289) This is not to say there’s no world here; it’s more like there’s no need for one whole world. This book makes an advance past the reification of thingly things in most poetry. That is its lesson for us, as it joins the other books reviewed here: the poet’s practice is of words not things, however material its results.

Tomaž Šalamun has generated a full career’s-worth of poems through a variety of practices we all could learn from, starting with Poker in 1966. He is, of course, still at it. Ugly Duckling, out of Brooklyn, has recently reached back for a book published in Slovenian in 1979 and brought it out in English translation by Sonja Kravanja. The book begins:

From the quiet you unfold a poppy and water,
from black hail the circle falls back.
A pure word breaks through,
annulling all the windows.

The poems in the book were written, according to the “History and Acknowledgements” at the back, over the course of a few weeks in 1976.” They have appeared here and there on their own or as parts of other collections. The book was re-published as a whole in Ljubljana in 2012, just before the publication of this English translation. One might think that the master is being acknowledged by re-publications of his lesser works or something like that, but this collection has a mastery of its own. It is visible right away in those four lines, and it unfolds further over the three sections of the book.

In those lines we are given the focus on “pure word” that is the book’s most salient characteristic, along with its key technique of moving between seemingly concrete images and more abstract ones in a way that keeps either from taking over. Between these two elements, “the windows”––through which we are used to seeing things as if we are really seeing “things” in a poem––are annulled. The second stanza goes on by declaring that “The clarity of the world is about to emerge,” but it does not come from “things.” The poems asks, “Where do you come from, the happiness / of the drop, that the earth will absorb?” (7). There is Celan here, and maybe other influences, but I also see that Salamun has brought these techniques and voicings to bear in a new way on trying to write an experience exactly and exactly without focusing on “things” or even the things we call feelings. Perception here meets with “pure word” and is seen to be “painful, yet joyous” (7).

There are several short poems like that in this first section and a few in the other two sections, but neither the book nor any of its sections can be characterized by one certain approach. The book is composed of all kinds of “bits,” both the little bits like the one-liner haiku: “A cloud hurries as it calms the speed of mountains” (32) or as in the kind of bits Burroughs referred to as “routines” like the long bits addressing a friend called Itzok that give the title to the first section and offer it a sense of narrative. Part of what lifts these poems apart from reference to things or feelings is the way that the fragmentary composition keeps us from settling on a context, a framing whole. These poems push back from the moorings of poetry’s habits and never quite return to them, adopting odd voices and attitudes through everyday words:

calm down the blind man who licked up
the grass

The third section opens with a series of eight poems called “A Visit” and using the pronoun “I” quite clearly to give a central voice and narrative continuity to their thinking. This “I” gets a little lyrical at times, at others a little surrealistic, and at other moments is self-reflexive and droll-ly philosophical. The series ends with a biblical-sounding poem about killing a beloved friend (or son, Isaac?). That weird voicing is followed by a poem called “Clumsy Guys,” greatly about how poets kill themselves and use excuses like  “my vocabulary did this to me.” That poem follows that with its own Spicerian drollery:

                                                Any pedestrian can
            kill himself if he doesn’t know what
            a crosswalk is.

There are bits of connection like that throughout the book, threads that correspond and cross-reference as well as words and phrases that echo; however, they only ever just hint at a whole. It is the missing whole, the critiqued myth of a whole, that is the common reference point here. Even when it comes to that “I,” the poems say “I truly have no clue who I am” (84) and the “I” slips away in lines like:

            I’s give all my wine for
            an oasis in a crystal ball,
            sang the bells. When compared with the poison
            of the empire such innocence

Where it slips off to is into reading, into the act of following the words nowhere. This is where writing catches up to other arts like dance; it moves both in reference and in abstraction, with a tension between the two that keeps us from falling one way or the other into either trap. Šalamun was, in fact, making both art and poetry until this book moved him over toward word-work as his art. The lyric voice here is absorbed by its own “pure word,” even as that leads us back to our own composed sense of a world in reading this artful writing.

Lyrically centered work seems easy enough to come by in today’s poetry world, but it can also be surprising in its advances. The expectation of an “I” and the expectations in its “singing” have been met and over-turned somewhat by every advancing poet since Wordsworth and Coleridge or Dickinson and Whitman. Just as Hejinian and Šalamun have it many ways, Sotère Torregian’s On the Planet without Visa has its lyricism and eats it too. His ways, in this collection spanning back to the Sixties, are more firmly based in the lyric approach of a singing self; however, some poems clearly serve the on-going critique and may serve as additional examples for us even now of how that meeting and over-turning can work.

There is a “manifesto” reference that shows up in Torregian’s works and calls on both artistic surrealism and social communism in their “larger-than-the-self” forms to help with its expression. The lyric poem “Manifesto” begins “Who Speaks?” and ends with a reference to a “GNP graph-line” that is severed by “my guitar string.” The poems’ other reference points include Sacco and Vanzetti, Crazy Horse, a Channel crossing, “writing letters to Dante,” the idea of the workday, a fad for stealing hubcaps, and the blue eyes of a Samoyed dog. In the middle of this free-range all-mind inclusion-ism come lines of Romantic conversion that perfectly balance the anti-reason of connecting all that without succumbing to being reasonable:

Only yesterday when I thought
            I had nothing “left” to say

            And I let myself be taken over by the green

Of the tree outside my window.

This poem uses great handfuls of classic lyric approaches (looking out my window, ranting, conversing with the illustrious dead, mocking the burghers, airing music, etc.) to create a precision that does not precisely answer that opening question about the speaker. It more precisely shows us that we can go beyond the containment of contents, and how. Not every piece in this “Selected Poetry and Other Writings, AD 1960-2012” is so daring, but several prose pieces join “Manifesto” in doing this inclusionary precision work. “Introduction to (MY) Théatres (AD 1966-2007)” reveals a background interest that shows part of what makes this work so open and exact at the same time. Torregian writes, “I then found Poetry and Theatre to be virtually one and the same” (128), and “it was ‘Uncle Milty’ who embodied me for Poetry” (127). That’s precisely not “embodied Poetry for me”; Milton Berle is not said to be the embodiment of poetry but to have given this poet his true embodiment in Poetry. The reference point is early TV, and a comparison and combination with Bishop Fulton Sheen of all people illuminates this inclusion of “Uncle Milty.” Sheen brings in thinking, from Dostoevsky to Aquinas and on to Auden and Eliot in angst. “Yet in the end [I] preferred the mad antics of Milton Berle … to the wise pronouncements of the Grey Eminence” (Bishop Sheen). And the Unhappy Consciousness found itself dancing to a slapstick tune with me” (127-128). This staging of modern consciousness is the urge in Torregian’s precisions, his/poetry’s embodiment.

One of the zillions of repeated references in Torregian’s oeuvre is Galatéa, the work of art that comes to life. It just so happens that one of the most lively of the books offered lately by Galatea Resurrects is by its own editor, Eileen Tabios, and her friend j/j hastain. It also happens to focus through Torregian’s angles of “embodiment” and a kind of “anti-reason.” It is easy enough to call this book prose poetry, but it is something far bigger than that. For all those connections to the tradition and its avante-gardistes like Torregian or the others mentioned here, the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA is both more solidly grounded in the prosaic reasoning it seeks to “upheave” and more adventurous in the poetics that allowed this collaboration to become embodied in poetry. Both writers have embodied aspects of their subject in their actual lives in ways that go beyond the old writing-from-who-you-are business. There is a physicality here that is creative not final. Tabios writes that “the OA poems … have a sense of physicality with their density” and that she sought collaboration with hastain’s Trans identity and “empathy with the idea of the poem as also a body” because of the precise condition of orphaned bodies (57-58).

There are two sets of poems at the beginning of this book, but there are more poems embedded in the “process” and poetics essay pairs that follow. Poems are adopted in the essays to express ideas. This fits the trans-formative effort of this collaboration perfectly and is underscored by hastain’s sentence: “More than anything else they were expected to be forced to learn to listen differently” (43). That’s a desire for us poets that can be contained by our poetic ambitions most of the time, but in this book it applies to both the writing and the lived experiencing reflected by both Tabios’ “Orphaned Algebra” and hastain’s “Ephemeral Alleles.” The essay hastain offers on that series calls up “three gestures” in it: “visceral echo,” a sound play off of Tabios’ poems; “stance,” explained here as “naming and fleshing out some of the complexities of queer identities …  and their relation to ‘child’”; and “risks,” using the word “my” in seeking the “shared” rather than “imposition” of one’s “own” living. This forms a cogent analysis of the angles possible in a reading/writing exercise, but it first was the actual procedure by which the “Ephemeral Alleles More than Alleged or Invented Organs as Allies” poems were written. We see it working and then we hear how it was worked out. That third section is said to have been based on the questions: “how have I been orphaned? How have I orphaned? How can I offer to [the] orphaned spaces?” (65). Rather than impose, this rather short section exposes the key concept: “Child as image and as relation” (47). This fits fully with the second section’s expression of “’child’ as place” and “as personage.” There is a little confusion possible in this fusion, but if we turn to hastain’s broader poetics essay included in this book (“Engaging My Trans”), we get the big idea. I won’t try to re-explain this elegantly worded engagement here, but I will say that there are brave big ideas in this book and you should go read it.

Those ideas all stem from the beautifully conceived and executed exercise of “ORPHANED ALGEBRA” by Eileen Tabios. She ends this book with “A Poetics Fragment” that expresses the belief that a poem is “completed elsewhere” by others, beyond the poet’s realm of control, and that “one poem can have many different completions” (81). Tabios closes with appreciation for hastain’s reading/writing, though she says: “While writing ‘ORPHANED ALGEBRA’, I never anticipated that its poems would come to this particular ‘completion’ (of addressing Trans/Genderqueer identity)” (81). You can see why when you read of those poems’ origins in her experience as an adopting parent who used writing based on “math exercises as a means to rein in the often overwhelming emotions [she] felt when thinking about orphans.” She used the exercises in a math text from her adopted son’s first year in U.S. schools to give “initial impetus” to her prose poems. She says she “found these math exercises to be a useful scaffolding for managing personal biases and emotion so that they did not get in the way of createng the poem” (56).

The first poem in the book provides a brilliant example of this. The math exercise is a “word problem” involving two people who have lunch and wish to split the bill without getting change by using the fives, tens, and twenties each has. The answer is not hard to figure, but the writing picks up on the pun in “without getting change” and takes us to where there are no easy answers. “No, Sam and Elwin will not be able to pay without getting change,” the poems asserts, against simple reasoning. It goes on in a Spicerian literalism to say, “Change, and other left-overs, are all they know. They have mortgaged all that their bodies can afford. They cannot pay anymore.” Who speaks? Who is it who can see this? Who sews things this way but the orphan? The exercise commands, “Explain your reasoning,” and the poem replies, “My reasoning? My own transparent bones are proof. Almost evaporated by ancient knowledge, I am twelve years old” (13). It is as though the son speaks through the poem through his adoptive mother—the poet Eileen Tabios. However, the language is not his or really even hers. The poem presents truth that reaches beyond their situation and the trouble and concern and rescue and love in it. The poems avoids and voids sentiment or despair, and instead stabs at the big idea that can be seen through the bones of their experience. You can even see hastain’s start in the word “transparent,” innocently used in this original context but well situated to open Trans/variant confrontation with parenting/child binaries. Those bones eaten at by the knowledge “that imagination will not succeed in alchemizing the air too heavy on our palms into a currency translatable into food,” they tell us where reason stops short without being trapped into the “irrelevance of Anguish” or the “utter ineptness of Hope” (13). There are gorgeous passages in these poems, but they are never far from brute realities; an image of bottles flung by a drunken grandmother is followed by this question: “How did broken glass surface your first thought of Beauty, as if the wink from a wet glass when kissed by light obviated the sharpness of slivers?” (19). The OA poems reach back to beginnings like that before them, but they have initiated something here in our hands—there’s this great little book that can put in our heads and on our pages further “completions.” That word, though, may be the weakest one in the book because what it refers to is the inevitable incompleteness that keeps us writing.

All six of these books offer ways into it. Take them.

Dragomoschenko, Arkadii. Chinese Sun. Ugly Duckling Presse: Brooklyn, 2005.
Einzig, Barbara. Distance Without Distance. Kelsey St.: Berkeley, 1994.
Hejinian, Lyn. the book of a thousand eyes. Omnidawn: Richmond,
CA, 2012.
Šalamun, Tomaz. On the Tracks of Wild Game. Ugly Duckling Presse: Brooklyn,
Tabois, Eileen, and j/j hastain. the relational elations of ORPHANED
ALGEBRA.. Marsh Hawk Press: NY, 2012.
Torregian, Sotère. On the Planet without Visa: Selected Poetry and Other
Writings, AD 1960-2012. Coffee House Press: Minneapolis, 2012.


T. C. Marshall is a curmudgeonly troll in the Santa Cruz Mountains, hiding under the Felton covered bridge where he reads by all the lights mentioned in the works of Jackson MacLow. He loves books almost more than he loves the river's flow. And he writes some, too, online and off; if you look at, you'll see what he's been up to lately.