T.C. MARSHALL Reviews
No Object by Natalie Shapero
(Hanover, NH: Saturnalia Books, 2013)
Rise in the Fall by Ana Bozicevic
(Austin, TX: Birds, LLC, 2013)
Means to an End
To bravely take having no object as an objective is as strong a move as to rise in falling, and these two writers have succeeded greatly in these moves. Their small books are bright to look at and to read. They are both built of sentences, each a perception, not composed by smooth logic but one by composing a sense of a mind and the other equally a world in mind.
Shapero’s poems are lyrical but also bend the lyric a little against itself. Bozicevic’s brush back their own lyric tendencies by bending lines in odd places and by letting sentence structure, the poetry of grammar, carry more weight than song. Shapero’s poems work at a level of thinking straight from persepctions that abstract experience without mulling it over too much or giving it over to any idea of a reality that is the real truth. Bozicevic’s work also extends the Romantic tradition by imaginatively following the three dicta of the cover of Rise in the Fall:
Both poets are inventive in the way in which they refuse to simply imagine or to aesthetically create; they, instead, present stories we can recognize as alive in our world that also have perspectives that might lead to its change.
Bozicevic’s title poem has a title that uses the kind of pun young poets are overly prone to, yet the poem earns it with its way of incorporating the personal and the political in a little dreamed poem within the poem.
This poem’s boring. I dreamed some lesbian wrote a really good poem
called Pinko and
I woke up to a straight straight world.
Let’s sit here in the café for now. We’ll rise up
next fall, when they can no longer deport me.
Bozicevic then goes on to give us that pretty good little poem and to comment on it:
That’s all. Pinko was not even that good but
I can still change everything
Rich and Lorde would be proud even as they are trumped by this move. That little piece, “Pinko,” can’t help but be as political as its title, and yet its labial reference is certainly personal. The shifting pronouns in “Pinko,” “they” and “I” and “it,” serve as pivots for an imagistic narrative and help mix up the “straight straight world” the poem is set in and against.
They found me sleeping
on the tallest wave
blanket and all. They said my name and
down I wept—
next I stood on the sand and
the love pulled back
I could see the seas floor
all those hinges in the sand-grass
needed tongue-grease to work. I said Come back
and it came back in, like it forgave me.
Bozicevic continues the play of self-reflection across the poem in other pieces like “About Content.” It ends
I know there’s something wrong with this poem but I’m
done trying to clean up any of it.
This darkly jokey poem gets a lift from the next one called “About Context” so that together they form a commentary on the mutual value of context and content.
Don’t they even know to
Care about the world? Well neither do I. Maybe one day I’ll make
“World” a kind of canopy of rag
To hang above & walk beneath. For now
I’ll just put down some dream words:
In this part of Pennsylvania people lack
And in this part of Pennsylvania people
Just don’t have a choice. What’s that? Some one voice made me write
This stuff about Pennsylvania
That I pass through every day on the highway
In this car which is now burning
Upside down, with myself in it. What?
Before I go
I will have at least known that I went deep inside myself.
It’s as whacky as Ron Padgett but somehow sharper.
Several poems in this book work with narrative impulses and tell odd stories. They usually reach a punchline in thought or in image that leaves us with something we might pretend to take away, but the poems call us back to the fictions of such an act. They mock without rejecting all our Romantic notions about what poems should or can do. My favorite is the penultimate one in the book, “Poem Capitalism.” In its middle, it declares its mode:
… In the spring when the stick bear is void I
practice this thing I call Objectless
Objectivism. Like: I face the thing, but also
am the thing—so we aren’t.
This carries back to a few insightful lines from an earlier poem called, with tongue in intelligent cheek, “The Day Lady Gaga Died”:
New York School is because
you have to name things in New York.
Otherwise, too much exists
Both the narrative approach and the sharp poetics in those short passages lend themselves to carrying on into No Object. Shapero’s contemplative poems gain a narrative sense from the insertion of past-tense verbs that suggest a story to be told, but the real focus is on objectless perceptions. The feeling basis of perception is the point of this book. One poem called “Hostile Platitudes” exercises the examination of how truths become a story already told by which people present the world to themselves:
If I’ve learned anything, I must be certain
nobody cares for folk tales. All they like
are hostile platitudes. Nobody wants
a history lesson, especially not now.
In ancient Rome, a prisoner brought to death
could be released if he met a vestal virgin
en route to execution. Had to be
by chance. The guys get hot for anyone
who shows up like she didn’t plan to come.
That poem begins in a truism about truisms and advice for women about karaoke, and then it comes to that ending. Each act of interpretation of the world in No Object seems like it is free of context and yet it rings true to our world.
The fifteen-page cycle of poems called “Hot (Normal)” uses all of the elements at work in this book and takes them a little beyond where the other poems go. They move beyond our urge toward immediate interpretation into a larger loose sense of composition. Each poem in the cycle relies on others to give it its meanings, each part of the cycle also works with the overall title to make meaning with it. There is an urge in this book to keep relations with all things and others in motion. A poem called “The English End” builds carefully upon Rilke, as several other poems in the book build upon found lines. In the end, though, this one turns upon a mistake:
If I love you,
know you are also loved
by all the whisper rooms I’ve lived with, long
and unaware. Know it, please
Their word for change sounds like the English END.
I thought the Archaic Torso of Apollo
was instructing YOU MUST END YOUR LIFE.
This simple error replacing “change” with “end” makes an end for this poem that leaves a further thought hanging. It may suggest that each change is an end but not the end, and that we go on through ends or endings.
This book’s last lines, from a poem called “Close Space,” open out to the kind of larger vision of possibility embraced by Bosicevic as well.
I know well the story of the noble
dispatched for life to terrorize
an island. He asked of his king
only to guarantee there would be
women. Would I were there
to answer: DEAR DUMB BUCK,
REQUEST WAS FILED UNDER YOU WISH
FOR, BE CAREFUL WHAT.
T. C. Marshall lives near Fall Creek in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains where he used to walk regularly with Norman O. Brown; Tom claims to be able still to hear the wise old codger singing Morenita Mía on the trail and asking sharp questions about the biome. Some of Tom’s own creative works in progress can be seen at postlanguage.blogspot.com, on YouTube, & at maizepoem.blogspot.com. His next performance to be YouTubed will come in the Spring and be called something like “Face their Violence or Face the Music.”