Saturday, January 11, 2014



The Codicils by Mark Young
(Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia, 2013)

The Codicils is a feat!  It should be, as this thick tome gathers in one book the poetry collections he’d created since his Pelican Dreaming: Poems 1959-2008.  Mark Young, a stellar poet who grew a global following through the internet and by editing his wonderful e-journal, Otoliths, estimates that there are “at least” nine books within The Codicils.  (His e-book Asemic Colon offers a tasty sampler.)

There are so many things to say about The Codicils.  For this review, I’ll narrow my focus on where the poet didn’t seem to have anything in mind when he began writing a poem (my impression versus the possible reality which I don’t know as I’m just engaging with the poems on the page, rather than the author behind the page).  That is, the poet seemed to just look about within his environment, his daily life, to pluck out the poetry already existing about him and just waiting to be discerned. (I like this “strategy” as, in general, it often works to transcend the limits of an individual poet’s conscious imagination at the time of writing a particular poem.) Much of Young’s seems to come from reading and scrolling through the internet.  Here’s the opening to a hilariously dry example, with a subversive hay(na)ku as its title, too:

He / negotiates a / forced labor contract

I recently got a fabulous new flat screen TV & I have been searching for the perfect place to perch it on. Nothing really struck my eye until I saw the chic new black Trollsta sideboard from Ikea. Although I am trying to get away from using Ikea furniture, I don’t think I’ll be able to find something else I like at such a reasonable price point. I can’t wait until it comes to stores in April!

The book, indeed, is replete with dry wit, the type that makes you want to search out the poet for conversation.  The poems move me to extrapolate from them to believe that any personal exchange with the poet, too, would be full of pleasure.  Anyway, here’s “Maybe pimentos” below which cleverly manifests paradox, which is one of my favorite facets of poetry:

Maybe pimentos

More & these
days more often
than not like
it used to be

I come to a
task & find
I’ve brought the
wrong tools

along. To-
day a poem.
Cactus. Sun-
dried tomatoes.

And what’s poetic wit without the occasional pun?  I was chuckling at the 7th word of a poem entitled “tanka” for opening with “I have bought myself a Sheridan tank…”  Funny, though the brief reference there to Sheridan tank also bespeaks the political awareness Young brings to his poetry.

This isn’t a review of the entire book.  For this review, I mostly engaged with the first section entitled “An autonomous region within China.” But this first section seduces the reader—and that is significant since it makes the reader want to continue through the rest of the book with its eleven sections in 600 pages.  I recommend you, too, invest the time offer the devotion to a comprehensive work by one of poetry’s master practitioners.

Nota Bene:  I reviewed the first section before I read the rest of the book.  So I wish to repeat that what I’d focused on, based on my read of the poems themselves, reflect what I thought was the poet’s usage of stuff about him, rather than that he had something in particular he wanted to say/communicate/address within the poem.  Later in the book, however, is Young’s own essay on his own methodology, “the stochastic methodology that lies behind his poetic canon.” Fortunately, that essay is available online--and worth a read!--at Amanda  Earl's Angelhouse essay series.  

After reading through the entire book, I can share that I also sensed a distinct component that affirms Young’s process—that be the poet’s strong sense of musicality.  Young doesn’t just put words together interestingly.  The poems benefit from a strong sense of rhythm.  Young writes intelligent music—here’s an example from randomly opening the book—and also masterfully titles:

holla at me lata

Fifty is the new
forty. In the
legendary tradition
of the game show,
calorie & heart rate
monitors are the
only vocabulary
you need. That
& the fact that the
only real mistake
you can make
is wear a strapless
Jason Wu dress in
a creamy chiffon
with a pair of
off-white shoes.

Kinda leaves you dangling, but you don’t mind … as you now turn to the rest of the universe with clarified eyes.


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor. But she is also pleased to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her books.  Her 2013 book, THE AWAKENING was reviewed by Aileen Ibardaloza at OurOwnVoice; and her 2004 book MENAGE A TROIS IN THE 21ST CENTURY, was reviewed (along with Joi Barrios' poetry) through the essay "The Self Revolution of Radical Love--Externalizing Internal Worlds of Freedon in Filipina Poetry" by Michaela Spangenburg at OurOwnVoice.  Eileen invites you to her new blog, EILEEN VERBS BOOKS; poets are invited to participate in three of its features: "Poetry and Money," "What Are You Reading?" and "What Do You Re-Read?"

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