Saturday, January 11, 2014



And so for you there is no heartbreak by K. Lorraine Graham
(Dusie chaps, a kollektiv, Switzerland, 2007)

I have this feeling I'm not supposed to be charmed by K. Lorraine Graham's chap-length novella-with-poems (or a single poem), And so for you there is no heartbreak.  After all, heartbreak is involved (albeit through its opposite—“there is no heartbreak”—but where the opposite can only exist if the other side exists).  But it's the truth: I found Graham's story quite appealing.

The plot matters, I suppose, but it's not what was entrancing to me.  It's how the plotline specifically has to do with the narrator's journey to Romania because she doesn't want to "join the circus."  This comes up in an odd -- and appealingly odd -- way.  It comes up in a passage on Page 14.  Since the entire work is 28 pages (and the first two contain one line each which make them sort of epigraphic), much has happened by the time we get to the passage on Page 14.

The narrator going to Romania in order to fulfill a promise made "to not join the circus" can be interpreted in several ways. I read it only one way. My read is that the pre-Romania life/lifestyle described in the first 14 pages is the "circus" and the narrator doesn't want to be part of such. For example:
"It is hard to have dinner on Friday but we often do. It's hard this time of year when we hate everything and feel alone and act like we can only hate each other and can be alone. This is what we tell ourselves. We say we are orphans. On Friday nights we try our hardest to think of each other."
And it continues:
"I don't enjoy these evenings when only one of us is alone and the other of us feels not alone--and loneliness is worse when we really are alone and cannot believe it when we tell each other we are not...."
It's powerful, at times harrowing, writing.

The specifics of the life/lifestyle described, though, are not necessarily about the specifics.  They could be about what they exemplify -- depression, loneliness, out-of-synch relationships, dissatisfaction and then curiosity about alternatives, and so on.   

While this could have become whiney (thus not appealing), it doesn't because of the writing's intelligence, tight focus (on both details and evocations) and sources of the unexpectedness (from philosophy to quirky observations). For instance: 
"You make eggs and potatoes after I find my wallet that was never gone. Now I cannot say I am crazy and stupid. Instead, I am tired and want to feel like I have always been tired. I remember that you will water the plants and talk to the birds and that you will watch baseball and write. Friends will be with girlfriends and we will all go on thinking about jobs and lovers as if the alternatives to jobs and lovers were endless."
The writing, indeed, lives up to the caution (warning?) of the two lines spaced out one each on the first two pages -- which is to say, emphasized almost epigrahically --
One's own loneliness is boring

So is someone else's.

This is not boring writing.  And it maintains the reader's interest due to the narrator's numerous, imaginative leaps (from one matter to another).  And the writing kept your attention so that the reader effortlessly accompanied the narrator along on those leaps.

Another source of its appeal is the sense of immediacy and intimacy.  The judicious insertions of "you" and, say, the referential insertion to the act of writing out this work--"I am not very flexible and I wear pants when I do my morning yoga. There are birds singing outside and I think of you on a morning walk with A & B past a cheese shop and into a bookstore where I bought this notebook and decided to use it to write this.  It is sunny and warm but not hot.  In the cheese shop, people think us simple for wanting Parmesan...."

The writing, thus, not only shifts across topics but across dimensions.  In the latter example above, the reader is suddenly the writer!

By the time the book ends, the narrator has reached and is in Romania. But what does that mean?  Where is Romania.  No, not "where" -- what is Romania?  Well, here's the last page:
"Do I want some water? Do I want to send email? 'I am sorry.' Am I tired? Dear Mark, I am in Bucharest. It is sunny. The flight was fine. I am in Queretaro and the weather is nice and today I ate some coconut and drank some coconut juice by the side of the road. I arrived in London last night and Dad took us to the market in Camden and there were people with pink hair. I'm in Haifa in a youth hostel at the bottom of the steps up the hill to the temples and the hostel is run by Christian missionaries who give me free hot dogs each Wednesday night and lecture me. There is a Russian man who smokes hash and stutters who last night insisted on conversing with me on the porch even though it was cold and he was shivering. I met a young Persian man who told me 'every day I pray for a wife,' and so I went to the shrine and said the marriage prayer three times and then worried about having said it for the rest of my pilgrimage and kept thinking I was smelling of drying rose petals from the shrine each evening as I walked down the steps. Dear G-d can I take it back? I'm staying with my friend in Pittsburgh an today we at ate Long John Silvers. The weather is nice here in Bucharest and tonight I am taking a train north."

So: Romania.  I have no idea.  The novella-poem is a circle.  It's possible to leave home and never ... uh, leave home.  Whatever Romania is, I don't think it's something defined solely by geographic boundaries. 

I found And so for you there is no heartbreak to be quite clever without bogging down the reader in the narrator's (author's) intelligence.  This was a really enjoyable read.


This chap also was produced as part of the Dusie chap collective.  Its production is minimal -- text on white pages stapled twice on the binding.  But while minimal, it's not simple.  The unobstrusiveness of the design worked to let the words speak solely on their behalf.  Given the effectiveness of those words, the production was smartly achieved.


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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