clicked the link to DUSIE
#4, an online journal originating from Switzerland, there was an audible
thump. Just like that, I had 42 chapbooks sitting on my screen.
For the purposes of this review, the term
"chapbook" is meant to refer only to an aesthetically or arbitrarily
selected poem or group of poems. Though some (but not all) of the "book
art" aspects of a chapbook are lost in the online format, & though
these aspects can certainly compound, supplement, contradict or supersede
the aesthetics of the poems themselves, we'll leave those discussions
Also, for the purposes of this review,
the term "thump" is meant to signify the intellectual, creative
& physical heft of these many works metaphorically landing on my desktop.
What DUSIE has done is not entirely new.
There are several e-chaps out there (duration
press has some nice ones & even my own THE
HAPPY SEASONS is an online chap). But by producing an "issue"
of all e-chaps, by producing a staggering 42 e-chaps at one time (!),
DUSIE has done what all literary magazines, online or in print, hope to
do. They've created & defined an aesthetic moment making this a kind
of Armory Show for the chapbook in 2006.
You see, chapbooks are hot right now. They're
I'd like to propose, first off, that all
of the chapbooks in DUSIE #4 are worth reading. I'd like to follow that
up by saying that all chapbooks are worth reading. I'm not saying that
they'll all be worthwhile, that they'll all teach us something about our
craft or ourselves or our world, but I do think the form itself, these
compressed bursts, deserve our attention because they are, in action,
a form of thought, scattered or unified, lax or rigorous; chapbooks are
about as close as we can come to inhabiting a boiled-down consciousness
different from our own.
Take Chris Rizzo's e-chap, In the Quells.
Rizzo is no stranger to the chapbook form. He runs Anchorite Press, producing
many fine print chapbooks, & has several chapbooks to his credit as
a writer as well (see a review of the most recent of these, ZING
Editions, in H_NGM_N
#5). In the Quells is a unified utterance, a burst of consciousness.
It is a "project," with big ambition and broad scope, using
the "saleable titles" from Gregory Corso's The Happy Birthday
of Death as a springboard.
These prose poems are best read as a kind
of applied linguistic physics. Rizzo accelerates the words like atoms,
at lightning speed, & then spins them around a few times before concussively
smashing them together in an attempt to generate some wholly new particle.
But before you think the work here is all
head, Rizzo has inserted "the Kid" as his likeable Everyman,
the controlling consciousness of these poems. Every bit as scattered &
discombobulated as John Berryman's Henry, the Kid has developed a way
of thinking that suits him in these times:
Go broke solo, rack up bullshit repetitions, and
spit at your
god of choice. Managing messes in America incorporated
powers of buck stop nowhere. And in the breaks he can't
catch one. But he can't keep going, but off course he goes [...]
This chapbook fully explores
how our lives lived in "this kingdom of is-ing won't leave us / at
be." Rizzo's syntax is always so rich & generative that it's
hard to tell what comes first, the thought or the word, but the "riff
punk" language of these poems lands us somewhere fully human, "locked
in this droning, this story, this string we / call breathing."
Heart on a Tripod, the e-chap from Kaia Sand,
involves the reader immediately in the physical particulars of identity.
Using a muscular line as guide, this poem courses over & through different
territories of body & spirit, of public & private space.
The truths related in this work are the
simple ones, but are dignified & complicated the lens of representation.
How do we say what we need to say? The speaker here resorts to recitation,
a tone equal parts elegy & hope:
& her legs become her legs
become a heap of bodies &
hopeless. bodies hit bodies
& they fall that way
It is almost impossible
to locate or name a speaker in this poem, to give a face to this body,
though the poem itself is sustained by questions of identity, the human
form, & sheer wonderment at "every living thing, impossibly so."
Sarah Mangold's Picture of the Basket consists
of two weeks' worth of daily (or near daily) meditations/reveries/happenings.
This creates an instant sense of progression for the reader—the
relentlessly forward motion of time—but Mangold chooses to exploit
this in some very interesting ways. As Day 1 suggests, our lives are full
of "tasks and arrivals" in pursuit of "a definitive the,"
some solid ground to stand on. Still, "it is possible to disappear."
Even though the reader expects to know
everything, to follow a narrative, diaristically, things are left out,
as they must be. There are constant elisions, shuffle steps, flat out
gaps. Riffing on Charles Olson's "triple theories" found in
his essays "Proprioception," "Projective Verse" &
"Human Universe," Mangold is more concerned with what poetry
can't do—"we couldn't conjure / pumpkin festival at the oval"—the
misses & the lack.
In poetry that stunningly trusts the reader
to be fully awake & engaged, Mangold creates the kind of field from
which all things should be possible but, fracturously, aren't.
It should be noted that each of these chapbooks was
produced in a print edition of 50 copies; each author was responsible
for his/her own book & mailed a copy of his/her chapbook to everyone
else in the "kollektiv." Imagine this as the new model for poetry
"production & distribution." A giant happening such as this
one—the online thump of this—& the scene that is created,
the group. Poets writing poems. Poets publishing/disseminating poems.
Poets reading poems. This is a good way to start, a big shock that lasts
&, hopefully, has repercussive effects.