Thursday, December 13, 2012



(Black Square Editions, New York, 2012) 

Michael Leong's CUTTING TIME WITH A KNIFE is the latest (well, latest among my readings) proof of how not totally relying on one's imagination is an effective Muse for creating poems.  This poem-making path is usually interesting (and a personal favorite) because it allows one to transcend the limits of one's imagination.  Leong's latest is another affirmation. 

From his Preface, Leong notes:

Regarding the cutting up (and subsequent reconstitution) of texts, William S. Burroughs has said, “If you cut into the present, the future leaks out.” This book…is an experiment designed to test this hypothesis by etherizing T.S. Eliot’s classic essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1919) like Prufrock’s patient and splaying it across the operating table. Using the cursor of a word processor as my surgical scalpel and Wikipedia articles on the 118 chemical elements as my supply of replacement parts, I set out to merge Mendeleev’s periodic table with Lautreamont’s pre-surrealist dissecting table in order ot create an unholy amalgam on which we might witness the chance meeting of a poet and a cryogenic tank…

The results, which Leong says he hopes “perhaps quixotically if not poetically anticipate the future contours of literary history,” are text and visual poems.  There's one poem per page in the book, and here's one chosen from random:

[Click on image to enlarge]

I did flip the book open at random to get that example, and it's interesting how this sample alludes to the book's epigraph:

The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum.
--T.S. Eliot "Tradition and the Individual Talent"

Should one even bother doing a "close reading" of the poem?  Well, I can share some reasons why this poem is meaningful to me:

--visual effectiveness: “Pt” is a shred of both “poet” and “platinum”

--platinum is not only valuable but gorgeous in its elegance and value and beauty are relevant to poetry

--platinum is, among other things, malleable and considered a "transition metal," the latter term meaning that it's an element with an incomplete atom.  Malleability and incompleteness, for me, are ars poetica characteristics if one believes—as I do—that a poem is a beginning and what completes the poetry experience is that engagement of a poem's reader/audience 

--compound mirrors can relate to identity's multiplicities or state of flux—again, I think relevant to poetry

--indelible ink can relate to memory and inability to be erased, as in how a great poem might become "classic" or eternal

In any event, all the results are interesting, and thereby offer pleasurable reading ... and, of course, viewing.

And if this review didn't make sense, maybe it's because:

[Click on image to enlarge]


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor.  But she is pleased to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her books. the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA, a collaboration with j/j hastain, is reviewed by Joey Madia at New Mystics Review; Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field 6; and Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene.  She also just released a new poetry collection, 5 Shades of Gray (i.e. press, Florida, 2012).

No comments:

Post a Comment