Friday, October 14, 2016

Denise Newman, Future People

The Translator

Mistaking a coiled rope
for a snake
like mixing up
anxious and eager,
“I’m anxious to meet you,”
revealing a hidden dread
climbing the stairs
to the esteemed
poet’s apartment.
   “It was all about
gentleness” or
   “It was a matter
of kindness”—?
Face to face:
snake, then rope,
then rope
and its agent.
   “It was a question
of gentleness.”

Following her collections Human Forest (Apogee Press, 2000), Wild Goods (Apogee Press, 2008) and The New Make Believe (Sausalito CA: The Post-Apollo Press, 2010), California translator and poet Denise Newman’s fourth poetry title, Future People (Berkeley CA: Apogee Press, 2016), is a curious collection of lyrics exploring connections and disconnects, rewriting a logic out of fragments, distractions, digressions and deliberately shattered lyrics. “If I shut the door this fly hasn’t a chance” she writes, in the poem “The Father”: “and I can’t bear that.” Future People is constructed in five sections: three sections of short lyrics, and the second and fourth sections as extended lyric suites. Hers is a descriptive mode that works to unsettle, and then pushes to explore that confusion in detail, something she has in common with the work of Gigi Janchang, as Newman writes in her “Notes” at the end of the collection, the title section, the second, “is a collaboration with the artist Gigi Janchang, and is based on her series Portraits 2084. She created new faces by combining facial elements from people she photographed of different ages, genders, and nationalities. Each feature is from a different person.” As the corresponding poem writes:

There are always plenty
watching to serve as witness—
“What what?”—trouble hearing through glass
trouble with senses-only reality—
Let Lazarus explain. “You need to go to _______ for a blood test.”
“But all the blood is on the outside structure.”
He hands him his record. “It’s empty.”
“In reality is your body—the folder—” L. says, “not
the scribbles therein-out.”
“Out!” said the guard, and laughed so that he fell
off his glass.

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