Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Shining Material, Aisha Sasha John


ck one, bus tickets, some mother's car, frozen orange juice crystals
spooned into the slim neck of a vodka bottle, bomb scar
shiny, taut on the shoulder of one boy
another boy's
inside of which I
was a tourist, passing

and these boys aren't full even: stuttering, wet, timid
with control.
and these boys strum, nod, elasticate, convince,
bury, these boys drum kits in their nose hairs
freshly beaten asses waving to a tender vancouver night from
a white convertible, expletives fingered in dust, okay?
the boys sat treasuring, malignant, filing cabinets full
one year younger
one lap around the block, me “holding” their cigarettes
a drag is three, buzzed from one drag, thanks you can
have it back
There is something rich and lovely in the voice Toronto poet, performer and playwright Aisha Sasha John writes in, her writing/speaking voice, in her first collection of poems The Shining Material (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2011). In a collection of poems-as-address, John writes out shouting and singing and thinking and arguing unafraid, even as the fear comes through, in places, only to be beaten back by her lines. These are poems written very much to be read aloud, and her voice is here, insistent, coming through, as the back cover claims, to “work against the language of the banal.”

proving to ourselves we
know how to
feel good

What I find interesting about these poems is in how they are composed, nearly as notes written to the self, quickly written down, quickly caught, with such wild energy, barely contained even as the poems become shaped. Hers are poems fighting against the dark but not caught or trapped there, in pieces fighting to be heard, rippling between cultures, between English and French, between self-doubt and so much everyday bullshit. Given her past few years working in theatre and writing plays, the peformative element of the poems are immediately clear, giving her lines added weight, and a wonderful energy and immediacy.

One of my favourites of the collection the first poem, “SELF-PORTRAIT SELF-HUGGING,” perhaps the best example of a poem that deserves to be heard, written nearly to be sung or shouted. Here is a section from the middle of the piece, that writes:
and to resist makes the tension mountains, so
I'm valley elegant
I'm rolling green and billowing breezes
short flowers, lost petals: there's elegance to a small flower half-bare
its stem bent elegant and elegant it's okay it's fine
I won't end
up like her
I'm much more, modes more elegant
moving with gobs, dripping wet

he can't take that from me.

elegant he frustrates, switching
shit around
ignoring me inelegant, so

may I Lord please have some grace?

and if he's not there can I so elegant move unawkwardly
and if he is I'll drink the juice of that sight
mister, don't say anything please inelegant. don't be inelegant.

maybe, I still want you everyday.

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