From Dawn Pendergast's Little Red Leaves in Texas come three more from her “textile editions” series, the chapbooks An Antenna Called the Body by Sarah Mangold, A Reduction by Jimmy Lo, and Lucky by Mairéad Byrne. With previous chapbooks by Beverly Dahlen and Jamie Townsend, the website writes of the series:
We love chapbooks and poets. We love little ones, little known. We love things that fit into trouser pockets. We love small pages, plush covers, uneven stitches and folds.
A project of little red leaves, the textile series takes the hand out of “hand-sewn chapbooks.” It’s real work in the age of mechanical reproduction. It’s the little sewing machine that could. It’s ironed and folded and sewn and pulled and the threads stick out.
All textile series chapbooks are 5.5″ by 4.25″ with fabric covers scavenged from old curtains, bedsheets and other textile remnants. We consider it a micro-revolution. A call to action against staples, tape and glue. Coming at you em-dashed, a little wrinkled, and needlessly obscure.
The author of the poetry collections Household Mechanics (New Issues, 2002) and the forthcoming Giraffes of Devotion (i.e. Press), Edmonds, Washington poet Sarah Mangold edited the print journal Bird Dog (2000-2009), and currently co-edits, with Maryrose Larkin, FLASH + CARD, “a chapbook and ephemera press.” Her An Antenna Called the Body, “lovingly sewn with a smattering of textile remnants,” is a mix of short poems and prose-poems writing the place where human and machine meet, in poems such as “Electrical Theories of Femininity,” “Every Man a Signal Tower” and “The Study of Individual Points.” With her references to the century before last, I wonder, is this a matter of steampunk concerns lightly disguised as lyric/language poetry?
An Antenna Called the Body
Around 1900 love's wholeness disintegrates. Where eyes had always seen only poetic wing mechanization takes control. Literal airships watching the paddle-streamer wheel. Their central nervous system always preceded them. Lethal bird flights. Mechanization takes commmand. Metaphysics of the heart. Everything from sound to light is a wave. Priest and victim of the apparatus. Perfectly alphabetized female readers.
What I love here is her language, the way her prose wraps around itself, in an unusual mix of thick and specific abstract, sweeping across the page. It makes me want to see what else she is doing, has done.
The Machine has not Destroyed the Promise
Around 1800, the costumed nightmare on the sofa. Dead brides and mountaineers. For me they are grammatical. Frontier cleaners. A circle of tickets this freckled body. But I should be untrue to science loitering among its wayside flowers. Pulled out and shut up like a telescope. Let us try to tell a story devoid of alphabetic redundancies. Immortality in technical positivity. If motion caused a disagreement of any kind we are regarding the same universe but have arranged it in different spaces. That is to be the understanding between us. Shall we set forth?
I'm intrigued by Atlanta, Georgia poet Jimmy Lo, a writer I hadn't previously heard of. His chapbook, the long poem A Reduction, is sprinkled with “microscopic images of mustard seeds, onions skins, twigs, banana stalk, tumeric, wildflower, string, and other items,” and, as the acknowledgments also tells, “lovingly sewn with recycled bedsheets and shower curtains.” The poem begins:
I wish to be microscopic. Not invisible, that, but microscopic—and anonymous, among the worms' paths and their soft castings, to be heading into the mite, their kin, next of their kin miles no meaning. Two dimensions.
This is an interesting and endearing prose-poem/essay on metaphysics, writing the small, smaller and smallest moments in prose. I'm intrigued by the smallness, and the thoughtful quick movements disguised as a single gesture, wondering where this poet might end up, where he might even go next. I'm intrigued by the smallness, but to Lo I would suggest, to explore other avenues of smallness, you should consider the poems of Nelson Ball and Mark Truscott, exploring smallnessess from entirely different angles, or the prose-poetry of Richard Froude.
The politics of the body would sing its injustice. Though it would smile too, it would smile on the great verve of its invective.
Mairéad Byrne [see her 12 or 20 questions here], an Irish ex-pat living in the United States, is the author of four previous collections, from Nelson & The Hurubury Bird (Wild Honey Press, 2003), Talk Poetry (Miami University Press, 2007), SOS Poetry (/ubu editions, 2007) and The Best of (What's Left of) Heaven (Publishing Genius, 2010), as well as “a host of chapbooks,” including this newest, Lucky, “lovingly sewn using recycled textile remains.” In what little I've seen of Byrne's previous work, she favours the prose-poem, exploring images and ideas in longer (often single-paragraph) pieces that remind slightly of the fictions of British Columbia author M.A.C. Farrant, or Hamilton, Ontario writer Gary Barwin. There are some strange and compelling surreal moments in these pieces, whether the first two pieces centred around centipedes, or writing her eyes falling out on the streets of Providence. How would you feel if your eyes were to fall out?
If you have an old house and it's not up to par with the houses of your friends and colleagues and you have been in it long enough to fix it up but you haven't fixed it up because you have no money or aren't able or just didn't get round to it yet but can't use the excuse of having just moved in anymore because you're in the house seven years and people don't invite you to dinner anymore because you never invite them back and anyway you feel bashful about accepting an invitation for the 4th or 5th time and want to, you know, start inviting people round yourself but don't want to expose the shortcomings of your living situation I have the solution for you: Floodlights! You can rent them fairly cheap or even invest in a set of your own if you intend to have a lot of dinner parties. You have to have high ceilings of course—did I mention I have an old house? Once installed you just blast that dinner table with 5,000 lumens and believe me, no-one's going to be commenting on the state of your house. It's like that Edgar Allen Poe story “The Purloined Letter”: You blind with light. The trick is, of course, to rein it in. You have to control the projection. You want the dining room ablaze but everything outside that shining space sheathed in velvety dark. You do not want the dust bunnies in the corner of the living-room—or on the corner of the living room of your neighbour across the street—to jump into horrifying relief. It's extremely atmospheric as you can imagine. Your guests will feel like film stars. And there are other benefits. It's not that you don't have furniture—it's that you moved it to make room for the lights. It's not that you don't have rugs—it's that you didn't want them torn up by the great claw feet of the floods so you rolled them away. And if your guests do stumble out of the magic circle to go to the bathroom or explore the territory, their retinas will be too dazzled to see anything but whirling disks and orbs. They'll have to feel their way with their hands and when they return the food on their plate will look too real for words. Not only have you restored appetite to the realm of personal responsibility where it rightly belongs you have also more or less determined the topic of conversation for the evening, that is if people can bear to look each other in the eye long enough to talk. You can also rent searchlights with high intensity beams each one of which has over six hundred million candlepower so your guests can easily find your house without GPS or Mapquest—the good old-fashioned way.
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