Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Little Red Leaves: Kasimor, MacPherson + Davidson

I’m slowly sifting through my stack of elegantly designed chapbooks from Little Red Leaves Textile Editions, designed and sewn by Dawn Pendergast, including three wildly different yet incredibly playful works: The Windows Hallucinate (2013) by Mary Kasimor, Sheep Dip Excerpts (2013) by Doug MacPherson, and Arcanagrams: A Reckoning (2014) by Amanda Davidson. There is the most interesting cadence present in the work of Minnesota poet Mary Kasimor, staggered and staccato through a series of spacings and capitalizations:

multipl e s of              wine

Sin ersshining   s in bla c k e
ye black  s in in multipl e s of
los  t cha nces overt hehil l
&  char co al out lin e s      cert

aintyp  e s o f belief s i n  sin
hl e   fil  e o n a flat ho riz o n
sta r s s pea k  i    n for e
ngba   l  lso f ten  wine

The author of three trade poetry collections—& cruel red (Otoliths, 2010), silk string arias (BlazeVox Books, 2008) and The Landfill Dancers (BlazeVox Books, 2014)—Kasimor nearly speaks in a coded language, hidden within such familiar English. Her poems manage to explore and challenge sound and meaning while moving quickly across the page, revealing an unusual (and even refreshing) cadence that I would be interested to hear her perform, such as in the opening of her poem “a starry night,” that reads:

Plants speak in CODE tongue
WALKERS in desert
talK straight

Dope IS for THOS
Who EXHale A

STARRY night WHEN the painter
DRoppeD over for

Around WAITing for Kool Aid

in the JUNGLE the plants
HABITAT was involved IN
A Sting OPERation
WHO knew?

As the colophon of San Francisco/Tahoe poet Doug MacPherson’s Sheep Dip Excerpts reads: “This collection of poems is an excerpt from a larger work called sheep dip, a creative translation of O Guardador de Rebnhos by Fernando Pessoa, who wrote it under the persona of Alberto Caeiro, a shepherd. It is also in conversation with two English translations of Pessoa’s book—The Keeper of Sheep by Edwin Honig and Susan Brown and Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person by Erin Mouré.”

No 16
            for Altus
who would publish me minha living life as an office boy?
squeaking early morning down the road with my cart
returning with my cart at dusk down the same road

i have no tinge of hope i have these wheels
i am getting old without wrinkles or gray hair
i am no longer of service take off my wheels
i am left upside down and broken at the bottom of a drain

While I’m unaware of the Honig and Brown title he speaks of, MacPherson’s translations are certainly far straighter than the work in Mouré’s Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person [see the piece I wrote on such here], without the vibrancy she worked through her own transelation of the same text. Still, this is certainly a compelling collection, and I’m intrigued to see what the full text looks like, once its published in trade form. MacPherson manages, through his sequence of numbered translations, to respond to Pessoa’s original text in intriguing ways.

No 49

i go inside fetch a channel tracy with candle says night
minha voice content says night minha life sighs to day check
of sun saved rain afternoons pass on channel O last hello
friend soggy trees deposit Os i fetch another channel light a
candle night of withouts course like a river bed and four big
silences like days that sleep

The most compelling of these three works has to be Amanda Davidson’s wonderfully playful Arcanagrams: A Reckoning, which responds, in part, to the works of Swedish scientist Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), best known for his book on the afterlife, Heaven and Hell (1758). Davidson’s bio includes the fact that she is “currently at work on a performance novel about the mystic Swedenborg,” and she includes this intriguing fact in the colophon of the short collection: “‘Dromböken,’ on page twelve, is a cut-up poem using text from Swedenborg’s Journal of Dreams. This English-language edition was translated from the Swedish by my great-great-grandfather, Carl Theophilus Odhner (Bryn Athen, Pennsylvania: The Academy Book Room, 1918). This book is now in the public domain.” I’m fascinated by her interest in the work of Swedenborg, especially given her personal connection to him and his work, and wonder (in the “chicken-and-egg” way) which may have come first, her interest in his work, or her knowledge of such a connection?


I was neither in a state of sleep nor wakefulness.

Throughout the whole night I seemed to be
going deep down, by ladders and other spaces.

This signified moving from celestial to natural

I slept deeply for eleven hours
I dreamt I was being punished
I dreamt of a woman
I dreamt of cages
I was arrested
Climbed down
I flew

This signifies inmost affection from the Lord
This signifies the grand man
This signifies natural truths
This signifies the highest heaven
This signifies I had not washed my feet
I spoke long and familiarly with our Successor
who changed into a woman.

What it may signify is best known to our Lord.

In the morning my eyesight was so improved that I
could read the Bible without glasses.

What this signifies I do not know.

Something will happen to me after I finish the first
chapter on the sense of touch.

Whether I am to take one road in my work or am
being prepared for another, I know not; it is dark
to me.

I was not able to have the strong faith I ought to
have. I believed and yet did not believe.

Once again I was thrown onto my face.

I do not know what this means.

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