Wednesday, May 22, 2024

CAConrad, Listen to the Golden Boomerang Return


My poems are breathing wild creatures. They stand at the bottom of the page, vibrating in the center of their bodies. If they were to come off the page to live with me, I would work hard to buy a house with many rooms. We would share a large bed; if they learned to jump back on the page when needed, I could take them wherever I went! When my poems become books, I have no control over how other humans feel or think about them, and I’m okay with that so long as I can have my private way of being together with them. If possible, I would like a witness to ensure that there are copies of all my books with me when they put me in the oven to cremate my body. Our ashes need to mix. (CAConrad, “A (Soma)tic Poetry Ritual”)

I’ve learned to appreciate the exquisite lyric shapes of American poet CAConrad’s poems, slowly moving through their latest collection, Listen to the Golden Boomerang Return (Seattle WA/New York NY: Wave Books, 2024), following titles such as Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull Press, 2006), (Soma)tic Midge (FAUX Press, 2008), The Book of Frank (Chax Press, 2009), The City Real & Imagined (with Frank Sherlock; Factory School Press, 2010), A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon: New (Soma)tics (Wave Books, 2012), Philip Seymour Hoffman (were you high when you said this?) (Worms Press, 2014), ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (Wave Books, 2014), While Standing in Line for Death (Wave Books, 2017), JUPITER ALIGNMENT: (Soma)tic Poetry Rituals (Ignota Books, 2020) and AMANDA PARADISE: Resurrect Extinct Vibration (Wave Books, 2021) [see my review of such here], as well as a book of nonfiction essays, Advanced Elvis Course (Soft Skull Press, 2009). The poem-offerings of CAConrad are unlike anything else, although there are certain echoes in chant and ritualistic form, interestingly enough, of the work of legendary Canadian poet bill bissett. “how hard is your / historical memory,” CAConrad writes, early on in the collection, “as in gay / bashing 101 / same day you / learn hieroglyph / means sacred carving / elegy is not a form / it is a state of being the / poet must write from / a faggot takes a beating / from another holy book / and the band said / this is my four-leaf clover / what did they say / this is my four-leaf clover [.]” There’s an energy, a tone and a stream-of-consciousness that make me think of bissett as well, although CAConrad offers a language crafted into sweeps and swirls of particular visual sculpture, as both poets continue to work enough around the margins of mainstream poetry that they manage to outline their own perfect shape. “a storm of / handwriting / was this / poem’s / first / shape,” they write. CAConrad’s poems sweep, offering a sequence of sculptured gestures, many of which would be quite difficult to attempt to replicate across this particular format.

There is something so fascinating and unique, also, in how CAConrad approaches composition, through the importance of ritual and attention (a lengthy essay at the end of the collection touches upon elements of this)—a compositional attention that equally attends process and result; is the poem the ritual of composition, or what the reader sees on the page? Perhaps both, intertwined, as CAConrad continues a conversation around living and being, being connected to the earth and its occupants, specifically a garnet of crows. CAConrad mourns the destructive bent of capitalism and the losses of the world even while celebrating the small, essential, beautiful possibilities. “consciousness / has never been / human alone,” they write, mid-way through the collection, “we materilalize / from behind / the curtain [.]” These are poems of and from a deep attention, and a deep optimism, and deserve to be approached and appreciated with an equal attention.

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