NO APPOINTMENT NECESSARY by THOMAS FINK & OTAGES by JOHN BLOOMGBERG-RISSMANEILEEN TABIOS Reviews
No Appointment Necessary by Thomas Fink
(Moria Poetry, 2006)
OTAGES by John Bloomberg-Rissman
(Bamboo Books, Culver City, 2006)
I've said it before and I'll say it again. When I concocted the hay(na)ku back in 2003, I never anticipated that it would become the global phenomenon that it is -- okay, that’s obviously self-aggrandizing but I felt like preening. So: preeen. But now, turning this review to not be about Moi, I wish to note – and recommend -- the particular riffs off of the hay(na)ku that are now available in Thomas Fink's No Appointment Necessary and John Bloomberg-Rissman's OTAGES.
I focus on Fink’s -- eh, let me say, Tom’s -- hay(na)ku variations, though many other poems are written in other forms. But as with the other non-hay(na)ku poems in the book, Tom’s hay(na)ku “box sequences” offer text that relish and make the reader relish musicality. Upon reading Tom’s poems, one inevitably starts reading them out loud to fully enjoy his works’ rythms and sounds. Here’s a sample from “HAY(NA)KU/BOX SEQUENCE 2”::
can one spiral
an honest magnet? I have
await them impatiently.
And this is what leads to the wonderful paradox of Tom’s hay(na)ku box sequences. They are called “box sequences,” I assume, because in addition to relying on the hay(na)ku form (the basic hay(na)ku is a tercet comprised of one-word, two-word, and three-word lines), the poems are also crafted visually, with one stanza per poem always designed to have the outline of the box. Certainly, this “vizpo” strategy hearken’s Tom’s painterly practice; for me, the shapes offered by the box-sequences (and other poems elsewhere in the book which also offer different shapes, a la concrete poetry), evoke similar (fragmented) shapes seen on his paintings (for examples, see an earlier art review I did of Tom’s hay(na)ku paintings here).
Yet the boxes in Tom’s poems are punched open in the middle, as in this example from “HAY(NA)KU/BOX SEQUENCE 2”:
One state must not define luck for others,
but does, often without
conscious effort, Cross-
Can a death solo
gum up the common
pact formed with enrichment and utility?
Brilliant -- in this deceptively simple manner, Tom notes the difficulty in -- not being boxed in, but – attempting to box in others. These are difficult times, with, for instance, a U.S. administration too reliant on trying to enforce their will on other countries. Tom’s poems are political poems because, notwithstanding their reliance on forms, the words themselves can be politically explicit.
From “HAY(NA)KU BOX SEQUENCE 1”:
underbudgeted chorus of
ignited its own
big cleanup will
many sore pockets.
And, from “HAY(NA)KU BOX SEQUENCE 4”:
out over several
tan will make
against split peanuts.
And, from “HAY(NA)KU BOX SEQUENCE 5”
a male CEO
swiftly fire rickety
Instinct imprisons (him).
From text to image then back to text again, Tom’s circular approach harmonizes poetic forms and music with its underlying politically-charged poetics.
There is one more hay(na)ku variation in the book—the “Mayan” hay(na)ku created by Tom’s daughter, Maya. In this variation, not only are the tercets based on six words but each word-choice must comply with an increasing number of letters. Thus, in this example,
Eye? Sun. Pun.
the first line’s words are based on one letter, the second line’s words are each two letters, and the third line’s words are three letters. The musicality and politics continue to be avident:
A do on
The run. Oil
Rain rant, snow muss.
Tom’s is an intellectual poetry. But as pleasing as music.
Now, Bloomberg-Rissman's -- hell, let me say, John's -- versions touch particularly close to home because his approach melds with another poetic strategy close to my heart: the joint collaging/riffing -- or as John puts it in a “Note” to the poems, “quote (and misquote)” -- from "found" texts (though they are "found" only in the sense that the poet still chooses to engage with them in creating new poems) or after others' images.
John seems to practice something with which I agree: that one can make up, but need not make-up, poetry … because poetry is all around us and one need only pay attention to discern their existence. All of the poems in OTAGES are hay(na)ku sequences, and this hay(na)ku sequence, inspired by Jean Fautrier's paintings, is just pitch-perfect:
Otages (Jean Fautrier, 1943-1945)
Say that water
Insane … There
Is something about
What do you
Black border? And
Remind you of
Might almost say
Once. And you
Those were eyes.
In John’s case, to be open to other writer’s words is not different from simply being open to the world. And so this collection, like Tom Fink’s, is also not ahistorical. Here is a clear example where the title also basically explains the poem’s process (the poem’s text is all-italicized as John uses italics to denote words that are quoted):
Every Word Belongs To Laure
Ghorayeb, Beirut, Lebanon. I Stole
Them From Her Blog. I Just Thought You
Should Know A Little About What It
Feels Lilke ON The Ground These Days
Fear that used
Saliva in a
Lifted by bombs.
Day I am
Is left from
Ball entered the
Upcoming days no
To survive. The
Hour. We are
See the bombs
To … Where’s
Airports, bridges, parts.
Of my body?
What elevates OTAGES to justify its existence as a cohesive, stand-alone collection instead of just being a sample of ongoing, larger work -- did I mention that OTAGES is a 28-page chap? -- is partly the thread of humility in terms of authorial authority:
I am trapped
--from “Tete d’otage no. 1 (Jean Fautrier, 1943)”
Or, another section more to the point—this from “Tete d’otage No. 23 (Jean Fautrier, 1945) (Ceasefire) (Eleventh Hay(na)ku (Slight Return))”::
( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( )
And now, it is ridiculous to further discuss OTAGES. Simply, the poems should be read because no second-hand account can explicate one of OTAGES’ strengths: a tone. A tone I would describe as a black-glassed mirror reflecting back (as it reflects upon) the world.
Hopefully, OTAGES will be reprinted.past its original print run of 30 copies. Thirty copies! (Though you can guarantee yourself a copy by reviewing the second review copy sent to Galatea Resurrects –wink.) Seriously, the joy of OTAGES should be more widespread than a limited edition can allow. OTAGES is complete on its own, but makes me want to read more.
Eileen Tabios' books are not eligible for review in Galatea Resurrects because she edits this puppy; these orphans languish here; here; here; here; here; and here.