Thursday, November 30, 2006



Boys, A-Z: A Primer by Dan Waber
(Kite Tail Press Publication #17, 2006)

All boys come disguised, especially from girls.
Here is juicy knowledge, lessons maybe no one
previously quilled. Relax, sit tight,
uncover villains while x-raying y-chromosome zone.
--from "Boys, A-Z" by Dan Waber

Simply, this is a gem!

With Boys, A-Z, Dan Waber has taken the alphabet to giddy heights -- not necessarily the heights of transcendence but that of the rollercoaster. His book presents 26 text poems, each of which begins with a boy’s name that also follows the alphabet: Adam, Billy, Charlie, David and so on.

Each text poem is comprised of 3-5 lines -- and it is a scale that emphasizes their wit -- centered on the page. There’s a boyish cheer and more than a couple of snickers permeating the sensibility of the poems, as in W's:

William Xerxes Yancy Zoopodopoulopoulos.
A business card doomed. Etched formal glassware?
ha! Inconceivable! Japanese kanji looking monogram!
Names overlay personality, quite right. Still, that's
unbelievably verbose.

But what makes this collection truly fun are the images facing each text poem: each letter of the alphabet has been transformed to symbolize a boy’s face or head that somehow mirrors the character of that boy as presented by the text-poem. Thus, for "A", the text poem reads as

Adam builds computers,
digital engineersing finagle gates,
his insistent keystrokes lay most networks open,
plunder quarantined remote systems.
This uninhibited vandal will X10 your zippers.

and the visual poem is

Here are two other examples. "C"’s text poem reads as

Charlie doesn't eat fish,
grains, hamburger, instant juice,
kiwi, lemons, mangoes, nectarines or pork.
Queer religous sects take unhealthy vows.
Why X-rate your zaftigness? Appetites belong.

and the visual poem is

"F"’s poem reads as

Frank's greased hair is jewelled, knotted, layered,
marcel-waved. Nattiness overdone. People quietly retreat.
Something thickly unpleasant, viscous, wet, X-rayproof
yo-yos zig-zaggingly around. Babies cry, dogs escape.

and the visual poem is

It’s deeply-clever. I love the idea of the letter presented as if from a manufactured stencil or from a print-out, then looping off calligraphically to form the image. Computer, meet Zen! Zen, meet Computer!

Waber is one of the foremost teachers (for me, anyway) as regards concrete poetry -- I recommend his blog entitled “minimalist concrete poetry”. Perhaps the letter-images count as concrete poetry -- that’d make sense to me, until I read his blog and realized there’s a whole discourse about the topic about which I’m not up to snuff. But my ignorance really didn’t detract from my pleasure in this project.

I can’t resist calling these, too, to be Boyish hiijinks! As delightful as puppy dog noses and waaaay better than snakes! Rarely does the Y chromosome get so fun-ly and funnily proposed!


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.


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