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Jon Leon reviews

by Allyssa Wolf

Otis Books  — Seismicity Editions, Los Angeles, 82 pages, ISBN 0975592440

This review is 729 words
or about 2 printed pages long

Bow Towards the Sound of Burning

This bind of sentient foix volle. It’s odd and mysterious it’s alluring without being seductive and I assume at its most raucous even it is genuinely honest. “I am an owl from Ohio.” This is not Benjamin F. Kieth’s vaudeville of strict gentility. It does not attempt to raze the increasing hi-lo dichotomy. Instead that tension is encouraged and wound taut through exquisitely crafted poesie. “First Doll,” Vaudeville’s opening act illustrates the struggle:

Rather this or that, says one
As another sings low

Employing assonantal rhyme, the purest form of Lyric sound in poetry, ‘The Doll Number’ erects a kind of child’s recitation hall. As gratifying a composition as they come it drafts fanaticism in beauty and then superimposes such with the dynamo and desperation of a thing vying for flesh. It is not surprising to discover that struggle is half the life, realms of autonomy spill into stills of miniature confession. A la Wings of Desire these angels ferment passionately touched by the animation of living and entreat for what may be a lesser lie or grande delusion.

The truth is my skin is less likely
Than yours

Perhaps in an attempt to assuage the lack we’re presented with votive carnivalesque variety: ‘a rose on the rod,’ ‘slave trader’s boot,’ ‘grey whipping grasses,’ ‘dangling, dancing,’ ‘bundles of bells,’ ‘a smear of stars,’ ‘electricity,’ ‘burning,’ ‘blood by the moon,’ ‘a wooden theatre,’ ‘spidery walk,’ ‘brine-dug skullworts,’ ‘orphans and inmates,’ ‘stuffed beige body,’ ‘blood-crisp velvet,’ ‘the milky bottom,’ ‘damp violets,’ ‘blue-green forests,’ ‘star globs,’ ‘a slideshow,’ ‘mechanical / birds,’ ‘artificial weather,’ ‘snowy eye bulbs,’ and ‘the cheerful balloon.’

These voile messages — a gift métier.

“The Comic” is an 11-page verseplay and a safehouse where the defectors gather. “The Comic” has as its major performer Lenny Bruce and resounds like a missive to the dormant and comfortable pages of poetic lineage. My favorite lines fire from the character Coldskull Houser:

You and me, we wrest power

away from texts that bombard and assault!

And this among other things is what poetry needs. More demanding voice to the voiceless, more dancing, more moxie, more incorporation of the lo, more real sex, more fluorescence. Less elite self-consciousness and condescension to the reader. To the dominant and carefully ensconced poetic facsimile Vaudeville shouts:

Get with the program, fuckface!

While lately some are exclaiming good art lies, it is satisfying to discover a poet whose aim as in “M, The Dancer” is simply:

To tell the truth.

The poem, nom de plume, severs experential awareness from the claque and call — oscillatory transience,

Turning just. Twisting just.

it is deftly layered and dense, recalling, and subsiding to an underwhelming calm.

A handkerchief knot is a type of magic. The centerpiece of Vaudeville is a section titled “The Spiritist.” Greek logographer and political orator Demosthenes makes an appearance on page 62.

It is historically recorded that Demosthenes, having an impediment in his speech,
placed pebbles in his mouth and spoke to the rolling waves.

Later we are told of an address to an imaginary audience.

“The Spiritist” comes in tides, rolling from the left margin as mime of Demosthenes’ waves. Our human inside(s) like The Rose Mirror’s salt. A hero of perseverance Demosthenes’ speech impediment can be a metaphor for the difficulty of divine poetry pure in intent to navigate to the fore in so much poetic gloss and noise. These lyrics speckled between bits of magic reveal an illuminating and emotionally adroit sophistication. They are incredibly stylish without being mindlessly hip.

The hyper-production of contemporary poetry and its emphasis on the high in art invent to shade out the fallible, the truthful, or the messiness of human comedia and tragedy. Allyssa Wolf engages the low and eschews the distant. Her “Octopus-Bird,” an animal hybrid, one from below the surface one flying above it, becomes thorn to the shifty flesh of Poetry’s easily classifiable and ill-aeffective practitioners.

Read this book in a theatre or in the street propped on a fire hydrant. Read it between classes, in the library, on a train; read it at a poetry reading, read it in jail — anywhere. It is that book which begs to be myth. I have not seen pages nor have I heard poems. No. Reading this book I have allowed myself the gift of beauty redivivus!

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