Friday, June 16, 2006

I got Not Even Dogs by Ernesto Priego (Meritage 2005). a collection of hay(na)ku. the hay(na)ku format is simple to the point of wicked simple (one word line, then 2 word, then 3 word, or turn that upside down). its value consists in how it places emphasis on each word. or put better, each word is weight bearing. Priego uses the form here exclusively as a stanza. altho the form presents a haiku-ish potential as a brief meditative measure, it also links nicely. Priego writes easily within the format. a micro/macro simultaneity occurs (sorry for that lump of a phrase), in which one reads the poem as a whole, but also looks to each stanza discretely, poems within poems. one poem hangs on a sore throat (I infer):

Maybe
the cactus
in your throat

Doesn't
let you
sleep at all

the poem ends with the question:

whadda
want to
say without pain.

so there's this physical sense (or demand) of writing. but verses jump out singularly for me:

Rough
and dirty
in your throat

Get
in there
like a desert

The
green, black,
dusty present pain

A
white page
full of sand

(I just noticed that Ernesto capitalizes the 1st word of each stanzas, which, let us say, defines porous limits). see, the verses can be read out of order, as you find them, but also narratively. I learned an emphatic attention from Robert Grenier (not to say I utilize it well, just that he provided a rich exemplar), in which the reader gives every word all chances to, um, mean something. consider all definitions, yup, peer at etymology, okay doke, but also, perhaps weirder, be prepared to see lack in black, age in page. look at all possibilities. I think Ernesto Priego possesses that attention. that he is bilingual adds a consternation and question, in the sense that he has these 2 languages, but Poetry is his mother tongue. that sounds like a floppy statement but give me a chance. the Wryting list to which I belong is small but its members are from all over the globe. posts are mostly in English, but it is English inflected by all these languages, including programming. Poetry then is the lingua franca. Ernesto's language is largely ordinary and conversational. which is sneaky, because his words reveal such depth and perception. I want to note the book design by Michelle Bautista. the central colums oif the poems are offset by larger boldface repetitions of the 1st stanza. this demarcates the poems from each other and is visually gratifying. I mean, even if my description doesn't zackly make it sound so. lovely book.
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