Only More So by Millicent Borges Accardi
Monday, February 27, 2017
JESSICA GONZALEZ Reviews
Only More So by Millicent Borges Accardi
(Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2016)
Millicent Borges Accardi harmoniously strings together a collection of unabashedly vulnerable, declarative poems in 2016’s Only More So, and its release could not be more timely. Each poem feels like breathing and quiet observing; words slowly weave in and out in natural resolve. Ms. Borges’ speaker, like a doctor in the examination room, performs quiet palpation on the reader—her patient—feeling for nerve, for crying, for laughing. The voice in these poems reads at once girlish and maternal, and yet, also reveals itself capable of universality. Only More So expertly covers personal terrain (“The Well,” “Arrythmia,” “Buying Sleep,”) while also engaging vaster territories (“Portrait of a Girl, 1942”). These poems will ring out and continue to be relevant as long as humans are intricate, tangled, and of this world.
Only More So, then, is undoubtedly a collection of condensed, flowing portraits. Comprised often of walls of text as opposed to sets of shorter stanzas, the poems manage a stream-of-consciousness, slice-of-life style that erupts and flows like a ballad. “Arrythmia”, for example, tows the line between the consistent solemnity that surrounds her husband’s condition, and the dutiful attitude the speaker undertakes as his wife, throughout this period in the couple’s relationship. It is comforting and cathartic, and woefully honest. In the beginning. Ms. Borges alludes to the familiar, hopeful attitude loved ones of someone just diagnosed with a long-term illness may have during its first stages:
In the early days of the disease,
There is nothing else to call it,
We were giddy with guessing
Treatment, symptoms and hope.
We knew there was a pattern
And measures we could take.
The hope grows slowly into subtle desperation; a thinning line. You can almost hear the speaker’s breathing quickening:
...A younger body heals
quickly, and each new year there are new
Drugs. Every time we blink there is a lab study,
Or a control group. There is time, more
Than time if you had gotten this at 70 or 80.
The speaker’s dispassionate tone downplays her investment and her ultimately faltering hope. The poem never falls into an utter despair, though, and the most power is held within what is not said. The final lines of the poem suggest that there is still so much they have not done, and still can do:
There were countries to explore, battles
To be fought, languages to adopt and twist
And make into our own.
Perhaps the disease is the language the couple, or at least the speaker, tries “to adopt and twist and make into [their/her] own”. The complicated feelings of dealing with the disease of a loved one, especially that of one’s partner, are examined exceptionally well in just a few lines. This last line is my favorite, in fact, in the whole collection.
Other notable poems include “The Well,” “Amazing Grace,” and “The Last Borges.” All three poems recount personal intimacy and individual weakness through piercing tactile imagery, lyrical movement, and a resounding, glittering, and thoughtful energy. “The Well,” in particular, offers a glimpse of a certain speaker, passive in her ultimate submissive position to her surroundings:
She focuses on a dark place,
A solid rock. A narrow dusk
Somewhere with just enough
Room for her below
The ground. Harder than granite.
She searches for a view
Above the roar of bulbs
Flashing, of spots,
Of the color green.
This is her contest
With sleep, with pins
And needles, with the
Boredom of waiting
For someone to help.
The speaker is constantly “searching” without moving, further grounding an image of passive resistance. Understanding she is in need of help, she waits in “boredom” instead of taking it upon herself to search and find. Instead of stubbornness, though, this move on the speaker’s part reads more as an admirable weakness. “Boredom” implies a certain self-awareness; she understands, perhaps, what she can do, but chooses to act contrarily. And in choice, lies strength. At the end of “The Well,” the speaker listens to a voice that tells her to “Climb up. Slide down,” and she listens. The poem reveals the power of choice and its way of conquering passiveness that is ultimately hindering.
Only More So is a collection that I would like to keep close to me as 2017 continues to unfold in all its chaos and dizziness. Ms. Borges’ poems remind me that it is okay to feel vulnerable, swept off my feet, and in limbo—that we still have choice, bravery, and might at arm’s reach… that everything can be observed, breathed in, and battled as needed.
Jessica A. Gonzalez is an editorial assistant and freelance writer and translator based in New Jersey and New York. She recently graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in English and also writes poetry.
Posted by EILEEN at 8:03 AM
EILEEN TABIOS Engages
The Poetry Deal by Diane di Prima
(City Lights Publishers, San Francisco, 2014)
To my relief, I learned about quasars through Diane diPrima’s The Poetry Deal. I was relieved at the lesson as what she taught me, quasars, gave me a prompt for writing an engagement with her book. The Poetry Deal was released in 2014 but I didn’t think to review it until recently because I anticipated there wouldn’t be much I could say that others have already said: the book, as the publisher’s description offers,
is the first volume of new poetry in decades from legendary feminist Beat poet Diane di Prima. This collection provides a personal and political look at forty years of Bay Area culture, often elegiac in tone; the book captures the poet’s sense of loss as she chronicles the deaths of friends from the AIDS epidemic as well as the passing of illustrious countercultural colleagues. Yet even as she laments the state of the city today, she finds triumph and solace in her own relationships, the marriages of her friends, the endurance of City Lights, and other symbols of San Francisco’s heritage.
What can one—or I—say that’s worth saying or that others (including blurbers Michael McCllure, Amber Tamblyn and Micah Ballard) hadn’t said before?
Yet, there’s a new President in town, ushering in a new type of society. And I remembered di Prima’s book which, as a memoir, described a way of life scratched out and woven together by someone who very much understood her center from which she would live her chosen life. That “center,” as I put it, is poetry: she determined at age 14 that there “was no reason [she] couldn’t do what these folks [Keats, Shelley, Tom Wolfe and others] had done. No reason I couldn’t at least try. At that moment I made what I knew would be a life-long commitment. // From then onward for many years I didn’t let a day go by without writing.” This is revealed by the book’s opening, her Inaugural Address as a former San Francisco Poet Laureate.
The book ends with another essay, “SOME WORDS ABOUT THE POEM.” Between the two essays are poems. The poems include the title poem “The Poetry Deal” which, among other things, draws my attention to quasars and focuses me on them for the first time (of course I’d heard of them but hadn’t paid them much thought prior to the nudge from di Prima’s poem).
As she explains in her Inaugural Address, the “you” in The Poetry Deal is her poetry “Muse.” To said Muse, di Prima says
I want to say that I don’t want anything
but the whisper of yr scarf as you do
the Dance of the Seven Veils
soft sound of yr satin slippers on the carpet
and the raw, still bloody meat you toss my way
that I chew on, all night long.
I don’t want anything you don’t already give me:
trips to other worlds, dimensions of light
or sound, rides on the back of a leopard
on those black rocks, high over
some sea or gorge. But it isn’t true
I want all that, sheet lightning of quasars
that you dance between, those colors, yes,
but I want you as mother, sister
stone walls of the cave I lie in
in trance for seven days, the mist around my cabin
that makes it invisible.
I want the flare & counterpoint of words
The poem continues on to describe the contract she was willing to make with her Muse: to always choose the Muse above all else, especially (she adds later in the poem) because the one exception she would have chosen ahead of the Muse—her kids—no longer (at a certain age) impedes a total commitment. Yet this poem ends with
I stand before you: a piece of wind
w/ a notebook & pen
which one of us is it dances?
and which is the quasar?
To understand di Prima’s question—to understand the poem—or at least to better understand both—I had to learn more about the quasar. Here’s an image from NASA/ESA of an “artist’s concept…(of) a quasar, or feeding black hole… where astronomers discovered huge amounts of water vapor. Gas and dust likely form a torus around the central black hole, with clouds of charged gas above and below. (You can read more from Universe Today’s aptly-titled article, “What is a Quasar.”)
Isn't that image lovely?! And, in the above image, you also can see to what di Prima refers in her lines
I want all that, sheet lightning of quasars
that you dance between, those colors, yes,
But these lines are immediately followed by the very down-to-earth line
but I want you as mother, sister
There would seem to be a contrast between the notion of dancing between the lightning emitted from quasars to the more earthly buttresses of a mother and/or sister. But what di Prima’s life proves is that there is no contrast, no binary, in Poetry between elements seemingly at odds with each other. The book’s ending essay, “SOME WORDS ABOUT THE POEM,” is a life-earned ars poetica, which includes
Poetry holds paradox without striving to solve anything.
There is, to answer the ending question of “The Poetry Deal,” no need to choose either to be the dancing lightning or one dancing between lightning versus to be the quasar, source of lightning. In Poetry, one can be both—or, it’s best to be both:
Poetry is our heart’s cry and our heart’s ease. It constantly renews our seeing: so we can speak the constantly changing Truth.
The lessons (of which I cite just a few) from her ars poetica essay resonate more when one knows of the life di Prima has lived (if you haven’t already, check out her Memoirs of a Beatnik and Recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years). Her lessons aren’t theoretical—they are proven and distilled from an actual lived life.
This leads me to why I was moved to pick up the book again. In “SOME WORDS ABOUT THE POEM,” di Prima also writes:
Poets speak truth when no one else can or will. That’s why the hunger for poetry grows when the world grows dark. When repression grows, when people speak in whispers or not at all, they turn to poetry to find out what’s going on.
Poetry holds the tale of the tribe—of each and every tribe, so when we hear it, we can hear each other, begin to know where we came from.
Since the presidential elections, I’ve heard more than one poet express the fear of getting the attention of the new administration which, after all, has not shied away from threatening those who would disagree with its policies. These poets shared their fear, and then, what happened? Well, they are poets, and so they continued on to protest—loudly—through their writings as well as their actions.
One can be scared of something and also rush to engage that something—that’s a paradoxical act facilitated by Poetry. For offering this reminder, this affirmation, di Prima’s The Poetry Deal is not just recommended but timely.
As for quasars? Well, over 20 years after they were first discovered, scientists came to agree on the “active galaxy theory as the source of quasars” such that several types of objects—quasars, blazars and radio galaxies—are actually all the same thing. They were thought initially to be different from each other only because they looked different when seen from different angles. This active galaxy theory raises (in classic Poetry leap) this question: is No. 45’s new administration really a … new threat?
Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea Resurrects. Her 2017 poetry releases include two books, two booklets and three poetry chaps. More info at http://eileenrtabios.com
Posted by EILEEN at 8:00 AM
Sunday, February 26, 2017
RUNA BANDYOPADHYAY Reviews
Animals of Dawn by Murat Nemet-Nejat
(Talisman House, 2016)
[Editor's Note: Runa Bandyopadhyay's review for Galatea Resurrects of
Murat Nemet-Nejat’s Animals of Dawn is a first in English for this
It was a cold night of December 17th, 2016. The occasion was Kaurab International Reading Series at Kolkata, India. Poet Murat Nemet-Nejat was reading his new book length poem “Animals of Dawn”. Breaking the cover of oyster the pearl was engraving the architecture of animals, plants, speck of dust, dew, of dawn with colour and without colour. A purple grief from the surface of his realization was flying towards me from dark to light, from real to unreal. A sinless tear was laughing on his sensitive lips as he was reading through the book. A terrible disaster flashed on my earlier realization of Hamlet. A new feeling started swinging at the confluence of appearance and disappearance myth.
Yes, this was the scene when I met poet Murat Nemet-Nejat with his “Animals of Dawn”. After the reading series I came back with the book and a resonating trace of emotion for Hamlet, a metaphor of the creation, desire of the poet. Then I started my reading. At the very beginning Murat‟s desire zoomed in his voice,
“I want to make Hamlet, to dis appear.
The lightning that didn‟t strike made me disappear completely.” (P-2)
When we start searching the concurrence between exterior and interior, when we understand that reasoning is so useless, scientific truths are not permanent, all relations are relative, every moment is changing with respect to me then we start jumping from our first life to second life (poet life). Here we see a journey of a poet to search the metaphor between void and non-void, real and unreal, living and un-living, sanity and insanity. Murat‟s “Animals of Dawn” is not a comparison with Hamlet, but a metaphor.
During my journey through “Animals of Dawn”, the first question triggers to my mind; Why Hamlet is the subject of “Animals of Dawn”? Why not the other plays of Shakespeare? The answer lies in the poet’s hunt for a definition of time. Hamlet is an act where time and consciousness play the major role throughout the act. Compression of time is a general characteristic of any play. But in Hamlet to achieve this compression time is not represented by concurrence of events. Rather a time gap is inserted as a significant duration. During this duration Hamlet’s attitude towards time has changed. Apparently the movement of Hamlet may be in same pace with Claudius but his consciousness of duration makes him aware about his slowness. This duration is brilliantly implanted in “Animals of Dawn”. Its essence is reflected in the poet’s idea of horizontality of time. According to him time is defined by attention, not by memory, because memory is deceptive, therefore vertical. But attention has only intensity and duration, so horizontal, as Murat said vibrantly,
“All experience exists on a field possessing colorations collapsed onto a flat field. They – star like- flash at different times, captured by a solipsism of the mind’s attention, That discontinuous capture by mind of a point in a continuum - that is chaos – is what consciousness, a,k,a, time, is.” (P-39)
Hamlet is a story of moment. No past, no future. Hamlet’s hesitation increases the duration of the act, which is the subjective face of time and hence mind’s attention. As poet says brilliantly,
“In Hamlet the distinctions in the structure of time isn’t between past, present and future, but in it’s passing; fast moving slow moving time” (P-47)
Let time be illusory. Wonder will see all boundaries are breaking around. If you tie up space- time, all laws of science will breakdown, like breaking of first love at fencing. For the duality let’s go down to relativity through classical water-stair. Wonder will see infinite has held your finger.
The next characteristic is consciousness. How can we define it? Is it the soul as the poet defines it? According to Orch-OR (orchestrated objective reduction) theory of consciousness given by mathematician and physicist, Roger Penrose, “consciousness is derived from microtubules within brain cells (neurons) which are sites of quantum processing”. Again, as per spiritual belief the soul is immortal, death can’t destroy it. Then what about this consciousness? Does it exist even after our death?
Being a scientist I was searching the answer obviously through science. Not fully satisfied. Then “Animals of Dawn” pointed out to the bridge between science and Sufism. According to quantum theory there is a concept of quantum coherence. As Roger Penrose said,
“The brain’s material structure enfolds a quantum state at its most unimaginably sub-microscopic level. When not impinged upon by neurochemical activity in the surrounding tissue, the least excited state is preserved.”
If we can decelerate our neurons to this minimum excited state, we can create a state of quantum coherence between our consciousness and Brahma, the Absolute. This process is called spiritual meditation in Indian ancient philosophy. If we believe consciousness was there in the universe since the start of time, the Big Bang, and our soul is part of the Absolute, then difference between soul and consciousness dissolves. In Sufism, mirror is the site where God, the human mind and nature can see themselves in each other’s reflection. Poet has implanted beautifully,
“Infinite possibility doesn't mean freedom, but that it may happen infinitely but of maybes
Infinite possibility, within finality
that is the pharosrhythm perception of freedom
as gestures of maybes
object ivities in a mirror existing
in continuum.” (P-35)
In fact everything depends on our perception. The sole question of living and un-living (whether consciousness exists after death) gets dissolved by poet’s spiritual belief,
“to be it, does it have to exist?
god is it, whose essence, is non-existing.” (P-34)
Existence - we are always in a whirlpool of this word. In stream of life we are always in the search of our existence. Life is a continuous journey but our existence doesn‟t exist in this continuum. Rather lies through duration of an instant. If we see time as duration, all walls of existence will be washed away with invisible waterfalls. Make time illusory by remembering after-glow on the bed, where you spread a picnic blanket on the night of first love. Wonder will perceive the dismissal of your real time...
“In the music of time there’re no bars.
The time, that is within time, is chaos.
In the heart of chaos, in the chaos within chaos, motion disappears” (P-39)
“Hamlet’s is a language of the soul progressing towards dying.....dissolution of the body towards the un-human and un-living...The dichotomy in the play is distilled in its concept of time as speed and slowness, their duality.” (P-69)
Hamlet‟s movement is towards a zero point with speed but his desire in consciousness slowed down this speed for a progress of real to unreal, living to un-living. The zero point appears to be “a drop of dew that the soul may convert into tears”. As the poet magnificently writes
“Two Bubbles of Time Collapsing”
“The implosion jumping from one time space to another, two bubbles, accelerating speed clashing and its healing through slowing
towards a vigil, of tears
or lack thereof alas!
towards zero point of stasis
which is dying
Or its lack thereof alas!” (P-45)
The zero point is like the false vacuum for infinitesimally small instant of time before Big-Bang. Its existence is like a drop of dew. But the potentiality lies in the conversion to tears, where our consciousness comes into play. The zero point rings the bell of attraction of Brahma, the Absolute. That was the point of germination of the soul, i.e. our consciousness which makes our journey from real to unreal, from living to un-living. Our existence is still searching the value of unit of soul through science. If we think it as constant, the horizon problem will fasten on our finger. Will be the philosophy of life become too flat? Answer lies in poet’s Sufism reflection about speed and slowness in Hamlet,
“The two are irreconcilable. Though they point to the same facts, like convex and concave mirrors reflecting each other, the wall in between is unbreachable. That unbreachableness (the way the consciousness of the living, the real, the rational cannot breach into the consciousness of the un-living, unreal) is at the heart of Hamlet’s mysterious power” (P-70)
“Time is forgetfulness in Hamlet. Everyone forgets though protesting otherwise” (P-33)
Polonius forgets in between conversation with his son Laertes, Hamlet forgets Ophelia, even the ghost. Also creator of the characters, Shakespeare seems to forget what happened from one scene to the next in Hamlet. It triggers the question to me, are we losing anything by this oblivion characteristic? The poet saw the oblivion as-
“Dream's steps towards erosion...
No, dream's half steps towards illusion...
No, no!... death's half steps, towards oblivion... oblivion... “ (P-52)
Most of the time, Hamlet forgets the goal, the revenge. He is preoccupied with other things, like his calm exercise of judgment, his hesitation, which are the essence of Hamlet. A rhythm of forgetfulness, exploring metaphysics on suicide instead of revenge, is its irresistible entropy. The forgetfulness reflects as loss if we see our life on a continuous frame of reference. But actually life is a story of moment. Hence there is a link of the concept of different time zone. To recover the loss we have to cross a reverse threshold. An instant on the threshold of not remembering is the change of time zone like the humming bird approaches the moment of jump,
“Before we part did
A moment we share together
You having placed a small nutrient vial of translucent liquid on your porch
And I, watching birds dipping into them
In instantaneous darts
Do you remember?” (P-55)
When I enter into the last phase of the book, I encounter a quantum jump of poetic form. Most part of the poem has created a space, a lot of space for reader. But the last few pages are just like a script of a film, even covering the full page. Why this transition, I asked the poet during Kaurab International reading season. The poet‟s answer was, „a relief for reader‟. Means with a lot of space also the reader gets bored and want to have something continuous script like structure, where the reader can flow away with the panorama made by the poet, just like cinema.
Poet has assimilated carefully script writing form of cinema. A three dimensional picture has been drawn nicely with the help of two dimensional words, giving the illusion of depth in perspective. The degree of a realization, the source of a feeling has been placed in a spectacular series of pictures with words. He presented the scene frame by frame up to the tolerance mark of our perception. The correct combination of position and juxtaposition makes the picture so attractive that it draws full attention (which is again the poet‟s definition of time!) of the reader. I will like to quote from an essay “Cinema and the subjective factor” written by Mr. Ritwik Ghotok (a famous Indian Bengali film director) :
“All art in the last analysis is poetry. Poetry is the archetype of all creativity. Cinema all its best turns into poetry”
In a reverse way I can say Murat’s last part of the poetry has turned into a successful script of a cinema. This transition, from the frame of poetry with space to the frame of film-script, is an irregular jump; I can say a quantum jump from void to the matrix motion. I will slightly differ from poet’s view of reason for this transition. Truly speaking the space in the poem is a vital issue for me, personally. I am in the middle of my new experiment where I construct my own poem sitting in the space created by a poet in his poem. I am going to publish a new book regarding this subject from Kaurab publisher in the International Kolkata Bookfair in January, 2017. When I read a poetry book, if the poems trigger me, if I can assimilate the original poems in my way of realization, then I can construct my own poem from the original one. In this process deconstruction comes into play first. Then I spread the assimilated feelings in a continuum of my way of life and construct my own poem with an internalized language. This process demands a lot of space in the original poem. Therefore I will say this change of poetry form in Murat’s “Animals of Dawn” is a phase transition.
The poet wanted to capture the view of Hamlet, where Hamlet‟s main objection was against the second marriage of his mother. The detailing of each snapshot with illusive creation of continuous motion is a perfect reflection of this view. Instead of relief, reader gets a pleasant journey through the scenes. I will say this is a fast moving cinema where flow, dimension, movement has been captured with correct words. A proper speed, oblique hesitation of vision, gap between scene and the zooming technique has been properly installed to make it a visual poetry, where each frame has been stitched aesthetically.
Script is not the poetry, a form of poetry. I like to see the whole book as a single poetry. During the journey through this poetry different feelings were zooming in, fading out, some conflict, were getting mingled with my consciousness. But the homogeneity of Murat’s poem is capable of transcending all feelings of conflict. For me journey through Murat’s “Animals of Dawn” has become an excursion of searching the relation of my present position in the background of infinite periphery, where “the interior marries the exterior in the womb”. On the surface of cold evening of December, I spread all void, tied on my finger, on jingling water wave as Murat was reading his poem. The shallow layer of emptiness washed away with tune without tune with the sound of his poetry. A face of eternal evening woke up at the navel root of expanded night.
Poet, Essayist and Translator Murat Nemet-Nejat was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and lived in the United States since 1959. He studied literature at Amherst College and Columbia University in the United States. Murat Nemet-Nejat is the author of several books of poetry like The Bridge, The Spiritual Life of Replicants, Structure of Escape, a 7 part long poem and most recently Animals of Dawn. He is the editor of Eda: An Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry (Jersey City: Talisman House, 2004). His books of translations also include Ece Ayhan's Blind Cat Black and Orthodoxies (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1997) and Orhan Veli's I, Orhan Veli (New York: Hanging Loose Press, 1989).
Ms. Runa Bandyopadhyay, from West Bengal, India, is a poet, writer and reviewer in Bengali language. She is the Scientific Officer in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, India. As she herself says: "Philosophy, history and science are the subjective face of my poetry, but not the subject itself. I roll down from subject to wonder, to confusion of object in a centripetal travel. Weaving the truth of moments with silent tears, I start writing the alternative history of life-river. I like to review those books which trigger me to write my own poem in my own way." Her books include: poetry, “Aseemer Khelaghor” (Playroom of Infinite), “Tamas Journal” (Journal of Darkness), “Poroborti Songbad” (The Next News ); reviews, “Antarbarti Pangkti” (Between the lines), “Tamoser Alokbhromon” (Light-travel of Darkness); and stories, “Parankotha” (Word of bosom), etc."
Posted by EILEEN at 10:30 PM