EILEEN TABIOS Engages
POROUS BORDERS by David Giannini
(Spuyten Duyvil, New York, 2017)
FOUR PLUS FOUR by David Giannini
(Country Valley Press, Carson City, Nevada, 2017)
RICKSHAW CHASM with poems by David Giannini and collages by John Digby
(New Feral Press, Oyster Bay, N.Y., 2017)
“Shutters,” the book’s first (or second if one considers the Preface a poem) poem in David Giannini’s new book is a powerful opening and good articulation of the book’s theme as presented by its title, POROUS BORDERS. An equally strong representation is the ending to the poem “RAVEN”:
Looking for berries, the raven flies in and out of the fog.
“RAVEN” is immediately followed by “Old Pillows & Time,” which is to say, the ending of the former is immediately followed by the beginning of the latter. The latter begins:
The feathers under your head keep leaking from
their cloth case. They want to return to the
fowl who tried to fly south for the winter, but who
instead wound up slaughtered, plucked, then
eaten. What now, become mawkish, Porous?
I was 4/5 poems into the book when I read the above combination of the transition between the two poems. From the above excerpts, I was delighted by not just the transition between the two poems but also the unexpected question/insertion of the nature of mawkishness. That transition/combination made me believe that continuing to read the book will surface pleasurable surprises, and that the surprises will be layered. Thus, I believed ahead of my read of the rest of the book that the poems will befit porous borders in non-normative ways—“non-normative” is the word that comes to mind as I write this review, but, of course, the concept of “normal” is unstable and such, too, seems a fitting thought to surface. But let me begin again by sharing the pleasingly powerful first poem (click on images to enlarge):
After the above poem, other incidents unfold in subsequent poems that affirmed my faith in the book, incidents like the witty beginning of “Soft Water”—
Collecting around rock and branch, snow at
the edge of the field becomes white stags. Wind
swirls and these deer blow back and forth across
the road, something Porous in sight.
—to the seasonal recurrence of flowers suddenly intensely fraught by being articulated in “Oso" as
In Oso, dandelions return with a vengeance.
There are also curious elements, though the following example I highlight is also one that, for me as an adoptive parent, contains logic: “Deflagrations, A Fairy Tale” where a child conceives his parents rather than the other way around.
As well, there is the eerie push-and-pull depicted in
As well, there is the eerie push-and-pull depicted in
The skewdness that elevates these poems arise in part from Giannini’s sharp powers of observation; here’s another example from “Valentine”:
No wind can stand not to bump into something.
A starving wind chases cardboard boxes down
the road. Even winds crossing deserts strive for
an upright bit of cactus or camel, while wind
over waves makes of the waves lewd motions
and spit, and dunes take the shape of what
wind occurs to them.
Logically, the effect can be vertiginous—here’s how “Alibi” begins:
As Porous tells it: In a canyon a sound was
very hungry, as hungry as a mountain lion, so it
went looking for ears.
Finding no ears among the canyon walls, the
sound didn’t know it was also an echo.
Logically, too, there’s much lucidity in these poems, such as this excerpt from “Quotes, A Collaged Letter”:
One of the strange things about poets is the
way they keep warm by writing to one another
all over the world….A correspondence is
poetry enlarged. There are two worlds—nature
and the post office.
The above made me laugh. To be a poet is to be intimate with one’s local post office. I know all of the guys in mine. And I recall May Sarton referencing her post office too in her famous journals. The above poem continues on to deliver another on-point line:
I have never known anyone worth a damn who wasn’t irascible.
Though not universally true—if only because I know non-irascible people who are worth more than their weight in gold—there is sufficient truth in this observation to elicit empathy.
What’s further interesting to me—though I suspect this effect is also logical—is how there’s a discernible strain of the ominous through the book. For instance, in “Yoga,” there’s the line
It is night; just listen
which, later in the poem, turns into
It is night; and it listens.
That’s one of the strengths of this collection: its poems freshen ominously. Indeed, the way the adjective becomes somebody, a creature named "Porous," is to create somebody that's a bit discomforting. It’s a testament to its power that after I closed the book, I put several other books atop it as if to ensure it remained closed. Now, after having just written that prior sentence, I wondered if I was being over-dramatic. So I took it back from under the pile and opened the book at random … to find this:
“war, red beaches”? That’s some minimalism. I tried another random opening of the book, which brought this:
Maybe Giannini just writes killer endings (sorry, couldn’t resist).
So, okay: Yes, I recommend this book, but I also recommend you shut it tight after you’ve opened it to read it. For borders are porous.
RICKSHAW CHASM and FOUR PLUS FOUR
Giannini also released two chapbooks in 2017: RICKSHAW CHASM and FOUR PLUS FOUR. Having first read POROUS BORDERS, I was not surprised to find—and delighted in the finding of—the same mental agility that allows the poet to swerve in his language and deliver pleasant surprises. Here’s the deft first poem-and-de-facto-prefatory-poetics from FOUR PLUS FOUR:
The above is convenient for not just being an effective prose poem but for sharing the poet’s thoughts about form (form=content, obviously in this poem).
RICKSHAW CHASM offers a layer of enchantment from collages by John Digby juxtaposed with Giannini’s poems. Digby’s juxtapositions are as marvelous as the textual combinations found in Giannini’s poems. Here’s a sample of both; in the chapbook, these face each other effectively:
With all three publications, David Giannini has delivered poems that result in poems that are deeply-satisfactory in pleasingly-unexpected ways. I thank him for the experiences his poems provide.
Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea Resurrects. Her 2017 poetry releases include two books, two booklets and five poetry chaps. Forthcoming later this year is a new poetry collection, MANHATTAN: An Archaeology (Paloma Press). She does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor, except when the review focuses on other poets as well, which is the case in this issue's review by Freke Räihä of her TO BE AN EMPIRE IS TO BURN!. More info about her work at http://eileenrtabios.com
Thank you for the sweeping reviews of my three books--a total surprise, and that you found pleasure in them pleasures me, of course. Interesting, too, that you use the word "logical" (or some sense of that) several times. That would not have occurred to me.
There's a slight typo in the line you quote from "Raven"--should be
"Looking for berries, the raven flies in and out of the fog."--not
"flew." Also, some of the poems, as printed on your site, suggest
lineation in a way that is not with the justified margins in POROUS and RICKSHAW; whereas all the prosepoems in those books are as monoliths or upright vertical slabs. Anyway,deep thanks for your words!
I'll correct the typo of course in Raven poem.ReplyDelete
Yeah...I can't promise reviews ahead of time. But I just read as widely as I can and whatever books compel me to review them end up being the books I reviewed. So Kudos to your Porous Borders! Really pleasurable read!
P.S. IF you wish to email me a way to correct lineation, feel free to do so. I just copied them as presented in book...Delete
Thanks for correcting the typo, Eileen!ReplyDelete
Also: all margins are "justified", that was the only point. I just tried copying them, with their "justified" margins, but they don't reproduce here at your site, for some reason! Thanks for all responses, in any case.