25 January 2012


Ten years ago, Slope Editions published Biovac, Laura Solomon's first collection of poems; since then, Ugly Duckling Presse has released two more books by her.

Many of the poems within Biovac contain abstract images and an elevated diction that produce a poetic density necessitating the audience slow down their reading and hone their focus so as to access these poems. The opening lines of the incipient poem "Gallows Holus-Bolus" provide a perfect example:
The noose is smug and to the point
that it pretties and offers succor. It shines
up to the point where I leave you, roadside
off again to bandy the bounty beneath your tongue. (1)
That a "noose is smug and to the point" is clear enough, at least in the sense that, through personification, we understand it to be prideful and exacting in its duties; likewise, that fact "that it pretties and offers succor" informs us that it provides both assistance and glamor to the act of killing oneself (or execution). But, afterward, we find that it "shines / up to the point where I leave you, roadisde /off again." Certainly, one could make assumptions about how a noose "shines," but given the previous personified context, the work of unpacking the second sentence is a bit more difficult.

While readers could take exception to the trajectory of the poem, the conclusion of the the second sentence offers two distinct elements that both save the poem from frivolous lexical wanderings and provide us with an example of the poetic maneuvers found throughout the collection. First, we encounter the alliterative "bandy the bounty beneath"; such phonemic repetitions infuse the poem with a musicality that enables us to enjoy it on an affective level through an immersion in its auditory characteristics. Second, all this occurs (both in the poem and within the reader) "beneath your tongue"; to this extent, the poem employs the body as a trope, as well as offering a meta-poetic statement.

Even when one considers these postive traits, the speakers of Solomon's poems acknowledge that language, both in this book and in general, is problematic. The poem "Its Hologram Emergin from the Stainless Steel Spout" tells us that "A sleep-talker in an alien language, / these think Germanic words never fully express our desire" (7); we find a sentiment similar to this, albeit more violent, in the poem "Letter":
Afterward, when they hack off my head and my tongue lies slack,
my body will dash at the pointing, stupified crowd.
For now, this is all I can vow.
This is the way our body will persist in its bend toward sunlight
despite the slimness (10)
In this latter case, a mutitlated body with a "tongue [that] lies slack" can no longer speak and now only has the ability to stupify its audience. But even in this stupification that is a "slimness" of understanding, the tongue, the body, and, yes, the poem "will persist in its bend toward sunglight" and its yearning for, if not understanding, at least desire and pleasure.

There several exceptional poems in Biovac, particularly "So Hums the Muted Bugle," "Meet Me in the Mess Hall," "Coup d'√Čtat," and "To Continents," but I want to close by quoting "Good Evening My Friends (and you are my friends)" in its entirety because it encompasses the aforementioned abstractness and elevated diction, as well as the trope of the body, musical elements, and meta-poetic commentary all within a relatively compact thirteen lines in a deft and beautiful manner:
Runtish miscreant, do not be mistaken.
No one is as solipsistic as I.
Not even Pappy Hugh with his poor diction,
Misdirected knocks and thuds. The sunsets,
Indeed, were all prop, and the grizzly occurrencies
Closet other fictions too terrible to mention—
Even this quick synopsis is a dead giveaway.
Decrepit shall dub what may be set astrum
Until, at last, you blabbermouth the lyrics you thought you knew,
Though by all accounts receivable, the radiowaves
Eclipsed your body long ago and the platitudes now
Clank at your skull. Suffer the chump change they offer,
The awful thump of your two feet left. (54)

1 comment:

  1. I like the below poem alot from her 2nd collection also.

    First Banshee

    It comes out of arson
    bearing aprons of berries.
    It comes in stealth,
    not by night,
    but by prolonged days
    that resemble the final
    white cinders.
    By a river without warning
    it comes in pith,
    with wings at the shoulder,
    blades at the breath,
    to turn water into anything
    but ice is a miracle.