Click through for a review of 23 TEXT TILES & TRAPEZOIDAL JUGGERNAUT / SPIRITUAL TURKEY BEGGAR BASTE MECHANISM, the fifteenth & sixteenth in this full-press review series of Calamari books.
Two chapbooks with one stone is what we are doing here, reviewing both the solo chapbook 23 TEXT TILES by Derek White as well as the dual-chapbook (flip style like David Ohle’s BOONS & THE CAMP) of Sandy Baldwin’s SPIRITUAL TURKEY BEGGER BASTE MECHANISM (Screenplay for Kung Fu Opera) & Derek White’s TRAPEZOIDAL JUGGERNAUT (Circus Script for a Mestizo Child Abduction). & while I review each of these chapbooks individually here, the similarities in these two chapbooks are striking & they become very easy to talk about all at once.
So first: 23 TEXT TILES by Derek White is a clear early-career look into Derek White’s process & style, the way in which he mixes words & art to such an extent that they become images themselves, on the entire page, & as such I can only realistically re-create an excerpt from one of the poems here:
from ‘Criminal Possession’:
Eating eggs this morning on the news
expired subway cars were being dumped off a barge
21 miles off the shore.
Activists blow the whistles, calling this
I took the 5 down to the Brooklyn Bridge
(13 minutes early) passed over the African Burial Grounds.
A grass lot incarcerated by a cyclone fence and yellow
“Police line do not cross”
This is Centre street Manhattan
& though I have great admiration of White’s confidence in his own voice, the result for me is mixed. Some pieces in 23 TEXT TILES nicely push me to think hard about words & art, but other pieces lose me entirely. I try to find my way in but feel left outside, in the snow, without a coat or a decoder ring for these puzzles.
& this criticism leads me to the dual-chapbook of White & Baldwin, which to me is much less comprehensible & has even more of a feel of ‘unbreakable code’, writing with imbedded symbolic images that make it quite difficult to read. Even to quote it correctly here is nearly impossible, but I will try nonetheless to give readers at least a semblance of its pages:
from Baldwin’s ‘Spiritual Turkey Beggar Baste Mechanism’:
Scene I Legless Collider’s House
Legless Collider sitting at a large table with a large book of accounts open before him.
Fight I An old woman clothed in gray (one of the ho-hum imps).
Option player thruster
11 milers per hour
Scene II Legless Collider, Filch
Filch: Mister Randy! Mister Randy!
Legless Collider: The benefits of weapons in enzymes croaked dummy.
Filch: Wharbe ye? D’ye want to skeer yer Aunt Marthy plumb to death?
Legless Collider: Strategy.
from White’s ‘Trapezoidal Juggernaut’:
While the gas was pumping, F-P enters the Qwik-Mart and purchases a box of Sunrise Henna hair dye. Suppressing the desire of integration of time and money [symbols I cannot recreate here] @ Los Alamos, he loiters for two house outside his son’s grade school. Waiting is the medium in which we Exist … we are subject to it’s contemplation.
Bell sounds: Travis emerges with Todd and Geo. Ride bikes with playing cards strapped to the forks—the cards shuffling in the spokes. All for the helio-gyroscopic effect [images of playing cards of a sort] [ [ [ card images & letters with arrows ]
I do in fact thrive on experimentation in literature & really enjoy an author who pushes me to read differently or challenges the way in which I see words, but these two chapbooks both ended up seeming like a code written to stay locked from us, like books of cipher to which no translation is given. Even when typing in these excerpts I cannot recreate the images or even the language use without inserting symbols or image files that I don’t have access too.
In short, while I didn’t hate these chapbooks, I simply felt too lost to enjoy them. So it goes sometimes, especially when presses or authors take risks. I commend the risk, but I cannot understand the lit.
Next up, a chapbook by Derek White that I greatly enjoyed: O, Vozque Pulp. See you then.