09 September 2011
A, a, a, a, a
Chris Daniels has produced a clutch of essential chapbooks with his Berkeley Neo-Baroque imprint (only one of his MANY projects!). Of the recent chapbooks, however, one has left an indelible impression on my reading: Sara Larsen's A,a,a,a,a (the title of which begs comparison, of course, with Zukofsky's big "A" but this one begins less ostentatiously again and again and again with more interest in chance, imperfection, imbalance, and a disunified speaking subject in flux).
I had the pleasure of seeing her read from this work over the summer, and I was struck by how powerful these poems are in person, in the air. She read with David Brazil in this lush garden, like a scene from a Pre-raphelite painting, but the aura was disrupted by her super fierce delivery, like Corin Tucker from Sleater-Kinney as the subject of a Rossetti painting: part riot grrl, part earth goddess, part post-Marxist militant. Larsen's one of the few poets of her cohort carrying the torch of poets like Diane Di Prima and Anne Waldman, but she's channeling their energy without "reproducing" anything: this project might have "spiritual" antecedents, but her line is her own.
In A,a,a,a,a, Larsen makes pointed reference to Wallace Berman and his Semina (including the punctuated image of the aleph: see Semina #7), which leads me to read this as something of a homage, but there's so much more at play. Here's one of my favorites (though I won't get the spacing right using Blogger's editor):
love the savior true nature of spermaceti grace
joy sorrow have not seen you, wavecrest tranced
between yr boots whitewashed transit comes kohl-eyed of
the crown and bethinks thee of the albatross.
behind these frets, pioneers. a pupusa that speaks of travellin
g, i no longer forogt this sleep, send me free i remain but
aleph, the one on your hand.
i do not know what to bring to tophet, nor what is sacred.
i can only hit at darts of a Great Whale that has shown
up in a material dream
the hells are everywhere we are empty-handed with
emptiness of their innards
the despot eye that follows their forms
Needless to say, this chapbook is worth your time. Don't sleep...