I saw Nick Sturm once in a dive bar, I think. He had a ponytail. I thought, “I like guys with ponytails.”
The cover of A Basic Guide is either a yarn mobile, the meanderings of a dragonfly when stimulated by a drop of sugar, or a rough sketch of a sailing frigate. It’s by Amy Borezo, who has a history of time and motion, intersections of paper, interactions of words…It seems an apt choice for a book cover, this artist.
I have a ponytail. My enjoyment of ponytails is entirely self-serving. It makes me feel less alone.
A guide is an appropriated form. The world is potential structure. Lorrie Moore wrote a guide. Ander Monson wrote a guide. Here’s a cool one by Melanie Rae Thon. A guide seems to imply an alembic of knowledge, this idea possibly used as ironic, as conceit, or as straight up earnest.
It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not gentle shower, but thunder. We need Sturm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.
There is a wistful nostalgia here that kindles of Richard Brautigan. This longing is transferred through an accumulation, not through explicit yearning, so then A Basic Guide becomes a sort of kitchen drawer or curio cigar box—it shows, but yet stores away, creates a poetic idyll, a space: horses, petticoat, jubilee, levee, these types of wonderful that might be leaking away, might be in need of storage, little mysteries to keep in a Mason jar.
“The way the kiss stays locked in the machine.”
“…but the past was like a bleached coral reef.”
Once my ponytail was “He’s sort of a cute hippie.” Now my ponytail is all, “age-inappropriate/flaky/I bet he has a ‘writer satchel’/guy you see at AWP” sort of thing. But that’s OK. Things change. Like can be hard, but there are beautiful things, too, you know.
Margarita buckets, for example. “History of Waterfalls.” “…drift into the soft frame of the forest.”
At the bar Nick read a long poem about either lemonade or tomatoes (I forget), but the audience responded well, very well, and Nick said, “This poem is 11 pages long!” and did that thing where you throw down the page after you read it, toss it on the concrete floor like it’s conceptual art or some statement on the condition of contemporary literature, or the history of literature (99.9% oral and floated upon the waves of sound), or maybe just a comment on motion, the theoretical underpinnings of several of Amy Borezo’s artifacts, or maybe Nick was just tired of holding 11 pages of paper in his hands.
Also I get a Thurber feel, so much word play, so many animals. I wish we all read Thurber more, just for the word play, just for the play.
Another appropriated form is the LIST. Example:
Driving alone is often an occasion to contemplate freedom.
What I’m looking for is not clear.
Sunflower on the overpass.
Ponytail at the office? Appropriate?
One of the finest texts here is about the abyss. I enjoyed, “Many believe the abyss has four chambers like the heart, that it tastes like copper.”
Occasionally the more contempo world appears—text messages and enchiladas—but these only serve to heighten the nostalgia, the way a flashback illuminates the present, if done correctly.
The energy of a bundle of hair is a function of the average curvature of the hairs (ie, the overall shape of the ponytail), the potential energy due to the gravitational field of the earth, and average force per length due to the statistical properties of the individual hairs – their points of contact, waviness, split ends, whatever.
A lot of people are fatigued of reading what is supposedly literature, what Mark Kingwell recently described as, “…the realist novels of the middle-class condition…” Here, Sturm offers relief. He is imaginative. He has scissors as characters, he has faucets. (Yes, they do run.) I thought of Amelia Gray, or Shane Jones. BTW, is anyone going to make Light Boxes into a fucking movie?
I already said Brautigan, and like Brautigan, Sturm creates a thing. You carry around a little slice of the world.
Yeah, and I went straight into a fantasy world. Just stepped straight into the abyss. You know, I was gone and kids used to walk past my front room, cause I lived on the green.
Some people are fatally attracted towards an abyss while standing on its very edge.
Sometimes the author writes a line and it crystallizes for a reader (me), sort of microcosms what the text did: “Think of the architecture as an unusual window.” Yes.
The stuntman Sailendra Nath Roy once pulled a locomotive with his ponytail. He also holds the world distance record (82.5 meters) for ponytail zip-lining, with only his long hair connected to the wire. In April of this year, he attempted to best his own record in ponytail zip-lining. Unfortunately, he did not succeed.
Strum writes, “The hummingbird in my heart says hello.”