There’s a little jewel of a poem by Kathryn Regina at Opium called “I Want to Know You.” It’s playfully humorous without being sarcastic, earnest without being sentimental—the tone is dead on. Simply put, it makes me smile.
In the poem, Regina speaks endearingly to the second person pronoun, and one is first compelled to think she’s addressing you, the reader.
As the poem moves forward, [you] begin to suspect she’s referring to something bigger, with Genesis and/or Purgatory light/fire allusions like, “I want to know every fire you have ever lit,” and the clever, “Do you have the internet in your pinkie?”
That she is speaking to Jesus is confirmed with “Tell me how much sadness/ there is in your body and where it is located.” With a simple line, she conveys more about the Passion than Mel Gibson ever dreamed. And there’s this minor epiphany: “You feel like email to me.”
The poem works as an e-generation hymn. It’s so odd to come across a poem that’s so optimistic. She ends it with a surreal kick: absurd, haunting, and beautiful:
I want to know everything about you.
What kinds of trees appear in your dreams
and what whale is beached in your room when you wake.
I don’t know if Regina is religious, and I don’t think that’s the point. Christians ruin Christianity with hypocrisy and hubris (and the constant ‘holy wars’ aren’t helping the PR). This poem may just well redeem this whole Jesus thing, as it reminds us of the simple act of love. Non-sexual, non-platonic. Just love.
Perhaps she’s speaking to you after all.
Longtime wildman Shya Scanlon, who’s been creeping in the postgrad corridors of Brown, just released a chapbook through the Literary Review. Free for download and titled POOLSAID, the book is a series of short prose poem surrealist-ish snippets that bring to mind Ben Marcus or some other semi-absurdist deconstructive freaking.
Either way, it’s a quick and fun read, with sentences like: “Her tin pigs coo and crow as mother window-sits, though standing, and scalds a fingertip and frowns, kitchen faucet cocked.”
Good blather mashed with odd visuals, yes.
J. A. Tyler’s writing has caught my attention with his fairly (uncommon these days) old school ‘modernist’ approach. Think of William Faulkner and/or Virginia Woolf’s obsessive hermetic space. I call it ‘brainy fuzziness.’
He seems focused on timeless narratives—with hardly ever any pop references non-intrinsic to the human condition. This is real dangerous ground to tread, because it’s painfully boring when not done well.
I usually respond more to edgy vernacular, with prosaic and almost glib tendencies; but J. A. Tyler really hits some stunning lines, especially with “In Their Palms” published recently in Pequin:
“And he woke to the light of a still white wall and an up-tilted palm holding stains of pills begging water and tears.”
“She held her palm to the sky and the ceiling and smiled and slept and pierced him with her lashes. And she smiled. And his sun shifted in its sky.”
There’s also lyrical play in the ‘palm’ motif, as he repeats alternate versions of “in their palm/in her palm, etc.” Tyler seems cognizant of the spatial implications of words or phrases, almost like e.e. cummings coaxing the eye down the page with words which act as tonal notes. Tyler writes one line paragraphs “And he went,” and “And he did,” (the ‘and’ phonetically paired with other one line paragraphs “An invisibility,” and “An affair.”)
It’s refreshing to see such intricately composed writing and restraint from today’s ironies in writing, which I’m shamelessly guilty of, but that’s neither hear nor they’re.