Oana Avasilichioaei’s Beastly identifications

Oana Avasilichioaei. We, Beasts (Wolsak & Wynn 2012).

As her list of ‘comings & goings’ (ie, allées et venues) at the end suggests, Avasilichioaei’s square, black, new book is a carefully designed mishmash of theory, fairy tales, animal fables, & poetics. One of our best poetic bricoleurs has been hard at work.

We, Beasts begins with a nod to Antonin Artaud, his attempt to add ‘another language to the spoken language,’ all the ‘mysterious possibilities that have been forgotten.’ But of course, Avasilichioaei is a poet, & although she has begun to use various technologies to supplement mere speech in her performances, she still has to use language as such. Language as such can do a lot, though, & she does a lot with language in this extraordinary, demanding, & highly entertaining book. There seem to be individual poems, yet everything serves the book as a whole, as a single (or double) work.

‘The Distant Song’ sets the stage:

—-To the crow we give bread, give river

—- What longing, friend, longing for you

—-To the crow we cast the lighthouse, cast sky

—-What distance, friend, distance from you

—- To the crow we gather seed in summer

—- What longing, friend, longing for you

—- To the crow we disrobe the towers of winter

—- What distance, friend, distance from you

—- To the crow we wind the wisteria, the sob

—- What longing, friend, longing for you

Birds, their own servants, bird us the longing

of landscapes, orating distance, milled years

Language, humanity, animality, all is malleable, & this book will be proof of that, both now & in the past. A long section, indeed perhaps it’s most of the book, titled ‘Crow Hour’ follows & Avasilichioaei immediately starts playing with expectations, splicing lines in her other languages into the mix. Sound alone will make a song. But allusions make a reader engage. To what hour, indeed, does ‘once upon a time’ refer? The crow to which that song called ‘slid on a moon ray / lit your chamber’ while ‘time slept next to you, changed colour.’ And it’s the slides & changes in the myths, legends, & stories by which we live that Avasilichioaei seeks to draw, out, here.

So there’s the lyric intensities of what appear to be the ‘Crow Hour’ poems & then, suddenly ‘The Tyrant & the Wolfbat A tailing or a Telling,’ which seems to be a sequence, but is broken up by other sequences & lyrics, including the separate ‘chapbook; on grey papers, Spelles, an insert of glosses on a medieval manuscript, The Gospelles of Dystaues. The weirdly torqued tales of ‘The Tyrant & the Wolfbat’ leave & re-enter, as do other songs & verses. The reader is invited to make any number of connections among the many & varied entries in this collection of possibilities. ‘We’ are ‘Beasts’ but the beauty of our telling ourselves so takes us beyond that limitation while reminding us that we can never escape the body of truth that is our animal inheritance. Or that’s one way of reading this rich & strange book.

We, Beasts is a confusing delight, deliberately so, but its pleasures are many, its disturbances part of the pleasure. With each new book, Oana Avasilichioaei demonstrates that she is a poet of profound exploration, one of the ones we need to pay attention to.

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