This Poem: Adeena Karasick’s road of excess

9780889226999Adeena Karasick. This Poem (Talonbooks 2012).

The first thing to say about This Poem is that it’s a lot of fun. Talk about playful: puns are in full force, neologisms proliferate, & internal rhymes, all manner of soundings explode. Among Karasick’s many acknowledgements, there’s one to ‘Charles Bernstein’s “Thank You for Saying Thank You,” from which This Poem was born.’ But it’s a feisty bastard: where the Bernstein is ironically straightforward minimalist understatement, This Poem is the mad clown’s circus tumble, as excessive as can be.

That begins with its Foreword, which clearly forewarns & will either welcome readers in (as it intends) or ward those who don’t like this kind of thing off, already parodically demonstrating the game to be played: ‘Whatever your reason for visiting, This Poem will offer a perfect destination spot. . . . Insert it in your firewall, your slippery systems, resonant splendor, and release yourself into a rolling surface current of cascading triggers, t’issues, steaming in the magnificence of polychromatic euphony.’ In fact, the Foreword intimates much of what happens in the rest of the text. This Poem sets out to comprehend the total contemporary (multi)cultural surround. Where the Bernstein poem undermined a particular understanding of ‘the poem’ & its ‘meaning,’ This Poem seeks to expand the reach of all poetry, but especially This Poem, which ‘is also working on a 4G network,’ &

Counting its corollaries
managing its waste. Living beyond its mean
ing: comes equipped with
a bibliontological all-access pass

And is going public

I could quote page after page just for the pleasure of this (sounded) text. This Poem is, among other things, a performance piece, & its best performer would be Adeena Karasick (I’d definitely recommend catching her if she ever performs in your neighbourhood). But it does so ‘in a vexed nexus of philio-illogical lexis / flexy excess.’ Still, because it is so strenuously playful, it can slip in many bits of sly, allusive (cultural/social/political) commentary that slowly accumulates among all the words at play in the fields of the word, advancing an oblique critique of consumer capitalist culture & its workings, as, for example, when it ‘is disaffiliating itself from its own whiteness’ or when

… it has been repeatedly invaded
by bands of plundering scandals
visiglots and pirating spirals

but continues to strut and fête
upon its merry page like an
alfresco catwalk of committed partiers

And there are reasons scattered throughout for this, ‘‘cause nobody knows the rubble it’s seen.’

Having taken her readers on such a wild ride, Karasick provides the light entertainment of ‘Rules of Textual Etiquette / A Gentlewoman’s Guide,’ with its illustrations by her daughter. It works as loving parody of those 18th century guides to behaviour but can also be read as a helpful commentary on This Poem’s manners. Speaking of illustrations, Talonbooks has gone the extra km in presenting Blaine Speigel’s gorgeous slide images, which colourfully expands (upon) the text.

Although it’s certainly not to everyone’s taste, I thoroughly enjoyed This Poem, & was, at least while reading, infected by its infectiousness. Readers who enjoy extreme wordplay, & the sense of sound, will do so, too.

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One Response to This Poem: Adeena Karasick’s road of excess

  1. shemurph says:

    Doug, I appreciate this review, as it very aptly takes us where this splendid poet performer ventures. I heard Adeena perform in 2000 at the Boston Poetry Festival, and loved every moment of the dazzling work. Thanks for the great reading of this book I’ll want to read.

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