Posts Tagged ‘Arthur Rimbaud

21
May
16

A Surrealist Response to The System: On Les Kay’s The Bureau

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in a future issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics.

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Les Kay – The BureauIn the mail a while back, I received a red file folder with “STRICTLY PRIVATE” printed in black on an angle across the top half for the front cover. In the bottom right corner is a rectangular box with the following printed words inside it: “Corp. Personnel / Research File / No. 42,” where 42 is handwritten in black ink. Opening the file revealed a few things. One is the title page on the recto side of the folder. It is bound at the top by metal spear binding clips threaded through two holes at the top of the pages and folder over to keep the pages in place. On the inner side of the front folder-cover is a sheet of paper with “The bureau loves you” printed all over the page in a deliberate design format with many variants in the typing, such as “THe Bureau Loves you,” “THE BUREAU LOVES YOU,” “The Bureau loves you..” (with two periods), and “THE BUREAU LOVES YOU>THE BUREAU IS COMING” in the last line. These lines, as well as the rest of the “book,” are printed in a typewriter typeface (complete with some letters receiving more ink than others), thus further suggesting that this is some long-lost FBI file from the 1960s, and maybe it’s a file on some subversive poet. I’m not sure what is really going on at this point. This feeling is furthered heightened by an Agfachrome film slide (like one of those film slides for the old Kodak Carousel, with a piece of film bound by cardboard), and this film slide is held to the title page by a paper clip. Holding the slide up to a light source reveals an aerial view of fields, like those square ones you might see flying over Iowa or South Dakota. There are also three linked tree rows that look like a backwards Z or half a swastika. I think I see a building, too. It must be top-secret base holding aliens and alien technology, or in the least the headquarters to a secret service organization. Who knows what’s buried below? What conspiracies and future technology? Who knows what the following pages (including the “Inspected By 23” tag between pages 17 and 18) in Les Kay’s The Bureau (Sundress Publications, 2015) will reveal about all these mysteries. I’ve never been so excited – and scared – to read a book of poems.

In the beginning, it appears the speaker is a prisoner in The Bureau, which seems to be a high-level and top-secret psychiatric ward, as well as a risky production facility for food products, “Ennui” and time, and these poems are seemingly entries in the speaker’s journal. Within The Bureau, the speaker interacts with “a collie [. . .] learning Spanish,” the inhabitants “tast[ing] infinity,” Arthur Rimbaud, Sir Isaac Newton, Smithson, Paul Valéry, Madame Curie, and The Bureau’s CFO, whose name is either “Satan,” “Stan,” or “Satin.” Amid these writings will sometimes appear text in red typeface, as if commentary from an observing psychologist, The Bureau, or another voice in the poet’s head making commentary on the poet’s observations. Eventually, we learn The Bureau, located in South Dakota, is a test facility to “test the market for surgical figurines / that can be transformed easily / into fallen soldiers, thus penetrating into / several markets with removable plastic spleens” (“Movable Parts” 11). The speaker we learn, however, is no ordinary prisoner – he’s an employee with important “impact studies to be filed” (“The Stranger” 13) and a marketer searching “for a musician / Banned from writing her songs” (“Rimbaud’s Prayer” 14). It turns out, he’s a worker within The Bureau, and he misses his lover, whose name he forgot. In other words, because of his work there, he’s forgotten what he loves.

By the time we get to the final pages, which are mostly redacted, especially the last page where everything is redacted except for “The,” “Bureau,” “loves,” and “you” (“xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx The xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx” 27), we realize this semi-surreal book is a commentary on the corporate and capitalist system in which we are conditioned to live. It’s the repressed voice of all us 9-to-5 and 9-to-6 and 9-to-7 and 9-to-8 workers, who feel unable to express or experience our true desires, writing songs or poems, and where “Rimbaud is no longer Rimbaud” (“Integration and Incense” 16). It is the voice the system represses in our trade-off for comfort and the bills that accompany those comforts. It’s the voice every worker knows but silences in order to survive, though we all know survival does not come from The Bureau loving us. The Bureau, the system, is “A strategy of victimization [that] leads to a lack of culpability” (“An Apple That Falls” 20). Les Kay’s The Bureau, however, conjures a voice for the victims in response the oppressor’s culpabilities, and it is not comfortable, as Kay’s speaker makes us aware of our working-class mechanisms to repress our desires and how and why it happens.//

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Kay, Les. The Bureau. Knoxville: Sundress Publications, 2015.

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You can download the text pages as a free PDF here: http://www.sundresspublications.com/TheBureau.pdf

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30
Dec
12

Melissa Kwasny’s Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry, 1800-1850 (2004)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before appearing in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 4/5, which was published circa early 2005.

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Melissa Kwasny's – Toward the Open FieldMelissa Kwasny has compiled a collection of worthy essays by poets on free verse, or the movement toward free verse, beginning with William Wordsworth’s “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads” & up to & including Charles Olson’s “Projective Verse.” As with all anthologies, there should be some surprises, or unique opportunities that are seized, & both are had here. Included in this collection are two often overlooked essays: “Modern Poetry” by Mina Loy & “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” by Langston Hughes. But that is not what makes this anthology a unique & exciting collection of poetics. What puts this anthology over the top & is it contains essays from poets of non-English languages, including Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, André Breton, Federico García Lorca, Paul Valéry, & Aimé Césaire. Kwasny’s Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry, 1800-1950  (Wesleyan University Press, 2004) also comes with a decent “Selected Bibliography” for other sources of essays on poetics, but it does lack an index.

I recommend this anthology for every poet’s library as a great reference & to remind us of where we came from & what we are trying to do. I also strongly urge that every MFA program across the land incorporate this anthology into their creative writing poetry classes, as a historical primer for free verse. This anthology is too beneficial for our younger poets to overlook. I do hope another volume comes out that features more essays from 1950-2000 by more contemporary poets. There is always growth in poetry, & there has been significant growth since 1950.//

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Kwasny, Melissa. Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry, 1800-1950. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004.//




The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

Poems for an Empty Church

Poems for an Empty Church

The Oldest Stone in the World

The Oldest Stone in the Wolrd

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Pre-Dew Poems

Pre-Dew Poems

Negative Time

Negative Time

After Malagueña

After Malagueña

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