12.08.2004

Because I have two reviews due and a "selected" for Ahadada, and am on deadline, I am trying to post little reviews here which are overdue and asking poets to send my .pdf rather than books, since with the books I feel very, very guilty if I don't review and I have stacks and stacks of them needing reviewing ASAP. I am the proud recipient of a review .pdf of Antidotes for an Alibi by Amy King. First photo I've seen by the mysterious Ms. King.

I hope to assign some of these books for review at sidereality in my new capacity of reviews editor.

Amy King
Antidotes for an Alibi
BlazeVox Books
ISBN 0-9759227-5-0
2005

These poems read to me like poetry versions of flash fiction. Now, I like flash fiction very much, but I like the more fabulistic kind. Amy King is writing the fabulistic kind of flash fiction -- I want to say, "the good kind" -- in poetry. What does this mean? Well, when lineated, the line breaks in the poems point to the jumps in the narrative. When not, the poems still take the same little leaps that poems take. I guess I'm struggling with the new sentence this morning. I am not seeing "torsion" as I understand it, nor am I looking for it -- I am just saying that these poems have little leaps in them that flash fiction of a similar type does not. For example, this poem, "Evening In," is a story of screening a particular kind of call:


Evening In

Mother phoned the premature death
of father to me. A machine shuffled
her words. I played back the story
of my childhood and grieved.

Now, I would probably end the stanza here, or title it something different. In any case, the evening in begins with a message in a machine. I would think flash fiction might use "the machine" and not jump so quickly to "story of my childhood."


After
dinner, blocks of toddler teak wood
fell, then floated, mistaken for cork.
Household acts boiled over Aunt Max’s
black pot rim where we succumbed
to the likelihood of work. We were all
enchanted when the little kettle dripped
and wrote proverbs to complete our pact
with amazing accents. Dessert hints
wafted past raised cups of homeground
coffee, whiskey-tinted, under
the blue haze of living room light.

In this second part of the poem, the progression is chronological. After dinner, some french press coffee and dessert. I don't think "household acts" and "dessert hints" would be in flash fiction. They are too mysterious. Interestingly, the references to fables and fiction continue, in "enchanted," "writing," "proverbs," "pact, " and "accents." The line break after "dripped" makes it unclear whether the kettle (presumably whistling) is writing or that "we" who are enchanted are writing. But overall, a little story of a poem, which is recognisably a poem, not fiction.

In the next-previous prose poem, "Land into Sea," the jumps are between sentences -- I don't see each sentence doing as much heavy lifting as in a poem, and I see bigger jumps between the sentences. I also see bigger jumps -- associative ones -- than in fabulistic flash fiction. It has the logic of some poems where the themes are established, play together a while, and then reach a conclusion. We start with a relatively concrete example, a fabulistic but also realistic fear:

On the car-hugging road, I am shocked that one day I fall
asleep and the stray dog could die.

Not the road is hugging the car, not the car the road (as car commercials would have -- did you know most city car commercials are filmed in downtown LA?). In any case, car, road, sleep, dog, death. Very clean and neat. Then, out of the shrubbery at the side of the road -- a crowd.

These orders of truth awaken self defense, so urge the crowd, “Betray yourselves.” Every fugitive deserves retreat at depths the bathysphere can’t reach.

Who is the fugitive? The narrator? The dog. The dog and the narrator. The narrator is more likely to fall asleep and die than fall asleep and kill a dog. I.e., life is fugitive. So you see, by figuring out the difference between the first sentnce and the second sentence, you've got poetry, because flash fiction tends to spell this sort of stuff out, not point all sorts of different directions. But, note, this is sentences which are addressing different people and having different characters, not necessarily "torque-ing" as I understand it.

since lame-o short reviews usually mention the title, I'll say -- I like this title and the way is points to the flash fiction in poetry theme. For what is an alibi, but a very specific sort of potentially verifiable narrative. And what is an antidote to that, but the fabulistic.

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