Secondary Sound by Justin Sirois
“the more I share, the more capital I receive. You’re a copy
of a copy, you’re a file rife with fire – in the ownership
society – in spite of normative code
let yourself be free & collect the monthly allowance
think about meme
—Justin Sirois “paralysis by analysis”
Secondary Sound, Justin Sirois's first full length collection of poetry, is a fun read through our current cultural situation in which new media technology and information gathering and distribution is constantly growing and changing. Comprised of three sections, the book defies the simple label of "poetry" through its use of multiple genres. Largely composed of poems in verse, there are also prose pieces that read more like short stories than they do prose poems, text messages, lists, and company memorandums. Like a walk through the city where one encounters flyers on street posts, advertisements on subway walls and the sides of buses, overheard bits of conversations, chants yelled by protestors, music overflowing from an open window, and text messages straight to your pocket, information comes from every direction, and for sirois, this experience of information is a valid and vital source for poetry.
The page marking section one introduces the character Pirate and his mission: "One: Bell -- in which a Pirate is hired to create the most alluring ringtone known to man." From there we follow Pirate through his journey as he develops a ringtone for the pervasive media conglomerate Group Grope -- a journey that leads us through an organic grocery store to purchase tea (choose from HonesTea, RealiTea, IngenuiTea, BrutaliTea), past zombie performance artists calling to "Kill the death tax," into a folk psych-rock club in search of tickets to a secret show, and ultimately onto a ship called The Embarcadero whose destination is Stolen Kitten Island. Though it sounds far-fetched, Pirate's voyage is very easy to relate to and is very much a story of the present time.
In addition to the average poetry reader, the clever details throughout Secondary Sound will also appeal to theory jocks, pop culture fanatics, and tech junkies. Sirois masterfully documents the world in all its absurdity and glory as Pirate’s hero, the Well-Balanced Buccaneer, text messages his friends on his new keyless iAye, and the Grope Group board “Nikes this Converse sound into commercial licorice.” Topical and hip, Secondary Sound exploits the language of marketing and advertising in a period of time where workers have been transformed “from cashiers and bartenders to information workers nearly over night."
The book also offers a commentary on piracy, from DJs who are arrested for underground mixtapes to individuals being sued for downloads by major recording companies. Sirois seems sympathetic to the idea of free information and sharing: "It's not thieving if you're copping a copy of a copy," and admits to a past growing up “recording the sounds of ourselves, then traded each other inside cassettes decorated with highlighter, glitter, Sharpie, petrochemical wonder.” In this world Pirate is both critical and complicit, “a necessary evil in the gift economy” who is “just trying to work here.”
Generation Web 2.0 is user-generated, hypertextual, and backboned by social networking. Pirate advises to “Google yourself to make sure you’re good / both in quotes & without quotes.” Even though death lies ahead of Pirate, he knows his profile and homepage and avatar will wander forever. A book this concerned with new media is sure to have an online presence. You can become MySpace friends with the Grope Group or visit their website (www.gropegroup.com) for internal memorandums and job opportunities.
In conversation with his friend Jim, Pirate comments “Ridiculous.” Jim asks, “What part?” That seems like an appropriate question. It is all nonsensical, ludicrous, and silly, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Secondary Sound by Justin Sirois