January 2010

Jacquelyn Davis


Aim Straight at the Fountain and Press Vaporize by Elizabeth Marie Young

Most imaginative, to the point of popping your threshold for poetic tolerance and casual comprehension, Elizabeth Marie Young's Aim Straight at the Fountain and Press Vaporize is not so interested in rhyme schemes or concise line breaks, but more with perfecting a mini-narrative flow. Each poem in this sequence is packed to the brim with almost illicit words and inscapes -- a mixture of the fantastical and the quasi-theoretical. Winner of the 2009 Motherwell Prize, this poet and classicist shares her slippery creations of both dialectical and intellectual composition. Some might find themselves on a word-starved journey towards an alienating escapism or double-take. 

Lyn Hejinian states, "Let us declare that one of the tasks of poetry is to linguisticate -- to create refulgent and extraordinary language-worlds and rule over them with wit and felicity." Let us also declare that we should try to do it a way that hasn't been done before, or in a way that makes our work stand apart, giving words deserved significance and weight. It can be said that some of Young's micro-worlds are more accessible than others, that some of them ring more ground-breaking and mystifying, but each one should be approached with childlike zeal -- like a new game or puzzle -- as well as with the maturity of one who knows that each time one reads Young's microcosms, they might discover a totally different meaning. For the experienced are often more familiar with the concept of very little remaining constant over time.  

The reader might approach these poems as if they were keyholes into a textual Möbius strip of temporary enlightenment. Yet, these twisted bands of words may or may not always speak to the reader. Waxing and waning between privileged perspective and questionably random cocktails of irony, charm, silly imperatives and cloudy declaratives, the reader might have difficulty breaking down lines, such as: 

I suppose I could have jumped. Instead, I flirted with an inkling, mumbling angelically, "The  kitten only has one eye." Flubbed ordinary tasks (our kvetching boomed straight on the kisser). Rooms the sizes of children's teeth evacuating monks. To journey, emberlike, across a hairless nipple tipped with life as varicose as dreamwork's Ptolemaic fracture. It's like sure, vavoom, you know.

It is true that some readers are whimsical and often hard to satisfy, that many of us on an off day don't always want to take a writer's journey, especially when their words on that off day may appear intangible or bourgeois. Aim Straight at the Fountain and Press Vaporize may be guilty of ignoring some necessity to respect certain readers' prerequisites. Or maybe: this absent necessity has instead replaced relevance and emotion with an onslaught of lexicological tricks and all too audience-specific props. On the other hand, much of what we read today reflects a kind of unfathomable nihilism and egocentric unwillingness to give you what you want -- or think that you want. Must we dig and dig again to find a connection? It's just as much our obligation as it is the writer's to keep digging. Young is definitely pushing her way through mind-bending terrains of thought, even if I'm saving my shovel for another day to sully. Young writes: 

Excuse my French but fuck it, angel, I've got something to say.


Aim Straight at the Fountain and Press Vaporize by Elizabeth Marie Young
Fence Books
ISBN 1934200247
64 pages