June 2013

Lara Rossana Rodriguez

poetry

Obscenely Yours by Angelo Nikolopoulos

In the Notes to Angelo Nikolopoulos's debut collection Obscenely Yours, the poet discloses to us that the italicized words and phrases in his poem "Letter" belong to the common names of roses. For this reason, among others, I christen the lover of Obscenely Yours Der Rosenk÷nig: The Rose King.

Like Werner Schroeter's color-saturated baroque fantasy, Nikolopoulos's poems read as highly sophisticated, choreographed events -- scenes, if you will. The first section of Obscenely Yours, aptly titled, "Director's Cut," encourages us to envision Nikolopoulos's poems as cinematic spectacles. Love is like that, cinematic, that is. For "The first thing we love is a scene -- / a well-lit place where ravishing happened."

In part, we learn how to narrate the ravishing, the fall in and frames of love through the movies just as we do from lyric poetry. Otherwise, "how else to know the thing / if not through symbolism?" However, Obscenely Yours features scenes of courtly love that are stylized, edited, and cut so much that it seems little is actually left on the cutting room floor. Still, each cut counts. As Nikolopoulos writes in the poem "Obscenely Yours: Scenes Two and Three," "You need the particulars. They matter."

For every scene, there is a constellation of particulars, and lodged within each is an event, a legend, a trick, a prick. The epigraph by Roland Barthes to the second section, titled "A Lover This Coarse," bears witness to that particular prick as "that accident which pricks me." And so it pricks me too, this strange echo of some secret nettle. The prick I feel in "A Lover This Coarse" is the bittersweetness that it is a homonym of Barthes's A Lover's Discourse.

For Nikolopoulos, the poet makes a ruse of the rose, recognizing that a rose by any other name is usually just another name for eros. Sometimes, this eros is the eros of male desire. At other times, this eros, as in the poem "Letter," is like Duchamp's drag moniker -- Rrose SÚlavy. This is to say that the roses of The Rose King, are the product of the poet's lust for language. It is often this lust for language that drives the poet on. He writes, "I've been at it all day -- / belle amor, hedge fire, / great maiden's blush --"

What better way to play than to play with oneself, "elbow deep in rose hips," appreciating "Dick's delight, Ida Belle / And proud Mary, ole!"

The list goes on. Among my favorites, "Pam's pink, salmon spray --"

Like the rest of the poems in Obscenely Yours, part of the obscenity in "Letter" is that it is paratactically perverse. But such a parataxis is the poet's gift, for it bespeaks and betrays its own perversions begging the reader, like a lover, to "Remember me. Respond."

And so we do, possibly considering once again Gertrude Stein's adage: "a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose." Perhaps what is most impressive about Nikolopolous's new book is that it accepts Stein's challenge, and does so with a sense of grace, humility, and dignified beauty, fit only for a king.

Obscenely Yours by Angelo Nikolopoulos
Alice James Books
ISBN: 978-1882295999
96 pages