Monday, July 14, 2008

Uche Nduka, coworker & poet: his work discussed abstractly

routes at stake.
frontiers of tragedy.

websiting, hitchhiking, freighthopping

crumbling under


circus tumblers,



under the catafalque of bridges
under the garlanded streams
under the frenzied rivers
under the hounded seas.

-Uche Nduka, from eel on reef, pg. 113

Eel on reef (152 pgs) is strung together stacks of words, reef-like, sometimes jagged & dense, sometimes long & smooth. Without at least a few more reads, I couldn't begin to list, describe or define its subjects, topics, points. But the excerpt above suggests, in conjunction with further reading, Uche's interests is more invested in the boundaries and frontiers between things and places, than with the objects themselves. The words in the excerpt can be detritus as both object and wordobject, the object of each signifier locked in a vaudevillian past, discarded, but the signifier still "at stake" & "in route," but jeopardized through use. 

Uche's images, in those rare moments when they are static enough to be seen, are surreal in the most rational & jarring kind of way: the non-fantastically surreal, the uncanny & everyday displaced kind of surreal. He does it with questions on page 87:

how can i say in words
things i didn't
understand through words?

how serious can i
take the suggestions of 
this river searching for an ocean?

how involved are twisting
suckers in boyism in girlism?
who sponsored water
in the ventures of my land?

on behalf of whom
do stars dissect the night?
who surrendered to water
a portion of a salt hill?

And then again, more forcefully, and occasionally addressing the reader, on page 68:

a noontimer stands, aims straight
and kicks the gathering shit
with the argot of shit
pray pray from him

the prodigy's tongue is 
for grilling and the iced shit 
borne in gales of gray
is for drowning

let's read then the thesis
of a buffoon and proclaim
the apocrypha that is 
making our ears salivate

go ahead and die
you horde of doom,
framegrabber brasstender!
the earth start whelping on afternoon in june. 

Old Testament Spaghetti Western? 
The surreal: salivating ears, tongues for grilling, iced shit for drowning, a microcosm inhabited by the likes of noontimers, framgrabbers and brasstenders. Even "kicks the gathering shit," peddles a hazy image of shit gathering itself before a boot comes along to blast through it. 

The blurb on the back of eel on reef compares Uche to John Ashbery and A.R. Ammons among others. Perhaps, like Ashbery, Uche explores the possibilities of book-length poem/experiments with language, but he does so more playfully, with sharp brevity, winding his lines and breaking them. Uche is more like Mayakovsky, or even at times, Marinetti, two poets capable of what I might describe as intimate experimentalism with words. There is a definite focus on the motion of words & things, and most often, wordthings. He doesn't seem to differentiate between the subject he knows the reader can identify and the signifier who's subject is itself. 

I'll wrap this up with a poem from a series of his included in issue #4 of The Recluse (edited by Stacy Szymaszek, Corrine Fitzpatrick, and Arlo Quint):


Going for a tentmaker's fly-swatter. Finding our way by the light of a burning oildrum. Opposites attract but do not stay together for long. 12 dialogues with scabs. Blue earth brown skin. Steel toecaps hitting the hibiscus. Might like you, might like you the way we like the dogs of light. 12 dialogues with mesquite. Alternate takes & vocal throwaways. Consider cutting loose. Off-the-cuff power glut. But this is only one side of it. Of refusing to trim one's sails. Of refusing imprimaturs & being rabble-roused. For we don't mind if the day fries in its own fat. We don't mind losing ourselves in the scissions occupying june. Black orchid, blue moss: the quotidian is theirs. They may heed a hunt or heed a tremor. Beyond a shale, beyond a ravine. We can make you a gift of silence if you promise not to slim it. It's 2.30am. Dawn pulls at granite. And they can be found here-burning crosses, swastikas, nooses, drowning in generalities, thriving in details, over curbs, over projectors, over this city that first found us spooning. Distaff, carrion, towel. Midlevel tagline mixing hymns & stolen goods. What wanes won't be perfidy. Growing apart, laddering, curving in, inseparable exactitudes. A day taking a sip of soot. Double back, acrobat. Unspool a block watch, pull down a flying rock. You need a grid panel. I need pub talk.


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