Christina Strong / Fifth Plateau from Pink Adrenaline Star / Propolis Press / 2011
There is very little poetry written that is self-annihilating. I don’t mean that the author of the poem is annihilating herself – I don’t mean that the readers are annihilated by the poems – I mean that the poem is annihilating itself.
Christina’s poems do this.
The poems are mad at themselves – for causing themselves to exist / for having to cause themselves to exist. The words and the phrases stand in a relationship of aggression to one another – it’s as if each phrase and word can’t stand it that there have to be other words and phrases on the page. And why should it? – Why should it put up with such a singular affront?!
The poems are studded with numerals – as if to remind us that there’s definitely more than one language going on at any one time / to say that we shouldn’t relax into a language without knowing what it’s doing to us. There are also dots of various sorts / asterisks / other punctuation that is just being where it is (as opposed to doing what it (usually) does). Many lines are indented about one l-space / which raises (but does not answer) the question / why? – that question then transfers itself to the entire poem / and to the entire poem-making project. Reading these poems leaves you with the impression that much is going on that you can’t discern / and I’m sure that there is – I’m also sure that it has to do with the fact that there isn’t.
The poems are not personal in the evident sense of that phrase – they are personal in an automatic sort of way / as if they were whipping themselves into being (as if they were whipping themselves into being what they are) / robot creating robot / genome creating genome – this is pure creation.
At the same time that these words are confronting meaning / hating it / hurting it / and not letting go – they are a discrete and very punctual music. In the midst of this onslaught / rather more “usual” bits of phrasing emerge (for a bit) – if we legalized / reality – marvelous for words – the well as with heroin in feeling. mild disorientation. – the / name is made – finger the mess – you want tu feel mysterious – but these “normalcy” touchstones only serve to remind us where the rest of these lines reside / and that we don’t know where that is.
Perhaps Christina is trying to accomplish the de-literatization of the reader. It’s a heady possibility!
The poems are about what the language can do to itself.
The shards of language glitter / and reflect back from the dystopian ground of this fascist country.
Fifth Plateau is somewhat like John Coltrane’s Ascension – it occupies a space that no one can get beyond.
If it were to end / it would end like this – preaching to the choir...staying relaxed and / FireBall comin...
Poet and essayist Alan Davies was born in Alberta, Canada, and earned his BA from Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts. In the mid-70s he edited the poetry journal A Hundred Posters. As a Harvard summer school student, he took classes taught by Robert Creeley and Octavio Paz, and he also...