Sunday, June 04, 2006

60 lv bo(e)mbs by Paolo Javier

O Books, 2005

Reviewed by Geraldine Kim

60 lv bo(e)mbs is a contemporary epic/net of experience that snags everything from Tagalog to Murakami to Derrida to Aaliyah to Allah to Horace—leaving the reader in a space beyond words, perhaps something of the pre-lingual/pre-conceptual—operating/exploding via the fragment, and in doing so, reinvents the fragment itself.

In “The Id Markings” section, for example, the fragment gives voice to the subconscious/pre-lingual, as suggested in the poem, “Paolo’s Silence:”

      islands blanket the sea          dulcinea coma caters to fresh cadavers

      tremble a notch          humid          invested          bases
      local mental kargador electric suggestion
      the heroic mode divided into swings
      why umbrage          adore roses          practice in doses on me

      August arrival          in medias res the last of my          Infinity
      two parallels          coo where, po?          pose to my enemy brasses

The unsaid/pre-conceived is exposed by “divid[ing it] into swings” or “brass”-knuckled fists that are hurtled at the reader, in the midst of a found rhythm, “in medias res.” The reader is left in a timeless “[i]nfinity,” caught in the “two parallels” of reading the text both sequentially/consecutively and visually/immediately.

There are also “swings” within the fragments themselves. In the line, “dulcinea coma caters to fresh cadavers,” “coma” could be the English word for a state of prolonged unconsciousness and/or the Spanish imperative, “eat.” “[D]ulcinea” or “sweetness” is like the melody of the line and “coma” splits the line into a bass tremor of unconsciousness and a soprano scream of cannibalistic horror. “[H]ear me waltz, note all kindness” is a line from “37” that also shares this musically fragmented fragment idea—where the rhythm of the three-syllable waltz is broken by the “-ness” of “kindness.”

The fragments, when repeated, also act as a computer algorithm and/or mantra/refrain. The repetition of “corzine,” “Trysteaser,” “my Alma,” “coo, where po?,” “vent Kai,” “crepuscular,” and “why hyenas” (among others) are positioned in different contexts/syntax, similar to the way Aaron Kunin’s “Sore Throat” poems work within a limited vocabulary. There seems to be some unspoken/internal/unconscious logic, some program or pattern that dictates when/where these words manifest themselves.

This algorithm idea is further amplified in “Paolo’s Lust” where, similar to “Corpse & Skull” and “My Alma,” “Paolo” is repeated, in the context of the relationship with “Alma” or “spirit.” The author becomes a character through repetition of the subject: “toddle Paolo’s verse... algorithm…si Paolo as a rule?” The word “Paolo” becomes an “algorithm[ic]” “rule” that asserts its presence through repetition.

In “English Is An Occupation,” the repeated word of choice “Paolo” “occupies” in the sense of military occupation, mental space, and/or a job/commodified labor: “today Paolo occupies you, today Paolo occupies you.” Though one would think the repetition of “Paolo” as the author’s subjective thoughts are what occupies the reader, it seems that here, English or language, is what frames our conception/perception.

These repeated fragments also signify possible censorship, as the poem, “Corpse & Skull,” seems to show:

      Interest host plebian lost Hamas tell corpse & skull
      Missile the taste of us ardent lust corpse & skull

      He must persuade Trysteaser’s corpse & skull
      Kal-El liberates all semper fi symptoms in all corpse & skull

Here, the fragment seems to point to the existence of the unsaid through the repetition of “corpse & skull” at the end of each line. Though censorship blots words out, by constantly reproducing the censored term (in this case, “corpse & skull”), the unsaid is made apparent through what covers it. In “A Tale by the Trysteaser” this trope is made completely apparent: “YOU WILL CATER TO DELETE / EXPLETIVE.” The words that are censoring are in bold and centered to promote the existence of what is deleted or censored.

For “My Alma,” a similar mechanism is used. With the repetition of the phrase “my Alma,” like a prayer, the phrase cannibalistically “access[es its] own zombies.” One must “access” one’s own spirituality; the relationship with one’s spirit is distant and electronic; the line, “emailing my Alma,” suggests that the transcendental is parallel with earthly experience, like email.

In another section, “Combat Lap,” where “lap” could be another circuit or an action of the tongue, the poem, “Gulp Air,” uses the fragment in a performative sense:

      “Honey, do we list to star a schooner’s mysterious disarray?”
      (Highest marquees act to convolute or shun hicks.

      Lusty pair knocks boots auspiciously, unless primness harasses
            their stray asses.

      Kiss n’ telling on homey Alma squanders their m.o.

      Gulp air.)

The fragments caught in the parentheses are used almost like stage directions in a play. The use of the fragment in “A Play, A Play” is also performative. Paolo, Love, Villa, and Nietzsche respond to each other:

      LOVE: Do you remember when we used to roar?
      PAOLO: I do. I remember going to church every week.
      LOVE: (in a dancehall reggae voice)
            Hey mister mentioned, ask yourself this question:
            Have you ever stopped to think what makes a girl cheat?
            Have you ever asked her if she likes only whole wheat?
            You need to check yourself before you start kicking teeth…
      VILLA, & * NIETZSCHE: (ibid)
            …cuz you’re not ready for this yet, boy!

Each speaker embodies each fragment, literalizing the polyvocal quality of the text itself. The off-handed quality of the stage direction “in a dancehall reggae voice” adds to the spontaneity of the lines, suggesting the musicality of the fragment as well.

60 lv bo(e)mbs explores the fragment and its uses by contextualizing it in different surroundings, performing it, repeating it, having it fragment itself, making music out of it, and having it expose the unsaid through censorship and through the “two parallel” readings of the visual and the sequential. This book challenges our approach to text and suggests that which is beyond our language’s conception is what we should be conscious, a paradox that is frightening and complex and open to multiple interpretations.


PAOLO JAVIER is the author of 60 lv bo(e)mbs (O Books), and the time at the end of this writing (Ahadada), which received a Small Press Traffic Award. He lives in New York.


GERALDINE KIM was born in 1983 in West Boylston, Massachusetts. A graduate of New York University, she is currently pursuing an MFA in Fiction and Poetry at San Francisco State University. Her work has been published in Dicey Brown and Fourteen Hills and her play, Donning Cheadle, was chosen to be produced for the SFSU One-Act Festival and SPT Poet's Theater. Her first book, Povel, was the winner of Fence Books' 2005 Modern Poets Series and was named as one of the top 25 favorite books of 2005 by the Village Voice.