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Previous Vertigos-Nina Karacosta

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Previous Vertigos | Nina Karacosta
  A review by Aditya Menon

There are three types of vertigo: objective (your environment seems to move), subjective (you sense yourself moving) and pseudo (something seems to be turning in your head).  Or so Wikipedia tells me.  Does this classification carry over into poetics? You could say that some poems foreground the linguistic object, others the lyric subject, and still others create their own little worlds of expression. But wait, Wikipedia on vertigo takes a skeptical turn: “While this classification appears in textbooks, it has little to do with the pathophysiology or treatment of vertigo.”

So the three vertigos turn out to be “previous”, no longer relevant to medical practice. Still, this very irrelevance makes the vertigos particularly relevant to contemporary poetics. [Pardon the belabored analogy; I do not mean to trivialize the real experience of vertigo. ] A rhetoric of opposition—speaking vs. writing, subject vs. object, conservative quietism vs. avant-garde experimentation—makes for good categories. The “confessional school”, it would seem, asserts the transparency of a message. The “L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E school”, by contrast, asserts the opacity of the medium. That said, the classification of poetry into antagonistic schools has recently been an object of critique in its own right. Such critique might play with avant-garde polemic; take Keston Sutherland’s Theses on Antisubjectivist Dogma. Or it might shift the focus of the debate. In Lyric Shame: The “Lyric” Subject of Contemporary American Poetry, Gillian White suggests that a “lyric I” is an object of “shame”.  Thus it has an uneasy pervasiveness, with “opponents” sometimes perpetuating and “defenders” complicating it. This “lyric I” is not a well-defined object, but a way of reading.

How does “Suds”, the second-last poem in Previous Vertigos, and the only one that does not mention a physical object, ask to be read?

 

The experiment is

not

in

the

experimental

it is in

the experience

the exposure

the expression of unsatisfaction

the expulsion.

Are you extending?

No,

you are

a

follower

of the

experimental

standing in

the

middle

of

your

crowd-

for you there is no extreme, no extravagant

no ecstatic.

The poem strikes me as a reflexive piece, engaging the “lyric shame” that White identifies. Is it an ars poetica in defense of the lyric subject? In a context that fetishizes “the experimental”, the speaker turns the tables on those who would shame her. First, a statement : experiment is not in the experimental. Then, a question, which dramatizes the exchange: “Are you extending?” sounds like an “Are you listening?” as much as an “Are you experimenting?” Finally, a condemnation. The speaker shames the addressee.

But what are the “suds”? Expelled, ecstatic results of the experiment? [The Wikipedia disambiguation page informs me that SUDS is an acronym for “subjective units of distress scale”, but this would be a stretch.] And who is the you? An absent interlocutor, the poet herself (a possibility that Afric McGlinchey’s review raises), or a hypocrite reader? If this is a manifesto, it is a reticent one, in spite of its auditory insistence. After all, the repeated sound “ex” is a prefix that can signify the previous, the passé. Not that we should take this sense uncritically; the repetition is so emphatic that makes a close reading feel absurd. The constraint of the “ex” words draws the poem beyond whatever statement Karacosta initially intended, if any.

Previous Vertigos appeared in 2011, before Sutherland’s manifesto or White’s book. Still, I think it bears reading in light of these critical trends. This is not to reduce it to a symptom or magnify it into an intervention. It is one among many possible configurations of the elusive lyric “I”, and happens to be one that I like.

At first glance, the collection seems firmly on the side of the confessional lyric subject, whose existence we just problematized. Skimming the book, you encounter a figure worn down by drugs and war and consumerism even as it is expanded by global travel and cross-cultural exposure, and yet alert to the body it inhabits, the landscapes through which it moves. The persona that moves through Karacosta’s pages does not coalesce into such a caricature, but it does gesture to all these possibilities. Some of the landscapes are explicitly marked: Greek coast, English countryside, New Mexico desert. Relationships, whether with people or substances, feel plausible and even “compelling”. An abundance of multisensory imagery, framed in verbally exuberant phrases, brings various pasts to life in visceral, often vertiginous form. The word “I” appears over sixty times.

For all this, the chapbook is not the diary of Nina Karacosta, Greek-American poet and actor, regurgitated for your vicarious consumption.  More often than not, the people, things and places appear in a disorienting space or time—in the immaterial past of memory, the insistently material present of text, the conditional of genre. Here and there, you find imperatives. One poem, “War Games”, consists entirely of such imperatives. It ends with these: “Count your bones. / Breathe air.” Both injunctions involve bodily awareness; one seems oriented toward death, the other toward life.  The emphasis on bare life makes the poem feel “universal” even as it evokes an individual body.  The chapbook doesn’t give a  gloss here, but an online version presents it as a “response to events in Gaza in 2009, meant to highlight the absurdity of war”. The phrase “highlight absurdity” can hardly exhaust the poem’s effects. The second-person imperative invites empathy, and the specific imperatives—while they have no immediate effect on the actual victims—offer this second-person subject an ethics and/or aesthetics of bare life.

“Can’t Talk About It” takes place on the page and in the body. Here, the body is that of a first-person speaker. The right-aligned part of the poem describes a surgery. Then comes a left-aligned meta-narration that explains and stops this account: “Doodling at the edge of the white paper / I want to write about burning three fingers / and ending up in the emergency room / but instead keep doodling” . The last few lines, right-aligned again, seem to have moved back from the medium of writing to the spoken message, but the terms have moved from real to surreal.  It ends “I am / a corridor of rain,” (is “rain” a sublimation of “pain”?) without any closing punctuation. In this line, the lack of punctuation places the “I” in suspense, while the words themselves designate an impossible interior.

“Psychotropic Hurrah” is tentative in its ecstasy: “i can maybe write a pow wow poem”. I am drawn to its phrase “attic cylindrical frenzy”, which evokes an impossible interior like “corridor of rain”. Gloss “attic” as adjective, meaning “Greek”, and a different shape emerges.  It recalls, at least for me, the Grecian urn that Keats invoked as “attic shape”.  Whereas he read movement in a static object, Karacosta shapes a stasis out of her disorientations.

Perhaps the lyric subject of Previous Vertigos is new, after all—if only in its precise groundlessness. Consider the last lines of the first poem, “Solitaire”:

I am not

me because if I were I would know what

I’m not. All this adds up to nothing.

To suspend.

Nosratolah Masoudi

Nosratolah Masoudi
If Plato, the transcendentalist philosopher, abandoned poets from his ideal city, he had rightfully predicted the revolutionary power of poet and poetry. If soon later, his disciple, Aristotle protected poets and poetry, he deeply believed in the remedial impression of arts and poetry. In our contemporary world, where, people struggle with numerous predicaments, social moderators like music, poetry and painting may soften, in turn, that very society. 

The main gap between the Iranian Classical poetry and Modern poetry was the constitution period (1906) when Iran breathed and experienced a fresh air in culture, arts and politics.  Among such poets in Iran, though, after a century, arrived Nosratolah Masoudi, a poet, fiction writer, journalist, playwright and actor who received such an inevitable position in Iran and Lorestan in particular, that his amatory poems has spread its scent all over the new generation. 

Aside from his political life and his highly renowned academic career, Masoudi has always pursued his concern for love and his contemporary people. His soft and dedicated words invite people to peace and love.  Love, the dominant theme throughout Masoudi’s poems is never decorated with complicated philosophical expressions or images. The simple but immensely sensitive language is always blended with such sincerity, it is as if the poet is voicing out his own grievances:

One April day

I will grab

Your sweet scent

From a newborn bud.

Masoudi’s beloved could be a real human being or an imaginary creature. For him, it does not matter either sides. What is important is a mental support that one can get from love. Love would be the most protective shelter for human beings in such a cruel century, without which, one may not tolerate life itself:

Blessed is a dog

Compared with

The doggish life I’m leading.

In such a disparate misery

I keep my rambling

By the side of this

Narrow one-way road

Looking for the mercy of a

Brakeless truck.

The simple and daily language, the objective images and the metaphor of a dog resemble the disparate life for the contemporary century. The images of a ‘truck’ or a ‘narrow one-way road’ are our daily tangible observations. What has happened to the twenty and twenty first century man to compare his life with a dog, waiting for a brakeless truck on a narrow one-way road is Masoudi’s main concern. Such objective and dark images walk neck to neck with T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste land’. If Eliot’s solution for his corrupted contemporary society is religion and morality, Masoudi’s solution is to love and to be loved. For Masoudi, the only excuse is the love itself:

You are the only excuse for

My inhale and exhale.

That’s why I breathe.  

For Masoudi’s lover, committing a sin is a charity; for it will bring about sunlight in the lovers frozen heart:

Let’s commit the sin

And share its charity.

I have been frozen

From this killing

Sunless shadows of loneliness.

Let’s commit it soon.

As a playwright, director and actor, his poetry speaks for itself. The verbal aspect of his poetry gives the credence to his mastery over poetry. We rarely face overstatement in his simple but profound poetry:

Such courteously

And so kept in sanity

Devoted to you,

So much so that

I can’t love you

Without your consent.

But,

Now that you are

Too lost in distances

To beg your permission,

How can I take your mercy

For the moment

To cry my heart out?

Masoudi’s imaginary beloved ‘Parmida’ is a combination of all ideal females around the world. He himself confesses that “I have created her out of all my ideal females I have ever read about, seen or wished to meet”. He is so devoted to such an illusive beloved that cries out from his heart:

Do not believe

If only for a moment

I have ever loved you,

Except the moments

I have been breathing.

Satire might be one of Masoudi’s weapons in the battle of his society. As a satirist he has received many prizes from different festivals in Iran. He believes that in a society where one cannot express him/herself freely, artists have to use their old tricks; irony and satire. That is why he ingeniously kills two birds with one stone:

How dare I

To pass the security guards

Carrying a bomb

In my heart

And a memory loaded by

Gunpowder of your odor?

Writing eleven books of poetry, two books of play, many short stories, writing for many journals and newspaper for more than three decades, directing and acting in more than thirty plays, he still  pursues his literary career with the same vigor. Some of his poetry has been translated into English, Italy, Arabic, French, Germany and Kurdish.  


Dr. Sasan Bazgir

Picture from http://faramarzsoleimani.blogspot.com/2010/04/aprilmonth-of-poetry_07.html

 

 

THE FIRST POST

Welcome to the first post of this humble blog.

It is never easy to express or understand just how or where a journey truly begins. Is it when the first actual steps are conceived in the resounding vibration of an epiphany or when the first steps towards the distance are declared in the manifestation of the physical steps that follow through with it? Perhaps it is with the momentum of pushing oneself towards a new horizon? An unprecedented beginning is sometimes too overwhelming and it may stop one from continuing on that very conceivable momentum, unhindered, unprovoked, un-submissive to the fear of regret in its many ingenious disguises.

There are countless quotes, a plethora of clichés and even a canonical pantheon of great poetry and philosophical reflections dating back from antiquity to five seconds ago floating somewhere amidst the flickering mind of a seven or so billion populace out there,  that deal  with this very innate search.

Yet, it is all there for the simple, perhaps inarticulate, but often times misunderstood reasoning that mankind has developed symbolic tools of expressions solely to understand the world around them.  It is to better understand the conflicted nature of mans’ primordial self versus the potential ambiguities of higher stations of consciousness.

Language, Art, Music and even the more modern day ability to capture a single expression of time within itself is akin to the fabled Arthurian or Valmikian quests of yore; to seek beyond the complexities of a black or white picturesque paradigm story arch, consistently deducing, inferring a world that strives in the quests to be submerged somehow in the very nature that exudes our ability to comprehend and reflect on an individual basis.

It is in that perhaps naive, misconstrued or romantic quest for the preservation of that birth right that I wish to start the journey towards forming THE LUXEMBOURG REVIEW. It will be a ‘tavern’ for the restless searching individuals in lure of whatever realization they wish to seek and in whatever gift they wish to recite their narrative.

Platforms that may have seemed inconceivable at the time I was born have managed to indulge me now in some residue of renewed hope and newly found perspective and resolve towards creating a global platform for and with people who share similar inclinations and unfettered hope.

As the infamous William Blake quote goes, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is – infinite.” This embodies the often-times repressed drive for change that people unwillingly and unknowingly submit to.

Oh, to break that paradigm and recreate, or attempt to, in the image of visionaries, artists, writers, and thinkers who propel themselves forward with the intent to address any innate subjugation.

We shall see..

(not good enough)

therefore,

We shall create.

Syed Shehzar Mukkarrim Doja
Founder of The Luxembourg Review.