Wednesday, March 30, 2011



Novaless (elements towards a metaphysics) by Nicholas Manning
(Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia, 2008)

Novaless (elements towards a metaphysics) is Nicholas Manning's first full-length poetry collection and it truly deserves a lot of attention. Many of the poems are in the form that I first saw in his chap HI HIGHER HYPERBOLE from ypolita press; I reviewed that chap earlier in Galatea Resurrects HERE and much of what I said then can be applied to Novaless.

But looking now at Novaless which contains CLII or 152 poems, what comes across impressively is the consistent lush pleasure surfaced by the texts. There's a joy within the project in which it's pleasing to bask -- the consistency of the pleasure bespeaks an impression that, for the period during which all the poems were created, the poet was tipped into a particular space of heightened observation/resonance/inquiry (that, perhaps, was mined until that space finally evaporated?). Anyway, feel this:

the balustrade
the funereal * trees
the impatient tips of fingers ...
a chacun arrive non pasce qu'il merite
mais ce qui lui ressemble
1 ... which opens up
onto our own rooms * beyond ... which
tips (or opens) to pass grain :
is stirring
or on the move
in kaleidoscopic filaments
to a track leading * decided then
more may have been going on
particularly * for grace * in
its shelter from the dying
<< I do not let
out all >>

(1: Please forgive my inability to put accent marks over certain French words)

It's elegiac, non? So how is it joyful? For me, it's the surfacing of "grace", specifically "for grace." I have no clue what this sample means, but it is definitely for me a "shelter from ... dying". Isn't that what the greatest of art and poetry also seek to achieve -- a temporary erasure of mortality?

I highly recommend you discover this 2008 book (and Galatea Resurrects does have a review copy of it, as well as the Achiote Press chap which excerpted from it). It was released three years ago but it is eternal in its wise and intimate desires. From this poet,
                  the words
from his lips
minute *
is a kiss

The above is immediately followed by "I'll find it / by inquiry : if it's there". It's a follow-up that heightens the above excerpt from generic romance, as philosophical inquiry can effect -- thus the subtitle of the book, (elements towards a metaphysics). Those asterisks also are effective for many reasons -- for encouraging pauses and/or mental shifts, for encouraging emphases, for evoking flowers, for evoking stars, etc.--and I made this judgment before I had a chance to read the poet's own take on those asterisks as, indeed, stars. Manning explains in the link underlying the excerpt below:
"...have you ever dreamt of inserting something into a poem which would not, indeed could never, mean? Have you ever felt oppressed by the hegemony of meaning which words can exert, the fact that you can never say a single word, a single phoneme even, without it inciting in other people certain associations, certain reactions and ideas? Words are, in this way, almost too potent."

I'd not actually realized, prior to writing the first draft of this review, that Manning had intended the asterisk specifically to be a "star". But I did look at the asterisk--at least in the sample quoted above-- as a visual element that changes (elevates) the meaning of the line "minute *" from simply "minute". Thus, I did think of the phrase and concept of "star kiss" as a result of the asterisk's image, which now allows Moi to conclude:

These poems are no less than star*kisses whose mysteries may be plumbed but never definitely grasped. They offer a journey where, as sages have often stated, the point--and thus the pleasure--can be in the process, even as the goal may remain permanently elusive.


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects as she's its editor, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to reviews of her books. Her newest book SILK EGG: Collected Novels is reviewed or generated responses by Joey Madia in The New Mystics HERE; Allen Bramhall over HERE; by Amazon top-notch reviewer Grady Harp over HERE; by Leny Strobel over HERE; and by Jean Vengua over HERE and HERE. Her THE SECRET LIVES OF PUNCTUATIONS, VOL. I is reviewed by Edric Mesmer in Yellow Field and reprinted HERE. Her THE THORN ROSARY: SELECTED PROSE POEMS 1998-2010 is reviewed by Arpine Konyalian Grenier over HERE. Allen Bramhall also reviews the "Hay(na)ku for Haiti" series over HERE. If the latter two get you curious, please note that participating in this fundraiser for Haiti is supported by Marsh Hawk Press, publisher of THE THORN ROSARY: if you order at least $15 worth of booklets, you will receive a copy of THE THORN ROSARY which is priced retail at $19.95; this is one of the best bargains in the poetry world, even as it helps out with a Haiti fundraiser.

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