KAROLINA ZAPAL Engages
BEAST FEAST by Cody-Rose Clevidence
(Ahsahta Press, Boise, ID, 2014)
You intimidate me. Your physical presence as well as your writing presence intimidate me, a writer an ant just emerging from the hill to wonder why all of these souls float above her, and to hope she exists, at any given moment, at the antinodes of steps. When you taught the master class at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, you wouldn't entertain our hungry questions about when, how, why, you wrote Beast Feast; instead you pivoted them in our direction with the intimidating response, "What do you think?" We thought a lot, but we needed to learn to affirm our thoughts without correctness verbalized by the writer we were holding in our hands—you, right? You, in our hands, passed on to live out settings influenced by the text, but ultimately created by realms of interpretation because the construction of the book began, and scribbled, and bombarded, and began again with the reader. With this in mind, you in mind, setting should be more correctly termed as setting blocks, ones that conference variously at points in the business plan, or the (read for) pleasure plan, as Beast Feast doesn't cheer for words to stretch into alliances. If it did, it would suffice convention by composing language. What it does instead is abandon convention by decomposing language, with the decomposition driven by form to reshape and imagine modern poetry. Thus, this review composes my confidence or, maybe, decomposes my efforts to narrate your work. It's a yelling to pursue, a beast in me or our experience, and the beast doesn't care to tell stories.
If Beast Feast were to have a single focal point, it would be the phrase, "No evolution is complete" (lines 8-9), which can be found in Metamorphoses III and coincidentally (or not) the smack middle of the book. The book, whole, though it opportunely smacks the reader's instinct to follow text linearly, engages with the continued sourcing of the developing human from the forest or the outsourcing of "him/her" from the binary. The work begins this circular, repetitive movement in the first poem, [Elegaic Wtf Glibness You Lion You, with phrases that state and then circle back around: "Dream on or dream me" (line 3), "In break or broken" (line 9), and "Full in the blueness...for blueness I'll drink it" (lines 2, 13), as just a few examples. This movement is closely followed with an introduction to evolution in [This The Forest], where the word Precambrian is coyly switched to precambrain. The dictionary defines Precambrian as, "Noting or pertaining to the earliest era of earth history, ending 570 million years ago, during which the earth's crust formed, and life first appeared in the seas." With this word transformed to a word containing "brain," the work travels through history until it arrives in the era of intelligence, or rather, suggested by the prefix "multi" (lines 3, 5, 14, 17) the word "deluge" (line 5) and the phrase "wolf me down" (line 4), an era of overwhelming thoughts, language, and consciousness, all candidates for sickly ingestion. Therefore, poems that should politely work on the page instead devise a chaos of migration in the mind and gesture towards a physical migration of the reader and added population, from elementary to element-caring (or not).
Circularity and evolution unite in the piece, [Xylo 2], which begins by mentioning microscopic creatures like "prokaryotic fungi bacterium" (lines 18-20), misleading the reader to assume a linear progression of biology, and therefore the poem. What the piece does instead, as it quickens its pace at its core, is jump from the largely abstract to the limited concrete: "This forest is full of desire full of metamorphosis full of larvae full of nests" (lines 200-207), which eliminates a singular growth pattern and again suggests an evolution that circles back around, especially with "metamorphosis" appearing before "larvae." Probably the most clear-cut and satisfying example of this roundabout development is the book itself. It begins and ends with pieces that make sense while losing itself in the middle; the ends, then, tie together to form a loop. If this weren't enough, the book is written in such advanced but nonsensical vernacular that the intelligence-era reader begins to feel stupid, unable to remember the previous line while dissecting the next. Circular evolution—an inevitable journey for humans to return to surviving as resourceful, but illiterate beasts. Could this largely be due to always learning, always lit technology that has spun its web to appear like those desirable head-massaging whisks?
Beast Feast relies heavily on experimentation, though now that I have written it, I discern how ill-fitting of a statement that is, as experimentation in 21st century poetry has a loose definition at best, and is mostly explained by what is fashioned within it. So it may be less agitating to say that Beast Feast relies on its own construction of the experiment: changes in a language-system between points in time, which include the jump to technological jargon, or, in other words, the products of keys pressed—and is it or is it not a reference to open doors? The symbolic, type-key choices found throughout the book propose that the answer to the question posed at the result of the preceding paragraph is a resounding yes. Why else would the work be so adamant about losing human language amidst a raging sea of gibberish keys, like in the pieces [Oxyd] and [Plz]? A lot of these keys, of course, can be understood to mean something by the reader, and so the reader can then become lost in multifarious evaluations of slashes and dashes, which could mean anything or nothing at all. For example, the plus signs in [Hammer/Tulip] can be envisioned as crosses, and so the lines that the crosses bookend, "Is an arsenal enough to free an orchard? swampthing, / inebriate. I'll arm a garden. we can all live there" (lines 10-11) come alive as an image of the Garden of Eden. Or the back/forward slashes that chop up A State of Nature / A Natural State can be seen as representing time; the backslashes present the past as in, "\ Now I will tell you how the dumb birds are supposed to fly" (line 24), and the forward slashes present the future as in, "/ Now I will tell you how the brilliant markets glisten" (line 27). If the slashes are indeed perceived in this way, evolution returns, with the mention of natural past as compared to the marketable present.
It is easy to see how Ark by Ronald Johnson has inspired you, not only through the content, as Ark and Beast Feast both share biological fascinations, but also in form, as they both marinate chunks of prose with meaningful snippets of words or that beyond words. In Beam 8 of Ark, "Sensings" (line 27) turns to "SENSE sings" further down the page, and by doing so, sums up the additive effects of the sense-wrenching blocks found in Beast Feast: how sense is made without making any sense at all, and not only is sense made, but it graduates with musicality. In other words, the senses are subtracted into sense.
Your faithful reader,
Karolina Zapal's writing interests include expounding on multifarious voices of middle-class America, including children hiding the egos of their mothers as well as hidden by the egos of their mothers, people righted or wronged by religion, even the best voices of her old, bad poems. She's also attentive to exploring her childhood in Poland, which was, at the time, in the shadows of a dictatorship. These interests lead to her currently working on two full-length creative projects, "Giving Voices" and "Polalka." Critically, she's absorbed in the realm of poetry that fails to communicate comprehensive information, the techniques behind writing but evading to inform and what stems from the evasion.
She graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 2015, where she studied molecular and cellular biology and creative writing, with minors in chemistry and Spanish. She won the grand prize in the Undergraduate Creative Writing Awards in 2015. She is now pursuing an MFA in Writing & Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.