Sunday, November 29, 2015



KRAZY: Visual Poems and Performance Scripts by Jane Augustine
(Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2015)

This is a review of both a book and the reading--rather, the performance--of its poems.  I was fortunate enough to participate in a poetry reading earlier this year that also featured Jane Augustine presenting from her new book, KRAZY: Visual Poems and Performance Scripts.  It was a delightful, stunning and awe-inspiring performance!  KRAZY presents visual poems that Augustine, for performance/reading purposes, chose to treat as scripts for a sound presentation.  Her energetic rendition became sound poetry as its best, in part because of the impressive length of her breath, i.e. she must have spat out what seemed to be a gazillion words without having to take a pause to inhale!  As someone whose breath -- and consequently poetic lines -- has shortened with age, I was both enthralled and amazed by her  quite vigorous presentation.  

For example, here is her visual poem "Forms of Desire: More" (the reader can click on all images to enlarge):

The visual poem is clearly effective: the left tip-edge of what becomes a triangle of white space and letters repeating the word "MORE" visually manifests expansion; if blackness is a void as in non-existence, the grown space of the white and content-full triangle depicts content-as-opposite of void; and the use of more than one type of typography to feature the word "MORE" as well as the fact that the words increase in size as the reading eye moves from left to right of the page also facilitate the concept of increase-ing.  That's all great!  But then, Augustine pushes the poem further to make it a performance script, per below:

There are actual performance notes on the page--but consider the difficulty of performing it as the poet desires: "at top speed"!  Go ahead, Reader, try!  And Augustine performed several such poems from KRAZY with an impressive rapidity, lucidity and clarity!

As a result, that reading became one of my top three favorite poetry readings ever.  Here is Jane at the podium presenting sound poetry, as scripted by the visual poems she presented on screen.  The all of it was a definite feast for the eyes, ears and mind.

Fortunately for those who'll only experience KRAZY through the book, the book itself is worthwhile.  KRAZY, as described by the author in her Preface, "is a collection of visual poems in the international avant-garde tradition of 'concrete poetry,' also known as visual poetry. It radically re-arranges the printed poem's convention of letters in lines on a page and presents a new object for the viewer's perception and contemplation. I began to work in this format in true 1970s, strict black and white, using commonplace schoolroom materials, construction paper cutouts, stencils, pressed-on letters, and the typewriter as the principal art instrument."

The visual poems, even unperformed by their author, provide their own pleasure and makes the reader think.  As an example, here is "Ore":

The "O" is positioned as an opening to many possibilities, e.g. "ova," "open"-ness, "choice," ... before then transitioning to other options made possible specifically through sound: "OR" to "ORE" to "aureate", the last then allowing the witty leap to "goldmine?"!!  The latter, by the way, reflects the feminist tendencies of the author (begin with "ovum" and end with "goldmine")--a welcome layer that organically suffuses the project.

Many of the poems work in the above manner, thus meeting its own standards as shared by the author: "This book mirrors the experience of the performance. First ones the visual poem on the facing page and after it on the reverse, the words of the thoughts it generates."

A special note of appreciation must be given to the book designer Claudia Carlson who apparently resurrected into fine legibility several of the images that, after all, over 30 years old!  The approximately 8 x 11 size of the book also worked to enhance the book reading experience.

Let me share one more example.  Here is " U + I: Relational Triptych / Form Three: Being, Becoming" and its performance script:

For its effective harmonizings of the visual, the thought, and the sound, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well).  She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work.  I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS received a review by Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene; by Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp over HERE; and by Allen Bramhall in Tributary.  Her experimental biography AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A LIFE IN POETRY received a review by Tom Hibbard in The Halo-Halo Review, Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web and Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source. SUN STIGMATA also received a review by Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field.  Recent releases are the e-chap DUENDE IN THE ALLEYS as well as INVENT(ST)ORY which is her second “Selected Poems" project; while her first Selected THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, INVEN(ST)ORY focuses on the list or catalog poem form.  A key poem in INVENT(ST)ORY was reviewed by John Bloomberg-Rissman in The Halo-Halo Review, and the book itself was reviewed by Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source and Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web.  More information at 

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