Thursday, February 27, 2014

∆ reviewed at COLDFRONT!

‘Delta’ by Douglas Piccinnini, Cynthia Gray and Camilo Roldan

delta cover
  • PUBLISHED BY: Tea Party Republicans Press, 2013
  • REVIEW BY: Lauren Gordon

“…and once the position I believed / deeper no longer suits me so ”

Triads have existed historically as representative of holistic belief systems.  Life, Liberty, Happiness.  Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  The Triple Goddess.  Waxing, waning, full.  The symbolic idea of a triangle is that each line in the triangle represents one idea or aspect and when combined, a new form of being is created.  Triangle theory is the ultimate symbol of creation: the combination of three voices that create one song.  Well, Delta sings.  This collaboration of poetry by Douglas Piccinnini, Cynthia Gray and Camilo Roldan is written in both Spanish and English, and the cover art (and indecipherable title) is a triangle composed of the last names of each poet.
The first section of the book is ordered with the poems written in English appearing on the left page, forcing the reader to read these first before reading the translation on the right page.  Some of the poems mingle the languages in a way that creates a tension in dialogue between the pages, as evidenced in the poem “Songbird in the hawk”:
“Como va?”  “Va.”
Poco a poco tiempo
as blanked
rote declination.
Years?  Si, puedo.
No other golds
touch me so.
On the opposite page, the Spanish versions reads:  “’How’s it going?’ ‘It goes.’/Little by little time/como declinacion rutina/omitida.”  The equal sides of the triangle blur at the axis point, and the book relies heavily on this melding of language in the first section.  If the point being made is that song exists as a universal language, it works, especially when the language begins to work outside of itself.  The use of abbreviation, variety of syntax, or lack of proper capitalization calls attention to itself as a way of showing the reader such pomp isn’t necessary in the song.  In the poem “the fence of hope to break,” the poetic voice becomes richer with old-fashioned terms of address that feel almost biblical, formal:  “the space drilled into thee/for thee gleefully unpained now.”  The Spanish version reads formally as well: “el espacio taladrado en vos/con regocijo por vos ahora desafligido.”  The poem takes on an ode-like quality, asking the reader to bear with the speaker as she/he struggles to not repeat the same pattern of mistakes, to let go:  “love- possess me to tell the nothing/redoubled nonesuch hurts any longer.”
In Delta, the authors play with rhyme in a way that lends the poetry music, whether it is end-stop rhymes like in the poem “Junior still like” or internal repetitious rhyme in the poem, “all gets far to fix the year.”  The poems get a lot of their thrust from using present participles, but verbed words like “diamonding” are particularly memorable. The care in the arrangement of the poems creates tension between the sections and the language.  It is the overarching theme of universality, though, that creates the easement of flow.
You don’t have to speak Spanish to understand the mild cynicism of “ciao retardado brillante” or appreciate the poetry of conjugations:  “junto ‘la puerta.’/C’est la porte”.  The poems espouse a liquidity that appears throughout the book and it adds to the sensory experience of the triangle’s song, whether it is the interplay between the sunlight and the darkness or the imagery and metaphor of hands.  The sameness of experience is expressed eloquently in “the ‘part of you’ part of me”:
but every indefinite swell
soundless as the searoom
blossoms fatigue.
that decade we were
torn into pivots
as the airfield pitted
never seams up.
The sibilance of “soundless as the searoom” is phonetically lovely, but the imagery is strong as well.  One can imagine or recall what it feels like to be weightless yet bound under water with the waves breaking overhead.  The pivots that never “seam up” keep the same sense of wetness, the open wound, the same feeling of being unable to heal grief.  That theme of struggle carries the speaker(s) voice throughout the first section.  “I mean” the poets write in several poems throughout the first section: “I mean the sun empties/such reduced glad/into my mouth”.  The first section of the book distills a kind of dreamy hope for the experience of being in and of the world, but it is not until the second section where the axis shift occurs and we move into the physical being.
In the second section, the Spanish versions of the poems occur first in the reading order, and the poems become less merged in cumulative song; this is more like aria by the end of the section.  The “I” speaker solidifies and begins to reveal her-/himself fully to the reader, like in the English translation of the poem “quien tiene este thing”:  for the thing shines/the exception trying/as night tries too” and then “in dawns for some lamps call too/to lift a face to the face/to open the land.”   We hear the singular voice rising up, becoming a Pythagorean triangle with its one straight end and the plane of the poems moves into a physical realm, like in the next poem ,“almost touch me”:
almost touch me
for needs give a prison
and once the position I believed
deeper no longer suits me so
The physical sensuality described by the poets is in keeping with the sensory conversations occurring in the first section of the book, but the body itself becomes a focal point.  Here, the voice is not only unified, but one of verbal action:  “I believed,” “I said,” and this motif repeats itself throughout the rest of the section:  I chose, I know, I sense, I see, I feel, I serve, I mount, I pray, I wring, I get.  Where the sensory experiences in the first section led to the universality of experience, the aria of the second section demands more from the reader; it demands one connect with one’s body in the space surrounding. The poem “‘modern’ and ‘empty’” speaks to the living terrarium where life continues to happen whether or not you have a sense of home:  “still a sun hatches/builds again the feeling//the felled anthem too begins,” and then later, “a tiempo home/is not home/bottled growth.”  This is the call to action of looking around the shoebox you’ve been living in and opening the windows to breathe in something clean.  The second section of Delta speaks to the submission of the physical body within its environment; here the language becomes less important than the breadth of meaning.
The last three poems in the book find reconciliation between autonomy and hope, and the richness and playfulness of language continue to operate, like in the last poem “good morning and _____”:  “…night/you old fool/don’t go gone.”  We end in a roundabout back to the sensory experience of the body: sight, sound, taste, smell – and then, hope, growth.  These are poems created by deft hands with intention. Though it is not immediate, the reader discovers the accessibility in the musicality.