Since I worked my way through Schmall's chapbook as well as Wheeler & Gorman's this week, Mathias Svalina is rolling up his sleeves to do a guest blog on Hoy's Outtakes. Ready?:
At first glance Dan Hoy’s Outtakes might read as ironic deflations of the daily life of the contemporary cinematic experience. They present the events that happen around the film, the space outside the frame, the dunderheaded personal experiences from the set that don’t make it into the gag reel. Many of these are funny poems, biting & wry. Hoy uses a variety of entryways into the experiences of being around film, but does not attempt to recreate the cathedral-like name of a film in action. Instead these are particular angles on the interaction with cinema. However it’s the nature of the speaker of these poems that most interests me & ultimately opens a discussion that rises above only humor or quippy cultural critique.
The poems in this chapbook are either longer dramatic monologues that attempt a more comprehensive presentation of experience or shorter pieces that, while still driven by a speaker’s “I,” cut a quicker, more lyric slice of the moment. The longer pieces employ a voice & tone that works to interpret through over-intellectualization, complicated Latinates abstracting the object of attention. They work in a style similar to the irony-saturated smarty-pants monologue that reveals the emotional flaws, by which I mean they seem a little mcsweeneysy. This tone is heaviest in “Shot Reverse Shot” with wrought pretension-speak lines like
I’m going for a kind of intuitive,
hallucinatory, somnambulistic precision. A waking version
of lucid dreaming culled from my days as an armchair
oneironaut and protoscientist and figure-ground cartographer.
But Hoy is not inviting us to laugh at these speakers. The theory-speak & pop culture references in this poem are not there for us to snicker at & feel superior to. They are simply the available facts to these speakers. This becomes most clear as the chapbook culminates in the longest poem, “The Power Ballad of Constance Orr,” a title that sets me up for high irony. And its there, as the speaker flits through the nebulous space between her actual life & the media-construct of her life. But this poem is not only the ironically self-conscious story of a starlet. It would not work as a short-short if you removed the line breaks, Hoy drops lines that pierce the veneer of distance, lines of rich lyric beauty that arise out of the set of images he establishes:
I was hurt and / looking for somebody to crush up & snort in retaliation
I had never seen so many telephoto lenses in one place.
I’ve never met an aperture large enough to swallow
an entire audience from the inside. Which means
the Access Hollywood betacam framing its compatriots
from the circling helicopter above doesn’t count.
There has to be an opening somewhere behind
the quagmire of curtain and glass and available light
I can’t see.
It would be lazy to set up these scenarios of celebrities & then ask the reader to find them ridiculous. Hoy mines the particular stone of those settings to find the images & metaphors that are unique to those milieus.
It’s Hoy’s shorter poems that get to me more, “Because You’re a Former Child Actor” & “Gaffer” in particular. They abandon the intellectualized talky voice for a more intimate way of speaking, though the speakers are similarly haunted by the presence of the constructed reality of the film. “Because You’re a Former Child Actor” opens:
I asked you to be my furniture in so many words.
But I like you because your face is bloated and saggy but unironic,
like that retro t-shirt and whatever year this is.
Like the liaison was having a dalliance with the tray it carried.
As if the food would never get here.
I don’t even believe in food.
These shorter, more open poems allow me to negotiate the speaker with greater flexibility, whereas the longer poems use the dramatic monologue to keep finding unlocking new doors in the speakers. But every poem in this chapbook is driven by the “I” & ultimately it is the nature of this I that intrigues me. There are celebrities, actors, people who have slept with actors, movie-watchers & small time set workers. In all they are the human experience of the function of films. Many of the poems use details to develop the character but it is not the primary purpose of the poems to create individualized characters. Rather, Outtakes moves in the spaces between all the mindsets that are constantly working in relation to the film version of reality. It is one thing to talk about how the cinema works as someone steps into the dark theater & experiences the film, the transport the immersion, but Hoy explores the way daily like continues to immerse itself in film & the ancillary celebrity matrix. And ultimately it is this thinking about the influence of film that makes Outtakes interesting to me.
Thank you for this review.
Ok, I'm still going to hit you all with The Google Image/Word of the Day:
"Lackluster" by Google Image:
"Lackluster II" by Google Image:
You know the lewd, drunk guy at the back of the dingy, local bar who the bartender has propped up against the video game screen, strategically far away from the jukebox and any pretty ladies? The bartender may have even given him some quarters to play the Pin-Up Pick Out game (you may also know it as Erotic Photo Hunt), where there is a dual screen and you have about 20 seconds to pick out the 5 different items that vary in the two similar photos of bikini-clad women. You know the game? Well, if you push away the lewd drunk, Babysnakes gets to play. Unfortunately, we were not good enough to be #1, so now Babysnakes is ranked below "Boobs" and "Cheaters" but above "BJ." Nice.
Tonight I may find myself at Pete's Candy Store listening to this:
Edward Gorch with Born at Sea 9-10:15
Cello, banjo, vocals, guitar, dust, broken glass, empty flasks, bloody lips and prayers.
The Gena Rowlands Band 10:30
Wry literate orchestrated barroom yarns from graduates of the Washington D.C post-punk community. Strings stolen from a b&w movie score. The skitter of jazz brushes. A voice that draws more power from a whisper or a soulful falsetto than from a scream.