Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Take off My Shirt, Then You Do; I Take off My Pants, Then You Do; I Take off My Hands, Then You Do; I Take off My Face, Then You Do Press

I went to see Danielle Pafunda and Caroline Knox read this monday. I've read Danielle's poems before in journals and whatnot but I hadn't read her first book so I didn't quite know what to expect. She was reading from her new, second book (from Bloof) called My Norba:

If the sentence is a tree, than Pafunda has chopped up the trunk, rearranged the branches, and clipped the limbs together with bird beaks and candles to form poems that rustle and glow.

What does that mean? Well, I like her sentence structure, I like her noun-as-a-verb use ("I halo painstakingly / for shore"), and I like her inventions of compound words ("praise-shack"). I haven't read the whole book thoroughly at all yet, but this is what I'm thinking so far:

These poems feature a young female narrator who's constantly engaged by but also in conflict with Zorba, a gender-shifting, controlling, older, alter-ego/invisible playmate. Maybe. In some sense, Zorba is a guide through a baffling adult world who encourages testing boundaries of etiquette and customs ("She devoured / a [nightbird] and chucked its bones from the [precipice]," when others choose to repress gut-desire and awe. Yet in other scenes, Zorba manipulates the narrator, "When I tried to cover the hair with pancake, Zorba intercepted" or forces her into roles that create priorities she doesn't necessarily accept ("She asked for a profit margin"). In living with and then in exorcising Zorba from her body/psyche, she battles the urge to internalize the standards and irrationality of the familiar. The process of extrication (if that's possible) and realization of culpability/positioning in our culture is agonizing and exhilarating: "When Zorba prayed for me, I ducked."

I'm not usually drawn to narrative or character driven poetry (there are some big exceptions here, like Anne Carson etc) because often I find it too cluttered or gimmicky. But Pafunda's poems read as though someone has ripped up a Polaroid of an image and then taped the fragments together with gaps and in a new design. I think the emotional disconnect and the emotional pursuit of the self in these poems mirrors the fragmentation in identity the narrator careens into, and works to create a sense of urgency as you read the book. So, you know, buy it: Bloof Books.

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