Sara Deniz Akant forges a new language (think Rimbaud’s colored vowels pushed even further and then back into a futurity where antiquity and the almost here collide).
Sara Deniz Akant, Babette, Rescue Press, 2015.
Sara Deniz Akant's BABETTE, selected by Maggie Nelson for Rescue Press' Black Box Poetry Prize, mixes motor-thrum with incantation, promising to "make no pattern / known again." Perpetually on the move, BABETTE's populous—from Penny "turned into a toy" to the always absent, always there "gohst in the glare"—are machines of the living, at once spectre, shell, meat, and instrument. Uneasy in their habits, these poems transition between spaces "not made for inhabitants," sifting through manor walls as easily as fog banks. BABETTE is subversive, menacing, infectious. "There are hazards to Babette."
now it is time
to set fire to the motor soldiers.
“at rest we go by number 906 at rest.”
someone's been living here in this
start-up “someone is living here,
Babette.” she stands in ashes
glistening with sweat.
“smooth as the flame she was born of”
was always she : Babette. she was thirty
years ago at rest.
now it is time
for the absolute absence of any event.
there are nests of clumsy language there are
“hazards to Babette.” the voices dragging
all by heart. suppose the ashes look the sand.
“I propose the ashes look the sand” she said :
as though she were Babette. I look on human
faces and see nine. the absolute of any event :
see absence dragging heart
between the sand. “someone’s been living
in this number 906 start-up : my neighbor :
my private enemy” someone is living
here : Babette.
poor ghost – its tools – its host
of seven selves that rattle seamless
into dinner now. now grant the way.
it is remote – blue distance – remote
is blue or so
her credits run.
and so it is. and so it is done.
Beliza – Beliza
con atté sic – Beliza
Beliza – Beliza
a sigh and ahead – it is dusk
that continent dull – that endless
standing must be standing on
with eies. that form that seek
and of all these – of the soft and the free
– would make no pattern
in PEN Americain The Brooklyn Rail
Sara Deniz Akant, Latronic Strag, Persistent Editions, 2015.
Latronic Strag is a chapbook by Sara Deniz Akant. It is on one hand a found text, but on another, a luminous intersection of the mind. Sara Deniz Akant is the author of many things, and her first full length won the Rescue Press Black Book Prize. She has also won the Omnidawn Chapbook prize. Latronic Strag is a beautifully printed 8x8 square ready to keep you company on the subway, in bed, in the park, in the desert, or anywhere else.
LATRONIC STRAG has become part of my your our throats. you think you've found the graaaa. the graaaaa has found you. what is it other than lanie, and what is a lanie but a hole in the hart. it is good, it is so very good, and it grates you into its latronic nest. i have words for a strag world i didn't know i needed words for, until the words were there. all aboard the meat train. - ADRIENNE RAPHEL
LATRONIC STRAG is a book of rearticulation, re-utterance--language passed through a machine house poem body over and over. The speaker-processor works both compulsively and determinedly, with only a little terror about the monster morphling forth despite her orders. Here is a world set precisely on a conveyor belt of what is known for certain, which is to say nothing. Except: "that each fist makes its own shape and size...that that bat has a wrist...that the ocean beats open the flesh of the rocks." - ASHLEY COLLEY
Welcome to the house of graaaa—a house with no exit, a house of music masking the monster in the labyrinth and the eternal playmate of the past. Another language lives upstairs, a language that refuses its reflection with one hand while revising itself with the other. Sometimes we wake up craving this language, but we don’t know exactly what it is. I mean to say LATRONIC STRAG ratchets our eardrums as we cannonball claws-first out of the ceiling into the canal and sink into its foamy waves. Send Nature our apologies: The mirrors we’re using for eyes have all warped and the vacuums we’re using for hearts need emptying. May that we remember LATRONIC STRAG like that windless day waiting for a sound to rise up through the floors. - HENRY FINCH
Sara Deniz Akant, Parades, Omnidawn, 2014.
Here is a world of pre-or-post apocalyptic limbo, where past is conflated with present and future; the known is embedded in the dark and unknown. Here is a language of the micro-and-macro, where signs have been fashioned and bent to create a delicate economy of sound, shape, and meaning. As soon as we feel safe in our systems of expressions, we are pushed up and against them, until we can no longer find a difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Contained by seemingly inevitable geometric structures and driven by trance-like meters, hushing rhymes, the poems in Parades congeal to a substance more slippery than traceable: one that is cohesive, yet never static. Both surprising and itself surprised, this work suggests an affiliation with external forces just as it boasts its own internal logics. Here is a world, once again, that taps and harnesses our deeper vacillations: between the celebratory and the tragic, the singular and the plural, the human, the animal, and the machine.
Sara Deniz Akant’s Parades feels entirely new, and it’s impossible to give a sense of it without quoting, for it forges a new language (think Rimbaud’s colored vowels pushed even further and then back into a futurity where antiquity and the almost here collide: “microfigures of the centaur burst the famous onto shores”). Parades has its characters, locales, things, machines, and methods, all turning into one another––Georgia becomes ginger, April becomes Uptron, and a puppet (part baboon) that forms its own cocoon is perhaps the best trope for the whole book. Metered rhythms return to lull us into a speech that seems impenetrably, unrecognizably (what is this? French become Swiss become Danish?) foreign and opaque until we start to sing it like a haunting, forgotten nursery rhyme, where––no sleeping here––we wake, “darkling to the dune.” What is fable, what is real, where our footing, what our name, but a menagerie of human quotients in the future we spin within, where the machines are not the enemy, but more like “trampled voices of the known.” A politics dives and surfaces where what was once waste finds new use: “life coming up from a gap in the floor.” How lovely to breathe again in the most likely of unlikely places: “the place it took place in was like an alpine tree.”Parades is pure enchantment, pure surprise. - Gillian Conoley, Judge of the Omnidawn Poetry Chapbook ContestI received Sara Deniz Akant’s Parades (2014) at the perfect time—just days before Halloween. I’m not sure if this was the solid marketing of Omnidawn Publishing, or mere coincidence, but this chapbook will haunt you, not only with images of ghosts speckled from the first page throughout the book but also with remnants of dead white men whose metered verse feels fragmented, torn, and echoing.
Not that this is actually their metered verse, as one might get with an actual erasure collection, but one can pick up on traces of Poe here—the “scratching wall” in the poem “Mark,” and the line “no it’s not so very raven, such thin walled bones” (“Finga”), or even Twain when describing “Sawyer gadgets” in “Machines on the Move.”
Winner of the Omnidawn Poetry Chapbook Competition, one of the many feelings left upon the reader will be that of frustration. What’s experimental about it? The bizarre forms, the abandoned syntax, some foreign languages here and there, a more challenging demand for comprehension, and an extra use of keyboard symbols. What wasn’t? The rhythm, the rhyme, the strange lurking of late Romanticism and the occasional return to formalism and syntax. As is the case with most experimental poetry, we won’t “get” all of it. Oftentimes, I felt like I was reading an erasure poem—except that it often bounced with metered rhythm and rhyme. Poems like “The Baboon,” while skating across the page looking fragmented with all its chunks of white space, at the same time, sounded quite villanelly.
Admittedly, some of the typographical choices that have become set within the poetry felt to me a little gimmicky—meant more for ornamental decoration than to enhance some of the poems. This was the case with poems like “Uptron,” “Itgara 2.0,” and “April Ltd.” In one case, the poem “^ Wilbaso ^” felt successful with all of its bizarre carrots, inching the eyes upward in verse “half-trolling^the eies,” and certainly much of the forms used by Deniz Akant felt new, straying from your typical Academy tercet/couplet into centered, justified wide margined prose pieces, followed by less marginalized prose poems broken with repetitive hyphens (which just look like really long lines). Essentially, Sara Deniz Akant is reworking what we know of the prose poem in many of these pieces, but much more fragmented, and a lot more caesuraed. Comprehensively, the collection moves from what feels like an establishment of setting, piecing itself together through a collection of character-driven poems marking the dead from abandoned spaces, and turning on itself in dystopian machinery. At least for me.– John Bonanni
who can lay in the ghost stays old. say no. say
a longer beyond may be possible.
and twins get cold with animal things.
so fuse us not. we are unique.
one face exposes miles.
say ash is to ashes and uncoupled dust.
these sleeping islands.
they’ll give the pitch.
one beat is cross one
song is acid one
horse is running
its distance lost.