Saturday, July 16, 2016

DEAR RA...dear gawd!



DEAR RA
JOHANNES GÖRANSSON

Civil Coping Mechanisms
$15.95 trade paper, available now

Rating: 5 shellshocked stars of five

The Publisher Says: Back in print in a newly revised and expanded edition, Dear Ra is an exhibition of an inimitable literary talent. The text therein is an assemblage of letters reminiscent of that daunting and delicate space where prose and poetry collide. Göransson’s cult-hit may in fact be a the sort of literary spell conjured from the ether to be as much your demise as your greatest dream. There are few genocides as important as the ones that reside in the human imagination.

My Review: What did I just read.

Seriously. What the hell did I just read.

315 consecutive and unpunctuated iterations of the phrase "take back your land" for one thing; a great number of non-sequiturs, eg "If Sir Phillip Sydney's Astrophil and Stella is about masturbation, then this poem is about imperialism." and:
Dear Ra,
Forgive me for telling you this: You need to lower your prices and open your windows. I have to go now. My grandfather is here and he wants attention.
for another. Poem? Poems? Stories, prose, what? I'm just going to call Dear Ra a text and have done with it.

Anyway, I'll tell you a secret: (apparently turn-of-the-century poets used and possibly still use "confessional" as an insult when describing the work of fellow poets, who knew) I bought this book because 1) I'm loopy about Swedish men and b) this cover is so beautiful and so perfect and so amazingly aesthetically aimed at my Sweet Spot that I want to have unprotected sex with it. Hey, that confessional moment felt good, here's another: I read this text twice, the first time with mounting irritation, the second imagining naked Alexander Skarsgård reading it to me, and that has made all the difference.



An immigrant's love letter to words, to how they feel in your mouth and your eyes, a soft critique of pretentious poetasters, a hard look at the obsessive nature of wordsmithing.

Would it be too much to ask you to go buy it? Funds are tight; poetry is like nostrils, your own are okay but other peoples' are kinda gross; but really, when you get to the root of the problem, admit it!, you just don't want to feel stupid because you don't "get it."

Poets, like Homer-era poets, were rappers. Everything they spoke they sang. Do that here. Or, if like me you're visual, make the sounds into movie frames or photos that could never really exist on film. But listen to me, I am the last person to say good things about poets or poetry, and I'd like to see dozens of you (I'm a realist and I know that's a major stretch goal) interact with this text and emerge from the bout knowing, securely and unshakeably knowing, that poetry does not defeat or demean or dismiss you. It demands you engage with it. Your ideas and your take-aways from it are completely your own, and owe nothing to the poet. You owe nothing to the poet. (You'll owe $15.95 to the bookseller and that's the end of the financial, moral, aesthetic, intellectual entanglement you have with others about the text, or really any writing, singing, painting, photographing.)

I've known the publisher for a goodly while on social media. I've read his own writing (The Fun We've Had is on my life-list of excellent books that changed me). I don't always like his stuff, published or written, but I admire his gonzo aesthetic and his willingness to Make Art in a world that would much rather you didn't thank you please even when I don't always love the results. Here's something I do love, always and in all ways, adventurous thinking living creating in every way. Far better to be wrong than safe. Be wrong with Civil Coping Mechanisms, buy and read this text, love it hate it be anything except bored!

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