Blood Makes Me Faint But I Go For It. Natalie Lyalin. Eastern European Poets Series #34. Ugly Duckling Press. Brooklyn, New York. 2014.
Today's book of poetry was enjoying a brief break at Go Home Lake but is back in the saddle with another killer from Ugly Duckling Presse.
It started slowly, but the more I read the more intensely I liked Natalie Lyalin's poetry. It is not unlike a movie with a foreign director who speaks in a new visual language. The more you watch (read), the more rational it becomes, at least within that cinematic universe, and in this case in the crisp poetry of one Natalie Lyalin.
Lyalin is using a vocabulary you will have no trouble recognizing but her choice of vernacular is startling. Blood Makes Me Faint But I Go For It is witty smart and tailored, it's a bit of a custom suit, but it fits perfectly.
Black Horse Pike
I took my wagon onto Black Horse Pike
With plenty of water
With a read tiredness!
With throbbing paws!
With my ghostly sons!
Without my daughter
With my mother's anger!
Without her rifle
With a target on my back!
With letters and numbers!
Without a message
With a sense of exploration!
Without much concern for others
With a sense of ownership!
Without a contract
With a vague promise of justice!
With a faulty eye socket!
Without a correction
With a small erection!
Without a wedding veil
With a bothersome tooth!
Without a way to fix it
With an arrow!
Without a weapon
With a navigator!
Without common sense
With my dear friend!
As skulls lit the road
As wheat braided itself into circles
As hawks predicted our end
Today's book of poetry would be telling lies if we pretended to know exactly what Natalie Lyalin is on about, exactly what she is striving for in these poems. But we are enthused about looking further, understanding more. Think of it this way; you could be watching a dancer and greatly admire the dancing without necessarily knowing the name of each particular step.
Blood Makes Me Faint But I Go For It certainly kicks up some spectacular dust along the way, even if we don't understand the siege of Stalingrad, even if we don't get to live all those different lives we imagined. We can be taken along for the narrative ride, marvel out the windows of the train.
There was a squawk sound and the clouds flipped to green, the sky, yellow. I was
counting seeds and noted the moment. It was a strange farm, a strange town, a
frightened country we were in. There were not too many schools or children, so there
were few balloons. I concerned myself with the sickly garden. It needed bone meal so
I got some. Under the moon's coloring thirty foxes circled my house and sixty wolves
circled them. I called my grandmother to say that I would name someone Wolf, and
she thought this splendid. We hung up, but I told her to keep living. Keep living
though you are very far away from your country, and your friends are not coming
home. Bad things happened, but I harvested a giant pepper and ate it whole. And it
was very hot and also splendid. I spied a rake and began a short-lived revolution.
Today's book of poetry fears we are doing Natalie Lyalin a disservice by our inability to properly express the various reasons for the genuine pleasure and fascination these curious poems create.
Perhaps Kathyrn, our Jr. Editor, said it best when she said, "You don't have to know the recipe to tell if it tastes good." Well Lyalin can burn. These short intense poems deliver complex tastes, satisfying textures, excellent finish.
Blood Makes Me Faint But I Go For It is from a series Ugly Duckling Presse produces called Eastern European Poets Series but there is no detailed information about what language Lyalin writes in or if these are translations, or original, written in English poems. In the end it doesn't really matter, Lyalin connects.
I Had This Hair When My Dad Was Alive
I'm from a sturgeon's lung
I'm cut out and breathing
The weather is changing languages
All over, the equinox is taking away power
Different weird clouds keep forming
Darling things come in twos!
We are both alive and in Poland
Foreign foghorns keep sounding
In your city the police are absolutely corrupted
Farm animals are finally getting to eat succulent grasses
The invisible typewriter is suspended in space
This hair is authentic fox fur
Coffins are so tiny after dark!
Toxic sludge has made its way into the heartland!
Under a heavy rain we keep walking
Everyone is sharing photos of their babies
The waiter will not bring me juice
I keep stopping by weird French restaurants
The car lost a wheel just as I pulled up
The first snow fell and I'm angry!
This man is having a seizure on the elliptical
My family is incognito
Twenty-eight years ago things were so different!
It was hard to find boots and stockings
In the cover of night men are sneaking into windows
Parking lots are full of unwanted baggage
We found galoshes and rubber diapers
Your new friends are much better than me
All over the world people are being birthed
Our grandmothers can no longer see too far!
She's exaggerating her stupid pain
The proboscis stunned me into silence
We thought your name would be Vladimir
My television is resting on a teeny tiny stand
This music is from Swan Lake!
My mucus is coming up yellow
The outdoor patio is really a lanai
The youngest child is always the prettiest
This wedding is full of cancer-causing sugar!
In a past life I was someone really crazy
This old old country is the grave's keeper!
The steroids are starting to wear off
This trench coat smells of urine
I've shopped with your baby!
the raccoon traps are howling
Today's book of poetry tends to favour the straight narrative line and Lyalin is not about that. So why the fascination?
Sometimes you just can't explain why you find something beautiful but Lyalin's poetry compelled us to turn page after page, hit us with some sunshine language and some of the other kind.
Photo: Brandon Jones
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Natalie Lyalin is the author of Pink & Hot Pink Habitat (Coconut Books, 2009), and a chapbook, Try A Little Time Travel (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010). She is a part of the Agnes Fox Press editing collective and the cofounder and editor of Natural History Press. She lives in Philadelphia and teaches at The University of the Arts.
BLURBS"Thank goodness it is time to hear more from the spectacular Natalie Lyalin! Whether they threaten or offer tenderness, her poems declare themselves in strange, flat phrases, as if unaware of how much beauty and destruction they contain, until some moment of recognition occurs and they suddenly must exclaim 'Coffins are so tiny after dark!' This book is an unpredictable delight, written in the fantastic English of a poet who can see the language for all its gaps and glamour. You are going to love having these words in your head."
- Heather Christie
"You don’t have a time machine? You’re in luck—like a weird kid in the woods trying to build a spaceship, Natalie Lyalin has created something beautiful, messy, and magical. This book is your time machine. Get in and travel to another world which is like this world, only here it’s dirty, tragic, funny, strange, mundane, eerie, ecstatic, familiar, and a little dangerous. Being inside these poems is like living with a few added dimensions: the one where you grow wings in the kitchen, or where language is a hammer you break in case of emergency—and there is always an emergency. In Lyalin's work, survival is at hand: sometimes it’s history, sometimes it's your self, and sometimes it’s just a time and place to wear sexy gold fangs in a lemon orchard and chase you around the trees."
- Sampson Starkweather
Divine Magnet Poetry Series Presents: Natalie Lyalin from Jerusalem
video: Joshua Bolton
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