The title of this entry is the title of Ben Mirov's chapbook is the title of a poem in the chapbook is nearly a GRE or SAT verbal exam
If the smoke is already coming out of your ears, don't worry, you can take the exam twice before it goes on your permanent record.
I really liked "I is to Voriticism," which is mostly like this:
Which is to say, Ben Mirov successfully renders ordinary objects (i.e. watermelon seeds or "a woman made of bendy straws and a metronome") and the poetic subject (Ben Mirov himself) into something glistening & accessible & strange. Ben Mirov achieves this not too simple feat with a sense of ease, by means of startling yet simple juxtaposition & meditation rather than by flailing hoity-toity tomfoolery. Sure, we might be inclined to talk about influences, all reviewers are, but I feel like that would miss the point: with Ben Mirov one has the impression that his influences have all been carefully chewed up & digested. This is a good book of poems & it would do you good to read it.
But right now you're probably asking yourself: 'Do I need to know anything about the art movement Vorticism?' Maybe. 'Can I enjoy Ben Mirov's book of poems if I'm too lazy to look it up on Wikipedia?' I think so. 'Is there plenty of stuff to revel in?' For sure!
Because, first of all, this book of poems has some mighty fine LOL jams. "Duffle Bags of Vicodin" has to be one of the funniest poems (or is it an example of flash fiction?) that I've read in a while.
& the other prose poem companions of "Duffle Bags of Vicodin" ("Kage's First Xmas," "Handsome Pete," "Lifetime Achievement," "High-Fives") also successfully explore the absurd & a uncanny of the everyday (das Unheimliche des Alltägliches), which is, surely, well-tread & thus all the more amazing that Mirov is able to pull it off with such grace.
Mirov's genius in these comical prose poems lies in his recognition of the true potential of comedy: comedy exists not only to make people chuckle & ease up, but also to peel back layers of skin. There's something forensic about comedy. Comedy is important because it allows us to look at the various problems we face through a different lens, a lense sans mope. & that's exactly what happens, Mirov presents us with a number of problems we face, like loneliness & longing & creation. Take for instance, "High-Fives," which begins with the silly scenario of an ultimate frisbee team celebrating a victory. The winning team slathers on high-fives after the match & "well into the night, at the bar, though the intensity of each exchange grows less and less. For some of us the high-fives continue even longer, as we lie alone in bed."
I appreciate this. The poems always bring you to laughter then to the question: How did we get here?
In other words, the prose poems often begin with a chuckle but then once you're opened up on the operating table, numbed a little by laughing gas, the prose poems then touch the nerve that's only been partially anaesthetized. & if we suppose that these prose poems possess a certain aesthetic goal (namely, the confrontation with certain problems through a nonchalant, humorous manner), we might wonder if Mirov has a different goal in mind for his line break poems. The answer, I believe, is yes, in fact, he does. Here's "Containment Unit for Mysterious Green Vapor" for example:
I shouldn't talk about myself that way.
I also have feelings.
Anger at the cucumber.
Disappointed neon blue.
Running through pine forest
from robotic wolves of happiness.
1950's song and dance insane grin of apathy.
Beer. Beer is also a feeling.
And so is the light on a napkin
in a Robert Walser story.
The dimension between Sandy's shoulder blades.
Max Jacob in his cell at the monastery.
Moon Dog (1916-1999).
Literary theory, Indian food
paper cuts, schmoozing
virginity, red heads
black holes, quasars.
No feeling is also a feeling,
a powerful one surrounded by all feelings.
Flow together at 4:17 in the afternoon.
Here Mirov takes objects/people/moments as feelings, yes, that's right, literal things as feelings and not how we normally say things, namely, that they affect us. This is a pretty interesting thesis & one which I doubt the neurologists would go so far as to confirm, but in a certain poetical/philosophical landscape, we can see what Mirov is aiming at, namely, that the self is not a unified object, there is no little man in the machine controlling everything. & here's where I believe neurologists would agree with Mirov again. Ben Mirov has a similar approach to the self in poems like the "Braille of Evenings is Written in Poem," which ends: "If the sun comes up / I won't be a different person." If we were to take the title of the chapbook more seriously (as well as its GRE Analogy aspect), we might say that the Subject/subject is always moving, changing, but it also basically remains recognizable (indeed in the title poem, the GRE analogy changes three times, like a multiple choice question where no d. all of the above is given). We see this as well in "The Poem Addresses Ben Mirov in a State of Inconsolable Grief," where 'The Poem' tries to remind the poet that the world is made of language & essentially interchangeable: "Driving a car / and driving a star / are almost the same / if you believe as I believe / the world is made of language."
Nevertheless, the poem does not push these linguistic permutations to the unrecognizable; the sense or meaning or recognition of the thing is always quickly perceivable, like in Wyndham Lewis paintings.
There was a part of me, however, that wished Mirov or the poem would have pushed this word replacement beyond its obviously recognizable limits (for, if the world is made of language & 'car' & 'star' are basically the same - in English -, then it seems to me we could get some pretty far out permutations with replacing other letters & then even further with even more substitutions, ad infinitum); but then the book would have had a different title ("I is to DADA?') & a different thesis: namely, ~ the "I is to Voriticism" thesis. The "I is to Vorticisim" thesis, as far as I can tell, is this: yes, the world is always changing / ineffable BUT it always remains essentially recognizable. We may only grasp this feeling/intuition fleetingly in things, but it is always felt.
So if you take the two different strategies of this book we are left with the summary: "how did we get here?" and "what are we? exactly? unknowable. but we have a good rough & ready understanding."
The thesis is honest & straightforward but also leads us to some questions about FLUX & philosophy (but questions we won't delve into here).
This nails it for me, just as the poems nail it on an aesthetic level. The poems are enjoyable to read & worth the return back. More fascinating is that there always remains something unknown & surprising in these poems. I've discovered a number of details in the second & third readings that are really stunning but which passed me by on the first reading, simply because there was too much good stuff.
While everyone is praising the "playful liar" aspect of "I is to Vorticism" at the Amazon page, I think we should remember that the Shakesperean Fool is usually the character who tells the truth, the character we end up trusting. I trust this Ben Mirov, whoever he may be. Ben Mirov has taken something old/new/blue & pwned 'em all.
Read this book! & then join me in my anticipation for this bad boy!