Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Balloon Pop Outlaw Black

Patricia Lockwood's poetry collection Balloon Pop Outlaw Black from Octopus Books feels like the most unified anthology of poems I've read in awhile. It's a collection in the true sense of the word.

Inside this book cartoons are words. And words are objects -- personified and three-dimensional. The first third of the collection is about the word "popeye," as you may be able to tell from Lisa Hanawalt's amazing cover art. And a recurring theme is the physicality of words themselves.


From "The Church of the Open Crayon Box"

Fat geese fly in any letter you like but you need
red meat for once, and write a splayed-hide word
like "Deerslayer," and take hold of the ending
                                          and drag it home,                                            


From "The Father of the Fictional Alphabet"

The letters must be forged--the father of the fictional alphabet
wears protective glasses, and holds flat and round sounds
in the roaring fire and uses a seashell for flux, and then drops
each letter in a bowl of cool water, and they steam in the shape
              of themselves, and the father of the fictional alphabet
rivets them to the machine: on all sides, in brass letters, it says:

              and it belches black smoke and itself,
and white mice run in wheels inside it, a clearie marble
rolls down a track, and here is a slot for quarters where
you buy a chgnk chgnk sound. The letters have whirligigs
in them, the letters release hundreds of helicopters, the letters
have snakes that slip between stones, the letters grow parrot-
head flowers, and the letters are bodies settled with blackflies.

I'm absolutely in love with the poem "Good Climbing Trees Grow Us", which I couldn't pick just part of to share. So do yourself a favor and buy the book, or check it out in issue 11 of MAKE.

But here are some other passages I loved:

From "When We Move Away From Here, You'll See a Clean Square of Paper Where His Picture Hung"

After supper, he sits on the porch with a
long black shotgun and waits for a
buffalo to wander into view. He uses
every part of the buffalo--he uses them
down to their eye whites, he uses the
very lines that make them up.

He walks to the city to be counted in
the census. A wind gets itself up and
ruffles him relentlessly, but miniature
monuments hold him down.

His paper is usually stacked neatly,
especially when still in original trees.

Lives where? In voices: hills and valleys. Lives
all in the alphabet as if it were a rowhouse.
Lives at the peak of the tallest chalk hill.

Or lives: nowhere at all. He wanders the desert,
written on old skins, moaning,
"Where is home, where is home?" And
waits for a tent peg to be driven
through his skull.

From "The Cartoon's Mother Builds a House in Hammerspace"

She moves as smoothly as the moment of a mousetrap, and
when her cartoon needs a mousetrap she gives one to him.

Even the act of extending an arm toward him produces a trombone.

And as she watches herself extend an arm, a collapsible
spyglass leaps out of her eye.

When she tiptoes across the lawn, so does a small green rose bush.

When a wrecking ball swings out of nowhere, she is riding it;
she makes a round cutout in the enemy's house and then
rides the cutout home.

Imagine her body as a barrel of gunpowder, uncorked,
spilling black along the ground behind it.

When she spreads her arms and sinks down, she brings a
detonator into the world.

87 pages
3,529 / 20,000 page goal

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