K. Lorraine Graham, Terminal Humming (Edge Books, 2009).
Edge Books has got to be breaking some kind of record for the greatest number of stunning new books of poetry released within a year's time, what with recent titles by Kevin Davies, Cathy Eisenhower, Mel Nichols, Chris Nealon, and now K. Lorraine Graham, whose Terminal Humming came out about a week ago. All five of these books seem like shoo-ins for my 2009 Attention Span list when the time rolls around (my 2008 list is here).
The poems in Terminal Humming often take the form of an unregulated swirl of voices, as though from different sectors of some public space filled with furtive private dramas ... kind of like a humming terminal. Pronouns shift from singular to plural with breakneck suddenness, so that the speaker seems to be continually teleporting outside of her own embodied situation and observing its multiplication into disparate scenarios. This description makes it sound as if it could come off as a certain type of tired postmodernist "interrogation of the self," but it's much livelier than that. The emphasis is less on states of awareness than on unique actions and constellations of events--a continually shifting mise en scene for an unspecified production. From "An Attempt to Unleash Inner Badness Ends Thus":
As a person:
We are free and beautiful and assertive and we have a nice bike and nice bike gear. With organic vegetables we make jello even though we can't eat jello any more. Lob lob. Had several interactions, planning more, and also planning to put a roof on our cubicle. In this exercise I am alone, wearing flip flops or slippers, reading about Central Asian nomads, but I am not actually in Central Asia, unless it is the 1870s and I am a wealthy, virile and imperial anthropologist, sailing through the you-go-in-but-you-don't-come-out desert, Wagner on the gramophone, thinking of rooms of Rubens and breasts popping out of blouses, staring at the dunes.
As a thing:
In the supergirl outfit, I went to buy fruit to make a salad as a healthy dessert alternative to ice cream. In several fan fiction accounts supergirl and batwoman hook up. The supergirl cape is short and does not snag. What thing do we mean doing?
There has been a lot of talk about an emergent subgenre of "the Gurlesque" in the last few years, and in many cases I've felt either that the work attempting to effect it is superficially thematic and/or lacking in self-reflexive criticality, or that the truly interesting work the term is used to describe has been forced under its rubric by conceptual violence. I'm not sure if I'd want to call Graham's work Gurlesque (I believe she's somewhat skeptical about the category as well), but it certainly offers some of the most psychologically complex and arresting treatment I've seen of (among many other things) the concerns associated with that mode.