CHRIS MANSEL Reviews
COURT OF THE DRAGON by Paolo Javier
(Nightboat Books, New York, 2015)
Paolo Javier opens Court of The Dragon with a poem entitled “My Aspiring Villain.” It is a far-reaching poem, one that could stand on its own anywhere. He writes, “Maybe the grenade seal in front of us/ ammonia in case of electric anglo autocrat collegiate/ days look over shoulder for crustacean horizon/ in the sanctity of our home ecstatic rodeo missionary position.” Is this language poetry? According to poet Lyn Hejinian and her book The Language of Inquiry, “Language is nothing but meanings, and meanings are nothing but a flow of contexts. Such contexts rarely coalesce into images, rarely come to terms. They are transitions, transmutations, the endless radiating of denotation into relation.” This long poem is broken into 17 sections, “17a” through “e” to be exact. Each section better than the other. I love to see someone mix language the way others take a breath. In another part of the poem, Mr. Javier writes, “So don’t, so don’t –Id rather us dance in outer formation key of cemetery music question endure war of worlds” Mr. Javier is certainly dancing.
The next part of the book, “Court Of The Dragon,” is another long poem. Mr. Javier writes, “I have been down this road before we bring up roll of film/ now the poem begin”. Past is now present? What follows is a line of cautious awareness if you will, “Confront allegiance temper taunt occupy disjoint quotient delay calm.” This is just as Ms. Hejinian wrote, a “flow of contexts” which is interlaced with the use of cinema. The use of imagery in the words of Mr. Javier “confronts” and places them into a blur of images where danger may or may not be occurring. Either way, you, the reader, is in the theater of your mind seeing and hearing what others should see and hear, “Exuberance! O language hyena do you invoke Olson.”
In the next poem, “Pastorella,” Mr. Javier writes, “Im a madrigal camper purlieus commandment/ kiss me name English yours retro transistor vainguely/ sun across day cuisine infirmity why impoverishment.” The writing of Mr. Javier reminds me of a quote from the French writer Paul Valery, “What one wrote playfully, another reads with tension and passion; what one wrote with tension and passion, another reads playfully.” It is after all how the reader confronts what is written. If the reader is familiar with writing like what is presented here, they will fully understand just how good this is.
The final section of the book is entitled “In Case Of Glass Abandoned Ballad.” The second to last poem is “Starfish Aorta Colossus (to Frank Lima).” This in my opinion is the best poem offered here. Mr. Javier writes, “Alligator lion alligator fury under shell/ disguised as self ask if you’ve eaten of its midnight levee/ from hotels close down hearing rim/ storm worm through gloaming in painted Angkor Wat.” Now if you can’t get behind lines like these, I’m sure you’re not a fan of poetry anyway. But if you are, then what are you waiting for?
Chris Mansel is a writer, filmmaker, epileptic, musician, photographer and a permanent outsider for some reason. Along with Jake Berry, he formed the band Impermanence who have released one album, Arito. He releases music under the name dilation Impromptu who have released four albums and have just released a new Cd Indentions On The North Face of Everest. His writing has been published in the Experioddi(cyber)cist, Apocryphal Text, and the Atlantic Press among others. He has made over 260 short films for other artists as well as his own work.