CONSTANCE ADLER Reviews
In Praise of Absolute Interpretation by Felino A. Soriano
Upon opening In Praise of Absolute Interpretation, we read the words of Miles Davis:
“Don't play what's there, play what's not there.”
Felino A. Soriano’s book takes the reader into a rarefied realm of sensory awareness, into alterity and the creative process. In poetic responses to great jazz, fantastic tableaus are created. But Soriano ~ arguably the greatest ekphrastic poet of the modern era ~ does far more than interpret these liquid performances. Following Davis’ mandate to every artist, his work searches and finds the ‘between spaces’ ~ the unexplored corridors where symbiosis takes place; where moment happens.
An excerpt from the first poem in the collection “—after John Coltrane’s, Something I Dreamed of Last Night” is illustrative:
from the vision of my moment’s predetermined happiness,
lover of blond silk-twists, resting
under rose fabric beret
highlighting complexion of her
Here there is a languid conjunction; ‘my moment’s predetermined happiness’. She is answer and every detail saturates: her hair, a roseate hat, her fairness. In prosodic mastery ~ flat o ‘lover/blond’ elides into the soft e ~‘fabric/beret’, and come to close on the matte tin i: ‘winter/physiognomy’. Listen to the piece: a low trumpet flows into deep bass and a barely audible of triangle wisp. All of it is there in Soriano’s language mastery.
Soriano’s ‘necessary esoteric approach to language’ is bedrock to the metaphysical vantage point which impels his art. As he discusses, every poem is a tapestry of re-visioning:
A thing, say, a beautiful dragonfly, is not simply the manmade definition of a dragonfly. There is a beautified, colored texture, a hyper-motional wing activity, an ensuing vanish. These qualities may or may not be visible to the onlooker, and it is therefore my responsibility to posit these interpretations of what a dragonfly is/can become. There are too many top-layer definitions of surroundings, of existence. Thus, I investigate the possible layers residing beneath, and posit through my brand of language, poetic occurrences that are not readily available, unless examined.
In this way, following Deleuze, jazz as art form is fully realized as the embodiment of free experimentation that informs all organic art and philosophy.
This notion of potentiality, ‘what a thing can become’, is seen in deft and delicate imagery which in turn expands the interpretive threshold of the reader. The reader progressively moves through the poems as visionary risk-taker. Often titles and text play with the mind in a creative continuum, to no sense of ‘resolve’:
—after Bill Charlap’s One Morning in May
conceptual morning, slight
whisper told evaporating eyes
—after Miles Davis’ Stella by Starlight
White glove, sequin
covering longest, most enticing brand
of tired touch
—after Herbie Hancock’s Butterfly
Glass of stained
enwrapping black halos
In a recent assessment of Soriano’s poetry, Hala Hoagland discusses the potency of his imagery:
Felino’s images feel like an internal light through which letters come through as contrasting sprites of a developing spirit, undertaking such beauty that we have to take a seat beside him. His lines and shapes change as he jumps inside each new work. Felino isn’t following some outdated form, he is making form. 
This work requires time and full engagement, immersion; the reward immense. While theme, texture, tone and emotional coloratura are all aspects of his art, in these reconceptualizations, theme is a derivative composite. The parallels with such jazz elements as blue notes, polyrhythms and syncopation are striking. The parallelism between the essential element of improvisation and the poet’s use of white space underscores the level of creative multiplicities.
We see, we feel this so clearly in his —after Tim Berne’s Now Then:
does the body soar
or tears of emotional
From an ascending moment, the return is a staircase to a state ‘beyond tears’. Much as Mallarmé, Soriano makes profound connections to silence in the use of whiteness as a compositional element. The elongation and stillness of that critical line of transition is deafening in its haunting.
With over 35 books (since 2008) and 2,200 poems published (since 2006), the work of Felino A. Soriano resounds. It’s a voice as unique as it is towering. This is brilliantly seen in his stunning tour de force, “—after Branford Marsalis’ The Nearness of You”
shadow and oak, origin
first known, brilliant
banter within wind’s hazy glide
of leave’s precocious wave, shadow’s
looking north, portion of relevance
highest known among answers,
yes, the grandest must eventually
What does nearness mean? After ‘other’ has been recognized? What happens after that moment of ‘knowing’?
We revel in that discovery, in that finding, but, yes, even as we are enveloped:
the grandest must eventually subside.
Felino Soriano discusses his poetry with Kane X. Faucher, Ditch, March, 2009 http://www.ditchpoetry.com/Felino%20Soriano%20Interview.pdf
A Journey Across Borders :a review of Felino A. Soriano's Apperceptions of Reinterpretations, Leaf Garden Press, Issue 10, http://www.lulu.com/items/volume_68/9223000/9223929/1/print/9223929.pdf
Constance Stadler has been writing, publishing and editing poetry from the prehistoric epoch of print journals to the modern e-zine. She is a former editor of South and West and the e-zine Eviscerator Heaven. Having published over 250 poems and three chapbooks in her ‘first manifestation’ as a poet when doing readings with poets such as Sharon Olds and Galway Kinnell, recent years have evoked several new works. Featured poet in several publications, and an Erbacce finalist and Pushcart nominee, her background has served in reviewing several volumes of poetry and prose as well as a long career in college teaching.