Monday, August 1, 2016


Marthe Reed Engages

Anemal Uter Meck by Mg Roberts
(Black Radish Books, February 2017)

BOOK LINK (as of 2/17)

A love letter for Mg Roberts’ Anemal Uter Meck

Mg Roberts’ Anemal Uter Meck (Black Radish 2017) draws from Oakland graffiti art and artists for its title, re-contextualizing the poet’s art and language within the transgressive, urban, and public temper of graffiti. This richly folded, felted text takes complexity, multiplicity, profusion as its genetic code, a textual mirror for the world(s) Roberts invokes and celebrates, realms of being and knowing by which she, and her readers with her, are rapt and riven.

Composed in three sections, the first, “Scar Mosaic,” meditates on monsters, hybrids, a colloquy of fissioning form, language itself – an extravagant complex of skin-beak-feather-placenta…words. Robert’s slippagesbody to drought to house to child drawing at a tableassert Images are so easy they presuppose fact.” Though what facts?  In the pleasure of these permutations, the birth of the child, the shaping of text, the sky like a mouth yawning, Roberts maps each to each, weaving wonder: “Through the stitches of incident, so lax & passive / What sings to: folds from?” Making and unmaking, she assembles a glorious ‘object of astonishment’.[1]

Memory is like when the light leaks out and the desire to stop reproduction and the
desire to procreate become the same thing. A diagnosis is a moment of inexplicit
clarity, blurred identifications hemmed in by bones, bones resembling anything but
beauty produced on film. How can I make things any clearer here? Can I say the
making of important things is like an axis, the study of tectonics? The making: make.

I want to define elegance I want to examine the arrangement of all its letters, its violence
before you. Are tulips elegant? I mean redemptive. Transferable. Are red tulips elegant?

a. The thought spills out, everything spills out of it, everything

In second section, “Notes from the gyre,” the poet renders language beyond daily news or her own page, the language of the Great Pacific Gyre. Here the sky drops its pages to earth, dispatches scrawled by ocean, litter, wind, tectonics —the material from which the Gyre is formed. At the edge of the bay beside which the poet writes,

We lift our arms gulf horizon: billboards, more stoplights, graffiti, sun.

Look down at the Bay, a wide margin of blue fabric               stretches,

Points repeatedly at      my mouth and yours.

Somewhere below us: a palm tree                            grows                    despite

Concrete, it writes in brown and deep red.

            It                                                          writes:

Don’t eat the fish.

The language of the gyre, the sea, of the palm tree muzzled in concrete chatter against the noise of Twitter, Tumblr, and politics. Mg Roberts pulls us down into the seeming silence of animal and planetary suffering, re-binding us to the shared endocrine, lymphatic, embodied being in which we are embedded and so peculiarly ignorant. Blind even to that distress of our own kind, kin: “There are no grocery stores in this part of this part of the city. / Your sign of the cross / Your gold face              oppression.” This silence is illusory: the “vowels sprawled out” of the shifting lithosphere beneath our feet cut through the cotton in our ears. We’re unprepared for the news coming at us. The poet satirically asks, “Where are your earthquake supplies? / Where are your jugs of water?”

 In the final section “Meck”, Roberts binds reproduction and language to the violence of othering.

2. Movement is like riding a bike; limbs fold and recombine. If language is an extension
of identity, please identify the symptoms of cultural norms?

a. Your eyes are so round.

b. Where is the bridge of your nose?

Slicing open language, Roberts fluently slips from form to form to form: the looping of chromosomes or the movement of the fetus in utero, the movement of light or of immigrants across borders or seas: “Are you visiting or invading?” Roberts’ looping, recursive lines refuse stability, isolation, “purity.” Where a little girl in a yellow dress innocently plays among her toys—unicorn, stuffed owl, “An inverted flag/ Seated toy soldiers”—our narrative inevitably slips elseward: “The yellow dress loops surfaces      of      a thing that is everything / And then becomes less & less.” Less and less transparent, more and more intricate, tangled, ominous. As the child pats each toy’s head, she polices the hard line against which there will be no argument nor latitude:

) not for you

(not for you

(not for

(you not for

Outsiders, outliers, others. Roberts—woman, mother, child, daughter, Filipina—adamantly refuses their/her erasure, demanding our unwavering attention:

My head is too small you say, I ask you to measure my vagina instead. I’ve given birth to
three children and aborted just as many if not more. To reperform time breathe through
fused concepts of childhood etched in the activity of belonging to peruse at a later date:
human, chimpanzee, bonobo, mouse. Here sign and object separate, how to differentiate
between color, hue, proportion and the coveting of color, hue, proportion in a succession
of human forms?

b. Am I like you?

Red blood cells distend and burst. Bones press against adjectival arrangement. I want to
birth into your status update and take your pulse. Are you more human, multi sensory—
soft, pink, & fleshy? Am I offensive? I run my fingers inward, across scalp, toward base
of skull:

Mg Roberts’ Anemal Uter Meck is a fierce sgraffito, gorgeously scratched through looping narratives of memory, embodiment, language, fetal development and birth, geology, water, and environmental collapse. The slippages between compose the codes of the poetry’s genome, give rise to its astonishing power. Anemal Uter Meck will be published by Black Radish Books in February 2017 and I could not be more excited! Many, many thanks to Metta Sáma for bringing Mg’s work to our attention, to Mg for sharing her work with us, and to Eileen for the invitation to write this love letter to Mg.

[1] Wonder, from Proto-Germanic *wundran: a miracle, a marvelous thing, an object of astonishment.


Marthe Reed is the author of five books: Nights Reading (Lavender Ink 2014), Pleth, a collaboration with j hastain (Unlikely Books 2013), (em)bodied bliss (Moria Books 2013), Gaze (Black Radish Books 2010) and Tender Box, A Wunderkammer (Lavender Ink 2007). She has published chapbooks as part of the Dusie Kollektiv, as well as with above/ground press and Shirt Pocket Press. Her collaborative chapbook thrown, text by j hastain with Reed's collages, won the 2013 Smoking Glue Gun contest. She is co-publisher and managing editor for Black Radish Books and publisher of Nous-zōt Press chapbooks.

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