FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
AUGUST 2012 - BOOK REVIEW
FROM STONE THIS RUNNING
by Heller Levinson
Black Widow Press (Boston, MA, 2011)
Reviewer: Kit Kennedy
Let's begin with the bias. Not understanding never stops me from liking. In fact, it intrigues and draws me close. I don't purport to understand Heller Levinson's Hinge Theory, but I get it. I like his latest book, from stone this running, mightily. Here is a theory which spores poems whose language is fresh, generative, fractal, at times humorous, lyrical and jazzy. The reader is first-hand witness to the birthing. Sometimes, it is a hard one.
So, what is this thing called Hinge? "It's not what it Is, but how it Behaves," Mr. Levinson says in his introduction. Further along, he observes "that we are at the borderline: at a locus in our explorations that demands we view language as biology, as chemistry, as a realm of reproduction." He further states that, "A hallmark of Hinge is its propagatory nature. It resembles cellular reproduction in its capacity to spin off and multiply."
Theory to the side, how about the poems? They adhere to a linguistic construct assigned to them. For example the first six sections generate poems according to the following instructions:
From _____This ______
In The _____Of_______
The Road To ______Road
With _____This _____
Here, in "From Sharpening This Edge," "the knife edge is sharpened to facilitate invading another edge/the knife, then, as a traveler/ „³ a border crosser/: vegetables as a highway system ("We'll be passing through tomato."}/sharpening:/a velocity function.
Note the embedded formulas in the above. "The symbol://: is employed to suggest a seesawing between the words surrounding it....We are considering ://: to indicate that it does not denote strict valuations.... It is a springboard for rapport. And, like persons, the words rapporting in seesaw each have their own dispositions, their own organic personalities." Who can deny that Mr. Levinson serves up poems rich in organic personalities?
A living thing (which I believe words are) under a microscope are scrutinized; they split. They divide. Sometimes, fuse. "The construction "g(s)lide" is an example of Hinge operating in a single word," says Mr. Levinson.
We are shown how words spawn others in "The Combing of Silence. " Here it is in its entirety:
fanfare relegation regulation regis
follow the hairline.
Mr. Levinson is a proponent of New Speech. Theory and poem meld in the following from "In the Hull of Bareback":
through a prehistoric snorkeling subdividing breath
speaking of augment & wander
bristling new harmonies in the dark ear of the crow
measuring panther by wind
an eruption of tone resembling a maturating pinto
a stride like an ancient command
Some poems reference Hinge Theory explicitly. From "The Road to Initiation Road":
To Hinge necessitates HALT. A br(e)aking for extreme curves, unexpected
inclines, forbidding terrain.
giddy-up the spur in the saddle
to partake brook
recapture the fumble
Besides the Hinge Theory and poems, from stone this running presents a fascinating piece on Soutine. From "Excoriate Exhale: Routing Soutine":
"there is, here, a suggestibility (an argument?) that the thing painted, known to us/as the tree, hill, house, exits in structure as a makeshift-energy-collection capable/at any moment of redirecting this energy into an alterior fumulation, there is a /constant reminder not to get too comfortable, to appreciate form as flux, as the/gratuitous designatory...
fowl flower fruit fish
And I'll leave you with this gem, from "Love Like Apparitional Joinery":
fusion blossoms fructuous spears replete piercings
hinging weather systems spool overlap union merge
...erge urge purge converge courage cover-age
tools usage forge together ensemble b ring
From stone this running is a beautifully produced, complex work on poetics and the poems they reproduce. Simply put -- buy this book!
Kit Kennedy published Inconvenience (Littoral Press, Berkeley) and Constellations (Co-Lab Press, San Francisco), both with Susan Gangel. She co-authored, with Susan Black, the e-book, Beyond the Human Voice: 7 poems inspired by the art of Susan Black. She lives in San Francisco. Please visit http://poetrybites.blogspot.com