Cynthia Sailers: from Lake Systems

Cynthia Sailers, Lake Systems
(Oakland, Tougher Disguises Press, 2004)

Recently plucked a book more or less at random from my poetry bookcases and was delighted to rediscover one of my favourite book covers (and books): Cynthia Sailers’ Lake Systems. Those monumental men with knife pleats remind me of Anton Räderscheidt’s self-portrait—like Räderscheidt doing an ad for Coppertone.

It was a pleasure to re-read the poems in this collection, whose style swings from Ashberian lyrical to flarfish. I admire a book (and a poet) that doesn’t shirk from such swings, that doesn’t necessarily strive for cohesion or (shudder) authentic voice. Here are two:

from “10 Americans”

And yet we were the individuals who do not relate
to one another. When we find there’s a desire
to be crowded, to be all the numbers, or the observers
who would see in the faces that those faces were not
the answer. That those faces only pointed to
the amphitheatre of the mind in an hour of romantic
enthusiasm. If only we were immigrated, if only
we were knowledge, not like gardens, but underneath
it all, a shape of equal vividness, constrained by the one
thought we thought we wanted. A tracing of ourselves
against the beauty of lakes and grasses and colonial houses.
To be brushed along and kept close to the skin.
We were prepared to admit a solution for the lower forms
of life, for the seductive centuries and a break with
the past. And yet we were oscillating between the part
of ourselves that was set in motion and the part that lives
underground. I would sometimes get the feeling that
these parts were wanting to identify with the other, to find
another place to be free. A place with a view, a place
inside. To be freethinkers, to be identified with astrology.
If only their astrology was now moving them to new
places, moving them out of their feeling of oppression.

from “Lake Systems”:

The I(s) I Follow After

for Joan Retallack

I will not democracy churches conjecture
I pornography circa 1930 mockery
the bird I (pornography) usually suspect
dustbowl I situate o, love I imitate(or)
automatic I pepto-bismol I
juction boobs of new country I
laminate I New Jersey I, I
sensual topical bloom
I double-parked yoga live
grammatical attachment I office
I too numerous too non-union I life-
lessly convene I abstract mass
adulterous subject I promising water deficiency
I witness prison language I advances
western I p.s. represent misanthropic I
mid-century I nepotism I lost cause
I necessitate the point of impact I polygraph



Camille Martin

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