by Maria Damon and mIEKAL aND
95 pp. ISBN: 978-952-215-024-0
review by Greg Bem
eros/ion is a small but tight book of raw poetry that packs a punch without taking a risky leap into abstraction. The poems consistently express the greater whole as a work of art over time, and in doing so each poem acts as a piece of dialogue between multiple voices. The vocal maneuvering shifts often around fleeting but archetypal images, such as the dress, fig tree, and window, but a singular tone is retained throughout that subtly holds the book together. This stability is important as authors mIEKAL aND & Maria Damon advise: the book can read through a hopscotch procedure or traditionally straight-through. The book’s opening section of poems afford the experiment, which makes more than one reading possible and convenient, and after a single reading, the sense of mystery behind a ruptured, beloved narrative begs additional exploration.
The answer to the love lingering within the text is somewhere behind the cosmic, heady narrator, but the difficulty to pinpoint exactly what loss has been wrought here often feels intentional. The voices of the poems are not quite ready to explain personal histories. The book itself thus feels like a haunted journal, a ghostscape often throwing human affections dreamily about. It is often in natural desperation that we find some hints to the cause: “This is an objective discourse I have with myself, run-on for years with no conclusions” (17). Just who the narrator of the opening section is remains a mystery, but these small and graceful prosaic bites that hit page after page at least lends us a greater idea; there is a relationship between poems here that blends storytelling and reflection.
The ghastly, endearing (and enduring) characters of eros/ion plot courses that are ultimately interchangeable with the collaborative writers, without losing any sense of credibility or enthusiasm: “She said. He said. He said. He said. I soberly register this entry into our pleasureTEXT” (28). There is certainly autobiographical merit at work in the book’s first section, and as such the work itself is transformed through its admission as being first and foremost a text, as being the production that comes after the damage, and healing, has been performed enough to gain recognition and acknowledgement.
Apprehending the messages of the text itself is a thrilling ride that dazzles with a healthy blend of sincerity and cryptic experimentation. Through the twists and weaves of pages here, the book presents images from a love spliced through instance. Time here is the glue holding everything together. Even so, the elements of progression are not necessary, for the book is also about immediacy through reception and translation. How the reader interprets and then infuses the process of love and loss in eros/ion depends on how they flip the pages, which poems they read when and in what order, and how tactile function ultimately relates to curiosity. It is puzzling and charming at the same time; often confusingly in its merge of the maturity of a battle-worn post-avant wordplay and a confessionalist aggregation toward youth and past susceptibility. In a marvelous display of meta-literature, with hypertext theory stemming at the book’s most didactic points, the themes develop in a full height. Authenticity reigns supreme without ever honing in on one moment because the greater context is the shadow of the book itself.
While the heart of eros/ion is the story, then the brain of eros/ion is the experiment in process. Quoting Barthes, Olson, Battaile, Whitman, and a slew of other remarkable and remarkably dated theorists, is an essential rearing into characterization. These literary heroes become characters, each with their own skills, which extend out onto the page itself. They reflect the narration of the book’s first section like mirrored creatures in a parallel universe, their voices deafening with clarity though sharing the common exacting qualities as the earlier, nameless sequence of hopeless and hopeful lovers.
eros/ion closes lengthily with a dual between pieces that splits down the center of the book. On the left hand you have “erosive media” by mIEKAL aND, and on the right “rose e-missive” by Maria Damon, though it must be said that these two confounding collections are generous, casual collages. The clipping and cutups are detectable, thankfully, so as not to seem assanine and breach pretention.
Later selections of writings are dynamic, wide-ranging reflections on the main text reaffirming that the quest into process is not a solitary act. Though the reader is the receiver, the one to puzzle over each concise meaning or non-meaning provided by the art, the art may also be the tool to its own deciphering. Near the end of the book, a voice asks and answers: “Are there any aspects of this piece that would *not* have been possible pre-net? pre electricity? The texts, the sounds, and the images of decay and regeneration, of growth and decay, would all have been perfectly available to the imagination. The animations are still miraculous” (65). With its generous falling action, these closing sections are the closest the book comes to its original form as a hypertext project. This relationship between traditional text and hypertext, or what can be remembered as the “pleasureTEXT”, is pertinent because the book is obviously physical and no longer an electronic document; to exercise the operation and handling of it in a compact, direct way may be as challenging and baffling as an online approach, but this form represents the next evolution of the project nonetheless.