Monday, August 27, 2012

Susan Briante's Utopia Minus

Utopia Minus is a haunting and haunted collection of post-industrial lyrics, what landscape painting would look like in the early 20th century, whereabout East Dallas.  And more than that: it's what happens to the self in such places, in this time, where all buildings are ruins in reverse, as Robert Smithson proposes.  In this sense, it feels very much like a post-9/11 book, where the apocalypse is not just the destruction of the Twin Towers, but the economic collapse as a result of rampant greed, unhinged capitalism, market meltdown.  Imperial hangover.

But somehow, the book offers a kind of wry hope--that beauty exists, that love is possible, that somehow we map ourselves a home. 
To whet your appetite for the book, read here.  And then get it.  Here's "Nail Guns in the Morning" :

Nail Guns in the Morning

Nail guns in the morning from the street behind my house,
Outside: tin roof, cement tabletops, “vast maw of modernity” (Sontag),
the UPS man, someone has painted all of my windows shut.

The study of trauma comes shortly after the steam engine,
an affliction known as “railway spine,” characterized by headaches, fatigue,
difficulty in breathing, reduction of sexual potency, stammering, cold sweats.

Report from Charles Dickens, June 1865, after train wreck:
.............Wakes up in sudden alarm,
..............Dreams much.

Storms this afternoon in Dallas
in the parking lot of the Target/Best Buy/Payless Shopping Center,
big chalices of rain, contusioned sky over the east, big yellow bus moving north
toward the dark end of—what?—

this weather, this fiscal year, this end of empire during which I am reading
the circulars stuck in my screen door, ice waiting
in the highest breath of atmosphere.
It will get to us.

I am patient on the living room couch,
let water drain from the kitchen sink.
Last night over dirty dishes, I told Farid
I would never write a poem that just said: Stop the War.

So frequently, I want a witness. Sit with me,
C. Dickens, let me tell you how bad
the food is on Amtrak, how a Pullman position
was a plum job for freedman, how stevedores once owned the city
hall, how Indians shot at us through the windows of the smoking car.

Stop the war, stop the war, stop the war, stop the war, stop the war.

And another poem, "Other Denver Economies":

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