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Aaron Fagan on Aaron Fagan.

June 24, 2010 \am\30 9:20 am

Aaron Fagan, author of Echo Train reviews Echo Train by Aaron Fagan

Randall Jarrell famously knocked a volume of poems by Oscar Williams for giving the impression of having been “written on a typewriter by a typewriter.” Echo Train, Aaron Fagan’s second poetry collection, sounds as though it was written on a PC by a PC, which is not to suggest it bears any resemblance to flarf. No. This is something far more vapid and callow than the bounds of language and reason can properly account for. In fact the systems of consciousness, be they hylotropic or holotropic, just shit the bed trying to make sense of this muck. However, it is written recognizably in English words that can be found in a dictionary. So it does have that going for it. That much I can say in praise. And it is printed on paper giving the reader a sensation of physical reality.

If that sounds perhaps a bit too harsh, let us look at an example of one of the poems. “A New Relationship with God” concludes with an image of the “I” of the poem (the speaker that is the author that is me), after establishing a kind of psychic equality with a little girl crying over spilt milk, taking up her kitten and breaking it. The poem really says it much like that. It says, “I grab her kitten and break it / To demonstrate what I really mean / By suggesting that the milk is blood.” But what does that mean? Is the kitten a real kitten or a toy kitten or a language kitten or something entirely symbolic and different? I can’t even stand it. It makes me think about things and question my perception of reality and I hate that. And that makes me think that maybe I am crying over spilt milk. It makes me think that I am the little girl that is the “I” that is the speaker of the poem that is the author of the book that is writing this review. And I don’t like that. Not one bit.

The echoes of echoes are an echo train. Echo Train begins “Once upon a time / Books began this / Way” and asks us not “to be shocked to find / We must return and / Stand for what we are” when we reach the book’s end. By turns synchronic and diachronic, the spacetime of the poems in Echo Train are a conversion of memes into aesthetic DNA (Dynamic Narrative Archetypes) where we are “Divided into as many selves as there are cells” and “a gratitude we mean to make clear more often / Comes out sideways in houses and philosophy / Making of a moment, an art of an eternity.” Taking its title from B.F. Skinner’s book Verbal Behavior, the poem “No Black Scorpion Is Falling Upon this Table” states: “Spacetime is only very slightly curved, / Except near a black hole. So in practice / You would be swimming for billions / Of years before you moved a millimeter. / I feel and imagine without time, but / Damned myself to a language that demands / I express it there.” And the title poem concludes that “though our deeply flawed ideas / Persist, we can unveil what an array has led us / To be so allergic to our space and our time, and / It must lie a helpless log upon the waves.”

There are moments like these where I feel a bit like Carl Spackler to Echo Train’s Dali Lama: So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know?” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

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One Comment
  1. June 26, 2010 \am\30 2:19 am 2:19 am

    The paragraph that starts with “If that sounds a bit too harsh” is pure poetry. Love it. Though I disagree with the author about the author — definitely doesn’t suck.

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