Tuesday, October 20, 2009


This 2003 volume contains 21 poems over 125 pages, and the last 6 or so are one-pagers. When I first encounter a twenty-page poem, I immediately think "epic", or at least "narrative excursion". But what we have here, as in other language-foolery, is a drawn-out, indulgent, in-house wank that could just as easily have been reduced by 90% without losing any blood from its severed limbs.

"But Could I Make A Living From It" is representative. At 16 pages of found prose, monotonous quotes, cliches altered by consonantal substitution of one word to affect an ironic "gotcha!", "profound" anagrams, and bland maxims of capitalist-consumerist critique, the poem's fractured splinters make the chest-lodged ash-stick of a Louisville slugger a better option.

Parataxis is revered by McCaffery's borrowed authority, and this book is full of it. Hypotactic clauses are, after all, "authoritative" by their subordinate "defensiveness". Egalitarianism, in grammar and cloudy content, is the way. But the way to what? Paratactical syntax quickly becomes numbing when it's the only option. I'm surprised Derksen doesn't see the irony in the frequent emotional and intellectual bankruptcy of "this-this-this" speech and thought. Clauses -- subordinate and strong -- are effective means of showing the power trade-offs and natural gradations inherent in all kinds of ideas and emotions. Or is proportion and level of feeling to be discounted, even mocked, in toto? For all the superior scoffing at language misuse (Roy Miki's Surrender immediately comes to mind), there is a conspicuous absense of any positive countervailing substitute, in language or idea. But I guess that would be hard to relate in a strangled theory-governed (more irony) equanimous sentence deployment.

In another interminable run-on, lines of pop and blues music are set down with, again, one or two words replaced in an attempt at witty denunciation on contemporary greed and (architectural) vulgarity.

More a sermon on the evils of consumerism couched in "subversive" shredding of hand-me-down banalities, Transnational Muscle Cars would have worked better as graffiti sprayed at the bottom of a billboard emblazoned with leisure suits or banking come-ons.

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