Neil de la Flor, Maureen Seaton, Kristine Snodgrass, Facial Geometry, NeO Pepper Press, 2006

Reviewed by Terese Svoboda

[Review Guidelines]

When I interviewed these three authors elsewhere about how they "did" it, that is to say, collaborate, it wasn't like I received three sets of answers. Group mind groped, it was like talking to the tank. What were these brains swimming in? One of them claims to be inspired by Aaron Spelling, which either means The Mod Squad or Twin Peaks.
      Facial Geometry opens with "Pilgrim Raids" and Celan is the first to be raided. His "Nobody discolors what now streams" becomes "Nobody discolors my little debbies without a fight," just a smack of what wildness lies ahead. I have to quote part of the second section:

She and he therefore sicken what prenatality of the aforementioned watering hole—you, silly! Ramified and Desdemona and Gilgamesh in and out of the brambled yacht. Our ocean. Our play dirt. Our mortified and relinquished testimonials. Our virile eggs and forever immortality. Our shovels and our pills.

       "Volvica" is an abecedarium verse play, "words put together to form a toy." "Pancetta" pits herself against Volvica, who later returns as the title of another poem but bearing an exclamation point, that banned poet's punctuation. "Roe vs. Wade" can't resist mentioning water: "Underwater he was fabulous," and fish eggs turn into poppy seeds soaked in Catholicity—that city—and in sex. No insects. "Syracuse" is where the staple meets the book, so it must be important: sperm and infinity. We're in the cccold city looking down looking down.
      Spine break: Two of the poets are my ex-students (full disclosure) and the other taught them everything and then they taught her back. Look at Seaton's last book, Venus Examines Her Breast: the woman knows words are clay, not language swamped by the page—she says Yes. What more can a teacher do? More. "And we abolished the need for gravity," they write in "Opera Bouffe."
      "Notes on Dawning" includes a fill-in-the-blank section (shades of Jorie Graham and madlibs) and a recipe. I'm not keen on recipes in poems (that's about as critical as I can get), so thank goodness the poem devolves into three columns and ends on the word "dawn." "On the 909" dances the reader all around, starting with "Foot stomping periodically has a dialect. It goes like this. Caw, caw." It's breathtaking how they end up in "The Green Money Tree." They storm the poem by any means necessary: sotto voce, lists, declarations, personification, neologisms—they went thataway. At every turn, the poets interrogate the text, contradict it, drag in other poems, abuse them. By the time you get to "The Fourth Dementia" you're ready for the manifesto: "We rely too heavily upon the body of the text. This is not the body of the text. This is the remainder of our perception."
       "Asphalt" begins with "Forget the Phds darling," and ends with "You can see where I'm going with this," and I'm delighted that I can't. "We rely too heavily on the body of the text" occurs again in "Nut Jobs" then the poem explodes into another three-column fury. Finally, there's Ye Olde Title Poem—at the end. It's filled with Americanismo that twists: "There's a face. It rises in some smoke in my dream. I will translate it for you."
      The poets "translate" throughout the book, retooling the edge of cognition right up to the funny or sad, engage cheekbone to cathedral buttress, and infer that the DAR are playing too. No convulsive personal revelations here. The chapbook's handsome three-eyed cover gives you the once-over at first glance. It won't be your last. Besides, I haven't even told you about "Planet Napkin" or "The Pekinese Journal."