Hi Higher Hyperbole by Nicholas Manning
(ypolita press, 2009)
We can talk about the witty sounderisms -- e.g.
at your hairs' (hot) roots is water-
melon: mou in an ivory hue
-- that tear down the (faux) binary between sound and meaning. But this is 2009 and that's old news, yah? So I want to discuss instead why Hi Higher Hyperbole contains a photograph of the author with scissors stabbed through his heart, bloodying his white shirt, and yet the expression on Nicholas Manning's face might be summed up as ... utter indifference. (If author-photos were an Oscar category, that gilded statue would be on its way...)
The raison d'etre for the author photo is the same reason why this chap contains pink pages and is covered by a red cardboard stock embossed with a felt-ish doily cut-out in the shape of a heart; what could be presented here is the cheesy covering to factory-made chocolates rather than poems. Not to say this is not a brilliant design decision -- kudos, indeed, to ypolita's designer for the presentation of these poems, as a romantic satire of satire is certainly part of this project.
And said raison d'etre can be explained as well by another visual component: how the line breaks conspire to have the placement of end-words create the following pattern to the verses:
Some poems from the chap are also available in Galatea Resurrects #10. If you lined up all of the poem-profiles horizontally, you'd get this metaphor for the poems' sensibility:
In other words, there would seem to be no radical peaks soaring off the page or crashing depths that might even puncture the base line. It's all just a consistent linear portrait of a life lived with emotion but not necessarily with passion.
And this raison d'etre to which I've been referring? Well, it can be gleaned in the fact that, as noted in the chap, "Hi Higher Hyperbole is extracted from the manuscript HOMO SENTIMENTALIS: A Guide in Verse To Modern Emotional Intimacy." In other words, nota bene that subtitle.
So, is that the romantic zeitgeist as defined by Manning? Well, let's take a look at the content in the poems, shall we! Here goes with, say, number X":
in the too plush burgundy
of my devotion * nook
the velvet has desires * (malsains)
and nothing is denied * nothing
and nobody * nobody * know
it will not do you any good
to hide the myrrh * or
to call the eunuchs
all sent away * my darling
to roam the desert
on a sham quest * of my instigation...
cunning * my love is
and ruthless and
about as sure
as the ashen soils * are unforgiving
and your eyes of * a blueness
the darkness would be proud of
Can one say for sure that these words, by being over-the-top (hyperbolic) -- "blush / in the too plush burgundy /of my devotion" -- are not sincere? One can certainly interpret it that way: "my darling / to roam the desert / on a sham quest* of my instigation."
But the effectiveness of Manning's project here is that the reader (this reader anyway) doesn't totally believe in the poetic persona's complete jadedness. Too many of the lines are simply ... so beautiful. So beautiful they effectively seduce -- like, the persona is joking around but the persona is also too wise to shut the door totally on Love walking through the door (oh hey yeah this is also a novel, like mebbe poet-turned-novelist Marisa de los Santos' novel synchronistically entitled LOVE WALKED IN). Beautiful lines like (and let the chap fall on desk to open randomly to):
the heart of a chestnut
dropped and warm * an ember
in such snow
as burning down a puncture
to a gulf
of cobalt swum * with silhouettes
such as we caught those winters way back
If one might revert to one of Modern Love's cliches: these poems not only succeed in attracting boys and girls to the poetic persona, but many of those attracted might even harbor the sincere if clichetic desire to reform this "bad boy" with "true love." Too many of the lines are simply too lovely to dismiss -- a reader commits despite the inherent irony that occasionally surfaces. The chap packaging may be dime store, but the bon mots inside are nothing less than truffle bon bons, if a reader is willing to, ahem, commit. Here are some lines that I can envision someone reading out loud and snickering along with a snickering crowd:
is as a white blinding * rose :
pose * upon the glittering
which fills my mind * yet secretly sabotages
my every desire ... for you flee (for)
the slightest sound: adoring
rustle! too ardent
words...until all is lost : of a sudden
so * when still I may have held you
and but my eager elan
ignore ... lost ...
the broken *
But amid such a snickering crowd, I suspect there'd be at least one or two who'd be sort of intrigued, and willing to explore further to see if what's behind the pose negates hyperbole.
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere: two reviews of her first 2009 book NOTA BENE EISWEIN -- one by Grace C. Ocasio at at Jacket 37 and the other by Joey Madia at New Mystics (July 2009). Her second 2009 book FOOTNOTES TO ALGEBRA was also reviewed recently by Jesse Glass at Ahadada. You also might check out Jean Vengua's engagement of one of her poems from THE BLIND CHATELAINE'S KEYS over at YouTUBE! Last but not least, she just -- just! -- released a chapbook in time for holiday gift-giving: ROMAN HOLIDAY.