Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Metempsychose Metempsychose by Matina Stamatakis

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another poet who plumbs the margin between visual art and poetry. Like Geof Huth, Stamatakis produces both "conventional" and "visual" poetry, as well as photography. Despite these similarities, though, Stamatakis is a very different sort of poet than Huth. Where Huth is systematic and precise, Stamatakis is amorphous and visceral. Like some of the images in this chapbook, which feature diagrams presumably from textbooks on plants and animals upon which she has superimposed words, playing on visual associations and rendering the diagrams themselves useless, Stamatakis is interested in the emotional resonance of the enigma that remains when meaning is partially eroded. "Studying Copernicus in the dark * orbs & debris."

Metempsychose is a good beginning point for those unfamiliar with Stamatakis' work. Unlike a lot of work that deals with the erosion of linguistic structures and the fertile margin produced by clashing associations and non-sequiturs, Stamatakis' poems do not want for emotional resonance--never feeling cold or sterile. Quite the opposite, Stamatakis is not afraid to get her hands dirty ("[we riddle jawbone / smells / of morning cum / raw opium seed lacerations") or to deal with the psycho-sexual underpinnings of surrealism, something that much contemporary surrealistic work seems to forget. Like a traditional surrealist, Stamatakis is also interested in the resonance of dreams and the byzantine rhizome of meaning found therein with a number of poems on the theme of "Coma: Nine Dreams" which feature numbered imagines which contrapuntally reference other images in the form of footnotes.

Despite its effervescence, Stamatakis remains in control of the torrent of information, twists and turns feel *almost* random as opposed to arbitrary--correlations can be made between sensory jumps in almost all instances "those half-composed ornithopters-- / wiry lyres play brash against the wind." The palette of Stamatakis' diction is diverse and sophisticated, numerous obscure and scientific terms bespangle the morass of her wunderkammer: "of spines or in fixed smiles--cicatrix & bones cauterized." Indeed it is the image of the cabinet of curiousities that best describes Stamatakis' work--sometimes tawdry, random, but possessed of its own internal order and aesthetic that keeps the reader returning to its shelves of dessicated specimens and debris.

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