Shorthand and Electric Language Stars

Stephanie Gray. Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs, $18 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-9907635-1-2
In her second full-length collection, poet and filmmaker Gray (Heart Stoner Bingo) uses the page in ways normally reserved for film, mixing prose poems, postmodern lyrics, and assorted experiments with her own photos and film stills. Throbbing with a jump-cut intensity, the poems shift point of view with scenes that dissolve before the reader. There is a tangible drive for the reader to form a narrative out of a grab bag of moments, but the work actively resists the tropes often associated with film, particularly those of narrative and character. These are art house pieces, full of repetition and faces staring into the camera as they break the fourth wall. Gray pleads with the reader to "notice what I see," to pay closer attention to the "lower registers" of existence. She achieves this through recontextualizing pop culture as if she were pulling scraps from a cutting room floor, believing that at any moment the stock could burn and the viewer/reader will be asked to leave the theater. There are moments where the poems don't carry enough weight and patterns call too much attention to themselves. But this is the tension that drives the book. Gray reminds readers that poetry is akin to "misinterpreting messy handwriting" and that staring into the camera produces both wonder and discomfort. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Genre: Fiction
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