cover image SMOKING LOVELY


Willie Perdomo, . . Rattapallax, $12 (68pp) ISBN 978-1-892494-61-0

Given, on the one hand, the oral roots of poetry, and on the other, exponentially improving and cost-effective sound reproduction, the modernist breech between page and stage is finally starting to close. Trying to reproduce the live energy, exchange and affect of the "spoken word" solely on the page is an enterprise doomed from the start; rather than CD's acting as "extras," such books-plus-discs should be seen as recorded poetry with lyric sheets. In the case of Perdomo, a veteran slam poetry performer and author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime , making the psychic shift whereby the CD becomes the primary document makes for a transformative "reading" experience. There is no notation, or at least not one as powerful, for Perdomo's pitch-perfect intonations, subtle affective sarcasms, and mellifluous code switchings and bilingualisms. Ditto the lightning-fast enjambments that help make Perdomo's performances so effective—lost in transcription. It is often the more punctuated prose sections that most effectively accompany Perdomo's spoken text, reminding the reader how much so many spoken-word artists have had to overcome in order to be heard at all: "I wanted to play this like Petrarch and bless you with a/ suite of sonnets. But I can't rock sonnets, so I thought/ I would write you 100 letters for 100 days, but I'm getting/ discharged tomorrow morning, so I'll say what I need to/ say on the back of this Patient Bill of Rights." Perdomo is a necessary and insistent voice in the current American literary scene, one that here forwards a hybrid medium in which his—and perhaps those of other spoken-word artists—experiences can be properly presented to a larger public. Shelve this record like a book. (Dec.)