A book of transformation, Roberto Harrison’s bicycle proposes the incredible two-wheeled velocipede as the newest vehicle of enlightenment. The lines of the verse are spokes, the stanzas the strokes of the thighs as they peddle through a recurrent but new teaching. At once subtle and earnest, bicycle is magically perceptive and gentle and wise. There is nothing else like it. Harrison is a master.
The accumulation of almost four years of daily exercises in bike riding, meditation and writing, bicycle works through the ineluctable phenomenon of appearances to the essence of existence, a process that is, for Harrison, as it is for certain strands in Western (Plato, Heidegger, etc.) and Eastern (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) thought, temporal. These poems’ emphatic celebration of process and connectivity put the lie of ritual to ritual. Thus lines like “the caskets/full of faces/and hands/that leak” and “this leak for hate that bleeds” collapse physical death and moral outrage back into their “places’ within an infinite continuum. For Harrison, his homeland of Panama, “the snake that pulls its own/ from oceans,” is “the kiss/ that is always an isthmus,” a literal and metaphoric connector. And though Panama, like all lands, appears set in the stone of culture and geographic stability, this is an illusion, an index of historical myopia. . . .bicycle is an enactment of movement itself, a series of anti-narrative narratives that move back and forth as healing cauterizations, as geographical and cultural sediments, the residues of what comes next, the fate of every form of sentient and non-sentient being, e.g., human and empire: “I am proof/that America/will die.”
The outcome of two of four years’ ascetic endurance in the form of biking, meditation, and writing through all sublimities and cruelties of quotidian life and Milwaukee weather, Roberto Harrison’s perseverant sentences—issuing forth as spliced tensile lines—enact in their cycling a vulnerable concatenation of multitudes across the segregated poles of north and south, surveyor and surveilled, bleach and wound. Harrison’s verse might at first appear surrealist, but it labors to divulge actual material and philosophical linkages in spite of all “social / crevices”—and to spite the complicity of participation in the mere “network,” which “begins and ends with ownership.” Listen “in this / that places all / the planets / on the phone” for the “dust of disconnected mouths” that, consolidated, builds both the hope of solidarity in the welter of ache and “the stitched exit that a mind makes.”
Composed of five movements, bicycle‘s predominant imaginings, that of circles and bridges, bond the worlds of the Americas through all their interior levels. In such marriage—where these interiors settle in silence and repose, where attachment and aversion are seen as different sides of one coin, where the wheels turn to resist and to empower the nameless, where refuge locations are made to allow the liminal to resolve itself and transcend—bicycle‘s America unleashes frame-breaking force to bare these uncharted worlds within our supposed divided countries and continents. Harrison’s poetic opens spaces where all dichotomies come together as an boundaryless egg of being; here, without and beyond language, the poetry of bicycle agitates and argues what is most real be witnessed in completion as a shapely gourd throbbing with prayers for both these unities and these differences, for the reception and the flowing through of a Being refusing to be stilled.
A poet, essayist, and visual artist, Roberto Harrison is the author of Os (subpress, 2006), Counter Daemons (Litmus Press, 2006), and of the recent chapbook Bridge of the World (cannot exist, 2011). With Andrew Levy he published and edited Crayon magazine from 1997 to 2008. He currently publishes and edits The Bronze Skull Press chapbook series. He lives and works in Milwaukee with his wife, the poet Brenda Cárdenas.
Reviews and News
The editors of Noemi Press are excited to announce the winners, finalists, and semi finalists for the 2015 Noemi Press Book Award in Poetry. We received about 400 poetry submissions this year and thank all the writers who submitted for trusting us with their work.
Bone Confetti by Muriel Leung
Natality by E. G. Means
MOUTHS by Claire Marie Stancek
We will also be publishing finalist Vanessa Villarreal’s manuscript Beast Meridian in the Akrilica series.
They Go In Pairs by Samuel Ace
Arcadia, Indiana (a tragedy) by Toby Altman
You Can Take It Out by Cheryl Clark Vermeulen
Red of Split Water-A Burial Rite by Lisa Donovan
Century Worm by Todd Fredson
Actual Echo by Matthew Mahaney
A Turkish Dictionary by Andrew Wessels
Read “Once When Light Returned After a Blackout, I Found My Face Pressed Into a Wall Asking for Help” and “Outside My Window a Tree Is Singing Flowers So I Cannot Sleep, I Cannot Sleep” at the Boston Review. Chloe Garcia Roberts’ debut book of poetry, The Reveal, will be published by Noemi Press this fall.
Sandy Florian’s Boxing the Compass defies categorization, subverts genre, and reframes our ideas of what story and language can do—all the while remaining intensely readable. In fact, upon “finishing” the book, this reader had to read it again. Perhaps a reader doesn’t ever “finish” a book like this, preferring to keep it at hand so that he or she can pick it up on a whim and reread random passages, such as: “she // unfolds her body the same way some people unfold letters from their lovers who’ve set sail, slowly, with caution, minding the curled edges of the cracked pages, that fading blue ink of time,” or “[she] steps onto the // sidewalk turning northeast on that landmass, concrete composite of well and of shell, of hole and of bowl, of buds from that ever budding past, so buckled by history and crumpled by memory, so embedded with remnants of crocodile eyes crying crocodile tears on these crocodile days . . .”
Commemorating the release of TITULADA—the new title in our Akrilica Series, which is a joint project of Noemi Press and Letras Latinas—the Letras Latinas blog posted this illuminating interview with elena minor conducted by poet ire’ne lara silva.
I don’t think of my work as ‘experimental’. The word implies a theoretical framework that is not my starting point. That said, though, I do consider my work “exploratory” because that’s what I do with language – explore its possibilities – mostly in a never-ending attempt to explain the why of the world to myself. I start wherever and however the feeling, notion, idea starts and let that carry the weight of words, form and sound. I love sound in poetry, especially rhythm and cadence. Sometimes I let them carry the poem to the point where they are as much the sense as the form of the poem.
At HTML Giant, Robert Savino Oventile reviews Sandy Florian’s Boxing the Compass
Imagine a novella catching intimations of the oceans in their terrible fragility as sustainers of life by narrating a daughter in mourning for her mother. Imagine that, through the daughter’s grief, this novella allows the mourning climate change solicits in language to find articulation. With these imaginings, we arrive at Sandy Florian’s uncanny work of mourning, Boxing the Compass.
$15 Paperback | January 15, 2015