Making the Old Tree Gasp With Life: Edwin Torres' SandHommeNomadNo
Bob Holman/The St. Marks Poetry Project Newsletter, Vol. 168
The publication of Edwin Torres' third chapbook, SandHommeNomadNo, solves the logarithm of where we are now, poetry-wise, or at least adds a few digits to the end of pi (po?) as formerly known.
The posterboy of the Nu Poetry Move of the early 90s -- that was his goateed physiognomy gracing New York magazine cover and Newsweek story -- Torres is known primarily as a performer whose madcap stage antics include costume/vocal/"character"changes, tapes played on beat-up tinny cassette recorders dragged across the floor, musical saw accompaniment, Khlebnikovian language play (his poem "Coil" in SandHomme is dedicated to K.), a spewing of Schwitters through newly-opened throat apertures (viz. his "Son Mi Son"), and a system of gestural language that often tilts the whole poem/performance axis into dance. In another life, like his dayjob, Edwin does it in graphic design. SandHommeNomadNo takes on the quest of getting the supple into the page, making the old chewed tree gasp with life, utilizing a dense structure that allows you to see the hearing of the poem by never losing a word as it breaks and spins, plates twirling on a rod, world without end.
Some facts on SandHommeNomadNo:
1. There is no Table of Contents. I count 16 poems, including the back cover. (Edwin answers the so-called necessity of blurbification by posting the volume's most audaciously romantic poem there.) There are sections that seem to be preambles, there are poems that emerge from other poems, there are switches in typeface and layout poem-to-poem and within poems. In other words, the book may be one long poem (performance) or not, and the reader is at liberty. But the reader must read with these intentions -- where does this damn thing end? As Torres lulls you with his lilt and love (that lazy nonphilosophy), he is actually piling on the density. It's a bubble bath where the bubbles pop open waterfalls, which then evaporate to more bubbles over and over. (Did I really say that?)
2. Torres puts a gauzy translucent page in the center of the book. Like the tissue paper welcome page in the mimeo books of the 70s, like Laurence Sterne's misplaced marbled page in Tristam Shandy, the empty sheet adds an inside inside, a cover in the center. Read the beautiful "Whiteshirt Overmeadow" through the translucent page -- be transported to Yorkshire, watch Edwin's poem-movie called "Cloudspotting."
3. There are six graphic illustrations (including cover) that punctuate SandHommeNomadNo. As the book begins to yield, these graphics become poems themselves. Yup. In Torresland, you can read the paintings.
4. Don't be fooled. The rueful romantic vocabulary and surface sweet sentiments that glide across the taut structures of sound/gesture/image in SandHommeNomadNo will push consciousness to the break point.
You have been warned.
Love ahead. Proceed
With caution and you are dead.
5. Spanish and French dance through the beyondsense (as Paul Schmidt defined Khlebnikov's made-up language). Pound and Paz put in guest appearances.
6. It is exciting to just hold this fully-realized artifact. This will hold your breath until Kill Rock Stars releases Edwin's CD, Holy Kid, produced by Jordan Trachtenberg this spring. Kid will do for the CD what SandHommeNomadNo has done for book.
7. In a time when the Cafe is sadly splintering, the appearance of SandHommeNomadNo is a vote for the work itself, not the scene. With no price listed, no bar code nor address, this book is, simply, this book.
Here is the book that speaks through text, graphics and poesie concrete which become the equivalent of Torres's fully-orchestrated live performances. Here is the book that answers the recent Village Voice plaint that Torres hasn't Made It because he's still publishing his own chapbooks, by squaring that tradition with Whitman and making a tremendous presentation that will only be mucked up when published by a major publisher. That will happen, and when it does, it will be something else, and that will be a great thing too. As for now. . . Torres rejoices in the contradictions that are poetry AND the world, and when we read close, look deep, and hear silence, as SandHommeNomadNo insists on, we are present at the activating moment of creation. Torres knows that is sublime. This reviewer concurs. Now it's up to you.