Author: Jordan Reynolds

Originally from Sacramento, California, Jordan Reynolds is an MFA candidate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  He has published poems in Poetry Midwest, The Pedestal Magazine, The Sacramento News and Review, Sage Trail, hardpan, Interim, The Suisun Valley Review, zero ducats, and elsewhere.  His broadside Wind Physics was released by Rattlesnake Press in 2008.  He is currently a poetry editor for Narrative Magazine

Aquatic Park & Narcissus & Ballad of the Dead Boy

Aquatic Park

Juan sabes soy sincera expansión al domingo tres en uno/dos sacos que onda con a Wendy pases buenas hace pensar que pues fueron pinche bajen el tengo nueve extras charlas son guasa en Salamanca no puedo abrir un poco accesos

John you know I’m honest expansion to Sunday three in one / two bags that Wendy’s with good passes suggests that they were fucking down theextras I have nine lectures in Salamanca are kidding I can not open a bitaccesses

John you know I’m honest expansion to Sunday three in one / two bags [a wave] that Wendy’s with good passes suggests that they were fucking [tap/click/puncture/please click]  down the extras I have nine lectures in Salamanca are kidding I can not open a bitaccesses

       after “Aquatic Park”

Honestly, Jack.

Please wait until
Sunday. Three good waves

pass only two measures
wind. The holes suggest

our extra time lost.
Come to my lectures

in the Palacio de Anaya.
Nine times

out of ten, I’m kidding.

I can not open
the smaller spaces.


Las esas personas voy sin saber ser como antes chao ahí que ponen cervezas propagandas nuevos modos los no pude terminar todo yo pagaba ese fondo en su gorra por que la disfruten vamos ganando los más sólo para uso haces guapa antes por gusto

The not knowing these people going to be like before there bye beercommercials that put the new ways I could not finish everything I paid the fund in his cap by winning let you enjoy the most beautiful only for you before for fun

The not knowing [unaware] these people going to be like before there bye [ciao] beer commercials [advertisements/propaganda] that put the new ways [new forms/new modes] I could not finish everything I paid the fund in his cap by winning [gaining/earning] let you enjoy [could also be “enjoy her”] the most beautiful only for [only for use] you before for fun [also by choice/for nothing]

       after “Narcissus”

Drunken goodbyes and all
unknown, except

for the new kinds of advertising.

I could not finish everything
but earned the feather in my hat.
Enjoy me.

The most beautiful choice
happens before fun
for nothing.

Ballad of the Dead Boy

Acabo de tu tiempo hoy echando el sin reclamar enviaste ninguna hora enviaste un capullo antes que voy haciendo me puse tenso estaba haciendo menos oye el bueno windsurf monas tico abrí buen tiempo y comiendo Pachuca santos cojones grandes ahorros de ti y eso pues. Gómez Méndez que vos muchacho porque nos cae ponerme iba tu buen cabrón Juan Fernando Escobar ni puñetera no me hubiera hecho adentro jugar el buen suave no vernos en este año instalando todo saludo Luis loco ahí puesto para duchado mañana usted tengo nota en ps a quien yo o

Just throwing your time today on unreclaimed sent no time you sent a cocoon before making me tensed I was doing less good windsurfing hearmonkeys opened tico good time and eating Pachuca holy fuck big savingsfor you and that. Gomez Mendez boy because we like you would get your good bastard fucking Juan Fernando Escobar and I had not done in goodsoft play this year not to see us all hail Louis installing there as crazy foryou I have showered morning ps note to whom I or

Just throwing [casting/pouring/laying] your time today on unreclaimed [without demanding] sent no time [any hours] you sent a cocoon [a bud/an asshole/a jerk] before making me tensed I was doing less good windsurfing hear monkeys [specifically female/also a nickname: cute] opened tico [Costa Rican] good time and eating Pachuca [urban dictionary: latin street girl who is in a gang] holy [saints] fuck big savings for you and that. Gomez Mendez boy because we like you would get your good bastard fucking Juan Fernando Escobar and I had not done in good soft [gentle/smooth/mild] play this year not to see us all hail Louis installing there as crazy for you I have showered morning ps note to whom I or

No Time Also Any Hours
       after “Ballad of the Dead Boy”

Pour out your time today
without demanding flowers.

I was windsurfing
when I found my Costa Rican cutie.

Over there, the quarter kept for saints who fucked
and were eaten by holy leather whores.

Granada, you are a fucking bastard.

The gentle year is blind to us,
insane in our devotion.

I showered the morning
and showed you.

A Note on the Process:
This “translation” project attempts to respond to Jack Spicer’s After Lorca by utilizing a system of invention that engages with Spicer’s concept of the poet-as-receiver. The static produced by each iteration mostly refuses the poet’s involvement in choosing the language, producing poems that are fundamentally received (via the process). “A really perfect poem,” as Spicer notes in one of his letters to Lorca, “has an infinitely small vocabulary.” To make the poems, I do the following:

1. I read each poem into an iPhone application called Dragon Naturally Speaking, dictation software that turns speech into digital text. I switched the application’s language recognition to Spanish, so that any audio received is automatically assumed Spanish so that the input is Spicer’s English and the output is garbled Spanish. This version of each poem is labeled “DRAGON.”

2. I then take the “DRAGON” text and run it through Google Translate, asking the software to take the Spanish and turn it back into English. This step produces randomized arbitrary syntactic connections between the garbled Spanish words and produces garbled English. This draft is labeled “TRADUCTOR.”

3. I then focus on “enhancing” the English “translation.” I use various dictionaries to find alternate English translations of the primary Spanish words from the original dictated Spanish text. I also research geographical/historical or other connotations that occur by chance in the original dictations. I use brackets to “enhance” or provide context for each of the words/language units in the translated English draft, and track where I find the information. For research about proper names and places, I typically use a simple Google search and pull information at-random from the results. This draft of the poem is labeled “TRADUCTOR PLUS.”

4. To draft my version of each poem attempts to collect the nuances in the Spanish and English versions, leaving intact as much of the original dictated text’s language and syntax as possible. To begin, I read Spicer’s original poem as a guide for tone/form/sound, and then work through multiple versions of each line/group of lines. The transition of each word through the various processes gives it a history that is entirely private within each poem, and allows for a system of connections to ambulate in complete originality. The poem derives its own language and symbolic system.

The end result of this process is essentially a mistranslation (as Paul Legault has called it); something misheard or dreamt. The poems, then, mirror Spicer’s own imagined correspondence with Lorca, and attempt to answer his voice with another.

The Reality of the Name is the Cosmos

The Reality of the Name Is the Cosmos

Paul Legault:: The Madeleine Poems:: Omnidawn

Paul Legault’s The Madeleine Poems is complex in the way that the measurement of a wave’s crest is complex. There is a magnificent tumbling and mixture that is central to the book, but only central in the way that a galaxy is assumed to have a core from which it spirals outward. The book is a departure, a containment, a birth, a silence, a vision, a naming, a speed. In every manner of its making, Legault implies a politics of vision that both aggravates and soothes the desire to give names. This pruning and coaxing of the names of things shapes a portrait that questions portraiture. The long poem of the book, “Madeleine as Crusoe,” is a culmination of this theme:

A thing is in itself—
to name is to bring death to
—eulogy enough.

In her lecture, “Portraits and Repetition,” Gertrude Stein explained her process of writing portraits as

knowing that each one is themselves inside them and something about them perhaps everything about them will tell some one all about them that thing….I was making a continuous succession of the statement of what that person was until I had not many things but one thing.

The eulogy of The Madeleine Poems creates the singular body of the unnameable central figure of a Madeleine. The reality of the name is the cosmos of particulars that gives rise to their simultaneous erasure. It is the reader’s movement through the book that commands the resurrection and internment of image, body, and experience, which eventually leaves only the white space of the page: both beyond name and infinitely accepting of the opportunity to be named.

Such a book is less written than it is composed, creating centers for the music of Legault’s lines, which turn the mundane into a new phonics of meaning. The poems stutter to their rhymes and echo their own language constantly. They justify a new landscape: that is, both adjust and prove. There is a fresh quality to every word anchored on the line, and these moorings cast nets of meaning throughout the poems, stretching around the book like a skin that fits airtight and appears beautifully strange, as in “Madeline as Crusoe:”

and the connection is
what it was all along—

a new sense to us

of an old thing, a new
thing of an old thing made


The velar “-ing” sounds in combination with the resonating dipthongs of “new” “to” and “anew” envelop the initial multisyllabic “connection” and create the “new sense” of these lines, a quality derived more from musical quality than from sense. The important thing about Legault’s poems is that this guiding principle of his composition does not favor either music or sense-making but instead resonates in an indefinite space, a space that the reader is always arriving at and departing from. In “Madeleine as the Balloon and Size from Here,” Legault writes: “Everything quickly became penultimate—the feeling, not the act of some yet-to-be-had-arrival.” And that is exactly what the book produces: a feeling.

So, as the reader experiences the voyage, the book itself moves. There is never a certain direction, but it is apparent that the movement is both away from, and towards a language. Away from text, as the book recedes into the horizons of the page. The poems become sparser and more fragmented, eventually dwindling to only the sparkle of an asterisk on the final page. This movement towards silence is an approach to the world that is born from vision and a hesitancy to give name to. In the absence of language, the reader gains a tendency to understand what the last “languaged” section of the book explains: that “there is indeed // the inexpressible.”

The book begins, like any voyage, with departure:


Open The Book of Take and leave
open the book of your arrival.

          Call me the Madonna of chosen things.
     Know I am righteous and moth-like.

Wash me or tear me; knead me in lye;
know that I will outlast you.

     That it was hot,
the houses burned down;
     the way of fire even in spring then.

                         Woodsnail, breathe for me,
     or beware your life
     which I will take and shudder just to hold it.

Everyone was rich.
     We hunted wild animals.
The worst was when they looked at you.

The act of arriving in these poems is continuously left open, as indicated in the brilliant first linebreak of the poem above. Each line arrives at the boundaries of objects, here the moth-like “me” that is never named, and the hunt for the wild animals that is never resolved or explained. The poems traverse the fringes of understanding, and transcend the need to be understood in their own conviction, as the narrator of the shudders just to be as alive as the woodsnail. In this edge-skirting, the objects of the poems begin to separate from their assumed meanings, and, as in “Forest Gospel,” each becomes “a private thing.” The intricately woven patterns of the book are labyrinthine on account of this constant acknowledgement of the object-as-seen and the simultaneous and compound understanding (or revelation) of the object-as-is. The poems are both keys and questions. Who is speaking? Who are we and us? Is Madeleine a sui generis entity that haunts the text, acting as erasure of signified meaning? Or is Madeleine the larynx of the reader-as-poet, heaping meaning and assumption, implication and understanding onto each line of each poem, a journey out of all the centers in every direction?

The scatter-effect of such a compositional strategy produces a book that is unintelligible in the way that the most private and pleasurable experiences exist in memory outside of both language and time. The private meaning made via the text is transformational as an act of the reader’s powers of imagination under the influence of Legault’s “proper structure,” where “what / went in went out but multiplied” (“Madeleine as Crusoe”). Like shining a flashlight through cut glass, The Madeleine Poems make their own pattern and light as the reader moves through them, the beam of the gaze throwing color against the wall.

The composite portrait of the sound and sense, and arrival and departure of these poems is a result of vision and allusion, reference and difference. The succession of images and the speed with which the poems move, does not reveal an identity of what a Madeleine is, but instead leaves the reader the blank page, the single star that closes the book, from which pours our aloneness. “We are too much of us,” as stated in “Madeleine as the Balloon and Size from Here,” so Legault allows us to become ourselves, nameless, and depart.

Paul Legault:: The Madeleine Poems:: Omnidawn

The Word of Boris

The Word of Boris

Matvei Yankelevich:: Boris by the Sea:: Octopus Books

In her book If There is Something to Desire, Vera Pavlova remarks, “may the body stay glued to the soul, / may the soul fear the body.” In Boris by the Sea, Matvei Yankelevich plays with this tension, while also inventing a world for it to be displayed in. The world of Boris is particularly abstract in its inventive attention to what is real. In this poem, turned essay, turned drama, turned raison d’être, Matvei Yankelevich positions his readers in the same way that he positions his leading man: “lay[ing] flat on the ground [beginning] to watch things happen.” Poetry, when it is any good, should always assume the reader in such a state, but Yankelevich takes this position to its most literal extreme. At a first glance, the book becomes a collection of vignettes showing Boris’ actions and reactions to his rather mundane life: thinking of a chair, watering a plant, thinking about writing a book, etc. The cumulative effect of all of these snapshots begins to beg bigger questions of the reader, and even the author himself:

Boris lived in his room and he thought about why people need each other. People need each other, thought Boris, to check each other for ticks. People need each other for solving the problem of what is inside.

Yankelevich shows the reader what is happening while using language in its most flexible and suggestive capacities to suggest almost everything else. This motive force pushes the book beyond the mundane and into the visionary. Are people needed to see what is inside the ticks or what is inside the humans? Is this figurative or literal? Ticks are outward, right? So how is the other being used? These contradictions contribute to the specifically abstract position of Boris in his world, taking on the concerns and problems that we, as humans, face and finding little comfort in the solutions that he either creates, or is offered.

This banal specificity is best represented by the prose sections which book-end the text, Boris’ creation and destruction of a chair:

He thought he might build something else but what.

A chair.

He started by thinking about what it should look like, what is a chair, what makes it a chair. When he opened his eyes he saw it there before him. And when he closed his eyes again he fell asleep and dreamed of things he could never build in his room, things he would never see before him once he opened his eyes.

This passage is countered with the later disassemblage of the chair:

Boris took the chair apart. He made the parts into the pile. He lit a match. As the parts were wooden, they began to burn. Boris threw the matches in, too. They were also wooden and also began to burn.

He watched and watched as the parts burned and burned. He was satisfied, as though it had finally fulfilled its true purpose. And Boris had helped it to do so. And when it was finished there was a charred black hole in the wooden floor where once a chair had stood. And Boris climbed into the hole.

In both the creation and the destruction, Boris actively alters his environment, creating possibilities for himself that failed to exist beforehand. And Yankelevich maintains his position as author by allowing the language to mirror reality as closely as possible. This is not a poetry that attempts to re-envision a world, but instead focuses on seeing the world for what it is. Yankelevich emphasizes that the world is nothing more than a series of coincidences, actions and reactions, and all we have available to us to cope is our language and our body.

In a small passage entitled “The Metaphysics of a Boris by the Sea,” Yankelevich writes, “Boris looked at his hand and could not identify whose hand it was.” Boris becomes a foil for the character of the Author, who we might assume to be Yankelevich, someone who is just as lost as Boris in the world that he is busy creating:

The Second Preface

I hope that Boris will help me in this respect.
Perhaps the theater for us holds an important truth:
that without a role a person is as good as dead.

People want someone to lie beside them.
When there’s someone else under the blanket,
in the dark, then you know who you are
in relation to that someone who lies beside you.

Who am I alone. Missing my role.
I’m afraid I might leave this world behind.
I hope that Boris will help me in this respect.

The introduction of the Author as someone who thinks through and with Boris sends the text streaming into a metapoetic/metadramatic space, a space where language is both art and life. In one of the letters from After Lorca, Jack Spicer writes that

Words are what sticks to the real. We use them to push the real, to drag the real into the poem. They are what we hold on with, nothing else. They are as valuable in themselves as rope with nothing to be tied to.

In all of his day-to-day activities (including his Spicer-inspired aim to write a book without words), Boris lives in a world that mirrors reality. It is not real, you see, because of the words, which Yankelevich’s Author realizes might be the most frightening aspect of his position as creator living through his creation. This philosophical trajectory carries the book and provides the more important reason that it should be praised: it unabashedly recognizes the artifice of art but refuses to succumb to the fear of its lack of utility.

In fact there was nothing to keep him from opening it. Nothing but the imagined threat of what he imagined might step out once he did it. Sometimes the imagined affects our reactions more than the real. This was the case. Were he to find it empty the doors would have been unnecessary and therefore frightening in their enormous uselessness.

Yankelevich refuses to find his art (be that words, poetry, drama, prose, etc.) empty. Boris is still alive by the end of the book, somehow surviving the precarious nature of his situation as character and mirror for all lives. In her blurb, Rosmarie Waldrop sees Boris as someone “thrown into a world he is ill-suited for,” which seems a bleak examination of a book whose main foci are the actions of the mind, body and art to improve the world, always through the word.

Matvei Yankelevich:: Boris by the Sea:: Octopus Books