Wednesday, January 14, 2015

CA Conrad, Ecodeviance

CA Conrad, Ecodeviance
(Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness
Wave Books, 2014

Whenever I read CA Conrad, whose poems I find as potent and brave as anyone’s alive, I end up asking, “Who else is taking these kinds of risks?”  I read a lot of poetry.  I seem to be one of nine adults left on the planet who still subscribe to and read literary magazines.  Most of the poems I read just seem so careful, so eager to flash knowledge and earn credentials.  Not bad poems, not bad at all, just semi-dehydrated.  Impeccable and careful poems suitable for publishing in a tasteful university press volume entitled, Poems For Tenure.

Then there’s CA Conrad.  In Ecodeviance he describes an exercise wherein he approached men in suits on lunch break in Philadephia and asked them, “Excuse me sir, on a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being thin and creamy, and 5 being cottage cheese, how do you rate your semen?”  Conrad is unafraid to query businessmen, minerals or ghosts; the results are often spectacular.

As well as being precise, gorgeous and full of surprises, CA Conrad’s poems are marked by a willingness to take real risks and make respectable people uncomfortable.  Yes, please!  I want to read more poets like this!  How can we go on primly celebrating beauty in our rarefied salons and not be pissed off by the poisoning of the natural world and the murder of innocent people?  Real love does not shy away from fury.  Neither do these poems.

The poems in Ecodeviance are the results of rituals created by CA Conrad called (Soma)tics, “ritualized structures where being anything but present was next to impossible.”  The rituals serve as the source for a body of notes that then become the basis of a poem.  Each poem or set of poems in the book is presented with its ritual of origin.  (I hereby predict that these rituals will soon be so frequently imitated and assigned in Creative Writing programs that a boomlet of CA Conrad imitations will result.  This is not a bad thing.  At very least it will provide a respite from Raymond Carver imitations.)

In content and delivery, in ritual and result, Ecodeviance is a wake-up call and CA Conrad is our queer genius alarm clock.  May we heed the call.

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