NOT EVEN DOGS by ERNESTO PRIEGOALLEN BRAMHALL Reviews
NOT EVEN DOGS by Ernesto Priego
(Meritage Press, St. Helena and San Francisco, 2006)
I got Not Even Dogs by Ernesto Priego, a collection of hay(na)ku. the hay(na)ku format is simple to the point of wicked simple: one word line, then 2 word, then 3 word, or turn that upside down. its value consists in how it places emphasis on each word. or put better, each word is weight bearing. Priego uses the form here exclusively as a stanza. altho the form presents a haiku-ish potential as a brief meditative measure, it also links nicely. Priego writes easily within the format. a micro/macro simultaneity occurs (sorry for that lump of a phrase), in which one reads the poem as a whole, but also sees each stanza discretely, poems within poems. one poem hangs on a sore throat (I infer). These are the first lines:
in your throat
sleep at all
the poem ends with this question:
say without pain.
the poem, then, presents this physical sense (or demand) of writing, or
speaking forth generally. but verses jump out singularly for me:
in your throat
like a desert
dusty present pain
full of sand
(I just noticed that Ernesto capitalizes the 1st word of each stanza, which, let us say, defines porous limits). see, the verses can be read out of order, as you find them, but also narratively. I learned an emphatic attention from Robert Grenier (not to say I utilize it well, just that he provided a rich exemplar), in which the reader gives every word all chances to, um, mean something. consider all definitions, yup, peer at etymology, okay doke, but also, perhaps weirder, be prepared to see lack in black, age in page. look at all possibilities. I think Ernesto Priego possesses that attention. that he is bilingual adds a consternation and question, in the sense that he has these 2 languages, but Poetry is his mother tongue. that sounds like a floppy statement but give me a chance. Poetry is Priego's lingua franca. His language is largely ordinary and conversational. which is sneaky, because his words reveal such depth and perception. hay(na)ku's pace works perfectly with his thoughtfulness. I want to note the book design by Michelle Bautista. the central columns of the poems are offset by larger boldface repetitions of the 1st stanza, essentially performing title duty. this demarcates the poems from each other and is visually gratifying. I mean, even if my description doesn't zackly make it sound so. altogether a lovely book.
Allen Bramhall has published one book, Simple Theory (Potes & Poets Press, 2002), maintains an electrifying blog called Tributary, and shares a birthday with Herman Melville, Jerry Garcia and Lt. William Clark.