STEAM by SANDRA SIMONDSMARK LAMOREUX Reviews
Steam by Sandra Simonds
(Self-published, 2006; copies available from the author at email@example.com.)
[First published in Boog City, New York, June 2006]
Critical time is not linear. Poetic time is not linear. In one blip, Kuhnian paradigmatic polarities are warring over a particularly fetching swath of the lawn (shirts=the lyric, skins=the lyric). In another, some are already building arks with the shards. Sandra Simond’s Steam is just such a vessel. Alternately sense- and myth- making, this intrepid volume subscribes to no weary narrative or lexical taboo. The book listens to the voices, and joins in. This one can think of no greater goal.
Ever the tinker. Simons unflinchingly proffers the right tool for the right job. Niggling time is adumbrated in “These days are Malthusian Footnotes” by a burst of velars:
“beating like uncle wound
or the coo coo clock’s beak’s
scheduled meeting with o’clock”
Said arpeggio is echoed later in “Bon Voyage” by a chugging train, proving it’s polyphony keeps the rail on time:
conductor, you black funnel-
of the chu-chu’s
Simonds employs alternately “a syntax of / arbitrary motions” and a more mundane quotidian lucidity such as “city of’s”:
“announcement saying love is and is not comparing medica-
the storefront neon”
“you can’t belong to your own life
you just have to sit
The text’s profound strength exists in its shying neither from ambiguity nor nude plainsong. In its refusal to be deterred on any level, Simonds’ voice assumes a brazen authority, unafraid of its own momentum and revelatory in its own contradictions and metamorphoses. A particular zeal is found in its toying with subconscious, cultural and lexical detritus and verboten, as evinced by the following from the Matthew Barney-tinged “La Belle Dame Sans Papers”:
“My name is scrotum, Madonna,
Windex, tampon, Camp Electric Barb,
and I have a hard hat
made of jelly, crampons
welded to my gums.”
These culls from the cultural morass never ring gratuitous or untrue. Simonds is as willing to unnamed as name. Such specificities as “where the Rin Tin Tins / lick and lick” and “rotting bag of McDonalds” are contrapuntally offset by deliberate ambiguities (e.g. “Dutch painter X” and “[once upon a midnight we lived on...Mount...Up...There...” Unidiomatically, we may know Steam by its cover whereby swathes of disembodied and unanchored text disappear into a field of raw-cotton off-white.
The angel is in the details, as they say, and Steam’s mode of dissemination remains true to its agenda of unabashedness (the chapbook is available to interested parties gratis from the author). Accordingly, the collection closes with an offering to the underrated David Schubert in which Simonds tells (“why don’t you thank your fortune / why don’t you let down your hair?”) and shows:
Stranger, may I have your hand or a mirror, dear, may I have
of advice? Went to the valley and it was a red went
to the valley white.
A long-legged deer stood by the roadside and drank his
crystal waters. May I have your soft step or a mirror, deer, may I
have a word of advice?”
Mark Lamoureux is the Printed Materials editor for Boog City.