Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Joel Felix, Regional Noir (Bronze Skull, 2007)

Regional Noir makes me curious about Felix’s writing. I feel like this brief chapbook is part of a larger project, or should be.

It’s in four sections:
(a) about three pages of verse, beginning with the line “Is found locally,” and continuing through a series of fragments and near-complete thoughts whose connecting idea seems to be the way in which local context is constructed—this explored in various senses (excerpted from various places in the section):

the lake communicated a fifth wall

as town repeats this pattern
of pedestal replacement

the one hundred twenty year present
of extremely local ecologies

If you think I’m the subject
then I will act suspiciously

and so forth: a situation defined by the length of a romance, the specific objects “found in a photo of the desk,” a desert place, a storefront and its parking lot...

(b) a prose journal of a train trip from Chicago to Detroit (apparently Felix’s home town), especially including reflections on the appearance and economic/industrial/ecological character of the Great Lakes shore between those cities. It also contains this:

If you reduce the scope of the text so finely that any suggestion of an outside world would be arbitrary and anomalous detail, then the outside of writing would be rendered a consequence of writing. But the world is not a consequence of this writing. The is that coincides with writing is a feedback of the system, no less than Orson Wells (sic), or Orion.

(c) a brief verse meditation on the sentence as a way of linking a human life with the world, the sentence as a finite place in which one can lose one’s way

(d) a prose section largely about the visit to Detroit and its recent history, but beginning with an account of writing as “the inexhaustible need to replicate” the things of the world, to produce something that both is them and “claims a life over” them. The section ends with the imagining of “a little pillow-cover ghost like the kind my mother made for Halloween” suspended in the darkness of an empty lot.

The relationships between these ideas just barely get played out in the course of this text, and that leaves a good deal to think about, but maybe too much, and therefore not enough. Which makes me feel it as a beginning of something. Which is an advantage, in a way, for a text. For a complex thought forming. It’s humble in relation to its own ideas, doesn’t want to own them except in their further exploration.

A made ghost: a replica of the trace of a past, its made-ness a life denied real ghosts. Its own humble status preserving its particularity, resisting total absorption into metaphor. Joel Felix as a detective, under a streetlight in the empty lots of Detroit, searching out the proper relation of the sentence to the specificity of local context, a context that, in its brokenness, has become soaked with collective and personal memory. A project I’d like to see continued.

does a train track

and what


where now big lonesome houses make a class ladder squash an elm wood
which is an advantage for development, aka the ugly pictures on “for sale” signs
my neighbor is the one I brush in accidental murmur in line at the store
not the association of rules on lines and lawns
growing a replacement

opening sentences opening sentences

writing is a balloon full of the world’s air
when it pops there’s a displacement of the sky
for a short time

sky rushes in


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