Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review of Gary Cummiskey's April in the Moon-Sun

Gary Cummiskey's cut-up prose pamphlet April in the Moon-Sun (2006, Dye Hard Press) opens with the following quote from artist and originator (along with long-time collaborator William S. Burroughs) of cut-ups, Brion Gysin: "If you want to challenge and change fate…cut up words." One needn't agree with this idea or the Burroughsian conceit of language as a virus and cutups as the diagnosis mechanism to appreciate it's value as a literary method.

For poets cut-ups offer a readily available avenue to go beneath the skin of language, to the mucus below, and to re-emerge with images that blind. Cummiskey's Moon-Sun, which switches between surreal prose poems of London and Johannesburg, contains many of these kinds of images. On the first reading one gropes about for a narrative but by the second the groping stops and its the beauty of the lines that grab you. Lines - at random - like:

"suburban living rooms with pretty studded silver nightmares"

"black bodices of stumped romantics"

"spoiled mustard-gas songs"

"the dirty slut caught reading tarot cards"

"she sent them by express thighs"

"as right-wingers took pot-shots into the ocean"

"her second eye sewn up against the cigarette smoke"

"mama let me out! Let me out of hanging out"

"cheese melt the pussy melt"

"imaginary drunkards"

"i don't have a heart revolution"

"the waitress leans over with her tits inked all over his pajamas"

"cure me into a poem and never to be seen again"

The line "spoiled mustard-gas songs", in particular, stayed with me. It takes a certain kind of genius to rip through the membranes that separate "spoiled", "mustard-gas" and "songs". Published in 2006 this is some of the most exciting writing in 2008.

~Pravasan Pillay

First published on Kagablog

More on Cummiskey here