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Flexible Poetry: Glossodelia Attract

by George Quasha
Reviewed by Kevin T. McEneaney

George Quasha

While the title of this book is unlikely to attract a casual book browser, the contents of the book brim with witty aphorisms: “The trouble with paradise is that you never want to be away from home.” His pithy observations arrive both as sentences and thought-fragments that run in thematic sequences. Yet one may open the book at any place and be drawn in by the intensity of observation and the honesty of thought. 

This volume is part of a series of nine books that Quasha, who is fond of puns, calls preverbs, which he defines as “a saying in a state of language that stands previous to any claim on wisdom. Each preverb incorporates—takes into its language body—a core issue or notion which, if mastered or somehow resolved, could stand as a point of reference for future thought and therefore condition thinking in a consistent way; if left unmastered and unresolved, because still or even additionally polysemous in its state of language, it becomes a matrix of yet unrealized thinking and a spur to further nature.” 

The poetry plunges into the process of making metaphor with evolving thought. It is poetry as process exploration: “Poetry is made at the edge of running language. / Language ready to come through here is experienced beyond my means.” What makes such poems work remains the demotic immediacy of his quirky turns of thought: “Pearls before swine has a Buddhist incline” or more seriously “I know it’s good when it makes her laugh in me” or more wisely “Poets and children at play love levitating agents.”

Quasha writes as both an established abstract painter (“A body is posing as a poem”) and noted sculptor (“So familiar and you don’t know what you are looking at”), which accounts for the sinuous quality in the movement of his poetry as if you are watching a mobile sculpture chiming in the wind. This particular book is mediation on language itself. His poetry falls into the category of the language poets, yet he produces the best work of that movement: “An actual leaf leaves its matrix in place.” Like Stephen Mallarmé, Quasha aspires to uncover and describe the spontaneous unknown: “On the other hand I couldn’t be here unless I was different from myself.” The difference here is a mind that surfs the flux with the courage to be authentic.