Since January my relationship with Jonathan has known a steady growth in affection and I was pleased when he offered me a position as Book Reviewer. He had noticed my interest in Dylan Krieger's poems, and for my first gig, I was to review her new book: No Ledge Left To Love (Ping Pong Free Press, 2018). And so, I began with what became a cynical philosophy and sex-dialogue whirlpool of Darwinian awesomeness.
This fall, I will be celebrating the two-year anniversary of the end of an eight-year relationship and the balance hasn't yet tipped in my favor. The day I began writing this review, I woke up from a dream where my ex and I had reunited and forgiven each other everything. In the dream we were all smiles and agreement. We had sex, in my childhood house, then moved to my teenage house, where she symbolically locked the door to everything that ever was or could be in our way, and I woke up smelling her. I masturbate in the mornings as a rule, to keep the edge off, and it's helped me get over this woman and get a few phone-numbers, casual hook ups, one-night stands with prostitutes, and write many bitter poems, so Dylan's subject matter hits close to home.
It would be grossly dishonest to fail to label Dylan as a cynic, though she prefers to be called a skeptic. The price of sex oozes in her poetry, like remnants of primordial soup, rotting nectar that seasons her verse. From a vague reading of the book, you'd think philosophy a useless science, something that kills the animal, but these clever verses test you with cynicism, pessimism, and skepticism, to make sure that you truly value the way that philosophy keeps the mind from spinning out of the spine while preserving its fertility. The verses attack dead-end and uncreative reasoning and mental vacancy. Once disillusion has set in, it works like sediments, too deep to be cleaned from the ocean, and we are left no choice but to embrace the darkness of the fact of life. Maybe that's where the true questions are. Dylan Krieger's "No Ledge Left To Love" doesn't shy away from our primordial darkness. Call it perversely philosophical and jaded. Call it brave and cruel. Call it flesh-embracing- and pessimistic. Call it contemplative. What remains is that this book is very good.
"better to ask a woman which is better: man or engine," she says in "Pleasure Machine" (p32, a prose poem, like most of the poems in this book). "would you rather infinite orgasms in cold metallic contraption or 3-4 with someone warm you might've met before? our first mistake was electing not to ask the porn star before the philosopher." I read this with with as much humor as bitterness picturing my masturbating spurts on gigabytes of porn. "our first mistake was relegating the unreal to second-class cannibal status," she continues and I feel like firing back a male rebuttal-cum-corollary: would you rather come and not be bothered or a companion whose timeframe and counter-value in your life is uncertain? This poem is grudgingly felt and with a seal akin to a scar: "so at the end of the movie, the debate hole still gapes open--bemoaning how perverse to pick and choose between the festooned and the festering wound." She challenges our modern afflictions of porn and picky sexual aesthetics but also wonders about the possibility of other alternatives by following with the poem "Mary's Room" (p35) as if saying: yes I do care but I'm broken. What else could there be "whatever we mean in those moments is beyond the tongue's sad spastic reach. Beyond the measly scope of this poem soaked in arrows and steam."
No Ledge Left To Love confronts the problems of actuality, sex and meaning. The poems in the book value sex as the necessary destructive means to liberation from anxiety, and more specifically, to modern anxiety, sex having become the true playground for self-creation. The book is an embracing of self-conscious identity in the face of causality. Better a creative and active acceptance of inevitability than an unchallenged conformity; better to take risks and open doors. "Decision Simulator" (p23) guides the book's imagery. It uses the mating ritual as the ultimate template for decision-making. Things have more value in the how than the what when we consider the narrator's behavioral/aesthetic preferences in the seduction process. We are invited into her sphere of sexual selection, sex, the thing behind the curtain that bleeds into all our everyday decisions, "the trick about trick questions is they always flaunt their wantonness." In the author's words, "the poem conflates decision-making with the kind of blind bets often made on game shows, emphasizing that even if we consider members of our species to be more than biologically determined 'decision machines,' their choices are nevertheless a) grossly limited in number and scope and b) largely uninformed of key contextual factors and therefore not by any traditional definition 'rational…' choice is revealed precisely to be staged, constructed, and ultimately beyond our animal grasp." The poem tells me that sex, survival and nothing are the three choices on this limited menu and I'm hungry. Sometimes you get the two obvious choices, and sometimes just one. Other times the empty dish. I know that even if I eat, I'll be hungry again soon and they won't be serving again for a while. Do you deal with hunger by fortifying yourself and staying hungry (that doesn't make sense), or do you lock your jaw on the available food knowing the consequence: loss. Maybe how we eat it, also matters.
Unexpectedly but not out of tune, the book turns to the environment in an anarchic tone, almost similar to the unnamed protagonist's transformation into Tyler Durden in "Fight Club" in the early stages of the film. It's a musical sarcasm that the author creates with the occasional rhyming that emulates urban legends and fables. In the "Chinese Room" (p36) she attacks luddites and lauds the cellphone. In "Singularity" (p37), she criticize people's lack of concern for information by alluding to a world where human greed and laziness make machines take over. The narrator's stance in the poems is not a cheap dichotomy into right and wrong, nor a petty attempt at science-fiction. It is instead a woven syntax of both, a sci-fi possibility and a contemplation of what the future could actually be (along with the ensuing ethics) not ignoring the possibility that we'll become quasi-blind advertising receptacles. The narrator mocks modern values.
Midway through, the momentum of the book shifts to a criticism of the undeniable lack of judgment and valuation of our modernity. She shuns the lack of philosophy today and jokes about it in "Twin Earth" (p38): "make no mistake, when even flint and tinder can no longer drink the water, this blaring era of America will start to miss its rain dances, asking what’s that our indigenous ancestors said about world’s end, about forgetting to regret?" and in "The [Spherical] Cow in the Field" (p39) she adds a twangy rhyme: "this is the dream in which I begin to chew my own cud. separate stomach, same old hungry thud. the dialogue is always waterlogged from dragging through the mud and snow. like, what did the clothesline say to the cropduster?what did the cow tell the moon before booming its circle of bone down her throat? perhaps they, too, told jokes." In this new world she has taken us to, we are no longer solely confronted with the issues of gender and sex but with an apocalypse of oblivious consumers as well.
You'd think the book is written for goths and devil-lovers. And why not? If god did exist, then we'd have to accuse him of infanticide. The book pushes us on a plank of honest fatalism towards a moonlit ocean that mirrors back our existential grief. Looking at the world, at the sticky and muddying effects of platitudes, one can wonder if life wasn't a mistake. "tell me there’s a way around this tricyclical doubt. a way to stand upright sans training wheels or paranormal reacharound…" the narrator asks in "Truth Trilemma" (p42) after contemplating the wonderful vice of smoking in "The Pyromaniac" (p41). In the later poem, as if the desire to smoke is also an impulse to destroy, the narrator invites us to contemplate the destructive beauty of fire and the ensuing meaning of the cigarette that is never mentioned. In her difficulty resisting the urge, along with her ultimate yielding to it, "The Pyromaniac" becomes a dialogue about the inescapable causality of instinct and biology, offering no aetiology, just the rise of an impulse which becomes more alive than its host, the impulse that keeps us going when nothing else is left.
Darryl Wawa is a Port-au-Prince born Haitian-American who studied Photography and Creative writing. He enjoys chocolate and good books. That said, maybe a movie is a good book. He loves to work with images and words and their pairing.