Thursday, December 29, 2016

TRISM reviewed by Judith Roitman forthcoming in Galatea Resurrects

And then there is Trism, another book I find myself returning to. Also obsessive. Also inter/intra

species (bears this time, not sheep), also prose poems but more (47) and most longer (pages being

5.5” h x 8.5” w). As I looked for Trism’s online traces, Google somehow directed me to an

anthropology paper by Beth A. Conklin and Lynn M. Morgan, Babies, Bodies, and the Production of

Personhood in North America and a Native Amazonian Society, presumable because words like socio-
centrism and ego-centrism appear. Which struck me as serendipitous. Babies, bodies (both human

and bear), production of personhood (both bear and human and add to that boys and girls/men and

women) are central to this book. As Loudon writes: “Intimacy confused with blasphemy the

ineffable origins of SELF mystical when masked...”

Trism is situated in a gender-frozen dystopia, in which all girls/women are named Alice, all

boys/men are named Jack, never one at a time, always all of them, i.e., Alices and Jacks, together

with Trism Bear and, later, cub Ursula. Alices are in aprons tending to what women tend to and

bearing what women have to bear — “the fucked the suffering mother the mayonnaise and white

bread sandwich...”. Jacks’ bodies are helpless, violent, betraying themselves and Alices’ bodies. Jacks

try to hang themselves. Alices have their periods. Sex is quickly glimpsed — “Jacks were getting

back on their knees their cocks flapped at their stomachs” —raw experience with no context, often

one-sided. Trism Bear is at times generative/mythic, at times in chains, at times animal in the forest,

at times dead, diseased, “necrotic,” his suffering a form of revenge. And Ursula. at times an

anthropomorphized toddler/baby, at times bear cub sucking her paw, killing animals, “she roared

and trundled away..”

Most pages run 100 to 200 words thick with association, one to another, accreting, a landscape thick

with suffering surrounded by the detritus of a middle class dream:

Babies at the bottom of every villainy suckled roots snatched toys broke

down at the border a shoe repair shop a bakery stuffed animals footstools

wicker baskets chocolates papier-mâché the syncretic carnival speechless

and shuffling....

The landscape is both blasted and lush. Children appear as corpses, broken from plague, murdered

by soldiers, twitching in a bomb shelter, poisoned, “ringworm colic allergies coughs”, mutant infants

— “A naked vending child rode on the great bear’s back not caring that the bear scorched earth

blasted cities.” In the last page/poem Ursula scrambles into the forest to be caught by “thirty

cameras... thirty-three microphones... five thousand six hundred feet of cable... hid in an

abandoned wolf trap...”

And the book ends “NO] nipson anomemata me monan opsin [NO.” — the Greek transliteration

translates as: “wash your sins, not only your face.”

A handsome book. The cover is a photo taken somewhere in Europe — Italy? Romania? — I would

guess 1930’s to 1950’s, a bear sitting in the street, muzzled, a long chain connecting it to a man who

holds the chain in one hand and in the other a tambourine, while a few bystanders watch in and near

a doorway, a porch; one woman has her hand up to her mouth in shock? horror? concern? The

binding uses the elegant Japanese four-hole binding stitch, the pages are cream or is it ivory, subtly

textured. Of course it is out of print. But the text is available online as a pdf from several sources.

You can Google them yourself and I suggest you do. The binding and paper will not be available to

you, but the cover photo will, and of course the remarkable poem(s).


Blogger 37paddington said...

Wonderful review!

December 30, 2016 at 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I need to google and read this one. Wish I could order a copy.

December 30, 2016 at 12:57 PM  

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