Sunday, November 29, 2009

Susan Scarlata, review: Nakayasu's "Hurry Home"

Susan Scarlata

Review of:

Hurry Home Honey
by Sawako Nakayasu
Burning Deck, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-886224-98-8

In Sawako Nakayasu’s newest collection of poems there are balconies and there is hockey, there is heat (the word not the substance), and there is love and at times all four meet up. It is gratifying to have hockey (pucks, zamboni’s and all) appear in poetry –sports rarely seem to make entrance in to current poetic fields. Nakayasu starts this collection, which she subtitles Love Poems, with a series of balcony poems, forcing readers to think deeply about just what a balcony is can and might be: a slit of outside-ness; an urban place of escape. Considering balconies my mind always recalls this set of buildings in this certain part of Denver, likely erected in the 60s or 70s that seem to pay tribute to the architectural achievements of communist-block Russia. The balconies on these buildings make substantial contributions to making them uninviting. Each building’s balconies are ugly in their own private way, but all reinforce a feeling of being closed in, which is in effect quite an integral part of balconies, and also, when compared to the feeling of other spectator sports, of hockey. Hurry Home Honey continually moves toward, inspects and inhabits these spaces that people use to get away from one another while remaining wholly surrounded by people. The balcony (as the hockey rink) is just that –the space used to escape to an “outside” without going anywhere at all. This feeling of enclosure runs throughout Nakayasu’s collection.

In the poem Personal Balcony we are given a bit more direction concerning the specific relationships to hockey and balconies than in some of the other poems. The “you” in this poem is “some sort of high-traffic balcony,” while the “I” is “at a hockey game.” This interplay of the balcony during a party with people in and out/on and off is later referred to when the “I” inserts itself in to the hockey game it had just been watching. In running out to chase the puck the “I” forgets “that you are too crowded right now.” This becomes a locus for these poems in direct reference to the “high-traffic balcony,” but more broadly to relationships in general where one has to know when exactly one can reach their other, how to track, trace, feel for the times when that other is not “too crowded.” Also pertinent in this poem is that the “I” cheers for “the forces of time and memory,” making hockey itself (and the balcony too?) more a stage than something to focus all one’s energy on watching or being in or on.

Raised in a city where sports have long been the most constant currency, I have spent much time watching sporting events; at the age of fifteen I had the inkling of a feeling that I was getting some of my best thinking done at sporting events surrounded by thousands of other people. Sporting events are an easy thing to participate in as a spectator particularly when compared with most other types of social endeavors –no one expects you to talk, and lack of response can be seen as reservation instead of outright rudeness. Considering Nakayasu’s Hockey Love Letters, at base she asks us to wonder would (are?) relationships lived as sporting events easy or the worst type imaginable? This is perhaps what Aaron Kunin is getting at with his blurb of the book: “A weird rewriting of negative capability?” For throughout Hurry Home Honey Nakayasu tangibly holds highly contradictory actions, things, emotions, and ideas in mind and on the page at once. My quality thinking done at Steelers games is an element of what Nakayasu intends through this text; the descriptions of her “I” and “You” exist consistently hemmed in by layers of other people. This view of relationships, a continual joining, separating and then finding one another again (or sometimes not) is threaded throughout Hurry Home Honey. In a long sequence that resounds with varied uses of the word balcony Nakayasu writes “getting used to saying it our our balcony.” As in this quote, at times the relationships hinted at in these love poems are intimate, but other passages demonstrate the ridiculous-ness of the “rules of play” people abide by in more formal relationships. Ice Event: for 14 performers and 1 audience member is prime example of this more formal work or acquaintance type of relationship. In this poem, made up largely of directives and cues has one of the performers inside the hockey puck trying to manipulate the other players. This event was apparently actually staged in San Diego as part of the show, Tending the Keep. I hope IT (the person inside the puck) was either a scrapper or generously compensated –as an aside how did they shrink this person down to puck-size?

In Hurry Home Honey the enclosure even in the title (borrowed from clichéd relationships the world over) of this book speaks to the falseness that can exist in facades of “domestic bliss.” The title poem is an apt example with its synchronous list of prose poems. It is semi-narrative; events seemingly lead to other events, but then that too is a ruse, as it all (a best selling novel entitled Hurry Home Honey and T-Shirts with title branded on them!) leads only to “A man reads the writing on the shirt, and looks at his watch.” In its meta-ness Nakayasu’s book of poems is the antidote to this novel written by a woman whose mate walked out on her one day with no explanation. This novel does not exist, and so will not be on the front tables of Barnes and Nobles the world over. Nakayasu’s Hurry Home Honey is for all the honeys that defer their hurrying home.

Susan Scarlata’s work has appeared in Coconut, Conduit, Fence, Parcel, Sous Rature and various other magazines. She recently completed her PhD at the University of Denver, and she holds an MFA from Brown University. Susan is the Editor of Lost Roads Publishers, and lives in Wyoming.

RECONFIGURATIONS: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture,
http://reconfigurations.blogspot.com/, ISSN: 1938-3592, Volume Three (2009): Immanence/ Imminence

No comments: