Review: Babble on to Babylon
His poems are free in form, receptive to rhyme and meter as the occasion serves and efficient at combining poetry and prose within the same poem. But words fascinate him and he expresses this with great variety and notable ingenuity. Unrelated words become bedfellows if they have sounds in common or if they differ in sound but somewhere have links in meaning.
Reviewed by Bob Williams
Review: Babble on to Babylon
by Blem Vide
PretendGenius Press 2004, ISBN 0-9747261-8-4, $11.95, 171 pages
This is an outsiders’ book. These poems – witty, irreverent and spiced with allusions drawn from many sources – will appeal to the patient and receptive reader. The audience for poetry is small and the special demands of Vide’s poetry will involve even fewer readers but those readers will find much in this collection to make their experience abundantly joyous. The reader should pay attention to the phrasing of the copyright notice, engagingly different. The cover, like all PretendGenius books, is very handsome and is mainly the work in this case of the author.
In one of Aldous Huxley’s novels a character becomes entranced with the phrase “Black ladders lack bladders.” Vide is similarly fascinated with this and all kinds of verbal play. His poems are free in form, receptive to rhyme and meter as the occasion serves and efficient at combining poetry and prose within the same poem. But words fascinate him and he expresses this with great variety and notable ingenuity. Unrelated words become bedfellows if they have sounds in common or if they differ in sound but somewhere have links in meaning. An example of the latter is in Vide’s ‘Serve the Creative Impulse, Idiots’ – a work in which poetry and prose live together happily – “And I want to be regarded as an Elvis Presley look-alike. On the double.”
When he does not make these unaccustomed combinations through sense or sound, he resorts felicitously to puns as in this example from ‘Rigva Raga Loop:’ “pomes never end/they just go republic.”
There are poems in which his fascination with sound sets meaning aside in favor of a personal language that cannot be construed.
“Agawon. I supter. Sun blackness.
‘On toma volute nagavini!’”
‘Ulahan the Latuganist’
There are two qualities in which Vide especially excels. He frequently addresses the reader directly and in ways that arrest the attention. He also plants within his poems sharp and witty observations that send the reader an electric jolt of pleasure and recognition.
“Not every house is
a limousine, but not every house can speak cottage.”
“This was my back porch before I stole it from the cops.”
“Vanity is nothing to
fear, unless you are intimidated by beauty.”
“if a taxpayer dreams
forest in the ocean
is there a gov’t to poison the world?”
“god never serves food
on good dinnerware
when we’re at the table”
The last quotation strongly recalls Emily Dickinson’s observation about God’s table being too high for us unless we dine on tiptoe.
‘Protecting Intellectual Property by Giving It Away Free’ also has its background, shadowy and suggested, of a writer familiar with Finnegans Wake. It has the same stubborn march and carefully plotted variety of the first thirteen pages of Joyce’s chapter six. If not done in the neighborhood of Finnegans Wake, it is an interestingly Borgesian coincidence.
This is a long book for a collection of poetry and it could have been better as a book if Vide had chosen fewer poems for some are notably better than others. But, as a documentation of a writer, with much accomplished and much still to offer, this is a selection that will acquire additional meaning and value as we have the felicitous opportunity of seeing more of his work.
To buy: http://www.amazon.ca/Babble-Babylon-Blem-Vide/dp/0974726184
Cover designed by Stratos and the Writer