Hyperglossia by Stacy Szymaszek
(Litmus Press, Brooklyn, 2009)
Stacy Szymaszek was born on July 17, 1969. Three days before my own 16th birthday. Three days before an earthling first walked on the moon.
Hyperglossia comprises a long poem of three parts: I. Event, II. Episode, III. Agora. It essays a journey not a whit less fantastic than a voyage to the moon.
The book’s protagonist is Eustace, a transgender head trauma victim, who has awakened “in the afterlife in a fog.” Eustace has been murdered and was unprepared for an unknown enemy. Now all Eustace has going for her/him is an overdeveloped tongue. (S)he is, essentially, trying to make sense of her/his new condition—that of being dead—through the agency of language. But her/his language abilities are somewhat scrambled (presumably due to the fatal head trauma). It may be the case though that what Eustace is trying to communicate is always already scrambled and incommunicable: depths of pain, extent of loss. For
nobody can be slain
in absentia (87)
A body is not an abstraction. Death is an individual event and strains comprehension.
Hyperglossia is a brilliant and beautiful book of many layers, playful and ponderous by turns. I’ve failed to communicate the many sonic textures it puts into play. Think in terms of linguistic strata rather than linear narrative. The strategies employed in Hyperglossia are a cousin to the collage methods of Susan Howe (with a healthy dose of acrostics mixed in). It reads very much like an urgent archaeology of the self. I know it’s a book I’ll turn to and return to when I want to think about what it means to be a speaking subject.
Tom Beckett is working on, and through, Appearances. His most recent book is Parts and Other Pieces (Otoliths). He lives in Kent, Ohio.