Tuesday, May 15, 2012


j/j jastain Engages

e.s.p. by Michael Leong
(Silenced Press, 2009)

Do we all have ESP? Do only plants and animals have it? Do only some humans have it and others not?
I prepare myself to be entered. I want psychic capacity to feed on me.

Michael Leong’s book e.s.p. feels like a psychic density being revealed by both method (a system of gentle ludic) and presences of self (“lonely longevity”). In it (e.s.p.) and by way of it (ESP) a figure is culled through by way of its you (“I looked for you through the lattice [] I looked for you when my monocle returned”). Inverting any “abyss of its own abeyance” this book necessarily turns itself (through its various methods (“tenuous vector”)) toward its own threnody. Threnody as necessity? Threnody as non-dogmatic resurrection? Threnody as mass of thresholds to pass through?

Leong’s threnody (“upside-down elegy”) rhymes (“with what sutural inscription/ with what curdled election/ with what caulk and suction/ with what fulminating forms of felined flexion” and “I came to you/ by oaring toward the orison/ on the horizon”). Leong’s figure says that here in the threnody the animate sings “because it’s safe, because it’s/ sound”—I would say that the space of the book e.s.p. is safe precisely because it is sounding itself against me—because it is ensuring that it feel intimate to me by way of how it presents itself to me.

Early on in the book, the piece called “Poem” is a sort of enaction practice. An engagement-yoga. That this piece appears so early on makes me as a reader, both won-over and skeptical of being led so early. It is not until a few pages later as “I” and “my” and other pronouns continue to be even more apparent as guiding forces in the book, that I start to feel no unsureness or uneasiness (in other words I feel trust) at all. I think that the uses of pronouns in this book strike me because they in their contexts within e.s.p. felt somehow like the secrets to keeping the book vulnerable. Like Leong (the voice of the figure) intentionally makes the pieces susceptible to fallibility or interpretation or impassioned subjectivity even if so amidst a lot of intellectual information (“Pandora’s Tomb,” “Sisyphus,” Kierkegaard, Milosz, Borges, Tony Montana, Dante). I am bringing up the intellectual and disjunctive here because this book is certainly not only or normatively confessional, even if it is leading (at least somewhat) by way of the vulnerability of pronouns.

Later in the book—there is an obsession-like tribute to “dwarves.” All the while through this section the figure is making the details of the dwarves (“interim dwarves” “my dwarves/ are currently redecorating/ which, in fact, now/ resembles a forest”) visible, and in doing so is making the dwarves the figure’s and ours: “my dwarves” and “one or two might be your [dwarves].”

In the “and so I imagined” section, words are taken apart and reformulated. At this point in the book there is a work that we are seeing—for example, the visual imprints (pg 81) as “rouse” “course” and “chorus” begin to blend. This section feels like active decomposition for the sake of recycling. It feels like the action or alerting that responds (as ulterior volition) to “don’t expect the poem [or book] to feed you.”

“I swim a sea that has no shore or bottom.” In it am I “creative or/ reactive?” e.s.p. is an apophenia-ally wherein neologism finally has a fucking chance to become nacre—or this is how and why to synchronize wafts.


j/j hastain lives in Colorado, USA with xir beloved. j/j is the author of numerous cross-genre works such as: asymptotic lover // thermodynamic vents (BlazeVox Books), our bodies as beauty inducers (Rebel Satori Press), we in my Trans (JMS Books LLC), autobiography of my gender (Moria), ulterior eden (Otoliths), prurient anarchic omnibus (Spuyten Duyvil), long past the presence of common (Say it with Stones), a womb-shaped wormhole (BlazeVox), vigorous (Eight Ball Press), verges and vivisections (Knives Spoons and Forks), a mini-memoir Vaginal Christ (nonpress), and statues with interior arms (above/ground press). j/j is currently in the process of curating an Anthology of Queer Nudes (Knives Spoons and Forks Press, 2013) and has helped curate (and participated in) two major Trans anthologies. j/j is an Elective Affinities participant, a member of Dusie kollektiv, a member of nonpress collective and a regular contributor to Sous Les Paves. j/j currently writes creative reviews for Big Other. j/j’s books have been finalists in the Kelsey Street, Grey Book Press, Grace Notes Books, Switchback, Omnidawn, DIAGRAM and Ahsahta book and essay competitions. j/j’s work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Publishers Triangle. j/j’s manuscript extant shamanisms won the Pavement Saw poetry award. j/j’s manuscript dear secondary umbilical, won second place in the Mad Hatter’s Wild and Wyrd Poetry Contest. In 2011 j/j’s book we in my Trans was nominated for the Stonewall Book Award and j/j’s book prurient anarchic omnibus was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.

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