Poetry Project Newsletter

Issue No. 174

April/May 1999

Pearl Poems by Vincent Katz Paintings by Tabboo!
(Powerhouse Books, 1998)

Review by Richard Hell

 

            I should be outside.  But in here is so perfect --

            light blowing through window shades.  It will never end.

 

This book made my day.  It made me marvel and smile (and think!) and it still makes me happy to look at it.  Frank and Jimmy will never die!  Pearl takes up the New York grown-up (flippant, tough, kind), supremely alert, language-high methods bestowed by F. and J., and keeps them new.  Ted Berrigan and Eileen Myles, of course, have proved the durability of O'Hara's and Schuyler's stylish benedictions, and here comes Vincent crooning and muttering.  The book's a perfectly up-to-date and personal (of course) realization of that famous New York poetic value system of unpretentious everydayness taken to astral heights.  It was written in six months in a daily notebook five years ago.  It's a hard book to quote from as most of its effect is cumulative, and it's wonderfully not "afraid to fuck up."  It's full of Heavy D. Mozart, Rebel MC, Maria Callas, Charlie Parker, etc.); movies on TV, parties, subway rides, art shows, walks in the park, stoned flashes in the night, and words ...

 

            Did you ever elapse on a subway?

            I did it was painful.  I'm not

            avoiding punctuation, just denying

            it the power to change my life.

 

And the moments add up until a life is present; the pages are always alive with unexpected turns.

 

            You go down a long, brightly lit

            hall, push a door into a room.  Someone

            takes you by the hand, pulls you

            through the crowd and close to her.  You

            want to clasp something, but the

            something has always been just inside you.

 

The spirit of the book is beautifully enhanced by Taboo!'s glowing New York cityscape.  They're "decadent, dreamy, extravagant," says Vincent, and they're sweet and pretty and show biz-glitzy.  Taboo! comes from Boston, out of the milieu that brought us such of his cohorts as Jack Pierson, Nan Goldin, and Pat Hearn, and he was inspired by punk and the queeniest gay world (he does a lot of drag performing himself).

            The book's design and format are excellent too.  Taboo! says that when he first saw it he was kind of disturbed, thinking it looked like a children's book.  I can see what he means:  the book's laminated -- bright dustjacketless hardcover, and glossy colorful large-type pages make an effect unlike any volume of sophisticated poetry -- illustrated or not -- that I've seen before.  It's nice to see poetry presented in a context that suggests it's a source of delectation.  The typography is elegant too.  The book is an object of pleasure.

 

Richard Hell is the proprietor of Cuz Editions and his novel Go Now is forthcoming in its French translation entitled L'oeil du Lézard.