Friday, February 26, 2016

notes on Lisa Samuels, Tomorrowland (2009) - 1

I'm a long-term fan of Lisa Samuels' poetry and I've written some enthusiastic pieces about it.

With Tomorrowland and its successors she moved to book-length poems, and that gave me some difficulties as a reader.  My lifestyle was much better adapted to thinking about short poems (less reading, more pondering). I didn't know how to get started on a book like this.

That all changed when I listened to the CD that accompanied Out of Everywhere 2, Emily Critchley's recent anthology of experimental writing by women poets. This included Lisa reading a section of Tomorrowland ("Landed Gently"),  a wonderfully eloquent reading set against a minimal but vivid soundscape.

This was something I could listen to again and again as I drove around on daily business. But I didn't have to listen more than once to be gripped by its steadily unfolding narrative of arrivals at remote islands: of living in the prospective mood: the seeding of new civilisations, cultures, colonies, epidemics... - a narrative more easily sensed over great sweeps than by burrowing in to small passages like the one I've transcribed below.

Was there, I emailed her, a complete recording of Tomorrowland?  Yes there was, a double-CD published in 2012. And now I've got it, and it's great.

[Image source:]


"hark the tui rises with perfume" ("All the buildings made of voices", p. 73)

Tui = endemic New Zealand passerine bird


           The blitz has eyes reacts to this extremity
So follow, as your unraveled testament reminds me
With its too-short cavalcade and surgeon's wheel.
A curious act of total newness deified by its dissenting flower --
(you cannot smell the newsprint pressed up
to your face, pervading) every Eula's short-hand town
Best-selling semi-fictional and grey.

Archaeologists love rubbish, after all, and we can't tuck
enough of Scotland in our spoil haps, nor Yorkshire cattletrap
third-year Mexican rubbish art dance cart manual
transmission, Japanese embroidery, American solids
and all the island habitats so Wittgensteinian.
We need some digging surface to find lies below
we need some secret networks with which to build sincerity
pikes for all our aching heads. We need a bluet sphere
to calm our material surfeit of indemni-cards, Freud and void
having convinced us they are totally in love with everything we might
imagine self to be. You have to ask who owns what and why.
The view you can't have is like 'I understand.'

"It's all good" (p. 19)

(My almost-random extract covers the end of a paragraph in which virtually all the lines are capitalized, and the beginning of another in which they aren't.)

Bluet = small delicate patch-forming herbs from N. America, esp. Houstonia - typically blue in colour and from a decorative point of view vaguely resembling lobelias or forget-me-nots.

Bluets, or Quaker Ladies (Houstonia caerulea)

[Image source:, photo by Janet Novak]



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