San Francisco: Krupskaya, 2000
Stacy Doris guides us on a lyrical love romp where coupling and copulation spin in prismatic splendor. In order to conduct experiments (“vivisection” she calls it) she limits her variables. Her subject matters are love and sex and form, mostly the lyric. Stabilizing this ground allows her to go anywhere, even the underbrush where “This crouch on Thus face, Thus thrust tongues, thick smell spin Thus head”. Section titles refract off one another: the first section, “Boy Book (Songs)” mirrors the last, “Girl Book (Warnings).” “How to Love,” appears as “LOVE TO, AND HOW!,” and so on, until, just as “They pose as girls sometimes,/ But they’ve got something extra-/spicy in the middle,” Paramour contains an extra-spicy centerfold calendar of valentines.
This calendar is visually elegant–as are the poems that form squares, each section indicated by a letter in Ovid’s name–but just as often, poems are loosely laid out. Titles are not always clear, and poems start at various levels on the page. In some places, I am not sure whether a line break or a long wrapped line is indicated by what is variously left and right justified. All of this leads me to read the book as I might read hypertext, moving by association, roaming the book in various orders. One satisfying reading is to connect sections with related titles. I also move between lines that recur elsewhere. “The hammer, tine” on page 63 led me to “hammering, in a tiny clearing” on page 83 led me to “some hammer to smithereens” on page 45 led me to “Hammer, hammer, a tiny clear, wire cloud” back on page 63. My role as a reader expands the more I familiarize myself with the text.
Just as the book glosses itself in pleasurable ways, its allusions to other texts reveal Doris’s wit. Her “PROVERBS-Sung to Sell” not only plays off the title of William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell,” but contains individual proverbs that parody Blake’s. She scoops up Blake’s syntactical pattern that produced “He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence” to create “He who has felt you inside him, knows you.” Perhaps Blake’s “Damn. braces: Bless relaxes” yielded Doris’s excellent advice: “Avoid ones with braces! They cut your lips!” And Doris fetishizes “The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands & feet Proportion” into “The head young, the heart missing, the genitals gorgeous, the hands and feet secured.”
Like high-stakes gambling, this book is addictive and infinite in its possibilities. I open it anywhere and begin again, eager to devise yet another reading. Often I am sated by the sound of her words ["Staccato per hour, let a tube/ ska bra fragrant at armpit...." she writes], even though–true to her subject–Doris elsewhere subverts her medium: “The best of all possible words’s a luscious mouth/ (the rest is dross).”
– Kaia Sand