Happy new year! Open Letters Monthly: an Arts and Literature Review has a new look for 2010 and my review of Michael Leong’s e.s.p. is in the latest issue. Here’s an excerpt:
In e.s.p., his latest collection of poetry, Michael Leong drafts a kind of architectonics of the page. By architectonics, I mean devices that reveal an overt consciousness of language’s status as language, words as building blocks, in which their form and shape and how they sit on the page and divide the surface plane are integral to their meaning. In the poem above, the phrases rock back and forth, mimicking birds in flight, while also suggesting a bristly nest. Though Leong’s poems often revel in the tactile aspects of words and letters, how sentences can visually suggest various structures, e.s.p. is no cold blueprint; Leong’s angular phrases, spiky forms, and playful compositions cavort within their spaces, prick consciousness as much as jar us from our sluggish thinking, and more importantly, rouse great feeling. Sentences, clauses, and assorted fragments here are used as scaffolds for a concatenation of ideas, the explorative range of which sets the mind aswirl. And while you must be careful not to judge a book by its cover, e.s.p.’s cover image—what looks like a blown-up etching from an old engineering handbook—is well-chosen. Its interplay of old communication technology with the personal intimacy of an outstretched hand simultaneously suggests incunabula and nostalgia while asserting authenticity and authority. It’s an appropriate image as the poems themselves often play with how technology and engineering intersect with intimacy.