Cascadia Poetics LAB


I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am with Pablo Baler’s review of my latest book Haibun de la Serna in the new edition of Exacting Clam. He was the person who introduced me to the work of Ramón Gómez de la Serna, saying my American Sentences reminded him of Gómez’ Greguerias. I began to study those short poems which were described as “humor + metaphor.” Starting each poem with a Gregueria, I launched into these neo-barroco versions of the medieval Japanese haibun form. They were fun to write. I wanted to allow my writing mind to go wherever it wanted to, which felt like how my mind actually works. Sidebars, abrupt subject changes, parenthetical thoughts, parataxis are among the methods used, though I was not aware of any of that when writing. I was letting it rip, trying to internalize the approach I saw in the work of poets like José Kozer and José Lezama Lima. That these are two Cubanos made me feel like there was something in my own bloodline that I was enacting. (My Mother was born in Holguin when it was in Oriente Province in Cuba in 1937.)

That these poems were written between 2010 and 2013 and early supporters of the project were Amalio Madueño, who published some of them in a chapbook and Nate Mackey, who published some of them in Hambone 20. Yet, as I was telling my workshop participants a few weeks ago, when poems are written projectively, they stand outside of time and it is a joyful and humbling experience, especially when a reviewer like Pablo Baler can articulate so well so much of what I was trying to do. Is it the shared Latinx connection? Baler is from Argentina, so maybe that is part of it. Here is a little of what he wrote in his review:

aul Nelson is a once in a generation poet in the organic tradition of Charles Olson, Denise Levertov and Michael McClure. The author of American Sentences and A Time Before Slaughter, Nelson has struck again. This time, in Haibun de la Serna, he reimagines the ancestral Japanese genre of the Haibun (prose poem + haiku) as a contracting and expanding universe of neo-baroque, surreal, and abstract gestures. Added to this unique subversion, each one of the 99 Haibun in the collection, is inspired by a greguería, those witty, poetic one-liners created by Spanish avant-garde poet Ramón Gómez de la Serna such as the one that goes Rivers do not know their names or A carbon copy is taken of everything that is said in the dark.

These greguerías function as a gateway to a world of expressive possibilities, a stream of energy and consciousness into which Nelson dives soul first, mindfully and mindlessly. Like Terence, nothing is alien to Nelson. Nothing is irrelevant: the intimate memory and the geopolitical disquisition, runic alphabet, kim chi pierogies, Federico García Lorca, Dick Cheney, phytoplankton, Quiznos tunamelts, pepsi, tsampa, Molotov cocktails, Mickey Mouse, Abu Ghraib, dental records, eggs or Amtrak. This chaotic accumulation is not, however, poetic reflection of a random, fragmented world. Haibun de la Serna emerges rather as another Aleph, the multum in parvo, the miraculous, limitless, dizzying point in space that contains all other points. And as it happens in the story by Jorge Luis Borges, these Haibun, just like the original Aleph, allow us to see in a single gigantic instant millions of acts both delightful and awful. READ MORE.

Thank you Pablo!