Sunday, October 18, 2009

Painters' Exhalations by Felino Soriano (Book Review)

"Painters' Exhalations", in “r” by Felino Soriano et al.
Reviewed by David McLean

This is a review of Felino Soriano's series of poems called Painters' Exhalations, a sequence of poems incorporated in a book with poems and photographs by other people, who will not be considered here.

These poems, as always in Felino's work, strive for

A panoramic purity
pulled into the top-layer
lens of an eye’s
perfect depiction.

(from Painters’ Exhalations 188
—after Kim Curtis’ Interrupted Fall II (diptych)
pp 78f)

The series of poems follows the chosen art in a critique of the bourgeois acceptance of the everyday norms that are imposed upon the psyche against its best interests, to attempt to express the potentialities of seeing and perceiving, the resources available to the poet or thinker as s/he considers the picture or the world before her. They show how the perceiver is free to structure the perceived in many ways,

Create the car window. Believe
fog can be beautiful, for its gray dress
and dangling, wrinkled fabric silhouettes
the feminine arches of attractive distant

(from Painters’ Exhalations 81
—after Jules Olitski’s Expansions)

Sartre once stood before a mirror and decided that he would be handsome, just so can fog be beautiful, even for those who, unlike me, start off by thinking it isn't.

The poems range broadly from a melancholy awareness of finitude and death to a celebration of the orgiastic potential of consciousness of multiplicity. What struck this reader most forcefully was the implied discussion of how the aesthetic impulse can both grant this insight but also lead to the imposition of clichéd patterns of perception -

July promotes the use of landscapes.
Outside, renditions of familial
gatherings, cameras flash
causing stilled depictions of
the meant to move, move across
the landscapes now clichéd,
when once, the eye
would visit these uncluttered
tabletops, sigh an exhalation
of content, as the beauty, then
was not distorted
by the gawking irony
of abused, beautiful

(from Painters’ Exhalations 176
—after Boris Sveshnikov’s July)

In general, Felino Soriano's poems are well worth the purchase of this book. They are sometimes difficult to follow on a superficial reading, but are well worth the effort of attention that shows you the world that is being pointed to behind the words. They help the reader see the paintings and as such should be of interest to lovers of the graphic and plastic arts as well as to lovers of poetry. The book is on sale at Amazon.

Author bio:

Up to date details of McLean's several available books and chapbooks are at Epic Rites, or at his blog at Mourning Abortion. A new chapbook hellbound is on sale from Epic Rites at Epic Rites, and his third full length, laughing at funerals, is coming from them next year.

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