Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Puma Perl's knuckle tattoos by David McLean (Book Review)

Puma Perl's knucke tattoos
Reviewed by David McLean

Puma Perl's new collection of poetry is a huge consolidation and deepening of the authentic voice she displayed in her first chapbook Belinda and her Friends, from the same publisher. The poems in this present selection are razor sharp and often very beautiful. The poems are about endings and indecisive identities, weak men and women, strong men and women, a nostalgia for the beautiful loser identity from another Jewish writer much less significant than Puma.

only the endings that i initiate surprise me
others give themselves away faster than i do
an intake of breath
a change in inflection
my name sounding different on their lips
fading, evaporating like the air
in those broken windows on second street

this morning angels danced
across a blazing sky
leaning to the left
i saw it was just the sun
masked in ebony smoke
no magic involved at all
and as the light took over
it all disappeared
(from end of the cataclysm)

These poems are easy to read and easy to identify with, and at the heart of many of them is nostalgia and parting. Poetry may be a struggle to catch the dispersal of fleeting meaning and an act of love that refuses to let nature and the past of the writer dissolve into indeterminacy, it strives to give them memorable identity and a profound and lasting meaning. It is a protest against the lack of presence, it wants to take a photograph of a hedgehog defiantly crossing Heidegger's Autobahn, implies Derrida, in one of his treatises on the zoology of writing, and thus make it real, thus celebrate non-arrival.

it will end.
i’ll drive north,
you’ll ride south,
Glock in your sidebag,
laptop on my seat,
cellphone charging,
Beggar’s Banquet
playing nonstop.

and it’s over
Florida sun
New York moon
same sky
new day
no messages,
long drive
to nowhere.
(from Friday Morning)

There are poems about heroin and addiction, Puma being a former dope fiend, and these are among the best, as are the poems about relationships, and the difficulty of love and a stable existence with somebody

now, i hang out with men
who don’t like me much;
i don’t like them either.

it seems to be working out.
(from Skiing with Sonny Bono)

Puma is also one of the masters of nostalgia, capturing the past moment as well as a camera does, as effectively, as in this appropriately titled poem

in our photos
there’s always distance
between us,
and too many teeth
sometimes, i look
like i might fly off
into the mountains
at the first turn

he denies the empty
spaces, says i’m jealous,
which is ridiculous,
since i don’t even like
him that much,
and anyway
we were all young
and beautiful
back then,
all the girls
laid back on bikes,
unsmiling, lifted
their shirts, tits
and eyes
staring directly,
into the camera’s lens
(from unblinkingly into the lens)

This book beat 1,400 other books to win the erbacce contest. I really hope it sells enormously well, get your copy at but turn off the sound in your browser first; the website tries to play shitty music.

Author bio:

Up-to-date details of McLean's publications and several available books and chapbooks, including two print full lengths and two free electronic chapbooks are at his blog at Mourning Abortion. A new chapbook hellbound is on sale from Epic Rites Press. A third full length, Laughing at Funerals is out in March 2010 from Epic Rites where he edits the book series and has a "virtual office." A novel is coming in 2011.

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