..:: CONTENTS ::..

..:: POETRY ::..
Adam Fieled
  Sarah Israel
Johannes Finke
  Documents etc. do not balance out
  Hardcore angel
  Recording, Melancholy
Dan Fisher
  from Fugue Report
Jenny Gillespie
  Personal Forest
Thomas Hibbard
Claudia Keelan
  Little Elegies (Vietnam) 
  Little Elegies (cummingsworth)
  Little Elegies (Self and Other)
David Krump
  The Nine Day Ricochet
  Backsling in the Hickories
Tom Leonard
  suite On the Page
Christopher Mulrooney
  Continental System
Rochelle Ratner
  Jealous Lover Program Creator Is Indicted
  California Inmate Seeks Release of Stuffed Dog
  Piggy Banks
Dennis Somera
  Earl Lee s. alvation jane=Paterson's curse s.v. Paterson;
  sweet ana lack to es
Stephanie Young

..:: PROSE ::..
Douglas Cole
Laura Davis
Mandy Kalish
  On the Fourth Pull
William Moor
  Four Robot Recognitions

..:: REVIEWS ::..
Jeremy James Thompson
  Joan Retallack, Memnoir
Sarah Trott
  Stephanie Young, Telling the Future Off
Sara Wintz
  Various, lunapark 0,10

..:: ETC ::..
  Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
  Volume I, Issue I
  Volume I, Issue II
  Volume II, Issue I


Stephanie Young, Telling the Future Off 
(Tougher Disguises Press, 2005)

Sarah Trott


Wishing for Horse Legs

And getting them if the wish was written by Stephanie Young, whose debut book, Telling the Future Off (Tougher Disguises Press, 2005) is an exercise in the creative mantra. With poem titles chanting the bullet points of self-help manuals —"Today I Can Relax and Let Go," "I Will Release My Deepest Hurts Today"— the transformative power of the word is simultaneously mocked and called upon. Because of the beauty of the dream-like writing, the reader becomes convinced that the future could indeed be 'told off' with language such as this.

Boldly asserting her requests, the author playfully/pleadingly demands reality follow suit.

"I demand to speak with the king…" (22)

"…with a message I must deliver in person
in my loud and authoritative voice" (22)

"I don't want to write poems
because something terrible will happen.
In the middle of this poem
there is a man entirely without skin." (81)

"There was only me
but the wish to be plural.
It's 1:00 so I'll make it happen." (105-6)

Whether expressed as the spoken word, the written word, or as a hope within the secret folds of the mind, the wishes assert themselves, just as the physicality of the 'I' attempts to fix itself within a changeable, fragile, physical reality—a reality that questions "is it right to be/'in the world but not of it'?" (18) These poems reach for places beyond, struggle for connection as "some things are happening everywhere" (100) else.

Amidst these fragile, fraught connections, the 'I' seeks a way to fix herself in place, in time, amongst others:

"There was something wrong with my senses.
Mostly the problem of one human
enjoying or causing extreme pain to another human.
I thought about this constantly. It was confusing
and without political context
i.e. my identification with the victims didn't make sense." (85)

The incantations, the demands on language, lead the 'I' to a more solid state; the self/selves in the poems seek firmer ground. And whether whispering it into the ear of a beloved or shouting it in the racks of a department store, the message "I AM HERE" echoes throughout these poems: "Can you not hear the tinny tin of my fist at the story, knock knocking my head against the poplars." (50)

"I'm trying to get your attention. Just waving my fingers to breathe evenly, biting my tongue for effect." (29)

Here, the scold 'bite your tongue' is an 'effect,' a non-verbal form of communication that rather than function as a true silencer, acts as a beacon for attention and (possibly verbal) interaction. Throughout Telling, the 'I' admits repeatedly that she exists in often frustrated relation with other things and other people. And as they all continue bumping into and off one another, she lucidly concludes that "everyone is mired/in the same things at once." (101)

Yet just as fond of assertion as she is doubt, Young's declarations are often revealed to be mere words, things shouted and eventually silenced, the lonely scrawl on a bathroom wall, the empty mantra of an unbeliever. Once suggested, "I am here" bounces off the 21st-century detritus, eventually slinking away until summoned again with a reminder to "Orient yourself." (29) In a foggy, overcrowded world, a place where the attitudes of the nation are registered on the t-shirts of adolescents, the subtle markings of a poet must be X-ed on the spot repeatedly . And the posing of questions such as "WHOM is orbiting WHOM." (97) is essential when attempting to mark one's spot.


The poems in Telling the Future Off imagine new relations between things, adjust the scale of objects, rework the familiar and the expected. In "I Didn't Go Shopping?" a pair of boots we knew as life-sized, female footwear are suddenly reduced in scale and purpose, hanging now on a key chain. Even the next door house creeps ominously closer.

As the world closes in, objects lose their functionality. Eventually even the body becomes unfamiliar: "I was a monster, even at the time, even to myself." (14) As the objects and people begin to shape-shift, the need to document takes over. Everything seen, heard and dreamt is recorded with care as the 'I' seeks categorization and meaning out of disorder and anxiety:

"My hair is getting softer by the minute. Everything on the counter has its base in aloe vera." (29)

"See me glued to the saddle" (29)

"the material objects in my car
take on actual suspicion" (31)


Until eventually, a removal from this continually shifting center is desired:

"I too am looking to speak
in the third person. Without crossing anything out." (109)

The 'I' seeks the cleanliness of the third person, the objective stance of the omnicient observer. She seeks the type of outside perfection that means never mistaking a look for something other, that means she'll never miss the train again. Never letting an emotinal tie get in the way of the documentation of fact and action. And yet the contradiction is clear, the 'I''s continued involvement with the messiness of life and language is evident. The 'I' alternates between a language that is fixed, "Like a delivery system should" be (108), and one that slips around on the linoleum:

"…Did I think
I was too busy for the war? Did I think I was too busy
for the war to not be over? It's getting worse in the novel
the woman across from me is reading
'how cheaply the renditions'
and it gets a lot worse than that." (81)

Here, the line bends, the scene extends outward from the worldly contemplation of war and lands in the physical, local reality of a woman's lap. And again, out of this (constructed for the poem) reality into the plot of the woman's novel. Throughout is the threat/thread of something becoming steadily worse.

Just as language is capable of tracking this progressive worsening, the poet asks, is language also capable of causing the worsening? Are we naïve in thinking that by speaking and by writing, we might be a little safer, a little more in control? Do a series of carefully arranged words wield transformative powers? The beauty and confidence of the carefully arranged words in Telling suggest they might and that we should all be a little more willing to tell our own futures off—loudly and lovingly and in the language(s) we live within and through.


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