Wanton Textiles by Reb Livingston & Ravi Shankar
(No Tell Books, 2006)
One must first start with the brilliant, attractive cover. The title "Wanton Textiles" is inscribed in purple -- but of course purple when you come to some of the (appropriately) purplish prose within the text. The purple (or purplish? there's some blue, too) title and poet-collaborators' names are set in front of a white background created by white bed linen and two pillows. Propped up against one pillow is a spool of purple thread, while against the other pillow awaits a needle with its eye just waiting to be threaded, which is to say, penetrated.
These poems, dear Reader, want to penetrate but also wish to be penetrated by You.
Moreover, not only does the cover image befit this chap's unfolding of textiles in service to eros but it winks at you with its transgenderness. The needle, propped up vertically obviously can be the metaphor for a penis. But the needle, with its rather large "eye", also contains the orifice awaiting the penetration of thread. Also, thread (as penetrator) can stand in for a penis but the thread, even as it has the ability to enter the needle's eye, will never get stiff (read: hard); it remains malleable (read: soft).
Thus, kudos to book designer Charles Orr.
To the text itself: wanton, yes. Also witty, energetic, imaginative with their uses of materials ranging over mohair (or was it angora) to Lycra to eyelet fabric. Eye lets! Reading through the poems, I couldn’t remember when merely reading the words for fabrics has been so effective in making me see the fabrics.
Here's one of the more amusing poems by Livingston:
Bunny-pie, this nickel slut can’t lose enough in Vegas. Charmed a great literary scholar at roulette, blew on chips, accepted his come-to-my-room invite for a critique of my latest manuscript, THIS HOSIERY RUNS DEEP. He knew much of silk worms. After forfeiting two $50 jackpots, followed the thread to a quivering “Stroke the wretched loom!” sprawled bare-assed on a wolfskin rug. For a moment, I considered straddling the entire western canon – all night long. Please understand, I only considered it so I could write I considered it and gaze upon your face learning of my consideration. Please send expressive reaction photograph for I forgot to rescue your image from my locket before pawnshop visit.
Spinning & Hungry, Reb
And here’s a poem by Shankar, also pleasingly lively:
So that I could be known throughout the land as Mister So-and-So, I meted out two tablets of extra-strength Tylenol, then ground cloves and ants into a powder fine enough to snort but too sickening to look at. The pastiche makes me gage, but nonetheless I wrangle garrulous ascots from the butler who came to work the wedding. No Jeeves in him, the sonofabitch, he kicked at his pick-up’s tires, then flew into a rage, out of sight of the happy couple. I ate canapés, made small talk. The troubadours, whent hey came, and they did not, sang madrigals of morning. Swum in syrup like visitation rites. Hear me? Waves crashed all around and DJ Dan laid on the disco thick as fleece. If marriage is a sham, I am in shambles. I hooked the angle out of the conservatory and bid adieu to the fleas. Somewhere a light blinked off, then on again. I cannot sleep, not now, not here.
Peeved and petered, quit possible pickled beyond brine—
Can you glean just how much energy thrums through these wanton pages? Metaphorical question. Eros is also energy and, notwithstanding Jeeves and canapés (references that ordinarily make me snore), the underlying energy is one of a carnaval with multicolored tassels swinging from many nipples and cocks: “These fabrics are slippy situations,/ putting us all on the whorepath of snakes/ stitching shut the fallen hero figure”.
Deepening the overall collection are other poems where an individual author is not discernible, as should be the case for collaborations. Here’s a lyrical example, even as it, too, displays pleasing twists in syntax:
Let’s rather stretch together, sky, breasts,
silhouettes, our own recognizable heads
unnumbered and damp upon the grass
asking for once, twice, thrice, why count
why wretch, why not bind our thighs around
our pathos and like CBs buzz:…
Wanton Textiles is a very satisfying collaboration to read, a salubrious interaction to experience. It's worth pursuing -- the poems will harden you as much as they will soften you and it won't matter which because these poems also want you to feel as many ways as possible of being unraveled towards ecstatic release. These poems honor its epigraph by D.H. Lawrence:
“Be still when you have nothing to say, when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.”
Eileen Tabios doesn't allow her books to be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects -- but she is ecstatic to point you to recent reviews of her recent book The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes (Marsh Hawk Press, 2007) by Nicholas Manning, by Jesse Glass, and by Burt Kimmelman. Oh, and a review by Laurel Johnson reprinted by Amazon.com, though it's also good to support SPD! Preening is as good as wine for good health!