This is not a review but my method of reading experimental work, which is, in basic form:
Go through the text and see what flows and what jars, which lines spark some kind of reaction.
Try to pull out the allusions, intended by the author or invented by myself.
Head off on tangents.
Speculate what the meaning might be.
Stop about thirty pages into the text to avoid spoilers.
I am not an expert, or an academic, or even anchored in reality half the time, so a lot of this could be way off.
But could also be way on too.
Author: Tyson Bley
Publisher: Schism Press
I’ve read a lot of Tyson’s poems and sent zines to post offices in Germany that may or may not have existed and listened to his song Gertrude’s Knees, so I usually know what I’m in for.
Machinery gone wrong [or right, depending on your views]
Extreme juxtaposition of cultural references with anything conceivable
A bizarro, unforced sense of humour
Dada-style off-lyricism [or maybe zaum]
Not sure if off-lyricism is the best way to put it, what I mean is, there will be parts that read smoothly with great word choice, then a barrier of something off-key, a weird choice of word or phrasing, and then back to smooth again, then whole sentences of off-key, and back again. On a [presumably] non-contrived loop.
At some point, I described his poetry as being as close to the Id as it gets…with Id written as ID…and I stand by that still.
Only you can’t fully transcribe the Id as that would defy the point of the thing. If it is a thing.
But Tyson comes close.
And the humour aspect consolidates it, without a doubt making him my favourite of all the experimentalists working today. Of which I’ve read about twelve.
No real clue.
I’ve often wondered how he actually writes his poetry, the same way I wonder where my stuff comes from. It’s not designed as such, more a prepared mix of topics, or thoughts, or a skewed method-like attempt to filter myself into the psyche of an abstracted concept of a physical something e.g. cop, that gets handed over to the ghost inside, whatever it is…the thing that works faster than I can…that nearly broke me over a decade ago…or abandoned me, let me stand there sweating in front of people I thought were aliens, trying to pin down where my own spoken words were coming from, how they were being produced, what if they stopped etc. etc.
At a guess, I would say that Tyson gives himself over to the ghost too. Don’t think it’s possible to rigidly design or map out what he writes cos designing would order it too much, put restrictions on the off-lyrical parts, make it safe.
Why am I doing Frankencop?
It’s free and I don’t have cash at the moment to spend on books. I’ve got Drive Thru Zoo somewhere under my bed from many years back, but it would be an effort to get it out.
Besides, Frankencop is more interesting to me as it’s the first one of his that I couldn’t get through. Not cos of the quality, but the form it takes. One long block paragraph spread out over 45 pages or so.
Doesn’t matter if it’s Phil Dick or Flan O Connor, I can’t read text presented like that. Psychologically, I need to have breaks, or an end in sight.
And Tyson’s stuff works better in short bursts.
But as I’m writing this, the Jodorowsky side of my brain is coming up with counter-points and I think I’ve got a good one.
Could be way off, but the point might be not to read it from A to B to 45.
Instead you just dip in at any point, skip forward or back and it won’t really affect anything as there is no discernible plot to Frankencop. It’s an experience that you undertake with the understanding that meaning may be fleeting and weird and flame out at any moment, and it will be solipsistic [yours alone – don’t know if solipsistic works in this case] as you can’t turn to anyone and quote a line out of context like maybe you can with other poems, it won’t make sense.
One example of the opposite being true: Beach fear in the parking lot. I said this line to my wife once and she laughed, so that one transcends, I think. Can’t remember which poem it was from…Barely Riker, maybe.
There are probably lots of other lines too…disproving my above argument, which is more a way to resolve my struggle with the form of Frankencop than an actual argument.
I generally don’t make arguments.
Not since I got the number of Halloween films wrong. And said a Buddha statue made in 1993 was thousands of years old.
Why is Frankencop presented that way?
Two reasons come to mind: one, what I just said above, the idea that it wants to intimidate, exhaust, force you to constantly shift your position in the text cos tackling the singular mass entity might destroy.
Or, two, fuck you. I dare you to enter this thing…this cop psyche I just made up. Lyricism will be intermittent and beyond that you’re on your own.
Both might be the same reason in a slightly different costume, not sure.
Franken + Cop
If the title has a meaning, I’m going with cop as frankenised already. They’re protectors of capital, murderers, rescuers of cats, racists, kind at in-house BBQs, escorts to white mass-killers, a horror symbol to minority teens, unionists when it’s their own, thin-skinned, thick-skinned, chicken-skinned, tellers of tall tales, ACAB cos it’s systemically designed that way.
But Frankenstein’s monster, if that is the reference, at least had a naïve sense of awe and curiosity about the world. Which the cop figure is created to shut down.
Is Frankencop the Id of the cop detached and let out to wander the streets? To try and make sense of the madness that we’ve coated on ourselves and called normal?
Are we the cops?
Cop and a half…white cop, black kid…propaganda?
The cover pic of Ron Jeremy pinning down a naked woman gives a very strong cop feel, especially the ‘yeah, what of it?’ face Ron’s doing.
As with all these De-con-strucs, I’m gonna excerpt/extract the start and see what I can make of it.
Not gonna stress over meaning, cos I think it’s macro-conceptual, as in the point is in the overall mass not the divots…rivets…mosaic bubbles…little bits.
A clown has browned this area. Carlos “Bunsen burner” Danger’s science experiment conjured up a lifeless bicarbonate of soda burp, by contrast. But an alleviated wormhole is still a ramifying wormhole: IBM-noir innards – electronics as arcane as Bolivia, as heavy as New York – purveying a McDonald’s as abstract as a virgin. Personalized resurrected fudge compressed in a mold like the amygdala on LSD, pushing out through the Martian layers of Batman’s svelte rubber. The object of a tick’s addiction now singes its face. Sometimes an opaque coil strays like a black pube from the otherwise transparent disease. Moldy pollution eclipses the hellishly bright depression in those eyes, but soon settles and sticks to the floor. Suddenly, in the clearance, you’re being fondled by a plant. Face to face with the plant: pain’s beautifully fractured travels mirrored in the plant’s sweaty face.
I’ve put up a sizeable chunk of text so you can get the feel of the thing.
Nothing really to hold onto, you either read through and appreciate the images/juxtaposition or you back away.
Lots of scuzzy nouns, verbs and adjectives – stick, pube, sweaty, tick, disease, moldy, fudge, McDonald’s – gives an Abel Ferrara/Paul Schrader feel…
Electronics as arcane as Bolivia, as heavy as New York
Again, the meaning? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. Cos Bolivia is arcane and New York is heavy for the first time I’ve ever seen and the idea that someone would write that down as a description of electronics sparks something. It’s hard to describe, impossible maybe. I just feel vindicated in some way that it’s been written. And that it doesn’t feel written.
A yeah, what of it? to the cop of making words fit, in an ordered way.
Suddenly, in the clearance, you’re being fondled by a plant.
Peak Bley. Deadpan. As if it were really happening. Makes me laugh every time I look at it. Who cares what it means?
The more I read, the more sure I am this whole thing is a push towards lunatic grunge experimentalism, celebrating it, the word choices and allusions, just to make you say, ‘I don’t know why they’re being fondled by a plant but that’s what I read, that’s what the author wrote.’ You can break it down if you want, attribute various signifieds to the plant or the fondling…but is it necessary?
Isn’t that only for work that has been contrived, steered?
Ask the author. They refuse to explain. Can’t explain. Good.
What do you feel from it?
What do you feel from it?
Where does your mind go?
But then…even if the writing is done in ghost mode, without conscious deliberation, isn’t there still meaning in the signifiers used?
As a human conditioned to force sense on chaos, yes, I can give it a shot. Plant is the cop meaning of the word, which makes the fondling normal. What undercover plant wouldn’t fondle an activist at a protest? Or plant can function as an absurd metaphor for the planet fighting back against climate change and the victim interpreting it as a sexual move.
I can do all that, but is there a point?
Feels more useful as something jarring, something to make me laugh, and on some covert level maybe I’m still attributing meaning to it. That’s what signifieds do, isn’t it? Even absurd ones. Or what we do to them. Can’t just let it sit there.
Skipping forward a bit to page 8.
Only a psychopath would stab a black hole through a shower curtain, causing a scream to spider outwards from the center of the Earth. I pray for a sexier reality. I pray for all of this to be sexier.
I read past this point and noticed that there are segments where the anarchic yet impassive scientist style breaks and a more orchestrated narrative voice comes out…but only for a short while.
Not sure what it means. That there is a writer, an idealogue, poking out?
But the shower curtain addition to the black hole stabbing is gold. Cos I’m forced to try and visualise it. And…there’s a pleasure it gives, perhaps the unpredictability factor, that I think has to exist in poetry.
But in this it does.
Perhaps it’s not classifiable as poetry. Can a 45 page block paragraph be called a poem?
As an English lit grad, I have no idea.
Is it saying something?
Yes, I’m certain of it…even if I can’t describe what that is. Just the feeling then? Grubbiness, scientific distance, the cosmic mixed with mundane human dirt like psychopaths and shower curtains.
Forward again to page 17, no design or plan:
A liquidized cockroach has sprouted too big bionic fuzz, its consciousness smeared blue by Taco Bell’s “fold-out” wrist, a nod to the mind-boggling mechanics of a Decepticon whacking off, spitting white trash resin while sleepwalking in a hollow grinning creep; bleeding sewage, whirring naked in a shopping trolley.
A super-sentence, with about fifteen different allusions. Even though names are mentioned, still allusions. Cos of contextual madness.
Best I can do is liquified cockroach = small, and Decepticon = gigantic. Whacking off juxtaposed with sewage death excretions.
Has to be instinctive writing. Trust the brain to deliver what you need, when it’s needed. No way you can sit there and consciously come up with Taco Bell’s “fold-out” wrist.
I should ask Tyson.
But I don’t want to know.
Shopping trolley line seems to be a repeat, think I saw someone or some thing whirring naked in one on an earlier page. I noticed some other repetitions too, sometimes in the follow-on sentence, other times a barrage of previous references all at once, put in the blender.
That’s likely intentional. On some level.
Reminds me of a piece of writing advice for novels that function as stories: describe part of the scene environment and then later have the character interact with it. Don’t just let it sit there stale. Sounds a bit like Chekhov’s gun, which I’m pretty sure is the death of experimental literature.
Guns sit in rooms for years without being fired.
Others get picked up by six-year-olds.
If you’re gonna activate it, at least have the gun whir naked in a shopping trolley or get fondled by a plant.
Not a big fan of story-telling, except for DS9 and Blake’s 7, parts of Chopping Mall.
I won’t skip all the way to the end, even though it wouldn’t really be spoiling anything, I’ll just pick a page at random.
Actually, going through this looking for extracts, I do get sucked in and the thing I said about not being able to read a 45 page paragraph block seems premature now.
I read through 8 pages straight and it didn’t hurt my eyes much.
There are stretches where it gets a bit exhausting, possibly intentional, but there are also enough fondled by a plant lines and others that are unpredictable in a way that makes you think back to random paragraphs of Deleuze on Futurism and Key Concepts of Bataille and try to couple them somehow.
But that would mean reading those books several times.
Staring at quotes designed by Deleuze and Bataille to fuck with me.
Bataille…seemingly omnipresent now. Perhaps it’s the way his name sounds. Battle but not. Or that many people really have studied him.
Yeah, just a prolific writer and pedant, far as I can tell…based on the Key Concept book I read parts of…that was written by other people, not Bataille.
Accursed share…ecstatic sacrifice for all except the victim…erotic novels too tame to masturbate to.
Apparently, he hated poetry, or didn’t see the point of it. Or hated poets. Ones that he’d met. Which I’d understand if he only read the mainstream stuff, but he didn’t like the surrealists either.
I read a few and didn’t like them much. The idea of them, yes. The execution…
Still had the handbrake on, the ego?
Dada, zaum, Breton…cursed by being the pioneers? If they actually pioneered it. Which they probably didn’t.
Think I studied this before…at Unii…and now it’s gone.
What did I actually do at that place? Four years…
Okay, final line:
ironically, the joie de vivre crackles pterodactylic like a collect call from the cum cops; the long cancer seeks a return socket in the form of an arcade rat massacre.
Finally got a direct cop reference and its scuzzy.
Pterodactylic as adjective with red squiggly line.
Arcade rats = hooded teens?
More [+ more] I think about it, the more I lean toward a type of method-perspectivism, with the ghost at the wheel.
Not curated exactly, but the feel of the text is too much like COP and Frankenstein spliced…
My personal spec: Tyson adorned himself in all the fragments/adjectives of COP in the abstract and wrote from there, without direct intervention, just typed and waited to see what came out.
Could be wrong though.
Read Frankencop at Schism Press
or buy this beautiful thing: