Wednesday, December 21, 2011



60 TEXTOS by Sarah Riggs
(Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2010)

Oh I quite appreciated this enchanting project! I didn’t expect to be so charmed by Sarah Rigg’s 6O TEXTOS. I’m sure it’s because the book is presented as poems based on (?)/written as (?) text messages (“texto” is French for “text message”). So my initial reaction was a slight yawn; the concept itself wasn’t that exciting to me after Google search poems, twitter poems, etc. and also how I once wrote a short story based on emails and once was enough so I’m thinking 60 poems? Wouldn’t, say, a Baker’s dozen be enough for manifesting the concept?

Silly me. I was wrong. 60 TEXTOS warrants every page. And it begins with the deft design, and not simply of the elegant rectangles (outlines to hand-helds) with one laid atop the other to intersect. The book begins, after its Title Page, with two facing pages, with the left saying “from Sarah Riggs” and the right presenting “to Omar Berrada.” This is more consistent with text-messaging than the historical book format that would simply present, say, “for Omar Berrada.” Then, cleverly, the book’s last page is decorated with the couplet
from a blue Nokia
to a silver Samsung

which also explains the dark blue cover with the rectangles, title and author name being inscribed in silver ink. Nicely done, indeed!

And as soon as I read the first poem, I felt my earlier concerns evaporate as I settled in to what I anticipated would be a very good read. Here’s the fabulous first entry poem:
Where will these
lines go if I
send them to you? I may send
them between
your ribs

Fabulous. Not only is the between...ribs a matter of getting through but ribs are “lines.” Some of the book’s most effective poems, at least for the project’s textos concept, are those where the texting infrastructure clearly plays a role and also poetically warrants its presence in the poems. Here’s another one:
Remember the year I
took trains in so many
directions? Now
I am become a train

I can easily imagine that text being writ within and sent from a train! Still, regardless of how the poems came to be made, there are some wonderful effects where its process becomes less relevant:
The lipstick of the
older women almost
separates from them.
One looked at me
through the window
of St. Tropez while
I was trying on shoes

As with “lipstick of the/ older women” becoming that which “separates” away, Riggs is adept at making the visual resonate with suprising, thus pleasing, takes. Here’s another one:
"Because we are weak,"
Ryoko said, and I
understood she meant
humanity. I watched
her snap the chopsticks
apart, and touch
each sushi

Or this wonderful one that I read to my own cats Artemis and Gabriela:
The weight of Inky's
purring may be what
holds me to the earth,
if it is not you
smiling into a room

“What’s the significance?” is a question I found myself asking through much of my read of the book. It’s not a question I normally bring to reading poetry but I did so for 60 TEXTOS because I knew from the start that these are text message poems. Fortunately, Riggs excels in answering this question a number of times.

I also feel that the implied searching-that-precludes-fixed-certainty is a moving source for the book—for example,
Sometimes to be sure
of the room I am in
I sit down to write
to you

—that is beautiful when it blossoms with ascribing a significance on older women’s lipsticks, etc. Because of this, the also present anxiety never grates, and one welcomes the poems’ presences in all of their complexity.

Here, as a once too-frequent conference attendee (not just for AWPs but also in my former financial analyst life) is arguably my favorite poem—which also situates itself into what texting could facilitate:
In Tangier I absent
myself from the conference
to watch the ferries
and the shoreline
soccer. Am I not
enough with the world
that I want to write
it, too?

These poems may be minimalist, but they offer a most robustly satisfying effect. Light but not lite.


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects as she's its editor, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to reviews of her books. Her newest book SILK EGG: Collected Novels is reviewed by Zvi A. Sesling in Boston Area Poetry Scene; by Michael Leong in Big Other; by Alan Baker in Litter; and by rob mclennan. Stephen Hong Sohn also reviews SILK EGG along with two other books, NOTA BENE EISWEIN and FOOTNOTES TO ALGEBRA: Uncollected Poems 1995-2009 at Asian American Lit Fans.

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