[It's always rewarding to write a post celebrating a local Rochester area writer who more than deserves the visibility. It is my pleasure to offer commentary on my blog regarding the debut of Tony Leuzzi's Radiant Losses. Also crucial for me to mention: the book is published by New Sins Press, created by the poets Glenn Sheldon and Rane Arroyo, one of my literary heroes, who recently passed away. Here's the link to the press: www.newsinspress.com
Undeniably one of the many salient, exciting features in Tony Leuzzi’s first book of poems Radiant Losses is his steadfast incorporation of the Fibonacci-based series. The Fibonacci form yields a hermetic nature, a certain distance from the reader, and perhaps even the creator, that doesn’t encourage applause—unlike a sonnet which asks you to admire its ostentation at end of every single line. There's a modesty in the form; it thrives on self-effacement -- the practitioner knows all of his precision will for the most part go unnoticed. His pride is in the doing.
With remarkable deftness, Leuzzi uses Fibonacci sequence: a six line, 20 syllable poem with a syllable count by line of 1/1/2/3/5/8. In short, start with 0 and 1, add them together to get your next number, then keep adding the last two numbers together for your next one. It’s a pattern repeated in nature, (most famously in nautilus shells.)
Appealing controlling, Tony Leuzzi's poems in his debut book Radiant Losses eschews expectations of certain gay tropes (first love, seeing a hot guy in the gym, an elegy for Joe Brainard), refusing to make them merely palatable to any demographic. This choice makes Leuzzi's poems remarkable, his content invigorated by the Fibonacci pattern. Here’s one of my favorite poems “Consolation”:
a gay man
walking through the park
is bashed by three thugs who leave him
curled and bleeding in a bed of white anemones.
to a hospital
the police are there to take his
statement: tell us, sir, all you can remember of it.
him alone, the thugs
returning, lifting him, pulling
their punches, skulking off behind the dying lilacs.
What I like most about the use of the Fibonacci sequence in “Consolation” is the way it acts as a meta-commentary on the way gay-bashings find themselves reported—flat, perfunctorily calculated, without any investigation or depth. To Leuzzi's credit, it’s also a smart move to take advantage of the look the Fibonacci form offers: the hermetic nature resists disallows any invasiveness from the reader—you’re forced to descend downward. A defiant thud becomes the punctuation, an all-too-real end to the unfortunate situation itself.
The third stanza’s strategically odd syntax and word choice further complicates the point-of-view of the victim. Is the man seeing “it” –the bashing—from his own eyes? Is he imagining how the thugs witness themselves and their act of violence? What about the game-changing line break in the final stanza after “pulling?” If the man is seeing the violence against him “backwards” that word "pulling" acts obviously as a description of the intensity of their behavior. But even more provocatively, the break also makes it possible that the thugs are “pulling their punches”—the gay man, as victim, is erasing the violence himself. Perhaps precisely because of the rote ways in which the violence is inhumanely rendered.
Here’s another one. It’s called “Point of View”:
sized army jacket
settles upon the scarred surface
of a bench in the park, then sinks slowly into sleep.
bends before the man,
tweaks the lens of his thirty-five
millimeter, steps in once more, is about to shoot
men are caught-
Quickly-by the frame
of another man’s camera
for the “Living” section of the local newspaper.
The fun of the poem reveals Leuzzi's impressive range, and the way the Fibonacci sequence can adapt to various contents, as in this case with the extended joke. Among all the line breaks and double meanings with the words "shoot", "caught" "frame" (the conflation of the sexual and the artistic), Leuzzi does something that is rare: normalize promiscuity. And Leuzzi ups the ante even more. He seems to be saying that not only are the sexual acts good, necessary fun, but also the thrill of getting caught is perhaps equally important, perhaps essential to certain queer lives. According to Leuzzi, perhaps engaging in what is named as a criminal activity, having public sex, is one of the more truly liberating ways to be "living." And who else would know such a secret except a queer author who is creating such vital poems.
A Spring Update
2 months ago
I like the idea of the "it" being able to change points of view, that somehow degendering and desexualizing ourselves is the first way to empathy.ReplyDelete
Sometime before our contest reading period began, we suggested Tony send us his ms. Rane read it first and declared "I think we have already found our winner." Months later, and many many terrific mss. later, we came to the same conclusion. New Sins is so proud to publish this amazing poet!ReplyDelete
Thanks for mentioning this! I love the snippets and it sounds like a book I really need to read.ReplyDelete
I think the first poem is set wrong;ReplyDelete
fits the Fibonacci meter.
Hmm. What was it that Harold Bloom said about poetry that is always sincere?ReplyDelete
@sockbonobo: you're right, there are a couple of lines in the first poem that are set wrong, the line you mention and, in the second stanza:ReplyDelete
to a hospital
The second poem is set fine.
Leuzzi has several of these fibonacci poems published online at http://www.blazevox.org/09sp-tl.pdfReplyDelete
Thanks for alerting me to the typographical error I made. I think it's fixed now.