Sunday, December 5, 2010



At Trotsky’s Funeral by Mark Young
(Kilmog Press, Dunedin, New Zealand, 2010)

I won’t even pretend to be objective in engaging with this book. Not after being called the “Rose” that is the goal of “Journey to the Centre of the World.” No doubt, such self-aggrandizement is also a misreading, or subjective reading, on my part. After all, when one thinks of the phrase “pot at the end of the rainbow”, one might not only think of gold but the receptacle for someone’s piss. A memory (vs. sincere feeling) of modesty moves me to edit this review to delete my thousand-page discourse on “Journey to the Centre of the World” and its “attractive female” known as “Eileen R. Tabios” (that would be the too-short poem on Page 39; when you check it out, it may be relevant to know that my middle name is “Rose”). But review this book I must as I note that Mark Young’s At Trotsky’s Funeral apparently was published in a limited edition of 50. I have one of these rare copies—fine, then, let me engage with it for Galatea Resurrect since there can't be many review copies out there in the world. And, on this point, someone please pay attention to my suggestion at the end of this review.

Well, first, one can’t help but focus on the fabulous design decisions which show why The Book will never go out of fashion. The letter-pressed cover was done by the publisher Dean Havard. The image, to quote the poet, “sort of looks like one of those sepia things from the Russian Revolution. It's either a linocut or a woodblock print.” Anyway, At Trotsky’s Funeral is a welcome reprieve from the paltry things that come out from frugal big presses (some of whom even use newsprint!) or the necessarily-constrained items from certain print-on-demand shops. An image of the book’s front cover may be admired HERE.

Indeed, the book–though mailed to Moi in a padded envelope—was first protected by two sheets of packing paper. I thus thought that, when it’d come time to shelve the book, I might shelve it encased in said packing paper (partly for preserving it better)—but I imagined the author snorting over my preciousness with the object. Besides, the spine must be seen, as explained by this most amusing poem featured here in its entirety:
For Jorge of Burgos

The speaker was a monk bent under the weight of his years, an old man white as snow, not only his skin, but also his face and his pupils. I saw he was blind. The voice was still majestic and the limbs powerful, even if the body was withered by age. He stared at us as if he could see us, and always thereafter I saw him move and speak as if he still possessed the gift of sight. But the tone of his voice was that of one possessing only the gift of prophecy.

“The man whom you see, vernerable in age and wisdom,” Malachi said to William, pointing out the newcomer, “is Jorge of Burgos.”
--from William Weaver’s translatioan of Umberto Eco’s Il nome della rosa.

The spines of
the older books

in the Libraries
of Babel &

Buenos Aires
are worn thin

from the num-
ber of times

Jorge Luis Borges
wandered along

the stacks &
read the titles.

I appreciate that the collection’s 42 poems are, yes, verses but also ficciones in Young’s inimitable style (evidenced in such earlier books as the allegrezza ficcione (2008) as well as many of his poems and various posts on his blog gamma ways. By this, I mean the sharing of a story that seems fantastic and yet, in the moment of listening to/reading the poem, is perfectly believable. Young excels in authentic fictions, and At Trotsky’s Funeral presents the following as an apt first poem for the book’s underlying theme:
A Philosophy of Ficciones
For Thomas Fink

The history of
history is one

of spaces, some
empty, some filled,

but every one ready
to be re-written.

Put another way, At Trotsky’s Funeral is (to quote from the publisher’s book description) “not about alternative universes, rather histories of the current one tweaked a little—Genghis Khan as a member of the Barnum & Bailey circus, the movies that accompanied Mao's Long March, the origins of the bullfighting move known as the veronica & the popular song Bye Bye Blackbird.”

For example, here’s a poem which I’m sure you don’t really need me to deconstruct (though feel free to ask Google for help to appreciate Young’s riff offa it):
Paracelsus in Antwerp

In his soon
to be published
autobiography titled

I was an Iatrochemist
For the CIA; my
Adventures in Alchemy

Paracelsus tells of
a chance meeting in
Antwerp with a

Flemish painter
called, he thinks,
Jerome Bosh, &

how they spent a day
drinking laudanum
& a night enjoying

the pleasures of a brothel
called the Garden of
Earthly Delights
. Paracelsus

mentions it in passing.
He says he got nothing
out of their time together.

One of the most guffaw-eliciting ficciones is “A Note for the Coroner” that presents a poem surrounded by prose. The prose might seem to explain the poem, except that—and this is a testament to Young’s poetic prowess—the poem itself transcends the particularity of any explanation. Nonetheless, as a ficcione, the persona described within the prose gives the impression that it is the same as the author—one wonders, indeed, if Mark Young’s desk contains the same elements described in the prose or if the author has a cabinet containing seven books, two of which are on the paintings of Rene Magritte. Note that Young’s previous books include the fabulous from series Magritte (2006) and More from Series Magritte (2009).

Witty, cerebral, steeped in history, culture and art—I vote for a paperback edition! Preferably expanded with additional ficciones. Perhaps the poet might even venture to Alaska where recent events should be fiction but instead are reality. Naturally, in such an expanded edition, the poet should feel free to share Part II of "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" (of course, there is such a missing link!).


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to reviews of her books. Her newest book THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems & New (1998-2010) is reviewed by Amazon top-notch reviewer Grady Harp over HERE, William Allegrezza over at p-ramblings HERE and by Leny M. Strobel at Moria Poetry HERE. Mr. Harp also reviews her NOTA BENE EISWEIN over HERE. If the former book gets you curious, please note that its publisher Marsh Hawk Press is supporting a fundraiser for Haiti relief by giving a free copy if you order at least $15 worth of booklets through the Hay(na)ku for Haiti fundraiser; as THE THORN ROSARY is priced retail at $19.95, this is one of the best bargains in the poetry world, even as it helps out with a Haiti fundraiser.

1 comment:

EILEEN said...

Mark Young appropriately posts an appropriate follow-up here at

He's such a card!