Sunday, December 5, 2010



Behave: California Rant 66 by Steve Tills
(dPress, Sebastopol, CA, 2004)

Among the adoption stories I've recently heard is of a child who once screamed for two hours protesting against attachment (to his adopting parents). Steve Tills reminded me of that tale with his collection Behave, except that it seems more to be a long rant for attachment. Behave contains 74 pages of poems, each entitled as a numbered rant, that is, "Rant 67," "Rant 69", and so on to the last "Rant 171."

By the way, it seems to me that Behave could be a book-length poem and that the poem-breaks (viz new titles) are akin to line breaks or stanza breaks -- spaces to pause but not end. Such a rant, though, would be longer than the two hours from my recalled adoption tale because the first poem isn't a "Rant 1" and the numbers aren't chronological (there isn't, for instance, a "Rant 170"). This implies the rant began long before the first poem was writ (or presented) and that some rants just lapse into speechlessness but nonetheless continue despite the lack of words.

Thus, one of the collection's strengths is the high-energy it maintains throughout, even as there are back-and-forth riffs and puns that evoke jazz. Here are three poems:
Rant 150

in the way
you'd move
those pawns
from around

the queen.
The bishops
are just so
black and white.
At night,

the castles
drop like skies;
they drop
from the sky
just like that.

The king
surrounded himself
until there wasn't
any room to live

Rant 151

So anyway,
the king surrounded
there was no room

to give in.
To live in.
it's true
the pawns

crowded around
the queen
and she found

at night.
The pawns
crowd around
the queen
and she can't breath.

Rant 152

in the way
you'll move
those pawns,
files of shame,

for the queen.
Remove her
like no other.
The pawns,
they protect

her from what;
they protect
you from lust.
All she couldn't
do was dance.

All you
wanna do
is remove
those lancets
from your guts.

Much word play, indeed.

But why do I call this a rant for attachment? Because there's too much caring displayed amidst the play. These aren't just text games. There is an interest in the reader--as in this excerpt from "Rant 126":
Your E-mail fails
to communicate.

No one sees through
your screened words,
sees what you're really like,
but I know you

in the full depth of your despair.
I shrug
and we embrace
isn't monitored by Bill Gates

So while a messed up world--
Read the Tao Jones, what's fixed
for oncologies of capital interest,
what's anthologized; wahts are not
who's whose that's what James Watt
did for paper. There's a lot
of currency in things like American
trees, phone trees. AT&T
has a book of names for making connections,
but all these little numbers
oughta go up in smoke; history
repeats its myriad and marketable
selves; more conglomerations of predigested
interests pile up on shelves.
There's enough pulp friction between
our ears.
--from "Rant 128"

--might tempt one into solipsistic play, these poems don't just deconstruct words, flinging letters about. These poems have something to say that can be summed up as


And as one looks around at the world, one can't help but empathize. But Tills' genius here is that he may rant, but he doesn't just rant. He still looks out for reasons to attach to each other despite the "hierarch[ies] / we constructed / ourselves" that makes us all "slaves." With his failure to wallow in the despair that generated his rants, Tills' poems thus come to deserve attention -- from "Rant 128":
Listen, Operators, I want to make it
a person-to-person plea here,
but you've got to get off the bottom line.
Get out and touch someone.
Take a collection and shove it
into your hard drives. Spare a dime
or two for real books, not advertising


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.

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