Caketrain Journal and Press
In his new book of poetry, Disposable Epics, Thibault Raoult gives us language at its most supple and strange, and therefore, moving. He manages, with each section, of which there are five, to offer some small instruction—I cannot say it is wrapped (or even rapt) in poetry, because that would be to insult Raoult’s near-impeccability (I like to believe he would prefer the “near-“ hyphenate), but—Raoult does somehow accomplish what every poet strives for: to give the appearance of finding words which seem to instruct themselves to make a poem, rather than of an author who knows the poem which certain words will make. And if a small collection of poems isn’t intended as a vade mecum, we might want to keep this one on hand, just in case.
In section one, “Cathexis Edelweiss,” in a gorgeous and twisted commentary on what Raoult names “Valley Vade Mecum,” “everything tickles” (18). For the childhood memory of being tickled conjures feelings of both pleasure and pain; rather, in an attempt at pleasure, we forget that it really is not all that much fun (for the recipient, which also brings up the “kind” of fun it is for the deliverer). Raoult writes this section as a place and a musical; a geography with a voice. As the throat is something that carries the tune throughout this whole collection.
In one of the sections titled “Communist Couplets” (there are two sections with identical titles, befitting the twin nature of communing and coupling), there is an admission that he: “Used lozenge in almost every poem I wrote when I was twenty” (63), and so it is that one, who in youth focuses obsessively on the thing one attempts to suck on and swallow, may with time and age, begin to focus on the instrument / vessel by which the object travels, and finally, the resulting noises that emit from the instrument. It is a journey from the micro to the macro, and back again. And in the process, there is the will to shatter, though the shattering is not always what occurs: “Why can’t we be the throat we divorce,” (24) and “Do swallow your border / And cart around marble” (25). Because relating isn’t easy. To ourselves. To others. We are always speaking of things, as someone, but what happens when it isn’t this someone who shows up to speak: “I grant you missing monograms / I grant you clouds of ñ” the speaker says (27). Floating diacritics—telling us to change the letter, use the tongue to roll it out, out of the mouth, where it will become a surround. Ambient, sound. Because:
“…where does one voice end and another begin?” is a question that actually ends in an eroteme. Many of the questions in Disposable Epics don’t need to guide or pressure the reader into changing pitch—the pitch is already inherent in the lines. These questions don’t need a tonal bent, or even a bent mark, when the world being written (and so perhaps written about) is bent enough already.
Capitalism is a bent system, but in the words of such a deft observer, we get the following image as fuel for baking that which is already half-baked: “There are greeting cards the size of Arizona, there are refrigeration opportunities compounded by turnpike blessings. / Raúl Castro, eating shirred eggs above the United Nations, asks black markets directly, Are you getting this?” (50). Are we? The eggs go down the same throat that sings, it’s just directionally oppositional. All the stuff we buy—the big, the bad, the bold—swallows us in a prolonged process of suffocation.
But this book gives us a middle—there is talk of middle, of the medium: “I believe in 16 oz. government” (46). It is in the middle that things come together—there is little chance of revolt in the middle, for the middle offers a balance that is difficult to upturn. A dictatorship may get turned on its side, but to flip it 180° is to put something face down in an attempt to muffle any last sounds to silence. And as I said, this book may serve as a vade mecum, but it is not a blazing manifesto. It is a quiet song, with very sharp consonants and vowels that move around, like soap lather on any surface until a bubble gets released.
And to this musical land, made of Muslims, Mormons, Bob Ross, and people from WESTERN NEW YORK (to name a few), who in their throat singing layer pitch upon pitch, Raoult has also given us a baseline that is darker and hearkens to the hurt of the tickled child, and makes of it extreme adult tickling, the kind people use to control, to lose control, to dominate and submit. This is what the world plays at, and sometimes it is the grunts and the songs that make this so: “We get by and we bloom” (132). Sometimes, however, it is the opposite of music that saves us:
Mulin resides in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, Bill, and her dog, Beatrice (no, not named after Dante’s Beatrice, but the divine French actress, Dalle). Mullin is currently a media and communications doctoral candidate at European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland.