Glowing review of Francesco Levato’s “jettison/collapse”

Dear friends, contributors and supporters of AngelHousePress,

Please find below an insightful and glowing review of Francesco Levato’s chapbook “jettison/collapse” which we published in 2015. The review is by Alberta poet and editor Nikki Sheppy and it appears in the latest issue of Arc Poetry Magazine #83. Some copies of “jettison/collapse” are still available from AngelHousePress.com.

“At 26 pages, it’s an ambitious chapbook: fully a third of a complete book. Levato is a poet, translator, new media
artist and cinépoet, whose many allusions point to articles on linguistics, philosophy,

Flarf and conceptualism. Haunted by the Kantian noumenon, the thing itself, his poetry mines the question of what is intelligible and what escapes categories of knowledge.
These poems explore language as something never inherently natural: always, in fact, a coinage, a naming that claims and construes the world from within an embodied origin.

In this way, language is forever language and not its reference. It is lingual and enacts creation:
In the maelstrom of affect I am concrete. I speak, and through me speaks the lexical. I name: white bull, vulture, suture, stone, ribcage, flame, smoke, sword. And in turn I am constructed…

Here, words relentlessly become themselves: semantic units comprised of glyphs and signifiers. Titles like “Dress and ornaments, 39 words” and “Persons, 15 words” announce
the quantifiable thingness of the poems’ linguistic constituents. They make clear the rule by which represented persons are made entirely of letters. Nevertheless, it is the
“spread of [the] body,” subjected to its circulation as representation yet never truly cooptable, that the speaker exalts: “I stand for nothing, to nobody, in no capacity.”

Contrasting affect with intellect, Levato activates “the orbic flex of his mouth, pouring and filling” in order “to defend against the tide of conceptualism.” It is this enacted debate that gives this collection its vigour. When language explores its lingual potential “to give, as in fellatio,” it activates the openness of personhood in opposition to pure
enunciation.

The poetic language that results is more immersed and dynamic than Levato’s theoretical musings might suggest. “I take part, I see and hear the whole,” he writes, “the cries, the curses, the fall of grenades, the whizz of limbs, heads, stone and iron.” Alongside his ideas—which consider topics like etymology, Walt Whitman and Julia Kristeva—there is a sonic and tactile pleasure in saying that becomes the book’s underdog hero, if only because Levato identifies this spirit as a species of subterranean hunger, its “velvet mason a sweet assault.” He writes:

something shocked inexpressibly, an indefinite terror which hung about like mist, a living and buried speech always vibrating here […] an auxiliary science, freed from the written word

In the poet’s own reckoning, jettison/collapse is a mash-up that applies chance operations to appropriated source materials, though to the reader this work is often seamless.
What results is networked meaning: “the splash of swimmers, salt lick and silver-wired, / a spoken chain we can join explosive.”

Thanks to Nikki and to Arc Poetry Magazine for this review and for publishing chapbook reviews.

yr fallen angel,
Amanda Earl

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