You Are Reading My Reading Review Of If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino

You study meta-fiction in the third year of your Creative Writing degree. You learn that meta-fiction, put in simplest terms, is writing about writing that forms narratives. You study two pages of If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino. You find the concept funny, a writer interrupting themselves and dictating that the reader or The Reader is the protagonist. It is farcical and tells you that on page 32, you are reading a duplication of page 17 and when you turn back, there is in fact no page 17 and when you turn back to page 32, it’s a different page. You deem the book clever, but don’t take it out of the library because Paul Auster and William Burroughs scare you more right now.

You pick up If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller four years later in a charity shop. You don’t read it for another year or so. When you do read it, you find 256 pages of the above scenario something not worth the time. You contemplate, out loud to friends and a lover who is a better reader than you, that the book is clever to the point of missing the point. The point. The point is never something clear in writing, but you say, I can’t believe this book has carried on like this for this many pages and I’ve got so little from. You address, aloud, that you like the concept of having a book that encompasses extracts and passages from novels that don’t exist but have blended into the narrative because of the author diversions and The Reader’s lust for other books. You say, quietly, that you like the idea of trying to write new genre per chapter and the threading of an array of them into one book is no easy challenge. But the fundamental thing you realise is the pompousness of the book. How it is so aware of itself and forever expanding on what it thinks writing is. You claim, in exclamation marks, that it’s the equivalent of a book-long blow job that the writer is giving to himself. You think it’s kind of sexist too. Experimentation and being unlike any other narrative made the writer sacrifice any connection to character, you say. Insta-forgetable bar cleverness, you say.

You decide the review should end with another short review of a different book, because that’s what Calvino would have done. If you have not read Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, you could find yourself in a narrative that interrogates the world with a blend of poetry, prose, art and essay forms that divert and explode concepts in breath-sized passages. The book navigates the narrative of race and body in America, simultaneously speaks to its narrative in the world. You pace through it and retain all of it. There is an essay about Serena Williams and the media coverage of her tennis matches that you are certain should be studied by everyone, forever. It makes you a wreck on trains in front of half-sleep tourists and business folk who are screen glazed. It is dangerous, it is crafted beautifully, it takes you into lives and their accounts that expose the struggles of individuals in this world, individuals you will never know or meet, but you glimpse and are thankful for Rankine’s writing. You reaffirm, books like this are what need to be read and written now, should have been always. You are conscious you have not given Citizen: An American Lyric the amount of review space you should have. You are aware you may be part of the problem. You will continue to work to resolve this. You place Calvino in a charity bag that will remain under your bed until you remember to donate it, or there is no bed or book anymore, eaten away by the forget-me ants hidden in the dust.

If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller

Read: if you want to explore alternative narrative devices, farce, writing about writing.
Don’t Read: if you want actual meaning, genre defying, plot, characters.

Citizen: An American Lyric

Read: if you want writing that explores race narratives in America, poetry, prose, modern lyric, alternative narrative structure, cross art books, writing about writing, balanced journalism.
Don’t Read: if you still want to be blind.

Setlist Poem 17/09/2015

Tell a god while you are crouching under 

your half of the bunk bed. Your brother

might not come home. You know

a boy who knows Hesporous is the opposite

of an evening star. It’s cloudy and what he said

means nothing to you. Place a hacksaw

twice under your rib. Watch it in the wing mirror

of a car that hasn’t arrived yet. 

Tell an absent fairy you had a wish about today.

It listens by making aeroplane sounds 

for a thousand miles. You’re just talking 

to half a jaw, hand held,

that knows wood-anatomy,

that can’t answer back. Driveway light

cuts out. Wait for Hesperous.

The cerealbox bland-surprise is a sponge

astronaut toy, never shrinking,

not even in hours underwater. 

Find the puffy faced boy of the first prayer

eating from a bowl. 

Don’t tell him you were scared.

Tour Venue Poem

The art house is painted in celebrated
madness,
thread dresses no one owns,
scraps of books made into light.
The asylum collects people celibate
from themselves. The advice that occurs
most to me is stop working, leave the house.
The steamboat will carry on its drift
with everyone aboard.
I can eat lime-rind all I want,
it won’t bleach my smile,
it’s something to believe.
Cartoon physics scare some people.
If you can shift radio to mute,
you’re doing more than sleeping.
I met the thirsty scholar as he drank
a city of its propaganda.
He is going to write a cave of thesis
that learns about the railway inside
of us, how we can be proud of always going.

Set List Poem 20/03/2015

Pushing through the family of orphan-spark
coming out of the fire’s head,
I take time finding Dad on the otherside.
Back at camp, I tear a tent in tantrum.
Silhouettes do the sidewinder
in the forest. No train nearby.
I can hear everything. Dad stays
away until morning, tells me
he had to go looking for lost boys,
they could have been eaten by a Kraken
or leaf demon or scout-leader-gone-wrong.
I love how much of him can be fiction
while he makes a magnet of the world
onto himself. It’s something Christ
gave him, he says. His family
is always inside, all that he sees.

Set List Poem 20/03/2015 – Busking

We have built a museum in the shape of a vinyl player.
It only holds good music, real music.
The song tuning the air at the moment
has one lyric. Fuck the BBC. I agree.
I have a pet here that is obsessed
with where the music comes from,
what spark falls into me when listening
to know. I go with whatever stays,
which is intentional vagueness.
If you put a magnet to the music,
it gets a grizzly-bear affect, like Dad
when I argue that the Blondie drummer
is average. All the visitors to the museum
have invented their own genres.
The person in front of me, shiny
with drugs, calls this acoustica,
but can’t specify why,
which is also the point, but she arches,
her body needs the definition.
The lyrics are now about someone
bathing in a tub of cellophane,
until they can’t breathe,
the casual gift of mock-water stretched
over them and the lover in the song
is lowered into a microwave to test
their faith. A review of the song
is that Houdini was a fetish artist.
After hearing this, a fighter in the room
will start a band called Rubber-Unite.
Their hit will be Rosemary, which discusses
outrageous concepts such as diet
and additions to cannibalistic meat habits.
I will think about my grandma when I listen.
I never knew what music she liked.
Our slogan for the museum is Pray.
People seem to know that before they enter.

Set List Poem 19/03/2015

I can find a time of night
that my body will train a spark,
deliver it to the past-boys
I have died through,
their silhouettes thrashed
off their skin, gathered in a pool,
trembling, a scared-heart size
bulb, the bad idea I placed
in the ground for love
to grow. All its leaves
are magnet-snatched plane parts.
I can find a time of day
that isn’t wreckage,
that is an hour, a minute, a second
spent exploring a tear,
hiding my hand in all that is missing.