REVIEWS OF HEREAFTER LANDSCAPES

Selected as one of the six best chapbooks of 2010 by Presa magazine:

"The most ambitious production in this round-up, complete with beautifully printed cover art and illustrations from the paintings and engravings of John Martin . . . The poetry has a prophetic quality that reminds us of the apocalyptic writings of William Blake. Azzouni also deals with the big themes, unafraid of directly engaging the spectre of potential environmental & nuclear disaster. His work is didactic, but not in a bad way, since the issues raised are the very issues of human meaning and survival. " Visit Presa magazine at www.presapress.com



HEREAFTER LANDSCAPES. Jody Azzouni.

Hereafter coverAs cheerful as Timon of Athens or Anacreon, philosopher-poet Jody Azzouni unleashes this cycle of aphoristic, terse and dark visions of the world after global warming, nuclear winter, pollution, mutation and plague have come and gone. There's no "rapture" to rescue us, just the hard light of a ruined world. Back in the Cold War, Bertrand Russell noted that the smartest thinkers were the most gloomy about the prospects for humankind, and this cycle inhabits that world of intellectual worry. And yet there is beauty in desolation, and every dystopian artwork, by depicting what might and must not come to pass, may serve as a warning. Hereafter Landscapes might be the butterfly that changes history by changing the hearts of a few — or it might be locked into a time capsule as a prime specimen of post-millennial gloom. However one takes this sombre and linguistically rich little book, it comes from a serious thinker, versed in myth, science and art. In keeping with the book's theme, we chose to decorate it with the paintings and engravings of the artist most associated with the terror of the Sublime: John Martin. Martin's vast murals terrified crowds in London, and his engravings of Paradise Lost and Biblical cataclysms gave nightmares to generations of Victorian schoolchildren.

 

Published March, 2010.
ISBN 0-922558-42-6. 56 pp., 9 x 7, full color, $19.95 paperback.
CLICK HERE to order the print edition of the book. To read the book in PDF format, CLICK HERE.


SAMPLER OF POEMS BY JODY AZZOUNI

See Author’s Notes About the Poems at end of file.

 

Perhaps as many as thirty

Dumb as a snail, I look out the window,
watching the dead snow gather in piles
while they point flashlights
into his livingroom floor.
The broken parquet slumps
around the vulnerable hole,
the dark a shadow
blanketing its fresh kill.
"Paydirt," one says. I see an arm
in a plastic bag. They take me
out of the building. One
holds my hands, a small gift of flesh,
and tells me I’m safe.
I gaze at his badge
and like a lamp it fills with light.

There is a box in my future now
and I’ll be there
if I ever shut my eyes again.

 

Earlier version published
in Artful Dodge, Number 32/33
Copyright 1998 Jody Azzouni

 

Making Do

I preach each day in the subways.
They sit stone-faced, tame as bricks.
I tell them the bad news:
that dirt pulls like nothing else
- that they act like they’ll live forever,
although we know the flesh pooled inside
is waiting for a leak. I warn them
about a God’s rage: the suffering chicken parts,
the stuff that nestles quietly among the blisters,
breadmold. "The atheist can avert his eyes
when apparitions pass," I say,
"but His fingers will still touch his wrists
like handcuffs."

They don’t react.
I pull at the hairy shadow on my face
and try again. "He leaves hints of another way,"
I cry. "Your hands melt snow transparent,
there is light everywhere, and the inevitable rain,
clean for a moment." But they are deaf,
their ears are ornaments, strange jewelry
I am not tempted to steal.

I sit in the park alone,
my shopping bags cuddled around me.
There is moonlight, of course,
white pebbles, running water.
And at dawn, at miraculous dawn,
I can see the tears of God,
small pearls that have condensed on the grass,
and, gloriously, the baptized insects
that are Christian for a moment.

 

Earlier version published
in Artful Dodge, 32/33.
copyright 1998 Jody Azzouni

 

When we dead awaken

Now it is quiet:
The still rabbit
is easily swallowed; the fiery leaves
are bagged; the mortician
plies her trade
in peace.

Optimists say: leaves fall
every autumn; every day
there are new mayflies; each spring
there are daffodils.

 

Originally published in Salonika
Volume 1, No. 8, March 1997
Copyright 1997 Jody Azzouni

 

Benediction

The stained windows, stuffed with canned light,
offer only a glassy salvation: frozen pictures,
flat with hope. I pray, fervently
(my knees awkward against the pew),
as only an atheist can. My eyes are shut tight,
my lips move painfully over jagged
slices of the Lord’s Prayer, or perhaps,
the twenty-third psalm: echoes
I pull successfully from the black holes in my head.

Like a panicked squid I have sprayed ink
over my memories (I admit it)
and somehow God romps in the resulting shadow.
The tradition paints ghosts white.
But I know better. When He visits me it’s as
a root trailing dark puddles, or as a cigarette
snubbed out in an ashtray. Mysterious, at best
but I have learned to approach soot with trepidation,
dust with fear, whatever my beliefs may be.

Here, at last, is the happy ending:
when I leave the church, for ritual is no escape
from boredom, my brow is wet; I wipe my forehead
and find my perspiration transparent as straight daylight.

 

Originally published in
Voices International, Vol. 29, No. 4, Winter, 1994.
Copyright 1994 Jody Azzouni

 

Medusa Variations

  1. Hair is dead —
    but we worship it anyway.
    You wear it high,
    the secretive brain
    reduced to the stuffing in a throne.
    You turn everyone’s head
    one last time.
  2. No snake dangles from the camera
    as it hangs off my neck like a pet,
    but it flattens beauty on paper
    the way no monster ever could.
    Quick as flashes, photons
    collide against the camera’s retina,
    die like butterflies—
    their blood staining their final resting places.
  3. In the museum
    everything is laid out neatly.
    The jealously guarded boxes of color
    are as orderly as tiles.
    Once I watched the stigmata of rainbow
    spread across the sky like the slap of a god’s hand.
    But here splayed light
    plays quietly against the tattooed wall.
  4. Dead on arrival,
    the leaves gather in my backyard like art.
    As usual, I touch nothing.

 

Originally published in Salonika
Volume 1, No. 8. March, 1997
Copyright 1997 Jody Azzouni

 

Something to keep us company while you’re away

I have sat at funerals,
fidgeting like a leftover,
thinking of the rocks so
smug at their immortality.
Amnesia is a poor substitute
for their grainy serenity; better
to think of what remains
as gifts -- not the tired flesh
packed finally into the ground,
but the orphaned pets, conveniently
furry for easy contact, or the
memories, soft guides for the
uncritical neurons temporarily lost
in their network. Even the wounds
can remind us of the humpbacked
scab, and how its moonskinned love
sometimes heals us. But best of all
are the words, if we can find any,
crushed flat on paper
but still smelling slightly
of the sound they once had.

 

Originally published in Salonika
Volume 1, No. 8, March, 1997
Copyright 1997 Jody Azzouni

 

Christmas Morning

My children strip the skin from their gifts,
pull the gaudy insides into the light,
and play with them.
I sit sullen, swallow a pill or two,
and watch the pine tree,
covered with wire and glass,
die slowly.
"There is a history to all of this,"
I tell the dying tree,
the flayed gifts.
"All around us are the bones
of one god
or another."
My children ignore me;
my husband says, "Cass."

So I tell them we need new holidays
for the hot weather coming soon.
We can pray for the rebirth of the snowflake,
we can pretend they hang in the nightsky
waiting, always waiting, and occasionally crying.
We can sit in our loincloths
around the cool fluorescent lampfire
and listen to the elders tell stories
about ice cubes.
We can pray to the fridge.

My husband has had enough.
He approaches, takes my hand,
leads me away. I wish my dead friend
who is everywhere
a happy birthday.

 

Originally published in
Voices International,
Vol. 29, No. 4, Winter, 1994.
Copyright 1994 Jody Azzouni

 

 

NOTES ABOUT THE POEMS

"Christmas Morning," and "Making Do," are dramatic monologues, more consciously so (I mean) than many of my poems (which usually just turn out to be from someone else’s point of view without me having much to do with it). But in these two poems I deliberately adopt (respectively) the personality of an atheist and that of a believer (both slightly disturbed), and attempt to depict both figures without condescension -- from "inside" as it were.

"Perhaps as many as thirty," is the attempt to see things from the point of view of someone close to a serial killer (a neighbor, roommate, relative, friend, perhaps a lover). Serial killers, by the way, have never interested me very much: the shock of those near and dear to them who didn’t realize they were so closely related to a serial killer does interest me.

"Benediction": I often try to find fresh angles for tired images: surely talk of soot, the sweat of one’s brow, and so on, are tired images (not to mention, of course, pretty much anything related to God). But, hopefully, not here.

"Medusa Variations" is a sequence of images built around the Medusa myth: the contemporary medusa is the camera, and the contemporary figures (turned to stone) are fashion models, so I naturally start with these images. But the other visual arts (especially painting) are medusa in their way as well.

"Something to keep us company while you’re away," is the only poetization of autobiographical material I’ve ever succeeded in finishing; my mother was a poet, and after she died I was asked to contribute a poem to a reading in her memory (she liked cats). Like nearly all poems in this peculiar and somewhat neglected genre (and, probably, like grief itself), the poem is rather self-centered -- more focused on the narrator than on the narrator’s loved one that it is officially concerned with.


 

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