Thursday, February 29, 2024

Su Zi's Review of Valois J. Vera's I, THE REVOLUTION

     The personal library is a testament to an individual’s intellectual life, and the volumes curated sometimes have individuality as entities in that collection. Sometimes the rarity of the edition is more than a volume’s history, sometimes the edition is signed or acquired from the author. Upon the release of his book (2023), Valois Vera had a swag bag that was of higher quality than something snagged from a big five house; happy recipients were sent the book, a book bag, a flag, a jute-fringed bookmark, a pin and stickers. The book itself is perfect bound and standard sized, with three blurbs on the back and a graphic of black background, of white letters and the raised fist logo that is found on the sticker and the bookmark. Also striking about this work’s appearance is the title itself:  I, The Revolution. The appositive comma in the title of the work, also gives title to the pronoun; readers are thus confronted immediately with the social activism nature of this volume of poems.

     The work’s opening poem “That Poet, in Front of the Stage” is directly addressing the audience, from the page, but as if from the stage. The strong sense of direct address is a characteristic of this work throughout, and Vera introduces the reader to the narrative individual with a bluntness that emphasizes immediacy. Vera also uses graphic elements in the text itself—some traditional and some more contemporary. In this first poem, Vera uses double spacing and hanging indentation to emphasize six stanzas of repetition “my soul”, “my nose,” “my skin” before repeating “That poet”, using the italics in the poem a dozen times, title included. In the first stanza using this repetition, Vera self identifies as “diagnosed with a disease and a short life [...} I was crowned a casualty, an anomaly, an unpublished/obituary” (12).  A strong confession that continues with observations such as “because a ramp was an afterthought” (14) and continues with further biographical enumeration. Vera is overt in establishing this point of view, of our times as experienced by the disabled individual.

     Many of the pieces in this volume are intended for performance, but Vera is also cognizant of the poems as existing on the page. There’s an experimental aspect to some of the graphic elements, especially the use of the forward slash:

          We fill our souls with fresh fruits/ from the plantations

          of poetry

          We fill our body-minds with intoxicating wines/ from

          the vineyards of our verses   (29)


The reader will notice Vera’s multiple forms of internal repetition, his use of end rhyme, internal rhyme and alliteration are frequent techniques. There’s a strong, vocal element to this work, but an awareness of traditional poetic elements that gives the poems a sense of physicality, of the narrator’s strong presence.

      The works are contemporary, the Covid poem is titled “Graves of the Unwell and Other Beautiful Things” (23) and a telephone recitation from this reader of a section of “The Revolution Will Not Be Accessible” (17-22) to a friend facing a bad flare day evoked that sensation in the listener akin to a hosannah. Vega uses observations from the repeated and overt realities of disability “You can tell by the tracks of my tires” (51) , which would be a gestural reference to his wheelchair on stage, but which reminds the text reader of the root of this work.

Vera himself makes multiple references to the root as a symbol—the rising fist graphic seems to be rising from roots plant-like, the personal history he speaks of in the poems is often on his family.

     Vera’s poems are an enumeration of his disability experience and might be seen as an answer to Whitman’s Sing of America; however, Vera’s point is a call for justice, a call for inclusion as both a poet and as a physical member of society. If our libraries are, as Franklin said, a wealth between the ears, then the physical realities of disability do not bar accessibility of this book of poems onto the library shelf. If the curator of a personal library keeps books of personal significance, that “opened up a truth” (Dianne, personal conversation, 2024), then poetry from the perspective of disability ought not to continue to be marginalized.

Su Zi is a writer, poet and essayist who produces a handmade chapbook series called Red Mare. She has been a contributor to GAS from back when it was called Gypsy Art Show, more than a decade ago.


Check out her author page on Amazon.


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