Chris Tysh
Continuity Girl
Brooklyn: United Artists Books, 2000

Chris Tysh is a terrific escort through the rooms and hallways of Continuity Girl. With their otherworldly sense of what a sentence unit can do, these poems work the mess of history, couture, theory and feminism into a counterbalanced set of six sections. The sections, prefaced with quotes from Roland Barthes, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida and others, pay elegant attention to the reader. They even hold your hand a bit, without patronizing. Tysh tells us where we’re going, what sort of storm or correspondence we’ve landed in. She also points up and out into a multiplicity of other texts / languages / histories. The section "Acoustic Room" opens with Zukofsky: "The sound of words is sometimes 95% of poetic presentation." The five poems that follow let loose with a barrage of sound: "All on, Sultan, evoke two languages, debar us, my dizzy song key, sail / it o’er the parquet." But the containers of Continuity Girl are a false solace. Sections stain each other; the boom of the Acoustic Room echoes throughout the book. Is it the sound of the word that works us? Or its shape, its sign, equal to a vintage dress worn without irony? Tysh gives us both. Like hypertext, she never lets us forget the materiality of language. She arm wrestles with representation, shoots at what the camera misses, and then writes: "like a hand-held camera, I approach the bar:". The following lines jump-shot down the page, looking a lot like the shaky view you’d get from a hand-held. Tysh rides that sort of contradiction all the way out into mourning, with the intensely elegiac poems in the section "Tombeaux". The tomb, that ultimate container: text as tomb, body as tomb, the real impossibility of demarcating loss. Again, she takes us there with deft use of a quote from Mallarme: "once barbarous and/ external / matter / now / moral / and within us." I can’t stop listening to this line from the "Dead Letters" section: "In the john, I nag. The Slits open for Vertical Pillows." Sounds like s natch. The band is in the body, the body in the band and the line embeds itself in me, with its sick conflation of "john" and "nag" and "slit". Snatch. Tysh and her finely split lines hustle the intersection of theory and slang, public and private, French and English. Continuity Girl is dedicated to the diasporic, the exile, the displaced, the ones who cross borders-- which is to say, to you, dear reader.

--Stephanie Young