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 were going, what sort of storm or correspondence
weve 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 oer 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 youd 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 cant 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.