My friend Tom who is a non poet and thus probably a great reader of poetry posted a review of my first book Pigafetta Is My Wife on Amazon. I submit here and now that it is the best review ever written about anything and that all poetry reviews should be written by non poetry writing thinking machines from the future:
Here in the alien robot future, we have technology to make lucid what to the 21st century human are the seemingly unknowable phenomenons of free-will, identity, and causation. Without these enabling technologies, a working, fixed language to discuss what were then (that is, in the 21st century) hidden processes is impossible. However, Pigafetta is my Wife makes a charming — no, a fanatical — attempt.
Words, as even a 21st century poet surely knew, are not the fixed structure of exact meaning they can seem. They are the skin of living thought. Language is a snap-shot, or maybe a youtube video, of electric telegraphs building laser cathedrals over an infinite sea of brain-space. But those cathedrals give a temporary form to the stuff of thought, allowing it to take shapes it couldn’t ordinarily take. When a thought is pulled away, the stuff of thought (for lack of a better word) contained therein is gone.
Identity is similar. A single 21st century human contains a multitude of what he would think of as “individuals.” Underneath all the normalizing voices he calls thoughts are entire cultures and potential cultures, his genome, his death — everything. The overlay of obscuring, electric cathedrals are his home though. These cathedrals are worshipped, their permanence is holy, they are given a life and a name, they are called the self, the ego. When threatened they replicate, divide and re-unify. Again, 21st century humanity does not have the technology to tear them down, or, usually the will to do so.
So what happens when an “individual” is confronted with another “individual” with whom he would like to engage in the 21st century equivalent of love? That individual, if he is honest, must confront the constricting, defensive, and, ultimately illusive, yet seemingly permanent structures he has thought of as his self. That self is a bitter rival, suddenly, to his need to perform some action of happiness with/on/through (he doesn’t know) this other individual who also possesses a self — an alarmingly alien self.
Pigafetta is My Wife is a daring attempt to cross the primordial sea of thought-stuff (to extend the metaphor) and engage with another self. To do–what? To colonize, apparently, that is the metaphor the author chooses. His own identity, the electric laser telegraphs of his cathedrals blaze in their component language that is him for him to stop, and he, feeling ruthless, finding himself in foreign territory, tears them/him down, blends him/them with the architecture of the natives, blends him/them with the constructions of the distant past, uses borrowed and twisted language and penetrates it with his own language. He has crossed the ancient sea, and now he must become and destroy and save.
It is an intense, subtle, and highly personal drama. The stage is identity. The metaphor is the ocean, the journey, and confrontation with a foreign civilization. The technology for embarking on this journey is rudimentary. It is only the 21st / 16th century, after all. But the explorer/s make it home again. Survivors. Looking back five centuries, at a journey across a sea that now seems much smaller, much tamer (we forget it teems with lives), we must remind ourselves of who these men must have felt themselves to be, and what it is that they felt they became. That is: destroyed — and made new — with no language to express this except what they can hastily rig together from native timbers.
– Fraknar, Rakloctian thinking-machine, March 8, 2562