- The Field by Robert Andrew Perez
Robert Andrew Perez’s The Field is Californian: the “quivered spotty orange” (“poppies. poppies.”), “the cashew and kidney pools / like turquoise healing stones” (“desert sonnet”), and too, of course, the clouds, like “semen ribboning in chlorine” [End Page 184] (“hailing clouds”). Though Californian in intent and delivery, like Didion, Perez moves through language with a laidback vigor. In the opening poem, “erasure,” Perez’s “state, figuratively, / is pre-fire. [he] carr[ies] the threat of combustion; all [he] need[s] is sapphire.” A state, which, at once, is the governmental state and the state of being.
The poems are associative and exacting in their execution, but it’s not all fire and political theory—it’s actually both. Readers are encouraged to “think back to seeing nicole richie in a papasan in the westwood / urban outfitters,” and even though “no one / knows [him] or nicole anymore,” Perez demands to know “with everything falling apart, why can’t the monolith of patriarchy?” But Perez has his answer, he already knows
to vote, like prayeris to believe in something
that will fail you . . .(“this world”)
Failure is a tricky project in this collection, for failure is a wide thing, washing up on the shores of queer and performance theories, but more plainly, the poems examine a failure of futurism, which declares itself with friends “writing poems for/about their kids” (“erasure”), while the poet is
still writing about fucking guys and fuckingloser guys and fucking loser guys and fucking loose guys, fucking losing loose, loserguys.(“erasure”)
There is something tragic (and hilarious) at the heart of this self-criticism, which stakes its claim in California—land of the eternal west, land of the escaped queer, land of writing and rewriting where the poet hasn’t “forgotten to grieve” (“never been kissed”) but accepts “the momentum of / newness” as a motor.
Similarly, the collection gathers energy from the “hypnagogia logia” poems, which seem to operate somewhere between prophecy, delirium, and revisionism. The poems feature the only omissions (bracketed blank space) and revisions (stuck-out text) in the collection, while eclipsing conceits of craft and science. In this series, the speaker trades their willful, sundrenched melding of theory and pop culture for an opaque truth-telling:
. . . this is a memoryrecurring, continually distorted.the dreamspeak speak: don’tremember so hard. the next timethe sky may shatter & all the brokenglass that doesn’t fall in falls out. youmay very well land on it.(“hypnagoia logia”) [End Page 185]
These poems are less invested in explicit communication than in the oddities of the hypnagogic state, in between the sleeping and waking lives. Instead of a living, breathing California—full of living, breathing people—these poems want the “he of the / phantasmagorical real” (“hypnagogia logia”). Similarly, Perez confronts the question of a borderless, boundless, undifferentiated nature. This collection fills itself on fires, water (in pools, oceans, and bays), sunshine, and clouds. The mind, after all, “is a cloud: write it before it disappears” (“a desert sonnet”). The natural world is its own master, and in a collection that does seem obsessed—in those petty and honest ways—with making queer love meaningful in a world where futurism challenges the need of queers, the natural world provides an exciting, associative model. In this collection, fire leads to “a plan. / an escape” (“hypnagogia logia”). In this collection, “all that mattered, / was the dust mattering the windless air,” (“hypnagogia logia”) and the “night sky, in its mostly darkness, / is the most banal of mysteries (“enantiodromia”). Children, too, seem alien. Untamed: “those / cascading hills, my inner-child. / mum’s the world.” But it’s not silence that Perez leaves the reader. No. In fact, the poet leaves us with a poem damn near perfect: “poppies. poppies.”
Perez knows “california is full of it: gold,” and finds more in the “the burning sun / cools itself by dipping into the blue, / that’s golden, too.” California isn’t the sole heir to the golden, nor is nature, for Perez has already confessed that “we / used to, like others, say...