Bill LuomaSome Math
Kenning Editions ($14.95)
by Lightsey Darst

Reading Bill Luoma’s Some Math is like facing a linguistic hurricane. Take these lines, for example:

I’m calling the destructor on an iroq layer of inodes
by inserting into the sidebodies of the multiplex of molly

Iroq looks like Iraq, but is either a stock, an abbreviation for the International Rally of Queensland, or nothing. Inodes: index nodes, data structures. Sidebody: meaningful in dance or plumbing, but it makes me think of where one might holster a gun. Multiplex we know. Molly can mean a lot of things: a fish, a female mule, a prostitute; a character in William Gibson’sNeuromancer, a hard-assed assassin with retractable razor nails; molly is also short for molecular, a type of ecstasy. Finally, molly might echo moly, the herb Odysseus used to thwart Circe’s metamorphic magic. And all this leaves us where?

I’m reminded of science fiction, where sometimes the point of language is less to sketch a clearly understood scenario than to whip up a futuristic maelstrom. Luoma’s maelstrom concerns language itself, and he presents us with a future in which omnivorous English gets still more ravenous, gobbling up strands of acupuncture lingo, crumbling Euro-prefixes, and ragged lines of code. Strangely convincing unwords amply abound (“aaamphi”), as well as words we badly need: “vomitante”—one who tosses her cookies, or one who makes one toss her cookies; “virdividual”—a independent virtual presence, or a green person. Nothing ever exits this linguistic stage: ancient, imperial, trivial, “androne” to “zamfir,” it’s all here, in an ever more creative and less coherent medium.

With miasma winning over message, stormcloud over singular subjectivity, Luoma isn’t strong on subtlety. He has about four speeds: horny, future-fearing, quasi-mystical, and watching baseball. His loosely constructed poems—sometimes mere strings of words held together by rhyme, rhythm, and repetition “lotsa lingus / kat si so / xoxo manna / braiden flow”)—can come to seem like stands in a bazaar, laden with jumbled wares. Among these wares are astronomy, anatomy, ecological disaster / B-movies (“the bhopal of die hard”), porn, porn / programming / reruns (“who memcopies the clit of little white opie”), and the occasional note of sentiment (“the autopsies reveal people in kitchens / holding colanders”). You can even find a little nostalgia for clarity:

pain for yangxi met English trigger finger
met that lightning storms can clear the sky
lower fires integrity and higher integrity feels
a burning sensation in the hand
of broken sequence.

In this rabid proliferation, it makes sense that of becomes the key word, the link between one unlike object and the next and the next:

of the following of always
of arrested of have

Or, relentlessly,

of Of of Of of of of of of aphasia of asthma
of Of of of of of in case of the pain of Of

Of, an ancient word (note its similarity to its Latin cousin ab), denotes the possessive, or as it’s known in grammar, the genitive. Genitive, kin to genitalia, comes from a root meaning beget. Ultimately, that’s Luoma’s desire: to get into the molecular structure of English and work magic on it, to graft everything else to it and make it bear new fruit.

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