Harpo Before the Opus
Winner of the Omnidawn 1st/2nd Book Prize
Selected and with an introduction by Srikanth Reddy
The problem with talk is how disembodied speech can make it— the rankest self-exile, this alienation of one’s own voice emitting shaped formlessness. Harpo Before the Opus aims to undo this by embodying the “whatever being” as a cusp cast in lead might— the ripe penumbra where the individual and the universal become coterminous, where gesture binds itself with syntax’s viscera. It is with this dense torque of exposure that these poems rise toward poetic speech's soft boundaries run taut and ragged. Staging a post-performative interrogation of language and the currency of being, they aim to instrumentalize the common good of language into gesture set against the gestalt of capital, and to locate where possible within these trenches cusps of tenderness, community within Against.
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SRIKANTH REDDY, author of Voyager, Facts for Visitors, Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry, from his introduction to the book "What is a shape / Except resistance," Logan Fry asks himself, and the poems of Harpo Before the Opus—in all their prosodic diversity, technical and historical lexicons, and affective topographies—may be read as the literary manifesto for a resistance movement of one. Yet Fry also shows us how resistance may be grounded, all too often, in unacknowledged complicities. "I was taught to frag then surplus," writes this disillusioned insurgent, a little sadly, in retrospect. Raiding political theory to adumbrate a social economy of form, Harpo Before the Opus demonstrates, in every line, how "form honors labor's waste."
KAREN GARTHE, author of the hauntRoad, The Banjo Clock, Frayed Escort Here is rare beauty, a delirium of language feverish, passionate; an abstract pitched and wounded critique. Mute Harpo talked music but here speaks in word ravishments that send me to the dictionary to reconsider the obvious, reconsider the ordinary—like Cow, Red, Berm, Fondant . . . I Give, I Took. Harpo stammers compulsively in Justice, for Justice, as here they mightmeet up in Kant’s Kingdom of Ends: "Being nests its midst in me.” Here is a solid iron made malleable and the deep terrors of groundlessness . . . an intellectual verbal allegory of air with Venus poised shaky on the half shell. Vertigo professes through a glass darkly that at first hinges on underlying/out-lying shames but then rises to meet the eye and clear the palate of the senses—with keen attention. And though NOT ENOUGH stands on the back of EVEN LESS in shrouds of awful bleakness, attempts at smugness repeatedly fail. And Reality puzzles. And Will puzzles. What is accuracy, where is truth? Harpo stands before the opus and says flat out: I allege a norm compels
LAZENBY, author of Infinity to Dine The most cutting thing a Roman poet could be told was that their work smelled like the lamp. The smell of soot was the smell of labor and, by inference, of the lack of talent. Whether or not inspiration is truly eaten by effort, the criterion has largely damned what it meant to praise. Poems are an undertaking (the source, in Greek, of their name), an undertaking that is skillfully completed by a minimum of sweat. This view of poetry, as something added to the world, has been all too convincing. But what if poetry were something else? These poems are that something else. They are the latent patterns of sand on sand within a dune. In a world that has already been given far more than it can survive, it is well worth imitating these examples of impossible excavation.