Fake Math

Fake Math by ryan fitzpatrick (Snare, 2007/ Model, 2022) in the copy I have, is reissued, with some of the 2007 edition culled, and the whole somewhat expanded with a section “Fake Math (20xx)” which written in the same spirit in the intervening 15 years. 

It is extremely dense. The poems examine inside the urban over-stimulus of capitalism. It is not narrative but changing sentence to sentence like Lisa Robertson’s Boat (Coach House, 2022). Boat uses repetition of the idea of imaginary doors as portals to create touchstones between non-sequitur lists. fitzpatrick’s has no such device acting as a connector except a hyperglossia speed. In Robertson’s

Every angel is fucking the seven arts.

Each leaf had achieved its vastness.

A young woman is seated on a kitchen chair, black wings spread out as if drying.

It was August and the night was hot.

What we were proposing already exists. 

Lisa Robertson’s Boat

Whereas in Fake Math, fitzpatrick’s non sequitur leaps cluster physically tighter with “less breathing room” as they say, even stand alone phrases rather than “full sentences”. 

Just because we screw doesn’t mean.
Just because we assume swoosh pants. 
Tradition and the tattooed cerebellum. 
Sweat and swoon of commodity fetishism. 
Totemic icon of commodity, and test drive. 
Art is a dirty word.
A heart of purina.
In the sun on the beach.
Loving the V-8’s hum.
Bud of calm, blossom of hysteria.
Why gold confronts the linen as money. 

ryan fitzpatrick’s Fake Math

The stress against capitalism and “jinglistic” noise (“ a heart of purina”) is rolled out frenetically as it was rolled into the head but with a twist. Academia and intellectual spin is in both poets, and a critical posture rather than self-reveal.

Yet, there’s beauty that stops you in your tack to fill yours sails in each work, whether a leaf achieving its vastness or bud of calm, blossom of hysteria. 

There’s phrases that don’t unpack themselves in Fake Math so you sit there with “words and their orphanages” and think about the implications.  Or “solenoid belief.”

You can’t read fast unless reading only phonetically. What are we talking about when we talk about talking “Is dialogue an exchange of traffic lights? A messy business is this heart” (p. 52). There’s less easy reaches in the gestures.

For all its specificity and pace, it asks for more than surface living. Its pop references are to Cabbage Patch fever, Jughead, Vespas and booty calls, or as in one epic reach of a line (p. 72) “Die Hard; Hamlet; Pokemon; Sistine Chapel; front yard.” It’s marked as all cultural artefact, the human-made great equalizer and sometimes tranquilizer. What now? What is now? the poems ask.

Fake Math was a slow book to read, in a good sense, comparable in speed to The Absence of Zero by R. Kolewe (Book*hug, 2022). Not because either was dull or because they provided ahhh moments where I could then go away satisfied and saturated. It’s a lot of words and overarching concepts that require digestions.

Each books sits with the author and ideas and observations, rather than with the idea of making a discrete lyric poem. Where you start determines where you can end up. The result doesn’t seem optimized (dumbed down) for a grade 4 reading level  universal audience. I feel I’m given the chance to rise to where the poet stands rather than be talked down to.

iris reticulata blue as the beginning
of night & yellow crocus uncomplicated 

slow anniversaries marking the fixed frame 
of life. Rewriting the same pages.
Not meaning but morning that fails
& fails again, no better for being / repeated 

thinking they matter or they don’t, taking refuge
in thoughts that are not treasures at all 

p. 43 of Absence of Zero

Compare with an excerpt of ryan fitzpatrick’s

But wait, is art critique? Lather,
touch screen, repeat. A mean modernist 

burger. Colon a slop of culture, fart
a drip. Kick sand into my catheter. 

p. 43

A different tone but each resist the cultural baggage of what’s at stake, narrative arc. There’s no confessional booth.

Each poem has a sort of self-awareness. The poem plays against the 4th wall. And the metonym bridges to impermanence as more valuable than the papier-mâché constructions of platonic permanence made within the lyric urge. If there’s to be a construction, let is be known as construction, not the thing itsef described.

In both Robertson and fitzpatrick the change of registers appeals to me also. I want a poem that drives not on auto-cruise mode with steady tone. Maybe not a V-8 engine’s roar but with some get up and go to its rev and irreverence.  I like to see the poet is thinking not just moping and feeling. 

Robertson’s Rousseau’s journaling goes slower than the amphetamine of marketing language that pushes fitzpatrick to push back, call out (p. 18) “A violence continually reorganized and sold./Bold in eyecatching brand./Cows end up on the cutting room./Picture face assumes cartoon role.” Which speaks to one of my pet peeves and was it Douglas Adams or Kurt Vonnegut who had a cow waiter offering to kill itself for your dining pleasure? In the end notes he mentioned mashed up social discourse inside a context of anxiety. 

This is in contrast to poetry which talks about the heart in general summary rather than questioning process and practice. How do we proceed in society?

Drop Stalin — Adopt Doughboy.
Book, chapter paragraph, sentence,
Reset, rest; rest, reset.
Census, cents, sense, sex.

p. 55

Fake Math like Phil Hall poems, plays in sound. For example, In Toward a Blacker Ardour by Phil Hall (Beautiful Outlaw, 2021), p. 90

There’s the dissolving of meaning into language, there’s a repeated riffing in sounds. Similarly in Fake Math fitzpatrick,

[…] A poem is
a design innovation,
or toke on reefer (a stigma
or a cigarette, or
a signification, or a
triple word score.) A potential
conflict, or a dysfunctional
new poem

p. 15-16

It’s more than just consonance going on, but word chains, sound chains and movement in a loop and thrown clear to somewhere new.  And adds pleasure of capering for entertainment. Sometimes he’s using the material of language to see what else might exist as  9p. 98) “Body as a cry bag.”

In a way it seems to me the poems comes out of the same existential crisis and impulse as dadaist resistance. The military banking industrial complex’s reach can’t be reasoned with any more than you can reason with someone committed to logical fallacies. Absurdity for our despair then,

Now my new hobby involves 
leaning against the bank 
while plastic twenties
spool from my teeth
Then all the mice poured 
from under the trench 
until I wasn’t ever
there at all really.

p. 79.

If we must be a cog in the machine, at least we can be a misshapen cog or spanner sometimes in the works. Too much obedience to optimism and beauty is suspect. Yet an absurd beauty is transcendent or maybe the embedded rhyme just catches me “right there” in the device receiver heart.

Food court spills into a lonely 
softshoe. Tap charge, tap queue.

p. 91 in “But Sir, I Want Some More Please” 

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