Press

here you can find some stuff people have written about my poetry.

An interview about it << "I love iambic pentameter precisely as much as Isaac Brock loves the pentatonic scale."

a discussion of it. <<< "Horny feelings set free! I agree" hehe

Review of How the Body Works, Cody John Laplante (Sargent Press, 2011)

by John-Micheal Albert, poet-laureate of New Hampshire 2012-2013 Reprinted from his book of essays, reviews and poems, “The Light and Air of Our Work” w/ author’s permission.

Click here to read How the Body Works online.

The best way to force yourself to write stronger poetry is to publish a chapbook. It’s a sure thing that, as soon as you have gone through the hell of collecting, organizing, and revising-revising-revising enough poetry to staple together in a book of 40 or so pages, then reading it in public at every possible open mic over the vast abyss of six months or so, you’ll know its faults so well you will not be able to resist creating the next chapbook as a sort of penance. And it will be stronger. And after six months, you will be creating a third chapbook for the same reason. Thus, and only thus, strong art is born.

Please note that I say “strong,” not “good.” Committing your life to art is not committing your life to a moral crusade in search of good, better, and best. If so, once you achieve what you perceive as your best, you have achieved your goal. No more effort is required. Your life as an artist is over. A committed artist always works toward new strengths, recognizing that every solution to a perceived weakness helps him perceive new weaknesses, to be addressed in his next work. Thus, his work moves from strength to strength, never from good to better, or better to best.

In November 2010, Cody John LaPlante brought out his first chapbook, Alone with the Enemy (Sargent Press, November 2010). These early poems were full of the energy of a young poet, and a compulsion to just enough raw honesty to make me want to read-and hear-more. They are the sort of poetry that says, “this is where I came from, this is where I am, and these are the sorts of techniques I think that will inform my future work.” It was, in short, the perfect first chapbook. Just a couple months later, and not the usual six months, Cody John had already been fatigued by their perceived shortcomings. His local, open mic readings featured new and more powerful work, offered as a sort of anodyne to the earlier work.

Some of these poems have been collected in his second chapbook, How the Body Works (Sargent Press, July 2011). What a huge leap he has made. Most of the academic starch has been rinsed out of his poetry. It is rawer, more brutally honest. The poet emerges from the Victorian niceties we might be tempted to associate with poetry on the urgings of our prim and proper public school teachers and dives headlong into the taboo language of body parts, bodily functions, sex and death. It reads as a sort of manifesto of the young poet: this is who I am, this is what I do, these are the things that make me.

The first poem of this manifesto acts as a preamble. A drug addled and sexually excited young homosexual male wakes up with the same erection he was sporting when he went to sleep. His body is more responsive, now that the drugs have worn off. He is able to achieve orgasm; but he discovers that his room is in such disarray that he has nothing to remove his warm splooge with except his last, clean sock. It is under those conditions that he must transform himself into his public persona and go to work.

Here we have a clear self-portrait of the lone, Romantic artist against the world. I get a clear reflection of Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above a Sea of Fog, only in Cody John’s version, the wanderer is all but naked and precariously stumbling on the mountain top in subjection to drugs. The elements that define him bodily, personally are perceived to be in direct opposition to the externalelements that make up the world he must live in. He is forced to face the unanswerable question: why is the engorged and enraptured artist required to interface with the mundane world of time clocks and rent payments? If there is a point to our ecstatic existence, then what possible role does the nine-to-five play in it? Or, more terribly, turning that coin over to the “tails” side, if the fundamental fact of our existence is “live to work,” why do we have the capacity for ecstasy at all?

These are not new questions, but Cody John casts them well within the context of his personal existence and that of most of his contemporary readers. He has clearly read, and studied, Baudelaire and Rimbaud, and given due homage to their closer contemporaries, such as Kerouac and Burroughs, with a hefty does of Ginsburg’s “Howl” echoing off the walls of his apartment bedroom / asylum cell.

One obvious strength of How the Body Works is its narrative sequence. If this were a review of Alone with the Enemy, I would have to create separate appreciations of each poem. Any suggestion of narrative would be self-assembled. Not so, How the Body Works. Here, our Romantic picaro moves from acquaintance to lover to friends of both sexes, and even apostrophizes a plant and a dog, in rooms, at concerts, by the river and by the sea. He is committed to erasing any trace of internal, gnostic information (“formation from within”) in an attempt to surrender entirely the task of defining himself to the outside world. And time after time, he rediscovers himself alone and undefined.

A big fan of the “systematic destruction of the senses” in art, I particularly appreciated the qualities of his poeme concrete “glitch.” I do not mean the modern variations on concrete poetry; I am referring to the 1950’s and 1960’s definition. It is harder, less artsy, more committed to the creation of meaninglessness through traditionally meaningful means than the pretty, modern, onanistic stuff. The persona of “glitch” seems to be stuttering humorously. He’s so besotted by the object of his love that he cannot speak straightforwardly. We would be tempted to laugh with him, except the poems that come before “glitch” have already introduced us to the poet’s deliberate technique of scrambling or omitting words, to say nothing of placing vivid words in places where they are stripped of meaning-and all at random. The fourteen-line poem, suggesting but by no means committing itself to being a sonnet, ‘tumbles headlong down’ (Marlow, Edward II) the flight of fourteen stairs. At the thirteenth line, all seemslost:

ttt hj nn s’ts kthee aht aht uj hm

This line looks like some instructor’s sadistic idea of a final exam in speed typing. But super opacity gives birth to super lucidity. The poem ends in the very next line:

he just isn’t into me like that

When I’ve reached that identical anguished impasse in one of my relationships, when tears and anger have completely lost their effectiveness, I assure you I, along with Cody John, I have been unable to remedy my situation with anything but clinically hysterical laughter.

To me, How the Body Works is about the painful imperative of compromise required of all artists committed to making their lives, or their arts, stronger in the context of their culture. I am reminded of the early Church Fathers who fled to caves in the Egyptian wilderness or sat on poles in order to remove themselves completely from the world and perfect their holiness. And how they were completely dependent on the grace of nameless individuals who brought them food and clothing, who removed their waste, who may have even provided them with books, or pen and paper, or at least taken dictation and recorded the progress of their thoughts in the process of their experience. And I am reminded of how humbled and hypocritical they must have felt everyday, being so completely dependent on the thing they despised, and how strongly they resented it moving their focus from the thing they love “more than all the world” (Marlow, Edward II).

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