Persea Books http://www.perseabooks.com
I admire Aaron Belz’s quirky independence of thought and humour, which ranges from the self-deprecating, absurd slapstick to smart wordplay and irreverent. He is a poet and essayist, regular contributor to Tears in the Fence, who came to prominence with The Bird Hoverer (BlazeVox, 2007) and Lovely Raspberry (Persea, 2010), which was praised by John Ashbery as being like ‘dreaming of a summer vacation and taking it’. There are echoes of the lighter side of the New York School and the deadpan stand-up poetry of Los Angeles in the literariness, language play and conversational nature of his work. He is from St. Louis, Missouri, now living in North Carolina.
Thematically his work uses humour to probe, and ridicule, being and identity, obsessional behavior, social mores, and worries about success and failure. He is, at pains, to pinprick selfishness.
There’s no I in team
but there’s one in bitterness
and one in failure.
In a given situation
Your objective should be
To act as much like yourself
As possible. Just imagine
The poetry connects through a diversity of linguistic strategies, which are characterized by a deadpan brevity and artful playfulness.
I caught this
minion, then gushed
“Suh tail a loss
olg deh sug neht!
Two Utah Palindromes
Utah, I hatu!
We HATU, Utah. Ew.
His most memorable poems have a sharp directness.
When I arrived here I thought it was Indiana.
I discovered people and called them “Indianans.”
I tried to convince them to become Christians.
I’ve since learned that this is not Indiana.
Belz collapses popular culture into high art in one tongue in cheek sweep, as in poems, such as ‘Thomas Hardy The Tank Engine’ and ‘Michael Jashbery’:
I’m starting with the man
in the convex mirror.
There’s more to Belz than being smart though. His style is an amalgamation of different approaches that produce a distinct and pleasurable peculiarity.
Blue computer graphics woman
with smooth cat nose, you are
purer, more in touch with nature,
and actually quite a bit taller than I –
and although you’ve discovered
that your soul mate is really just a
small, physically challenged white guy
gasping for air in a mobile home,
you’ve decided to stick with him.
I’d taken you for one of those shallow
pantheistic utopian cartoon giantesses,
but now I see that I was way off.
Belz’s poetry hints at artifices, the metaphysical, and has many echoes, Ashbery for example. It stands tall on its own though.
David Caddy 19th June 2014