Jon Leon’s Tract, *a dusi/e-chap, 2006
by Chris Rizzo
In the sub-cultural world of Tract, no action is taboo, and explanations are nowhere. By the time we reach “Louise Frevert,” the fifteenth prose-poem section presumably named after the Danish porn-star turned politician, the fragmented and often bitingly witty syntax of Tract just continues to speed away: “After two we speed away in my Fairlane. We download a couple of anal flicks and select full-screen. I set up laptop and dj. Jenny does a cut/copy job with the Marquis. Pastes fotos on her singed tits.” What’s ultimately so sharp about Leon’s text is that it’s so consumable to the special kind of poetry addict who reads first and foremost for the rush that comes with the pleasures of unpredictable language. But such pleasures are those that pin and bind and leave you dangling, like Nadia “from a plant hook fastened to the ceiling” in “Klemmer.” The text makes masochistic gluttons of such readers, as though we’re inside some Jamesonian structure, a prison-house, the Bastille of language turned postmodern pleasure-house or funhouse, where sensory overload distorts, dements, and tragically warps an understanding of the world around us. This is dark play, a “couture feast, fierce” and unrelenting in its neo-Sodom dialectic of creation and destruction spinning out of control.
It is “the Marquis” referenced in “Louise Frevert,” i.e. the Marquis de Sade, who infamously stated that “sex without pain is like food without taste.” In her introduction to Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom, Simone de Beauvoir writes that “Sade tried to make of his psycho-physical destiny an ethical choice; and of this act, in which he assumed his ‘separateness’, he attempted to make an example and an appeal. It is thus that his adventure assumes a wide human significance. Can we, without renouncing our individuality, satisfy our aspirations to universality? Or is it only by the sacrifice of our individual differences that we can integrate ourselves into the community? This problem concerns us all.” And it concerns Tract. If I stare into the dark surface of this hyper-sexualized and thoroughly strung-out text, then I’m bound to see a critique of ludic philosophy, i.e., a mentality of desire. “Food without taste” is still food, i.e., it still satisfies a necessity, whereas “taste” satisfies desire. The characters in Tract are relentless in their pursuit of pleasures, no matter how deeply sub-cultural, and no matter the cost. These characters have no “aspirations to universality,” but rather they repetitively—and sometimes literally—fuck one another over to satisfy their individual desires. Leon’s text enacts this, and draws us in, makes of us complicit voyeurs who watch for the next word. This is cogent work.
Brief author/reviewer bios:
Jon Leon lives in Savannah where he edits Live Action Arcade with poet Allyssa Wolf. New poems and articles are forthcoming in Vanitas and Magazine Cypress. Italian translations of his serial epic Diphasic Rumors are forthcoming in GAMMM. Contact him at jonaleon[at]gmail[dot]com.
Originally from Long Island and a long-time resident of Boston, Chris Rizzo currently lives in Albany, New York, where he is working on a Ph.D. in English. His latest chapbooks are Claire Obscure (Katalanché Press, 2005) and Zing (Carve Editions, 2006). His poems have appeared in many magazines over the years, such as Art New England, Carve, Dachshund, Shampoo, and most recently in The Duplications. He is also the editor of Anchorite Press, which he founded in 2003.