by Joyelle McSweeney on Feb.20, 2012
“Estonia: The Fat Stone’s Transparent Catatonia.”
“The Hare Infects Dad with Rabies.”
“Open the Voter.”
These are some of titles from Aase Berg’s Transfer Fat, as translated by Johannes Goransson. Such supple and engaging titles are typical of this work and also typify the way the work itself functions. The titles act like membranes; they catch your attention; your attention becomes a little prod or probe. You push at the membrane of the title and move through it into the shell meat of the poem, carrying gummy traces of the title with you, covering your eyes, nose, mouth, changing your vision and your breathing. You’re now half-digesting, half-gestating the poem, which, by the sci-fi logic by which the book operates, means that you might now be destined to supernova in a slickly bloody birth.
Feel fur in milk
The white fluff wads
scattered flinches through the forest
through the hare wolf
This is a four line poemlet in its entirety. The volume is made up of brief units like this, one or two to a page. This creates a delicious uncertainty to the whole. Like the individual protein strands which make up the helical DNA, the individual verse fits into the overall structure of volume both minutely and instrumentally; it could be the fuse which disrupts the transcription or a bit of fluff, fur in the milk, a white redundancy. Here the ‘fur in the milk’ cascades ‘flinches through the forest’ and breeds a mutant creature, ‘the hare wolf’, a mutation of both predator and prey in one which then recharacterizes the flinching forest (a single surface spasming with both fear and predatory instinct) and the harey-milk which inundates the poem, the page’s white space. The hare-wolf can no more be separated from the flinch forest than the poem from the page or the fur from the milk.
Another mechanism of Transfer Fat is its saturation with key words, including ‘hare’, ‘whale’, ‘milk’, ‘voter’, ‘Hal’ (the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey), “shell”, and especially “fat”. As the series proceeds, these words cluster and agglomerate, diving into and rising from the syntax, giving the series an ectoplasmic-like continuity from which indentifiable shapes thrust up through but never entirely separated from the poem’s translucent mucky surface. Other poems pry one or two keywords from the word horde and fling them out into the chronosphere to carry its antigens of toxic mutation into new registers.
When undead Harey is locked in the capsule
which is slung out into the cosmos murk
and the demented computer sings
its plancktime songs in weightless space
This ‘crustling,’ however, alerts us to another gestation, the forming of a crust of sound and lifedeath which suggests that these hares and whales will continue pursuing their cell-by-cell mutation until they crinkle the very horizon, force it to duck down and admit the rise of no or another sun. Transfer Fat’s tiny yet accruing scale represents a permanently cascading pile up of morbid microbial time, a death dance between genetic and chemical damage, a space opera, a catastrophe movie that will air again and again on the dimming private screen of the mind’s eye as it descends into darkness, with its dark and livid strings.
Hearing has a strungtime
twitches faster than the string strikes
harpy births child
pilots child across fields
of the as-of-yet unprepared.