Miriam C Jacobs Reviews All the Babble of the Souk.

Poet Robin Ouzman Hislop’s first full-length collection, All the Babble of the Souk, is appropriately titled. With a remarkably consistent ear for the market’s noise, for “[t]he broken lights of the bazaar/spangled] with glistening promise/in the eyes of the dusky beggar …” (Laminations in Lacquer ) Hislop’s poems, many of them cinematic-style montages of sounds and images, show us the metaphoric souk of the world, on the beach or in the street, its glitter, its sadness, its ragtag glory:
 
“pets, flower pots framed captive in a moment
outside the house of the painter, a robot
in chains with an alms bowl” (“Departures”)
 
These impressions are not confined to the scenic. Individuals, too, flash like rich arcades:
 
“there is not time enough to love
before the tram whisks her away
a creature of the costume of the moment
in a parade of parts.” (“In the fish-eye window”)
 
So marked is Hislop’s interest in the external world, readers may long for a glimpse of the speaker. It comes rarely. There are one or two musings on the phenomenon and surprise of feeling oneself age, the odd disjointing of it, but otherwise these poems proclaim their perhaps unique impersonality. In “Laminations in Lacquer” we sight what is, perhaps, the poet, but in third person, one who rises, observes, and then folds in at last with the “throng”:
 
“Below the rift of its eye
the sealed beak that will open
gleams on the lee …
in a room that roams without corners
he must rise with a chalice of blood for lips of shades
where the vertigo edge of the flower distills the dish
together with the quantities of immeasurable throng
on watery groves billowing with ivy bowers
sprung over hidden lairs of concealed hoards.
Night begins and the dogs draw nigh
scavenging for scraps
yapping at the walker’s naked ankles
in the dust of unknown alleys.”
 
Among other reoccurring themes – shadows, mirrors, the moon – is Hislop’s interest in physics. In a variety of contexts he reflects on time and infinity, the imagination-daunting galaxies, quantum theory and space:
 
“Man cannot live on myth alone
he shall earn his soil somehow, between
the Big Bang, the Big Slam ….”
 
One admirable quality in this work is that souk places us firmly in the precariousness of the current moment in history. These poems are exactly right for the age, and who we are now, those of us born 1945-1960, with our particular view of past and present, our grasp of the sciences and technologies that have overtaken the known world in our lifetimes.
 
“The world is a patchwork quilt,” Hislop concludes in “Lucky hat day,”
‘stitched up to the hilt its seams/which we quarter in our dreams
on which our edifice is built …”

 
 
Jacobs recent head
 
 
MIRIAM C. JACOBS is a alumnus of the University of Chicago and teaches college writing, literature and humanities. Jacobs is the editor of Eyedrum Periodically, the art/literature journal of Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery, Atlanta. Her poetry has appeared in Jewish Literary Journal, The East Coast Literary Review, Record Magazine, The Camel Saloon, Bluestem: the Art and Literary Journal of Eastern Illinois University, The King’s English, and Oklahoma Today, among other publications. Her chapbook of poetry, The Naked Prince, was published by Fort!/Da? Books in September 2013.
 
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Richard Vallance Reviews All the Babble of the Souk. Collected Poems. Robin Ouzman Hislop.

Review of All the Babble of the Souk by Richard Vallance
 
If “All the Babble of the Souk” is anything but memorable — as it surely is — it is so because of its sweeping portrayal of the tumultuous market that is humankind. The “babble” of this bazaar is that of all the markets in the world — irrespective of nation, language, culture or race or for that matter, at the symbolic level, of any manifestation of our nature, be it “good” or “evil”, which are not opposing psychological or spiritual states as all too many naïvely imagine, but rather their subtle blending in our psyche. There is no suggestion of the presence or absence of God or a “god”. It is irrelevant. There is just humanity.
 
The poems, mostly quasi free form, some of them highly reminiscent of haiku, range from very short to a few pages long. Except for one poem and one only, Scale Free, in which we come face to face with some of the most beautiful imagery in the entire collection, and I quote:
 
A cuckoo taunts
high in the mountain
where are you?

 
there is not a single question to be found in the rest of the book. All the rest of the poems consist only of statements, some of them brief, others rather too long for my taste and some even downright convoluted. When this approach to poetry composition is carried to its extreme, it can and sometimes does result in the overly prosaic. That is the only real quarrel I have with this collection. Fortunately, there are only only a handful of poems which are painfully prone to the prosaic. Among these are Mannequins, the whole series Maps 1,2,3,4, The Prisoners, Non Linear and in particular Rust (which reads more like a scientific tract than a poem), none of which have any real appeal to me.
 
The rest of the poems run from agreeable at the very least to the truly amazing. Among those poems agreeable to the mind and/or the ear I count: Passage, At the Party, Here Comes the Moon, Multiverse, The Pine at the Summit and Wind upon a River. Others like these will more or less please the reader. But as everyone knows, we all have our own preferences for the kinds of poetry we like. The poems which appeal more to one person appeal less to another. The aforementioned choices are merely my own.
 
Next come poems which display remarkable talent, such as: After Dylan on the Ninth Wave (which I for one particularly like), Africa North (haiku-like), A Witch for Halloween (in which we find some of the most striking chthonic imagery in the book), Core (commendable for its brevity, economy of verse & imagery), Entanglements (haiku-like), Sequence 1 & 2 (haiku-like) and Story of a Rose.
 
I have a marked preference for the poet’s haiku-like poems. Haiku have always strongly appealed to me. In fact, I myself, along with Robin Ouzman Hislop and so many other truly talented haijin, have composed a considerable number of poems of this nature, many of which were published in the print quarterly, Canadian Zen Haiku (2004-2010), which is now out of print. Brevity is the soul of wit, and indeed of the memorable. It is Robin Ouzman Hislop’ s more compact poems which please me the most. There are exceptions, poems which are not haiku-like or are somewhat lengthier. There are some truly memorable lines in these poems. For instance, we have:
 
from Africa North:
A winnowing canvass tosses corn
and
... as fireflies in the blazing day.
and finally
In the gloaming a solitary reaper reaps its shadow.
(Reminiscences of Wordsworth’ s, The Solitary Reaper, one of the most astonishingly beautiful poems in English.)
 
from After Dylan on the Ninth Wave, there are a considerable number of memorable lines, which you can explore for yourself. The poem is not quite up to Dylan Thomas… a very tough act to follow!
 
and from Core:
reaching my eye’s peninsula

sudden scene, solitary strand
 
All of the poems in this class pleased me a great deal.
 
Now we come to the downright brilliant poems, of which there are naturally only a few. I might as well cite them all. They are Scale Free ( a series of haiku-like lines & almost pure haiku), A Split Second Later’s Late, Laminations in Lacquer, Lucky Hat Day and Red Butterflies, all of which had a powerful psychological and spiritual impact on me. Here are just a few of the lines from these truly remarkable poems which really struck me, and I mean really —
 
from A Split Second Later’s Late:
… a serpent’s spit according to legend.
 
from Laminations in Lacquer, the gripping lines:
Fireworks like a diaphanous lithograph
print an emblazoned sky
on the craggy mountains of the night
where comets play at kites
& glistening the eerie beak hisses.

 
and from Red Butterflies, where we find some of the most highly inspired, truly imaginative lines:
but as a collage on shifting sands…

A sword brazed in a fire
that does not distinguish
between the battle
& the field.

 
I believe we can safely say that the poet has achieved a level of poetic style and content which can hardly disappoint. Some of the poems in in “All the Babble of the Souk” remind me of T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”. Perhaps the most striking feature of this volume is the poet’s portrayal of humanity, which deprives us of any escape from the darker, more insidious depths of our human condition. The most striking imagery in the entire collection forces itself on the least flattering trait of of our nature, our tendency towards — I might as well say it flat out — bestiality, which leaps to the fore in the poet’s all too frequent comparison between homo sapiens and apes (King Simian, seeking simian), gorillas, baboons and other fierce beasts of that ilk, all the way to neanderthals, Australopithecus and the odious nocturnal lupine, the proverbial werewolf. Lines such as: the hairless ape, go ape, going bananas… all mercilessly zero in on our ape-like nature bedeviling our s0-called civilized veneer.
 
There is also frequent reference to eating meat, and being eaten (we grow the meat we eat, those she didn’t eat alive, children simply to feed her, how they like human flesh, to be consumed by hell), all the way through to witchcraft and Zombie imagery. The dreadful presence of these creatures of the night inexorably lurks just beneath the thin veneer our blasé urbanity.
 
To cut to the quick, the most memorable qualities of Robin Ouzman Hislop’s poetic gifts are his penchant for economy of lines and the puissant imagery of the chthonic. Where these features dominate any poem, they impel it towards the nonpareil! Such poems soar. When it works, it works supremely well. As for the rest, there is much to please the reader.
 
Overall rating: 3.75/ 5
 
Richard Vallance

 
 
Richard Vallance
 
 
Richard Vallance, meta-linguist, ancient Greek & Mycenaean Linear B, home page: Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae, https://linearbknossosmycenae.wordpress.com
 
PINTEREST Boards: Mycenaean Linear B: Progressive Grammar & Vocabulary,
 
https://www.pinterest.com/vallance22/mycenaean-linear-b-progressive-grammar-and-vocabulary and, Knossos & Mycenae, sister civilizations, https://www.pinterest.com/vallance22/knossos-mycenae-sister-civilizations
 
Also poetry publisher, The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes: Anthology of sonnets of the early third millennium Le Phénix renaissant de ses cendres : Anthologie de sonnets au début du troisième millénaire Friesen Press, Victoria, B.C., Canada. © August 2013. 35 illustrations in B & W. Author & Title Indexes. 257 pp. 315 sonnets & ghazals in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese & Persian.
 
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A Review by Norman Ball of All the Babble of the Souk, Collected Poems. Robin Ouzman Hislop.


All the Babble of the Souk
By Robin Ouzman Hislop
Aquillrelle, 2015
 
Norman Ball, writer, author of Between River and Rock: How I Resolved Television in Six Easy Payments
Before I get to the book itself, I’d like to offer up a confession. Robin and I have, over the years, engaged in some fascinating discussions on such far-flung topics as Big Bang contrarianism, the mystery of consciousness, theories of memes, multiverses, Popper falsifiability and vitalism, just to name a few; in short, the usual water cooler chatter. Or maybe not. Robin’s a whole lot smarter than me. Nonetheless it’s a lot of fun trying to keep up. If you’ll forgive a mixed metaphor, we’re odd ducks of a feather.
 
For one thing, Hislop is not averse to the occasional Latinate or ism getting tossed into a stanza. Of course poetical exploration of High Concept puts one at odds with the prevailing penchant for concrete image and tactile adhesives. There are many in poetry today who insist that, if you can’t say something nice about a spatula, a garden hose or a lamppost, you have no business trafficking in periphrasis. Everything must be grounded in the real, they say—as if such a thing as the real really existed. If I may say, oh prevailing sentiment in poetry, get real.
 
So, perhaps All the Babble of the Souk is not for everyone. But then, what of any value ever is? Poetry marches under a Big Spatula and we all can’t be flipping fried eggs and hash. Besides, in the hands of a deftly abstract mind, abstraction is not exactly a kick in the head. Nor will it break the yokes and spoil your breakfast. What is a speculative poetic excursion, after all, but high imagination and eccentricity commiserating via language? Let the arbiters of bric a brac catalog the quotidian like good flea marketeers. Such people are born to rummage about in the attic and log their heirlooms on eBay. Hislop doesn’t trammel their kiosks. He has Big Thoughts to mull.
 
Fresh off a personally intense eye-mind exploration , I found myself greatly predisposed to ‘Maps’, a four-piece series of poetic aphorisms that offers some dazzling insights into how we demarcate our space, time and existence, and especially how these elements are conveyed, if not even defined, by our senses:

      Time links the auditory, the visual cortices on the retina which maps a fission between the unseen form of sound, the unheard sound of seeing


This notion of time having a real job to do immediately put me in mind of John Archibald Wheeler: “Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.” Hislop may be onto something even more subtle: Does time keep chaos at bay, allowing time for our disparate senses to marry their qualia into a coherent universe? Perhaps those with Synesthesia are more evolved creators of worlds, their gaps between sound and vision less discontinuous.
 
‘Maps’ delivered me to a speculation I wouldn’t have reached otherwise. And I find that’s a critical function of Hislop’s poetry. It gathers, then points away. More important than the resolved landing place is how it offers a hospitable ‘symposium’, couching philosophical fields of inquiry within poetic metaphor from which the reader’s own speculative arcs can then rise and take tangential flight; speculations feeding speculations. What does resolution ever resolve anyway? Conclusions are overrated. The concrete of the concretists doesn’t exist in a world:

      Imposed as
      an impression
      seeking an ineffable concrete
      in an abstraction
      which defies location.—from ‘Red Butterflies’


Tumbling down rabbit holes beats rabbit stew any old day, especially when the universe may have us fixed for the next tasty, sentient bunny-in-line. In this sense I would call Hislop’s poetry inviting, intelligent, and refreshingly non-binding.
 
In ‘From Here to Silence, three’, he sets up a free will versus determinism tug-of-war stalked by Nietzschean recurrence and Leonard Susskind’s holographic 2D picture-show. You got a problem with that, Rod McKuen?

      Say we are not sui generis
      (the cause of yourself)
      we are homeostatic holographs
      dimensions in spectral parallel membranes
      our near eternal process to err
      along such a line we pass time in, time out
      but could we not cheat the butterfly effect?


The stanza ends on the plaintive hope, reminiscent of Kafka that our cycle of error could end if freewill achieved grace but for an instant. Let us hope that moment arrives as I’m so tired of breaking my shoelace the day before Thanksgiving forever.
 
Am I losing the yucksters in all the heavy universe lifting? Not so fast. Hislop can be funny too. ‘At a Slant’ has a droll quality that still draws a snicker if for no other reason than that we’re stuck, all together (‘but it’s the same for all of us!’):

      The con of life
       
      the weirdness of its melodramatic sham
      how good we are at yesterday, tomorrow
      always better than before
      like,
      being had – in the process by it.

The juxtaposed tenses of being had cement the interminable predicament we share. No exit. But at least we perfect our yesterdays until such time as we resume them anew, becoming rank amateurs all over again. But amateurs with a difference, with a modicum of acquired wisdom and an almost imperceptibly elevated rank. Okay, so it’s bleak, black humor. But there are shafts of light. One day, though maybe yet a half-eternity away, some butterfly will escape the dark matter of our descending shoe. (Butterflies pervade Hislop’s poetry.) We’ll be released to the next pristine universe armed with a butterfly-brain’s worth of hard-earned prescience. So yes, each successive Big Bang is not an unadulterated singularity. Some kernel of hard-earned wisdom gets borne through. Each new universe is a tooth on a slowly revolving gear that turns towards…perfection? In short, something barely better.
Since Hislop asks, that’s what—I think, I hope—may be ‘next’:

      Pack, the near infinite
      (in—the moment before you munch)
      take a bit of the biscuit
      before the Big Crunch
      it’s an eternal packet
      & having all, what’s next?—from ‘Lucky Hat Day’

All the Babble of the Souk will have you pondering your predicament in a whole new imaginative light. Reflect well my friend, as mindless impulsivity, and materialist inanity, is precisely what dangles this eternity over the interminable abyss. Therein may lie our paper-thin chance for freedom: by insect increment, one pardoned butterfly per eon at a time.

—Norman Ball
 
Editor’s note: for more of this Poet/Writer’s scintillating script please do not fail to overlook the hyper-text link eye-mind exploration included in the above review.
 
 
Norman Ball FBP
 
 
NORMAN BALL (BA Political Science/Econ, Washington & Lee University; MBA, George Washington University) is a well-travelled Scots-American businessman, author and poet whose essays have appeared in Counterpunch, The Western Muslim and elsewhere. His new book “Between River and Rock: How I Resolved Television in Six Easy Payments” is available here. Two essay collections, “How Can We Make Your Power More Comfortable?” and “The Frantic Force” are spoken of here and here. His recent collection of poetry “Serpentrope” is published from White Violet Press. He can be reached at returntoone@hotmail.com.
 
 
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Aquillrelle. Press Release. Robin Ouzman Hislop. Collected Poems. All the Babble of the Souk.

robin2705
 
All the Babble of the Souk
 
All the babble of the Souk
all the life of the planet &
so little part of it, that I breathe

 

 
Also available at Amazon.com All the Babble of the Souk Robin Ouzman Hislop
 

All the Babble of the Souk
By Robin Ouzman Hislop
Aquillrelle, 2015
 
Norman Ball, writer, author of Between River and Rock: How I Resolved Television in Six Easy Payments
Before I get to the book itself, I’d like to offer up a confession. Robin and I have, over the years, engaged in some fascinating discussions on such far-flung topics as Big Bang contrarianism, the mystery of consciousness, theories of memes, multiverses, Popper falsifiability and vitalism, just to name a few; in short, the usual water cooler chatter. Or maybe not. Robin’s a whole lot smarter than me. Nonetheless it’s a lot of fun trying to keep up. If you’ll forgive a mixed metaphor, we’re odd ducks of a feather.
 
For one thing, Hislop is not averse to the occasional Latinate or ism getting tossed into a stanza. Of course poetical exploration of High Concept puts one at odds with the prevailing penchant for concrete image and tactile adhesives. There are many in poetry today who insist that, if you can’t say something nice about a spatula, a garden hose or a lamppost, you have no business trafficking in periphrasis. Everything must be grounded in the real, they say—as if such a thing as the real really existed. If I may say, oh prevailing sentiment in poetry, get real.
 
So, perhaps All the Babble of the Souk is not for everyone. But then, what of any value ever is? Poetry marches under a Big Spatula and we all can’t be flipping fried eggs and hash. Besides, in the hands of a deftly abstract mind, abstraction is not exactly a kick in the head. Nor will it break the yokes and spoil your breakfast. What is a speculative poetic excursion, after all, but high imagination and eccentricity commiserating via language? Let the arbiters of bric a brac catalog the quotidian like good flea marketeers. Such people are born to rummage about in the attic and log their heirlooms on eBay. Hislop doesn’t trammel their kiosks. He has Big Thoughts to mull.
 
Fresh off a personally intense eye-mind exploration , I found myself greatly predisposed to ‘Maps’, a four-piece series of poetic aphorisms that offers some dazzling insights into how we demarcate our space, time and existence, and especially how these elements are conveyed, if not even defined, by our senses:

      Time links the auditory, the visual cortices on the retina which maps a fission between the unseen form of sound, the unheard sound of seeing


This notion of time having a real job to do immediately put me in mind of John Archibald Wheeler: “Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.” Hislop may be onto something even more subtle: Does time keep chaos at bay, allowing time for our disparate senses to marry their qualia into a coherent universe? Perhaps those with Synesthesia are more evolved creators of worlds, their gaps between sound and vision less discontinuous.
 
‘Maps’ delivered me to a speculation I wouldn’t have reached otherwise. And I find that’s a critical function of Hislop’s poetry. It gathers, then points away. More important than the resolved landing place is how it offers a hospitable ‘symposium’, couching philosophical fields of inquiry within poetic metaphor from which the reader’s own speculative arcs can then rise and take tangential flight; speculations feeding speculations. What does resolution ever resolve anyway? Conclusions are overrated. The concrete of the concretists doesn’t exist in a world:

      Imposed as
      an impression
      seeking an ineffable concrete
      in an abstraction
      which defies location.—from ‘Red Butterflies’


Tumbling down rabbit holes beats rabbit stew any old day, especially when the universe may have us fixed for the next tasty, sentient bunny-in-line. In this sense I would call Hislop’s poetry inviting, intelligent, and refreshingly non-binding.
 
In ‘From Here to Silence, three’, he sets up a free will versus determinism tug-of-war stalked by Nietzschean recurrence and Leonard Susskind’s holographic 2D picture-show. You got a problem with that, Rod McKuen?

      Say we are not sui generis
      (the cause of yourself)
      we are homeostatic holographs
      dimensions in spectral parallel membranes
      our near eternal process to err
      along such a line we pass time in, time out
      but could we not cheat the butterfly effect?


The stanza ends on the plaintive hope, reminiscent of Kafka that our cycle of error could end if freewill achieved grace but for an instant. Let us hope that moment arrives as I’m so tired of breaking my shoelace the day before Thanksgiving forever.
 
Am I losing the yucksters in all the heavy universe lifting? Not so fast. Hislop can be funny too. ‘At a Slant’ has a droll quality that still draws a snicker if for no other reason than that we’re stuck, all together (‘but it’s the same for all of us!’):

      The con of life
       
      the weirdness of its melodramatic sham
      how good we are at yesterday, tomorrow
      always better than before
      like,
      being had – in the process by it.

The juxtaposed tenses of being had cement the interminable predicament we share. No exit. But at least we perfect our yesterdays until such time as we resume them anew, becoming rank amateurs all over again. But amateurs with a difference, with a modicum of acquired wisdom and an almost imperceptibly elevated rank. Okay, so it’s bleak, black humor. But there are shafts of light. One day, though maybe yet a half-eternity away, some butterfly will escape the dark matter of our descending shoe. (Butterflies pervade Hislop’s poetry.) We’ll be released to the next pristine universe armed with a butterfly-brain’s worth of hard-earned prescience. So yes, each successive Big Bang is not an unadulterated singularity. Some kernel of hard-earned wisdom gets borne through. Each new universe is a tooth on a slowly revolving gear that turns towards…perfection? In short, something barely better.
Since Hislop asks, that’s what—I think, I hope—may be ‘next’:

      Pack, the near infinite
      (in—the moment before you munch)
      take a bit of the biscuit
      before the Big Crunch
      it’s an eternal packet
      & having all, what’s next?—from ‘Lucky Hat Day’

All the Babble of the Souk will have you pondering your predicament in a whole new imaginative light. Reflect well my friend, as mindless impulsivity, and materialist inanity, is precisely what dangles this eternity over the interminable abyss. Therein may lie our paper-thin chance for freedom: by insect increment, one pardoned butterfly per eon at a time.

—Norman Ball
 
Editor’s note: for more of this Poet/Writer’s scintillating script please do not fail to overlook the hyper-text link eye-mind exploration included in the above review.
 
 
Norman Ball FBP
 
 
NORMAN BALL (BA Political Science/Econ, Washington & Lee University; MBA, George Washington University) is a well-travelled Scots-American businessman, author and poet whose essays have appeared in Counterpunch, The Western Muslim and elsewhere. His new book “Between River and Rock: How I Resolved Television in Six Easy Payments” is available here. Two essay collections, “How Can We Make Your Power More Comfortable?” and “The Frantic Force” are spoken of here and here. His recent collection of poetry “Serpentrope” is published from White Violet Press. He can be reached at returntoone@hotmail.com.
 
 
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