Expensive Poetry & Music Online Poetry Review

A.X.L. Griese
The Far Side of the Andromeda Galaxy
Collected Poems of A.X.L. Griese
New York City State University Co-Op Press
review by Ruh T.R.A. Nesnetrom
 Citations are from The Far Side of the Andromeda Galaxy
and may not be copied or distributed
without the express permission of  New York City State University Co-Op Press and
of the estate of the late A.X.L. Griese.

There are no poems in this book; it is completely blank.  As such it is the most daring production yet in 1999, a startling indicator of the vitality and richness of poetic expression in a decade otherwise racist, sexist and homophobic.  From this book, indeed, we can tell that A.X.L. Griese is a poet of truly laconic expression, one who can with the best of them create out of whole cloth.  In fact, it may be said that he has created the cloth itself while the trivia of cut and pattern have been left to us.  This is how he intended it to be.   We know this, though he has been dead since 1974, by a pronouncement left nailed to his office door at Columbia or NYU (some critics dispute either of these as his home base -- in any event, neither Columbia nor NYU acknowledge A.X.L. Griese's existence, which to this critic is tantamount to admitting their culpability in having hired him).  In that pronouncement, A.X.L. Griese noted of his work that "the reader will create my poems before I can finish the first line, so why bother?  My collected poems will, in some senses, always be blank. As you can see by my argument, there is no reason because of this to have a completed poem."


                from "Stochastic Fantastic" by A.X.L. Griese

Unless you are racist, sexist and homophobic, you can imagine that A.X.L. Griese is a remarkable poet, indeed, a special, though perhaps perplexingly private, though always astonishing, but equally mysterious, and yet remarkably public poet for whom few audiences have ever gathered and, of those which did, far too few members remain to remember, and, of those who do, few are qualified to remark on the author.  This is all the more so because of the requirement that audiences were to imagine what they had just not heard as having been heard.  And twenty-five years is a long time to remember what you didn't hear.

So important that no one has ever heard of him outside a small area of Manhattan, A.X.L. Griese in this extraordinary, lifelong exercise, an exercise which netted him a lifetime position at one of the institutions listed above, or perhaps another, may be said to have represented the post-Modern experience before it came into being, and thus can be acknowledged as having transcended the always existing limitations of time and place in order to make a mark which has come into being only twenty-five years after his death and without a single extant word of his poetry.

But only a racist, sexist and homophobic trivializer would object.  Further, there is a remarkable experiment contained in the publication of this book.   As this blank collected poems is being passed from reader to reader, they will find  instructions pasted onto the cover that each person who handles a copy must fill a blank page with a poem as s/he imagines it to be from the hands of the Master.   Only then can we have a fair idea of this poet's genius in writing nothing over a period of 42 years of conventional adulthood (Griese often maintained that he had been an official adult since before the age of one, but that no one had believed him.   No surprise in that, he noted, "after all, most people are racist, sexist and homophobic.").

There is in this the suggestion from quantum mechanics and observation theory that the perception of this poet by the reader's act of filling in the blanks has in fact created him, though he sprang out of an original impulse which is unknowable and therefore dubious.  And indeed, as I read, idly doodling on the pages, the book seemed to fill with words, which organized into phrases, and those into sentences, arbitrarily broken by my expectation into lines of no certain meter.  This was perfectuly fitting as neither A.X.L. Griese, whose strong opinions on this subject have only been printed in the rarest of editions, I don't particularly like the iambic preference inherent in the expectations of certain of my colleagues, whose judgment on this clearly marks them as racist, sexist and homophobic.

Observation has its price; and what I may have missed of this author by presuming him into existence cannot be known.  Of course, A.X.L. Griese mocks an inherent critical notion, that no author owns the words he uses, by using none, which makes the exercise of the critical sense extremely hazardous.  I have only found one copy with annotations on the blank pages, so it is difficult to claim a democratic wholeness to the author's re-invention.

                O chub, o rubber chub, or rub a dub for my chub!

This beginning, as all beginnings, implies a greater circumstance, the author sitting on the toilet thinking of Shakespeare's last line for Richard the Third.  But the greater meaninglessness is clearly on Mr. Griese's reader/creator's mind; see how he lubricates the way with the 'ub' rhymes, chub and chub and rub and dub and chub.  He does not dub a false nonrhyme into this artifice, preferring the natural to the dotted line.  For look what follows.

                So suck, a clucky duck, or suck a schmuk for my luck.

Now the scheme becomes obvious; language nothing but an echo, a mere slant of a slant of itself.  A miracle -- lubricious, delicious and running down my thighs. Now look carefully at word three, a solitary 'a' and yet no 'a' in solitary, for look how it fits between comma and clucky, no rubber ducky but a bridge -- how lucky!  And then -- but what of it?  What I say cannot be unsaid nor can I be said to have said it to be such un-  and then....

                Kwana Nkrumah was pushing a broom, uh?

A line where each word is an explosive.  A revolution in a line, the fall of the British Empire, the transformation of the world itself in twelve syllables -- I am struck dumb.

                                        Ruh T.R.A. Nesnetrom
Editor's Note:  A.X.L. Griese's The Far Side of the Andromeda Galaxy: The Collected Poems of  A.X.L. Griese was highly recommended by Mr/s. Nesnetrom before s/he was last seen lecturing on the meaninglessness of objective nonexistence while on the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge.     His or her last words were believed to be "                 " but a racist, sexist and homophobic editor erased them.

 If you can't see the table of contents at left, click here to return to page one.