Wednesday, May 20, 2009



Time Machine by Ric Royer
(Slack Buddah Press, 2009)

Ric Royer’s new chapbook, Time Machine, is another in a line of hard-to-define works by a friend and artist who works in theater and music composition as well as written composition. Time Machine is one of these written compositions, but its idiosyncratic charm comes from the fact that it's not devised by "a writer." Writers write within genres (it's part of the professional description) and Time Machine, like Ric's previous works, does not much resemble any genre out there. Happily, though, you don't get the feeling the work is "defying genre" or "fusing different genres" because those operations reek of intentionality -- usually the intention to be novel, to do something different (and its corollary: to get attention).

Time Machine is really fun to read because it feels like play, which is the opposite of intention. He's not deliberately exploding a form or anything, he's just doing what he wants to do, or at least that's the impression. Nearly all of Ric's works are well-liked both by other artists and by normal people because they're original and playful, from his poems written as Ashton Royce, to his Anthesterian myths and histories, to his on-stage performances like a Hystery of Heat. If there's a poetry reading with a bunch of readers, and if Ric is one of them, chances are good that he'll emerge as the best remembered and most appreciated for precisely that reason. He's a real artist who doesn't work much with inherited forms: he creates out of nothing the way the most mischievous children do. (Btw, isn't it kinda remarkable how prevalent the main genres are? I mean what are the chances that one of the inveterate forms is actually just right for you? at least inasmuch as art is expression, isn't it odd the established forms are used so often as opposed to forms of an artist's own making?)

Time Machine is written in sensible and humorous prose, and divided into 7 parts. Each part is about something: saints, boxing, time travel adventures, but as a whole the book's not really about anything, which of course is ok because like newspapers aren't really about anything either, and who doesn't like reading the paper? All the book's parts include some surrealist and Dadaist sentences, but mostly the parts share in common the narrator's playful and comic tone.

When it comes to his writings like Time Machine, I am starting to think of Ric as a toymaker. My idea is simple. A toy is fun because it's a thing without a defined use, and so teases out a kid's character. It's fun and exciting because while playing, the kid gets to be his crazy kook star weirdo self. A good toy can even leverage his weirdness and make him weirder, which is for the best. So-called toys like remote controlled planes which impose an intention on the "play" aren't really toys at all, they're commodities: things with pre-defined meanings. On the other hand, a plain old ball is a near perfect toy because what on earth are you supposed to do with a ball? whatever you want, kid. Ric's works are more like toy balls than toy planes.

Time Machine is crafted yet ambiguous, and reflects the spontaneity and inspiration of the artist's play which created it. It also permits -- maybe even encourages -- the reader to do with it as he pleases. I kinda laughed many times and laughed out loud I think three times -- I was having a good time, because Ric sets the whole thing up so that a good time is possible.

In addition to the verbal content, the book includes some of Ric's great looking handwriting-drawings and a gorgeous gold-on-black cover drawn by Ric and silkscreened by Bill Howe. The chap is published by Slack Buddha Press, and is hereby recommended. Below is a pretty long excerpt from the part about the saints:
St. Cecelia (girl of the Comanche Chop)

St. Cecelia was the patron saint of live music. A judge ordered a soldier to kill her with a sword. God tried to protect her by wrapping her hands in gauze like a prizefighter. The executioner struck her neck three times, but her head did not cut off. But she did fall down with a massive wound, and died three days later. This happened in 117. She became the inspiration for what famous pop hit?

She took three whacks
from the executioners axe
and her head
still hung
on tight
it went boing boing boing
boing boing boing boing
boing boing boing boing
boing boing boing boing
boing boing boing boing
boing boing boing boing

St. Cecelia was forced to marry a nobleman named Valerian. This much we know. In the evening of her wedding day, with sweat squirting out of every pore, Cecelia renewed the vow by which she had consecrated her virginity to God. "Although I will be prone to exhibit my crisp young body in the common areas, you are not to defile it; for my home is that distant tropical island where the documents of record have conveniently washed away."

This is why she is honored as the patroness of music.

Cecelia converted Valerian and friends to Finnish. Cecelia refused to sacrifice her multiple (6) personalities to the gods. The judge condemned her to be smothered by steam. But God protected her by wrapping her hands in gauze like a prizefighter. Did we go over this already? Then the judge ordered a soldier to kill her with a sword. He struck her three times, but it did not cut off, yeah, yeah, 117.

Cecelia was buried in the innermost circle of her concentric dream home. In 1599, when her tomb was opened her body was naked and incorrupt.


Eric Gelsinger lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is a member of House Press and has a blog at

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