DISCLOSURE by Dana Teen Lomax
(Dusie Kollektiv, 2009)
Dana Teen Lomax shows her ass and makes you want to kiss it. Bear with me and I’ll explain:
I immediately fell in love with Lomax’s chap, DISCLOSURE, put out through the generously-spirited Dusie Kollektiv that is managed by the wise poet Susana Gardner (wise in part for allowing poetry to show its wide expanse). First, the way to enter this project yanks the reader immediately into its space, which is significant because, as my reading below indicates, the reader’s proactive presence is required to make this project mature. DISCLOSURE has a black ribbon tied around itself, with the knot hidden under a burgundy-red melted and stamped wax seal—to open the chap, the reader must first tear off or cut the ribbon.
But before the chap is opened, it presents its physical presence as something almost off-putting or somewhat disturbing, like a legal document—at one point as I held it in my hand, I was reminded of a will. Mystery is further evoked by how the title and poet's name are barely discernible, since the text's ink seems to be darker-black against the black cover.
You undo the ribbon and open the chap to see, after the title page, the following epigraph by Robin Blaser:
you’re not allowed to say
“kiss my ass” to anyone unless
you mean it sincerely and drop
your pants quickly to show what
you know exactly of this nakedness
So what comprises Lomax’s “nakedness”? Various documents from her life including a work and earning summary spanning 1997-2002, a Peace Corps nomination letter, a bank statement, a notice related to her student loan payment, the results of a physical examination, a direct deposit receipt for her salary, among others. I can already sense that DISCLOSURE is among new poetic investigations of the form of biography (though I am biased here as this approach is one I've taken in a number of recent books, but also something I recall done by Noah Eli Gordon in his IN BOX).
While sharing autobiographical details, DISCLOSURE also relies on reader-empathy. There are enough unexplained gaps between the documents that the reader can privilege/interpret the information in ways not controlled by the author. For example, my initial focus privileged how much this Dana Teen Lomax earns (or does not earn), versus laudable leanings as manifested by an interest in the Peace Corps. (Well, this says something about me, doesn’t it? And don’t many effective poetry projects hold up a mirror to their audience?)
After I move beyond my People Magazine type of reading, though, I can see how the “Lomax” presented in this chap becomes an example of, if you will, society’s imbalanced—unfair, unequal—social program . A 2008 direct deposit slip from her employment indicates the possibility that she possessed a job that pays nearly $30,000.00 Another 2008 document shows that she was servicing a student loan to the tune of $850 a month (the monthly basis is an assumption). Earnings are gross dollars while expenses are net dollars, further highlighting how much Lomax needs to be making in order to meet her student loan repayment obligations: one would need to earn nearly half of $30,000 just to service student loans (it wouldn’t surprise me if Lomax had more than one job as well in 2008).
I could have misinterpreted the documents—there’s enough gaps to make this a distinct possibility. And one thus might think that it’s a weakness of the project that the documents shown are not explained more neatly. But I think that actually makes the reader more involved, to imagine how Lomax is doing when the project shows that she has, relatively speaking, major life expenses. It makes the issue less specific to an individual and more general to society, to wit: have you noticed how people with a desire to work in fields helping others (exemplified, in Lomax’s case, in the Peace Corps document) tend not to be the ones earning the monies they deserve? A 2007 medical examination result does indicate that she’s working three jobs, as well as reference to stress.
The above is one example of one reading of a group of documents presented on their own without additional editorializing by the author. But in order for the reading (my involvement) to happen, Lomax had to bare details unflinchingly about her life. For example, the medical examination also reveals that she was suffering from “post-coital bleeding” (the handwriting is barely legible but I read the last word in the phrase as “bleeding”). I’m not good at reading medical records but suffice it to say that there are indications, too, of possible other health issues.
Poets have performed their art devoid of clothes. What we know, however, is revealing details about finances and health is often more exposure than unclothing our flesh. Skin still covers. Lomax wisely shows through this project that the definition of “disclosure” is not just to show one’s ass, but to show it in all its possibly cellulite- or acne-ridden glory. Dana Teen Lomax has earned to right to proclaim: KISS MY ASS.
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere: Joey Madia's review of Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole over at New Mystics, and Aileen Ibardaloza's (and Aileen's mother's) engagement with The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes over at OurOwnVoice. Oh hey! And she just released her first novel (grin) : NOVEL CHATELAINE!