yes i understand and wish to continue
by James Schiller

Slope Editions, 2015; 98 pp
Reviewed by Carleen Tibbetts


As I was wondering how to open up my review of James Schiller’s yes i understand and wish to continue, I stared at the inscription he wrote me at AWP: “Just think, we r all literally locomotive containers of blood, but where are we taking all this blood?!?” And then it hit me: his poetics can only be described as cybernetic. So much steel and churning and searing precision under all that messy drip, all that sickcarcassing that is the human condition. With poems titled “H1N1” and “i wanna stab ppl,” Schiller lets you know things are going to get disgusting. And gory. Fast. He writes:

i am like the car from christine
blind and evil
and swiveling toward your broken shit
the earliest human emotional state is ‘unstoppable blemish’
look it up
and then pour highlighter on your face
so you will be highlited
and not go unobserved

Most of the poems in the collection are long, scattered and whitespacey, full of underscores and symbols such as hearts, stars, and skull and crossbones. Yet Schiller switches it up a bit with poems such as “one couplet” that just reads, “it’s true. what you don’t know won’t kill you. but that doesn’t mean it isn’t trying./ :’( ” There’s also a poem that is just a footnote with no text body. The formatting in this collection is brilliant, non-traditional, and almost necessary for the cybery and cerebral verse contained therein. Poems such as “read on if you don’t want to die” with phraseology like the “smashableness of babies,” “birdshat with inquiry,” and “a dilapidated silo of mascara”—reading Schiller’s work is like constantly peeling back a Band-Aid to see if and how it’s healing or festering. Like lifting up the scab to see the new fleshgrowth attempting to assert itself. Three longer poems, “POETRY FRIENDS FOREVER/MAMMAL APOCALYPSE,” “POETRY FRIENDS FOREVER/MAMMAL APOCALYPSE, Act II,” and “POETRY FRIENDS FOREVER/MAMMAL APOCALYPSE, Afterward,” are nothing short of debased genius, an ars(e) poetica like none other. Schiller writes, “POETS U R MURDERERS,” “poets, make way for the circlepit of extinction,” “poets we r clockguts drunk and anterler damages drunk.” Poets, Schiller is “four long-term/storage garage’s worth of human swoon for u.” Poets, this collection is swoon-worthy. Schiller asked where we are taking our bloodtrain bodies, and I can only think we will just chug on and on like double-bass pedals blastbeating an endless outro.