A distinguishing aspect of persons who know what they are doing and enjoy doing it is that they may be capable of writing a book about what they do that is worth reading. Alphabet Noir is that book for Nico Vassilakas and for those interested in visual poetry, or vispo. Nico takes care in these 17 essays and poems, or events, you might say, to provide helpful and interesting indicators of the basis, form, and future of vispo, all against a ground of clear intent.
"I think of vispo as preparation for a future language event"
Alphabet Noir is not a complaint. It is not a naked cry. It is a consideration and reconnoitering and it is very useful, very interesting, and very helpful. I am glad for the fact that a person named Nico Vassilakis wrote this book called Alphabet Noir because it is a small, thoughtful, well-designed book that suggests to me that everything will be okay. That even as the world complains and cries - even as perhaps Nico himself has difficult days, as indeed he must - we can make a point of discussing what we do that may be of interest to someone other than ourselves and our dependents.
"Reading is an intentional look"
I incline toward the view that any poet or artist - perhaps anyone at all, really - should provide the rest of us with some written evidence of what they understand so that others can understand it too. There is a certain degree of sex and religion in this book as Nico likes to speak to letters and their intent. I like a writer who invests their subject with sex and religion but who holds their subject forth as, first and foremost, functional. There is not a little Moby Dick in Alphabet Noir for this very reason, that the turn from suggestion to application is rapid with purpose.
"When you turn your head the same time someone looks at you"
Alphabet Noir holds forth the will as hand maiden to the accomplished fact, and that's okay with me. At the same time (or concurrently) the self is made subject to the the letter, the building block and progenitor of the word. Nico asks his reader to read the letter as the letter, the parts of the letter as parts. Nico suggests that the exploration of the parts of letters is akin to atomic theory, and I have no problem with that suggestion. The clear, kind, playful tone and intent of this book allows exactly such a suggestion. Why not. Why not allow the author to suggest, to create?
Over that land
Is more of it.
The romance of Alphabet Noir is not without starkness. I am of a mind to enjoy one's heart taken to task, knowing that all this, all of it, will be called to account - by the reader, principally, and by the writer's better self. I trust that the words (and even the letters) in this 72 page volume were chosen very carefully. For a poet and/or visual artist, for a student or teacher, here and now or in some future time, why should one not read Alphabet Noir? Oh, well, we make all kinds of excuses and the world is chock full of good books.
You will finish this book inclined toward thoughtfulness, not regret. You will not be angry. You may even get ideas about things that matter not because of the big picture but because small things, like letters, like you and me, are sometimes more true than what we amount to, or how we are commonly understood - without, that is, consideration.
"ssS So So O So o S s au Ss o os Os so Ssss"
All quotes are from Alphabet Noir, c_L Books, 2016
This review is for my son, Jackson Thoreau Hartigan, because we need to write what we understand