Fractured Humorous Book Review
by Brenda Coultas

Subpress, 2955 Dole Street, Honolulu, HI 96816
$10.00, 78 pages.

I have seen Edwin Torres dancing to the sound of a musical saw while wearing a hat of dirt on his head in a store window, and once wearing pure white with the painter/poet Elizabeth Castagna on New Year's day 1999. I've always wanted to be Edwin Torres for a day, to think like him, to wear cool glasses, to be as tall and thin, to have Puerto Rican soul so I could write "I'm near a tiger's smooch, BURP!" Or to audaciously title a poem "Thru the Looking Ass." Or to say "Chuckles evince themselves/laughily from my rhino nose/Rhinocerose gear up / through shredded membrane..."

Fractured Humorous is a complex book composed of multiple journeys; a book of travel, a book of fractures and a book of healing. It is a visit with the fractist, who in healing becomes the healer. The nomad is a constant in Torres' work, an alter ego for this poet who is claimed by a diverse group of avant-garde factions that include: The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Poetry Project, and the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E school. Thus he finds himself a nomad, a traveler among poets.

There is a reason why Torres is claimed by all poetic camps, and that is because he is an extraordinary poet. Fractured Humorous, selected and edited by Carol Mirakove for the Subpress collective, is extraordinary poetry.

The book begins with a literal fracture and goes on to explore fractures and healing of different natures. The book is divided into five sections by time and place, and then further divided by single transition poems that allow the reader as well as poet to shift gears and prepare for the next journey. You could think of Fractured Humorous as a wonderland, however, unlike Alice, Torres is the inventor. And it may be where he prefers to live. It is more than speech and linguistic/logic razzle-dazzle, it is writing from the heart of the nomad, the lonely truth seeker, and shaman who journeys on in spite of our selfish and self-destructive nature.

In the introductory poem "Roaming as the Roamers Do," Torres lays out his naked ambitions and intentions. He fully confesses his belief in the power of language to divide and to heal, it is this faith in language that drives the nomad forward: " play the mindfields offa fractured stomp// to fess up to the fact-that- // the ramifications of this playground / manifest themselves with every fantasy i / denude myself in // now naked in my fracture < deluded nudist manufactured > / the fracturist / soars above the mend / aware of what needs to meet / to make the heal complete."

In this collection, it is the body, as well as place, that exerts a gravitational pull on Torres' wonder world. The first section "fracture :: one month / with broken arm in bed" deals with the poet's post-accident awareness. Torres writes "After my accident, I found myself walking the streets / with alert-risers on full ... for left side." The broken arm is loaded with metaphor, for Torres images himself "as a winged warrior." The body is what grounds this nomad literally and figuratively. A month in bed allows the poet's imagination and humor to fluorish while his body and psyche recover. "May Cause Drowsiness" comes with the instruction "recite in heavy accent of non-determined origin" : "Ah. The killers of pain. / Do not, it says here...Operate / heavy machinery! / No crane! / No lifting! / Do not, for example...Affect revenge / on nine-year old bully whom / you would wish dead! DO NOT — is a bad / thing to do...On these killers! Did I mention —oh—do not erect / the four-story...DON'T DO THAT!"

Torres' nomad is a romantic. It is love that propels the restless seeker. The six part "Fractured Humerus" opens with a female presence:

"My wings she asked

Are they injured Will you be able to complete your mission
How about the expanse they cover Their breadth Will they keep
their hover Are we still in mid-flight What about your fancy's tails
Will we remain in their obstruction Is moonity glow still just a
starlit waif away You promised me a curve Has that been interrupted

In "alaska :: five days / with poets in snow," the presence of Mother Earth awes the nomad. "How daring you are, mother / How simple to place / your coldest daughter underneath your / hottest flame and my heart, here ... Caught / in your frozen arms." The last poem in Fractured Humorous is a love poem, as the nomad contemplates the return of his lover amid the ruins of post-commist Berlin: "Rimfires of /revolution filtered through me, ... Where we are / one direction, where my west waits / for changes in the wind, changes / To bring my east back to me."

"diana:: one day/ with sister in boston" is unusually straightforward and tender. The poet has one short day to say goodbye to his sister who is leaving for Africa, her other home, for one long year. The poems reveal the distance, distance creates. "... We didn't know / what to get you ... you're so hard to / shop for, so we decided / on money, you decide / what's important." The sister mirrors the nomadic poet, "I look at her journey ... / when you go to something that isn't / on steady ground, you look / to hold onto something you know. And so / we sigh, to hear our breath / our lungs .... work."

The effects of place on language are most fully realized inTorresian speech as in "england :: three weeks / with poets in van." Compare Lewis Carroll's: "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/ All mimsy were the borogoves, / And the mome raths outgrabe"


"When little kids
in foreign lands, jibber,
They jibber in foreign tongues.
The little fipps
they ask for as little kids will do,
Become jibbering jibbs with accents--my
how flippery-foo!"

"Through the Looking Ass" is a hysterical entry point into a Nuyorican/UK world as the narrator in search of his cat crawls through the looking ass:

"I'm now inside my plumber's hole
looking for my cat, with
no clothes on. Me and the animal
are naked ... on all fours.

I find things I've misplaced
when I was 90 years old - I'm not even
50 yet, so it's a curious thing
to discover - what I'm going to lose
before I get it.

Waterpipes soakup atmosphere and cat-hair.
I call his name out and hear
a hollow ringing from my mouth ... Another hole
appears on my face
where my mouth should be.

I'm naked and step inside this new hole.
I'm in - what my mouth is-
when I shut-up ... I'm serene
with no hat, sitting on a plumber's vacation
where a hole rules my life
everytime I sit on the toilet."

In the final segment "berlin:: three days / with pen on mayakovsky lane, " Berlin seems like a sister city to the Lower East Side, with its squatters and artists inhabiting a decaying industrial landscape teeming with struggle and possibility. The centerpiece of this section "The Architect of Change", written five years after the wall fell, is almost a manifesto. It is full of optimism as the poet imagines the possibilities of Berlin, the fractured city once divided, now healing:

"In the architecture of change, the blueprints rust
as the artists take over. In the neon twilight, a new generation ages quickly,
before you can say elder, before your eyes, a generation of twilight bluers,
quill-glow on the resonance of reverberation, on the warmth of concrete hillsides,
in the fields of rocket sculpture, stillborn in their movement of hope."

In the last stanza, the nomad bears witness and shares:

"I do these acts of chivalry thinking nobility is my engine
I've been here...just like you, neighbor
What I've seen is in my time, is all
I have eyes like you, pen like you
So why is this heart so new
As it sees envisioning differents upon visits
Of declaration and splendor
It telegrams them to you, dear neighbor ... who are
now beside me
Re-visioning your see, as this
Goes on "

Torres remains the most optimistic, agile poet around. Fractured Humorous is a poetics of possibility and romance. His nomad is not a cynic but a heroic wanderer who, in spite of and because of the human condition, journeys on.

Edwin Torres Author Page

Pub. April 2000