Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > Some Math

Some Math by Bill Luoma
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

liked it
bookshelves: poetry

review of
Bill Luoma's Some Math
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 19 & 25, 2015

I was somewhat predisposed to like this bk b/c it was sent to me by its publisher, Kenning Editions, who had also published an excellent Hannah Weiner bk (Hannah Weiner's Open House - full review: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ). I became even more predisposed to liking it when my anticipations were aroused by the text on the back cover:

"In Some Math, the syncopations of poetry meet the (ir)regularity of mathematical equations. Consider the "story problems" of high school math class. When encountering the word "and," replace it with the addition symbol "+." When encountering the word "of," replace it with the multiplication symbol "x." Now reverse the process. The result is a series of sound poems".

I became slightly less inclined to like the bk b/c the cover is an image of a painted target that's been shot by a shotgun. That reminds me of "The Thousand Symphonies": "Dick Higgins The Thousand Symphonies (July, 1967) boldly proposes machine-gunning score-paper & using the result as notation for symphonies. This predates considerably William S. Burroughs's more famous shotgun paintings (1982->) & David Franks's shotgun poems (1990s). Of course, shotgun weddings predate them all & are quite possibly more important." ( "Re: Source": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) In other words, I'm over it.

But, THEN, I started reading the 1st poem, "Dear Filesystem Panic". & I was bowled over by the freshness (3 strikes & you're spared!) or was it fowled by the brashness?:

"Dear filesystem panic
with whining the pleas of a coward
to the heart of of and the fantasies it feeds
to the rearing of the hindquarters of the automount of message
to the position of the saber of the people of we
to the ass of bluxome limn in donutsburg pennsylvania
to the jerk of tenderloin in funnelcake new jersey
to the pig the pig the message has hindquarters
to kingpin the mount point and the candlepin of wickets
on the occasion of the benediction of the shaftway
I'm calling the destructor on an iroq layer of inodes
by inserting into the sidebodies of the multiplex of molly
a handsfree ipod wired to the hooded electrodes
/* your wires and my electrodes */
I'm shorting the dendrites of the backbrain to the oblong iteration of the superblock" - p 9

I loved the language so much he cd practically do-no-wrong after this. There's a thin line here between Surrealism, Nonsense, Language Writing, Stream of Consciousness, & Bullshit but it worked for me. I found the poems to be basically of 2 types: ones broken into stanzas & ones not broken into stanzas. I was a bit disappointed by this lack of formal variety but I still enjoyed reading the work. It just work works. One might even call the stanza poems 'classic' Language Poetry (if such a term isn't ridiculous - or even if it is):

"ammo glan ye gary reynolds
tiz bat wren funky neros
shrimp fare tule varmin
dot dot jill b tay" - p 21

cd be compared to, oh, say, a stanza from Clark Coolidge's The Maintains (1974):

"gainer indwell
lifts form base
by a cause to be parts
been one chambers as own
coerce bias dog
not and cease
takes just only in also" - p 42

insofar as there's a tendency to just use one or 2 syllable words some of wch are unusual (cf: "ammo glan" to "gainer indwell") & that don't necessarily have any typical grammatic progression (cf: "dot dot jull b tay" to "takes just only in also") but Coolidge tends to greater erraticness & variety of stanza length & indentation while Luoma's stanzas are all 4 lines & left-justified. Luoma even goes so far as to rhyme:

"flavor berry singa brew
julie billiard banka tow
laker nono bootie skate
marley waver leather mate" - p 24


"Bluo courting
kaski fair
mobil aphro
no dye hair" - p 49


"pulsate flatness plank length hot
jetty superluminous wet
so companion globule sky
coldie cluster garching spry" - p 75

but, then, even those remind me of Alan Davies's bk ODES & fragments in such poems as "For you'n":

"sling sluck over slend end oven sluck fend
aall 's ise tend nd the than that end
such 'n for t 'en sloughing is the enden oder
firckin zie zen send of the lader glend (blend" - p 106

or, going a bit further afield (& aflame of afun of walking faces), I think of "Shracticlat", an animation by Skizz P. Cyzyk of a poem by Bean wch is, in itself, closer to Lewis Carroll's "Jaberwocky". Enuf.

There're repetitions that're just odd enuf to seem like beacons of formal undercurrents but cd more easily be novelties thrown in to create that appearance. EG: poems numbered 6 & 9 both have the same title: "When the Pathogenic Wind Comes". Given that 6 & 9 are graphic inversions of each other that're paired as a symbol of mutual oral sex having such a repetition 'makes sense'.

The technique of framing a coupling phrase w/ "/*" & "*/", as in "/* your wires and my electrodes */", recurs: "/* your jammies and my prestolog*/" (p 13), "/* your elocution and my habitrail */" (p 14), & then changes on p 17: "/* that's a really good place for those power lines */".

He frequently plays w/ repeating "of" in ways that fly against typical grammar:

"of of at point among the canthus and access
disperses eyebrow of of with them of functions"


"of of indications of of" - p 54

& really lets loose w/ that on later pages:

"of the head of of of of of" - p 57

"Pouring itself of Of"


"of the yin of Of
of the three navel of of
of of of of of of great pouring." - p 60

Those "of" passage quotes are from the 1st of the 2 "When the Pathogenic Wind Comes" poems. The 2nd one doesn't seem to have that much in common w/ the 1st but then the "of" appears similarly again:

"of Of of Of of of of of of aphasia of asthma" - p 113

P 113 starts off w/:

"Over here shenmen"

wch I take to be a reference to "Shem the Penman" in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

It's not that I haven't seen anything like this before. I have. But somehow Luoma makes it fresh. EG: he takes the tried & true form of the list poem & 'breaks its rules' by not keeping the same line beginning throughout. It's not really a big deal but it wORKS:

"who ships the strategy for problem solving to the new shore
who notifies the inodes of immament domain change
who mounts the superblock with stubs
who memcopies the clit of little white opie
to the foreskin of the beast of mexican larry
to the backbrain of the elocution of the ipod
to the sidebodies of the religion of the kitty collar" - p 12

he makes slight reference changes that wdn't be noticed by people not steeped in the same culture:

"starring gary mathers as the beaver" - p 18

That's a reference to Jerry Mathers as "Beaver Cleaver" in the tv show "Leave it to Beaver" (1957–1963). To someone like myself, born in 1953, such a reference is as American as Apple Pie but wd it be just-another nonsense phrase to someone younger?

Or take this for instance:

"stuck inside the large hardon collider" - p 31

instead of "Large Hadron Collider". It's a simple enuf pun, an easy rearrangement of 2 letters only to sexualize the scientific - how many people wd 'get' this? I imagine the LHC is pretty famous & maybe most of the presumably literate readers of Luoma wd read this & have some sort of mental equivalent of a chuckle.. but maybe not.

Then there's:

"posse commutation loggy androne tony floor" - p 45

in wch "posse commutation" cd be read as a substitute for "Posse comitatus". How many of these substitutions am I not noticing or not 'getting'? What about this one?:

"loo pet franky valley lana turner cheese quake" - p 44

Ok, the "franky valley" is easy enuf to turn into "Frankie Valli, the singer, but "lana turner"'s spelled as the actress's name wd ordinarily be spelled but that doesn't mean that there isn't something else going on b/c Lana Turner just so happens to also be the name of "A Journal of Poetry and Opinion". Not that any of that necessarily matters.

Luoma helps keep it lively by combining language ordinarily kept separate: say the language of asses, physics, & baseball (I'll bet you didn't know that asses have their own language did you? Ask Le Pétomane about that one..):

"will be reversed. Supersymmetry
predicts that your superpartners
all have the same ass. Ground ball." - p 37

& then there appear to be made-up words that Luoma reuses wch might actually be words that I simply can't find on the internet. Pick out the questioable word in the following lines:

"solenoid of awry with illustranves ago the mouth combinations" - p 67

"illustranves with meetings makes adjacent the headache" - p 68

"iluustranves with the adjacent meetings" - p 68

"dizziness apprehensions illustranves of with" - p 69

"of vertebra bilizing the three yang with the illustranves of one large ra" - p 70

I looked up "illustranves" & found one link to the poem in wch this appears. I also looked for it in Mrs. Byrne's Dicitionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words & didn't find it. then I tried The Oxford Dictionary of New Words. No luck. Finally, The Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words. No luck there either. It might not be English. But, nah, I'm betting on nonsense neologism. OR, if it's been put thru a large hardon collider, a nonsense neolojism.

What I didn't really find was the systematicness implied by the back cover copy - but that doesn't mean it's not there.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Some Math.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 19, 2015 – Finished Reading
August 25, 2015 – Shelved
August 25, 2015 – Shelved as: poetry

No comments have been added yet.