Out of Mind & Into Body and bugbutter ([ɥɐɹɐs] cavar)

Reviewed by Diane R. Wiener

Years don’t work the same
for us, I track in terms of generation
model and expiry date. Nine ago,
the first self: the i
Mac, 20 in human years.

writes the poet in “The Variance Variations,” in Out of Mind & Into Body. This section of the poem presents itself to the reader immediately before another necessary critique of the frequent misapprehensions of and violences levied against Queer, Trans, and Neuroqueer people. “Real autistics bite, they say,” is followed by “Realer autistics” who are described using a combination of Internet-speak, German, and references to Bladerunner—or whatever other means a reader of various “generation[s]” might adopt to understand the context for “You’re a Replicant Who Thinks You know / how it goes.”

Importantly, “You know / how it goes” appears, split off, on(to) the next page, as well as split as a line within itself. This line is a continuance, while it is distinct and separated from the prior page, leaving this reader with the impression that “You’re a Replicant Who Thinks” exists both in relationship to the next part of the poem while being meaningful on its own, but not only by itself.

This kind of anti-convention of cavar’s happens repeatedly while, indeed, variously, throughout both of these chapbooks. The lower-case i, it seems, is not just modifying or denoting the Mac, since this “i” seems to be the poetic voice, as well. The “us” for whom “years don’t work the same” are perhaps the Queer, Trans, and Neuroqueer folx who are sick-and-tired of being othered, who run the risks of “expiring” because of the threats and dangers faced daily.

It is infuriating and exhausting to have to “remind” people that, yes, Autistics—real and realer—indeed capital-T Think. Autistics are not automatons, but thinking humans, not just understood as capital-R “Replicants” who, often by necessity, due to living within the contexts of ableism and mentalism, “know how it goes.” And, not at all coincidentally, what is described next about “how it goes” in the poem “The Variance Variations” includes a tragic, graphic image of a “child drowned” in a “family pool,” a child who was “swallowed” by this pool, and who “looked at first like she was dancing.”

The final line of the poem, pushed toward the right of the page, high up, reads, “It’s Human!” Thus, “The Variance Variations” is simultaneously other-worldly and vehemently realistic, a combination of imagistic and transcendental shapes and insistent, documentary-esque precision. Such kinds of combinations are present—and variously shared—throughout the poems in both of these chapbooks.

In “once i looked,” the sun, upon which the poet gazes in a “direct” way, is likewise a “two-way | mirror |”; this | mirror | is separated from the prior lines of the poem, on its own page, with the boundaries of the vertical scoring lines and spaces bracketing its presence, as if the page itself and not the word mirror, alone, is the mirror.

What if the page itself and not the word mirror alone is a sun and the sun is our interlocutor, some-one (not just some-thing) with whom we can interact directly? As we have been (are being) told explicitly (because of the two-way sun-mirror’s presence) that the sun (or some-one / some-thing looking through the sun-mirror?) can look back at us, directly, too, what will happen in or with(in) this two-way | mirror | or to / with us as readers? And what has happened or is happening to / with / for the poet who tells us (has told, is telling) this story? There are many co-occurring happenings in this short, hot punch of a poem.

The cover of Out of Mind & Into Body engages those who are able to do so in the literal unwrapping of a queer, bent, transgressive while welcoming gift, including the unthreading and unbuttoning over a series of paper dolls who / that are holding each other beside a human hand who / that seems to be placing the paper dolls in their adjacencies—or perhaps moving them (instead or also). A signed “thank you” bookmark was included with my copy of the chap. This personal bookmark from the press has an illustration of a creature-bear who is somehow cheerful while dangerous, a crip lexical shape who stands bipedally, with their short front arms and legs, and whose gender is ambiguous. The press’s homemade invitation to the chapbook’s bold deviance is echoed in the poems, including “The Variance Variations.”

In a poetry review that draws connections between cavar’s Out of Body & Into Mind, Sarah de Leeuw’s Lot, and my own poetry (The Golem Returns), Robert Colman, writing for Hamilton Arts & Letters notes, “the process and consequences of oppression are concerns that each poet takes to heart and challenges.” cavar’s chapbook bug butter does this work in differently iconoclastic ways.

In “Beneath the hot white hue of my instinct to self-preservation,” the poet notes,

I am green
And I dress myself
In oils. And
I am exceptionally clean       except
ionally bitter

At the conclusion of this short piece, the poet advises us, “I have stalks / And veins.” There is, however, no period on the page, perhaps no real end to this poem. The poem and its protagonist are organisms both human and plant-like, an ecosystem, beings who have just referenced a sequence of seemingly disparate “cosmological” and “dilutive” elements, whose co-existences are messy and disruptive, bent on holism while refuting and questioning their isolation, existence, and creation. Poems including “As a poet, I oversalt my food.” (the title of which has a period, as shown here) and “biomedical transition comes to moominvalley” offer differently bold admixtures of humor, chutzpah, and anti-ableist, pro-Neuroqueer commentary.

If you are at all shy about poems that explicitly and unapologetically reference self-pleasuring, bodily changes, and many other aspects of sexuality, gendering, and body-mind freedoms, these chapbooks are not for you. Otherwise, grab your copies, ASAP, and then you too might get to “set [your]self on fire with the mirror / like a guilty california” (from “As a poet, I oversalt my food.” in which the poet writes “myself” rather than “yourself”…).

Titles: Out of Mind & Into Body and bug butter
Author: [ɥɐɹɐs] cavar
Publishers: Ethel Zine & Micro Press (Out of Mind & Into Body) and Gap Riot Press (bug butter)
Date: 2022

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About the Reviewer

Diane R. Wiener (she/they) became Editor-in-Chief of Wordgathering in January 2020. She is the author of The Golem Verses (Nine Mile Press, 2018), Flashes & Specks (Finishing Line Press, 2021), and The Golem Returns (swallow::tale press, 2022). Diane’s poems also appear in Nine Mile Magazine, Wordgathering, Tammy, Queerly, The South Carolina ReviewWelcome to the Resistance: Poetry as ProtestDiagrams Sketched on the Wind, Jason’s Connection, the Kalonopia Collective’s 2021 Disability Pride Anthology, and elsewhere. Her creative nonfiction appears in Stone CanoeMollyhouse, The Abstract Elephant Magazine, and Pop the Culture Pill. Diane’s flash fiction appears in Ordinary Madness; her short fiction is published in A Coup of Owls. She has poetry and creative nonfiction forthcoming in eMerge. Diane served as Nine Mile Literary Magazine’s Assistant Editor after being Guest Editor for the Fall 2019 Special Double Issue on Neurodivergent, Disability, Deaf, Mad, and Crip poetics. Diane has published widely on Disability, education, accessibility, equity, and empowerment, among other subjects. She is a proud Neuroqueer, Mad, Crip, Genderqueer and Enby, Ashkenazi Jewish Hylozoist Nerd who is honored to serve in the nonprofit sector–including as a Zoeglossia Board member. You can visit Diane online at: https://dianerwiener.com.