Flarestack Publishing, 2006 - £3.00
One look at the cover of this pamphlet and I’m 19 again, plunged into the dirt and energy of New York City and encountering a particular sort of New York muse. She’s about my age, a guy magnet (and knows it), and so creative that poems and paintings just spill out of her. The quality is wildly uneven, but you have to admire her confidence in flinging her work out there, even if it’s only bravado.
I can tell all this from the cover because it contains, in one back-to-front spread, a poem in the poet’s handwriting and two back-view sketches of naked girls, superimposed on a photo of the 14th Street IRT station. The poem is called ‘New York Lights’ and begins: “Art reviews;/ Calvin Klein sunglasses; champagne; designer diamonds/ set in adrenaline…” and ends, “If only the high could last forever.”
Inside is more of Harman’s artwork (capably reproduced by Flarestack’s colour printer; the pamphlet feels both slick and homemade) and 14 poems chronicling a love affair. The poems contain a good deal of what reads like teenage earnestness, but Harman has a real gift for imagery and rhythm. There are moments when she speaks in the vatic voice of a Beat Poet:
There was no jazz or emotion in that city,
but the bricks of the apartment building were speaking
right into your dreams.
And there were graveyards drenched in sunlight nestled
among the hills,
but the dead were never silent.
But then she’ll undercut herself with pompous lines like, “The concepts I needed to understand to form a poem/ . . . were as complex as tears in the indigo–fuchsia dusk.” Still, she’s able to capture a surreal ride on the Staten Island Ferry and a meal in Chinatown (“In the evening, garbage perfumed the beautiful purple air . . .”) and that’s no mean feat.
The Common Reader says of My Journey as an Unharmonious Being: I delighted in the nonconformity of this chapbook with its unusual cover design and intentionally messy contents page. This is a quirky collection with poem titles as short as ‘o’ and as impossibly long as ‘Edwin! I reach out for You in this Shopping Mall called Life, then Wait, Dejected, for the Train to Take Me Away’ which ends:
of pathetic heartbreak is, I must remind myself, universal
to us at all times.
I am not, at this moment, a particularly bold exception
to the human race.
I hope someone writes a clever review of this one. My review would simply say ‘Read it—you won’t be bored’ ●