|this remarkable multi-sensory jaunt through each tooth in the author’s mouth (and culture) is among the most gritty, sophisticated, and wildly lyrical books you may ever encounter|
Richard Loranger’s Poems for Teeth is an artistic marvel. In addition to extraordinary poems, the book contains calligraphic representations of each poem prepared by the author and artist Eric Waldemar and musical scores and notations for songs within the poems. A diagram that charts the identity of each tooth appears at the outset, so that the book functions hypertextually as well. The volume, while lacking a CD-ROM, is nonetheless what poetry should be: a multimedia tour de force.
excerpts from the book
On the genesis of Poems for Teeth, the author writes:
After years of dental neglect and abuse, I really could barely chew, my empty mouth began warping my self-image to that of an octogenarian (all cheers to them, by the way, but in your early forties...), and I was looking at thousands of dollars worth of work if I ever wanted to chew properly again. All this on the budget of an adjunct in debt. Thus I decided to make a bunch of funny little poems about teeth, basically to make a quick little chapbook to sell for a $10 donation towards fixing my teeth. This plan would have worked well, except that once I finally started writing about teeth, mine or otherwise, the floodgates gaped, and instead of a month of funny little poems, for over two years out came the crazy things that you’ll find here, which has become a kind of personal mythology, or weird post-pagan incantation to keep the rest intact; they’re odes, a celebration of what teeth are, and have been, and might be, and a celebration of a few other things I see from dawn to dawn. You will note that to each of the teeth there is assigned a quality, a riff of sorts off the wisdom teeth – Tooth of Anger, Tooth of Myth, Teeth of Instinct, and the like. These assignations are not from some obscure or esoteric source, nor are they a long-lost trump of metaphysic or divination; I made them up from what I see every day, and do not intend them to be any more. The teeth are not a system. They are teeth. These poems are not a system. They are thank-yous. Thank-yous to my teeth…
Praise for Poems for Teeth
“Nothing quite prepares us for Richard Loranger’s Poems for Teeth, a book of poems unlike any other. Occasioned by a severe jaw infection and the resulting dental surgeries, these “crazy odes”, “thank-yous to my teeth”, he calls them, are meant both as acts of remembrance and restitution. Little lamentations for what is lost, poems of praise for what remains, they sing through their teeth, as it were, the tender, sad, sorry, outrageous comedy of our mortality. And each is brought to us in radiant and goofy word-riffs, arpeggios that ring the rich changes between jeremiad, scat-song, nursery rhyme, elegy, ode, gospel, gloss, glossolalia…. “The teeth are 32 parts of speech,” Loranger writes. “As long as there are teeth, there is language.” Between the blind bruxisms of the daily grind and the brilliant luxuries of the delighted spirit, mind, his words take wing – “Watch that eye tooth shine!”
-L. S. Asekoff, author of North Star and Dreams of a Work
When it comes to poetry – and believe me, it takes a lot to come to poetry! – obsession knows no bonds, bounds, nor excesses. Case in point: This Loranger…. So now, of course, we have Poems for Teeth, where every one of his gets its own poem, in one of the most extraordinary and virtuosic poetic feats since Francis Ponge took on Soap (1942-67). Ponge on poets: "They know how to hide, to dissimulate their usefulness." Wrong. Richard Loranger, Poet of Ecstasy in Everyday Drag! Salute You, We Do! And as the extraordinary poems in this one-of-a-kind venture by a one-of-a-kind poet unwind, the Reader’s Mind gets a much-needed deep flossing, unhidden and totally useful. Richard Loranger is another word for Blessing, and this book is another piece of evidence. I treasure it.
-Bob Holman, author of The Collect Call of the Wild, co-editor of Poetry Nation and United States of Poetry, owner of Bowery Poetry Club, NYC
ISBN # 0-9725663-2-5, pb, 214 pp. $16.95
Available through Small Press Distribution, 1341 Seventh Ave., Berkeley, CA 94710 firstname.lastname@example.org
publication date: December 2005
photo by Amy Hufnagel
ALSO AVAILABLE FROM WE PRESS:
Spurred by brief conversations that Richard Loranger was having with invisible people in his shower, Hello Poems (a.k.a. Hello.) document a nine-month exploration into what it means to say – you guessed it – Hello. Considered by some to be Loranger’s most political work to date, this unusual and delightful series of sixty-seven short poems will certainly give you a new perspective on the nature of the greeting, one that will give you pause and let you crack a smile in the same breath.
$5 ppd. from the publisher