Michael McAloran’s The Zero Eye (Oneiros Books, 2014) is poetry at possibly its most extreme in terms of disjunctiveness of language and the violence of its themes and vision. Certain influences suggest themselves — Lautréamont, Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell, the pessimism and some of the techniques of Beckett. Writer of the introduction to the book, Aad de Gids, adds Malcom Lowry and Céline to the list. But McAloran takes these possible influences to their limits and adds in further doses of apocalyptic terror, paranoia, and desperation.
The Zero Eye is
the poetic equivalent of early Einstürzende Neubauten. Here is a sample of
McAloran’s writing, from a section called “the hang(ed) light”: “. . .detritus
collapse/ wrung light of all that ever was/ spoke no no not sung neither/ claim
or not/ a broken jaw of acrid tears/ sedimentary skull lights/ ache without
speech/ from a gouge of absent colourings/ ache without sound/ . . .” This is a
panorama of destruction, modeling in words the struggle to represent what apparently
cannot even be really represented or fully transmitted — there is the sense in
these lines of the futility of expression and the horror of human beings’
isolation from each other.
Compared to Rimbaud, the personality of the speaker, the I,
is less apparent, but there is the titular “eye” in certain pieces here, which
acts as a sort of symbol or stand-in (I think) for the speaker or at least the
vision of the poet. It is at once “the roving eye” (one that is “clear” and
“wishful” as well as “bleeding” and “silenced,” “roving in the darkness of I”)
and “the zero eye” (far more negative, “voidal,” “obsolete,” a “nullity”).
Ultimately this book seems an expression of both a sort of personal pain and
the process of interrogating (and I think here of “interrogation” not only in
the academic sense of problematizing an idea, but also metaphorically say a
jail-cell interrogation, the aggression and harshness of that) the language
which always seems unable to encompass it — McAloran ends with the realization
or paradoxical assertion that “this is
not [even] a text. . .” The Zero Eye is not for the faint of
heart and requires a certain kind of readerly discipline. But it has a visceral
effect and is unlike just about anything anyone is writing today.