Over the past few months, Joseph Mosconi, known for his work with the Poetic Research Bureau in Los Angeles, has re-released several of his works as free .pdfs via Poetic Research Bureau Publications. These include: 33° Houdini, originally a Xerox appropriation of the turn-of-the-century text by Harry Houdini in which each of the first 18 pages is placed at a 33-degree slant, and which concludes in a rather unceremonious modification; Word Search, which places Robert Creeley poems into a magazine-style word search format; and most recently, Demon Miso/Fashion in Child, a color-theory-oriented collection of absurd names for supposed foodstuffs, placed in the 80s Burger King font. The concerns of Mosconi’s work reflect those of the Bureau, self-stated: “appropriations, impersonations, ‘compost’ poetries, belated conversations, unprintable jokes and doodles, ‘unoriginal literature, historical thefts and pastiche.”
Perhaps the most inscrutable of the works Mosconi has made available through PRBP is Galvanized Iron on the Citizens’ Band, which derives its title from the military and trucking acronyms GI and CB, and opens with a big-ole fucking question mark. What follows is a series of found-text word combinations of hypermasculine slang of the sort that circulates in the GI and CB communities, presented in headline-size font. Apart from the title, no reference is made to the process Mosconi employed or the source of the language.
It’s perfectly possible to read Galvanized in five minutes. Blasting through its decontextualized snippets of unkempt lingual bursts feels a bit like watching an episode of TV Carnage’s Casual Fridays. Of course, the text proves more rewarding if one resists the urge to speed-click through its 500-some words. Limiting himself to just one phrase per page—the longest comprised of eleven words, the shortest, three—Mosconi asks that the reader take a little time to consider: In what discursive context might “Double-Digit Midget Walked On Ya” be relevant? What are the concerns of a community bound by its affective sneer? Where exactly do “Retarded Over-Trained Children Flash For Cash,” and do you want to find it?
The conceptual frame for this project distinguishes it from his more recent work. The stridently irreverent homophobia—of course a staple of phallocentric linguistic cultures—takes center stage with its “Crotch-Rocket Cowboy,” “Smashed Assholes,” and “Bag of Dicks.” Mosconi’s tour through the truck stops and barracks of Middle America is replete with this brand of lot lizard yuck-yucks, and the degree to which the reader is meant to take pleasure in the playfulness of this language is left open-ended. Though disgusting, though teeming with repression of homoerotic fantasies, and though imbued with an insane degree of toxic affect, unquestionably the result of years being fucked over daily in the capitalist and military economies, there is pleasure to be found in the absurdity and the soundplay represented here.
In spite of the found-language process use to create Galvanized, Mosconi’s piece forms a subjectivity and a context for its experience. We are located by the clipped gerunds and colloquial pronouns of working class speech, as well as the well-trod clichés of masculine aggression. A bowl of “Cigarette Soup Half Cheese” places the speaker in a dilapidated diner. We find him in a strip club observing “Crabs Within A Cage Four-Legged Go-Go Dancers.” References to corn flakes, kiddie cars, and phone booths places him in a space of economically depressed nostalgia, like the one felt driving through poor white rural towns, with muddy lawns strewn with the toys and tools of a previous generation.
What Mosconi’s work does best, though, is point to the way that readers attempt to make syntactic sense of seemingly nonsensical language. “People Tank Despair Box,” for example, drives the reader to combine these words in pairs in search of a familiar object: people-tank; tank-despair; despair-box. In this case, none is forthcoming, yet the combinations are fairly evocative. “Moon Beam Goon Squad,” however, provides a pair of familiar pairs, and we can sense that what brought these together is their shared –oons and spondee stress. Almost each page of this text provides a different wrinkle of that particular pleasure.
Galvanized Iron on the Citizens’ Band is available for free at the Poetic Research Bureau
Michael Flatt is a PhD candidate in the Poetics program at SUNY Buffalo. He is the author of Absent Receiver (SpringGun Press, 2013) and with Derrick Mund, Chlorosis (Bon Aire Projects, forthcoming).