Category: Janice Sapigao

A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me by Peter Gizzi

Screen shot 2014-08-08 at 8.48.21 AMPeter Gizzi’s A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me is a chapbook published by Ugly Duckling Presse that preceded its inclusion in a larger full-length text, The Outernationale, which was published by Wesleyan University Press in 2007. The chapbook itself consists of a long poem in five parts that pull apart, or put together, moments of possible panic, and where there is alarm, there is a need for preparation – to depict every moment as one under the speaker’s control. The speaker’s immediate use of conditionals with the anaphora “if” swiftly funnels us into scenes that bring vulnerability and about-to-break moments where life seemingly depends on the very acts that might hurt or end (us). By dropping readers into the beginning, middle, and of possibilities, “If today and today I am calling aloud / If I break into pieces of glitter on asphalt / bits of sun, the din / the tires whine on wet pavement / everything humming, (7)” the speaker clues us into what could go wrong as well as their pensive state of mind. This inviting pensiveness allows the reader in to a privacy that intrigues us to follow (what might be the ways in which we know we were loved).

Gizzi’s poetry is akin to the impact of a love poem/love story. It is the balance between ballad and epic, which speaks to his dual placement as a lyric and narrative poet. Gizzi’s poetry occupies both definitions, “The day unbraids its pretty light / and here I am to see it” and “If every afternoon gravity and fire / it’s like that here // undressed, unwound (11)”; Gizzi wields elements of song and sequence to chronicle changing perspective. The point of view zooms into the speaker’s wide world and then zooms out to pinpoint the speaker’s grounding, participation and ponderings. This, then, creates the braiding yet blurring balance of brevity and connectedness with just a few lines. Furthermore, Gizzi sheds light on understanding and searching the imagery of memories,

A branch and the scent of pine in summer
the bridge and the water in the creek
the stones and the sound of water
the creek and my body
when hair and water flowed over me (17)

These lines appear almost inductively, which contributes to the zooming out strategy, documenting the speaker’s optic movement as they examine the branch and then the scent from it, the bridge and then the water below it, as well as the stones hitting the water. The speaker begins these images and the reader creates meaning – the reader stays with the image. In staying, we linger, hover, and expect. This is the essence of lyricism – we look forward to what’s next coming.

Apparent in these lines is the outstanding use of light that reinforces introspection and reflexive investigation:

If the sun throbs like a drum
every five minutes

what can we do with this
the 100,000 years it takes a photon
to reach the sun

eight minutes to hit our eyes (12-13)

By juxtaposing the motion of the light with the ways in which it decelerates or accelerates as it meets the sun with planets and people, respectively, light then measures the difference of impact and even privilege. By asking, “what can we do with this,” the reader is implicated in how our collective humanity can be small but great. This question has the potential to leave us futile or in despair, yet it underscores the existential power we have within the bounds of our bodies. This begs the question: what makes a panic a panic? Perhaps the panic is hanging onto what one has while appreciating the details and citizenship of our lives. What we do is highly up to ourselves; Gizzi’s use of light incites us to take on the work of mystery when, really, we are engaging in an exacting, honest shift towards profundity that we can create.

A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me moves us to figure out for ourselves what is lit. Gizzi’s poetry is a path and a mainstay while the readers are the actors. The poetry is very much about the speaker’s memory, insight, and imagination just as it is about the reader’s.

A Panic That Can Still Come Upon Me is available for free from Ugly Duckling Presse

Janice Sapigao is a Pinay poet, writer and educator born and raised in San Jose, CA. She earned her MFA in Critical Studies/Writing from CalArts. She co-founded an open mic in Los Angeles called the Sunday Jump. She currently lives in the Bay Area and teaches at Skyline College and San Jose City College. Please visit her website at

Cymbals by Ben Estes


The range of sights and sounds in Cymbals by Ben Estes mirrors the effects of that of the actual thin, percussive instruments known for their shimmer and shatter. Amidst the sustain, Cymbals uses repetition, chopped refrain and spacing to conceptualize, I think, ideas about vulnerability. By mixing meaning and possibility, between music as an invaluable yet fleeting force, we have a brawl of images (flowers, vases, rabbits, paintings and instruments) playing and crashing as language.

The poetry requires navigation, pursuit and activated thinking. Reading Cymbals is difficult because readers are, in many ways, de-prioritized. The reader who engages, rummages. There are threads and weaves of moments appearing in and out of the text, though, these are hard to follow because they’re identifiable but cut up and mashed up en masse. That is, words and then ideas appear enjambed and diced all at once. Estes creates a seemingly unreliable speaker, but rather, the speaker is almost omniscient and occupies many spaces, emotional states and activities at once, blurring and eluding omniscience. And isn’t that an aspect of vulnerability? Where the effects of repetition and the push-and-pull of sifting through meanings, then criss-cross with the potential to cross out and hone in on one sensibility. Mapping the various moments becomes futile, so navigating and thinking on your own accord seems preferable as you read on.

There are outstanding lines that build upon itself and conceptualize the reflexivity of language. For example:

come and go    Come and go and go and   Never as

much as thought    As much as I thought  it went

and came   and went

These lines and caesura host linguistic pattern and stupefy the reader as a result. However, because I think the reader participates in thought and search and less so in reaction and affect, Estes might be siding and sharing poetic space with pure conceptualist poets.

Saying it made it honest   and it made it   and it

was honest  and it made it so   and it said it was

What it was was vulnerable: passing the seconds

before arriving in the tired town

One might say that vulnerability is honesty and risk. Estes plays with and marries sights and sounds to re-think the position of language as a vehicle for simultaneous utterances, where emotions might act as phonemes and allophones for words in the text. Furthermore, at risk is an underlying (almost buried, but vibrating) thread I followed about “the boy who is hard with hope” (verse 2, page 5) and under the instruction of a speaker-conductor. When I followed a “he” thread (though it was spliced and entwined with others), the boy seemed to symbolize a musician’s hunger as it meets others’ disapproval, which draws out and incites multiple, complex responses to seeking honesty.

Others should read Cymbals in the practice of poets Robert Fitterman and Vanessa Place who write that “pure conceptualism negates the need for reading in the traditional textual sense—one does not need to ‘read’ the work as much as think about the idea of the work.” I think this will best guide readers or rummagers into the tremulous place of vulnerability.

Download Cymbals for free at The Song Cave

Janice Sapigao is a Pinay poet, writer and educator born and raised in San Jose, CA. She earned her MFA in Critical Studies/Writing from CalArts. She co-founded an open mic in Los Angeles called the Sunday Jump. She currently lives in the Bay Area and teaches at Skyline College and San Jose City College. Please visit her website at

Joey Yearous-Algozin’s Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font

ZDCoverInside Joey Yearous-Algozin’s Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font is poetry from a screenplay, magnified and in basic HyperText Markup Language. The full script of Director Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty is used, as it features the United States’ obsessive manhunt for al-Qaeda founder, Osama bin Laden, in the film. The text itself begins vertically condensed, which is a layout that most would find visually frustrating or ‘incorrect’ in that there is an awareness of what the computer screen, the website – and thus, what the poetry on the page – should look like when one logs on, searching The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb). Those very assumptions about using IMSDb’s graphic interface also drive this work, as they are pulled apart by text amplification, page splicing and challenging endurance to read and reckon the text.

My reading of Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font began with breaking through the half-question, half-realization, “Seriously?” I was in disbelief and thought that my computer had messed with the PDF formatting. I’d never encountered Yearous-Algozin’s work prior to writing this review. I only remembered seeing him with his fellow Troll Thread Collective members in the eight-part interview they did with CA Conrad as I researched Troll Thread Press. I read on and found humor in scrolling through the titles of popular movies and television shows I recognized. I then landed in reading the margins to detect any changes that Yearous-Algozin might have made. I clicked on what I thought were links to webpages, but ended up being underlined blue font. I attempted meaning from seemingly automated enjambments. I wondered about why the white and red backgrounds alternated from page to page. I noticed that the white squares were Unicode shapes that separated titles and superimposed appropriate line breaks. I wondered, “What do I do when the poetry isn’t the way I intend?” which bound me in the decision to struggle through and experience this poetry. Because I am the kind of reader who enjoys poetry as working, questioning and researching, I started thinking about the prominent use of halves in this work, especially in relation to the media as an institution and its half-storytelling.

Yearous-Algozin employs “zero dark thirty” as a reference to the screenplay and as an opportunity to critique the narrative that privileges US intelligence efforts to create a public enemy that justifies counter-terrorism. The time “zero dark thirty” is military notation for a half hour past midnight or any time when darkness has fallen, and it is the time in which the black operation to capture Osama bin Laden is carried out in the film. Yearous-Algozin critiques the role of the media’s storytelling, which in many languages such as Spanish, Filipino and French contain derivations of the word “media” to relay time as half past the hour, and perhaps only tell one half of a story.

In Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font, we encounter the frays of the script. By enlarging the text to thirty-point font, the page results in cutting off half of the page and readers are left to fill in the gaps, blanks and spaces between text. In many ways, readers must guess what is happening on the other side, the imagined side of the story. Large font usually allows readers to see texts fully, yet the script is made distant and rendered almost unreadable. The text formulates its own meaning as the script carries on, for example, on page 36:


The slimming of the story filters into what looks like traditional, formal poetry when form is declared and continuous. Whether or not this work is a version of the film per se, the text demands the constant question, “What is going on?” in regards to the story and the current affairs of counter-terrorism. The reader enacts the public’s role in working hard to piece together elements of the plot in order to have something to follow. We, readers, are intentionally divorced from a half of the text that may consist of two to three words or film directions that could provide us an entire context. We are left with fragments and self-generated questions, all of which highlight the idea that pieces are intentionally left out. The white spaces become cinematic, where theatrics and poetics work together, to provide a visual intensity to figure out what happens next. A majority of the text appears formally as it does on page 65:


The text reads, “Lahore – / you might want / about that / Did you see the / London? / Dude, I’ve been / room with / another man for / two days” which creates multiple spliced images. The original script is as follows:


With Yearous-Algozin, we are left with an omniscient but secretive speaker. In the screenplay, we are aware of the characters and the dialogue. The difference shows the decision to selectively document the events. This reinforces the idea of half-stories at work in attempting to create a full story. Because we are left in the dark to imagine and reimagine, articulate and rearticulate, the text itself is actively keeping information from us to remind us that we have a role in recycling half-truths.

The result of Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font evokes the secrecy of covert operations initiated by the United States military as well as the disappeared narratives that vanish with folks who lost their lives. Though parts of the dialogue are absent, or maybe because the lines are unfinished, the text isn’t incomprehensible. What’s at work are the theoretical and critical junctures that live beyond intended text. I highly recommend engaging the text and its multiplicity for yourself.

Purchase or download: Zero Dark Thirty in 30 Pt. Font from Troll Thread

Janice Sapigao is Pinay poet, writer and educator born and raised in San Jose, CA. She earned her MFA in Critical Studies/Writing from CalArts. She co-founded an open mic in Los Angeles called the Sunday Jump. She currently lives in the Bay Area and teaches at Skyline College and San Jose City College. 

Please visit her website at