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Jeff Alessandrelli

Jeff Alessandrelli is the author of Erik Satie Watusies His Way Into Sound. His work has appeared in publications such as Octopus, DIAGRAM, and Laurel Review. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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"I wouldn't call these [poems] sentimental as much as I would call them real. These are poems written by a real person."

– Matthew Rohrer

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Don't Let Me Forget to Feed the Sharks

There's no time for pleasantries. These are perilous waters.

08/30/12

The phrase “Don’t Let Me Forget to Feed the Sharks” is a remarkable piece of advice that is entirely nonsensical. Then again, it is immediately necessary that such advice be given, due in no small part to its easy-to understand imperative. If that sounds like paradox, and if that’s OK, then you’re one step closer to learning the Dao. Which, of course, is something you’ll never figure out.

Jeff Alessandrelli’s Don’t Let Me Forget to Feed the Sharks opens with an epigraph from The Book of Lieh-Tz’u, which a cursory Googling reveals as an ancient Daoist text. Speaking of Google, Google “wu wei” right now. You’ll find yourself reading about how not trying to do anything is really the only way to get anything done, and you might postulate that becoming aware of said doing at any point in the process is a sure way to muck things up. What Alessandrelli is after here is effortless doing, and he’d better get it right because there is so very much at stake.

Thirteen of these twenty-five pages reiterate that “It Is Especially Dangerous To Be Conscious of Oneself” via a different poem of that title. They are formally distinct, but each poem is hyper-conscious of the self or something like it. Take anything from:

All morning long I’ve been walking
the plank and still haven’t hit
water

to:

It’s raining up ahead. Then it’s pouring, simply pouring.”

In case you’ve forgotten, all that water is full of potentially hungry sharks. It is imperative that you remember to feed them. Provided, that is, that you remember and self-direct without self-consciousness, as engaging in self-consciousness is at least as dangerous as an un-fed shark.

I think it’s in high school that the average reader is saddled with the unfortunate notion that the reading of a poem must culminate in some kind of aphoristic revelation. The trick to correctly reading a poem, then, is to figure it out. Alessandrelli’s book begins with revelation:

I have found the secret
Of loving you
Always for the first time.

The speaker here is mistaken.

“The night is an expansive toy
no one can read the instructions to.

Poor Claudia did fantastic work in putting this book together. The binding is hand-sewn, the layout is eye-friendly, and the cover is an indispensable part of the experience. A swimmer in a red bodysuit, head-covering and all, floats or wades in stylized ink-line water, looking like he’s forgotten something. The cover image is folded over the hand-sewn pamphlet on a finely-textured dust jacket.  It’s an engaging package, and a fine book of poems to boot.

My hand-written number says I’m looking at number eleven out of one-hundred fifty. If you’re into handsome books of fun poems, I highly recommend that you pick up one of these while there’s still time.

But enough about that for now; there’s no time for pleasantries. These are perilous waters.

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