Charles Giuliano's Shards of a Life

Beyond Gonzo

By: - May 22, 2015


On July 3, 1970 in a rock review for the Boston Herald Traveler Charles Giuliano was the first to publish the word "gonzo" which he coined a short time before. That event occurred in the apartment of then Boston Globe Sunday Magazine editor William J. Cardoso who passed gonzo along to his friend the subsequent gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson.

In the further development of gonzo Giuliano has published a book of poetry "Shards of a Life" with a second volume "More Total Gonzo Poems" planned for later this year.

There will be a reading and book launch on June 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at Edith Wharton's The Mount at 2 Plunkett Street, in Lenox, Ma, 01240. The event is free and open to the general public. For more information and to register for the event (suggested but not required) please click this link, The Mount. The 188 page illustrated book for $14.95 may be ordered through Amazon Books. Copies will be available during the Mount event.

What follows is the critical essay "Beyond Gonzo" by former CBS associate producer and Berkshire resident, J.M. Robert Henriquez, which is the introduction for the book. He places this new work in the context of recent poetry.

Beyond Gonzo

As a polymath and critic, Charles Giuliano is defined by a voracious appetite for universal knowledge and the willingness to inform his readers. As a poet, he is defined by language. The poems in Shards of a Life, his first book of poetry, are a testament to this double identity. Polymath Giuliano, “having learned much,” spans a significant number of different life experiences to have an existential moment. Giuliano the poet seeks the language capable of telling what he has lived, and to this end he is compelled to recast the rules. The subjects in these poems riff and shift, verse lines break and divide (enjambment). Cascades of words in disarray intentionally collide into a staccato rhythm. The outcome is a hugely clever poetry replete with puns, enumerations, antithesis, and other devices.

A characteristic of contemporary time has been its preoccupation with brevity and ephemerality: here today, gone tomorrow—instant communication—speed dating—step right up—act now or never. Readers of the collected poems in Shards of a Life must fight against such impulses and go off a different tack.

Giuliano takes to heart the adage "Brevity is the soul of wit." The terse, minimalist style fits the poems beautifully. The poems may be short in length, but they insist on the reader’s time and contemplation. They are imbued with a beneficent accessibility that plays well as a contemporary device to retool the reader’s attention span.

What exactly is this poetry? It is telling the story, gonzo style, with an excessive economy of words. It is a tug-of-war between lyrical intimacy and analytical distance. It also mirrors the tension between the poet’s appreciation of the magic of language and his knowledge of its limitations. Eventually it boils down to an upbeat mix of poetics: two measures of Language poetry, one of Beat and half a measure of Gonzo shine shaken not stirred; et voilà, a Charles Giuliano poetic cocktail, somewhat whimsical and playful—but it calls for serious play.

Language poetry may be the operating word here. It can be described this way: “Key aspects of language poetry include the idea that language dictates meaning rather than the other way around. Language poetry also seeks to involve the reader in the text, placing importance on reader participation in the construction of meaning. By breaking up poetic language, the poet is requiring the reader to find a new way to approach the text.”—A Brief Guide to Language Poetry 2004, Academy of American Poets

Language poet Lyn Hejinian comments further on the role of language in writing: “Language is nothing but meanings, and meanings are nothing but a flow of contexts. Such contexts rarely coalesce into images, rarely come to terms. They are transitions, transmutations, the endless radiating of denotation into relation.”—The Language of Inquiry

Other important language poets are: Bob Perelman, Charles Bernstein, and Barrett Watten.

Charles Olson wrote: “The chain of memory is resurrection”—the opening verse of a poem. The quote accounts for so much of life’s forgotten moments that it demands our full attention.

Shards of a Life, a book of poetry born on a whim is set to do just that. Let us rappel down the chain of memory, measure the life span of a man, pick up shards of that life and resurrect them piece by piece. Charles Giuliano—his life—is the archeological site. His book, Shards of a Life is the interactive map of that site. The poems are the markers strewn across the site. We, the readers, are the archeologists collecting the shards, sable brush in hand dusting away the sands of forgetfulness.

A life examined is a life lived.