Transmitter and Receiver. Raoul Fernandes. Nightwood Editions. Gibsons, British Columbia. 2015.
This can't be a first book. I won't have it. Someone is lying.
Raoul Fernandes does not only arrive fully formed and brilliant, Transmitter and Receiver is simply scintillating.
Every page is a new adventure ending in some new sort of delight for the reader.
Fernandes has one of the most delightfully optimistic/pragmatic imaginations/personalities Today's book of poetry has ever encountered.
By Way Of Explanation
You have this thing you can only explain
by driving me out to the port at night
to watch the towering cranes moving containers
from ship to train. Or we go skipping stones
across the mirror of the lake, a ghost ship
in a bottle of blue Bombay gin by your side.
I have this thing I can only explain to you
by showing you a pile of computer hardware
chucked into the ravine. We hike down there
and blackberry vines grab our clothes as if to say,
Stop, wait, I want to tell you something too.
You have an old photograph you keep in your
bedside drawer. I have this song I learned
on my guitar. By way of clarification, you send
me a YouTube video of a tornado filmed up close
from a parked car. Or a live-stream from a public
camera whose view is obscured by red leaves.
I cut you a key to this room, this door.
There's this thing. A dictionary being consumed
by fire. The two of us standing in front of a Rothko
until time starts again. A mixtape that is primarily
about the clicks and hums between songs. What if
we walk there instead of driving? What if we just drive
without a destination? There's this thing I've always
wanted to talk about with someone. Now
with you here, with you listening, with all
the antennae raised, I no longer have to.
Dare I say it? Raoul Fernandes is an optimist. The silly fool believes in love and we here at Today's book of poetry love him for it.
He is a concerned and informed optimist.
This is splendid poetry.
Transmitter and Receiver is just the right mixture of confidence and naivete. I think Raoul Fernandes is just like my dear friend Bean Salad -- smartest guy in the room (almost any room), but entirely too cool to be aware of it himself, or if he is, to let it bother him.
These poems are peppered with those seminal "aha!" moments, everywhere you look you find those "I get it!" epiphanies and suddenly the whole world makes just a little more sense.
When The Teeth Of The Gears Meet...
the music chimes, the bicycle
climbs the hill, the clock releases
a bird. The streetlight blinks, goes night
day night day night. My bed
is a giant reset button I hold down
until morning. When the teeth
of the dream meet the teeth of the morning
I pour myself a cup of numbers in the kitchen.
Daydream a wheel inside a wheel. Daydream
children running from the shore with cupped
phosphorescence that dies out before
they reach us. Rushing back to do it again.
And I am a child running toward myself
and the teeth of the memory meet the teeth
of the day meet the clock, the highway, the heart.
Or the gears don't touch, just spin like ceiling fans.
What's a day? asks the sun. What's night?
asks the moon. Will you send me
that beautiful book about asteroids?
I want my life to change.
Man, oh man, oh man. This Fernandes cat really does sing.
About half way through my second reading of Transmitter and Receiver I called a team meeting of everyone here at Today's book of poetry. I got everyone in a circle -- and then we read that sucker out. Everyone took a turn. Read a poem out loud, watched all the jaws in the room drop, pass the book to the next person, repeat. More jaws.
Eventually, Billy, our sweeper, brought out bags of gold glitter and rained them down over us all while we danced in circles of glee.
Yes, Today's book of poetry loved this book. In fact, this is the most exciting book of new poems since reading Kayla Czaga's For Your Safety Please Hold On.
Someone at Nightwood Editions is doing a hell of a good job.
He collects his friends' broken Walkmans
and builds a flying machine out of them. Straps in
and launches from his rooftop in the fading light,
just after the crows have passed. These are the controls:
rewind, fast-forward, play and stop. All other variables
are left to the music, old mixes from friends. One of the tape's
ribbon is wrinkled in places from a recent unspooling.
It murmurs and crackles, but it still lifts the rickety machine.
Another tape contains, in the last empty minutes, rainfall,
a train in the distance. Someone says something he strains
to hear. At this particular height, the landscape is toy-like,
a miniature model, despite what all hell
he has been through down there. The blue eyes
of backyard swimming pools. A soccer field
like a green diary, locked. What all hell.
He coasts for a while in silence just above the streetlights
after the last tape clicks to its end. Lifted by something
Raoul Fernandes certainly knows how to make an entrance.
what it means, but it's not like we are in the business
of meaning things..."
Raoul Fernandes has chops like Miles Davis and Transmitter and Receiver is his first masterpiece, with chops like these Today's book of poetry expects there will be many more.
ABOUT THE AUTHORRaoul Fernandes has been writing poetry since childhood, and is involved in both online and offline writing communities. He completed the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University in 2009. He was a finalist for the 2010 Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, and winner of the 2010 Sakura Award at the Vancouver International Cherry Blossom Festival. His poem “After Lydia” was recently adapted into a short film. He lives and writes in Vancouver, BC.
“What I receive from these transmissions is a convincing sweetness, a weird wisdom. This book reminds me of David Berman’s Actual Air, but it’s warmer. Raoul Fernandes writes like a night school teacher teaching us ‘something about night itself.’ It’s an engaging class, an occasionally mind-altering class, and I finished it feeling more hopeful and human.”
— Nick Thran
It is rare to encounter a first book as wise and realized as Raoul Fernandes's Transmitter and Receiver. These poems thrum with tulip vending machines, mixtapes made by friends, apology letters to forest fires, emotionally intelligent ATMS. Fernandes repeatedly points to the relationships between all things: a Facebook friend request is "a conch shell left on your doorstep"; a mind is a "Walkman that [keeps] eating cassettes." Even machines aren't strangers -- no one's a stranger: the technologies are usually sympathetic and love is the amplifier.
-- Jen Currin
"There's this thing," Raoul Fernandes tells us, that he can't "explain" -- but shows us with genuine poetic panache in this highly affecting collection. That "thing" is "circuit-frying, synesthesia-inducing" and the poems here -- quirky, lyrical, humorous, aching, romantic, magical -- reveal it, each one "a little moon / you can pocket." Here, "night flowers open with ease / in the politician's garden" and "Love disperses like light / across the Alaskan wilderness." Transmitter and Receiver is a pure delight. I savour its kinetic imagination, its subtle intelligence, its palpable charm.
-- Russell Thornton
Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher. They are shown here for publicity and review purposes. For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.