desert tiles

by Mike Corrao

ISBN 978-1-9996964-3-6. 230 pages. Paperback.
Publication date: September 2021. Equus Press: London & Prague. Price: € 12.00 (not including postage)

Order directly from Equus Press, or from Bookshop.org, from Barnes and Noble, or via Print-on-Demand (paperback only).

Read an Equus interview with the author here.

Desert Tiles brings a fresh spin on the “Corraoesque” theme of text / image coming “alive”, becoming a “semiotic organism,” undertaken here via the twin metaphors of text as a desert and reading as necromancy. The desert here is both literal (as the ever-shifting “dune-script” of meaning) and a place “deserted”, a place of the always-already absent voice, into which the reader is invited to venture out. Reading as necromancy entails summoning the voice of the absent/”dead” author, communing with the past action(s) of signification and by decoding it, yielding messages for (some kind of) the future.

“Read this geometry in such a way as to allow the text unit increment itself to be unbounded, allowing for fragments of itself to be discorporated in such a way as to interlock—in voxelized gradient—with vacancies identical to those fragments excised from the primary corpus of the text unit itself in such a way as to be both of itself and containing another, like a splinter of bone healing into liver tissue.”—John Trefry (author of Plats)

“Mike Corrao’s Desert Tiles takes an ekphrastic approach to our probable swallow by ocular data. The writer/reader is in a state of pixelated becoming. There is no what it/we/they become(s), nor how, nor why, even — a barely-where “textures are compressed and corrupted” and a barely-who “hums their jaw against the sand.” Something is in process of being downloaded, devoured, dissolved. It’s icky, because it’s true. What happens when the happening is pure mechanics, an I thinking and therefore (without reason). As the body is desertified, the body-esque remains: a fine-grained graphic that “yawns and weeps” even while you (the body? Or body-esque?) “want to cry, but are incapable.” In the poem “you ask yourself if this still counts as lived experience,” while IRL you are wondering if you count as something R and L? Or “is its not being real really that important?” A proper noun believes in something, like the moon landing, or politics, or that 7up & saltines will cure a stomachache. “The static speaks to me.” Poor robots, I think, poor tin man. A heart and blood are black and white and indexed quietly, and the index beats. Who will read all the indexes left behind, desiring their un-deserted world? One might desire the desert. Liking the gray sand. And then what.”—MJ Gette (author of The Walls They Left Us)

“Set in a desert created by a ‘borgesian deity,’ a wandering ‘wastrel-form’ encounters a Necromancer. This isn’t the Desert of the Real, but a literary simulacrum where wanderer and Mancer engage in a dance of death (or birth)? Corrao reveals a book giving birth to itself, not as a postmodernist contrivance, but as a slow-paced prose poem. Body horror collides with a kind of digital mysticism. With both words and images, we witness a sky the color of TV tuned to a dead channel and the birth of the new flesh.”—Karl Wolff, Driftless Area Review

“For Mike Corrao, writing does not construct poetic symbols or propositions, it is not obliged to narrate, it does not belong to a semiotic system, and consequently it is not bound to communicate. However, writing is read, and always in a specific fashion. Mike Corrao’s Desert Tiles shows that writing is an action which literally seizes its reader whose unavoidable fate is to live within the text. This alliance of writing and action is paradoxical. Its output, the text, is a series of letters which are dead. The reader who lives within the text is bound to be the necromancer of these letters: although no code of reading is manifest, the reader reactivates the words. This reactivation is not arbitrary: as a kind of abduction, it looks for the agent of writing, who actually might be another necromancer. Desert Tiles turns reading into the existential experience of the action of writing.”—Jean Bessiere (Sorbonne-Nouvelle, Paris III)

“Corrao uploads you to the desert of the text where pixel glitches, strike-throughs, italics and baroque tiles stretch the orthographic choreography to its limits. With a single brush-stroke Corrao draws the reader, a hovering astral body against the sun, making its rounds in the dead onrush of linguistic stasis while the text underneath it turns. The reader – a Mobius body drifting over a flat ontology of language. The Mancer – opening up fissures and redrawing territory, he fillets your language from the bone and drops you into a sandbox, only to everywhere haunt the shadows of your own avatar, cajoling it to choose its own adventure, knowing well it will have been in vain. The text requires a flesh sacrifice. It demands your labor. It is hot to the touch and falls through the fingers like shards in an hourglass.”—Vit Van Camp (author of Dank Prague)

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"Modernity today is not in the hands of the poets, but in the hands of the cops" // Louis Aragon
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“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?…we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us” // Franz Kafka, letter to Oskar Pollack, 27 January 1904
May 2023
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