BOOK REVIEW: Hugo Ball and the Fate of the Universe: Adventures in Sound Poetry by LANE CHASEK

Hugo Ball and the Fate of the Universe: Adventures in Sound Poetry by LANE CHASEK

book review by Tim Staley  

At high noon my wife smashed a fly against the living room window with this book in the middle of our first pandemic summer. The room erupted into puppy yelp, child screech, fly-wail and the desert sun breaching the ceiling, grabbing us by the ankles, holding us upside-down to drain us into our shadows. All this, especially the fly-wail, fits flawlessly with this book about fly swatting, language, number theory, action and surrender.

Hugo Ball was a German author, poet, and essentially the founder of the Dada movement in European art in Zürich in 1916—maybe you already knew that. Maybe you learned that from some stuffy-teacher-induced-research-based-half-cocked-noviate-solo-tour. Maybe you visited some cold websites in search of Hugo Ball. Did you ever figure out why nonsense is such an enduring quality of art?

Emerge Lane Chasek, from behind the purple beaded curtain, to introduce us to Dada and Ball—the way a friend might—in his new book: Hugo Ball and the Fate of the Universe: Adventures in Sound Poetry (Jokes Review, 2020). Chasek is anything but a stuffy teacher. He’s drunk—but it’s an airy-lover-don’t-mind-inviting-“My Back Pages”-kind-of-buzz necessary for this type of Hero’s Journey where the Hero seems to be speaking the most rarefied strain of white gibberish ever.

Chasek has found himself dangling from his own family tree like a crucifix on a dandelion chain wondering how to handle what he’s hearing on Democracy Now. Hugo Ball had the same problem. Like one veined bubble sharing a townhouse membrane with another in the vesper service of language’s aftermath: Chasek–through Ball’s sound poetry—connects us with the madness of the past.

The way this hitchhiker’s guide of sound poetry surveys post-language allows us to make discoveries right along with the author. The tone is serious insanity, congenial nonsense. For example, there’s a rando paragraph on page 76 that starts like this, “My poem would involve chinchillas. Lots and lots of chinchillas, since I really like chinchillas. And thousands of keyboards hooked up to thousands of main frames, all dedicated to storing the corpse that will be my magnum opus. I’d caffeinate those chinchillas and make them immortal if I could.” Will the chinchillas help our Hero acquire the superpower of not making sense?  

Sound poetry is a kiss in the face of Shakespeare. Sound poetry is what happens when language stops feeling pain. There is scat singing and math and laughs in this book.  There are childhood friends, new friends, and a few sound poems. American Puritanical Christianity™ is here too, “Sucking out all the poetic verve Christianity used to have. After all, there’s an entire book in the Old Testament that’s an erotic poem. Never forget that.” Had you forgotten that? I sure had.  

By the end, Chasek has written his own sound poem; in an interview, he said writing it, “felt like a creative temper tantrum—uncontrollable, but oddly liberating.” Through the course of the book, he shares his process of hamstringing language; I felt comforted by his tremendously mellow and jovial tone. Maybe this book will inspire you to write your own sound poem. Logic is all there is to lose.

Hugo Ball and the Fate of the Universe: Adventures in Sound Poetry is currently available in print and on Kindle.

About the author

Besides writing, LANE CHASEK enjoys watching 90s horror movies and cooking plant-based Sichuan recipes.

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Robert Allen Beckvall – a jazz poem

shh sh  shhhh  crack,    “hhmmmm”  he hums while he waltzes

shh shhh   shhhh   shhhhhhh  shh  crack   he waltzes

shhh   sh shhhhh shh  crack, pop  oh two at a time

I watched the man in the white suit, night after night, dance the soft shoe,  then tap dance on the cockroaches, under the light by the pawn shop

sh  shhh  shhhh  sh, crack    “hhhmmmmmm”    He seems so happy.
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AVAILABLE NOW: FLORIDA MAN by Mickey J. Corrigan. You know how it’s funny and abhorrent because it’s true? You know how you laugh until you cry by stuffing cocked pistols between your eyeballs and lids? 

FLORIDA MAN ~ Mickey J. Corrigan ~ $5.00

This chapbook contains 17 poems and 4 drawings

Dimensions: 3 3/8ths inches by 5 inches

Free Shipping on all US orders: btn_buynow_SM



The Dance
…lilac Nehru jacket,
ploughman’s amble,
gadabout eye-flicker
-       you doorstep…
…pare sweet breads
into morsels,
deform, hand out.
Tump with cauliflower…
…retreats into a dive, yells.
“Something titanic, icy,
flush and gin.”  The barman…
…we’d never waltz on shingle,
ripple-drenched feet,
as vinyl purred…

Horizontal Vision
…barrows to-and-froed.
Hagglers impressed, lurking.
I corner nosegay oils,
you earmark…
…tilt steamer
on disengaged hob
10-15 minutes.  Baste…
…check-up.  Paramedic eurekas
-       something woefully awry –
deduces tip-off…
…metro expired at Wallsend,
bus green-lighted
an hour to cloud-gather,
you’d never essentially…

…peachy-keen upbeat guitar
seesawed your hips.  Taffrail clover,
…rattle all footloose.  Chip walnuts.
Grease loaf tin…
…ventured into Bronx Flea Market,
bisected dummy
cornered into a pin-stripe…
…lick-and-promise miasma
Overhauled drained instincts.
Only traffic faded…

…in rag-order
knee-highs yodelled,
single-filing my alley.
No cur whined…
…kibble, tooling rutty blade
of mincer.  Dissolve ½ oz…
…Pegasus’ foals vamoosed,
so the knight…
…we quick-timed hours.
An invisible…


Not Quite June
…gabby-guts rooks
air-cleared your nickname.
Evening shade diffracted urgency…
…groundwork panade.  Turn out
as for béchamel, stargaze an hour…
…wolfed my quill.”
“What shall I do?”
“Take advantage of a crayon…”
…rule-breaking headaches spared,
though we blethered all…