Joshua Martin reviews Irene Koronas’ gnostos

Book cover for Irene Koronas' gnostos. Book cover and the background for the cover image are brown. Black armless humanoid figures of varying heights cluster together with blue and yellow heads with a single black squiggle.

A Review of gnōstos, volume VII of  The Grammaton Series

by Joshua Martin

gnōstos (BlazeVOX, 2023), volume VII or Irene Koronas’ The Grammaton Series, continues her trajectory of extreme experimentalism through a fragmented poetic language filled with radical juxtapositions, snippets, neologisms, and minimalistically ecstatic aphorisms. Linguistic flares and miniature rhapsodies. Each word a new world unto itself, brimming with exaltation, reveling in the illogical and the mystic. Overflowing with rich treats and poetic mashups. A heady potpourri of languages and references, this wildly inventive and diverse work probes the very nature of our 21st century world. Filled, as it is, with huge amounts of textual varieties, never standing still, always performing new and perverse syntactical experiments and collisions.

Letters, words, language itself, are simply building blocks for an expansive and stimulating poetics that reaches into the fringes of what language can and should do. At times reminiscent of Russian Futurism (particularly Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh) and its desire to transcend conventional language, creating something spontaneous through Zaum, Koronas’ work seems to be developing a new language all its own, free from the rigidity of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, no matter its origin. And there is a myriad of origins in Koronas’ work. Her seemingly endless knowledge of a wide range subjects, alphabets, theories, languages, and texts is impressive and inspiring. Koronas’ work is written with a scholar’s information and an experimental poet’s skill. Khlebnikov’s “language of the gods” and “language of the stars” aptly applies to gnōstos.

Though the length of many of these lines are often quite brief, they are packed with beauty, sublimity, and chaos. Many words are new creations in themselves. Disorienting, transfixing, and sonically innovative, gnōstos deftly explodes poetic convention, instead offering the reader a dizzying array of staccato riffs and verbal treats. There is no net. As readers, we are free floating among her endlessly unique creations. At times, the speed at which Koronas’ lines whizz by can make us feel lightheaded in the best possible sense. We feel as though we are reading lightning strikes on a page. 

Language is taken apart, constructed, reconstructed, and made into an entirely new thing. Mystical and rapturous, reading Koronas is like reading an invented language, offering us a whole new way of seeing, being, and understanding. A poetics that wishes to explode, implode, and pull apart all conventions in order to find something truly novel. Experimentation at its finest. A radical performance seeking to encompass the entire cosmos in its fragments.

Exciting, elusive, entirely readable, illogical, visionary, and virtuosic. Bending, breaking, forming and reforming. Reading gnōstos is an inspiring and disorienting experience. A work which requires multiple readings in order to truly absorb its many secrets, mysteries, and triumphs. The Grammaton Series is a massive undertaking not only in its length and scope, but in its bold and formidable search for invention. gnōstos is reaching for something unique and intangible, pulling readers along as far as it can toward something visionary and profound.

Irene Koronas’ new book gnostos is available from publisher BlazeVox here.