Book Report: The Nasty Namaste

If you like your slam poetry to come at you with all the force of a runaway truck on the Saluda grade, if you enjoy razor-sharp, politically incorrect, screamo free-verse, if you’re really into poop, then Julian Vorus’ recently recorded poetry collection The Nasty Namaste is just right for you.

Which is not to say that Namaste isn’t good, because it is. It’s just not altogether pleasant. Nor is it for the faint of heart, those with sensitive stomaches, low gross-out tolerance levels or an aversion to violent screaming.

About the screaming: if Namaste is an accurate representation (I haven’t heard the local poet perform live), full-volume delivery is his signature style. According to Wikipedia, “Screamo has been described as ‘mixing the literate, poetic lyrics of hardcore punk with a harsher and more metallic brand of sonic thrash’ as well as using screaming vocals ‘as a kind of crescendo element, a sonic weapon to be trotted out when the music and lyrics (every bit as evolved and autobiographically sincere as emo’s were) reach a particular emotional pitch.’” Even though this refers to music, I found it even more apt in describing Vorus’ recitation style. It is literate. It’s hardcore sonic thrash. It begins at a high level of both intensity and decibels and builds from there. It’s scary. And emotive. But really scary.

In fact, I found I had to listen to Namaste in short bursts, my tender ears reeling after a half or a poem or so. But what surprised me is that I surfaced from each sonic pummeling with some gem, some shining verse that stuck with me, compelling me to mull it over. “Fore my love is true,” he states in the poem of that title, “I would regrow my foreskin and then with toenail clippers I would snip the saggy sh*t back off. Did I ever bother to mention in passing conversation that my love for you is true?”

Okay. Disturbing stuff (and this is one of the more PG phrases, one of the few not containing a caterwauled “Motherf**ker”) and presented with shouts of “Hear me, fair maiden” and dripping sarcasm. But under the poem’s brash exterior there beats a sweet heart. It is, despite (or, more likely, due to) Vorus’ best efforts, a testament of devotion.

And that got me thinking: I have this expectation for poetry to be nice and pretty and to fill my head with images of starry skies, fragrant blossoms, lilting creeks, etc. But poetry isn’t birthday present wrapping paper. There’s no reason it needs to be a walk in a flowery meadow. Vorus crafts imagery that is violent, yes, but also vivid and thought-provoking. He crosses and recrosses into territory where few dare to tread. The stinking, ugly, despicable and darkly human seems to capture his imagination. He addresses these subjects with the fervor of a boy poking a dead and bloated groundhog with a stick. Not pleasant, but highly educational.

The deadpan opening of “Tommy Twotone” (“My top five favorite dinosaurs of all time: Number one. The Tyrannosaurus Rex. A perennial classic. Number two. Protoseratops. Completely underrated.”) could be the beginning of one of those cynical children’s books purchased by hipster parents who know better than to turn to Barney. The child-friendly material ends promptly by dinosaur number five, “the motherf**king Rhamphoryncus.”

“Is there nothing more between us as human beings but the sploosh of a turd and the accompanying crinkle of flatulence?” he bellows on “Potty Mouth.” Again, that’s the tamer material. But Vorus attacks his subject matter (feces) with deft creativity. Why go there, I don’t know. But that he does in such a no holds barred, unapologetic way is admirable. And that he does so at top volume, with exhausting enthusiasm, if downright transformative. After all, I’m not sure there’s anything in my life for which I possess six minutes of lung-busting passion. Vorus infuses every moment of his readings with maniacal intensity; a wake-up call to a sleeping culture, a noisy fart in the face of trudging complacency, a brilliant raspberry at unchallenged ideas of beauty.

Julian Vorus’ The Nasty Namaste is available at Harvest Records, Malaprop’s and Static Age.

—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter

SHARE
About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

8 thoughts on “Book Report: The Nasty Namaste

  1. Great review. the screaming is inspiring, its true. and not just the poop stuff, there’s lots of great screaming about sex, and cutting, too. While my interests usually steer clear of poop, and cutting, Julian makes it seem all so…fun. He’s clever, hilarious, and thoughtful. Good work, Mr. Vorus. (ps. My favorite part is the dedication in the liner notes: “this album is dedicated to my son, Dargan Jack. I hope he never hears it.”)

  2. AshevilleObserver

    For readers who are not familiar with Julian Vorus or the local performance poetry scene, it would be helpful if the writer gave us a little background about him and why she is reviewing his CD.

  3. Alli Marshall

    There’s a blurb at the top of the “Book Report” page to let you know why these literary works are being reviewed. (On occasion I choose a book on a whim, and then I note that in the review.) To learn more about Julian, you can click on the link from his name. To learn about the local literary scene, go to http://www.mountainx.com/ae/2007/053007literary .

  4. AshevilleObserver

    Not to enter into an extended discussion, the blurb at the top of the page you refer to doesn’t appear on the Web. And on the Web, the link on Julian Vorus’s name tells this uninformed reader, “This profile is set to private. This user must add you as a friend to see his/her profile.” The link on the book’s title doesn’t give any information about him either.

    If I were your copy editor, I would have added somewhere early in the story, “Vorus is a luminary on the Asheville performing poetry scene, and even if you don’t go to poetry slams, you may have seen him at Downtown News and Books, where he is the manager.” Assuming the latter still to be true.

  5. [b]AshevilleObserver:[/b] While I understand your points, I think it’s a bit much to call Vorus a luminary of the slam scene. For one thing, there’s not really a local slam scene anymore (although there are occasional open mics and slams, but nothing at the level of what I’d call a “scene”), and even if there was, Vorus isn’t really a part of it. He’s an active performer, and known in a certain circle (No Shame Theatre in particular), but the review is about the CD, not about his live performances or perceived place in that community.

    And is there any particular reason you’re wanting to draw attention to Vorus’ job? If Alli were writing about, say, noted local poet and publisher Keith Flynn, she probably wouldn’t feel compelled to point out that he occasionally works as a furniture salesman, or in a review of Allan Wolfe’s work, that he only recently delivered newspapers for extra cash? Unless the goal is to profile the performer, rather than their specific work, there’s no reason to do this.

    The job of Book Report is to highlight the works of local and regional writers, and I think it does the job handily.

  6. Nick Holt

    Good review, and I second the endorsement of the CD.

    My only complaint is your assertion that Julian’s work is “politically incorrect”, this term usually being a spineless code word for racist, mysoginist, or anti-gay.

    I have heard nothing in any of Julian’s work to which these adjectives would apply.

    Julian screams, celebrates secretion, and can be very, very, very frightening (see the title track), but “politically incorrect”? No.

  7. Alli Marshall

    The term “politically correct” means “language or ideas that may cause offense or that are unconstrained by orthodoxy.” Talk of feces and snipping foreskin kind of fit, no?

  8. Nick Holt

    The first half of the Wikipedia definition you reference is more what I had in mind:

    “Commonly abbreviated to PC, the term is used to describe language, ideas, policies, or behavior seen as seeking to minimize offense to racial, cultural, or other identity groups.”

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.