In these lyrical meditations crisscrossing the fields of personal, national, and international histories, strewn with bodies, Lala confronts, without flinching, the terrible beauties born of fin de siècle pessimism and optimism.
-Tyrone Williams, 2016 Colorado Prize for Poetry Judge's Citation
This is a remarkable first book - sprawling, generous, angry, delicate. Through borrowed language and staged dialogues, Exit Theater asks how individual experiences of violence combine with myth to create the collective present, where we peer out from the "gun cabinet..." Lala's book tears open the velvet cushioning.
Exit Theater deals mystery and suspense. This poet is expert at revealing the personal alongside the public through a language that’s intimate, searching, and uniquely his.
A marvel of genre-straining performances...a book that challenges and resists the vague accumulations of knowledge upon which regimes depend...that neither assumes nor denies your participation, but utterly exhausts it.
Causality and aesthetic efficiency, staged expectations and reality effects, the chargé that is also a discharge, all are affects in the time of violence, time not as epoch but as duration, as the continuity of lived experience. It is this phenomenological, durational time of violence that measures Mike Lala’s Exit Theater. Simultaneously elegy and poetic sequence, theater and documentary, ekphrastic and translational, the book’s continually self-disrupting and adapting formal range unsettles Chekhov’s economy. Lala’s book manifests these cumulative senses of our time, the dull, buzzing inescapable ache that arises when the weapons have come off the stage and constitute the real, everywhere and nowhere.
Lala merges verse, academic text, and lyric essay with writing for the stage in an elegiac debut collection meant to be beheld and enacted. This provocative book is designed as an immersive experience...poetry only in that it announces itself as such: this is performance, myth creation, and rally cry. In his understated confrontations with forms of societal violence - militarism, climate change, economic collapse - Lala attends to the musicality of language, seductively contrasting the lush with the sparse. Throughout, visual disjunctions and negative space wield tremendous power. This is a dense and challenging yet rewarding read.
Nine cut roses on a table, left to right, beneath the Cherry Blossom—pink, pink, white, pink, pink, white, white,/ pink, red.
—pink, like it used to be. Pink sliding into orange
And if no one really hears through the news of the day,
Say goodbye, microphone. Try, but do not speak.
Images from a handmade book.
Slaying is the word. It is a deed in fashion.
That unremitting siphon, Grief
You were there.