Proof of Stake: An Elegy
Author: Charles Valle
Publisher: Fonograf Editions (2021)
Proof of Stake is a multivalent meditation on loss, grief, and social constructs. Grounded in the death of the poet's daughter, Vivian, this long elegy ruminates on a wide range of subjects, from the effects and winding paths of disruptive technologies, such as paper and cryptocurrency, to critiques and observations of art movements, diasporas, social unrest, and the history of the Philippines.
"Proof of Stake is tenderly radical, a poem pneumatic with contradictions, the Miltonic oak, the anti-Miltonic 'quasiclusterfuck.' Valle carries his lost loved one close against his chest as he soars through centuries, continents, climates, colonialisms and profit motives, seeking both to register her and protect her from the shitty banns of human time. This is virtuosic writing that abjures writing, naming that abjures naming, a history that abjures histories, and finally abjures its own virtuosity. Yet the love and the desire to continue loving can never be rubbed out. The poem concludes not with consolation but with the resolution to go on with this devotional quest, this simultaneous making-unmaking, to escape form and 'widen the aperture . . . Dark, more dark.'”
"Charles Valle’s poetry collection Proof Of Stake is an impassioned and necessary exploration of grief and mourning. Valle grieves the loss of his child, Vivian, while also confronting the confounding world of past-present colonial occupations with acts of deep resistance. In this fierce lyric sequence, he confronts racial injustice, and the fragile and violent present affairs of the human and natural world. Understandably, throughout the book, Valle’s poems reside in the inconsolable space where finding words to articulate deep loss may be impossible but he summons them for a function and a powerful address to Vivian whose death has left him to muddle in the impenetrable space of reaching: 'Tumble into words, Vivian. I want / My words to organize around grief / And contribute to the economy / Of suffering.' His economy is in the poem’s ability to shape the suffering. In this sequence, we see how the lyric drives the modulations of the speaker into definitions that unearth and absorb deeper meaning from the affairs of the state around the speaker-griever, and allow the him to drop in and out of the world’s cruel consumption and exploitation of bodies, of souls, to a greater reckoning with grief."
“'And when I think of the phrases / unturned, / The lines not breaking, the words / That will never ring for you, / Vivian, I am reminded of the histories/wrought with erasure,' are among the astonishing lines that open Charles Valle’s Proof of Stake, a book-length elegy about his late daughter Vivian, who passed away shortly after her birth in 2011, and to whom his long poem is addressed. At once Howl, Somebody Blew Up America, and The Disintegration Loops for our pandemic and new Yellow Peril era, Valle’s extraordinary poem is further proof of the stake that 21st century experimental BIPOC poets’—including Kamau Brathwaite, M. NourbeSe, Fred Wah, Jordan Abel, Douglas Kearney, Barbara Jane Reyes, and Aldrin Valdez—continue to claim in the elegy to explore and create powerful new modes of grieving and protest. 'Let me tell you about / my poetics of grief,' Valle’s speaker offers, mourning Vivian’s absence yet absorbing 'the opposite of decisive moments,' so that they might 'invent a new plasticity of language, . . . / And strike these words to widen the aperture / To blur the background, all that baggage / In buttery bokeh, unrecognizable / Dark.' Let me tell you this about Charles Valle’s debut book of poetry: Proof of Stake breaks new ground for the elegy, and your heart along with it. A brilliant, moving, and unforgettable work.