Month: January 2014
Poetics is a tricky subject. It seems to start as many fights as religion, albeit less violent ones with a few exceptions. Likewise, it is about as empirically provable as religion is. What is poetry? What is god? Do either really exist? God and poetry have been declared dead about as many times, yet books & magazines & churches & temples still exist. I prefer books & magazines to churches, so that is all I will say about god. People like to complain that there is something wrong with contemporary poetry. Most of them haven’t read much contemporary poetry. Our poetry needs to change, they say, in order to be of greater interest to society, when what really needs to happen is that society needs to change to be of greater interest to poetry. Society runs screaming from poetry & complains that poetry is getting too far away. Poetry that gives chase winds up out of breath & stranded in a strange town where Justin Bieber glows on flat screen televisions & everyone is famous. We need to let society run spastically into the CGI sunset & leave us alone with poetry. Wasn’t this what we wanted all along? That, I suppose, is my poetics.
Everything you need to know about poetry is written on air. This statement will make many people furious. Therefore, it is poetic.
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To put it another way, poetry is a manner of speaking that differs from speech, which isn’t to say that it doesn’t say anything. Of course it says something, or it wouldn’t exist. Some will say that contemporary poetry means nothing. This is impossible since words do nothing but mean; they are meanings in & of themselves. To say poetry can mean nothing is like saying abstract painting is invisible. If it were possible for a poem to mean nothing, it would be the greatest poem of all time. In Shavasana in yoga the mind tries to empty itself of itself, but this is mostly impossible; the mind attempts to extinguish itself in a crackle of memories and images, disjointed from each other and not particularly attached to anything—a kind of static that is as close as we can come to emptiness—never necessarily empty, but as divorced from ordinary thinking as we can be & still be alive. Poetry functions like this as well; even poetic narrative leads to emptiness—a state where language is no longer necessary. Mere language can only ask for a hunk of cheese, but it is all we have. This doesn’t mean we should not try to get past language, to outgrow it. That is what poetry is for. “Shavasana” means “corpse pose;” everyone knows death and poetry are old friends, even the ones who want to run with celebrities. A yogi(ni) in Shavasana is like a corpse in the same way a poem made of words is like a poem.
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I like to write next to things: paintings, songs, trees, people, which is not to say that I like to write about them, but they are there nevertheless; have you ever tried to ignore a tree? Or a Miró? The poems here were written next to a bunch of songs that were popular in some clubs in England in the sixties, seventies and eighties. It is difficult to say how the idea came to me, but nevertheless it came. I listened to the songs & then wrote the poems; this is about as explicitly as the process can be described. Post hoc ergo propter hoc would suggest that they aren’t actually related in any way, but fuck logic. The poems are accompanied by prose pieces talking about the people who wrote the songs because it seemed like the right thing to do. These pieces do something very different from the poems, so I really consider them to be prose, although they do not sound much like your garden-variety expository writing. Some might call them prose-poems, but I call them prose &, ultimately, they are my children so I can call them whatever I want. Like siblings who don’t necessarily get along with each other, they both happen to have the same parent & neither one can deny this. Most of my projects are very different from each other—the only thing they have in common is me; this is a failing of sorts insofar as the best poems will eventually abandon their authors. I try to let the poems do whatever they want. Some people might say I am a bad parent, but these peoples’ poems probably grow up to hate them. Their poems will grow up to become lawyers & accountants. My poems will probably wind up in jail. I am so proud of them.
From It’ll Never Be Over For Me
after The Nite-Liters
a staircase, yellow,
plastic & full
of air. Something pale
from the automat,
headlong, sidelong into
the wireless future.
The kiss of a suture,
the cinnamon spark
that eats up
the fuse. What results
that one saw
coming, from the vantage
above the food court,
where the fountain reached,
deaf & dumb
toward the lacquered ceiling.
They fill it
with pennies. Pennies
for ice cream, pennies
for the long afterlife.
The mute slot like a weeping
snake-eye. Multiple sixes
to the nines.
It’s not the end
of the world.
Dance dance dance
under the fireflies, under
the seeking planes, crucifixes
UFO pips, the stupid translucence
of the inside
of the dice.
Morning, noon & The Nite-Liters. Nothing light about a band of seventeen whose biggest hit would peak at seventeen, heavy numerology. Brothers & sisters tattooed by trumpets & guitars, some groovy sans-serif. Not the only good thing besides Kentucky Fried Chicken to come out of Kentucky, quipped the Channel 13 DJ on November 1, 1972 as he proceeded to bungle the dudes’ names while they killed it onstage in matching baby blue sailor suits to an all-black crowd, PBS still segregating acts in ’72, the real deal not much like Sesame Street ,but it sounded cooler at any rate. Becoming New Birth to summarily die—they had it & lost it all in the Hollywood Haze, hemorrhaging members across the decade, done by ’79—Nite-Lite(r)s out, enter monsters.
after Bobbi Lynn
Lined up behind the dull chrome of the clouds,
the armies of ruin, prepped to drag premises all along
the neglected ground. Brown dirt the universal principle
of absence, world opened like an orange. We perturb
its thin skin only. What waits for us in the alien core,
geoded bubbles harboring air unblemished by the stain
of our being. What lies below: iguanas the size of dinosaurs,
three-lidded demons or some abhorrent mycelium,
immortal, uninterested in us. No shaker of earth,
this God—so who to curdle & still the shifting plates
that sleep below our folly? Fear always what lies
below, but look always there. You, named to bury
your dead. Conjugal bed of mind & universe, the union
so poisonous to skin—that bower that calls to us in low
frequencies, whips up the puddle of the oceans. This life
a mad dash away from Mother’s arms until we are called
home by the booming voice, inexorable but inexplicable,
but we still too young to answer.
THE ELUSIVE BOBBI LYNN
You know in life, some people try to make it, some don’t. Some keep trying, some give up. I tried to make it & this is my story. Well I was born just around the corner, about half a block from Opportunity Street. I lived 18 years of good memories; I’ve had 27 since, every meal to eat. I met a boy just around the corner about half a block from Opportunity Street. He had charms at 20 nearly drove me mad, but he stole my love, took everything I had on Opportunity Street. It seems to me that I could see there must be another way, but some don’t get another chance & I guess I’ll have to stay. Now a word to all you people, about half a block from Opportunity Street. Listen to me, if you lived the life you planned to be, just make about face & take a look at me: Opportunity Street.