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.