Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Aphorisms: 2009-2017

Textual bodies need orifices; text with no flesh is anorexic.

Poetry needs Bodies; know who your Bodies are.

Horizontal leads to Lateral, text-wise.

Poetry needs a new materialism.

The Academy left Deconstruction behind years ago; so should poetry. For once, we need to catch up to the Academy.

Be material but not crass.

Impersonal forces are stronger than personal ones. How is poetry created from this? By the skin of our teeth.

Rule of thumb: nothing Big without Narrative. Great poets address great themes directly. Great poems are felt philosophy.

From Freud, paraphrased: new contexts create conditions for textual orgasms. Thus, the Internet.

Tremble before poetry, not poets.

Moral relativity: the only moral concern that matters. Morality is Ethics for Dummies.

There is no lens to see a text through that isn't tinted. Where text is concerned, idiosyncrasy is always preponderant. And material.

Try a little tenderness. But not too much.

Enough money is enough.

Perversity from one angle is generosity from another. It depends where you stand.

I know how you look to me. I can imagine how I look to you. Health consists of making composites.

Loving and hating America is the beginning of a great affair.

Life is arbitrary and contingent. Providence is a department store mannequin.

Sex is the dominant arena in which things change but do not change. Thus, season tickets are mandatory for serious artists. Sit in the bleachers if you have to.

Sex only becomes distasteful if it is represented in one dimension.

Most Americans do not know most of America. The vastness of America is its bane and its glory.

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Sonnets in Otoliths

I have five new sonnets out in Mark Young's Otoliths. Thanks, Mark!

And here is the new issue of Otoliths in its entirety.

p.s. an Otoliths feed page...

You can purchase Otoliths 44 here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Chris McCabe: Zeppelins (2009)

Chris McCabe, probably my favorite younger U.K. poet, released Zeppelins last year by Salt. It’s full of rich, tangled gems, some so run over with British idiomatic expressions that I have a hard time making them out. McCabe is a very proficient sonneteer, and so I thought I would start with a sonnet from the series The Transmidland Liverpool to London Express, which fills out the middle of the book. These are poems that have enough narrative and descriptive action to qualify them for mainstream status, and enough rejection of closure to make them experimental. As such, they can answer to more than one set of expectations, prejudices, and predilections: those who want to confine the poems within a set rubric (I would wager that these poems, which can be acidic, tilt more towards post-avant), and those who want to eschew the academic and "let poems be poems," without imposing the closure of a label. This is my favorite sonnet in the series, entitled Merseybus:

The thing is Janine, when I wear my husband's
dressing gown I strangely don't feel like a man—
I feel like a woman in a grown man's dressing gown.
I mean, it's at least half his life isn't it?
Do you think we could add two letters to the alpha
bet & nobody would notice? Bet a laugh we could.
Her hair's like a split golf ball & her head the wood
to hit it with. What he does is this: takes his whiskey
into the wild woods only to have words & curse
his dead dad. Did I tell you Dolly's going to New York?
The thing is, if you smell the bacteria you can
actually see bad breath. I tell you: it's the place
itself I'm thinking with half the time, and it's closer
to a pair of drainpipes than any actual paradise

Formally, the poem is relatively stable, with each line numbering 11-13 syllables. Only lines six and seven rhyme, and the inclusion of one end rhyme adds a minor note of destabilization. The formal semi-edginess of the poem is mirrored by the content. I have to make the admission that I do not know if this kind of language is endemic to Liverpool (Chris's home town), thus making the title particularity relevant. What rivets me about this poem is the games being played with perspective: how the poems seems to begin with someone talking (absurdly), and an "I" that clearly does not belong to the poet; then, an abrupt shift at line seven from the first to the third person, which has the optic-like effect of a film camera making a jump-cut. That this move takes place at line seven makes it too early to be called a volta, though it does function as a twist or turn. Once the perspective shifts, we are reckoned with a "he" who feels compelled to insult the seemingly working-class woman who dominates the first six lines. Then, we remember from the title that this is all happening on a bus, and the vignette becomes complete, and is borne out by the rest of the poem. The "he," who seems much more like an actual protagonist than the "I," tells us what he is doing in Liverpool; home to drink, "have words & curse/ his dead dad." His attention was attracted by the absurd woman, goes back to himself, and finally fixates on the woman a second time to round out the poem. The poem ends without a period, and thus without "closure," suggesting both the woman's seemingly endless volubility and the implicit protagonist's faltering attention. All in all, this is a portrait of connections missed, of loss ("dead dad"), of being numb to one another, not-feeling, deadness-in-life. The quotidian is seen to be a waste land (pun intended), with everyone either annoyed or oblivious, or both. Another standout from this collection has a similar theme, and similar overtones, albeit more comic. It is called Existential Clubbing:

Five fingered bars strobe white prisms from brick.
Inversion of God's Ministry. Bouncers are ministers.
Frisks you in a soulsearch. Finds an in-pocket novel,
original Penguin Classic. Considers refusing you entry,
presumes you're no trouble. Drunken bookish one.
You put your soul in the cloakroom, the ticket says 72.
There are only seven other people you can see.
They are so young your face reflects in their eyelids.
The only offer at the bar is being served.
The lager scrapes the outside of the barrel.
The dancefloor is a pelt of purple, unrefuseable.
It is so long since you last danced the baton of the rhythm
remains two seconds ahead of you. Someone faceless
suggests you are not a student you think quick, say you have
more letters after your name than in it. The dancefloor has
doubled in size. The DJ tells you he has lent all of his albums
to a friend. You have no friends you think he blames you
for the dancefloor being empty. Your spit is mote-dust.
The pulse in your temples is the after-audio of a chant
of a ritual. You start to dream in pink wafers. You take
your coat it refuses to talk back. Outside is cold. The
club is called Secrets. You have never heard of the place.

I like how the formal presentation of the poem (some enjambments, mostly short, un-mellifluous sentences, with a few brief appearances of parallel structure) mirrors the stark reality that the poem presents: a man out of time, out of place, alien, lacking youth and "club spirit." That, perhaps, is why this clubbing is "existential." There is a bit of allegorical gravy; the fabled club is called Secrets, and the beleaguered narrator "(has) never heard of the place." If we do take this as an (albeit comical) allegory, what is the "secret"? How to maintain youth after youth is gone? How to blend in even when you do not fit in? How to pass for something that you are not? It is interesting that this club, a communal space for youth to meet, dance, and "hook-up," is sparsely inhabited. Either the narrator picked the wrong club or the wrong time to visit. What, implicitly, is the narrator looking for? He is eager to affirm his educated status, says he "(has) more letters after (his) name than in it." I am also intrigued by the fact that the poem is written in the second person singular. This is consciousness-reflecting-on-itself, or rather a self-conscious narrating watching himself, rather than a narrator experiencing things in an unmediated way. That seems to be the main theme here: self-consciousness. No one in Secrets makes much of an impression on this narrator; he is too occupied with his own discomfort to notice others. That discomfort is "existential" because it signifies irremediable loss; once youth is done, it is done, and that's that. Yet it is impossible not to notice the comic undertones that vivify and redeem the whole thing: "bouncers are ministers," "you put your soul in the cloakroom," "the dance-floor is pelt of purple," "your spit is dust-mote." So the poem becomes tragi-comic, and in the delicate balance between loss and humorous compensation finds its metier. An excellent coming-of-age poem, as detailed and precise as one could hope for. And these two poems are merely the tip of the iceberg. Though, as has been previously stated, getting American poets to recognize their UK counterparts can be an onerous task, as long as younger poets like Chris McCabe continue to produce poetry of this quality, those of us with a global bent will continue to push that boulder up the hill.

(originally appeared on Stoning the Devil in January '09)

Monday, January 16, 2017

E-Mails: Hannah Miller/Adam Fieled (2005)

What a sweet thing to say! I'm so glad you think so. I woke up in the morning thinking: Dear God, I must have been awful, there's nothing worse than having sex with someone so drunk they have lost all coordination. Besides, I had that roast beef sandwich to compete with. 


Come on & give me some credit! I'm a pretty classy guy, & I have no intention of saying anything to Nick. Why would I? I'm an adult, & I know how to keep things to myself when necessary. I've been avoiding Nick anyway. Also, you should know I had a great time. You're a wonderful lover. 


Good morning! I have one request: again, please PLEASE do not brag to Gruberg about you and me banging!!! No way! I may be accidentally sleeping my way through Philadelphia's literary scene- and it's none of his business anyway- but no matter how much you dislike the guy, please don't gloat! Whatever purposes I am good for- I am not to be used for gloating purposes. 

Muchos gracias,

E-Mail: Mike Land to Adam Fieled (2005)

The ever-fading pieces of crap...Anyway, I'll ring yas tomarra when all of its juiced. On to the blog- hilarious, yes, but not what one would call polite. In terms of making it public, it might be wise to first learn if others are doing similar updates; reconnaissance before the trench can be stormed...Although, it would so insanely humorous, I'm sure, to tally how many myspaces, blogspots, livejournals, webpages etc pop up bashing Mannerism just after they see you've lambasted their self-absorption and before they see it's harder than it looks. Hilarious, yes, but apparently mean-spirited, and remember, I betcha, all these poets could "show you what mean-spirited is!" and how fucking tedious would that be? (Though, of course, a war of blogs could also be quite stimulating) So I'd say focus more on their work than their personalities; people tend to take that shit seriously (the hypocritics)

Mike Land

P.S. how do you feel about that personalization 'truly'?  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sonnet: The Schuylkill Flows

The Schuylkill flows cleanly, despite
all the murk, as the Expressway looms
on the other side of it; the trees, as
usual, are Heaven, rooted much too
deeply for us to fathom, cocked at
a solid angle into a receptive Universe;
I am waiting, writing on the edge of
wars, chopping through the cesspool
of centuries old shit, stunned by an
awareness of the human brain's torques;
and when I imagine you it's with a sense
that we're both standing at the river's
edge (we are, of course), and as long as
we see the trees into the sky we blend in.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Sonnet: Jarred Tea

O, if only I were still a young
buck, a gun, a razor-sharp grass-
hopping wisp, I'd flip for your
dogged persistence, brutal sex,
siamese purr, write a sutra
for our every rub, manifesto for
every wet night, bagged, bombed,
bitten down to a raw-red quick;
but I sit, bereft of ego except to
know that I like seeing you better than
being seen, and as a vapor hung
above, below, behind you I rate
what possibilities we have of rain-
layed out like jarred tea at Starbucks.