Friday, February 19, 2010
She told me I love boy/girl poems, love
scenes in them based on a deep degeneracy
inherited from too much heat around my
genitals, as manifest in tangents I could only
see if I was getting laid. She told me this as
I was getting laid in such a way that any notion
of telling was subsumed in an ass as stately as
a mansion, which I filled with the liquid
cobwebs of my imagination. There was grass
outside being smoked in a car in which another
boy/girl scenario played out in a brunette giving
a fine performance of Bolero in her movements,
and I immediately flashed back to the deep
genitals of my first girlfriend and the way she
used to implore God’s help at certain moments,
who was certainly watching this. That’s it, that’s
the whole spiel I have on boy/girl poems and
why they are hated by the dry dunces who love them.
A ring of retards, she said to herself,
a ring of retards. It was her turn to
speak, speak she did, but she watched
herself the whole time, thinking how
dumb the whole thing would look to
one of her old friends, in the days when
she (and they) ruled the world, because
the world was so tiny and they could
encompass it. She gets up to piss, and
notices nothing. She’s still gorgeous
and she knows it, that’s that. Yes, I
saw this happen, I was down there
with them. But then, you don’t know
who I am, do you, and does it matter?
She was eating lunch, I was watching her eat
lunch, I started having all these thoughts about
how people reveal themselves, even just how
they eat their meals but it was such a nice day
and I had a few drinks and I just kind of got
lost in it all, the food was really good but there
was this sense that nothing could really last,
everyone has these great cars and these great
lives but nothing really lasts, and I start to
worry even just about eating lunch like this,
isn’t there something better I should be doing?
Isn’t there something more important than
this? I don’t want to get all existential about
this cause it happens all the time, but I’m telling
you this cause I know you have these feelings
too, and it doesn’t matter how we communicate
as long as the basic gist of things comes through,
in fact I’m kind of eating lunch right now and
kind of having the same feelings, I get depressed
in the afternoons here because everything is so
still and perfect, so even though I have to live in
this perfected state (some people say it’s exalted,
I don’t think it’s exalted, I don’t even know what
exalted means) it just doesn’t work. I guess the
lesson is that we should all skip lunch, I know
it’s completely absurd but it might be better
just to eat breakfast and dinner, but you know,
people in this town have to do certain things
at certain times which is why I treasure this, but
hold on a sec I just got a text from somebody,
do you mind if I call you back, if not today
tomorrow, I really want to hear your thoughts on this?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
I'm still recovering from completing the manuscript Apparition Poems in a big burst. There are still many Apps that need to be published, and are looking for homes. I've decided to take a week's vacation from blogging. I thought as a "quick fix," I'd post two new Apps.
The father’s gaze (depending which gaze
you happen to be referring to) is panoptic.
It goes in without leaving traces. So if you
have several fathers that leave no traces, &
merely invisible gazes, there is or maybe a
sense in which you have no fathers. I saw
all this happening to me, along with every
thing else, many years ago, before I could
visualize the cell I was in, before I knew
how the walls stank of fresh paint, or saw
that I was getting smeared at any juncture.
But, as I saw this, my father who was my
father turned, spoke down to me in such
a way that I listened. I took what he said,
gazed at my cell, and watched the paint dry
deep into the night before I busted out to
watch the dawn break over the Delaware.
He says that these have an “aura.”
To the extent that words on a page
can, they do. He said these things,
but then they were up on a site that
has its own aura, the poems become
composites. Whatever, I thought this,
not out loud, these auras only work
in three dimensions, and I’m already
in three dimensions, I’m already art
to begin with. Besides, who cares? I
quickly made a left onto Broad, the
radio was turned off and I opened
the window, it was a cold, breezes
danced around my face, in words.
And you can view more Apps in Pirene's Fountain.
Many thanks to the editors.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Even as a broken Mirror, which the glass
In every fragment multiplies— and makes
A thousand images of one that was
The same— and still the more, the more it breaks;
And thus the heart will do which not forsakes,
Living in shattered guise; and still, and cold,
And bloodless, with its sleepless sorrow aches,
Yet withers on till all without is old,
Showing no visible sign, for such things are untold.
The image of the heart as broken-mirror is deceptively simple, and less romantic than its constituent elements might suggest.
The idea of the “silent heart” is not at all consonant with the premises of Romanticism, as they have been passed down into current criticism. Romantic poets, we are told, are caught in traps of sincerity and sincerely represented anguish, rendered for effect with all the trappings of a more innocent literary age. Moreover, it must be noted that Byron here is stating these home truths about affect and relationships in the most objective possible fashion; abstracted away from himself twice (first, because he may be talking about Harold rather than his own “I,” secondly because he speaks in strictly metaphorical terms), cast in a form that resembles the metaphysical conceits of Donne and Marvell, rather than in the trope-forms that modern opinion subscribes to Romantic perspectives. The image of the broken mirror comes to us, in fact, at a great distance from the blankly rendered subjectivity that Romantic poetry often gets taken to task for. Moreover, the multiplication of selves that this frozen image (perhaps its resonance with Keats) presents us is, in a very, perhaps overly obvious way, a level that speaks to what later became known as the Modernist impulse— a fracturing of subjective impulses into “pieces” that become constituent elements of poems chosen for different kinds of resonances, that each work as “images” that clash, jar, or mix to form a harmonious or inharmonious whole.
It may be useful, at this juncture, to look at a stanza that does manifest traces of what is commonly known as the Romantic “I.” It needs to be remembered, however, that Byron’s “I” is here is both doubled (i.e. it may represent Byron or Harold at any point) and fractured (because the subjectivity of this “I,” whether it be Byron or Harold, is presented to the reader as fractured by contradictory impulses, manifested in the coming stanza, as to what constitutes true selfhood, appropriate relationships to outward and inward levels of life). To the extent that a complex entity emerges that, in its amorphousness, has not only traces of Modernist impulses but post-modern impulses (post-modern in the sense of a fractured quality extended infinitely), Byron becomes not only a great artist (assuming that his major status is already granted) but a comprehensive great artist, one with as much prophetic force (albeit expressed in different terms) as William Blake. This stanza works to heighten this impression of comprehensiveness:
And thus I am absorbed, and this is life—
I look upon the peopled desert past,
As on a place of agony and strife,
Where, for some sin, to Sorrow I was cast,
To act and suffer, but remount at last
With a fresh pinion; which I feel to spring,
Though young, yet waxing vigorous as the Blast
Which it would cope with, on delighted wing,
Spurning the clay-cold bonds which round our being cling.
“Acting and suffering,” of course, makes a major re-appearance in Murder in the Cathedral. Rather than being used in an allegorical context, as it is in Eliot’s piece, here action and suffering takes on significance as a median realm between Earth and Heaven. “Clay” as a metaphor for human flesh, and a rather common one; but Byron uses it, here and in Manfred, to great effect. Images of flight abound in Byron’s major pieces, and in fact Goethe himself remarked on the manner his verses have of taking wing. But the doubled effect, that makes an uncertainty of what in Romantic poetry is usually taken to be a certainty (is this Byron or Harold?), elevates this (pun intended) from the sense of blankness or blandness that is often ascribed to Romantic subjectivity by poetry artists attempting to push the envelope.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
If David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes video is (arguably) the greatest rock video ever made, this video, that accompanies the Nirvana song Heart Shaped Box, has my vote for best original video of the 1990s. The images and basic schemes employed in the video were all devised by Kurt Cobain, and brought to realized form by Anton Corbijn. The meeting of sensibilities worked, and produced a piece that is haunting, disturbing, and as confessional as any single song Cobain wrote during his stint as Nirvana front-man. The main images seem to be: a wooden cross, on which a gaunt old man wearing a Santa Claus hat ties himself; a young girl wearing the regalia of a Ku Klux Klan member, strolling slowly through a field of poppies; the band itself, miming the song; and the band in a hospital room, visiting the self-same gaunt old man, lying on a hospital bed with an intravenous needle stuck in his arm. Minor images include fetuses hanging from trees, a fetus stuck in the old man’s intravenous apparatus, and Dave Grohl holding up a heart-shaped box that reflects light right at the camera.
All these images seem to be tied to what Cobain’s main concerns as a songwriter were in 1993: birth and death, the substance and frailty of bodies, addictions, feelings of fatigue and agedness, innocence being corrupted by bloodshed and impersonal forces. That all of these concerns can more or less be squarely tied to his position as perhaps the biggest rock star in the world at the time is arguable. But the strange, cathartic imagery in both the lyrics of the song and in the video’s imagery cuts deeper than mere rock star angst. It seems to be Cobain’s admission of powerlessness to defeat or even confront the issues that were facing him. Yet, importantly, the song is not solipsistic, it is directed to someone else. Most people have assumed that this someone else is Cobain’s spouse, Courtney Love, but who the muse happens to be doesn’t matter much. This sounds like a last ditch attempt by Cobain to establish a meaningful human connection. The song is not triumphant; in many ways, it feels like Cobain doesn’t succeed. But the Confessional nature of his attempt makes the song riveting in its own right; combined with the potent, perverse imagery in the video, the song enacts its own devastating level of sickness, decay, and helpless downward spiraling. And, together, they make a damn good work of art.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
I was talking to a dude
I knew from school, I
said, “I see the levels
from sleeping with
how I get them,” levels
were (I meant) places
between souls where
spaces open for metaphor,
“but when I carry them
over to my bed, every
psychopath levels me.”
This killer wears a tight
black shirt, glasses. There
are noises of digging happening
from the bathroom, she’s in
bed, hands over her mouth,
frozen upset. Then, the mirror
is dug through, his face appears
in a wall with a square cut in it.
The face is there, hovers there,
just sits, it has the promise of
action that kills. This is the
tableau I watch every time
I’m in the bathroom while
she’s in bed. And smile.
I ask you this here, while I look down on you, as
you look up at me, and the different ups & downs
of us play themselves out, so that if, while being in
this state, we are in and out of each other, all streaks
of blues, grays, blacks can be edited out, and voice-
overs take the place of our raw voices. Voices that
I trust, cherish, but these voices are too crude that
around us cast nets, so that we become crabs in and
out of ourselves, so that I remark to you (you’re on
top now) that things that need to be asked can only
be answered with skin, redness, pinkness, dots, this.
If it builds, she thinks, I’ll
do this, I’ll get out. Is it that
she’s so stuck she can’t move?
The baby needs looking after,
but, she thinks, so does her
soul, and to the extent that it’s
not being fed, she needs a new
bed somewhere. But the money
isn’t hers, it just isn’t, and she
walks the dog thinking these
thoughts in loops. And this is
where I intercepted her, in this
alley, with the dog, with fallen
traces of one who falls. That I
didn’t acknowledge her speaks
to the places I’ve fallen as well.
You can also find four sets of Apps on PennSound, here, and Apps on PFS Post, here.
Friday, February 05, 2010
As a proud, magna cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, I am excited to hear that, as of the end of this year, Jacket and PennSound, perhaps the two dominant outlets for contemporary, international experimental poetry, are merging at Penn, specifically at the Kelly Writers House. It is a move that makes permanent the work of myself and the many poets who have contributed to these outlets, and consolidates these outlets in a way that will preserve all of our traces into the twenty-first century.