I know flashmobs are so over, but perhaps dedicated Collins-haters could harness the power of Craigslist to stage protests at his readings. I'll leave it to others to come up with witty slogans for the placards.
Ugh. Collins. He's like the sour cream of poetry. A fattening blandenizer.
"Neil, Neil, Orange Peel," is a phrase that runs through my head every now and again. It's rather satisfying.
Japanese Royals Fill Palace With Poetry
There Are No Poetry Police in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Saw some bloggers talking about tables of contents and laughing over their "best" titles...or rather, the titles that sounded most intriguing sans-poem. My titles are generally pretty minimalist. Sometimes I even refuse to have articles in them, so that a poem is just called "Ring" rather than "The Ring." But I looked through my backlog in search of intriguing titles and I think the top five attention callers are thus:
1. "The Bleeding Edge of Kink"
2. "Mama Lama"
3. "Amor en la Casa Robotica"
4. "Huey Lewis Hive Mind"
5. "Zombie Work Song"
Mused today on whether I have a voice, but no form. Some people write rather consistently in one form. I don't. I write about half-and-half free verse and some type of formal -- a mixture of set forms like sonnets and, more often, rhymes on forms I set myself. I was looking through some poems and noticed one whose form was very like Jorie Graham's, another whose form was much like Charles Wright's, and one that reminded me of Kay Ryan, which I rather like because when I first read her stuff I was just enchanted, but couldn't produce anything in the same vein at all. Then, a couple of years later, I just sort of got into anglo-saxon three-to-four-stress per line meter, and one came out on its own. At the same time, while these mimic-form poems look on the page rather like their prototypes' work, I think the tone and sensibility is completely different, and the aims, too. So that's it; I'm a form cannibal. A ghoul of forms, digging them out of their graves and putting them to my own nefarious uses. . .
Remember, great poets steal.
And some sell out, I suppose. Nikki Giovanni dreams of having her own shoe, a la Air Jordans. Air Giovannis. "I want The Giovanni," she mused, in full ego-tripping mode. "I want you to be able to go into Foot Locker — all you writers out there — and say, 'I want The Giovanni,' and then buy a $500 pair of my shoes."
Actually, that would be pretty funny. Got that link from Fishblog, btw.
Wood's Lot today had a bunch of links on Lorenzo Thomas, including this transcript of a speech he gave many years ago at the Poetry Project, which made me think about the way poets use language. When I first learned about language poetry, it was presented to me as a way to break down the framework of language and rebuild it. Language had become a sort of official newspeak, and the authority it conveyed was itself indicative of corruptive and entrenched power. Destroy and rebuild, like Picasso or a Russian novelist. But it was always more attractive to me that language already had the ability to channel power. Like Thomas in the speech above, I thought of the use of poetry in language as a deliberate attempt to grasp power for your own and to channel the reader into your way of thinking. Poetry was a persuasive art. Any art, for that matter, is a persuasive art. To take the person who experiences it and to mold them in your viewpoint. So if you had something revolutionary to say, say it in the language of power, and thereby take out the power from the inside.
I suppose language poets are doing that though; channeling the reader by disrupting the reader and rebuilding. It's a different method, one that I can appreciate (at least theoretically; it's not every piece of language poetry that I can sit down and read and respond aesthetically and intellectually to in a meaningful fashion). I'm not sure it's a method I can take part in myself; I'm thoroughly grounded in syntax and grammar and enjoy wielding words to make specific, discrete points, rather than to fulfill a larger theoretical construct. Maybe my communications are thereby more surface-bound and less pervasive. I'm not sure.
I could be snooty and say that at least by operating in the confines of official dialogue, I have a better chance of someone reading one of my poems all the way to the end, whereas they might just say, "What is this?" to some language poetry and drop it halfway through. After all, you have to be pretty dedicated to read all of Tjanting. Maybe you're not even supposed to read all of Tjanting. (That's kind of what I feel like with language poetry--I'm not sure how much I need to read before I'll be purged of the corruptive influences of mainstream language. It's like taking my medicine, when I guess it's supposed to be more like an invigorating futurist bath of the now and beyond).
I feel like i'm in the same dialogue I had with activist friends in college. I thought it was better to try to change from within the system, even though you risked being co-opted. They thought it was better to stay outside of it, and protest from beyond the borders. Seems like I haven't changed my mind since then.
So if I become an evil, oppressive poet, you'll know why. And remember kids, war is peace. Mmm-hmm.
Plus, search American poetry from before 1920. Thanks, Mr. Cieciel!
My nature poetry is all about animals. Rather Marianne Moore-ish, I suppose. She could hardly go a minute without describing pangolins or ostriches. I have anglerfish, wentletraps, and skunks. Animals of my navy-base childhood (horrors! Am I both nature poet and confessional?--whatever). But my animals are, I hope, not just there to let you observe them and think about how great nature is. Usually I write about them so you think how freaking scary nature is and thank god you live in a town where animals are mediated for you through television screens. And hopefully recognize a little of the freaking scary animal in yourself.
The poems are all in various states of non-completion. Although the anglerfish poem (which I just realized, is nature, confessional . . . and written in blank verse. A trifecta of the non-avant!) is pretty close to done. Or "done for now," as you might say.
I was thinking today that this sudden urge to write about animals might come from my having moved to New York, which I found a really distasteful environment for the first few months. I'm dealing with it better now. At first, just the sheer amount of signage, lack of trees except in parks, and lack of ability to see landscape that hadn't been reframed by concrete rectangles of various heights and widths -- well, it made me wildly depressed. And angry. I've got a couple of "I hate New York" poems under my belt -- one finished, and one in the works, but the piss-offed-ness is leaching out, and I wonder if it's because I'm recreating things in poetry. I haven't really noticed anything except the sudden arrival of the animals --no loving descriptions of hills and loblolly trees, for example, but they may just be hiding out in my head, testing the air.
So, watch out for nature. I'm just sayin', is all.
I still don't know what to think of that, but I was thinking of "female" modes of expression, or "gendered" writing. I don't know that I'm all that conscious of being a woman in my writing, although I suppose it's always lurking there for the canny eye to find. But I haven't really, to my mind, addressed problems confronting women so much as problems confronting people. Of course, I view "people" from my own perspective, which is a gendered one.
I wonder how much it shows. The poems I probably think of as most gender female are my Calamity poems, an ongoing series about a "character," who fills in as my Byronic "I" (that is to say, the "I" that is not actually supposed to be me, but is some weird funhouse version of myself and several other entirely mythical personae) and the poems from my first, failed attempt at a series, which was about chance and divination.
Pajarito de mi alma,
I'm going to stop listening
to the purple crooners coming
out of car radios, their voices breathy as feathers,
predicting heartbreak and release
and the best ribs in town,
blue-black tunes for when the
dashboard is wavy with reflections of
streetlight and rain.
I have a little black bird for you, pajarito.
There are crows out on the front
lawn. In this country, we've had to give
up considering them
prophecies of death. There's
so many, we'd all be underground
if they had their way.
Hear that thunder? It's the
angels, bowling. They
always get splits. That's why
the time between the crash
and the light will tell you
how many years till you get married
or until an eagle steals you away
in his talons. I forget which.
Pajarito, pajarito de mi corazón
flap those wings and bring me some coffee,
tell me what happened at the office today,
I already know what's happening tomorrow,
you know, pajarito, pajarito,
there are two halves to the now I'm in.
Is it particularly feminine? It strikes me that way when I think about it, bu I've never thought much about this aspect of my work, and maybe I'm reflecting more feminine more generally than I think. But what do you think? Or about gender and language? Is it possible to have genderless expression? Or is that a somewhat silly thing to strive for? I'm not sure what good it would be...
I wrote a Spam poem a few months ago based not on subject lines, but on the supposed name of a spammer from whom I received a spam. "Elwood Fuentes." That name will haunt me forever.
In the meantime, Spam subject lines might be a good thing to incorporate into my Marianne Moore/shopping poem, along with the jellied eels I mentioned somewhere in the comments.
But, here's a link about a journal article called Marianne Moore and the Arcadian Pleasures of Shopping, which is a title for a poem if I ever freaking heard one. Shall I steal it hence? Oh, mais oui.
Then I dreamt that I was friends with Shelley (Percy Bysshe) and that he was acting like a total crackhead. Running into the middle of busy streets, yelling randomly, setting small fires. I told him he was hanging out with Lord Byron too much, and he got totally pissy.
At the Strand yesterday, I got
The Complete Marianne Moore
Kimiko Hahn's Earshot
wait, that rhymes, doesn't it? a stanza incomplete. Want to finish it? You don't have to.
One of the people already on my sidebar, Daniel Nester of Unpleasant Event, has a new book out from Soft Skull Press called God Save My Queen, an afficionado's ode to the work of Queen, written in the interstices of prose, poetry, and drooling fannishness. You can order it from the website, or I saw they had copies at Bowery Poetry Club yesterday.
Art knows no subject-matter limitations. (Speaking of which, Nester criticizes Ron Silliman for using business terms to describe poetry and then acting like he's using some new, unique language. What happens if I start describing poetry using legal terminology? What would Wallace Stevens do? Note to self, etc, etc.)
Moreover, Unpleasant Events notes this collection of sestinas at McSweeney's. Who knew? I wrote a sestina a few months ago. I think you should only make the attempt if you have a poem that keeps coming to you in your dreams and begging you to make it a sestina. And even then, you should make unreasonable demands of it in order to determine whether it's just pulling your leg.
Nester also lists books received, so I thought I'd do the same, just in case any of you had an opinion on authors/titles . . . On my recent trip to Charlottesville, I entered the Nirvana which is Heartwood Books and got the following:
Diane Wakoski: The Magellanic Clouds
Richard Brautigan: The Pill vs. The Spring Hill Mine Disaster
Thom Gunn: Boss Cupid
Fanny Howe: Gone
Charles Wright: Black Zodiac
Also swiped Mark's copy of Christopher Logue's All Day Permanent Red, which I'm about half way through. Eagerly awaiting the arrival of the horse, although I suspect that may be in the next volume.
Anyway, today will see me schlepping around frozen Manhattan, and hopefully going through the mad scribblings I got out of yesterday's readings. Readings are always good for reminding you that poetry can be heard as well as read. Began thinking about what among my oeuvre does better out loud than on the page.