1 June 2015

Only the sorry picker

At last night tempers the day’s offensive heat, foil boxes tower greasily stacked high with fun along the ordinary chaos of a pavement, utensils plastic fleshed hearts smear from park to home beating each other raw phlegm gobs constellate the outside and are moonlit. Against its limits grass groans relieved to be alone again – it is a collective noun its blades torn between singularity and wanting to belong, wanting to be with others tragic at the gates. Some homeless had a cidered inlet jovial shaded terrible it was alleviated with the widening of the road so many things broke here. One side the city you live in and me miles away in this place we once believed in as a gift we were grateful for small morsels but growth and shrinkage became malignant in wrong directions and now bedrooms are quieter and cankerous and places only to collect yourself that scattering of rags, the self only the sorry picker. Yours is not as visible from the hilltop as the city’s grim icons are, I can barely take that walk now without falling kneeling at the trough idiot pig snuffling for scraps of a thing that used to be full as hearts were true. Possibility, gradient, managing expectations. Cooled and desperate then we scale the gates, sneak through holes in the mesh like dogs dogged and privately sometimes desperate to be leashed for freedom and told when to run and told not to have a soul or read saintly texts on what space the negative offers. Here is emptiness so it is easy to see each other. I don’t dance I fight. I fight to end the speaking of one word after another at tables in windowless rooms. The only way to sleep is to admit writing is compulsion not politics. I just want a slim desire to to widen into a fat one to live with some solidity. Does 50 of your goony friends count? Tonight this is a corpulent space and ours. But I know now not to live in another’s body. The earth swallows the new skyline as it capsizes under what we did. Stumbling I am expected to be moved but being told to feel on cue is a special kind of violence. A reaction is waited for and in that waiting is the realisation that only a lie is possible. I become a liar. No one wants to be responsible for the breaking of a line of sentimental hearts, for the overflowing of a glassy eye into a tearful one. I try to feel what I’m told to feel. Noises come in strangely because windows are opened in awkward locations where usually it is too cold to open windows. Enclosed, a barrier falls. So much that even my insides are being narrated by those around me as I narrate theirs in an experiment of empathy so visceral that we cannot tell if it is happening to all of us because if it is then this at last is a thing being shared and felt at once by finally not just one. Knees jut boys crouched hands busy with food illuminated bluely by telephones in daylight they are fey and amorous but here they are able to focus on their own hunger. Squatting at the mouth a harried body relaxes, is nourished, nourishes others exhausted from holding themselves up, bones are a myth it is not them that uphold, it is our private citizening. In these visions anchorlessness is freedom and not the possibility of drowning alone at sea hallucinating cruelly. You wouldn’t know freedom if it shat in your mouth. Oh the air is cool and on us oh your skin is the edge of my skin oh it is happening it is happening. Rangers circulate checking for strays headlights sweep searching for or for us to warn or warn us a threat a threat. And then it is ours again we know the long grass and the willow we know the boughs to swing from we know nothing is ours. Is today an official special day because the air is torn with colours. Was something named or born or did it die? A season a princess a stadium. A cylindrical metallic feeling, a sheer chemical feeling, a new track through familiarity. In the grass her black cape billows behind her while she sings a part remembered song which in its part rememberedness becomes other to itself and only to her the singer. Here there is swift and nimble dancing a skirt flows a foot lands. Then the light comes the mosquitos come the joggers come the dog walkers come the sun comes the men come the children come the birds come the mealtimes come and the seams are straightened and the hair is combed and there is the thing we call a shift which is really a jolt and there is the thing we call return which is really exile and there are the men on logs which are really corpses on logs and there is the thing we call patience which is really denial and there is the thing we call friendship which is really consolation - but still - a heart that was lifted is still a heart that was lifted. If this were an ode it would be one.

9 March 2015

Lilina

'He disliked Lilina; probably because he suspected intuitively that she was a person who could fall over and over again into the same pile of broken glass and scream just as loudly the last time as the first.'
Jane Bowles, from 'A Guatemalan Idyll'



is sorrow sentimental?
is prolonged sorrow sentimental?
does prolonged sorrow become sentimental?
is it mawkish? or is it refined?
is it a great capacity or a dwindling light?
is it fierce loyalty or shabby fidelity?
is it forgetful or is it still raw?
is it stupidly timeless or wisely eternal?
is it a new feeling or the same bludgeoning, old one?
does it vary infinitely or is it toneless?
is it its infinite variety or its tonelessness that makes it claustrophobic?
and why is is sometimes expansive, ranging?
does it marble with nostalgia?
does it become delicious and tender? decadent and luxurious?
does it become a space?
does it become fodder for poets and politicians?
does it become comfortable and familiar?
does it become national?
does it make us?
what happens to mourning?
does it flatten over time?
does it spike occasionally when triggered?
or do we flatten ourselves around it?
is its topography predictable?
is it instrumentalised?
does it become the doctor’s ‘acceptance’?
is acceptance irresponsible?
does it console?
is consolation struggle’s dampener?
is loss inseparable from exclusion?
is to lose to be excluded?
does exclusion necessitate loss?
is this about rubble?
is this about lazarus?
is this about ghosts?
is this about miracles?
is this about waiting?
is this about patience?
is this about hope?
is this about masochism?
is this about narrative?
is this about making the most of it?
is this about what doesn’t kill you?
is this about the need for roots?
is this about the need for myths?
is this about getting through the day?
is this about getting through the night?
is this about getting through the week?
is this about feeling it all the way to the bottom?
is this about feeling it on the surface?
is this about rising?
is this about falling?
is this about armature?
is this against healing?
is this against forgetting?
is this against processing?
is this against understanding?
is this against a good night’s rest?   
is this against dreaming?
is this against telling yourself?
is this against telling others?
does each fresh distortion have its uses?
does each scar strip away character?
is this a secret, disobedient gift?

20 February 2015

Personism: A Manifesto // Frank O’Hara // 1959

Everything is in the poems, but at the risk of sounding like the poor wealthy man’s Allen Ginsberg I will write to you because I just heard that one of my fellow poets thinks that a poem of mine that can’t be got at one reading is because I was confused too. Now, come on. I don’t believe in god, so I don’t have to make elaborately sounded structures. I hate Vachel Lindsay, always have; I don’t even like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, “Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.”

That’s for the writing poems part. As for their reception, suppose you’re in love and somebody’s mistreating (mal aimé) you, you don’t say, “Hey, you can’t hurt me this way, I care!” you just let all the different bodies fall where they may, and they always do may after a few months. But that’s not why you fell in love in the first place, just to hang onto life, so you have to take your chances and try to avoid being logical. Pain always produces logic, which is very bad for you.

I’m not saying that I don’t have practically the most lofty ideas of anyone writing today, but what difference does that make? They’re just ideas. The only good thing about it is that when I get lofty enough I’ve stopped thinking and that’s when refreshment arrives.

But how then can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them. Improves them for what? For death? Why hurry them along? Too many poets act like a middle-aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tears). I don’t give a damn whether they eat or not. Forced feeding leads to excessive thinness (effete). Nobody should experience anything they don’t need to, if they don’t need poetry bully for them. I like the movies too. And after all, only Whitman and Crane and Williams, of the American poets, are better than the movies. As for measure and other technical apparatus, that’s just common sense: if you’re going to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you. There’s nothing metaphysical about it. Unless, of course, you flatter yourself into thinking that what you’re experiencing is “yearning.”

Abstraction in poetry, which Allen [Ginsberg] recently commented on in It Is, is intriguing. I think it appears mostly in the minute particulars where decision is necessary. Abstraction (in poetry, not painting) involves personal removal by the poet. For instance, the decision involved in the choice between “the nostalgia of the infinite” and “the nostalgia for the infinite” defines an attitude towards degree of abstraction. The nostalgia of the infinite representing the greater degree of abstraction, removal, and negative capability (as in Keats and Mallarmé).

Personism, a movement which I recently founded and which nobody knows about, interests me a great deal, being so totally opposed to this kind of abstract removal that it is verging on a true abstraction for the first time, really, in the history of poetry. Personism is to Wallace Stevens what la poési pure was to Béranger. Personism has nothing to do with philosophy, it’s all art. It does not have to do with personality or intimacy, far from it! But to give you a vague idea, one of its minimal aspects is to address itself to one person (other than the poet himself), thus evoking overtones of love without destroying love’s life-giving vulgarity, and sustaining the poet’s feelings towards the poem while preventing love from distracting him into feeling about the person. That’s part of Personism. It was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond). I went back to work and wrote a poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. It’s a very exciting movement which will undoubtedly have lots of adherents. It puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style, and the poem is correspondingly gratified. The poem is at last between two persons instead of two pages. In all modesty, I confess that it may be the death of literature as we know it. While I have certain regrets, I am still glad I got there before Alain Robbe-Grillet did. Poetry being quicker and surer than prose, it is only just that poetry finish literature off. For a time people thought that Artaud was going to accomplish this, but actually, for all their magnificence, his polemical writings are not more outside literature than Bear Mountain is outside New York State. His relation is no more astounding than Dubuffet’s to painting.

What can we expect from Personism? (This is getting good, isn’t it?) Everything, but we won’t get it. It is too new, too vital a movement to promise anything. But it, like Africa, is on the way. The recent propagandists for technique on the one hand, and for content on the other, had better watch out.

31 January 2015

'How are you supposed to start a stanza with 'mule'?'

Zajal: When Competitive Poetry Was a Better Sport Than Soccer

'Basically one poet — and know that we all considered ourselves poets — would recite a stanza, usually loaded with couched or open insults against his opponent. The opponent would fire back with a stanza, flipping the insults back on the first person. Now here is the kicker: whenever someone responds, they must start with the last word of the stanza that was just thrown at them. What’s more: the response had to follow the same set meter and rhyme.'
 



More televised competitive poetry: Egyptian poet Hisham el-Gokh's 'An Honest View of Liberation Square' from 2011's round of 'Prince of Poets' (!).



4 January 2015