Friday, June 5, 2009

notes and nubs

Anxiety can pluck feathers from an egg.

Like most corny jokes, it has a few kernals of truth stuck in its toothy grin.


If it was labeled, tagged with
one letter set upon each tooth,
what would your smile spell out—
whose mouth can find the word
to speak its name to mine.

All I'm asking is that the Academy of American Poets requisition a supply of suicide capsules from its bosses at the C.I.A., and issue one to me. And to other elderly poets who likewise seek a quick demise. The AAP should be shamed and blamed that it does not offer this most humanitarian of services to the poetry community.

The Father's business success: each floor he rises drives another elevator shaft into his children's heart.

Like a needle sipping an eel.

The doorkey that melts in the lock gets exhibited; Jasper Johns' brush sticking out of the paintcan: impotency on parade.



There's another war every 20 years or so because there are new poets every 20 years or so, and war exists in order to kill poets.

The purpose of war is to kill poets.

But it's not the enemy's poets each country wants to kill, it's their own.

Thus in the Great War the British soldiers were murdering Oscar Wilde; the German soldiers were killing Rilke; the French, Rimbaud/Verlaine.

The USA troops in Iraq today all aim their weapons at Ashbery.

(Yes, Wilde was already dead then, and R/V too. Even posthumously they still had to be killed.)



Bookstores and libraries put fictional prose in a separate section from nonfictional prose.—

Why shouldn't books of poetry be similarly segregated?

My poems, which are fictional, should not be on the same shelf with poets who write nonfictional (autobiographical, biographical) poetry.

Chekov: the antithesis of poetry. The enemy of poetry. The writer poets turn to when they begin to hate themselves in their art.

I don't know if Konstantin in "The Sea Gull" is Chekov's only portrayal of a poet, but it's such a cruel epitome.

Mocked and humiliated throughout, his lover seduced and stolen away by a prose-writer, poor Konstantin by the end of the third act is finally reduced to a mere ploypuppet in a coup de theatre, an offstage prop murdered and remurdered to provide a Hollywood "shock ending" climax.

As if being cuckolded and killed off to effect a plot-twist weren't bad enough, Konstantin is forced to suffer during the course of the play an even more evil and demeaning fate,

as the sadistic Chekov turns him, the aspiring young poet, into a short-story writer!

You can always tell when poets are going through a period of self-hatred and doubt about their art: they write poems about Chekov.

. . . going back to Pater: think how very different our (contemporary) relation to music is from his, compared to his experience of it. how often would he have heard music? I ask that literally:

how often and under what conditions would he in his daily life have physically heard music, ie real music as opposed to any tune humming in his head?

i would guess to answer that question by saying : not very often: on special occasions, concerts, recitals, probably church bells more than anything else, a street musician perhaps, though it's hard to imagine Pater walking on streets where such creatures thrived . . .

Now compare that to our current experiencing of music, how it ubiquitously presses in us relentlessly from every medium, my god you can't make a phonecall without being assailed by it,

every store you go into blasts your ears with it, every street is boomboxed and car-stereoed to death with its intrusive noise. . .

there is no escape from it. It greases the gears of consumer capitalism as much as the oil our government is currently killing everybody it can to gain control of. . ..

If Pater had to hearsuffer what what the average USAer is deluged with on a daily basis, I doubt he would reverence music quite as highly as in his pre-massmedia'ed cloistered Oxford. . .

Anyway, my tirades against music are hyperbole, and not meant to be taken entirely unsatirically.

But I can't be the only poet in the last hundred years who has chafed at Pater, and has resented the fact that poetry is not ranked first among the arts.

And yes, I'll say it again, the complacency and arrogance of composers and musicians is insufferable.

Compare poets to musicmakers, and their respective self-doubts. Poets are constantly questioning the value and the validity of poetry; do composers and conductors ever do that?

It boils down to economics of course: music makes money and poetry doesn't. So poets have to keep justifying themselves in the face of a commercialized world——



given the fame
the recent book
of unfinished or
abandoned writings
by Elizabeth Bishop
won't someone
plan another
consisting of her
(and the concept
might work as well
with Robert Lowell
or James Merrill)
penned instructions
to the maid
the menus she
handed the cook
the lists she left
for her secretary
and what about
her stockbrokers
the screeds they got
regarding assets
and every scrap she
(or Russell Edson
or Louise Gluck
or Richard Howard)
wrote should be in it
all the notes
to the chauffeur
the wine steward
the groundskeeper
the butler
the manicurist
the psychotherapist
the poolboy
the hairstylist
the dressmaker
the wigcomber
the authorized
the pillwrangler
the gardener
the cleaning staff
the masseuse
and what about
the servants
we don't know about
the flunkies
whose functions
remain hidden
whose arcane chores
are kept secret from
us the public
to us lowerclass
the sponge-wringer-outer
the sexologue
the doubled-over doters
the astro-prefixed kneelers
and of course
the lawyers on retainer
not to mention
the critics on retainer