Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why I am not a poet (2009)

Everyone became famous 15 minutes ago.
We are all together in one big tent.
Kittens raised in the dark will never develop normal vision.
When enough of them are wrong, they’re right.
Children taught the wrong words for everything.
Try pointing towards the undefined.
Suggestible students tend to believe they have whatever disorder they’re currently studying.
‘Beyond a certain point, complexity is fraud.’
Final week of the semester: a thinly attended, token lecture on poetry.
When bored, the monkeys would just masturbat
e all day.
Losing the ability to say ‘I’.
I have always been a wretched speaker.
This tapped fuelsource may not prove relocatable.
Like a philosopher, placing everything in inverted commas.
I’m not a fucking mindreader.
Laughter as the ‘false-alarm call’, revoking the need for assistance.
‘If you’re not reading this for pleasure, you’re reading it wrong.’
Dropping dead from lack of contact.
Window-glass flexed by the wind.
Palm resting on the hump of the mouse.
Going without for months.
Holding pattern.
Short course on how to say ‘No’.
Thinks you’re cute, feels he’s getting warm, looks for an entrance.
Primates will signal the location of food.
Overly-generic comforting gestures trivialise the extent of the other’s sadness.
Bullshit detector.
‘Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.’

Yay, urban-life technologies warp the psyche in unexpected ways.
The simplest phrases have their difficulties.
Such gadgets and tripwires seem the preserves of a younger man.
At one time considered entering a monastery, but was above all desirous of information.
‘The technologist produces a poem, whereas the poet trashes a machine.’
I have never been drunk in my life.
Come on you little shit, everyone’s waiting for you.
The first drawing ever produced by an ape was a drawing of the bars of its cage.
Those hoodied block-boys shouting, ‘To hell with being awake!’
No one blames them.

Sleep deprivation disinhibits.
‘Genuine public debate.’

Seriously, how free can the market be?
The technology ticking flawlessly.
Rampant hyper-deference.
Sub-par finishing proved the difference.
Let nothing go unreplied.

(Editing > writing.)

Note: 'Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise': Shakespeare, sonnet #106.

Below: Michael Goldberg, 'Sardines' (as immortalised in Frank O'Hara's 'Why I Am Not a Painter')


  1. About complexity:Think should be as simple as they can be, but in order to model certain complex structures, as simple as they can means very complex.
    we are all together in one big tent.':Loved this sentence
    Dropping dead from lack of contact: this almost made me cry
    I better shut up before I ruin your mood and your poem.
    It is amazing, So many truths in there,

  2. That is supercool, Stu. I like all of them, some smiles some boggles some nods of recognition. I like this one a lot, I think I shall tweet it.

  3. Thank you both.

    Mariana: yes, I'm reminded of what Einstein said regarding simplicity.

    Some of the sentences were based on an interview with Vladimir Nabokov, including the one about dropping dead from lack of contact, and the ape who drew the bars of the cage. Depressing stuff, maybe, but to me it says something about the need for art.

    Paul: Thanks for the tweet - I really appreciate it. For what it's worth, I think this one is 'Sillimanesque'! ;) Although this wasn't a conscious thing, it probably borders on imitation.

  4. Dropping dead from lack of contact...

    Primates will signal the location of food.
    Overly-generic comforting gestures trivialise the extent of the other’s sadness...

    Stu--This great poem stopped me in my ancient tracks.

    Einstein and the ape: here we come to basics once again.

    Talk Gets Old

  5. Oh and by the way, Stu, speaking of human need and contact, the painting you have posted reminds me that once nearly a half century ago, when those two things at times curiously and perhaps miraculously still co-existed, Mike Goldberg gave me a shirt (not off his back, yet nonetheless a nice one) to be wed in, and then provided me and the innocent bride (who had no idea as yet what she was in for, speaking of the company of poets and apes) a place to lie our heads for a night, in his studio, when that was exactly what was needed.

    (One supposes that from the perspective of distance oranges and sardines are identical anyway, could it be the same is even true of apples and oranges?)

  6. Hi, Stu.
    Any idea what Silliman is talking about in his latest post on conceptual poetry? I don't think anyone does. Define gibberish. How did the Emerging Writers bash go? Have you recovered?

  7. Thanks for your comments, Tom. Some food for thought there (maybe one day Einstein will get his point across?), not to mention a slice of history served from a shrinking world.

  8. Paul, I saw Silliman's post but I can't say I've read it. That may require my morning brain.

    And the EWF was great, thanks. I was fighting off the flu (which has thankfully now retreated) but I soldiered on.

  9. What's with all the military metaphors? No idea.

  10. An encyclopaedic poem? Very enjoyable. I recognised one of the quotes - the ape drawing the bars of its cage was Nabokov's initial inspiration for Lolita, yes? I've always found that strange and fascinating. Was ‘If you’re not reading this for pleasure, you’re reading it wrong’ Nabokov too? Tim

  11. Hi Tim, thanks for dropping by.

    You're right about the ape drawing the bars of its cage being Nabokov's initial inspiration for Lolita.

    As for ‘If you’re not reading this for pleasure, you’re reading it wrong’, I don't think that was from Nabokov. Actually I'm not sure where that sentence came from... it may not have been a quote at all, despite the quotation marks. I'll have to dig through my notebook!

  12. Why I dislike the post-avant, Stu. To tell people that language can only discuss itself, that it is naive or stupid to suggest that language can contain actual magic, to make a rule, as Adam Fieled does that you cannot discuss epiphanies, to all this is to lead people into a very dark, very cynical and very nihilistic place. It is two very fundamentally different ways of looking, not only at poetry and language, but of looking at the world.

  13. Bear in mind that not every poet who Silliman or Fieled would call 'post-avant' would necessarily agree with, or identify with the label. I wouldn't call myself 'post-avant', but then I hesitate to call myself a poet anyway.

    What do you mean by 'actual magic', exactly? I'm not against epiphany in poetry or life.

    What I am against is balkanism in poetry.