A HYBRID NOTEBOOK OF POETICS AND PORNOGRAPHIES

Pornography Disclaimer

This is a an imaginary diary of facts, confessions, or messages. This is a notebook of working but broken ideas, lines, images, notes on books I'm reading, writers I admire, and brief fantasies of language. Here unfiltered  all mannerings pseudo-private, publicized, ur-. Here I am art and unrevealed: poetic, political and pop. These are my moonlit rough beginnings and should not be taken literally, directly, truthfully, reliably, and none of it is legally binding. These lies are all choreographed, but only haphazardly. Beware.

26.8.07

THE LEMONDARK

. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, I should be up this late working on my syllabi for Fall classes--especially since I ordered a new set of books!--instead I'm up reading Alex Lemon's first book MOSQUITO. Another dream, another fight, another / ripped by light--mouth-locked, licked / ecstatic--lost as a sucked moon & lashed, tongued / bright and banished: that's how I feel after reading him, the black blast of his poems, a jacuzzi hotjet in my mouth. In Mark Doty's Introduction, he insightfully points out that pain and language enter a syntactical relationship, one that can result in utterance, or cliche. If pain destroys langauge, "style, unlike the defenseless body," Doty poignantly remarks, "has a sort of permanence." I resist this statement momentarily, but agree that the style of our poetry will outlast this body of ours that filters it.


Unfortunately for Lemon, it seems that every mention of his book is inextricably related to his brain surgery, as if the pulp of that hidden organ were some fruit broken open, torn apart across a rock, and the poetry seeded grit and gleam. There is a haunting of Plath here, where poetic insight seems always to be reduced or to condense her suicidal struggle. I guess I'm thinking also of a recent review in the NY Times of the poetry of prisoners at Gitmo (approved by the US government) which remarks that the verse itself is bland, absent of real poetic insight, juvenile, useless on the page and borne only by the fact of these prisoners' predicament. It's annoying to me that so many reviews and commentaries of Lemon's work feel it necessary to relate the poems to his medical condition, as if that in itself amounted to poetry. Even if Plath's predicament was suicide, and Lemon's, brain surgery, the incantatory excitement of their poems, the visceral drama of their poetry, cannot be relegated to experience, but to craft.


At times Lemon's attention to the flesh is brutal, but in its murder, in its lit seizures of pain or love or joy, we find him like a saint of bodily limitation, beckoning us to the spiritual reward of suffering, which is the access to Beauty:

"Feel my wrist,
it is a coda dragging its feet. I click
my teeth like cymbals. Hold
your hand to my chest, I'll baptize you" ("Juke Joint")

So from Plath, Lemon inherits the visceral clarity (and the curse of biographical affliction), and perhaps from Hopkins, metrical desperation, something sprung from a pulse that's heated, panicked at the idea that it might not say everything before it can't. In the title poem "Mosquito" he writes, "You want evidence of the street / fight? A gutter-grate bruise & concrete scabs--" and in "Corpus," he whips us forth, with the immediacy that accompanies desperate, last-attempt, gallows entreaties:

"Send posthumous letters in neon,

scribble love unreadable. My body is sweet
with blasphemy & punk teeth, memories

of slam-dancing underwater.
Tonight the absence of rain

is the mouth-open rush to noise:
a hurricane of wasps throat-clambering"


. . . . . .

Friends and Strangers, it's nearly 4 a.m.! I don't know how I'm going to be a bit of racing green, early next week's mornings! TV's all bad and it's too late to eat. These are pure and lonely hours, but not sad--Lemon's poetry is that sustaining, necessary work that renders language uttered relic, that speaks into your own mortal heart's repeated pause like a demon who whispers, tyrant of love. Lemon's work is real poetry, temptful morsel. Curseful blessing. I like to eat it, tang leaf, black meat, to watch the black flight fall--I like to listen to him tell me "Moonlight / confounds us nasty & the heart / murmurs." Tonight I went to a birthday party and wallflowered my own absence like a blue shadow. Here I am, finally, with someone. I love this book.

. . . . . .


LITTLE HANDCUFFS OF AIR

"But always it will be never . . . . . It will be too late and lustrous

Into me lightning everywhere and you lovely

And leaching out of our chests. . . . . . . . . .All of us

Coming. . . . .Anvil-tongued . . . We will be

Sundered with light"





. . . . . .

24.8.07

CAPOTE DRAG

. . . . . .

INFAMOUS. How disappointed I am to reach the end of this 2006 film of Capote's self-destructive quest for a novel! I loved CAPOTE, for its quiet glamour, and for Hoffman's portrayal of a dramatic, careful, stylish if not self-centered, driven and emotionally confident, even distant, cultural aesthete. I was skeptical to watch this version based on Plimpton's biography--and now I know why: it fails in exactly the ways Miller's version succeeds. Toby Jones' Capote is a tripping stereotype of the witty big city queen, falling over himself as he flings the slug of his body at each new stranger he sees, arms flailing to his sides, unattractive and prissy, to interview them. She's a vulgar caricature, and even the accent comes off affected. "Suck my cock you cocksucker" a prisoner shouts down a runway of cells, "I don't snack." Another asks him,"You want to eat my asshole you bitch?" "I prefer it to your face" quips Capote, as he clicks down the cell block like a model on a runway. These scenes are funny and I almost forgive the portrayal of Capote as a social fraud, who finally reveals himself at the end of the movie with embarrassing, forthwright sadness.



I rented it because I wanted to see what another actor could do, another director, and McGrath's vision has the charm of socialite gossip, taking Plimpton's book as cue. After the first ten minutes you can forgive, even begin to forget the Jones' adolescent, clumsy--almost desperate to be liked?--version of Capote, for these sycophantic social scenes in which he carouses with his "Swans", the elite ladies of cocktail entertainments and attentions. But halfway through the film, we experience a terrible descent of soap opera proportion into the psychosexual drama that magnetizes Capote to his Murderer, complete with the awful self-indulgence of romantic confession (Your mother committed suicide? Ah! Mine too!) a mock-rape (in which Perry Smith punishes Capote for the title of the book by stuffing a black rag in his mouth and ripping his pants), and the nauseating moment where Smith admits his homosexuality ("I'll tell you what punishment is for me--its hoping there is someone for you and after years of no one, you find him and you can't have him.")--culminating in a KISS. So in the end we don't even have a murderer, but a lonely, lovesick closeted, misguided small town guy looking for his true love.


Here's where Jones' vision of Capote really falters for me, because as he reveals the author's desires and hidden failures, it's almost impossible to tell if he's still lying and manipulating his murderer in the interest of his novel. It's as if, in the end, he can't find a center for Capote as a character, driven novelist or erotic fantasist. It's ALL an act, always self-consciously done, and even if this makes his Capote PAINFULLY human for his flaws, it also reduces him to a queer looking for love in an over-acted, and can't we say it now? played out version of a gay bildungsroman gone wrong, gone criminal? Don't we have better movies doing this, say THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, or AMERICAN PSYCHO? This is beside the point, since what's nauseating isn't so much the acting as the screenwriting itself that begins by building a kind of portrait of eccentricity and brilliance, insinuating the self-destruction of the author and thereby his vision of the world, and instead coughs up the wet eros of a bad romance novel, in which Capote's great despair is depicted with all the flushed embarrassment of a schoolgirl crush ("I can be myself with you. I don't want you to die." Or after Perry's death: "He said he loved me and he always will.")


I mean, o.k. Capote was fucked up, but do we really need a movie to portray him as a sad, vulnerable, needy bitch? I read him, and he's smart, driven, eloquent, surprising and unbearably exacting as a story teller. He's ATTRACTIVE and to die for good on the page. He's fucking beautiful, with all the Keatsian trouble that afflicts that word, that leaves our "heart high-sorrowful and cloyed". I guess what I don't like about this movie is that despite some good performances (Bullock as Harper Lee, Sigourney Weaver) the ruin of Capote as an author by the experiment of his final novel not only becomes a bad romance, but it gives us this version of Capote the man that is just too pathetic to love or admire. Make him a fiction worth our adoration, for christsake! At least we still have Bennett Miller's CAPOTE--which I vehemently recommend over McGrath's INFAMOUS--and Phillip Seymor Hoffman, prince of drag, to make for us a worthy idol of literary sainthood.

23.8.07

DIARY OF THE DOG

. . . . . .


So all along I've been trying to understand what this blog means for me, since I didn't grow up, like my youngest brother and sister, 18 and 20 years old, with the internet to make themselves. I started it thinking it shouldn't be too much of a diary, since I've got one of those and I didn't want my personal life to become a record. I think I've changed my mind, to some extant. Friends and Strangers I love you. I secretly stop in and suck up your glam gossips, and I've tired of those sites that do so much proseletizing there isn't enough of anything dirty or human. I'm going to give a little more of what I like to get from you. I changed my outfit too, because school starts Monday and I need a new look. oh and in my desperation I gave myself a new Mohawk:

























DOG by Tomaz Salamun


Dog! what do you do with your hair?
You roll in the mud like a pig.
You stand up and spray me.
You blink and yawn.

Dog! who was your mother?
Don't you have brothers and sisters? Did
they all leave you and go to sleep behind
some corner? You're hungry. Lazy and mongrel.

Dog! I have never seen you before.
You run on the street and stop.
You run on the sidewalk,
then on the street.

Stars will fall on your head.
You are strange. Leave the
tin cans alone.
Dog! you are so strange.


. . . . . .


Reading this week Hicock's INSOMNIA DIARY--I wanted the new one, but the bookstore didn't have it. . . I don't know, I've touched his books in the stores before but never actually bought one. I think I've been scared of how easy he sounds. I'm nervous about what that will do to me. I'm always on the lookout for a poem that tastes like fois gras--so good it's bad for you, and a little controversial to boot. I like a little scandal in my mouth. So I was thrilled to open this book and find lines like this:

Drunk, I kissed the moon
where it stretched on the floor.
I'd removed happiness from a green bottle,
both sipped and gulped
just as a river changed its mind,
mostly there was a flood in my mouth

--I don't even seem to mind that this kind of drunk lyric is so readily domesticated by the next few lines (because I wanted to love the toaster / as soon as possible, and the toothbrush) and I think this is how H. balances romance with "the boredom of living". It's been a roller derby of a summer what with depression, a wedding, my family's illnesses, deaths and disowning, and the drug-high of my new book--departures all, intensely born. I accompany them with laughter and a sad eye. My younger brother just left for Paris for the year. Where are you, right now? On what train? In what unknown distant dawn? My friend Enda today said that he'd seen his favorite sister only a small handful of times in the last seventeen years, and he wondered how many times there were left in their life to see one another. I was going to say I wanted more time with my family, or more time to write, but I think I'm less of a lament than I used to be. I want my time to count for something, with my loves, and with my hairdos!























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17.8.07

GREEN MOONS

. . . . . .

Tonight I'm filled with doubt, until a few lines put themselves right. Then a walk, toward the waves leaving sentences none of us can read, and a moon with its sharp rind, archer's green, lash of the ecstatic. . . and then I sighted a few stars whose names I knew, arcturis and mars, and I let myself be seduced by a bit of darkness, and some shells broke like half-clocks under my feet and I heard the small deaths in the water, and some salt spoke to the whorl of my ear, saying I didn't know you / were coming so soon / without your mystical brothers , and then I combed the books there for a few more talismans against believing our hearts are worthless:

"The Trees" by Phillip Larken:

The trees are coming into leaf
like something almost being said;
the recent buds relax and spread,
their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
and we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
in fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

and Miltos Sachtouris:

"Only my soul whispers
in my ear saying:
it grew dark you grew dark
why?
aren't you scared?"

and tomaz salamun:

"Blockheads. Murder is
an ingredient of love."

Friends and Strangers,
good night.

. . . . . .

9.8.07

BURIAL OF THE STORM


Two nights ago around one a.m. we had an earthquake here in Southern California, 4.6. It was north of where I am, and our area sort of ticked a bit deeply. I was awake doing my usual middle of the night internet surf, procrastinating with wandering fascination. There was a sound like a hoof in the ground, but from far off, and leviathon-sized. The gallop came at us and disappeared. The earth pronounced itself. What's the Plath?

All night I shall gallop thus impetuously
Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf
Echoing, echoing.


Friends and Strangers, we live in paper houses. Pollo was scared and ran from the bed, where he was sleeping, and into my lap at the desk. Earthquake! I scooped him up and ran out to the beach to see if we should head higher. . . Now I'm swept up in thinking about King Lear and Salmun Rushdie's novel, THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET.. .

The most striking thing about Lear is the role of nature. Bloom says something about it being the archetypal mother which Lear rages against becoming, as he tries not to weep, but I love it for the uncontrollable chaotic power that it unleashes. Lear hasn't been able to control himself, he suffers the fate of his own personality, rages against being, against the unfairness of being old and mortal and powerless, and Nature answers him, both inside and out. I think this is our struggle too, always with nature, our own, the world's. . . By the time he learns humility, it's too late to save himself or anyone. In Rushdie's novel, the major earthquakes of the decade lead him into a strange contemplation of theoretical physics, and tears in this world where an earthquake is a kind of doorway people can disappear into, open up and swallow us. Song for Rushdie is part bacchanalia and part death-summons. . . Then there's this new one by McCarthy, THE ROAD, which is primordially dark and difficult, people are homeless and thrust into the unforgivingly harsh mouth of the natural world where creatures have to eat and find shelter. People are strange, rough survivalists, and our loves bear us abstractly.

In LA there's always talk, and sometimes a good t.v. movie, about the next Big One, a major quake right in the middle of the city (which lies directy atop the San Adreas fault). The quake is inevitable, and overdue!, and every once in a while I get myself in a panic. Buy a bookbag and fill it with necessities: dry foods, cash, clothes, water, pens, a little journal, and a few books. Funny that the books trouble me most. If my room collapses, this bedroom by the sea will be the perfect grave for me. It's got my art, and my books, and my bed. But leaving it. . . I guess I don't have a question about being stranded on a desert island, I have a question about the three books you can carry in an earthquake, in an apocalypse. Friends and Strangers, what are your three books? I take that back, if you were forced into hiding, into flight, into exodus, into night--what is the single, manageable book you'd steal with you? It has to be realistic! No hardbacks, no large books.

I switch mine out all the time. I find they have to be small to fit in the emergency bag, and three is really too many. It's terribly unfair. I know there are more important things to save, and I'd probably like to grab some Homer, sometimes an Ovid, but for me. . . right now . . . Beckian Fritz Goldberg's LIE AWAKE LAKE, a little copy of MACBETH, and Jean Genet's MIRACLE OF THE ROSE, oh kay and I just threw in a little novel by Clarice Lispector, HOUR OF THE STAR (it's smaller than a book of poems, so I don't care). Now they really just don't fit. They're too heavy.

I'll have just a copy of Jaroslav Seifert's poetry. Yep, that's it. That's my one book. Because he writes things like,


I still return to the places
I used to love,
and I feel as if I were stroking
an amorous fold of velvet

and:

What we now see in the sky
is just a dead satellite
and the jaws of its craters
chew upon nothingness

and all in the same poem!

This whole thing makes me feel cruel. It's picking from your most beloveds and saving one of them from the dirt, the dark execution. Reynaldo Arenas is not happy with me at the moment. . . maybe he'll have to be resurrected.. . Who to give back to the wall in the ground? I feel like a mother saving one child over the rest, on one my hip, the rest smothered in the earth. O horrible, horrible. Most horrible. We leave this world too quickly, and how are we to take it with us? How do we not die? To live is to be in exile. To live is to bury your life along the way.

I'm burying my loved ones alive!

. . . . . .
My photo
I've got one foot in the grave and the other's in my mouth.

Poetry Disclaimer

My work has been awarded the Katherine C. Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, a Swarthout Award, and has twice been nominated and shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize. My first book, A Book Called Rats, was selected for the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry (Eastern Washington University Press 2007). I'm curating editor for the online journal of poetry: PISTOLA and my poems and reviews most recently appear in Massachusetts Review, Beloit, Ploughshares and RAIN TAXI. I currently teach writing and literature at Santa Monica College in southern California.