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.

18.1.09

A KISS IN NO KNOWN YEAR


A night like being in love. The winter night in California, cool, not cold, bearable chill heightening the senses, the sunset over the ocean and not the mountain, Orion and the Dogs close, like the backdrop of some great play in the theatre dark, the planets bright, the stars failing like flames like the sound off the palm trees near the rooftop, like the ocean in the distance.  Making ghosts of us. Someone's birthday, all the devastations. Someone spying us through the window.. .

Finished 2666 at the half moon. It hasn't finished with me. I don't even really know who to compare it to, and what's more, I don't want to compare it. Deliberately wrought. Satisfying in the way a Greek Tragedy is, yet the plot is unspoken, navigated by the constellation of outer lives. We draw close to the mystery of knowing who the murderers are. We draw close to the mystery of knowing, and remain in the mystery of not the known--though how we get there is through knowledge--we know what murder is, we know who murderers are (novelists, politicians, good fathers)--but we remain in the mystery of the unknown. How personal history delivers all there is of experience, and human experience can only go so far. Human knowledge, imperfect, filled with our own violent frailty, and still sacred for being our own, our total ability. We draw close to it, we misinterpret it entirely.. .

The mystery of the unknown. Outside of plot is the plot, which is to say whole lives are the plot, being lost and knowing all that being lost entails, our genuine loves and brutal lies and how the two seem to be two sides of the same creature we pretend we don't understand, alien, and true self, as in the dream side or the art side, where we are more ourselves. True to both faith and hunger, which are not the same things, like work and ambition. How the line between good and evil is a kind of mirror.

Then kissing him on the California rooftop, the palm trees burning madly, the grit of drug on his tongue, the perfectly awful swoon, the cold air and his hot face and a leg lifted up and an arm just pressing along the underneath of it firmly, it felt like I was a character in someone else's strange novel, I was inside a year traveling through the cosmos at the speed of light. I wanted all of my memories lit like this, like a chapter in the novel where two lovers bite each other in the castle, years before one of them is mercilessly murdered, years before they know what they've lost is remembered secretly and best, a wine in the darkness when you're old, very old, remembering what it is to be young, unspilled, old and still able to taste it, tang of salt and shit, of the infinite, a flavor beaten and devoured in the myth of ourselves, yielding the scarlet drops that mock us. I kissed him there, I bit him, I became briefly aware, I bled like an icon of eternity. 

7.1.09

BIG MONEY LOVE AT THE PINK PONY

All criticism is ultimately a nightmare
Roberto Bolaño

I started the new winter session this week and started some serious effortful hours for reading and writing every day. Have to to get some real work done and not be outdone by the world, i.e. work, sleep, and television. Did I mention cookies? Video games? Porn? 

I've seen a few comments that Bolaño's 2666 is "weird", which is a comment I just don't understand, especially if you watch the nightly news. On the treadmill today in the gym I watched a program that was muted, silently flashing still photographs of a man in a cowboy hat and a black suit lifting two bottles of champagne into the air and a small building with absurdly large and silken neon lettering, a few green trees and an empty gravel parking lot, and read the transcript of the case of a lottery winner who carried a briefcase with 1/2 million bucks in it in the passenger seat of his Ford truck. Parked it at the Pink Pony where a stripper waitress emptied two blue pills into his second drink. Woke up the next morning with a rock through his pickup window and his money gone all except for a packet of 5 grand left out by the dumpster accidentally. I remembered the story from a few years ago when I worked in downtown LA for Transamerica Insurance and collected the best news stories every day purely for entertainment. 

I think Bolaño recognizes the pure odd mystery of daily encounter.  He doesn't even mention the murders of Mexican women until page 287. We're like his characters who use up our days with failed loves, elusive ambitions, familial poverties, crude humor. We don't see the myth we're living in. By this point we're traveling with a black american journalist who's mourning his fresh dead mother. Why not? The history of a person's experience doubled by the complicated tendrilic history of their nation, nailed down by the crimes of men, or, our strange relationships to good men, who are secret beasts, who commit crimes. He's in northern Mexico and he overhears a conversation of someone who's worked on the mass murder case:

"What does a child do when he's afraid? He closes his eyes. What does a child do when he's about to be raped and murdered? He closes his eyes. And he screams too, but first he closes his eyes. Words served that purpose. And the funny thing is, the archetypes of human madness and cruelty weren't invented by the men of our day but by our forebears. The Greeks, you might say, invented evil, the Greeks saw the evil inside us all, but testimonies or proofs of this evil no longer move us. They strike us as futile, senseless. You could say the same about madness. It was the Greeks who showed us the range of possibilities and yet now they mean nothing to us. Everything changes, you say. Of course everything changes, but not the archetypes of crime, not any more than human nature changes."

There's more here, more importantly addressing the way we write the significance of crimes, murders, how slaves could be massacred by thousands but a murder-suicide of a married couple could make the papers Europe-wide. Ditto for the unsolved torture and murder of several hundred missing women in Northern Mexico, near a border town, a whole civilization itself lit with corruption and desperation and hunger. I like these pages because they seem to set forth one triumph of the book, to give us the new testimonies, to write the evil inside us, the madness of our existence, in a way that will strike us meaningfully.

This passage reminds me of my lecture last night on Keat's "Ode on a Grecian Urn".  What I love about Bolaño's work is that it's characters find themselves in "mad pursuits" of mythic proportions, and like us, they don't seem to know it. 

I want other "weird" novels on the same shelf with this one, say

The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the Edge of the World by Haruki Murakami
Pubis Angelicus by Manuel Puig

The Assault by Reinaldo Arenas
My Mother: Demonology by Kathy Acker
They Call Me the Breeze by Patrick McCabe

The Castle by Franz Kafka
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter

It's a really imperfect list, I can't seem to make up my mind.s. 

Well, I don't want to be a critic anyway. 
I'm after a different kind of monster.

5.1.09

SIGNS OF THE NEW YEAR

One dream: I wake up and realize that my teeth are made of wood. From the boatdock, damp, lightly frayed, bits of algae breathing in their ugly lacework. I inspect them in the mirror. I can't believe it, and I'm scared to chew anything or close my mouth. I don't want them to ruin.

On the way home from Arizona: I see three dead coyote. Roadkill, still wearing their black eyeliner. Asleep in their surprise anesthetic. You can't read their true faces until the fur mask is gone. Little baggaged death accidents. 

Friends and Strangers,

What is this the year of? 
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.