Monday, October 30, 2006

new poetry movement!

we need a new poetry movement this week.

come up with one and, um, we'll clap for you in front of our computers.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This blog is getting dusty.

School is began again.

So no more dust.

Anyway: Someone (Jess or Mike) should post a blog with names/blogs of people interested in that DIY group so we can get this thing rolling. I need a jumpstart or injection of something so I can get writing. I have been stagnant in the past few weeks.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Two links concerning "art games": read this and play the games of Ferry Halim.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Jess Rowan and I are trying to hijack our own open-mic (the West Wind doodad) and turn it into a get together of local poets, wherein we read our own work and the work of others, hold bookmaking seminars, exchange tips and tricks, build kites inside our bellies, and do all sorts of zany pitter-patter.

If you live in Ashland, I know what you're thinking! "What local poets?!" Ease up, compatriot: there are indeed good poets floating around who aren't gag-ass hippies. I met a few the other week at my friend Ocho's apartment. I shall invite them to our new endeavor. Every Ashlander who reads this is also invited, so don't worry about leaving me yr email addy or anything. Just watch this space for news. We may hold these get-togethers in locales and hours divorced from the ordinary open-mic, so stay vigilant. This blog will comfort you, rock you on the water, row your boat ashore, etc.

In other news, I lost my orange polo at the beginning of summer, and now I lost my sweet-ass "NATIVE SPIRIT" shirt. Get yee back to England, bastard lil' Borrowers.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

new pynchon book

today i found out that the new thomas pynchon book called 'against the day' will be released early december.

read these things.

i suggested to mike that

and i quote from our msn convo:

bryan says:
we should all read it and form a READING GROUP OF IT
bryan says:
bryan says:
over vodka crans

his reply?

Mike says:
Mike says:
How to Read a Bryan Coffelt Poem

Make an Italian mob "meh."
Shrug. Cuss into your fists.
Giggle and fuck and call yourself
"Mr. Giggle-Fuck the Giggle-Fucker."

Be totally the tin man with the red thing.
Make sure no one is around, then
French kiss the lakes that won't drain.

how to read a mike young poem

get indignant at a comet
flaunt your pointy side
the rain will try to douse you

it's like cinnamon
not a candy cane
and then
redo your mirror's seams.

Brought to you by a total esprit de corps wig out.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

beauty in a time of bombs: some thoughts

why do i write things to make them beautiful? things are not beautiful, things are clunky and lukewarm.

is beautiful language dishonest? why do i glaze the truth to make it more appetizing in my writing? truth is a rare commodity. everything seems to be keeping something hidden from everything else.

i know these things, but i still feel like i have to dress up my writing [insert simile here]. is it because human brains use metaphors to function?

everyone should discuss this here.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Thank you to everyone who commented on the last post. I have made French apple sausage with lemon pepper and maple syrup, and I have also sprinkled gingersnaps over canned Boston baked beans. 'Twas a swell idea.

I am not a foodie or an asshole or gay. When I make cool food, it's for the same reason I make cool phrases: I just like how it all sounds.

And some of it even tastes good, so that's nice.

Here are books I have recently finished and giggled or cried at:

Nice People Dancing to Country Music - Lee Blessing (play)
Carol Bly - Backbone (stories)
Emile Zola - The Attack on the Mill (stories)
Bill Berkson - Lush Life (poetry)
And They Put Handcuffs on the Flowers - Fernando Arrabal (play)
Visigoth - Gary Amdahl (stories)

You really should read those, at least the Bly, Zola and Arrabal.

At least the Zola.

For class, I reread Carl Sandburg's Chicago poems and found them swelled with grit and still reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen. Kasey Mohammad made me say why they reminded me of Springsteen, which I'm sure he regretted upon seeing the size of my reply.

Okay, uncle. There is not much I don't enjoy. I'm not really enjoying The Cantos. But I'm not supposed to, so okay.

Fuck you too, Ezra. Fuck you too.

In the comment section, please put something you've read and enjoyed, and please fill in the blank: "Fuck you too, _____. Fuck you too."

Thank you.

I love you.

P.S. Also: listen first to Barbara Jane Reyes's "Lullaby in SoMa for Paloma" and "Going Outside to Find the Sky." Then listen to Tyehimba Jess's 1912: blind lemon jefferson explaining to ledbelly.

P.P.S. Fizzpo is dead. The following people wrote Fizzpo: Alex, Jessica, Bryan, Angela and Randy. Angela actually cracked the rules and wrote rule-oriented fizzpo with insane precision. Then everyone stopped, which led to Fizzpo's death. If anyone else wants to say they wrote Fizzpo, they're probably lame and in need of a bath. But everyone is now welcome to write Post-fizzpo. We are currently talking to Norton about releasing a Fizzpo anthology. It will arrive in Smuukentember of 214523523.

P.P.P.S Fizzpo is not dead. I just got word. Everyone now who writes fizzpo is actually writing Second Generation fizzpo, which is no way a disgrace. If you now wish to write Fizzpo, please indiciate whether you are writing Post-fizzpo or Second Generation Fizzpo. If you don't, God will secretly eat you. It will be a secret because God will be in his Costume of Secrets, which somewhat resembles a crescent wrench.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

This post contains things to do!

Doldrums and dustmites, Batman! This place smells like a rotten sandal.

Has anyone written fizzpo lately? Have we successfully conquered that urge? Does anyone want to nominate a new poetic movement? If you will name it, I come up with a very convincing theory.

Some people know that thought precedes and overrides language, which is true, but hardly what I would call fun. But it's still fun. It's sort of complicated. Since cognitive science and modern philosophy have sanded things down to gears and explained things away to sea, language is all super fucked.

It has been so cocksocked and shivved of significance and meaning that it can be nothing now but jester-riffic.

I know it's useless to distinguish between "whom" and "who." This is fine.

It means I can say whom for the real reason I want to say it: because it sounds funny, because it has a beautiful history of formality, an elegant "feeling" that precedes and overrides language, but that only language can gesture toward.

Language: stick around. We will bring you out after dinner with your lutes and funny shoes.

Leave two things in the comment box:
1) your favorite language cuddle-stories (or, um, bitch-ass language shit, Bryan, if you don't like the whole "cuddle" angle) and 2) easy things Mike can make to cook and then eat without puking or exploding.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Today we feature fizzpo from someone who delivers excellent curtain-lectures and nary tarries in the foul world of cockblocking.

into the snail gulag
--bryan coffelt

we returned to find the firewall had tipped over
and someone's contact fell out.
there was a mop in the corner
caked in old mug root beer.
someone sabotaged the barista!
we could see it from the road.
i was wearing times new roman, by the way.
solar ice cream honkey
is peddling outside the hat store.
you can see the social power
around his big fat ankles.
there are no market incentives,
but there are anti-aircraft milfs.
these see our numb fingers, buddy,
and they are putting the milk
from the paper bag to the fridge.


Um, some shit:

gu·lag also Gu·lag (gläg)
1. A network of forced labor camps in the former Soviet Union.
2. A forced labor camp or prison, especially for political dissidents.
3. A place or situation of great suffering and hardship, likened to the atmosphere in a prison system or a forced labor camp.

With gulag, Bryan maybe makes a harsh assessment of the linked society that inspires fizzpo's primary communication mode. A self-righteous asshole might speculate that gulag is too diabolical a word, but if someone believed in a philosophy of every sensation funneling into pretty much the same thing no matter the ferocity, then sure, okay, our containment into linked networks sucks like a gulag.

Now, how the poem is fizzpo:

1) All sorts of leaps and jumps. Before you suspect that Bryan simply wrote everything he saw while sitting somewhere -- that's not true. He wrote this poem while in a sealed vacuum chamber at Harvard, similar to John Cage's heartbeat and nervous system game. The vacuum chamber, he reports, is very spiffy and smells like the bottom of a Pringles can.

But these leaps and jumps connect through single strands, exactly the hyperlinking nature of fizzpo. The hyperlinks occur sometimes conceptually, sometimes through linguistics. Tipped -> fell = concept linkage. Mop -> Mug root beer = linguistic.
Glitzy streams of hyperlinks = fizzy.

2) All sorts of things that would nearly break our heart were we to invest time. "someone sabotaged the barista!" + "social power / around his big fat ankles." But we don't invest time. This is 99% bang + abandon. We can only see it from the "road." Like we're meandering down the road and everything remains within our intimate proximity but infinitely outside our ability to know. I can't believe this analysis actually fits so well. It's kind of silly how well it fits.

3) Bryan colonizes shit. He jitters the camera toward font names, market incentives, milfs. He plants himself firmly in the graffiti-ridden neighborhood of the omf-rightnow-g. What's an anti-aircraft milf? I don't know. You don't either. It's not a milf that stops a war. That's asinine New Criticism. What the language portrays is an internet culture that does not distinguish between missiles and milfs, so absurdly democratic the medium. Milfs and missiles all wear Times New Roman. That's fizzy. No one ever said fizzy is always fun. Brain freezes anyone?

4) The poem breaks. The poem acknowledges the inertia of language. "from the paper bag to the fridge." What? Not IN the fridge? "solar ice cream honkey." What? Not A solar ice cream honkey? Whatever that is. The poem fizzes and bubbles and breaks. This is what liquid really does in the real world where people eat grilled cheese sandwiches with ham and tomatoes. You can't suspend water in mid-air without ridiculous amounts of magnetic equipment. Who operates this magnetic equipment? Upper class white male scientists. Thus the suspension of water or the grand artifical suspension of "timeless" poetry depends on the luxury of bourgeois exploition. These effects make the poem fundamentally "lame" and frustrating, a scowling testament (but a curiously fierce lovesong) to the lame and frustrating surroundings of low-class soda. That's fizzy.

5) Who is the honkey? Who drank the root beer? What's the "story" behind the poem? Why are our hands numb? Well, our hands are numb from that smudge of white heat shit in which we always indulge. These other people -- we don't give a shit about their story. We just want to skim them. What drains from us when we engage in our hyperlinking is a blunt and even fucking mean depersonalization. It's not cute or secretly "liberating." It's reality. It's a lack of compassion. So this poem is reactionary rather than constructive fizzpo, detailing compassion gaps more than constructing models to rectifiy them. But how can you construct with fizzpo, if its primary mechanism involves duplication and appropriation (of the language fizzing around our hyperlinked neighborhoods)? I'd like to think it possible. I'm a constructionary dude. I'm into construction, salvation, that whole biscuit.

So what do you think? How do you write the happy (or grim and noble) fizzpo liberation effort that razes and closes Bryan's snail gulag? (well and sharply captured in his poem, social commentary exploding like a pop rock against your teeth)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

an interesting conversation mike and i had regarding the previous post:

[15:45] mrgoldsoft: A lot is two words.
[15:46] mrmopwater: i know
[15:46] mrmopwater: i like it better as one though.
[15:46] mrgoldsoft: What is alot then?
[15:46] mrmopwater: alot is a visual representation of the concept it represents
[15:46] mrgoldsoft: Is it a Japanese potato?
[15:46] mrgoldsoft: Japanese potato, in other words.
[15:46] mrmopwater: no.
[15:47] mrmopwater: a lot does less to signify its concept than alot
[15:47] mrgoldsoft: I disagree.
[15:47] mrmopwater: the space between "a" and "lot" implies a lack.
[15:47] mrgoldsoft: The lack of a space implies a lack.
[15:47] mrgoldsoft: A lot implies so much that you need a space.
[15:47] mrmopwater: no.
[15:48] mrgoldsoft: Alot implies smallness, scrunching.
[15:48] mrmopwater: the reverse
[15:48] mrgoldsoft: Alot is smaller than a lot.
[15:48] mrgoldsoft: How can it be more if it's smaller?
[15:48] mrmopwater: no
[15:48] mrmopwater: it is bigger
[15:48] mrmopwater: a lot
[15:48] mrgoldsoft: That isn't actually.
[15:48] mrgoldsoft: True.
[15:48] mrmopwater: is two words
[15:48] mrgoldsoft: Right.
[15:48] mrmopwater: and alot
[15:48] mrmopwater: is bigger
[15:48] mrgoldsoft: Which is one more word than alot.
[15:48] mrgoldsoft: No.
[15:48] mrgoldsoft: It's smaller.
[15:48] mrgoldsoft: It's only one word.
[15:48] mrmopwater: yes
[15:49] mrmopwater: but it derives its power from the combination of two words
[15:49] mrmopwater: implying its concept.
[15:49] mrgoldsoft: It sucks two words together, implying that it's a party with no standing room.
[15:49] mrgoldsoft: Which is not the concept of a lot.
[15:49] mrgoldsoft: Nothing is different than a lot.
[15:49] mrgoldsoft: Nothing is less than a lot.
[15:50] mrmopwater: a lot is more ambiguous than alot
[15:50] mrgoldsoft: Not in context.
[15:50] mrmopwater: a lot could refer to a lot
[15:50] mrmopwater: oh context!
[15:50] mrmopwater: now we're going to bring context into the discussion?
[15:50] mrmopwater: well!
[15:50] mrgoldsoft: WELL!
[15:51] mrgoldsoft: I don't know where my watch is.
[15:51] mrmopwater: if we're going to discuss signifiers as signifiers you are not allowed to bring context into the equation.
[15:52] mrgoldsoft: Alot is more ambigious than "a lot" because it has a history of error; it introduces thoughts and criticisms about grammar rather than the concept, which is lotfullness.
[15:52] mrgoldsoft: And that is regardless of context.
Mike has alot on his plate.

Also: let's all go here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

This place is drier than a Purtian.

Purtians are Puritans on Mars, which is a very conservative planet.

No gay Martian sex.


Monday, May 15, 2006

More forays into fizzpo.

The Components of Separation, or
I Miss the Way Your Ass Looks on my Answering Machine
--Jessica Rowan

message: I am no good for the speck of you
message: I hearted you and now I can't heart no more
message: My vessel is micro-brewed -- I flew downstream a bit and all I got was this stupid shirt
message: autumn
message: saved
message: In the year 1877 I found you in a barrel on the third avenue south of the ferry and made you into pies and belt buckles for my children and saved the marrow for the rain
message: Love is funk devoid of the breaks
message: 10,000 3-minute, 53-second songs
message: Perhaps you can pick up your things between the struggle and the stain
message: deleted
message: lightning
message: I am on time to your off on Tuesday
message: I am on time to your bitter lag
message: I am on time to that place where your face is carved out and your hair and ankles are nervous and brisk
message: That I might take comfort in the base of your skull, in the flesh of your stomach, in your ear bone, I offer vacancy
message: terrified
message: last Tuesday
message: Your cleft hooves founder and I pick the dirt from your hide with a straw and my tiniest breath
message: There is a new freckle on you upper left arm and a new scar on your Buick
message: Let me begin again
message: I'm sleeping and you're not invited
message: You are the best of the mild, the blue-eyed bad luck goodbye, and the somebody who's been sleeping through the war of art
message: out of print
message: Joanie didn't plan to take her shirt off and now the berries tear and stain the skin with ink and honey
message: Dixie called to borrow something heavy and darkish
message: My inner child wants to eat your brains
message: found
message: I will marry the master of face manipulation and bone loss
message: I celebrate the sun with a cigarette
message: I am no good for that apple you're eating and I am no good for the hole in the bottom of your jeans and I am no good for a spare piece of twine that holds the littler pieces of you from crumbling and dancing like something without grace or shin-splints


This is fizzpo because:

1) The "message:" format is boldly futurist and unapologetic about modern ennui.
2) These lines aren't particularly langpo. Though words drift in and out of them in the wrong places, it all seems to come from the same soda. Witness: "Love is funk devoid of the breaks" This line makes tremendous sense. Each bubble ("love" then "funk" then "devoid" then "breaks") pops of its own accord, but together assembles a dizzy and fizzy union.
3) "My inner child wants to eat your brains" -- we are in this neighborhood
4) "Joanie didn't plan to take her shirt off" -- we are in this neighborhood
5) And I don't even need to evoke all the slender hallelujahs. Read them for yourself, owners of eyes and ears.
6) And I don't even need to mention the heart. Imagine if 7-11 made a parade float of its Big Gulp drink. That would be 1/4 the size of the fizzy heart that drums through this poem.

This is a rough draft of said poem, but luckily fizzpo is a colonizing force and lacks moral qualms about publishing rough drafts. Still, as a qualifier: I think some lines aren't as fizzy and should be sliced. Still! Jessica is unafraid to explore the fizziness of one word lines, which I think may be one of the hardest tropes to align with fizzpo. I'm not sure at all how to make single word stabs fizzy, so I totally welcome the effort.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A good FizzPo example.

Oafish Hands Constructing Brainstorms and
--Alex Burford

the way a star moved across the sky like
your father drank until his body sagged in chair and
most underwater mammals are fat therefore
a singe tree was growing out of a once useful fireplace and
I cried when I didn’t get that power (lightning bolt) ranger and
my mother would cry and beat her fists against flaking paint as if
I drank liquor on a step in front of an apartment that would
silence the thunder that beat on our walls and stop the lightning that lit up our house


This is Fizzpo because:

1) It has a funny title
2) Every line feels like the second-to-last line of something great
3) Some heartbreaking thing is restlessly hailed then dismissed, over and over again
4) It lives in the rightnow world
5) "A million slender hallelujahs bouncing between shoulder blades"
6) I just self-quoted
7) Someone should shoot me for that
8) "that power (lightining bolt) ranger" is a mixed up, non-stationary image
9) "singe tree" pops before it aligns in the "right" way (single tree? singed tree?) and ends up more interesting; it's fizzy
10) The repetition of the last line
11) This poem reminds me of "King of Carrot Flowers pt 1" by Neutral Milk Hotel

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fizzpo tidbits. We have oceanloads of rules. We don't care for horses, but we just shared a kiss with fascism.

Mike Says:

I think fizzpo is mixing up syntax and line-to-line connections.

And letting imagery and word implications bleed into each other through mistakes and homonyms and whatnot.

And using commonplace words and jokes you might find at the kitchen table after a very long day -- words that belong to 2006, words that belong to the year of the table's construction, and words that belong to the wood.

And being fizzy, of course.

And running away from your heart, which is attached to your teeth via bungee cord.

Bryan Says:

i think, yes, fizzpo is mixing up syntax and line-to-line connections.

it is also very reliant on imagery, but not in the "that paints a good image" way.

stationary images have lost their value in 2006. stationary images are boring.

that's where the broken/wrong/weird syntax enters.

use of words that belong to 2006. hmm... i think that's part of it, but i think a big part of fizziness has to do with revival of words that have become stale, or are otherwise not very interesting.

revival isn't the right word.

Mike Says:

I don't know where the revival thing came from, but I agree about using words that don't seem very interesting. Bubbles have no sorting method. Everything is interesting when it's fizzy.

And the other thing is coming to the hallelujah and breaking off. Almost every line should feel like the second-to-last line of something great.

Friday, April 28, 2006


FizzPo: A poetry that constantly reaches the precipice of off(s)ense -- a state that so thoroughly overloads the senses and sensibilities that it offs them -- but instead of crossing into it, reroutes the whole approach.

This is a poetry that meshes with a very modern style of interaction, wherein we skim for what slices us, but abandon the blade once we receive the signal. We're not even left with a paper cut. We're left with that white smudge of heat. A poetry that operates through hyperlinks, so hyper it never actually links.

This is an abstract structure, this essential "99.9% bang + abandon" equation that underpins FizzPo. You can orient this effect around the line, and from there, the line as any combination of visual or sonic unit. Or you could abandon the line. It doesn't really matter. But consider: to coax the archaic line into such magic, that's pretty fucking rad.

And it is important to accept and indulge in your colonization of feelings and source gunk. You blaze into the house, start to redecorate it, and right before it gets amazing, you go on to the next house. In this way you produce one hell of a neighborhood. This is a poetry of strange neighbors, disunited and still sworn together. We're not out in the woods, building new houses while everyone gawks. We're using what we're among.

FizzPo. Skittish. Jubilant. A million slender hallelujahs bouncing between shoulders. A pinball slipping right past the most secret pit and almost in, an almost enough to illuminate presence.

FizzPo is the poetry of strobe lights. FizzPo is the poetry of granular light.

FizzPo is the poetry of a hyperactive heart machine awash in the new light of fractures.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We need to institute a mass "surprise poetry" movement where we trick people into reading poetry. For example: we should start sending poetry back with our credit card payments, putting haikus in comment boxes, hiding poems in the middle of magazines in libraries, and just leaving them strewn about in general.

I'm serious. We should do it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Both our other essaythings concerned poem reception, not poem production. How poetry works on its reader, not how poetry generates itself. What's the deal with this question then?

I think Spicer was right about the Other thing, about poetry as "dictation." Artistic thoughtstream is like another person. It seems to me like the imposition of all other people and intelligences I've experienced. Like they shed a little when we launched against each other. Obviously my mind can't grasp having other things live inside me. So it feels like a comfortable stranger.

Imagine someone in your house since childhood, since birth really. Never a part of your family, but always respected and prompted for wisdom. Never seeming to establish a presence, always existing when you call him. Never seeming to mind his servitude. I don't know.

A muse makes sense: sure, logically, it lives only inside you. Logically, language is a socially constructed relationship engine and we're all alone. But despite the fact we can't feel the Otherness of the muse-thing — as that's impossible to reconcile with our self-awareness — maybe the muse-kids were on to something. Maybe the tangled body of all we've encountered lives inside us, allowing us to call it our own because it is intelligence without the vanity of self-conception.

So, where I differ with Spicer: poets are not lonely radio antennas, nor are the transmissions singular packets from a singular "outside." Poets live with their transmissions/their transmissions live inside of them. I don't know how important this distinction is. I'm trying to say that we're not the translator: the Outsider is the translator living within us, the one that picks and chooses which material he'll deliver when he tells us we're going to write a poem -- or when we want to write a poem, I'm not picky.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

My turn.

I H(ate)eart Poetry

Poetry is like having massive head trauma from being run over by a car. Everything starts out okay, the birds are chirping and shit, then I wake up in a hospital with a fat nurse with a hairy mole hovering over me.
My view of what poetry is and isn’t has been drastically altered in the past six months or so. I used to think poetry was something people did when they were drunk and confused. Now I know it is something people do when they are sober and confusing.
Lately, I’ve been writing poems that poke fun at things, and I try to keep the reason for my poking fun at things confusing. If I come across as a complete asshole with no heart in my poems where I make fun of people, then I fail.
I think the only positive way to look at ourselves and others is critically. Being critical is important if we hope to move forward. However, there is a difference between being critical, and being mean. I don’t like to be mean in my poetry, however I don’t think being politically correct all the time (if any of the time) is any fun.
People should be able to read my poems and grin. I find joy in producing grins, and the grinner must enjoy it doubly. This is crucial: I don’t ever want to write poetry like the poems in the current issue of I hope this is not what an MFA does to me. I will fight it in court.
I want words to power our cities. We should run off of words and language instead of coal. This would be much more fun, and environmentally friendly. I am all for this. I will do a research paper showing the efficiency of language vs. fossil fuels in accomplishing things.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I wrote this to try to wrap signifiers around feelings. "The testimony of feeling," I guess. Which I ripped from a groupblog discussing "postmodern Christianity." That's why I wrote this. Now, I'm posting it to look cool. There are things it takes for granted that other models reconstruct, such as Jessica Smith's poetics of plastics -- to name something I just read -- with its notion of reader defined poetic space manipulation. My model prolly doesn't give the reader enough credit.

But my disclaimer rhymes with burk-shin-fogress.

So Here Goes:

Writing poetry is performing language. Language is performing thought.

Talking about how poetry works is notoriously tricky, as it lends itself to cutesy, "poetic" truisms like the first two sentences of this poetics statement.

That's understandable, as a breakdown of poetry seems to demand certain poetic accoutrements, such as tidy rhetorical patterns, just as talking convincingly about how baseball works demands you employ the baseball-contrived meanings of "slugger" or "closer." Poetry is an unnamable essence and baseball is an unnamable essence, so to identify either essence requires you catalog and use all the devices that point to that essence. There's no way of constructing a door to a house while attempting to circumvent all notions of "house" and "door."

So, following that, poetry's association with emotion triggers another kind of poetry breakdown that rehashes what it "feels like" to write a poem. These are usually fun. Let's try making a few new ones:

Poetry happens when you slice a pipe in your gut and let dawn and TV static mingle with your currents.

Poetry comes from experiences that twist themselves into cowprods and leave distinctive scars on the back of your heart.

Poetry is when words rearrange your headspace like a kitten invading your bathroom.

Poetry is when non-moments feel suddenly lucid, like coming across a face you've never seen before in a class photo you've scoured a million times.

Poetry is a ceiling fan talking to the moon.

But these are ultimately unhelpful. No axe-maker is going to instruct an apprentice solely through attempts to define how it feels to make a proper axe. And poetry happens/comes/is none of these things, really. Such definitions are what us anxious po-mo cripples would call Bullshit. I'm kidding with the "us." I have more confidence than that and wavy hair. But some would call them Bullshit for sure. Poetry happens when I write something and call it a poem. Poetry comes when I say "what is coming right now is a poem." Poetry is that which I get at least one other person to agree is poetry. Or, even worse, poetry is simply what I call poetry. Which is far too boring to be true.

Yet if these methods are too vague, a bog of exacting critical terminology doesn't usually help either. While very useful for naming parts and classifying things into abstract components to highlight the relationship between those components, an overload of clinical rigor seems to whir and wrangle and disappear from poetry entirely, waking up in a field of endlessly less certainty. Any struggle to diagram how poetry works gets you cutting grass blades smaller and smaller until you have to build new machines and microscopes to further your work, by which time you're no longer even thinking about poetry, you're thinking about grass blades.

Eventually, you have to give in and accept both the necessity of analysis and the necessity of a poetic and ridiculous analysis method.

So here is a temporary, shaky, analogy-slathered way of analyzing how I think poetry works.

You have two major elements: the scenic effect (the equipment/content/Furniture of the poem) and the linguistic effect. We're going to call the scenic effect the avocado. Within this avocado you have the avocado pit, that palpable sensation, feeling, insight, revelation, notion, joke, naggynaggyiosity that demands a poem as a vessel. Or that you construe as demanding a poem as a vessel. The avocado pit is inedible, impossible to approach directly, an obelisk full of stars, etc. In fact, it's downright non-existent, just like a pit only exists through the circumference that marks it. To convey the existence of this pit, one has to fill the scene with enough avocado gunk that the suggestion of the pit will arise. This avocado gunk includes: narrative, imagery, stuff. They're not always in agreement with each other. Sometimes the gunk goes crazy and suggests a million different pits. This is fine. There is no pit, remember? If the gunk is charged enough to suggest any pit at all, this is fine.

But the gunk is just going to sit there unless it has some way of getting to the poem's intended destination. This is not always the mouth. Sometimes the brain needs the avocado, sometimes the gut. To transport the gunk, we use the language helicopter. This helicopter is a carefully constructed, whirly assemblage of linguistic devices. The reason it's a helicopter and not an airplane is because an airplane goes down too smoothly, disappears too much, makes flight seem an inevitability instead of a miracle. That's the point of prose, to erase the medium in favor of the goal. The funky mechanics of a helicopter always remind you how cool it is to be flying in the first place, and this is the purpose of the poem. Sure, sometimes you try to mask your helicopter to look like an airplane, and sometimes this works, but to write a poem is always to embrace the notion that language is infinitely cool.

So the language helicopter takes the avocado gunk, replete with its suggestion of an unnamable but somehow tangible pit, and gets that gunk where it needs to go. Sometimes the arrival of the helicopter is the major cause for celebration, and there is only cursory gunk. And sometimes the helicopter is urgent and self-effacing if the gunk is urgent and radioactive. But this relationship, this tension of fragile gunk in a fragile flight, produces the poem.

My favorite poems happen when the sheer bombast of this process flaunts and flexes itself and still manages to retain relevance. My favorite poems juggle a surface razzle-dazzle, a vague aura of importance, a meaninglessness when examined deeper, and an even deeper meaning when really examined super-deep, to employ the utmost technical terminology. These poems are for me the poet, not because they don't trigger some of the same life-affirming clicks and purrs as more reader-oriented poetry, but because they get me thinking of poetry itself, of writing poetry as a living beast, as possible. Few poets do this for me, sadly: Clark Coolidge, John Ashbery, Ange Mlinko, Frank Stanford.

But that's fine, because there are tons of reasons for liking poetry, just as the relationship described earlier between helicopter and avocado can shift its weight and color in a million ways. Here are some of those reasons:

--Language fun
--Dead concerns and lifestyles come alive
--Gutstring twistage
--Weirdness or defamiliarization
--Simple relation/sympathy to worldview
--And even sometimes that oft-battered "wisdom"

This is too reductive, of course, as most poets play more than one note. And I'm too timid to name all my examples, lest I forget people. But however the route, something has to dump avocado gunk into the yesyesyes machine.


Ergo: through the bass thrump of a helicopter dumping gunk inside of us, poems should drum us into caring about what it is to be.

But why bother to use poetry, why not just go out and stumble into life chunks that do the same thing? I suppose it's vanity.

I suppose it's the notion that, entirely devoid of circumstances and context, we as flimsy humans can announce ourselves. We can reproduce from nothing, from a matrix of arbitrary codes, those tricky moments when life seems to flicker an acknowledgement of our importance, our vitality, our smiles or shaky jaws or cold arms or all of it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

we have a colaborative blog now.

er... here it is. ready... collaborate!