When the poets again and again can think of nothing better than to strive for poetry's failure*, who doesn't want to wipe out American poetry altogether? To spit upon the pale&tepid corpses called poets with their industro-academic-complex animated hands as these same hands take that allowed sliver of human-like experience and break it into nano-factures laid out in the most artfully innocuous parataxis?
Linh Dinh writes:
Adam's poem was a post-avant masterpiece,
Crammed with neologisms and non-sequiturs,
But also a few end rhymes, a retro touch. Cute.
Collage, montage, parody, beaucoup irony and
Outright thievery quickly became old hat.
then "You couldn't even say "something" because it was / Already something else."
Readers, this book hates you. I sort of hate you, too, and myself for having gotten to know you, and Linh Dinh sort of hates himself in this book also: "If every poem were as bad / As this one, I don't wanna/ Be a moonshining wordsmith."
But here is the other thing: our direct, urgent, expression can get eaten up (eaten away) by the poetry complex. Linh Dinh can write anything he wants: he can tell you to eat your own shit, to fall into a stink hole plastered in cum and money, and not one of you will react, except perhaps in polite self-congratulatory approval, as long as poetry is not content just an emptied ritual act.
I was telling Linh Dinh last weekend about a friend I had who was a house cleaner who wanted to be a millionaire. Some days my kid and I would go to her house to hang out with her and her kid. She would always keep a bowl of key limes on the table:
"Anne, one thing I learned from the rich is that we should always keep a bowl of fruit on the table."
There was something, also, she learned about candles. She would read books about millionaires and model herself after them as she cleaned up the drips of their urine from around the base of their toilets. It's good to read books about what the wealthy expect of you, though it's not something you forget:
"Belonging to the lower class, you're expected
To cater to the upper class' lower bodily functions
Not to engage their minds but to wipe their asses,
Kiss their cunts on demand, suck cocks for tips,
Unless, of course, you're an artist, in which case,
You're an aristocrat of the servant class. . . "
My friend stopped cleaning houses and trained as a home care nurse. Around this time I decided I wanted to be a poet again, so there I was a few days ago telling the story to Linh Dinh, also a poet. But I watched you poets, learned how to do some poetry equivalent of keeping a bowl of fruit on the table.
From the poem "Amputated thoughts":
"I bulge into another beast, dude, soon as I put on
My asskicking uniform. Killing is the most abstract
Of notions, the most concrete act. We're like chimps,
Lions, and hippos, not so much swans and other birds."
There are some problems, right, with all this anger, and how the institutions around art make it only just "performed." We love to see the artist smearing her shit on the wall, pissing into his own mouth -- it makes us feel a little edgy. We've paid her or paid him to do our feeling for us, if we've paid at all, or we've seen her nice enough to volunteer. So Linh Dinh puts a hole in his head and let's the cheese ooze out -- the rest of us applaud and show our gratitude with some cupcakes or a beer. I tell Linh Dinh at something like 3 a.m. about Zizek's directive to "dream better," not that he needs to, but we all do.
It is a sign of the imagination's power that it has been sentimentalized and reduced into a t-shirt slogan. But this is what poetry can do that can't be reduced to the polite performance of abject oozing -- what we have is not only our fury, but also our invention.
*Who can claim among you to love poetry if poetry is where you go to fail? Fail at tennis, fail at violence, fail at work, fail at love, fail at statehood, fail in business, fail in your retirement investments, but do not, please, fail at this.