Daniel Nester’s College of St. Rose students reading from my book, Annoying Diabetic Bitch:
My Name In Hebrew
My Hebrew-speaking friends
tell me that my name in Hebrew
means “poet or lyricist.”
Also “poet or lyricist with insomnia,”
sometimes “psalmist with insomnia,”
and at other times “one who feeds her cats insomnia today
and tomorrow pills made from dead babies
One particular Hebrew-speaking friend
(whose own name means “eat Al Gore and you’ll get anorexia”)
tells me that my name in Hebrew might also mean
“your portly psychiatrist is unnerved by your project involving
all the baldness of Hollywood’s insomnia.”
In fact, in a recent episode of
“My Revenant Mama Eats Your Mama’s Insomnia,”
starring three of my Hebrew-speaking friends,
all with Hollywood insomnia,
both the donkey cart and the donkey
are related to the King of Trainee Retinas
and afflicted with insomnia.
And in order to lull him into
Breathing New Life Into The Zombie Apocalypse
they use the Jewish revenge fantasy aspect of
“Inglourious Basterds” — thousands of Tel Aviv children singing
a doo-wop version of “The Binding of Isaac” from Genesis 22,
in which God falls ill in February 1603
and commands Isaac’s father in Pig Latin to
“ab-stay your un-say and then am-scray.”
But “God’s insomnia” can also be Hebrew code for
“full of rage in one of NYU’s mole tunnels
with a goatee full of toxic angora.”
So what am I supposed to believe?
Especially when scientists at Purdue’s Hebrew University in Mahwah, Jerusalem
are breathing new life into the menacing running zombie
that is not merely a revenant but a rageful, rabid
cab-driving mime hobbit with eczema,
drunk on sixteen Insomnia-bin-Ladens
every day before lunch.
I have no choice but believe that,
like the New Zealand volcano in “Lord of the Rings,”
I should be taking the marijuana pills
supplied by my greengrocer
to beat insomnia.
And then maybe my Hebrew name will be
“your orgy gooks are ruining my community musical about
Fall Out Boy’s archival Daewoo with their kebab acne
A note about this poem: I was recently accused of writing “ugly” poetry. This poem contains a selection of the “fifty most beautiful words in the English language” (according to, you know … someone).
A boy and a girl, both violet-eyed, insouciant, with incipient wings, sitting by a chimney.
The girl with violet eyes and incipient wings, in love with a beleaguered, brooding boy with carved-rock cheekbones.
The brooding boy with carved-rock cheekbones — lissome, sweet, summery — in love with a girl penumbral in color, mellow and super happy in a bungalow.
The mellow girl penumbral in color, in love with a bucolic boy who lithely jumped off a bus after a young gazelle and got hit with a tranq bullet.
The bucolic boy who, after recovering from getting hit with the tranq bullet, fell in love with a fetching ingenue — umbrella haircut, eyes chatoyant — who strode unhindered in opulence toward a perfect good.
The fetching ingenue who strode in opulence toward a perfect good because she was in reality moving in unison with a furtive, comely boy twerking it to the future between two moonlit lagoons.
The comely boy who, while twerking it to the future between the two lagoons, became inured to an imbroglio involving alien cyborgs in the offing and his life-long nemesis: a boy sporting a gossamer ‘fro of mysterious abilities and cheeks efflorescent with joy — his secret cynosure.
The boy whose cheeks are efflorescent with joy because he is beside his beloved girl-cousin Dalliance as she chooses, with forbearance, from a plethora of magical tools and talismans, one of which — The Shield of Desuetude — she must use to dissemble an evil, ineffable destiny.
The girl named Dalliance who experiences an epiphany and chooses correctly The Shield of Desuetude and so produces a boon for humanity, and then, as part of the panacea, asks a demure boy named Halcyon (his burlap-y dreadlocks wafting an evocative petrichor and swinging like rope around his shoulders), “What is the felicity of this harbinger Earth, this redolent green seraglio moored in the stars, and of the Moon which lilts the air like a sussurous evanescence, so soon to unravel, and with what stars has God imbued this night, and why?”
The demure boy with dreadlocks who trails a length of diaphanous petunias tucked into his underpants, at the end of which sits his pet fungal onion Susquehanna, in love with a tiny pony with a vestigial head hanging languorously from its neck, a head that is, in reality the woebegone ghost of some erstwhile Surrealist.
And the woebegone ghost of this erstwhile Surrealist, in a previous life one ingredient in a bitter elixir but in this one nothing more than a fugacious mote, the least scintilla of a long-lost palimpsest, but whose mote-love is the emollient ripple in the ether that suspires a wish in the heart of all things to bring the violet-eyed boy and a girl, insouciant, with incipient wings, to configure in miraculous imbrication by a chimney.
OULIPO, noulipo, Conceptual, flarf, post-flarf: the transformation of poetry and prose through deploying strategies of method, structure, content, intention and chance/change is a given now. In utilizing strategy in our own work, don’t we wonder how great a part control (or the absence of it) should play? How far back should writers stand from their works, making way for the (perhaps) foreign agent of “strategy”? What benefits accrue to the work? What do writers gain — or lose? We’ll look at and discuss Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard” (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance), selections from the anthologies OULIPO: A Primer of Potential Literature, The Consequence of Innovation: 21st Century Poetics, I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women, and Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, and other related documents. Three written assignments, to be discussed during class time, will be based on model texts from those works.
Four online sessions: July 19 & 26, August 2 & 9 – Fridays, 7 p.m – 9 p.m. CST
After registering you will receive an email with instructions on how to log into the virtual classroom: http://www.chicagoschoolofpoetics.com/summer-seminar-strategizing-poetics/
Ange Mlinko’s review of the just-released Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology evinces a deep and true concern (dare I say love?) for poetry — a rare quality and something to be admired and treasured in a reviewer. But as gifted and astute as Ms. Mlinko is, I believe she missed some important opportunities for contextualization. Suggesting that beauty is gone from poetry because of flarf, Conceptual, or the march of history, is like saying that gay marriage will ruin traditional marriage. There’s plenty of “beauty” in poetry, still, and there will always be. Why can’t poetry, like poets, contain multitudes? It must. And what is “beauty” in poetry? Does it reside only with lovely content or word choices? I’m sure people lamented, thousands of years ago, at the advent of writing, the moment when poetry became less of a mnemonic device and more of its own dynamic. I wonder if, back then, a lament went up for “the end of memory.” Probably. So, poetry has already been “ruined,” as Rimbaud noted in a famous letter to a boyhood friend back in the 19th century. But that poetry has always never changed is part of that “ruined” beauty. And can’t there be beauty in the profane? Comedy has a Muse, after all. What finally surprises (shocks, really) is that Ms. Mlinko can’t see work that she herself doesn’t completely embrace as part of the long and continuing conversation that is poetry. Haven’t poets always sought to “correct” in some way what went before? To paraphrase the poet Nada Gordon: “ . . . nothing static or fixed or preconceived, and probably something rather fearsome and sometimes grotesque.”
That’s the kind of poetry that can still contain multitudes.