A revelation: I don’t care at all for “tenderness” in poetry, although, as in the aforementioned case of “ethics” it is essential in life. Thinking about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever written a truly “tender” poem — not even in Swoon, not even way way back when when I was pre-avant. That is, anything that might make an audience go “awwww” might, if I were reading it on a page, make me want to tear out the cloying item, ball it up, and aim it somewhere far from me.
Some of the poems in the recent Poker are very tender. It’s just too hot and humid as it is for all that tenderness.
There’s a lot of talk of Creeley in the Poker. Of course I love his poetry, but not the later tender/ melancholy stuff. I like the wiseass Herbert-influenced stuff and then the slightly later wiseass Herbert-influenced druggy stuff.
OK, let me try to write a tender poem. Let’s see if I can do it.
You curl up on my head, push through my hair.
The pollen comes through the air conditioner,
I feel your body vibrate as my glands swell up.
I cannot say I own you
tho you’ve never left the apartment.
eyes like creepy marbles… rubbing your saliva
on all the nearby objects…
No, that’s not really tender, is it.
I do feel especially tender towards these cats right now, though, I must say. They evince the most amazing loyalty, following us even out of the one airconditioned room — lying there for hours with glazed expressions and spread limbs, their fur a little matted, as Gary watches a creepy Amitabh movie and I sew costumes I’ll probably never have occasion to wear. The cats are tiny time robots. Breakfast is at… gasp… 5:30, according to them. Dante, at “bedtime” (now past) every night sits on the bed and when he sees me cries expectantly. IT’S TIME, he’s telling me, to FORM THE KITTEN HEAP.
The costumes are, among other things, a wish for a vanished past to (forgive this:) rematerialize, along with personal innocence/personal wisdom (this does disappear, just like all the books warn) and a relative kind of societal innocence, although there has never been any lasting societal wisdom, just a struggle and a slide, a struggle and a slide, a struggle and a struggle and a slide.
It’s so hot and humid there’s a swirling. A film over the retinas. Spooky soundtrack music. Ever since I took my class to the Museum of the Moving Image I can’t see a movie without imagining someone at the computer punching in all the sounds on the computer: “let’s have a howl here” “now we need a breath sound” “sloshing” “eerie choral voices, yup, that’s it” — and all the actors standing in the sound studio in headphones making grunting sounds of conflict and rolling around — struggle and slide, struggle and struggle and slide.