Project Dreamway

Dreamed last night I was a contestant on Project Runway. Problem: the instructions were confusing. Maybe there were no instructions. I think the first outfit I made was a very 80s tunic & leggings in black jersey; I decided I hated it and ripped it up, started making a scallopy layered dress out of the same fabric… but then I heard or remembered or realized or something that the judges didn’t want to see black, that it wasn’t “risky” enough. I was not on the usual set, it was in some half-abandoned institutional building in the country. There was some issue about shitting, I don’t remember what it was. But I do remember that one of the other contestants made this amazing Marie-Antoinette style dress out of peacock feathers, and I was trying to do this totally amateur thing in black jersey. It was very anxious-making, this dream.

Anyway, I am working on a dress, in real life. And NOT on Project Runway time. How do they do it? And why didn’t Jerrell’s AMAZING gown even get in the top three?

Now back to my navel

Last week, Josh Corey wrote, of a course he’s developing:

So we’ll start out with Whitman and Dickinson, ancestors of us all, then read healthy chunks of Williams, Eliot, Pound, and Stein. After that I’d like to shift the emphasis to the contemporary, and to get a little more diverse vis-a-vis race, politics, and gender. My pedagogical theory here is, familiarize yourself with the strategies of these six poets and there’s no poem whose tactics you won’t be able to figure out.

and thinking…limited to those six, I’d be hard-pressed to figure out which of them most contributed to the tactics of my own poems. A tiny little bit of each, maybe, with some more dominant notes of the two ladeez? Maybe someone else could figure that out better than I could? But honestly, I don’t feel that directly connected to any of them, so I’m not sure Josh’s formula works.

I Hate Peach

Ok sorry about not updating for sssooooooooooooo long I was on holiday
and then school became a problem ah well lets skip to the topic which
is Garfield is he fat or not most people reckon he is but it is a bit
disagreeable but in my opinion I am not shure but here is what I say
and probably shakespear to disagree or not to disagree that is the
question I got those words from a madam and eve comic book ah well now
back to the subject you know he treats jon a bit like Cinderella but a
Cinderella that never listens because Garfield can’t speak he only
thinks and not properly sometimes I call it lasagna brain but odie is
well a bit no offence by the way I am so mad I mentioned lasagna at
lunch now we have it for dinner here is another boring post by lasagne

I hate Peach with every being of my body.

i hate peach like a rock!

I hate peach pie. What a drag.

I hate peach schnapps.

I hate peach. But this break, mommy had two new lovelies in the
fridge: Yoplait Whips! Yoplait Whips!

I hate peach flavored candy, it’s just nasty…I hate cold
weather…oh, and spiders and aliens.

i hate peach skin with an absolute passion. i find its very similar to
bread with flour on top. and clay that dries on your hands

I hate peach. I hate Benjamin Moore paints and I really hate Straw Hat
and poofy sofas that look like giant garbage bags filled with god

I hate peach. HATE it.


if robert lowell is a poet i dont want to be a poet i don’t want to be
a poit i want to be a pit… a peach pit…

Poem to the Flarflist

The totality of a person’s actions
in one of the successive states of his
existence are like large African birds
of prey with a bunch of penlike feathers
sticking out of the from the back of their heads.
That worries me.
Our circular motions against the current
leave semiliquid, greasy secretions
of fatty or waxlike substances,
obliterating memory and moving
irritably sideways, do they not?
Sometimes I feel we are stretched over
a frame of toy musical instruments so
sharp and cutting , like ontology, that we ferment
before we dry. Are not our arias, recitatives,
choruses, duets, trios, etc. left open to
vociferous opacity, even when undergoing
alternation of impurities, as in ferns, eels, etc.?
Any edgeways process involves
a change or transition, refracting light and then reflecting it
in a play of colors, like taxation, or a man’s tall,
collapsible silk hat, but how to twist it more oozily?
Vociferous atomic bikini : soft mud or slime.
Hortatory sumac. Scrumptious scroop.
Gaping, as in astonishment: I have to end this screed now
with a clamorous swollen oomph: Oomph.

Poem to Myself

You make me tired with your long, silky
reddish brown hair and ironic ideology;
you are a short syllable that should be long,
your stupid plan is “very clever” and your I.Q.
is white, malleable, and ductile, like inflammation
of the eye or Romanian paralysis. OK, so you’re
“heated with radiant energy”; so what?
Might as well be a seaweed dried and bleached
for use as a medicine, or a very large, heavy, powerful
dog with a hard rough coat, formerly used in hunting
a combination of circumstances or a result
that is the opposite of what might be expected or
what might be considered appropriate. A rainbowlike
show or play of colors is a kind of locomotive made of
fool’s gold, implying mental unsoundness and an
utterly illogical nature of that which is directly
contrary to reason, i.e. a round, pigmented membrane formed
of meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, and other vegetables.
You are tiresome, troublesome, tedious, quick-tempered,
silver-edged, Maltese, and conspicuous, like the apparent
enlargement of a brightly lighted object seen against
a dark background. Construed as sing, O little stain made
by rust or ink, you’ve got yr Irish up – for what? O Senecans,
Mohawks, Tuscarorans, Oneidas, Cayugas, Onandagas, Cherokees,
feign ignorance of this sinking fireboat, her tubular integers,
her infantile ballistic organization, grey like freshly broken
cast iron irenic muscles, her degenerate method a creeping
plant with showy leaves and trumpet-shaped prosody
enclosing all of the body but the head. Ipsissima verba!

Ideas about The Thing, the Poem-Thing

You can look forward, in a couple of months, to hearing me participate with luminaries Charles Bernstein, Al Filreis, and Larry Joseph on a Poem Talk courtesy of Penn Sound. We discussed the poem “Not the Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself,” by Wallace Stevens. I reproduce it here for your consideration:

Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself

At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.

He knew that he heard it,
A bird’s cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.

The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow…
It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep’s faded papier-mache…
The sun was coming from the outside.

That scrawny cry–It was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

At first, I was disappointed that we would be talking about this poem of all of Stevens’ poems, as this one seemed to me so sparse and relatively uninteresting, linguistically, compared to so many of his others. Looking at the poem more closely, I found there was a lot I wanted to say about it, and I was only able to touch on some of the main points during the actual poem talk.

It’s a confusing poem, probably deliberately so, and I felt after reading it and discussing it that it doesn’t transcend its own contradiction: the cry “seem[s] like a sound in [his] mind” but he maintains, in that weird conditional tense (and with a potentially ambiguous pronoun reference) “It would have been outside”. (i.e. if it had indeed been outside!) He echoes that insistence: “The sun was coming from outside.” Three times in the poem he says the sound was coming “from outside.” But I don’t believe him. How can I believe this from a poet whose “actual candle blazed with artifice” and who said, “The false and the true are one.”? Who describes “the poet as /Eternal chef d’orchestre” And in his poem “Theory”: “I am what is around me…./ Women understand this. [!!!] All of these lines give the lie to the notions of outsideness, of things-in-themselves or “things as they are” (that is, not as they are in the mind, or not as one makes them).

I don’t think Stevens was interested in “things as they are,” except as something to be put up with – “the malady of the quotidian” – and transformed into mannered, theatrical/therapeutic material.

This poem thus is some kind of backhanded response to Williams’ “No Ideas but in Things,” which has turned out, finally, to be a very limited and limiting dictum for poetry, slavishly followed by many to the great detriment of the art. I did remark during the Poem Talk that the last line of this poem is utterly disappointing, taking abstraction to the point of dullness, and if I were his creative writing teacher I would have underlined this and asked him to rewrite it!

I did notice, though, that the last line was echoed in another of his poems, one written much earlier and demonstrating an entirely different poetics, one perhaps more closely aligned to his own innate sense of how to proceed in writing: “The Comedian as the Letter C.” He writes: “The affectionate emigrant found/ A new reality in parrot squawks.” Once again a cry or squawk, a mere little sound, initiates a whole new reality, just like that.

“The Comedian as the Letter C” is, like O’Hara’s “Second Avenue,” Kenneth Koch’s “Ko, or Season on Earth,” or like any of the psychedelic albums issued in 1969/70 by the major British rock bands, voluptuously irrational, out of control, over the top, intricately fashioned, utterly mannered, and totally rococo. These are my favorite sorts of poems, like drug trips. In our poem-talk today, Al remarked that “The Comedian as the Letter C” is a “failed poem” precisely because of its lushness. To me, it is anything but failed, because it inhabits and demonstrates its poetics with absolutely no holds barred. The little poem under discussion seems like it’s trying to come out from under a dominant poetics that would have stifled its energy and wit: “a battered panache” (which I refer to in in the talk as my favorite collocation, certainly the most Stevens-y, in the poem).

I thought also that it was key that it was a sound whose insideness or outsideness is so ambiguous; for one thing, a sound is the least “thing-y” of things, ephemeral and temporal. Sound enters the ear and comes “inside” us physically, even if the source of the sound is outside. Sound prefigures and generates the universe, at least according to some belief systems, like the Sufis’ (does anyone remember how Aslan sang Narnia into being in C.S. Lewis’ books?)… and what of the music of the spheres (“choral rings”?) ? What of the recurring figures in Stevens’ oeuvre who transform sounds, singing beyond the genius of the sea, changing “things as they are” on blue guitars, “sounds blown by a blower into shapes”?

And what of the synaesthetic connection he posits between the cry/the chorister and the sun? They are “part of the colossal sun”, with whom (which?), in another poem, he equates himself, if in the third person:

“His self and the sun were one/And his poems, although makings of his self,/ Were no less makings of the sun.”

The chorister’s C precedes the choir because he is the keynote to which the other singers will tune their voices, and also the “sea”, beyond whose genius he will sing, scrawnily, it’s true, but as a representative of “the colossal sun” which is a stand-in for the big “virile” “man-poet” who willfully fashioned his poems from the inside as manipulatively as he directed his young fiancée to wear a pink ribbon in her hair or a particular pair of slippers – to sustain his particular illusory dioramas: “Messieurs,/ It is an artificial world.” And where a paper moon hangs over a cardboard sea, who cares about rainwater-glazed chickens, broken green bottles, and the like? I don’t think Stevens was so concerned with the sordid if poignant details of “objective” “reality”, although he perhaps felt that he should be, hence his protest, which I don’t believe: “The sun was coming from outside.” Because… what if he’s the sun??? Confusing! We who love to be confused!

At any rate, I could not help but re-write the poem, and I re-post it here (it’s been on the blog before):

Not Ideas About the Bling But the Bling Itself

At the earliest antinomian disaster,
On Mars, a prawn-y guy from outside
Seemed like he had blown his mind.

He knew that he blown it,
A dry curd, under a fluorescent light,
In the early harsh of mellow.

The sun wore purple underwear,
No longer a buttered ganache above dandruff…
It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast vacuum cleaner
Of creepy jaded poetics conferences…
The sun was wearing purple underwear inside out.

That brawny gay–It was
A chorine whose c preceded the bleach.
It was part of the giant lox,

Surrounded by its collar rings,
Still barbarous. It was like
A new knowledge of reality shows.


I should add that I hadn’t really thought about Stevens for a couple of decades, and I was very glad to have the chance to look at his work again. I even mentioned to the fellows today (for yes, I was well aware I was the token dame among the learned men) that I found Stevens to be, in a sense, a kind of “sister-poet.” He irks me at times; he couldn’t quite free his ass and his mind couldn’t entirely follow. The racism and sexism in his poems and biography make me squirm, but perhaps he couldn’t help that, and besides, I’ve got my 21st century glasses on. But there’s something there, some kind of commonality I can’t quite put my finger on, maybe having to do with love of the artificed-theatrical, the desire to create other worlds to inhabit, and the acknowledgment of the primacy of mood, or even (smile) “mood-music”?

I’ll end with a quote from Yahoo Answers, one of my favorite sources for poetic material:

Resolved Question: Is a puppet representative of a thing, or is it the thing itself?

Best answer (chosen by voters 100% 1 vote): It is a toy.

Other answers (1): zzz