Well-Meaning White Girl

I started to write my thoughts on Alli Warren’s new chapbook, Well-Meaning White Girl, and I realized that I was picking out the dirty parts as I read. Here, then, are the dirty parts, pretending to be a new poem.

Gold Dirt

out of several secretions
come bursting through the ground
secret swelling

in gaping engagement

must be made more moist
with spore sacs and sac fruits

and we were all like
plugging the whole


all gummy in the mouth

breathing and peopled cupping

we wipe each other off

waxing real hard

pussywillows whip in the wind

I lick around the perimeter and then I lick under

insert two fingers to bring breath
the flooding comes
donk for days

I lay my button down on naked ladies

if this is decadence

I had something special on
for pants

big breathy icons

and fruity knockers

I held it in my mouth

In fact, Alli has written a pretty sexy little chapbook. I say pretty sexy and not sexy-dynamite because it is coded and restrained, the lines above notwithstanding. The code and restraint are perhaps signals of artful adeptness and also maybe a coyer kind of sexiness.

I felt the same thing reading Rob Halpern’s Disaster Suites: his poems skirt around anal/phallic/emotional ecstasies without actually BUSTING OUT and wallowing in them. People don’t really “bust out” a la the late great Lenore Kandel anymore, do they. No.

In these books, sexiness is tempered with, for example, metaphors of economy. Gold. Capital. Is this superimposition of “materialist discourse” a way of borrowing legitimacy for the form-seeking of their pleasures and longings? Not that economy economy is an unsuitable analogy for libidinal economy; if anything, it’s all too apt.

I wonder though, if it might function as a sort of id-mask, most noticeable in the moments where the mask wears thin? Well, I suspect all art, no matter how stringent or astringent, is id-sluice of some sort…does anyone disagree?… but it’s one thing to funnel it and another to mask it. There are those little holes where you can see the real eyes, that the nostrils can breathe through. Breath makes the nose and mouth parts of the mask a little annoyingly moist.

Well and so what if I do want to peer inside (or now and then take a crowbar to) everyone’s Pandora chora? Well, now we laugh at Kandel, we are too smart for that sort of thing now: she’s just “too much.” Someone has scratchitied “CHAOS” onto the armrest thing of the F train. Well, we’re cool, everyone’s cool. The poetry is delicate and understated, which makes it different from life.

Speaking of codes, she really is adept at code switching line by line starting from say a gospel or blues voice and moving into nature study then lit crit then medicine, then something decorative, then something colloqial. Or maybe it starts punk moves to faux-ghetto and then becomes consumerist, then Californian, then macho, then “community-addressing”, punk again, then quotidian, then something I don’t understand, then back to nature, biology, and finally back to faux-ghetto. All these strains. They don’t make direct statements, they aren’t rhetorical, and they don’t wallow, and they don’t let anything out of the box, quite: the little imps kind of just peek out, webbed fingers clutching the wooden edge, their wicked eyes going this way and that.

There are things I don’t understand like why are gold and cash “themes”– even reinforced by the gold tissue endpapers – but only for the first three pages or so? And then is the title a kind of main idea and if so why doesn’t it have anything to do with the gold? I like the title, but these are not, I think, hairshirt poems. No, they are masked pleasure poems, or at least, that is what I am positing here. What do you think?

6 thoughts on “Well-Meaning White Girl

  1. I'm going to have to read this one.

    Regarding “bursting”;when you sai that “People don't really “bust out” a la the late great Lenore Kandel anymore”, my first thoughts were one: I have to hunt down some of her stuff as I haven't read any (and it sounds like I'm missing out on something), and two: Ariana Reines and Lara Glenum (both of whom I've posted on lately). But then there's the stuff you say about “codes”, and both of these poets utilise them as well – Reines with her Kristevian abjection/cliche-as-weapon/genre-writing-as-explosion-of-everything kinda stuff, and Glenum with her voluptuous grotesquerie/neojacobian-baroque/liteallization-of-any-trope-that-she-can-lay=her-hands-on (ie the desiring machine, the assemblage, the abject mother etc)

  2. Goddamn Old Earth.

    I tried to do a log.
    Go lay down, die, rot.
    Old generativity would
    direct us to dirty goal.
    Peacock have logos, logog.
    Tired of ridding? Writing?
    Wiriting? What's irritating,
    is that old dirt glows, or
    that gelding comes from the
    legs. Legionscome. Lesionscum.
    It mucks around, in the noise
    of EL, irritating others
    with its elevated leas. Just
    try to get pregnant honey,
    willye? Cold curt currency,
    that's subtraction! [grid
    of dots.-[

  3. Hi Nada,

    I'm very interested in your discussion of code-switching here, and in your association of code-switching with a poetic mask.

    I mostly associate the idea of a poetic mask with the use of persona; are you suggesting that rapid code-switching could operate as an updated form of persona poetry?

  4. Well. What I feel is masked in these poems is id. I don't know for sure that “id” exists; I realize it's just a concept. Still.

    Masks can be theatrical, certainly, but they can also be protective. The ones I sensed in the chapbook are perhaps both, but more protective, I felt.

    My suspicion is that all poetry is persona poetry. I'm not sure if that idea is original. I seem to have either heard it or said it before.

    Rapid code-switching, then, might be personae poetry? It doesn't seem to me to be so “updated” as all that: what is Ezra Pound?

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