these baby boomers
these anxious millennials
water in a stream

 

while in a gold room
Ivanka clips her toenails
with a gold clipper

 

secret service men
in dark suits and sunglasses
under pink blossoms

 

Cherry tree crotches
and crotches of aides

 

wet, open, toothless,
rosy mouths of infant ghosts
pink as cherry blossoms

 

Flat wet petals -ha!
What have the blossoms to do
with Ezra’s ranting?

 

Culture appropriated
for a famous line of verse

 

In a dark subway tunnel
Pink plum blossoms on my skirt
Aspiring to spring

 

pink goldfish cherub planters
fragility of all things

 

(my verses extracted from Mel Nichols’ Cherry Blossom Renga, composed on facebook)

Waste.

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding

breakups out of the thin man, jinxing

memory and desire, frizzing

my gray roots with spring pain.

Winter drove us crazy, covering

time with youtube, feeding

my little life by taking ubers.

Bummers surprised me, coming over the transom

With showers of pain; we’d stopped at Angelica

And went on in phonelight, into Prospect Park,

and drank coconut juice, and talked for seven hours.

I should not have been rushing, but lissome, and moist.

And we were once children, in Bolinas, or a suburb,

He took me into his head

And I was frightened, He said, Nada,

Nada, hold me tight. And down we went.

I tiptoed near him, never felt free.

We texted each other, and then it went south.

 

What are the arms that clutch, what words grow

out of this dusty sadness? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know no sound of life

A few broken teenagers, on the live stream,

And those near-dead girls give no shelter, the website no relief.

And the dry phone no sound of real life. Only

there is shadow inside your big head.

You live in the shadow of your big head.

I tried to show you something different.

You sent me videos of your shadow walking

Long and tall like a Brancusi figure

shrouded in fear and in dust.

Frisking the wind

The homely zoo

My kind iris

What are your wiles?

You sent me an email seven years ago

now call me an unhinged girl

Yet when we came back, late, from the East Village,

Your arms thin, and your hair silver, I could not

speak, and my mind reeled. I was both

living and dead, and I am Nada.

Looking into the heart of night, your silences

owe their leering to the sea.

 

 

 

“Collage is nerve art”

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I find it bizarre that I hadn’t known about the work of Robert Seydel before I saw an exhibition of his work a couple of weeks ago at the Queens Museum. Almost every ride out on the 7 train yields wonders (the big globe in Flushing Fields is reason enough, on a hot day, with its spewing fountains and gleeful children), but this trip especially did so: Seydel’s delicate, odd collages and exquisitely constructed poems –some of these displayed in his precisely handwritten notebooks – reveal a world shivering with receptiveness.

I never met him.  He died in 2011, at 51 years old, of a heart attack. He was a recluse whose life was entirely devoted to his intertwining text/image artwork. Neither image nor text takes precedence; rather they seem to grow out of each other. What takes precedence is attention, or shall I say, attentiveness. Only a very attuned attentiveness can produce such work, and because of its fineness, it elicits attentiveness too – at least from me and the several others who looked raptly at the exhibit and listened as Monica de la Torré and Peter Gizzi read some selections from his work, including a poem that was displayed high up along the wall of the exhibition room.

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He wrote in personae, including the persona of his aunt Ruth Greisman. It seems not at all an improper appropriation how he inhabits the (her) feminine. It seems a way of liberating utterances.

The poetry is extremely beautiful.  Here are some lines from his “Formulas and Flowers” published in The Book of Ruth (2011, siglio press):

Sad men fail art relentlessly.

Schmutz is my sign.

I rearrange time. It’s confused in me.

Imagination is foolish. Mine hops like a rabbit.

A trembling animal at the edge of thought.

The page is operatic.

I see creatures in my urine.

The images are beautiful, too, and can’t be faulted for relying too much on the surrealist technique of putting a new head on an old body, for that is a trick of which one never tires. There is a little of Schwitters in them in that one can feel the recuperation of things that would have otherwise been discarded. Especially intriguing to me were the altered daguerrotypes (or maybe just very old sepia photos) since it seemed a way of both destroying and embellishing historical imagery.

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The show is on view through September 27th and is well worth the train ride. Besides, you can go to Flushing Mall afterward for Szechuan food and have a simply perfect day.

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a non-pre-/pro-scriptive uncomprehensive list of some qualities I like in poems

a lot of nouns

syntactic complexity or strangeness

a combination of the borrowed and the personal

some sense that I am getting to know the poet through the poem, even as persona, or through even the coldest strategies (also a “personal” statement)

signs of struggle

simultaneously reaching historically backward and inventively forward

humor that isn’t merely smartass

mystery or puzzlement that isn’t just precious “vagueness”

a combination of innocence (the writer not knowing something) and experience (the writer knowing something

I have no problem with strategies and procedures but I want the poems to overcome those strategies and procedures rather than existing for the sake of them

no dogma.  fuck dogma

rhythmic, syntactical, lexical attention to forward motion, speed, slowness, stillness, loops, and backtracking

who am I to say what is gratuitous and what is not? but I don’t like it when I have a feeling that something is gratuitous: a political sentiment, say, or a pop culture reference, or a kind of empty “poetic” floatiness

a poem like a suckling duckling.

a cat suckling a duckling.