Evidence of cigarette burns all over your body has been dismissed by the latest technology. They give you a broken finger, a punctured lung. You go because you heard a cuckoo call. You go because the cold is coming, spring is coming, soldiers are coming: You go because you have the kingdom of heaven in your heart. You go because you have magnetite in your brain, thorax, tips of your teeth. You go because your mother is dying and only you can bring her the apples of the Hesperides.
You go because you need work. You go because astrologers say so. Because the sea is calling and your best friend bought a motorbike in America last year. You go because the streets are paved with gold and your father went when he was your age. You go because the waters are rising, an ice sheet is melting, the rivers are dry. Because it is too hot, too cold, you are on a quest for knowledge and knowledge is always beyond. You go because Pharoah has hogged the oil, electricity and paraffin so all you have on your table are candles, when you can get them.
You go because someone put the evil eye on you and barometric pressure is dropping. You go because the barbarians are gone, Herod has turned off the internet and mobile phones, the modem is useless and the eagles are coming. You go in peace, you go in war. Someone has offered you a job. You go because your dog is going too. Because the Grand Vizier sent paramilitaries to your house last night you have to go quick and leave the dog behind. You go in hope, in faith, in haste, high spirits, deep sorrow, deep snow, deep shit and without question.
You pause halfway to stoke up on Omega 3 and horseshoe crabs. You go for phosphorus, myrtle-berries, salt. You go for oil and pepper. You go from pole to pole, you go because you can, you have no feet, you sleep and mate on the wing. Because you need a place to shed your skin in safety. You go with a thousand questions but you are growing up, growing old, moving on. You go because hope, need and escape are names for the same god. You go because you must. Not zo mainy Dais zinz ve arrivink. Zis grey iss like Bearlin, zis same grey Day ve hef.
Zis norzern Vezzer, oont ze demp Street.
Vy shootd I mind zat? I try viz ze Busses, Herr Kondooktor eskink me … for vot? I em his Luff — turns Hentell on Machine, out kurls a Tikett. Zis is ven I know zat here to settle iss OK. Zis City vill be Home, verr eefen on ze Buss is Luff. Ven zay slump in rekggitt.
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Exhorstschon, she arraintches zem to lean on ze Kupboart. Ze Svetter zat zis Teacher vairs, looks ottley familiar. Ze Vun Aunt Frieda sent from Vienna. I see ze Vool still hess some Bountz. But he expands and deepens what he can do, and his subjects expand. Powell is a poet who can be appreciated by people who mostly read short stories and novels. Powell is a great poet of sex; he is a great poet of coming of age and figuring out who you want to be.
Powell begins as someone who is trying to craft a style adequate to all of that, and to the Whitmanian, wonderful tradition of sexual pleasure as a kind of life. And also, he was trying to craft a way to bring gay and queer popular culture into high literary style. So, Powell evolved his first style, in Tea , in terms of long lines that keep restarting and keep trying not to stop in almost the way that the disco music that is so important to his early work tried to keep people dancing through the night.
Powell develops this long line that is designed to bring people together to celebrate pleasure and acknowledge danger and keep going where you might expect it to stop. And then, he turns this long line back on to other subjects: He spent his teen years and most of his adulthood in California, in the agricultural Central Valley and then in San Francisco. Chronic is an eco-poetry book. I think he broadened himself. Chronic is a book that pays more attention to landscape and the nonhuman world.
For Powell, as for Whitman, everything can be sexual just as everything can be natural. But it has all the subjects that his previous work had and more.
His poetry since the book Cocktails has a running dialogue with varieties of sex-positive Christian beliefs. When I read Kasischke, a lot of my experience is some form of mediated self-recognition. I read the poems of teen experience and I read the poems of parental experience. Music figures really predominantly in his work. That was his first book, yes. I had the good fortune to get to interview him at length and his musical knowledge is really quite broad.
So, he has tremendous range in the way to use the interplay between verse composition and sound performance throughout his work. I think music is the primary model—how close can you get this language to be like music and communicate feeling at the base level in the same way a composition with no words communicates meaning? It might be impossible. Language is always burdened by thought. I think there are a lot of kinds of thought that are not discursive and not propositional. And his formal versatility — his formal restlessness — and the fact that his poems are always embracing and reinventing some formal and some generic model has a lot to do with his wish to think experimentally, in ways that are non-propositional.
Powell and Kasischke both have a relationship with poetic form that is always interesting tactically. Why does this line sound that way? Why did you put that phrase there? Why is there a barren rhyme here? Why are you repeating that word? There are infinite things to say about how Powell and Kasischke do in terms of their use of form, tactically, moment to moment to moment.
With Hayes, the consistent and inexhaustible interest in form and technique is not just tactical but strategic. Or what kind of composition? I think Terrance Hayes and Paul Muldoon have things in common with each other that they do not have in common with, really, almost anyone else at work in English language poetry. And it is fun to see how both of them have had their reception shaped and deformed — this also makes me mad — by parallel things.
The games have major emotional stakes, but you have to familiarise yourself with how the game is played first. And that is part of what he writes about, but he has many subjects. I think that it might help Americans to see what Muldoon is trying to do, and it might help British and Irish readers to see what Hayes is trying to do, to see how much they have in common.
He has the musical language, I suppose, and he talks of sound on the page and the sonic quality of verse. But identity is also a cornerstone of his work. There are other themes at play in that book.
Trump enjoys the wrong kind of rococo: Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, drawn by Nick Ellwood. In telling the stories of these two boys, we told the story of not only immigration, but also the loss of home, the loss of innocence, and of any kind of immigrant who crosses a border. Sign up here to receive your FREE alerts. Or what kind of composition? She wrote book-length poems with journalistic elements, about people in trouble, about the civil rights movement, about contemporary southern poverty, about incarcerated people. Escovedo has made a career out of crossing musical borders, from rock and roll to country, a leader of the Americana genre, experimenting with classical influences and Latin innovations, his catalogue is wildly unpredictable, and as a consequence, never boring.
Som is someone who wants to find a new solution for every poem. He is like C D Wright — and unlike Hayes, Kasischke and Powell — in that he is really in two minds about making prose sense. He has been intellectually shaped by people who were very resistant to prose sense; people who think that the major modernists are Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, rather than the people who think — as I do — that the most useful modernists now are Williams Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore.
So, I had to cut the heck out of that essay.
And, of course, it can be read as a sort of exercise. They become American and urbanized and they move out of Chinatowns and into the American university system. The poem has a certain amount of thinking about Asian-American manhood, which is an interesting line in Asian-American writing more generally. Daniel Levin Becker wrote a good introduction to it.
Italo Calvino is possibly the most well-known. Writers in the Oulipo tradition are poets and novelists and essayists and sort of puzzle-makers. They want to make literature that gave pleasure in the way that mathematical games give pleasure; they wanted to make literature that has some of the quality of scientific experiment and mathematical recreation. There are poems that are more narrative — including the title poem — and poems that are more like looking at pieces of gallery art, ones that are very small and hard and Williams-y.
The historical and political underpinning of the collection is interesting. In terms of preventing the further undermining of democratic institutions, we need practicality, solidarity, and coalition-building. And it might still not work. We might end up with 16 years of a kleptocratic police state. That said, and whether it takes two months or ten years to get rid of authoritarian nationalism in the White House, poetry is going to change in unforeseeable ways in response to Trumpism.
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