Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More on John Wieners



Just a quick note on John Wieners, via Silliman.


Between Visions:


I printed a few paragraphs from the essay below in My Year 2004 in a piece devoted to Marjorie Perloff, in whose course I first encountered the work of John Wieners. The essay was one of my first attempts to discuss contemporary poetry, and it reveals the graduate-student environment in which it was written. The essay was written at a time when postmodernism was just beginning to have an impact on literary texts and my own notions of postmodernism, moreover, were highly influenced by the course for which I wrote the essay, which would ultimately result in Marjorie Perloff’s important study, The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage.

Consequently, I had decided not to republish the piece until news came last week that Wieners had collapsed on a Boston Street and died a few days later, on March 1, in Massachusetts General Hospital. Without any identification upon him, he lay in the hospital for several days, hooked up to a machine, until a worker traced a prescription in his pocket to a local pharmacy. Soon after, the hospital connected with John’s friends Jim Dunn and Charles Shively, who sat with him as he died.

I first met Wieners in the mid-1990s when Raymond Foye, who had edited Wieners’ Selected Poems in 1986, introduced me to him at a small press book fair in New York. I had previously communicated with Wieners and had published some of his poems in my 1994 volume, From the Other Side of the Century: A New American Poetry 1960-1990, but I don’t believe John ever knew of the essay below. Nonetheless, he recognized my name, and, although he looked like a street derelict with his three-day beard and torn and ripped clothing, he spoke—as Fanny Howe described him—like a Southern gentleman: “Sir, it is so very nice to meet you,” he slightly bowed. The paradox was memorable, as if one were witnessing a true-life character out of a Damon Runyon novel.



I believe that I met him again a year later at the same affair, which I attended briefly for several years out of a sense of affiliation with these very small presses similar to mine years before. I believe Raymond invited him there each year—where he stood out as a sort of unexpected celebrity—to sell books and signatures that might bring the destitute Wieners a few needed dollars.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ariana Reines

is someone whose poems I admire very much. Part of the attraction seems her complete willingness to try anything to make the work bold and memorable. The poems follow no discernable form, look like average-to-bad free verse on the page--random line breaks, simple language-- it seems to me, and on first read you might find it easier to chuck them than face them straight-on, but that would be a terrible mistake. As Gardner said of Robert Penn Warren, read it again. Her books include The Cow  and Coeur De Lion, and she also translates Baudelaire and Jean-Luc Hennig.



Here's one from Everyday Genius.


from THE PALACE OF JUSTICE

when my boyfriend called the cops on me
i waited in my room for them to come
i waited a half hour and then another half
hour
this naked whiteness i could contrive to cleanse me
officer i am in love and now my lover hate me
always having dreamed of being a monk in a cell
if i eat celery for ten days and with an ether commingle
i could sit in the seat of rocks and razors
standing on one foot for ten years near the gingerlight
where the lees of my mind would fizz and then unto heaven sail

everyone i know beats up their lover and their lover beats them up
and the cops come and the cops go and sometimes someone passes a night in holding
i saw a shade pass across his face when he said he loved me
and he would not tell me what that shade was
i’m just a lover officer
but they never came though later they would come for him and i looked at my computer
and the internet was so depressing
then you wrote me a message like
call me sometime
and i think i chatted like how about right now
and you were like
yeah
do it
call me right now
when you walk in the rinsed orange light
shining like rotting tangerines picking up a deck of cards
low mean cards a low mean deal
twos and threes of clubs
which is pretty much what we got
blood is a spangle
bright colors are hidden deep in the body
fruits impossibly moist
trees blow out their hair along a furrow
i’m sick of eating beans in ugly light
i should not have spent my friend’s money on a miniskirt
but this is the future
the insects are dead in the cupboard
and dead on the floor
and i left one over there
quivering
alongside a clot of strawberry jam
to write this down

the small ones and the fat orangeish ones
they die through the holes in the ceiling
and they live and die upon me no matter how much love I make
sleeping like promises when I have to go
to sleep against the future which is not
going to come to term today and not tomorrow either
why would you sit down and write it
this is the total experience
we’re too big to fail



Saturday, July 3, 2010

Yay! A New Draft

I was supposed to be critting some novel excerpts from other people (mea maxima culpa), but I got this instead. Truth: DON'T COUNT ON ME FOR ANYTHING ON TIME OR AS AGREED UPON.


First one in a while. Content-wise, it's another knee-slapper. Will disappear in a few days.

Poem on a Line by Ken Clark

*poof*