Poetry is nothing and yes it matters

Today’s NYT Room for Debate asking, ‘Does Poetry Matter?’

 

Stolen from twitter, my only response to this is “Fuck off with this question already.” Poetry doesn’t quite ‘do’ anything, no art does, that’s its eternal power (and the source of all the eternal ‘criticism’ it and the other arts get); it won’t put food on your table (probably) or solve violence in the Middle East or really anything else. What it ‘does’ is help fill in the vacuum between all these things and make days filled with hunger and violence a little more worthwhile.

40 Likely to Die Before 40 (Alt Lit anthology) Notes #1: Sam Pink

sampink

(excerpt from his book, ‘Person’)

pg. 17 “I’m walking around Chicago, feeling like a piece of shit.”
     —I really liked this line, but for very unique/personal/weird reasons, probably. I’ve always been obsessed with big cityscapes. Chicago is one of only two major cities I’ve been to, and it’s the one I’ve been to most often & have the most positive associations with (the other being Detroit and negative). I’ve basically had a hard time falling asleep every night that I can remember, and especially during very stressful times in my life when trying to fall asleep at night I try to calm down by imagining walking around Chicago, filling in as many details and places from memory as possible. So both frequently in my imagination as well as a few times in real life I’ve literally had intense moments of thought and imagination while walking around Chicago feeling like a piece of shit.

pg. 18 “I always think about getting randomly hurt and how awesome it would be to just immediately be changed and removed from my situation. // To have something direct to worry about, like a broken leg or a really big cut.”
     —I feel like I can very much relate to this concept. It’s importantly not suicidal or desiring of pain, but entirely emotional / at a sort of stoic remove. It seems like a combination of feelings of frustrating stasis (wanting something to badly change but not knowing what/how/why to best achieve this changing) and a desire to have a focal point for anxiety/sadness/anger. This seems to be a very consistent theme in a lot of ‘alt lit’ and my own existence, the cliche generalized depression & even without contemplating how to change that feeling there’s a desire to have a direct and concrete locus to grasp onto. While never a cutter myself my understanding is that this is sort of why some people with depression/anxiety/stress cut, giving a clear physical sensation/point of focus, a way of funneling or releasing those feelings. I really enjoy the hyper-awareness of self / thoughts / emotions in this excerpt, and again it’s a consistent theme in alt lit. I feel like I really enjoyed reading one of Tao Lin’s poetry books where he talks a lot about what I perceived as both intrigue and annoyance at the ability of energy drinks to affect his worldview; I think there’s an echo of that concept here.

pg. 18 (general) The amount of self-deprecation is bothering me a little, making me feel slightly that it’s too affected / overdone, but that makes me think about how I usually like things being ‘overdone’ or excessive so maybe I like this, but I’m really not sure.

pg. 19 “And I can see either accepting everything that happens, or accepting none, but in between I lose hope.”
     —I really connect to this worldview. In a larger more abstract sense this seems to be my personality/approach to everything, I have a very addictive and obsessive personality; I’m never happy unless I’m doing something with extreme commitment, I don’t really do ‘hobbies’ well or dabble in things, I have to be doing things full bore or I think ‘What’s the point’. I’ve always not liked or not agreed with Socrates or whoever it was about ‘Moderation in all things’, the whole philosophy of moderation being the key to happiness. While self-evidently true in many things, as a larger philosophy it’s lost on me. I like how that idea is articulated here, how muddling about ‘in the middle’ means perhaps letting go of a more concrete / persuasive narrative.

pg. 20 “People are skating there together. // None invited me. // No, I don’t know, I mean that’s how I want it.”
     —Another recurring theme at least as I’ve perceived it in many alt lit pieces (and I feel a great deal of empathy toward this feeling) — the paradox of wanting to not be alone but also having social anxiety / wanting to be alone to do certain things or write, which inevitably incurs a kind of bittersweet loneliness.

pg. 20 “Not quite a piece of shit myself, but the streak for sure. // For sure the area the shit passes over and leaves behind parts of itself.”
     —I know this feeling and relate to it, but mostly marked this bit because I thought it was really funny, I laughed out loud.

pg. 21 “I want to itch my back until I feel pain. // No, I don’t know.”
     —Not this passage specifically, but it’s an example of a recurring rhetorical device / thought mechanic, where the speaker states something, a feeling or opinion, then immediately seems to reflect on it and reverse course, sort of like the skating passage. I think everyone has these moments if they’re honest with themselves, it’s interesting to me how it illuminates how quickly we can perceive/judge something or someone, have an authentic emotional response we feel in the moment is genuine and accurate but literally a second later we’ve already engaged in honest introspection and concluded we were wrong. This happens I think as easily with banal moments (like the one quoted) as it does with more complicated / deeply felt moments.

pg. 25 “In resisting the urge I feel like something like a rush of energy through my heart-area.”
     —Again this is one example of a recurring device, where the speaker uses strangely ambiguous descriptions. I feel like most of the time I understand why, because some sensations feel very vague in this is just attempting to be accurate, but sometimes it feels awkward / forced and I don’t know what it’s accomplishing and I don’t like it, it feels like a slack gesture, e.g. at one point the speaker talks about thoughts going into his ‘head-hole’.

pg. 27 (general) I really liked this scene in the 7-11, the kind of banal everyday but weird things that just happen, weird scenes we play a part in that could almost be some art house movie scene.

pg. 29 “My history is the history of things imagined and not-happened.”
     —I love this, I think it captures the feeling of how much time we spend playing out possibilities not only to current / future choices or occurrences but also reflecting on past choices and experiences and how it could’ve gone better or differently. I also had just read a quote or something somewhere on twitter I think, a quote by someone about life being 65% what-if. I just now remember this was a line from a recent Dean Young poem but I’m not going to look it up, but it was a funny chance connection and I think they’re both getting at the same thing.

pg 29. “I live in Chicago and I don’t get along with a lot of people and the reasons are always new and wonderful.”
     —Final line of the excerpt, and it it just touches back on everything throughout very well. 

Excerpt: Spencer Madsen’s ‘You Can Make Anything Sad’

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

 

I have this very uncomfortable feeling of doing nothing.
Just sitting. Trying to get rid of it. Eating excessively.
Masturbating excessively.

Too occupied with myself to leave my apartment, or read a
book, or watch a movie.

I need to have rough sex or get into a fight.

But neither of those things are possible, given my isolation
and nature.

It’s like restless leg syndrome, only my whole life.

I want to do something insane but I want the insane thing to
be presented to me when I walk into the living room.

I have gotten nothing done and I realize that the true reason
I need to go to a cafe to write is because I can’t masturbate
in a cafe.

Misc. Micro Reviews

Books

 

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway — 4

‘Norwegian Wood’, by Haruki Murakami — 4

‘The Massive’ (vol. 1), by Brian Wood — 4

*

TV

 

Californication (final season) — 2

Masters of Sex (season 1) — 4

Louie (season 4) — 5

American Horror Story (season 1) — 4

*

Film

 

New Robocop Movie — 2.5

The Boondock Saints — 4

American Psycho — 5

Drinking Buddies — 5

V/H/S — 2.5

Edge of Tomorrow — 3.5

X-men: Days of Future Past — 3.5

Hunger Games: Catching Fire — 3.5

Lone Survivor — 3

Grand Budapest Hotel — 5! (holy shit)

Rushmore — 5

erasure

Image

I’m not gone, just embodying the silent blinking cursor awhile. 

Removing most of my last vestiges of social media. Concentrating on a novel. It’s either the cave w/ some parchment or relegating myself to a monastery for a decade. A Gibson-esque jack move, but as quiet a one as possible. 

I do think I’m forever done with reviews. I never felt comfortable with them, never knew what they were supposed to really be or do. I don’t think I ‘believe in them’, the same way I don’t think I believe in workshops anymore, or what most creative writing grad programs stand for. As impossible as it is to be true, I don’t think this way as any kind of soapbox or anything that has been really labored over. There’s just a certain DNA to these things that doesn’t hold any weight for me. We are at so many mediated removes from everything anymore and reviews are just another big one. You’re giving so much power to Gatekeepers / taste protectors / blah blah. Just go read the book / watch the movie. So what if you hate it, hate it beautifully. It takes the expense of even a little creative energy that I’d rather just use elsewhere. It was basically just another way to distract myself from doing any real work, another way to keep stretches of time filled away from the unsettling, quiet, self-to-self territories where all the really good stuff sits.

I’ll still gladly post here and there when I’ve come across something awesome, but I’m done trying to force it into something more ‘official’ or worrying over making something I necessarily care if other people are reading.

So, what’s been awesome? The Goldfinch was so amazingly fucking good that its pick for the Pulitzer was such an obviously easy one. What a true capital-M Master of the novel can do with a decade. The new Fargo series the Coen bros. are doing has been absolutely perfect so far. The accent really is basically its own character, just like it was back in 1996. Finally got my hands on a monster collected volume of Lorca…may at some point return to the ‘translation’ and/or an erasure project of his work, if the wind is seeming to blow right for it (if the duende / imp song is loud enough…)

But for now, this strange little novel is showing up. Something like Tao Lin crossed with Murakami crossed with DeLillo’s ‘Body Artist’, I don’t know. 

Speaking of Murakami, August can’t come fast enough…I’ve managed to get a signed copy sent my way…

Back to your regularly scheduled programming. 

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