OF THE CAFE: THE MARJORIE PERLOFF TYPHOON
Parcelli P.O.ed at Perloff
was utterly amazed to see Marjorie Perloff's piece on the presidential
election prefaced by the comment that she has struggled against tedium
in poetry. In reality, Perloff has been one of the foremost promoters
of tedium in poetry most noticably in her decades long support for the
very heart of poetic tedium, the Language school. Further, in her critcal
writings, she even makes O'Hara and Pound tedious.
Aside from that, Perloff's premise, the application of nonlinearity to
the election, is a pure bullshit conceit, the kind that gives poet's attempts
to address concerns about the dominant epistemology of science a bad name.
One example; what did Perloff think an "origin" would consist of in terms
of an election? Non-iterative rules have nothing to do with events as
rife with self-interest and money interest as in the election unless you
are already willing to cop to the "immunity" argument of quantification
and mathematization of the subject matter in advance, in other words limit
your art to the conditions of science (or is science truly the exemplar
of the 'real', in which case where does Perloff's claim on Postmodernism
come in.) When one does cop to what Anatol Rapaport calls the "immunity
of mathematics" from the very kind of considerations that the mathematics
of chaos, catastrophe, non-linearity etc. are to take into account, one
runs the hazzard of creating art that is truly tedious and derivative,
in this case from the metaphors of a disinterested paradigm, mathematics.
I haven't been so embarrassed since Stanley Fish's capitulation.
The only "origin" in Perloff's system therefore would have been the outcome
e.g. Bush's "victory," rendering any pseudo-mathematical-aesthetic discussion
of events emptier than most of Perloff's literary criticism. Perloff's
piece is a kind of insincere, thinly veiled solipsistic fatalism masquerading
as avant-garde analyis. All it would take is a little investigation of
her personal motives (and disappointments) to prevent Perloff from making
such travesties public. Perloff's unsophisticated assumptions about power
and money also contribute to the writing of such specious efforts such
as her Corpse piece.
capitulation was a mere hors d'oeuvre. We want to see Helen Vendler on
our plate. And Harold Bloom. And Frederick Jameson. Teeth glisten, forks
is poised. When they is all eaten, we'll still toast Marjorie.
Vicky Agrees with Parcelli
I join my opinion to that of Carlo Parcelli... In fact, I could not finish
her piece on the elections, reached a little after her lunch with Andrei
C. and Laura R.
I like the new column in the Corpse, "the blow one". It sounds to me that
Perloff deserved her place in the corpse based on a good (or not so good)
######### Reporting from the Inside
Perloff, up in her ivory tower, got some other things wrong as well: One,
the reading in Donaldsonville was not organized by members of Codrescu
workshop, she only assumed it was since some of the readers, as well as
people at the opening (because it was mainly an art opening at a gallery)
were Codrescu's former students. That reading was organized by one person
in an entirely different department, but in conjunction with artists,
not students--which is Perloff's condescending assertation. Also, people
in Baton Rouge, of which I am one, were very concerned about the election.
Perloff, of course, didn't talk to me or my cronies about the election,
she just rubbed elbows with professors and sundry other literati then
made her assumptions. Her sweeping generalizations about the way things
are in BR and environs is insulting and pompous. In fact, I fell asleep
at her droning presentation that she gave on campus.
Her article in Corpse #8 was also an insult--to the Corpse and its readers,
as it was clearly a piece that was not up to the level of excellence we
expect from our favorite anti-literary lit journal.
I, for one, am disheartened to see Perloff being flaggelated in this way.
I don't know who she is and I haven't read her other work but I do detect
a whiff of academic literary world pettiness in the air. I am not a part
of that "scene" and have, therefore, no ax to grind, but that is certainly
the way this thread strikes me. I went back and read Perloff's piece on
the Florida debacle and didn't find it an insult to the Corpse's readers.
I found her analysis of the "physics" of it to be especially interesting
and insightful, being a physics buff myself. If only we could do a Time's
Arrow thing on the election and time really could go backwards! Of course,
if you only read as far as the part where she has dinner at Andrei's,
then you missed the whole discussion of physics. That I find to be an
insult to both the writer and the editors, not to mention, this reader.
Or perhaps, the physics eludes your grasp -- which is just an insult to
your own intelligence.
Ronnie Burk Anarchist
I had to laff when Carlo Parcelli commeneted Perloff made O'Hara tedious.
I find all post modernist structuralist talk to be pointless gibberish.
Post-Modernism, let's see, that is when everybody drives up to the DEAD
END road sign at the end of the 20th Century and pretends the sign isn't
there and sit waiting for the light to change? What is the sound of one
There is alot to say about "the election." Everyone knows the election
were stolen and everyone is angry about it.
The real problem is that people are upset and frustrated but are unable
to vent their frustration in the right direction.
Right or left it seems everyone hates the U.S. government. As for me?
My long standing motto has been, "don't vote, revolt!"
Is Sorry an Apologist?
There are a lot of good things in Perloff's book on O'Hara. It requires
a lot of study to begin to navigate successfully in postmodernist writing,
just as it requires a lot of study to navigate in surrealist writing.
Most young people when first confronted with surrealist imagery think
it's just nonsense. Well, of course it isn't. The images mean something,
and come out of a discourse community.
You have to pay attention for a while and see what's happening in a discourse
community before you can orient yourself.
Perloff's book on O'Hara is terrific in places, especially when she shows
how he is uniting aspects of Williams (the colloquial language, the variable
foot, the reality-based imagery) with aspects of surrealism (the crazier
line lengths, the fantasy). She shows that all his best work is a very
precise flowering, of these two root stems.
O'Hara was a skillful grafter, the best we've got, and Perloff is a very
good garden critic.
Her recent piece in the Corpse is a more occasional one, and not as well
thought as most of her theoretically driven books. But it's still more
thoughtful than any of the above, even though I enjoyed reading these,
too. I liked her linking of chance with the elections. I do think she
forgot to tally in the notion of probability which is such a glaring mistake
that I felt a little ill. Probability was invented by Pascal as a gaming
device, but was then used by the Jesuits to set up the first lottery systems.
Without the notion of probability we would not have the Lutheran Brotherhood,
for instance, which is a life insurance policy which works, if anybody
is interested. We would also not have any insurance, or the idea of projected
results. This election was too close to call, and some factors were not
factored in. However, it is clear that probability would tend to argue
that the Democrats would have won, which is why Bush and his henchmen
in the Supreme Court shut the counting down. Had it looked probable the
other way, then they would have kept the counting open. This is a dethpicalbe
lack of principle, which is what upsets me as a Lutheran. Principles are
what matter, finally, in the establishment of justice.
Revolt against rotten principles is fine, but ultimately you have to establish
I am myself against the Language school, but nevertheless find it provoking
that they are there, with their half-witted reading of neo-Marxism. The
only way to outdo them is to read that material, and to read under and
around it. To simply go into an anti-intellectual rage and cry for revolt
is fun, but it's not going to be taken very seriously by Lutherans.
Breton had a teenage aspect, and refused to think about what would happen
had he won the government of France and been able to determine the politics
of his country. Sarte did get that far, and backed the Maoists. Breton's
friends tried to get Breton to think about Fourier and others, but he
just dabbled, and then went off to the bar to get drunk. In this sense,
he was like Spicer. Lutherans back democracy because we realize that people
are evil, and that it is only be a counter-balancing of evils that you
can stalemate them. The Marxists think they are good (which is the biggest
laugh of all time to a Lutheran) and this is what makes them think that
if they have all the power the country will be good. Of course this is
precisely what makes communism so evil. The balance of power must be shared.
Personally, I think Breton and Spicer should have gone off to the Lutheran
church. Just the sight of the steeple is enough to point most people in
the proper direction.
To connect heaven and earth is the job of Lutheran surrealism. The skunk
with the angel Michael in polite conversation.
Vicky Argues On
Your point that I should have read the whole article before stating my
opinion on Perloff's piece makes sense from a certain point of view. However,
reading the first three or four paragraphs of any work usually gives (or
should give) information about the writer and subject, that is, if the
person knows what he/she wants to say and has passed some basic writing
classes. Well, even in cases when the writer does not know what she wants
to say, or does not know how to write, this still comes accross on the
Based on these several paragraphs in the beginning of her essay, I thought
Perloff sounds pompous and banal, her ideas might not be altogether trash,
but her article comes close to it, when published in a place like EC.
For one thing, she sounds academic and inaccessible. And her attempt to
bring science and physics into the election debate is lame. I happen to
have a strong understanding of science and mathematics, and my opinion
is that while bringing physics into arts is interesting and worth exploring,
the way she uses it as a springboard to explain politics is lame and boring.
I state this after reading the whole piece twice, in response to your
critique. In addition, I love numbers, but the way she throws them in
"her reflections" only make them heavy and inaccessible. Unelegant writing...
with chucks of self-importance and pretense:)
Do not get me wrong. I not only do not know who Ms. Perloff is, I am completely
out of the literary arena. I am a graduate student, and my major is closer
to science than humanities. But I love literature, and I abhor its academization.
Recently I started reading the EC, and on overall I enjoy it. Some of
the writing, however, clashes with its mission, and I definately sympathize
with the editors, who I am sure, have a hard time balancing friendship
with ruthlessness:) (Ruthlessness comes accross as a favorite word of
EC readers and writers, doesn't it?) Ms. Perloff is probably a very good
friend/collegue, but does this make her article good? I do not think so:)
As, I said, I am a well-meaning outsider and I do not have any problem
to say what seems what to me:) So I do it, for whoever cares to hear and
may be find some truth in what I am saying.
Anne Terry Grinds an Axe
There are folks here with a real axe to grind about Marjorie Perloff's
literary tastes and then there are hangers-on who'll say anything just
because there is a crowd. The well-informed are not too well read either,
because they do not realize that without Perloff's defense of living American
poetry, we'd be in the moronic hands of Helen Vendler or in Harold Bloom's
idiosyncratic indolence or in Frederick Jameson's marxist lawnmower that
levels every field... There are few among these anti-Perloffians who are
smart enough to write an essay... or they would, wouldn't they? Instead
of arguing against Perloff's choices, they'd enlighten us as to their
own. But no, everybody is waiting for a critic to validate them just the
way they'd like it. Dream on honey! And take up the cudgels for your case,
side, poetics, whatever -- if you have one beyond a caffeinated blahblah.
Being Mexican or being an Indian or whatever is supposed to be a philosophy
these days. How bogus, especially when everybody's rummaging around in
their attic for a legitimate victim in their ancestry. I would guess that
90% of these people are about as monocultural (and monoglot) as my cat.
I happen to know many people in academia and in the art world who are
simply claiming to be an Indian (this one is especially popular because
you can be white and still claim to be an Indian, which is something you
can't do with African American). Are you on a tribal roll? Do you really
belong to an official tribe, or are you just saying how, let me on the
gravy train. This is what most of the people in academia who've pulled
this stunt have done, and very few are on a tribal roll. Moreover, they
are misinformed, and love to play the victim, which is something that
Perloff pointed out in her charmingly iconoclastic essay printed here
in the Corpse. Victimization is boring, as if only whites have ever been
imperialistic. Check out the Iriquois.
Indians wiped each other out on a regular basis, and weren't very nice.
Read Francis Parkman. Indian tribes scalped each other and made each other
into slaves long before Lutheran surrealism arrived to put things straight.
One of my favorite stories in Parkman is the Delaware Indians were forced
not only into slavery, but the men had to have their names changed to
the names of women.
And now I am supposed to be such a relativist as to accept this culture
without thinking, and even demonstrate my respect. I puke on your lack
of culture, Burk.
This is because you're not doing any thinking, Burk. You're just surfing
on a metanarrative that's been handed to you by Breton (revolt!) and by
Marxism (be a victim!).
It's boring. Precisely because you are not really rebelling against anything,
but secretly trying to get inside using your sneaky little tactics (I'm
a natural surrealist!) and plus (I'm an Indian!). And then you dismiss
people who actually are rebels.
Perloff made some good points in her book on O'Hara. I tried to point
these out in a previous missive. Just because somebody is an academic
or a Christian doesn't mean you should dismiss them.
Breton deeply appreciated Hegel, who was both a Lutheran and the most
celebrated academic of the early nineteenth century. People came from
all over the world to hear him lecture. Even Napoleon got off his horse
and went in to hear the man speak.
Perloff isn't Hegel, but she's one of the best we have.
I like your style and your sharp imagery, but why the poets of your generation
refuse to think about anything, or even why you are happy to be a surrealist,
as if it's some kind of boy scout badge, is what puzzles and dismays me.
Or even why I should care about what Breton thought, as if he is some
kind of authoritarian guru to you, makes me sick. Yes, read him, but couldn't
we have a little critical resistance too?
You remind me of the very worst Christians, who quote Jesus as if it's
enough to close an argument.
Only you quote Breton.
The Lutheran and the Surrealist are rubbing together like sticks -- will
there be a fire? I've watched this from the sidelines with increasing
enjoyment because it's evident that the protagonists are actually sparring,
not just trying out aphorisms to see what they sound like, viz. Wallace
Stevens' posthumous notes. What I would like to see is some lists of ten
important poets 1960-2000 from each of the participants, followed by one
sentence as to why they are great and who has served their reputation
best. Here is mine:
1. Frank O'Hara
Everything surprising is poetry; the world must be amusing or it will
turn to prose. Marjorie Perloff; Ted Berrigan; all poets; lame critics;
the Brad Gooch bio OK
2. Ted Berrigan
If it fits in your mouth is natural. Alice Notley; all poets (two generations),
no critics; ripe pickings for PhDs
3. Gregory Corso
Had a thing for beauty, it stuck by him. Poets; the young (three generations)
4. John Ashbery
Take care of values, the rest is shopping. James Schuyler, Larry Rivers,
many minor critics (Helen Vendler, etc); the weary young circle him unsure
whether they ought to throw their lot in with Kenneth Koch or give it
5. Anselm Hollo
Are you coming to bed? Are you going to Tibet is what I heard. Robert
Creeley, Andrei Codrescu; minor critics; the young (two generations);
virgin territory for PhDs
6. Robert Creeley
Not heavily, but. Charles Olson, George Butterick, many critics, the young
7. Alice Notley.
Dreaming directly in and out of quotes. All cult, no critics, many poets.
8. Andrei Codrescu
Dreams in languages, makes poems from media, safeguards transcendent irony.
Kirby Olson, Richard Collins, minor critics; the masses; the young. PhD
9. Patti Smith
An American Surrealist, still makes rooms sexy. Few critics, many fans.
10. Michael Palmer/Steven Roedeffer (a tie). Makers of (mostly lyrical)
musics. Their Language-school confreres; some academic fans.
Sorry Isn't Sorry
I would take out number 10 from Terry's list, but second her other choices.
Corso, to my mind, is the only great home-grown American poet. The others
are all goddamned foreigners like Codrescu and Hollo. There are no Lutheran
surrealists in my vision of the thing. Bly does not qualify as either.
Therefore, I propose instead my top ten TARGETS:
1. American literature. Let's face it. It all sucks. From the beginning,
to the end. The only exception is the Beats and the NY School, and the
foreigners and hangers on in those immediate circles. Everyone else sucks.
I would exempt Poe for his criticism. It catches fire from time to time
and somebody bakes.
I would also exempt Charles Willeford -- he was very interested in surrealism,
although he couldn't find a school to hang out with. He rocks, and he
dug the Beats, and was often linked with them, albeit erroneously.
I like the Corpse. It is the only American literary journal I like. Precisely
because it isn't American. The Corpse rocks, and everybody in it rocks.
The best new poet in the Corpse is Mike Topp, and the best who's been
around the block is Elaine Equi, but I only like her early work.
The only homegrown American critical theorist worth his salt is Bob Black.
Everything else can burn, baby, as far as I am concerned.
2. LANGUAGE must die. It serves no one but its poets, and it even bores
them. Those guys are bald and have pot bellies. They are entirely too
pleased with themselves. Let's kill them.
3. MARXISM. Please. All it means is self-righteousness and boredom and
that a few people will get to prosper by calling themselves victims. Dennis
Rodman deserves to win the Nobel Prize. Toni Morrison couldn't serve water
on any NBA team. She has a loser's mentality, and Pat Riley wouldn't want
4. Any journal that begins with the name of a state or city from Ohio
Review to Florida Review to Seattle Review to Mississippi Review. These
are guaranteed to be fog machines. Cork them.
5. All the new ethnic studies departments. This is pious back-patting,
not study, not scholarship, and everyone knows it. Moreover, the funding
for these departments has come out of comparative literature departments,
which have shrunk disastrously. Americans need to be truly multicultural,
for heaven's sake. Bring back comparative literature, and burn the ethnic
studies simpletons, or put them back on welfare.
6. Destroy the entire mid-west. Just sack it. There is no art, no cafes,
nothing. You can't even get sushi. Burn it. The two coasts should secede,
along with New Orleans.
7. Monolingualism. Any monolingual poet should be forced to suffer a reeducation
camp. Meaning get to a university and learn a language, and until you
do, you can't get your poet's license.
8. All religion as defined by neat lawns and nice manners should be abolished.
Religion is wild, and is the entering of Christ/Dionysos into the soul.
It is not neat lawns and Sunday school.
9. Tapdancing should be forbidden, unless it is to Lutheran hymns.
10. Anything that works against the cultivation of the marvelous, such
as the celebration of elk as opposed to fireflies, bats, and tornadoes
and especially blind moles who are digging under American civilization
to help its collapse into the arms of beautiful foreigners.
Virgin Mary Has Never Read Any Anti-Semitism
I work in a bookstore and think that every book is equal, and that every
book has a right to be read.
I don't believe in making up lists which exclude other books in favor
of only ten writers. Every person is a book, potentially, and every person,
like every vote, counts.
I don't know what should be studied in universities but I think just any
book can be studied and a lot can be learned from that. I'm writing a
book, too, and I think it should have as much right to be read as anything
else that was named up above.
I also don't think there should be any wars over books, Mr. Lutheran War
Machine. Books are for peace and for understanding.
Anne Terry Takes the Virgin Aside
I'm sorry to shatter some of your illusions, dear Mary -- since you are
clearly a sweet person that could and should serve as a model for the
rest of us -- plus you can sell some of your lovely innocence at a good
price -- god, we sure need it & we will pay premium dollar for it.
But -- here comes the sorry truth: books are hubris, the hubris of tormented
souls for whom existence is not enough. They want description, they want
God, they want power, they want you. Every book is a malignant explosive
charge sent by a sick ego into the world to kill somebody while seducing
their nearest and dearest. Here are some books that made a difference:
Mein Kampf, Das Kapital, Adam Smith's Whatever you might Call it, de Toqueville;s
Democracy in America, Dale Carnegie's How to Make Friends & Influence
People, Peyton Place, Atlas Shrugged, Catcher in the Rye, etc -- are all
books equal? Think about it. Maybe they are equal in the bookstore where
only their spines show. But when you take them down, they'll fuck you
over, honey, and make trouble in your tribe. If you write a book, write
a strong one that will be better, more efficient, more poisonous, more
ferocious, more real than any other books. Use the force & take no
prisoners. That's how books get done. You are a very nice person, though,
and you are not a book.
Lydia Parker Has a Bone to Pick As Well
But sweet Mary--what about good books that do bad things--the bible-koran-communistmanifesto-gonewiththefreakingwind-ichingbullshitboyscoutmanual?
Are they all innocent and equal? Honey, evil exists, in a way you probably
Anyone Got a Phelps Head?
Books like people will always be both good and bad, depending not so much
on why they are written, but how they are read... This is particularly
true of the examples which Lydia Parker gives--sometimes the best lessons
come from bad things...
Unfortunately, in literature, as in every other activity, when more than
one person is involved, politics and ego come into play...
Is innocence the cure--of course not. There are other approaches, like
tolerance or humor, experience or empathy. But I think Mary is right that
we should have our choices.
And the ranking of the 10 greatest poets since the 60ies--that is hilarious...
some of the postings on this tread remind me of Mein Kampf. I do not know
whether you have noticed but almost every freaken poetry web page, which
tries to sell some poetry services, like paid publishing or poetry retreats,
has some version of this 10 or 100 or whatever greatest... (you can check
www.poetry.com for their version:)
To sum up--ranking of poetry and poets stinks with the putrid odor of
swollen ego and the American quantify-to-pay. (Pay money/homage or attention,
By the way, to go back to Ms. Perloff pieces it is a perfect example of
soulless quantifying. She would have done better choosing science as a
field of expression, since her creative work resembles more a report on
chemical experiment than essay. Not to mention her quantifying and qualifying
of her collegues... and everything else. Here are a couple of eye-poking
"I've been invited to speak at the University of Miami by Patrick McCarthy,
a well known Joyce scholar... I fly to New Orleans where I am met by Adelaide
Rousso, who invites me to Louisiana State in Baton Rouge as Chancellor's
Ms. Perloff is a great example of where quantifying brings literature--the
most uncreative and dry people have greatest facility in doing the best
quantifying and end-up at the most most prestigious schools, most prestigous
by their own quantifying... I told you it stinks...
Where is my screw-driver... Cheers!
Sorry Sticks It to Ashbery, Praises Lyrical Language Genius
The remarks from Mary B. reminded me that the greatest act of rebellion
is politeness, and I feel saddened that once again I revelled in my nature
as a fallen being.
It also made me realize that surrealists posit that people are basically
good, and therefore to rebel is to be evil, like the Marquis de Sade.
Lutherans, however, believe that man is wicked, and therefore the greatest
rebels talk of meaning, and decency, and fairness, and kindness, and are
There's no one to blame my behavior on except me, but I guess you could
say I was riled up by all the spitting and the general negativity towards
religion. Still, I'm sorry.
To scroll back to Perloff, I think she is a good writer on O'HAra. However,
she does make a mistake when she wants to let in John Cage, and the LANGUAGE
people. Life has a meaning, and chance operations don't. Therefore, art
which is derived from chance operations has no meaning. Therefore, it
This is my problem with abstraction in painting. The Passion is a representation,
a rather bedeviling representation, in which God represented Himself on
earth. It has meaning. It has an intention. The intention is baffling,
staggering, and beyong belief unless you believe it.
Then, it has meaning. No matter how you twist Cage, it has no meaning.
And now I had to think over the weekend about whether the New York poets
in general have any meaning. I think O'Hara does. He stayed close to his
own sense of the universe, his own sense of life, and one can feel his
pains and joys as you read his work.
With Ashbery, you are one step removed. It is empty. It is play without
meaning. People have been screaming at me for twenty five years that he's
our greatest poet, but I don't think that he is a poet, because he his
body isn't there in his writing. He's not risking an exposure of his own
deepest feeling self. I would say that Kenneth Koch is also not doing
this, and is therefore not a poet.
He is always looking over his shoulder and thinking, is it funny?
This isn't poetry, it isn't art.
Art is more complex than this, and it has to give a basic picture of the
universe, at the very least. It has to be honest. This is why Corso is
a great poet, and Ginsberg is a great poet, but Ashbery and Koch are not.
And the Language Poets are not.
I accept Hollo and Codrescu as poets because one can feel that they are
working something out in their writings, something for themselves, and
yet they still have technique. Koch is just pleasing us. Ashbery is just
dicking around, which is why he publishes so much.
Art is meaningful, and human, and complex, or it is not art.
Check out Koch's books about writing poetry with children. The poems are
never memorable. They are uninhabited. Ashbery's poems are also uninhabited.
A greater poet than these is Langston Hughes, because he inhabits his
poetry. It has his own body in it: it has passion, and suffering.
This is why the work of the great religious leaders is so striking. They
put their body on the line: from Jesus on the cross at Gethsemane to Martin
Luther standing before the Pope's accusers, with his neck on the line.
One senses in Codrescu's best work this sense of a neck being on the line.
Also in O'Hara's best poetry: he is risking an exposure of his deepest
self. This is what makes Corso our greatest lyric poet in everything he
Cage is a fraudulent smiler, and that's why he's not a poet. That's why
Perloff is wrong.
That's why Luther was RIGHT. One can sense his body, his heart, and his
soul, in everything he wrote. And it has complexity, and urgency.
Writer Writes Note to Self:
Always submit dry dull academic articles to Exquisite Corpse, as these
get all the attention. (See M. Perloff article & Cafe reactions).
Do not submit intriguing, soulful, or humorous work as it will go completely
unobserved. (See other Issue 8 contents & lack of Cafe reaction).
Better to be reviled than ignored.
Anonymous Pro Porn?
Indeed! Note to self duly noted (and with a clap of laughter - the first
this chat has brought forth from me!)
I always wondered why Sorry calls herself that - now I know.
Maybe centerfolds would help?
"Life has a meaning, and chance operations don't. Therefore, art which
is derived from chance operations has no meaning. Therefore, it isn't
That is an interesting assertion.
But I don't believe a word of it.
Not one word.
"Life has a meaning..."
That remains to be proven.
"...chance operations don't."
I guess I don't know what you 'mean' by 'meaning'.
If you ask me - it's all a lot of hooey.
Back to work children.
Anne Terry Equates Books with Broken Shoes
Vicky, gotta qualify not quantify. Do you know how many tons of books
get donated to the Good Will every year? As many as broken shoes. Did
they all get respect? Sure they did. They were read, they were used, they
put things in peoples' heads. Do we worship the bulk of them? Of course
not. There are a few books we keep on our shelves: they are the ones we
think are the best -- one through ten. Is it silly? Not at all. Is Pound
a better poet than Marianne Moore? Yes, he is. Is my judgement subjective?
Hardly. Language itself has a stake in this. We are her agents. Some agents'
job is to count. One, two, three... etc. That's how knowledge moves forward.
It doesn't move when everybody says "I think... it's just me...Sorry."
Open Letter from Reader to Perloff
Your article went way over my head. It was too much like being invited
inside YOUR head to view the dazzling intellect operating there. But dazzling
intellect is not rare, as surely you know from your various brilliant
associates, and you must be aware that people who fancy themselves intellectually
dazzling are as common as dirt.
You have roused rather a lot of them here in the Café; of course
you can never display talent of any sort without being scorned. You have
some readers, represented here, of whom make what you will. Are you satisfied?
In the future maybe you ought not neglect me. I'd love to read a well-articulated
application of Outer Math to the election recount, and likewise I'd be
interested in reading what happens when A. Codrescu has one too many Cuba
Libres. Jumble those things together, though, without much detail in either,
and the substance of your article slips away from the reader (who is not
only dumber than you but too impatient to track it down) and in its place
is a sloppy depiction of Marjorie Perloff's brain. I've never met you;
why would I want to see that?
I understood Perloff's article, every word of it, and I'm supposed to
be the moron and zealot in this thread. The fact that I think she is wrong
is at least an informed opinion, based on reading not only her books,
but also most of her source material.
On what basis is Pound a better poet than Moore? Pound got the essential
things wrong: he backed fascism, he thought language was actual gold and
operated in the same fashion as gold, and he was a life-long Catholic.
Moore was a Protestant, although of the wrong stripe, and she thought
the war on communism and the defence of democracy were good things.
Plus, she's funny AND honest, two things that Pound found difficult to
He's good on Yeats, when he limits his contributions to having found a
good steak-house, and he's funny when he talks about himself as a gruff
cat. He isn't generous in his best poetry, though; he's more of a miser,
and a grump.
Still, I prefer Moore's poems about animals. She's trying to bring animals
into the Christian equation throughout her work, which I think is a move
long overdue, it is a generous and elegantly done move.
Pound wasn't ecological in that sense. He wasn't green, while Moore was.
He was more of a brown-shirt.
I don't know if life ultimately has a meaning. Without God, it certainly
doesn't. In this case, then everything can exist, and nothing is either
right or wrong. This is Nietzsche's move. I'm against it, because it does
lead to Nazism, as well as to Stalinism, albeit by different routes. If
there is no way to say that life has a meaning, then there is also no
way to say that something is either good or bad, in art or in politics.
Perloff gets there by her own route, via chance. She almost seems to indicate
that whether or not people vote is PURE chance, or who they vote for.
As if there are no values common to blacks, or common to anybody. Everything
is willy nilly.
Mary B. up above does more or less the same thing when she says that all
books are equal. the book of a Satanist, and the book of a mass murderer,
and the books of Martin Luther therefore are all the same.
I sometimes am in the position to ask young people to justify the abolition
of slavery. They can't do it because they don't have any princples to
stand on. I mean, none. In the same way, you have to have principles in
order to establish what's good and what's bad. Mary B. doesn't have any
principles, and therefore she couldn't say why a book justifying slavery
is worse than Thoreau's book which argues against it. Without faith, you
can't have principles. so Mary B. is not innocent, she's evil. She is
fallen, and I am writing this to help her up.
Principles, like axioms in geometry, can't be proven. They are simply
stated. From those principles, you get a world. Principles require belief
and faith, as opposed to positivist proof.
You cannot prove that the outside world exists. People have tried. You
can't do it. You can't prove that one plus one equals two. Bertrand Russell
tried for fifteen years, and the results are in the Principia Mathematica.
His conclusion is that you can't do it.
You can't prove basic fundamental things. I believe that God exists because
it leads to a world that I can stomach.
Believing that everything is chance is also a belief, and you can't prove
it, ultimately. But it leads to certain conclusions, one of which is that
nothing matters. If you believe that, then no art can exist, because art
is a choice of one thing over another.
Or, in Cage's case, it is a choice of just accepting anything, any sound,
whatever, as music. John Cage and Mary B. have a lot in common. They don't
have any principles for exclusion or inclusion. Everything is the same.
The reason I like Anne Terry is that she has principles. Cage doesn't.
That is the point of the four minutes piece. Four minutes of just anything.
And even the four is arbitrary. (You people have heard of this haven't
you? I mean, it's the key to understanding 20th century American art --
four minutes of anything, Cage stated, was music.) Arbitrariness. This
is what I'm protesting against, because if you have four minutes of an
axe murderer chopping off the ears of your girlfriend with a blunt axe
slowly, you have to say that this is equivalent to four minutes of Bach.
On Cage's scorecard IT IS equivalent, musically.
This is because he has no way to say which way is up.
The reason I bring this up is that I want writers and poets to be able
to defend themselves philosophically and theologically. Otherwise, you
are a victim of anybody who can. Poets are mostly clueless, and can't
make arguments, and so they end up having to illustrate the views of theorists
who can. This is why I bit off Burk's head. He thought he was a rebel,
but he was surfing on the philosophies of others.
Those who can argue in art can climb to the top. Cage could make arguments.
And virtually no one can defend themselves in this country against his
ideas. We need people who can argue on a more sound theological basis.
We need ... you guessed it, L. surrealists!
Perloff can argue, but she is wrong in her suppositions. Nobody here has
even attempted to touch those suppositions except for myself. (Ok, vicky
did a good job at taking a swing at it but didn't get to the bottom of
Perloff's theology, which is empty of meaning, just like her understanding
of the vote.)
Why is it that this country has given up on philosophy? It's because it
is materialist. People think that you are what you own, or you are somebody
because you know somebody, which Vicky properly attacked. This is the
dumbest idea (from a philosophical viewpoint) that can possibly be put
across. You are what you think.
And since most people don't think, they don't exist. I am because I think
-- this is what Descartes said. He was a Catholic, but on this point,
he was right.
That somebody wrote over your head is no reason to discount THEM. It is
a reason to discount YOURSELF, "reader!"
the best books push an intriguing vision of the universe forward, a vision
that not only makes sense to you, but reaffirms the quality of your own
life. They also help to clarify and expand your vision of life, and keep
on doing so. Otherwise, there is no reason to keep them around. The ten
best books lists argue implicitly that they do this better than any other,
and give us a sense of what meaning we want to pass on, through universities,
and families, and so on. You have to argue for those books, and make a
case for them, or else they disappear. You have to argue that those books
mean something, or else other books will take their place -- other books
will be pushed forward by those who do want their books to be taught at
universities, or passed down through the family. Life and the world of
letters is agonistic, as Anne Terry pointed out. It has a meaning. Even
if this meaning (for you) is that life is meaningless. This meaning finally
can't be proven, which is a common mistake in our positive, materialistic,
anti-philosophical country. It is a given, but it helps us to live. Surrealism
does that for me, as does Lutheranism. Together, they give me a sense
of the invincible beauty of this universe which puts me in a good frame
of mind, and I believe that this combination makes for the best society,
which is why I'm pushing it.
Ellis Can't Spell Ashbery, Pounds on Pound
I think Sorry is right about this:
"You can't prove basic fundamental things. I believe that God
exists because it leads to a world that I can stomach."
That's a pretty good reason for belief, I suppose. But a world that is
easy to stomach for some might be an emetic for others. Sorry, Sorry,
for being a relativist about that.
I like Wallace Stevens better than Pound, and all those other people.
But what do I know?
Ashberry's cool. He's a friend of Fantomas.
His forward to the English translation of "Fantomas" was great.
Red Pen Remarks
I ain't never seen so much fire in cyberspace.
Red Ant Retorts
Nothing can be proved. It can only be disproved.
And Hello Hangs Up
Whoever titled this thread got it wrong. Sorry is the reigning Queen of
For the complete thread go to New Topics in the Corpse Cafe. Eds.
Burk Brutalized by Oppressive Apparatus of Two Nations
I just went through the gruesome experience of being interviewed by a
GQ journalist. He intends to trash us (ACT UP/SF) in the JUNE issue. I
was so frustrated and so angered by his flip response to my personal history
regarding AIDS, AZT, and the whole nightmarish past that at one point
I got up and went into the next room and threw up! I am not kidding. It
was that bad. Having been interrogated by Mexican Federales and DEA agents
I can say without reservation it was one of the most gruesome experiences
of my life. And, by the way, the guy was a DORK! Dude, totally! GQ!
Success Goes to his Head: Can't Stop Babbling
(You can call me chickenshit today.) Would you believe it? I'm still alive!
Fuck knows why or how. Life has been tufftufftuff lately. Allright, I'll
try not to whine too much, but I've got a bone or two to pick with you.
It was easy and simple and straightforward before you took my shit. I
knew where I stood. Since then I've had nothing but guano along the lines
of How Do You Get A Big Head (that's ok that's fertilizer). You know,
come to think of it, I didn't even do the micro hunger. It was you know
who giving me a kick up the ass to see if I can fly! Well, I'm still flapping
about like a good mixed up fledgling. So, I've mostly stuck to the short
form. Less work too. I also received a note from a kind editor. 'All near
misses! Do send more!' How accurate! More near misses, I did send. Now
Corpse 7! Exquisite indeed! Ok, you know I don't compute so I go to internet
cafes… I can't stay in these places for more than half an hour without
being shot full of lead. So if you feel I've only had a beakful, that's
sort of true (I managed several before the hounds got me). Nevermind!
I'll still tell you like it is! What a riot! I started with Mr Roll, o
Cap-Eyes, Roll! Miam miam miam! Then I switched to Vian. Ah! The marvelous
books of my youth! Ah, the crazy titles! Ah, the shit they piled on him!
I'll get back to you about that, one of these days. Then it was Two Books
With The Dog. (I see…) Regarding Chump Change. Look at the first
page! Can it get better than this? It does! But I'm confused with timing
here. Did The Scots get to it first? Don't matter! The Dog's is nicer.
About laughter. If you have more than four on the shelf, you should know
better than to stray too f… (I'm an ass) from The Horse's mouth. Mind
you, for a spin-off it was alright! Nothing new in it for me, that's…(Twice
in two lines, Gervais! And it's bad manners to begrudge birdies their
millet anyway.) There was other stuff, but I'm feeling a little cold turkey
now, and my span is short. Anyway, I was weak that morning, and you fed
me such a meal! (Ah, the Sponozzola Cheese topping!) I boarded the first
Thermal Express and rode around and round… But back to The Sparrow. Shit!
Will he NEVER STOP singing? You know I was thinking let The Old Man rest
now. Wasn't so keen on What Matters (I was an angry gosling) and of course
The Flocks Of Tedious Spin-offs… Then I went shopping again… (Shiiit!)
OPEN ALL NIGHT? Too right, too right! Remember a twit ate his own
worms! No! Don't whistle a tune for me! All the same, at 80, The Old Man
was still FLYING with the Goods/Gods above. And there's no stopping One
Little Bird, when he gets going every year! Now I remember! The Bag! Congratulations
on the Resurrection! Are the typical exchanges always this typical? That's
a rhetorical question. But please can you tell me why some of them are
so chicken? They want to get into Your mag, but You can't pluck a few
feathers? I gave them the benefit of My doubt. It didn't last long! 'Shit
with a couple of good lines throw in still is… Whereas The Good Line Bites'
a voice inside my head said. Too pigeon to understand It's not about cooing.
Too ill-bred to realize what you are trying to do. Scarecrow them off!
They don't even have the decency to be good at being offensive. And I
don't want to hear them squawk. What I want is for them to stop waving
their fucking crosses about if they can't take the nails (let's leave
stigmata out of the equations for now). Ok, this latest has gone mad,
maybe I went too far. Maybe it's cac again. I count on you to tell me.
Corpse! Can I surf The Giant Maelstrom Of Senseless Shit? We'll see. And
don't worry if I sound a little weary. Like everybody else, I'm unwinding
on you. But I'm tufftufftuff and I stand up and fight when it's time.
This year, they'll have a go at crucifying me. If I let them, it will
happen on my birthday (the 33rd). And three days later, on the 9th of
march I'll return as… Your Buffoon From Hell!
Even Bagged Likes the Corpse
Even the most hard-hearted elite veteran of the chatroom honors the law
of the newbie. Everyone who plays hearts online, flames out in the alt.politics
forum, or frequents the insubstantial halls of MOO MUSH, knows they were
a newbie once upon a time. They are a small hiccup of technology away
from being newbies again.
The law of the newbie is this: one blunder, no matter how awful, how lame,
will be forgiven to one who announces "I'm just a newbie!" What's more,
battle-hardened veterans will put away their meticulously composed attacks
and accord the newbie every courtesy, revealing pearls of wisdom they
have spent years acquiring.
How I wish publishing stories was like this. I wish I could write to an
editor and say "I'm just a newbie!" and have them reveal to me why they
rejected my manuscript, what I should do next time.
Last month you printed my name in your Body Bag under 'Not Now but Maybe
Later'. I'm taking this as a vital clue. I take it to mean you don't find
my style objectionable. In fact, I'm sending you my best, most recent
work. Don't be too flattered. It also happens to be the only peice I have
that's not already winging its way to or from some other publisher.
I rather like the Corpse. When my friends wrinkle their nose and mutter
about "online publishing", I point them to the Corpse as an example
of what the medium can be. As a web designer myself, my interest is not
Nisbet Enjoys His Position (At the Summit of Am Po)
My contributor's copy of Vol II showed up yesterday, for which many thanks.
(Also, by the way, Black Sparrow got right on it and sent along my long-delayed
contributor's copy of Vol I.) Vol II is even bigger than Vol I, both of
them look great, and although, truth be told, I've read almost every damn
thing in both of them once already, they will provide years of bathroom
reading for both the un- and the initated.
regards the placement of "In Heaven", I'm reminded of an Ed Dorn -- was
it a 'poem', or did he just make it up? -- ism, let's say, from one of
his more hermetic phases (line breaks improvised, self-referential laughter
uncanny): "Yes, there are/ a lot of/ interesting/ juxtapositions, but/so
so I'm very glad to have "In Heaven" where it is in Vol II of Thus
Spake the Corpse.
Season's juxtapostions to you all,
Laughs Hard at Great Quip
When I read Codrescu's editorial comment about the low-chakra asspects
of the new administration, I laughed so hard I nearly had a small stroke.
Part of me looks forward to seeing these buffoons hoist with their own
puny petards and the other part wonders how much bizarre damage they will
cause in the next four years. Oh well, the world has seen worse. As the
smartest one in the Trinity of Bills (Clinton, Gates and Shakespeare)
says, "There be some sports are painful."
Balanced on the cusp of dread and amusement, I remain, sincerely,
P.S. My wild Irish husband and I spent a fine few days in North Beach
last week, living above his brother's bar, drinking with the Irish, eating
with the Sicilians, and lurking in the stacks at City Lights. Or as my
11-year-old Rosie says, "Let's go hang out in the book store that's just
around the corner from Live Nude Girls."
Thank you for your review of my book, What Is Fair, in Issues 5
& 6 of Cyber Corpse. I am pleased that my name was spelled correctly,
and I take the reference to my "condescending arrogance" as a compliment,
appearing as it does in the nation's leading journal of condescending
Of course, it is telling that Mr. Collins had to go back three years in
the LSU Press catalog to find enough bourgeois bards to make his case,
and that he is more troubled by my end-of-book acknowledgements than by
my poetry. He also seems troubled that my "N'Awlins" (such clever spelling!)
poems are not valentines. All of these distractions must have prevented
him from doing the five minutes or so of research that would have revealed
to him that I am not employed by a university and that, as my mother said
so eloquently two weeks before her death, "Jimmy don't garden."
As to my failure to know as much as he knows about having fun in the Big
Tomato, I could protest by telling him about the nights at Lu and Charlie's,
or the night Richard Belzer opened for Warren Zevon at Rosie's and the
second show started at 3 AM, or the night the Continental Drifters played
in drag at Carrollton Station, or maybe about getting drunk with Satchell
Paige and listening to Henry Butler at the old bar at Tip's. Ah, but it's
hopeless--I'll always be a pair of bourgeois brogans trying to keep up
with Mr. Collins' Doc Marten's.
I'll be sure to acknowledge him in my next book.
James Harmon Clinton
Accused of Foisting All Human Failing on Poet Massman
Richard Collins reviews my book, The Numbers (Exquisite Corpse,
Issue 7), with the earnestness and outrage of the breezily complacent
and overconfident individual whose human shadow characteristics have been
suddenly and for the first time torn out his face and spun round to the
front of his eyes. It is as though he has been shown a festering internal
malignancy threatening to undermine the engine of lies which propel him
respectably through his world. In an effort of apparent denial, like an
insomniac thrashing in bed, he covers the ugliness, almost obsessively,
with the woolly blankets of meaningless ridicule: "It is particularly
helpful (therapy) with adults who have a hard time of it at their work,
who don't really want to be doing what they're doing, like lawyers and
brokers and such...after twenty-five years of acquiring manuscripts for
scholarly publishers, Massman is now a broker associate for Coldwell Banker."
Is this supposed to be funny--like Monty Pyth?
But taking his assignment for The Corpse seriously, Collins's does dip
his raptor beak into the meat of the matter. With curious ferocity and
hunger, Collins discovers within my work the muck of "infantile regression,"
"liberal guilt," "cunt hate," "penis love," "patricidal homicidal conceit,"
"zoophilic voyeurism," and a compulsion to "write (fingerpaint) his poems
in his shit; wield his penis like a fountain pen and hose his name in
streams of urine." Oddly and revealingly, of the four collections Mr.
Collin's tackles, The Numbers receives not only the most physical
space (two full single-spaced pages), but the captain's share of his emotions.
In passage after passage I am rapaciously ripped apart and finally reduced
to a shaking humiliated gelatinous "scatographic...navel gazer." Reading
this review one can witness raptor Collins figuratively ripping the sinews
and veins from the eye jelly.
An interesting hypothesis of psychoanalytic theory states that what crouches
in the heart of the typical analysis and crouches in the universal human
heart. Succeeding that hypothesis follows this deeper and more profound
hypothesis: one knows when one's psychoanalysis is successful and complete
when one can live comfortably with one's homicidal tendencies. The revelations
embodied in The Numbers--hard won and paid for with high price--are
my offering to those who have had or presently possess the fortitude to
strip away the covering of civilization and peer lovingly at their inner--"infantile
and regressive," according to Collins--elementalism. For them do I disclose
those beautiful human qualities of licentiousness, satyrism, egotism,
rage, aggression, fear, and revenge. To others, and I suspect Collins
is one, such exposures approximate an infectious disease to be avoided
at all costs. Collin's revulsion toward my poetry is his painful avoidance
of a disease he carries.
You see, the poems in The Numbers are not unaware of themselves;
one must understand that they are conscious of what they transmit or they
simply could not exist. The tragedy is that Collins fails to comprehend
this. He attributes the baseness of my poems to the poet alone rather
than where it should be, to all humankind, himself included.
I.O.U. or Sincere Awe?
It was good to see A di Michel's work in your journal. His work is evocative,
mythic and innovative. I hope we will see more of his poetry in the future
in Exquisite Corpse.
Webmistress Worshipped, Kimberling Noted
Issue 8 looks fantastic. Between the font and the layout, a kind of classical
Roman hedonist/conservative modern intellectual ethos appears that accentuates
the Corpse stance of, well, whatever stance it happens to be holding at
the time. I like the layout, the fonts, the color scheme, the bio popups,
the everything, the all. Please pass these compliments on to Andrea Garland.
I have, however, one question: who the hell is David W.? My article, "Redneck
Spell Check," is introduced: "Brian Kimberling on the Politics of Spellcheck.
(David W., pay attention!)" David Duke's websites reveal nothing about
his middle initial. Ergo, I'm lost. To whom does this refer?
DW is a man so important, the English language pays him in adverbs just
to hold his horses. His identity cannot be revealed for fear of being
turned into a legal palindrome. (Not easy, I admit). Meanwhile, not to
change the subject, I highly recommend The Dictionary of Wordplay
by Dave Morice (Teachers and Writers Collaborative, New York, 2001).
Kimberling Noted Some More
Brian Kimberling's "Redneck Spell Check" was a hoot. I heard about it
It's just too bad it was so flawed by his non-use of his spell checker.
There's no such word as "consiousness". Perhaps he really meant "consciousness"?
And it's no wonder "Good guys have no place in the modern cultural consiousness"
-- based on the fact that "Ghandi" is not in the dictionary -- since Mahatma's
last name is spelled "Gandhi" (which IS in Word's dictionary).
So what of our modern cultural cons[c]iousness NOW?
Oh well. Still a nice concept. But it would have been all that much better
if it had been executed with a bit more care!
I just wanted to point out that in Brian Kimberling's article on the politics
of spell check, he misspelled Gandhi's name (he spells it "Ghandi").
I tried typing in "Gandhi", and Word 97 was happy with it. This does not
take away from Brian's conclusion, but thought you would like to know
Jose K. Paul
is just a note to let you know that I've added a link to Brian Kimberling's
Spell Check essay to the page of the Word Legal Users' Guide on Basic
Thank you Mr. Kimberling. And thank you Mr. Codrescu for your excellent
pieces on NPR.
Prozak Has Fan in Fante
Prozak, of course, is a genius. Tell him there's a nice little massage
parlor here in Santa Monica on Lincoln Boulevard. Relaxing full-body treatment.
I've already notified my favorite girl, Suki, that a guy with a name like
a pill may be dropping by. Tell Prozak it's all on the house. No expense
will be spared. No body cavity un-tongued.
THE CORPSE APPLAUDS
I recently ran across a webpage I think you might enjoy, the account of
an expatriate Russian's travels around Tibet on a collapsible bicycle.
Mr. Mall Goes Poemic
Sir, What lies beneath is an email I composed a month and a half ago in
response to a stylistic challenge thrown down by my wife (what the hell
is THIS stuff? more or less) an existential query which I felt required
some reflection, if not a serious answer.
I had sent a few tentative things to washingtonpest.com and included this
email along with one of them.
I thought the work needed a "name". Dumb. I used "poemics"., i.e. poetic
polemics, not that ten thousand other people weren't out there in the
ether doing the same thing, but believe it or not, I was unaware of it
at the time, still tied as I was to the "real", eschewing the "virtual".
Poemics, I wrote, are composed in the form of scarce-a-rima and written
in Silence of the Lambic pentathalon, poemics are political commentary
from the position of the antilectual center of the information super highway.
They are written by some guy in Chicago named Jim Mall who composes on
an old Power Macintosh computer between long stints of bashing the five
inch ice pack out of his driveway. Poemics are the inspiration of the
election of the year 2000. For months before the election, Mall was filled
with a sense of dread.
From its infancy, a highly descriptive term as used here, the Bush campaign
had been issuing press releases describing this great fellow down in Texas
who was driven by his compassionate conservatism. No one knew what this
meant, least of all Bush, but the media took it up like the hula hoop.
They continued to give the guy a pass on every aspect of his life, past
and present. If he was a dolt, a former drug user, a drunk driver, a business
failure, a non-performing, malingering child of privilege, an empty cowboy
shirt held in place by the oil establishment for the use of his family
name, this was all okay with the media. They could relate to him. He was
no smarter than they were, didn't pretend to be, didn't want to be. He
did not attend Renaissance weekends, he had not been a scholarship boy
or a Rhodes Scholar, or even a scholar of streets, alleys, trails, or
paths. He was just some regular guy who liked to hang in the locker room
and chew tobacco, snort and sneer at alien ideas, a redundancy, in his
mind, and behave like the average sophomore at a low end state college.
He did not threaten the boys of the media. They felt him to be their equal
in all things. They loved him and promoted his candidacy.
His rival in the campaign, Al Gore, was not lovable; nor was he approachable,
knowable, scrutible, or likable. He behaved like a disturbed monk, a Martin
Luther who couldn't get up the nerve to nail his theses on the church
door, but instead had to ask for permission to dissent. He seemed holier
than thou and condescending, as if unwilling to expose any likeness to
a real person. The media hated him, and he frequently acted like he agreed
with them, not a reassuring projection from the voters' point of view.
He combined Calvinist guilt and chastity with Jesuitical demands of mental
purity and obligation. He was pious and prissy. He was Ma Bell's Earnestine,
The Church Lady, a nun with a sharp edged ruler, your worst vision of
a mean spirited Sunday School teacher, but clearly smart enough to be
in epic conflict with all of those hideous paradigms. In short, he might
have been ready to blow, to go postal if not Oklahoman. He was altogether
insufferable and in every way superior to his Republican opponent, Sonny
Warbucks, Governor, Armorer, and Lord High Executioner of The Big State
Election day came, Mall voted, and then went to Paris for two weeks where
he dressed in existentialist black, feeling too self-conscious to wear
just the arm band he had planned on should things go bad back home. He
paced the Parisian Boulevards, ruing the day that Poppy had first given
Bar a come hither look.
CNN's European broadcasts were thankfully less obsessed with Florida than
in the domestic market, but the sense of frenzied carcass picking still
came through. Should he return to his homeland? His wife, who was with
him in Paris, had a great job at home. They had two cats, being looked
after at twelve dollars a day, a mortgage, and one car parked on the street
where it would be getting a fifty dollar ticket two days after their scheduled
return: street cleaning day. The ex-pat equation at an elemental level.
They went back, paid off the cat sitter, moved the car. Mrs. Mall returned
to work. Mr. Mall, self employed, moped. He surfed the net. He came upon
a web site which listed the "cruel site of the day," a negative and bleakly
aggressive sounding concept which exactly mirrored his state of mind.
This link lead him to the pages of Washintonpest.com, an impressive and
semi-official sounding name, bringing to mind The Washington Post,
a good moderate to liberal newspaper, and The Washington Post March,
a Sousa Melody despised by Richard Nixon because of what the newspaper,
its namesake, had done to him. These influences were all subliminal but
effective inducements to further inquiry.
At the web site, Mall was first struck by a limerick contest currently
in progress. He liked limericks, and the cruel site, which compared the
writings of Al Gore and Theodore Kosinsky, the Unibomber, but did not
contrast them, there being almost no differences in style, attitude, and
point of view in the posted examples, seemed too easy, like ridiculing
the handicapped, which was, in fact, the whole point. So he wrote a limerick
ridiculing the handicapped, which is to say, the soon to be former Governor
of Texas. In about three minutes he had written what was surely the only
real and funny limerick in the contest, and thus encouraged he went on
to write a longer piece, sort of a triple or quadruple haiku but with
no formal structure. He called it "I Dubya Sir Howdee", a conflation of
Howdee Doodee, or Howdy Doody, a puppet from the earliest days of television,
and the common Web nickname of the then Texas Governor, Dubya, or George
W. Bush. He e-mailed this piece to the Pest. They accepted it for publication
in their "Not Poetry" section. Mall was thrilled. His life was transformed.
He immediately began another poem, and another, and another. Each was
political satire directed at the presidential pretender and his stable
of warmed-over cast offs from the Reagan/Bush era. The works were polemical
and poetical, more or less.
And thus Poemics, a sort of cornball, cutesy, and unnecessary word for
a self-evident concept. Mall has decided to dump the word and keep the