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1983-2015
tearing the rag off the bush again
Megan Volpert Alphabetizes Her Pets PDF E-mail


B


booth, wayne

i tried once to convince our department chair
to let me turn in poems for fiction workshop
as fiction is not the exclusive domain of prose

bless his heart for trying to reason a way out of this issue
which was ultimately settled by a because i simply say so
in the name of fairness to befuddled prose grad students

apparently these traditional barometers of fact and fiction
do not apply in the anti-gravity martian world of poetics
replaced with flaky underwater labels like confessionalism

confessionalist is what modernity labels the poets who are a little bit off their rocker
appearing quite contented only to be found one day with head planted firmly in oven
which is the stuff of admittedly great legend but not a legacy worth serious imitation

but everyone loves the fresh-cut smell of nick carraway at night
so who can blame a girl for seeking these more springy pastures
where facts and fictions are just indistinguishable leaves of grass

the primary advantage of being labeled an unreliable narrator
is that i no longer need to resist this often overwhelming urge
to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth god help us all

just kidding
most likely
if you want

bourdieu, pierre

for three hours once i pulled a large rabbit out of a hat
in front of fifteen competitively vigilant grad students
and one extremely mighty and discerning professor

distinction
both title of the six hundred forty pages i did not manage to read
and mark of which i earned by having appeared to have read them

some people are simply destined for a good salary
evidenced by their ability to appreciate finer things
in this case the contents of a book they did not read

tastemaker
a person who fashions fashion by a voice resonant with conviction
please consider that the title of this course was victorian vulgarity

but not everything is a matter of marxism and war
often at issue is just the good opinion of a pretty girl
or in this case a vacant spot on my thesis committee


brecht, bertolt

there is a woman living in our basement
who may have brain cancer or
may not have it

cleave
meaning to cut in half or
meaning to cling to

for now the lesion simply exists
it is growing larger or
smaller maybe not growing

my senior year in high school i read mother courage
and did not much at the time understand or
understood so well it’s now all but forgotten inside

epic
what is alienating or
emotionally appealing

she is in a state of epic cleaving
a walking contronym or
antagonym maybe auto-antonym

my suspense and its closure are both evitable
but i have never been to war or
to minneapolis for a cat scan

brooks, cleanth


the purpose of longevity
my old man once said
is the better securing of one's legacy
more than procreation
we work to recreate
ourselves in an image of the future

one's name is a paperweight

with persistence it is a plaque
the prize
the seminar room
the distinguished professorship
the library wing
the building

more students are born
even though you are dead
they win your award
they sit in your room
they apply for your job
they browse your books
they walk your halls
your name drops on them
conservatively once a month

there is this dust under my nails
not a reminder of impressive paperwork
but more precisely a remainder


butler, judith


when i became aware of having to grow up and get a job
immediately my dream settled on forensic pathology
it was not until high school that i realized
i did not want to be jodie foster
i wanted to bang jodie foster

then i spent most of high school planning a career in law
my every waking minute invested in the debate team
loathing our assistant coach and her snotty advice
until i realized i did not hate her whatsoever
but wanted to tangle my fingers in her hair

so after eighteen years of ignoring repeated signs from the universe
that i was queer and a writer and argumentative as all hell
it was off to college to fulfill each of my destinies

enter judy butler

let me start by saying that she and i have never met
somehow i doubt she goes by judy rather than judith
but saving the tale of what i did to camille paglia for later
suffice it to say i always take liberties with the unknown

every publically available photo of judy leaves me hungry
she is behind a podium or sitting or it is only a head shot
and i just need to confirm that standing she looks up at me
meanwhile i have alternately lusted hated and become her

that my work has a broad application in the humanities
that my work prefers performativity to real materiality
that my work enjoys obscuritan language and reference
that my work has a cult following among grad students

criticism is a prism of ordinary crystal
shine the light of your fetish through it
and you get a rainbow of compliments
that are blinding just like meannesses

when this piece goes into a book
i will ask judy to blurb it for me
and i hope to god she doesn’t say
whether she is over five foot ten



baudrillard, jean


most people do not know
nine years in the provinces
jean was a high school german teacher
before dipping his toe into everything
when he went on to teach sociology
landing just in time for may of 1968
with great situationist protest slogans
written by students who gave a shit

forty years later on my front stoop
the paris package arrives from a friend
who has been picking up odds and ends
that she connects with me on her trip
and one of these is a shiny postcard
with a clean pastoral view of a fence
on which there is a red sign reading
il est interdit d'interdire

meaning it is forbidden to forbid
a classic from those  against de gaulle
like rise you wretched of the university
and happiness is a new idea
jean's intellectual celebrity landed him
ultimately at the college of pataphysics
and listed there as transcending satrap
with the marx brothers and marcel duchamp

satrap in persian meaning puppet governor
but more contemporary from the hungarian
meaning fascist and quarrelsome old woman
he was in all the best places
fueling the very best times
in the desert of the real
from baghdad to new york
until he died of typhoid fever

meaning somewhere jean ate shit
which in developed countries like france
has a fatality rate of less than one percent


benjamin, walter

the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction
is the first thing i remember reading in grad school
it no longer makes sense to ask
for the original or the authentic
when warhol's marilyn appears everywhere at once
including in my own living room
because i too am a little bit fascist
a person who introduces aesthetics to political life
which according to his argument
is always only the recipe for war

this from a man who attempted to flee the nazis
border crossing into catalan where dalí grew up
and who knows if they caught him
or if he simply killed himself there
there is no document of civilization which is not
at the same time a document
of barbarism he once wrote
which is what unironically appears on his grave
and in two languages no less
both german and catalonian

i think everybody should like everybody said warhol
only nobody knows the origin or context of this quote
it no longer makes sense to ask
and beneath my orange marilyn
is a copy of the new august issue of out magazine
featuring pete wentz on the cover
next to the words yeah i am a fag
inside he wonders how we live in the iphone age
while he is called the same names
he was called when he was thirteen

other poets sometimes ask me what i listen to
what the soundtrack to this manuscript is like
but they laugh and disbelieve me
when i say it's mostly fall out boy
though when i was in the baton rouge ghetto
weaseling through grad school
it wouldn't have been so emo
but something fake tough like guns n roses
wailing over dot connection
between nazis and everything


bhabha, homi


everything has not been said though it has been seen and done
leaving surprise as the only avenue permitting truly great sex
primarily through words or at least through a lack of words

thus i find myself splintering the bathroom door from inside
silently accosted in an act of remarkably violent will power
by someone known for years as unavailable for this purpose

michael stipe is nearby asking what's the frequency kenneth
as i consider that the tremendous secret being produced in this
involves my boss who is both married and of the wrong gender

a hybrid interaction of transformation and simple transgression
we fuck for two hours like we have five minutes left to live
and i cannot leave when it is over because this is my own room

if one has really never succumbed to having an affair before
they will not confess it until the day after if they do so at all
misguided this tendency to treat desire as homogenous block

formerly i have been a frequent practitioner of idiotic surprises
hoping to dislocate enough rules to unearth the mythic great sex
but on this occasion in particular i end up colonized irreversibly

this other person
has the audacity to think of me
as the other person

blanchot, maurice

there is a hairy dream i haven't quite had yet
where hunter thompson is calling me at four
to bark and mutter concerning black tongue
about which i know nothing but imagination
because he expects me to be awake just now
indeed on my way to teach in the far north
as the cell battery is increasingly beeping
and finally dies just as i get really situated
cup of coffee outside the jewish corner deli
at my usual table facing this intersection
a clump of trees that hide the high school
with two hours of bus and train behind me
so i can sugarfree all these students of mine
with two hours of bus and train behind them
plodding maniacally along our independence
which is always within just a mile of home
but at this juncture my phone has given out

as i approach vision focus purpose readiness
openness to the energy of greater something
the phone is dead and then hunter is dead

and i go into the classroom like it is still all good
the students asking me to define transcendentalism
which wells up my eyes with unshed tears
but i pull it together to tell them how i pray
that the air from owl farm is the air i breathe
until they start to freak asking quietly
whether that is on their next exam
except for some kid in the front row
whose name i do not yet have
asking me what owl farm is

so that immediately i don't need a cell phone
because i am sharing airspace with this kid


bloom, harold

i look just like i did at seventeen
except for sporting twenty extra pounds
and shirts with buttons down the front
making me increasingly concerned
not only with the anxiety of influence
but also the influence of anxiety

harold bloom has an opinion about everything in the western canon
and i have no real opinion about harold bloom
except my soft spot for camille paglia
who also has an opinion about everything in the western canon
the word mentor echoes out an impenetrable gravitas
protégé meanwhile seems to whisper the word edgy
edgy protégé

this phonetic resemblance ironically belies bloom's argument
that writers must invariably break with their influences
to criticize them out of a human necessity for the new
but how not to take this criticism personally
not to react as if the protégé is merely contrary
uppity is a subtle shade of edgy
the vulgar insulting shade of edgy

thusly i find myself overlooking the mississippi
a sushi menu between my sophisticated paws
with the mentor accusing me of an oedipal complex
brandishing a rule i was previously unaware of
that i am not at liberty to seriously suggest or criticize
until a full ten years have elapsed since graduation

this is the first time we have genuinely argued
and the root of this epic moment is so small
that she will not eat sushi with cream cheese in it
and i am really recommending this roll i love
but absent her willingness to accept the suggestion
i'm interested to have explanation for the declination
not because i want blood in the water
but because if there's something the matter
with sushi rolls that contain cream cheese
for the sake of my own self-improvement
i am growing desperate to know about it

she says cream cheese rolls aren't authentic
i say since when are we valuing authenticity
we are not breaking up over sushi
the mentor doesn't eat this cream cheese roll
i have two pieces of the roll she ordered
it is excellent and there is nothing to criticize
i imagine she tries my roll some time later
rethinking while i am not there like i did
when she suggested shirts with buttons down the front


bachelard, gaston


leo is a lop like the bunny in the book
this other book has a skunk on it
and the skunk has huge violet eyes
leo has brown eyes with no tumors

in the future that is now behind me
woody our guinea pig has a tumor
the pinkest pink i've ever seen
but leo the lop is gone by then

my mom says leo is in heaven
i understand he is not coming back
maybe even why he has to go
but i don't understand what dead is

in the future now behind me
my mom says leo is on a farm
it makes more bunnies like leo
she would not say he is in heaven

i think i often make stuff up
but i think so does my mom
maybe leo is on a farm in heaven
or maybe he is in heaven on a farm

i always compromise with my mom
especially when it comes to leo
she says i should help clean the cage
and he poops on the carpet a lot

in the future that is now a history
my first apartment carpet that color
has a corner nook in that same spot
the reason i cannot conceive of pets

in the future that is still one possible future
where they tour my apartment like faulkner's
they will not point out that one carpeted corner
the rabbit guinea pig tumor farm heaven mother


badiou, alain

galileo groks toward his principle of inertia
using the language of descartes and newton

could he feel his own ontology
deeply swelling and coalescing
in the new truth he was building
on top of straitjacket vocabulary
for situations that were yet to be

or did he simply hope
that an event was happening
as he bumped up against the inaesthetic
against the immanent incomparability of his research
against the singularly extraordinary nature of this fledging science

mimesis would fail him
but after all the penmanships he knew had sailed
still there labored galileo
mining against disaster with his truth procedure
on the edge of rupture
swan diving into decision upon the undecidable
while under house arrest for heresy to the pope
with no company but his own heart and the sun


bakhtin, mikhail

gods in the rube goldberg machine
the author as an unuseless thing
in contrast to readers         yes you
you are still the you that poems are to

i hope the pieces look interesting
which i tell you directly
because i am bad

i consider the least effective means of doing everything
for example
how to tee up a golf ball without bending over
how to keep from slipping on icy pavements
how to get a master of fine arts in poetry
how to clean show windows
how to sharpen pencils

open window a and fly kite b string c lifts small door d
allowing moths e to escape and eat red flannel shirt f
as weight of shirt becomes less shoe g steps on switch h
which heats iron i and burns hole in pants j until smoke k
enters hole in tree l terrifying woodpecker m
to chew wood from pencil n exposing lead o
for writing poem p to enclose in grant app q
yielding rejection letter r causing suffering s
to improve next poem t for publication u
achieving minor recognition v
which improves self-esteem w
so that committee x
bestows a master of fine arts in poetry y

to get a master of fine arts in poetry therefore
you will need to open a window

so many people took an interest in rube's work
that they compelled him to move to new york city
resulting ultimately in his death and his pulitzer prize
all things you will want to have in common with rube

the literal translation of chindogu is weird or unusual tool
and according to the international chindogu society
there are ten rules for constructing one
a chindogu cannot be for real use
must really exist embody anarchy and be for everyday life
must not be for sale not be merely humorous
not be propaganda taboo or patented or have prejudice
you can manage that can't you

to say an author employs dei ex machina
is an insulting way of saying an author tried
to tie up loose ends in a way that isn't credible
and little is left to examine before i begin making connections
so i would appreciate if you would commence closing in on
whatever state of mind enables you to take an interest
in rubberbanding and paperclipping ideas together
if you have not done so already

pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions
a polyphonic spree
authorship that lets in viewpoints that are not the author's
so the author may participate in dialogue with them
a sense of potential events with no real conclusion
an anticipation of some oncoming moment
in which you are but a character
and so am i

so far we have only remarked on poetics
now let us remark on ourselves
a responsibility i cannot transfer to you
and that you cannot leave all to me
o academy what have you wrought

barthes, roland


big ontology
where are the stoves i've left on
france france queer france france



A

abélard, pierre

heloise was a student which means unfuckable
so taboo then fetish then castration classic
a founding father of scholasticism
the original critic to really devour an artist
forced into early emasculated retirement



abélard, pierre


please
i will skewer constantly your earplug appropriate

heloise was a student which means unfuckable
so taboo then fetish then castration classic
a founding father of scholasticism
the original critic to really devour an artist
forced into early emasculated retirement

spiky accused october
filtered my life options with this
god how i still lust after a defensible diagnosis
catalogue approaching dialogue
confession approaching criticism

tar and fetter me if i am caught
then we will see what fetters are made of
for i have been to père lachaise
where abélard and heloise are buried
together in one tomb



adorno, theodor

ladies and gentleman
for your further edification and to further your efforts toward graduation
the one and only culture industry in conjunction with the frankfurt school
is proud to present
the seven habits of highly effective graduate students

one generate mountains of paper
you will need a personal statement to get in here
you will need a thesis to get out of here
print outlines abstracts first drafts of everything
do this double spaced with wide margins
in twelve point five font courier new
try a table of contents and a cover page
fill out scholarship applications write grant proposals
request a book a classroom a meeting
from the desk the department the dean
post minutes from the meeting
post grades outside the classroom
take copious notes on the book
use them to organize scholarly academic journal articles
use them to write reviews poems essays performances

and if after all this you do not have enough paper
take your paper to kinko’s and make photocopies

two complain
you have no money you are tired you are busy generating mountains of paper
you have to check your e-mail too many times a day
your computer crashed and the computer lab is closed
the young minds you are helping to mold came to you already too moldy
your students are smarter than you
your professors are dumber than you
your pet was throwing up all night your lover was throwing up all night
your car broke down your heat turned off your pipes are leaking
you don’t have time to go to that reading you owe the library money
you don’t have money to go to that conference your meeting is a waste of time
you are on a project a deadline a phone
which makes you in charge but approachable but busy
you said busy already
when someone asks you how you are do not say fine
list the three most mundane things you have to do that day
in order from you are a bore to you are being ignored

and if after all this you do not have enough to complain about
ask people you don’t like to be on your committee

three live in poverty
prices at kinko’s are going up
interest rates are going up
too many days of ramen noodles brings you down
too few drink specials brings you down
there will be a lot of fees
fees for registration fees for parking
technology fees fitness center fees
student health services mental health services
there will be a lot of bills
bills for books bills for cell phone
grocery bills electricity bills
maintenance services pest control services
you will learn to go easy on the air conditioner
you will learn to buy generic in bulk on sale
you will realize the phrase highly competitive stipend actually means
very insulting hourly wage
you will realize this is why later the abyss of adjuncting seems lucrative

and if after all this you still feel rich in spirit
remember your loans will come due nine months after graduation

four get a shtick
everyone has an ostentation a pretense a thing
be the instructor that brings your dog to class
be the student that relates everything back to nietzsche
be the boy who has a black belt in karate
be the girl who wears the spiked leather dog collar
be the token queer token vegan token jew token republican
be the one with a different hair color every week
be the one with a new tattoo every semester
be the one that watches every basketball game
be the one that actually used to play basketball
be the one that has outdated ideas be the one that has new fangled ideas

and if after all this you do not have a good enough shtick
steal one from a professor on the brink of retirement

five get a secret
secretly hate that people think you have a shtick
secretly hate you officemate
secretly lust after your officemate
have an affair with one of your professors
have an affair with one of your students
find a lump and go run tests find a sore and go get tested
wonder if you are gay wonder if you are pregnant
have an abortion a drug addiction an abnormal fetish
have a friend at kinko’s who lets you print for free
have a mother you like to call every single day

and if after all this you feel you have no secrets
wait until it gets out
you’ll be devastated trust me

six have a coping mechanism
northerners call this beer
southerners call this bourbon
wine is a requirement wherever you are
sample speed and opiates
until you are expert enough to prefer one or the other
smoke pot as often as possible
share all this with all your peers
until your department appoints you czar of hospitality
which means entertain idiots in town for the department conference
without actually mentioning most of your coping mechanisms
be like everyone’s favorite semi-hip uncle
be obsessed with caring for a dozen feral cats
be obsessed with spoiling your one puppy dog
obsessive compulsively clean your house or go shopping

and if after all this you still have trouble coping
remember there can be only one official alcoholic per department
so this may have to double unofficially as your secret

seven neuroses
this is what will happen
when your shtick grows stale
your secret gets around
your coping mechanism is failing
because you have no money to support it
and no time to support it
because you are wading through piles of work
and you cannot complain about any of this
because you feel too guilty too paranoid too ambitious
get yourself a good psychiatrist
or use the crappy one at mental health services
since that’s what you’re paying fees for already

and if after all this you can convince yourself
that these experiences build your character
exploit that idealism to generate bigger mountains of paper


agamben, giorgio

those rubber neckers prolonging the commute are a critic
eyeballing your beautiful paper crane accident
sweet released is your baby on the superhighway press
where anyone who can't read the signs bashes it up
homo sacer the sacred human can be killed
for commission of crimes against the empire

those who write do
those who can't critique
but a critic is only a machine a middle manager
it needs gas and destination a god and a product
product is your fresh squeezed manuscript lamb for the slaughter
god is abstract superfine argument theory sledgehammer in distillation

i hereby declare an end to this state of exception

the hotel california is closed
the three heads of cerberus are all awake now
they are at peace with sharing one immortality
my hellhound trailing frankincense and murder
slouches toward new york spiritu sancti


althusser, louis

each successive iteration seemingly more comprehensible than its predecessor
uncle walt grew senile and optimistic rewriting the same book incessantly
because this is what the human condition seems to require of us

but poetry is not now expected to adhere to limits of the comprehensible
emote and evoke ink tattoos around scars of the cannot be said
we swim in the endlessly emerging field of ideology

this is the basic nature of interpellation from a man who strangled his wife
you are free to make as many epistemological breaks as you want to
do you really care whether it was an accident or on purpose

it has come down to the state of our glands which means is it digestible
that is producing an interesting opinion that one can reproduce
shitting it out at the right social function and moment

poets have to do this now when people ask what their book is about
call it branding if you want to or truss it up as hailing
andy warhol look what you've done

critics used to say my poetry wears a black t-shirt too often
now they will say it wears too much black eyeliner
once upon a time these contradicted

artaud, antonin

the wedding of the unavailables obviously takes place in new orleans
and even as history making things pop up repeatedly in hot existence
we go out of our minds and ways now and then pretending to give in
to the bogus idea that we are ordinary stars along an infinite skyline
but when it is curtain in the theatre of cruelty
the following is likely to shake down as true

the ceremony was two minutes long
led by a mark twain in tarheel blue
women put on their best sentimental
men took pictures of too many breasts
lunch on the narrow balcony was musical
presided over by andrew jackson in bronze
molly’s was ground zero promptly at sundown
we drank dinner and went around the corner
to the old man for conversational dessert
two helpings and we discovered another nuptial
sliding around the city alongside this one
which featured a variety of heavyweights
including butcher baker and candlestick maker
not to mention a certain producer from athens
in georgia as opposed to greece or ohio
plus a terrific off broadway funnyman
wearing a local hat at the zydepunk show
that caused cowboi to introduce herself
drawing awe from the several grad students
who stumbled upon our little fish tank
getting vastly more drunk and awake than us
until we chaperoned home one laura then another
having narrowly avoided meeting a slutty midget

there was little left to do the next day besides watch half a diane keaton flick
order a large pineapple orange ginger and tally up the results of this adventure
which are as follows

captain and cokes with no ice 11 bloody marys with no salad 8
old fashioned microphones 1 red beans and rice 2 puddle dives 3
registered poets 22 family 37 douchebags and creeps 4 heroes tba

among the very many absurd things left out of this moment
are several counts of inappropriate bleeding vomiting urinating
but in the interest of my legacy i will not report them here


auerbach, erich

mimesis was nothing if it was not thorough
yet the author apologized insistently
for the imcompleteness of his study
a very german impulse
this deep digging
not the remorse

how art presents again what life presents
a mirror reflects what lies before it
unless another mirror lies before it
representation representing itself toward infinitude
ad infinitum or in german nach unendlichkeit
this is where we feel deep digging

we teach that poetry should mirror
but secretly fantasize mirrors shattering
melting into recombinant razor blades
flying stars  so crispy as a mere idea
impacting violently what lies before them
this is inexplicably where we feel remorse

but a polished razor blade reflects like a mirror
while rendering the represented life defenseless
i developed this theory in graduate school
and expect you to believe me when i say
that since then i have dug deeply
feeling no reason to apologize


 
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