Monday, December 6, 2021

I Have Learned How Little Poetry Has to Do with Anything

Books of Jacob, Olga Tokarczuk, page 812, which doesn't mean I've read 812 pages, the book is numbered backwards, though I am 100 pages in. It's 1750, eastern Europe, Jews and Catholics and Muslims and Poles and Ukrainians and Ruthenians and Podolians and Romanians and Magyar and Turks, shitlords and bankers and shopkeepers and peasants, all immiserated, hungry, scared, plague plagued, all searching for a savior (and a book) to rescue them from all the others, so it's today

New Spicer uncollected, second major uncollected for me this year (Ashbery's the first), bought last Friday night in our first trip to Politics and Prose since the plague lockdowns, if you already Spicer it's essential, if you have not Spicered yet start with the published and after you're ravished and raw then read the uncollected, there are no saviors but I can pretend to have patron saints

The nervous system
No, our shitlords will *not* ban killer robots, silly
Reminder: covid is legitimately dangerous but not nearly as dangerous as the evil shitlords will do in the name of fighting covid
The fight against plastic
As I type *this* block Saturday evening, approximately five hundred crackers march up The Mall towards the Capitol under full police escort and protection, cops protecting no doubt dozens of cops. The crackers carry shields, wear a uniform of sorts, carry American flags, some of them right-side up, some of the right-side down. All are masked, who defiantly won't wear a mask elsewhere
Same effect: DC sports radio stations upping ad rates on ED Problem? commercials as I type this Sunday evening
Visualizing the accumulation of human-made mass
Maggie's weekly links
Winter trees as portal to aliveness
The Extractive Circuit
Calculate but don't shut up
Original Baltimoreans
{ feuilleton }'s weekend links
Rereading Charles Portis
"This essay aims to deflate one of the most stubborn myths in modern poetry. Roughly stated, the myth goes like this: Metrical verse is politically regressive unless proven otherwise. Free verse is politically progressive unless proven otherwise."
Percival Everett interview
Six of yinz been moved to moribund purgatory, no one was deleted
Lost but found William Gass interview
Spicer for Bird and Myself
Anyone can write a poem


Jack Spicer

Goodnight. I want to kill myself.
Goodnight. I want to kill myself.
Goodnight. I wrote a beautiful poem
But goodnight
Barton Barber jumped out of a 20 story window
While his father was buying cigars.
But goodnight.
Donald Bliss drank a bottle of brandy
And then a little bottle of cyanide
Outside the Greek Theater
But goodnight
I have seen enough of you, good night
I have seen that anyone can write a poem.
Hart Crane died so that faggots could write poetry.
And faggots have written poetry
Olson says that he wrote nominative poetry.
Forget it, I said, goodnight.
This is the last trick. I have discovered
How easy it is to write poetry.
How little it counts. How few sighs
At the best are at the end of a poem.
But goodnight, I have learned
How little poetry has to do with anything.
Goodnight. They knocked on my door tonite
And gave me cigarettes
Poetry is gone. Anybody
Can have his door knocked on and be given cigarettes
Anyone can be given a poem

Let me tell you about Barton Barber
Took a Pepsi Cola bottle up his ass
(I was in the next room)
Wrote a poem I tried to quote tonite
(But you two are fucking in the next room)
I don’t want to be big uncle.
Let me tell you about Barton Barber
I don’t remember Barton Barber
I don’t remember his poem.
I am not big uncle
Anybody can write a poem.
You can do anything with a poem
With a poem.
Fuck it, anybody
Even Donald Bliss and Barton Barber
Can write a poem.

Goodnight. I want to kill myself.
Goodnight. I want to kill myself.
Goodnight. Tell the Christchild
He has lost his big uncle.


  1. speaking of "Goodnight" and death, as jack spicer's poem does, reminds me of the following poem, part of which appears in Dying for Attention: A graphic memoir of nursing home care by Susan MacLeod

    A Little While

    It is so natural that we fall asleep
    Like tired children when the day is done,
    That I would question why the living weep
    When Death has kissed the laughing lips of one.
    We do not sigh when golden skies have donned
    The purple shadows and the gray of night.
    Because we know the morning lies beyond,
    And we must wait a little while for light.

    So when, grown weary with the care and strife,
    Our loved ones find in sleep the peace they crave,
    We should not weep, but learn to count this life
    A prelude to the one beyond the grave;
    And thus be happy for them, not distressed,
    But lift our hearts with love to God, and smile,
    And we anon, like tired ones will rest,
    If we will hope and wait---a little while.

    Ella Bentley

    this appears in Current Literature - A Magazine of Record and Review, Vol. XXX, 1901 - the poem itself is said to have appeared in the Yonkers Statesman

    The poet was later known as Ella Bentley Arthur - a book of humor published in 1954, My Husband Keeps Telling Me to Go to Hell, is currently listed on an internet book site

    She lived from 1881 to 1959, and is buried in New Orleans.

  2. the book by ella bentley arthur mentioned is not available to view by googlebooks, but apparently the title refers to a question which advice columnist dorothy dix received from a reader

    My husband keeps telling me to go to hell. Can I take the children with me?

    the book Dear Dorothy Dix: The story of a compassionate woman - by Harnett T. Kane with Ella Bentley Arthur - was published in 1952