Kelly Cooper responds to phrases and images from James Gendron's Sexual Boats (Sex Boats).
A Response To Sexual Boats (Sex Boats) by James Gendron
I am not knowledgeable or in-tune
or out-of-tune enough to understand.
I came to poetry through metaphor
simile, word play, and white men
stayed for the women and the
revelation of blank verse and
the rawness of the other voice
the not-heard voice
not heard in my suburban town
suspended between the polo club
and poverty’s friends: the Red Cross,
the Salvation Army, the food stamps.
I grasp and turn and read, reread
Rereading I tease out fragments
You can forgive the one
who makes your life amazing
Pulling out words that glitter
Pulling the wire
Laughing at the unknowable
The smell of the jagged mint leaf and the smell
of one trillion farts pervade the atmosphere
I shake my head I
skipped a line or three
lost my place.
On my side of the bed, I made a sweat angel
Truth or what passes
for memory flickers
In fat I see myself distilled
more honestly than in my face.
My childhood was all ragged knees
and pockets full
All I ever had in my pockets is still there:
hundreds of pounds of it.
My eyes burn with
anger exhaustion tears
You can improve a star
simply by turning it. The other side is fresher.
It hasn’t been looked at as much.
My thoughts can’t track
the random elements
I get lost.
Ideas and I are at cross-purposes, like the wings of Christ.
Shake my head again
resetting my eyes
I don’t know what an entity is, so I don’t trust entities. Entities are assholes.
And look again.
Can the judge fulfill her duty
and arrest the wicked sun, serial murderer?
Or is she more of a pragmatist?
Have I chosen only
what I recognize?
The Louvre is too big. Everyone knows & denies it.
Like a hurricane: so big, it competes with the soul.
Only what speaks to me.
I’m just a haunted question mark.
Only what I’m able to hear.
James Gendron's Sexual Boat (Sex Boats) is one of my favorite random purchases. I was at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference when I ran into Anis Mojgani, and asked him to recommend some small presses. He pointed me in the direction of Octopus Books, and I think I ended up dropping about $100 and loving most of the books I picked up from them.
Sexual Boat (Sex Boats), in particular was a joy. I picked it for the unusual name, and that it appeared to be filled with several one page poems with unusual grammar. I loved it more than I understood it. So, in many ways, it was like the book and I had dated for several years.
The title of this blog post is from an interview with James Gendron where he talks about his writing process and comes off more quirky than pompous, which is pretty rare in poets.
The title of the poem is just a rewriting of the title of several of his poems (and his book). I tried to write it in an echo of his voice, as opposed to copying his voice. Then I had the word "echo" in my head, and I had to use it in the first line.
Intimate Dinghy (Affable Gondola)
A stranger's name is a cave without echo
that I have grown too fat to fit into
When someone is
familiar but in the wrong
venue for me to
recognize them I try to
climb head first into their name but
always get caught at the shoulders
Hello and head nod is my
nickname for my impending
what's it called
when you have too many
memories that you can't see
the ocean for the salt
In middle school I outremembered all
my friends and relatives perhaps because there were so
few of them
My imagination was
feral but my memory was a squirrel
raised by a golden retriever
I still remember all of the
answers to the trivial
pursuit cards of my childhood but
modern adult names are
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.