Kim Addonizio's What Is This Thing Called Love always shows up at interesting times. This week was no exception. I've been handwriting some projects while I travel around the city and say goodbye to departing friends and started writing a conversation between me and an ex-roommate, using only quotes from this book Then I had another idea. Then another. In many ways, this interaction is nothing like her very structured book. But I come back to this book over and over. Every time, taking something different away with me.
I struggled not to focus this on "Cat Poem" because no one wants to read about my pet.
I know there are people who think waking up is the best part of their day. Such potential. Such nothing is wrong yet. You don't remember who's dead. Who's left you. Where that bottle of Maker's Mark came from. Why it's empty. Your head is fine. Your bed is just you. Such potential. Such daylight.
On the other end of the ugh. Not enough curtains. Neighbors teaching themselves to play the sousaphone. A stranger in the shower. Your roommate owes you four months rent. Your roommate ate the last slice of your birthday cake. Your roommate. You don't know when you poured that bottle of tequila directly into your head but you know it was your hands that poured it.
My mornings are neutral. Mostly. Since the most affectionate cat died, I wake up mostly alone. Mostly. Today a book. Kim Addonizio's What Is This Thing Called Love. Not the first time.
Last time I put it out on the shelf my roommate picked it up. We were both electively maybe single. Recently maybe singled.
the benches in Washington Square Park,
briefly occupied with lovers, have been reclaimed
by men who stretch out coughing under The Chronicle.
Tonight I am amazed by all the people making love
while I sit alone in my pajamas in a foreign country
with my dinner of cookies and vodka.
The foreign country is Everywhere. My bedroom. The daybed in the living room when the neighbors are fighting on the porch below my window. Wherever is the person who once occupied the barren next to me. The vodka is whiskey but otherwise Yes Kim Addonizio exactly.
Our room was too small, the sheets scratchy and hot ---
Our room was a kind of hell, we thought,
and killed a half-liter of Drambuie we'd bought.
It's been almost twenty years since I first identified my arms as a hotel room. Though maybe motel would be more appropriate. Cheaper rates. The upkeep of the room adequate. Not professional. No hospital corners. But at least a fitted sheet on the appropriate sized mattress. A place to wake up. No matter how you feel about waking.
Kim Addonizio isn't just love poems. Also grief. Also dead. Also cat dying. Also No. Her every poem in this book is dog-eared. Come back. Don't kiss a fan at a poetry reading. Oh. Oh. Oh that is ten years I'm never getting back. That kiss. That job. That walk-in closet. That stack of unpaid loans and bills.
When he takes off his clothes
I think of a stick of butter being unwrapped,
The younger man. She views as nothing has harmed him yet, though he is going to be harmed. I've never seen a body without a dead father guttering the eyes. A pinch of keloid from when they first suspected their body was not theirs. Even just an ingrown hair signifying their desire to stop their body from aging. Or their belief that if they do not stop their body from aging nobody will lust them. Is there even a possibility of love if no one is lusting.
He lies on his side like a glass knocked over.
He lies on his side like a glass knocked over.
Only a little sweetness left, poor boy.
Only a little sweetness left, poor boy.
Only his little lies, a glass-like sweetness.
Poor he, a left boy knocked over on side.
Oh fake form become real. Possibly the paradelle. Possibly his body. How she grew inside him demanding out. How I ever could possible to understand who he had been or would be. How even who he was right then was not the person I saw. How all of us falsely identify. How we all put our I in their I because everyone must I like I I. Right? Even if they I differently. I can imagine their I through my I because we all start as I?
My I. I am trying to overcome my I. I am reading so many I. I keep thinking I understand Kim's I. That maybe we've almost had similar I but I can't even tell the I of the person I no longer wake up on the same coast as.
I think of all them and the filaments in my brain start buzzing
crazily and flare out.
Every kiss is here somewhere,, all over me like a fine, shiny
grit, like I'm a pale
fish that's been dipped in a thick swirl of raw egg and
dragged through flour,
slid down into a deep skillet, into burning.
She is talking just. Maybe just. I don't know. She is talking mostly of kisses. I am talking about everything. Maybe poetry forms. Maybe exes. Maybe mornings. Maybe all of them. When she doesn't mention forms, I don't always see the form in her poems. She Kim. She visible. Form mist. Form important. Sometimes the important part isn't immediately apparent. Sometimes you love a person or a thing without actually seeing how it formed. How it structure. How it I.
I don't sleep with books anymore. Always back to the shelf. Or in the backpack if they're joining me for a tomorrow. I only share my bed with. Actually sometimes cats. Sometimes laptop. But mostly I only share my bed with pillows. No authors or books whispering sweet something cribbed from other writers and lovers in my ear. I still don't have as much time with my eyes closed as would make the daylight brighter. I still always morning at the inconvenient times.
She's the one sleeping all day, in a room
at the back of your brain. She wakes up
at the sound of a cork twisted free
of a bottle, a stabbed olive
plopped into gin.
Lauren Yates's interaction with Kim Addonizio's What Is This Thing Called Love.
What Is This Thing Called Love
In twelfth grade, I took Creative Writing as my elective. My teacher ran red lights in his boxy, little Jeep, drawing cars to a screeching halt. His breath smelled like stale coffee. A single booger always hung from his nose. My mother said he looked “trapped in the eighties,” which had ended almost twenty years prior. His favorite color was eggplant, but he would have crossed out “eggplant” in red pen and written “aubergine.”
In class, this teacher showed us Billy Collins’ “Paradelle for Susan.” He explained that Billy Collins invented the paradelle as a parody of the villanelle. With the paradelle, Collins remained so loyal to the form, that several lines in the poem did not make grammatical sense. This was jab at young poets that follow every rule of writing formal poetry at the expense of the poem’s quality.
Inspired by Billy Collins, I wrote my own response to the paradelle that I called a “miradelle.” If Billy Collins could write a parody of a villanelle (a paradelle), then I could write a mirror of a paradelle (a miradelle). I proudly submitted my assignment and awaited my teacher’s comments.
When I got my assignment back, my teacher had marked up the grammatical errors. He missed the entire point, even though he was the teacher. That was the moment I began to see through him. How he had kissed my cheek when I asked him to be my advisor. How he had rubbed my shoulders in a meeting with my peers and his colleagues. I was seventeen. What was his excuse?
My freshman year of college, we were assigned to write a sonnenizio. My professor read “Sonnenizio on a Line from Drayton” from Kim Addonizio’s collection What Is This Thing Called Love. After class, I tried to find the source of Drayton’s first line: “Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part.” I accidentally typed “William Drayton,” instead of Richard, and got pages of hits on Flava Flav.
Instead of a sonnet, I took the first line of my sonnenizio from Meshell Ndegeocello’s album The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams. I repeated the word “man” like a prayer. Kim Addonizio said the sonnenizio tackles the impossibility of everlasting love. When I handed in the poem, I miswrote the date as 1/4/08, as if I were still seventeen.
At seventeen, Kim Addie learned that her grandparents had shortened their last name from “Addonizio” to “Addie” after immigrating from Italy. She then changed her name back to its full form.
I have always admired people with nicknames as first names. After fifty-five years, my grandfather thought my grandmother’s nickname was her full name. Sometimes Kim is simply a Kim, and not a Kimberly. What is this thing called love? Less about power, more about fit.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.