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.
My interaction with Daphne Gottleib's 15 Ways To Stay Alive was the most excruciating, and took me the longest amount of time, so far, to write. And it's severely edited down.
Daphne is very talented at taking other people's words and creating conversations across texts. She does this masterfully in "what it means to be young in new orleans" where she mashes up news stories about the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster with Charles Bukowski's poem "Young in New Orleans". As well as in "the unauthorized biography of black beauty" where she takes twenty different sources and creates a DJ Earworm level masterpiece.
For some reason, I decided to mash up "Thirty-Six Questions That Lead To Love", a list of questions that a 1997 study claimed would, well....lead to love, with random quotes from Donald Trump. I didn't take into account how easily fatigued I would be reading Donald Trump quotes. Thus, I wrote this in eight different nights. Switching out answers, losing faith in humanity, wishing either Trump would grow mute and illiterate or that I would eventually give up and start entering more logical, cohesive quotes, like those from the Teletubbies.
Anyhow, here is all I can stand to post right now from this endeavor.
Donald Trump Answers 36 Questions That Lead To Love
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
And you know, another great guy is Mark Cuban. And I think, you know, he’s been talking about maybe doing this himself. And I think he’d do a great job. We don’t have the exact same feelings about where we’re going, but that’s OK. But Mark was great. You know, he called me, like, literally a few days ago, and he said, “you know if you want to use the arena” — which by the way is a beautiful arena, this a great arena — and Dirk is a fantastic player, he’s just a wonderful player — and the Mavericks have been fantastic and it’s just a great team — but he said, “you know if you want to use the arena.” And I said, “Mark, when?” He said “how ’bout Monday night?” It’s like, that was like in four days. And you had a big holiday in between. And he said, “they really like you in Dallas, they really like you in Texas, maybe you can get a lot of people.” Because we were coming here, and we thought maybe we’d get a thousand people, but we never get a thousand anymore, it’s always, like, the same thing. You know, we went to Alabama. We started off with a 500 person ballroom. And after about 2 minutes — look at all these guys — paparazzi, look at this…we’ve got everybody here. We started off, by the way, with a 500 person ballroom, and after about 2 minutes the hotel called up begging for mercy. “We can’t do it!” They were inundated, so we went to convention center, and that was 10,000 and that was wiped out in about an hour. So we went to a stadium, we had 31 thousand people, which is by far the largest, they say, like, ever, for an early primary, and that’s probably true.
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
I don't like walking down the street and having people waving. I just don't really. It's not for me. To be perfectly honest, it's not for me, and I don't enjoy it.
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
I like being off the cuff. You know I've been in 11 debates, I never debated before. My whole life is a debate. But I've never debated before. And I really enjoyed the debates. I guess I did well in the debates based on all of those polls that they did after the debates.
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
I think it’s gotta be up to the individual. I think it depends on the individual. It also depends on what’s available. There may be a better alternative, then there may not. If there’s not a better alternative, then you stay. But it could be there’s a better alternative where you’re taken care of better. But some people don’t like staying in an atmosphere that was so hostile. You understand that?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
You used to call me on your cell phone.
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Look at those hands. I guarantee you there's no problem.I guarantee.
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
I'm a very efficient guy. Now I could also do it verbally, which is fine ... I want it short. There's no reason to do hundreds of pages because I know exactly what it is... because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
Some people say it was staged. You know that?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, okay, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, okay, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I'm one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you're a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me — it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what's going to happen and he was right — who would have thought?), but when you look at what's going on with the four prisoners — now it used to be three, now it’s four — but when it was three and even now, I would have said it's all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don't, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years — but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
I have the world's greatest memory. It's one thing everyone agrees on.
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That's where the fun is.
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Look, we can bring the American Dream back. That I will tell you. We're bringing it back. Okay? And I understand what you're saying. And I get that from so many people. 'Is The American Dream dead?' They are asking me the question, 'Is the American Dream dead?' And the American Dream is in trouble. That I can tell you. Okay ? It's in trouble. But we're going to get it back.
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
When I think I’m right, nothing bothers me
16.. What do you value most in a friendship?
I mean, I think I have a lot of friends, but they're not friends like perhaps other people have friends, where they're together all the time and they go out to dinner all the time.
17. What is your most treasured memory?
Oftentimes when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world, I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, "Can you believe what I am getting?"
18. What is your most terrible memory?
Did I say I have a great memory or one of the best in the world? I don't remember saying that. As good as my memory is, I don't remember that, but I have a good memory. I don't remember that. I remember you telling me, but I don't know that I said it.
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
When we go into church — and when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little cracker — I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness. I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed, OK?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
If we cannot make a deal, which I believe we will be able to, and which I would prefer being able to, but if we cannot make a deal, I would like you to say, I would prefer being able to, some people, the one thing they took out of your last story, you know, some people, the fools and the haters, they said, “Oh, Trump doesn’t want to protect you.” I would prefer that we be able to continue.
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
Nobody cares about the talent [in beauty pageants]. There’s only one talent you care about, and that’s the look talent. You don’t give a shit if a girl can play a violin like the greatest violinist in the world. You want to know what does she look like.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling …”
We must be smart
We must have a wall
We’ve taken the lighthouse, which is a very, very important building in Florida — I mean in Scotland — and we’ve taken that building and made it something really special. It has incredible suites… golfers will stop and they’ll have something to eat.
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share …”
I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world. It is a dangerous world out there — it’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam era. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
The point is, you can never be too greedy
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen, down on 7-Eleven, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down.
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
Beauty and elegance, whether in a woman, a building, or a work of art, is not just superficial or something pretty to see.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
I don't like mosquitoes. I never did.
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault.
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
There are basically three types of women and reactions. One is the good woman who very much loves her future husband, solely for himself, but refuses to sign the agreement on principle. I fully understand this, but the man should take a pass anyway and find someone else. The other is the calculating woman who refuses to sign the prenuptial agreement because she is expecting to take advantage of the poor, unsuspecting sucker she’s got in her grasp. There is also the woman who will openly and quickly sign a prenuptial agreement in order to make a quick hit and take the money given to her.
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
My marriage, it seemed, was the only area of my life in which I was willing to accept something less than perfection.
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
Statistically, my children have a very bad shot. Children of successful people are generally very, very troubled, not successful. They don’t have the right shtick. You never know until they’re tested. But I do well with my children. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.
Inspired by Anne Carson's Autobiography Of Red, recommended by Kári Tulinius.
The style and format of this poem is modeled after Appendix C of the book: "Clearing Up The Question Of Stesichoros' Blinding By Helen"
1. Either poetry can change your life or it can not.
2. Heather suggests to Dean that he should read Anne Carson’s Autobiography Of Red with the same tame words that I recommend. Should. Enjoy. Narrative. Story. Sexuality. Island. Family. Volcano. Red. All these gentle things that flow toward you at a pace that, when compared to the way work and relationships are constantly crashing you against the surprisingly giving rocks of your everyday, seems reasonable.
3. When the book is returned with no new pages folded or creases on the cover, Heather asks how Dean enjoyed it. I have no speech in me.
4. Dean says It was ok. It didn’t change my life or anything.
5. Things that have changed my life are not the death and everyday unfairness of the current police state, but a free granola bar from someone who doesn’t want me to adapt to their religious beliefs, or a train that shows up when expected, or poetry. Every poetry changes my life in some way, even the poetry about how flowers represent grief in ways I have no context or wikipedia for. Poetry about help-me is the hair of someone you love brushing against your neck when you forgot you weren’t alone. Forced rhymes about politics are a parade route shutting down my way to work, and standing in a detour is someone I have missed and can talk with for hours instead of inventorying books or pouring whiskey.
6. How does a poetry not always change your life?
7. Heather because I am speechless says Changing your life is a pretty high bar for a poetry collection. I just meant did you like it?
8. Of course I love the man who suggested I read Autobiography Of Red but not in a manuscript full of unrequited lust way. When we met, I confused his native origin for his sexuality, being Scandinavian and being Queer being similar mosaics when being squinted at through LSD. The confusion was barely an hour and reached the bar of changing my life.
9. Odinn and I met of course through poetry as Heather and I met through poetry as Dean and I met through poetry as Heather and Dean met through poetry and what is life but a series of friendships forged by an art you sometimes hate?
10. Dean shrugs.
11. My father lives on an island I hardly ever visit. Heather has been there with me. Dean has been there with me. Odinn lives in Iceland again, which is a different island.
12. A drunk also student asked Odinn what language people speak in Iceland. Icelandic he said. Right said the drunk and I speak Americanish. Do you speak German or Dutch?
13. What does it take besides a common language to change a life? In high school, a sort of friend came out as gay a week before his graduation. I was a Sophomore who knew men’s bodies existed but not how they felt or tasted. I invited myself to his room with no logical pretext and we flipped through our yearbook pointing at boys we found attractive before blowing each other, each of us coming into portions of brown paper towels ripped off a roll he’d stolen from the men’s room. We didn’t see each other or talk again for thirteen years, when we friended each other on Facebook, pretending the only thing we had in common was singing tenor in the select choir.
14. Sex is a language I speak fluently but barely understand.
15. In Autobiography Of Red, a dragonishboy falls in love with an older boy whose love destroys him which is a modernization of one of the Labors Of Herakles, which is also every relationship I’ve ever had, except that sometimes I am dragonboy Greydon, sometimes I am Herakles, but often I am merely the cattle or the dog destroyed trivially so that Herakles can get at his actual target.
16. No character in a tragedy deserves more sympathy than any other character. Everyone in a tragedy has been deliberately placed in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person so that misery or jealousy or a volcano of misunderstanding can wipe out the victims and let the survivors suffer their continued existence.
17. Everything I’ve ever read or experienced is a form of tragedy.
18. Tragedy is a form of poetry and poetry is a thing that constantly changes lives, or poetry is a form of living that is in a constant state of tragedy, or some Tuesday you will be in a car blasting Paul’s Boutique and eating soft pretzels with someone you care about and one of you will probably die before the other one and is all this singing and driving worth the eventual grief?
19. Of course it is. What’s wrong with you?
20. Grief is what’s wrong with me. And it hasn’t even happened yet.
21. When you take someone to meet the island of your family make sure you love them. Do not let your family see your indifference. Better a stage fight. Better a Thanksgiving Dinner of upturned gravy and who you Know they were fucking when they told you they were going to a science fiction convention, than the uninteresting silence of reading Buzzfeed articles with someone you can’t even bother to dislike.
22. Where does the red come in? My hair when I was younger and more certain what I wrote would never hurt anyone? The fire engine I thought I could becoming. The impending middle aged convertible that might loom had I not surrendered driving so I could live in a city with an art I barely recognize and people constantly leaving? Something as trite as anger?
23. A split watermelon on this July porch is more pink than red and faster to disappear than misplaced emotions.
24. Saying Nothing is as laborious as living is both melodramatic and an undeniable truth.
25. I’d rather read about someone’s horrible adolescence than listen to it or watch it unravel in front of me.
26. I am a volcano reaching out to a city of people I love, not understanding why people are running from the obvious destruction of my arms.
27. #26 is the stupidest, most egotistically ignorant thing I’ve written in months. Someone will identify with it. Someone will laugh at it. Someone will nod their head, pretending it even makes sense.
28. My favorite stories are ones I should identify with but don’t. I love what I mistakenly think I will eventually understand.
29. The train I take to work is red. Does that count?
30. The fence around my third story porch is painted red and has successfully kept any of my friends or roommates from plunging to their injury. I have talked with Dean on this porch. And Heather. I wrote a letter to Odinn on this porch but never mailed it. I want to believe we are all safe.
31. Life changes poetry and poetry changes life and even a Taylor Swift song is a type of poetry and even what I am doing with my only day off from work this week is a type of life. I didn’t set this bar but I guess I should thank whoever made these changes so attainable.
32. Heather asks me if The Autobiography Of Red changed my life as I haven’t actually said anything for this whole discussion. And I say something that I immediately forget.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.