I met Justin Chin's poetry the first time I went into an adult bookstore by myself. I figured loitering around the poetry section for a bit would make my barely legal ass look less conspicuous before I started flipping through the Bel-Ami DVDs.
I bought neither his book, Bite Hard nor An American In Prague because the guy behind the counter looked too much like one of my old bosses.
A few years later, I was more confident in buying both poetry and pornography and went back to the store. I didn't find anything there that I was actually looking for, but I did see Justin Chin's new collection, Mostly Harmless and bought it from the same boss-looking beardo that worked in that store until it closed down.
I debated doing an exercise based on his Surrealist Bookmark, but after the third reread of "Mistranslations", I knew what I had to do.
Mistranslations In The Grindr To English Phrasebook
How's it going?
I am so horny right now. Can we meet at your place and fuck?
Fuck off old man.
Good. How are you?
I am so bored right now.
Summer is a ferry. I am on the dock with a ticket now voided by season. I think I could swim to the ferry. It's not that far. But when I was young I dreamed of an ocean that riptided me from my home. I'm terrified of autumn. How it looms a new education. Strangers scheduled into tribes by ancient academics. I think I can swim my way into eternal summer or at least swim far enough to catch that ferry south. Join me?
I'm married. And my picture is from 1993.
Bounty lumberjack seeks LL Bean model for outdoor encounter while wife is at work.
Twenty-seven year old twink here.
I keep salting my garden hoping nothing will grow. I don't hunger for what I'm given. I would rather look like a promise than keep one. You look like you're afraid of yourself. I keep my body barren because I know how badly you want to be responsible for a kid that you can guiltlessly abandon. Don't I look guiltless? I'm thirty-nine. Everyone tells me I look so young for my age.
Our conversations will be games of Hide-And-Seek where I will find everything funny, and hide my confusion in your mouth.
Want to meet at the gym?
I am masculine. So masculine. Look at my abs. If you covered the floor with dough and fucked me flat on it, I could make pizza. I mean I'm so hot, it would cook under me. And, also, if you spin me around while you fuck me, my hard nipples will slice it into a geometric masterpiece, which is, coincidentally, how everyone refers to my ass.
Can you host?
1.) I live with strangers and you are a stranger and I keep most of my friends and all of my family strangers to me and each other. I didn't give a quote in my yearbook. I don't go drinking with my coworkers. I go drinking a lot. I am alone in a crowd. You could be a crowd. You could crowd me. What's your address? Where do you work? Tell me something about yourself that will make me forget myself.
2.) I squeal like a dolphin repeatedly dipping its tail in a tub of progressively hotter water. My roommates have asked me not to fuck while they're home.
Are you masc?
Bro, though. For real. I don't want anyone to see me. I don't want anyone to see me as not normal. Are you beer foam goatee? Do you football? When you use the word fantasy you're talking about a sports league and not sex, right? A sex league would be cool, though. I would only draft defensive players. I'm not going to make innuendo, bro. I'm better than that. Are you better than that?
I need something to post on Tumblr and think about while I have disappointing sex with a woman who is figuring out how the kindest way to phrase I'm leaving you.
What are you into?
You look like tap water in a plastic cup. I have more hangups than a telemarketer. Confess something blueberry waffle so I don't feel as peanut butter and bear trap sandwich when I tell you what it takes to get me hard.
In college, I took a class called Poets In Massachusetts, where we studied sometimes localish poets but sometimes stretched just what it meant to be "in Massachusetts". For one of the final projects, we were asked to take a poem by an author we'd read, and ask several non-poetry readers what they thought of it. We, then, posted the answers and collage-type images onto giant whiteboards and displayed them on the walls of the classroom during the final weeks.
I chose Mark Doty's "Long Point Light" from Atlantis. If I still had that stupid whiteboard, I might have cheated and posted some of the quotes here and called it a day. The project certainly created "an interaction".
Instead, I've gone back to one of my favorite Doty poems, "Gross Fugue", and put my own spin on what a fugue would look like as a poem. I might come back to this poem and give it a more satisfactory ending, but I was really feeling Doty's last line There is no resolution in the fugue.
The Fugue Electric, Unfinished
I go for three weeks without
power because i will not be
home for most of them and
when i am home it will be
daybright and the breeze
keeps everything cool enough
There are boats
still dizzy from
hurricane So not having
power seems trivial
Our house stands
Our trees bereft
of anything but birds and
I have a battery powered lamp
for camping but no desire to camp
outside of my home Finally
this little lamp has purpose
Daylight is for the kayaks
The rubber rafts
claim the 9-5
We do not need electricity
at night we have fire
and all the appropriate snacks
to eat like spoiled scouts
The ladder to the zip line
still standing though half
the tree it was moored to
collapsed into the climbing wall
all i do is talk these days . those days . all days . but i won't bring anyone into my powerlessness . too dark . of course . too phosphorous my faults . the apartment shambled by a lack of light . piles of laundry . sleep in the daytime . talk to no one but cats . no one needs to see
Cliff is the only one of us
not allowed a lighter
A book of matches
Allowed to carry wood
to the clearing but not
place it in the flames
When i am awake during the day
i leave the house lit by the sun but
barren I go off to the cofeehouses
to charge my technology for the
How fortunate this
hurricane in august
The camp asunder
secured before the storm
The canoes The kayaks
The grub tubs The sunfish
all safe But the windows
lanced by branches and
a door flown off
the archery shed
Cliff set fire to the fields
behind our camp last summer
I forgot to take my name off
the account of a previous address
How long until the boats
collapse what's left of
I never bothered to call
the electric company
It burned for an hour
before anyone noticed
Now I'm paying for it
but with insomnia
instead of money
there was also the summer we cottaged next to our cousins until our new house was finished . a full summer of pond but no shower . minnows don't survive long as pets . flushing because at least running water if not light . but a real house just next door . also empire strikes back sleeping bag . generic flashlight . unscary ghost stories . the only jokes that stayed with me were unfunny and racist . surely someone told a joke without prejudice . lunches in the gazebo . a terrified parakeet . watching dragonflies fuck . ghost stories in the empty cottages . canada geese alarm clocks . big hiss . no electricity but access to a motorboat . jet skis . too young to waterski . cookouts on the other side of the lake . people who used the word cottage to describe houses bigger than any i've ever lived in .
Cliff never told me
Raking the branches
off the beach
how the fire smelled
Every mattress seems
alive with crumbs
why he did it
Plastic over windows
when it's too dark
even though we
shared a tent
Paid overtime for
Insomnia because of
He didn't want
The satisfaction of
too much darkness
after the fact
a job must done
When I began ordering new books for this project, Jim Daniels's Punching Out was one of the first to arrive. I decided to flip it open and read a poem or two. In about an hour, I had finished it and ordered two more of his books.
I love a good work poem, and Punching Out is an entire book of good work poems.
In honor of that, I decided to write one of my own work poems, but I've already mined so much of my work in retail, and I've recently written a poem or two about my days delivering newspapers, and working with kids. But I'd completely neglected the first job I took when I moved back to Cape Cod after a single semester of college. So, here's that poem.
My mother knows
all the wrong people
to help me find work
Before her real estate
agent promotes me to
manager of touristcentric
she sends me to
her coworker's husband's
above a bagel shop
She knows i hate
the age of caller id
and answering machines
I just don't enjoy talking
to depressed avatars of products
nobody believes in
So she refers to it as a call center
My job is justified thusly
Tourists visit a resort
sign up for a free weekend
giving out their names
and phone numbers to a prick
The prick gives the numbers to us
We call everyone who enters
A free weekend of listening to
people trying to sell you timeshare
four hours a day
Jennifer is my trainer
Forty-broken but with permanent
smile Excited that i am eighteen
and speak like an authorative
I get five confirmed appointments
before our dinner break
That's extraordinary she tells me
and maybe everybody I don't know
We eat dinner in the main office
Finally the real boss
My mother's coworker's spouse
royal wes himself over
to his desk to give us an inspirational
speech I don't remember
his five points of success
or his tips on how to be
promoted quickly or even
what would be considered
a promotion I only remember
how he swept his arms
across his desk
knocking over every piece of paper
before turning to jennifer
and telling her to pick it up
I remember how she smiled
as she picked up his deliberate
mess I remember the other middle
aged men and women gasping
How their bodies splashed back
to the walls or the knees behind them
I remember laughing Not at jennifer
but at this sad paunch of my mother's
coworkers eventually-to-be-exed spouse
I said goodbye to jennifer and someone
whose name i will never remember
and swept my arms across my own
cubicle Knocking all of my papers in
the trash And I took the trashbag with me
as i drove away forever
Yusef Komunyakaa's I Apologize For The Eyes In My Head is one of my favorite collections. I selected it for this project and told one of the other writers I would let them borrow it. Unfortunately, I had previously let another writer borrow it and I don't remember whom. As it's $35 or more for it online, and well out of bookstores, I've subbed in the selection of "I Apologize For The Eyes In My Head" from his collection Neon Vernacular, which is also excellent.
After reading through the whole thing ad coming up with a few ideas, I decided to go back to the first one that struck me. The opening poem examines being introduced as a man. As I've recently written a couple of poems focused on my gender, I decided to take the idea somewhere slightly different.
Introduce me first as a mouth
a taker of air and
a geyser of noise
My hands enter next though they are really just
ambassadors of mouth
working also for brain
which should be in charge
I should be known first as brain
but listen to how mouth leads
before brain counts the ballots
I am known less for my speech bubbles and
more for my bubbles of speech
an oversudsed washing machine
in a trite sitcom
laughtracked and unfunny
No other part of my body can be seen
outside the shadow of my mouth
I have a cast iron masseter
I have a closed end tongue
I could write an entire manuscript's worth of responses to Patricia Lockwood's Motherland, Fatherland, Homelandsexuals. Every poem inspired an idea. I decided to write one based on the first line of the final poem in the book: "I was a born as a woman, I talk you to death" and see where it took me.
I plan on coming back to this book later.
Gutting The Closet Of the Gay Nineties
I was born the promise of impending man
poised to open jars and women
with equal vigor
I was raised with the impending
winking compliment of my gender
the tall enough to roller coaster by six
to mow the crabgrass of adolescence from my face
to tell a grown woman she was wrong by eleven
I was wide as reason by thirteen
fast tracked to the buffet of yacht club dances
in the age of polo shirt villainy
You should see how I danced around curfews and
I was graceless as a man
committed as a woman
Grew into my cock with the awkward immediacy of a royal orphan
I lived as flannel
untucked and filthy
the way I saw other boys with scratchboard voices
flopping their unwashed bangs on TV
How fortunate I bloomed too late for Aquanet overgrowth
pink mountain lion print leggings
How flannel to think fortunate
to letharge between the raindrops of Boy George and
rather than boldface falsetto my mocksculinity
I was the appropriate hats for sports and camoflauge
backhand at the tennis net
coaching varsity women's volleyball in the winters
when the swim team was too speedo
I summer lifeguarded in the leg-crossing of attraction
I ran sportscamp and drama
I looked like I should beat myself up
and I did
Andrew Campana's interaction with Patricia Lockwood's excellent collection, Motherland, Fatherland, Homelandsexuals.
Patricia Lockwood Interaction
“He marries her mites and the wires in her wings,
he marries her yellow glass eyes and black centers,
he marries her near-total head turn, he marries
the curve of each of her claws, he marries
the information plaque, he marries the extinction
of this kind of owl…”
—from “He Marries the Stuffed-Owl Exhibit at the Indiana Welcome Center,”
by Patricia Lockwood
I married the three jars of sauerkraut in the closet,
I married the bacteria fermenting them,
I married their lids rusting shut, I married
the CO2 straining against metal, I married
the vacuum-packed lentils, I married the Amazon
box they came in, I married the apartment
wall torn down to join two hollows together
and the rubber flooring tensile across the gap
under chairs and table, I married the exhaust fan
veiled so night can’t crawl in, I married
its silence, I married the paper doors stuck still,
I married their unpageness, I married the straw
matting and the fear of it moulding, I married
their grass scent in damp air, I married their ribs
and grooves and the mites that don’t live in them,
the felt cookie cat pin, the Totoro puzzle put back
in the box, the fitted sheet, the lack of need for a
fitted sheet, the tremors, the it’s okay, the flashlight
by the balcony, the sink catcher and what’s been
caught in it, the key to the Massachusetts storage locker,
I married the storage locker, I married the boxes, I married the violin
pausing on top of them
Leigh Stein has written one of my favorite books of poetry, Dispatch From The Future. I've read a bunch of poems from the first few sections of the books at open mics, and done some interactions with the book as a whole but never really talked about the final section which is where the book's title come from.
The final section is a series of time traveling poems, several of which are called "Dispatch From The Future". I decided to write my own message from the future, and thought the image of trapped pronouns in the throat was amusing, and then...well, this happened.
Contrition From The Future
Adam can feel adam's neck expanding Adam's throat
will soon be wider than adam's head
It's all trapped
pronouns and archaic adectives society has
finally started skimming from dense
soup of language
Adam's sibling calls adam
vilpend A word no adam knew even before every adam's tongue
wilted and every adam
learned how to click every adam's cheeks and
grind every adam's teeth in
grotesque charades of being
What did adam do to adam's sibling?
It's not all
terrible Adams have a progeny that adams didn't call
easter though adams' progeny was born
on a tuesday night Easter styles
easter's hair obelisk
(a term that offends neither last
surviving indigenous american nor
shiver of sharks that patrol
the coastline of nevada) and dances better than
Adam doesn't know if adam will
remember what happened with plasma
flavored birds who
nested in chest of warbling
ancestor Has it
happened to adam yet?
Now is birdless and spiderless and
adam forgets to grind
incisors for joy sometimes but sometimes
adam remembers adam's joy
leaving adam at altar
of adamant Adam regrets
shedding of ecstasy Adam's
casual dismissal of indulgence and adam wants to
tumult down abyss of chronology and tell adam
joy never leaves adam It is always adam
who leaves joy
Stay with joy adam even when joy is not paying
attention Stay with joy
even when joy insults adam's body Stay with joy
as joy neglects adam's lust and does sudoku
naked and flaccid Joy will live with adam as long as adam will
Adam Now adam's neurons are so beehive
humming with hollow of joy Now adam
wants former adam to not hum to not wither
tongue Former adam leave
no proper noun for sake of false
honor Please kill now adam
for joy Let now's future never
so no adam ever
shall have to read contritions from now
Kelly Cooper's second interaction is with Leigh Stein's Dispatch From The Future examines identity and trauma.
Interaction with Leigh Stein's Dispatch From The Future
I am a cave
a closet, the space
underneath a coffee table
I am a mirror and a window
a panic attack
hidden between logorhythmia and logorrhea
a theory of dementia involving helmets
a knife threatening the ending
of the story for the crime of completion
I am allorhythmia and pain
cushioned by displacement
or a layer of blood
it’s unclear, opaque even
there are too many birds
and invasive medical procedures
but not enough time.
In his book, Debridement, Corrina Bainn focuses a great deal on what's missing. Not just thematically but also in his forms. There are a series of self-erasure sonnets and villanelles where the author has written in form and then taken parts of it out, leaving what looks like free verse poetry.
April Penn uses the technique here.
(after Corrina Bain)
I felt the dead girl
over my face
destroying me softly.
So not profound to die
my worst soul
inside of me
how poetry must quarrel
the rehearsal of
Like April, I was inspired by Corrina Bainn's technique of writing in form, and then removing parts of the form to create a new, more sparse poem.
I have a couple of poems I'm trying to write about the terrible place where I leech wifi while I do laundry. Here is the first.
Problematic Pizza Villanelle, Self-Erasure
I never know why I come to this place
Tasting and feeling overly salty
The owner needs to be punched in the face
for spewing forth vile opinions on race
that every customer wishes he'd halt
I never know why I come to this place
Every dollar I spend feels like a waste
sacrificed to yet another faulty
tale where the owner gets punched in the face
Even imagined violence is poor taste
like the flavor of the food that assaults
me just for entering this fucken place
Every time I leave, my memory's erased
of the rage that fills the air, the default
of the stream of shit that pours from his face
into my ears with semblance of grace
no opportunity for a volley
I never know why I come into this place
The owner needs to be punched in the face
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.