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Taxonomy and Grace

By (April 1, 2011) 60 Comments

When I first heard WS Merwin’s poem “Berryman,” I didn’t know who either writer was. Instead, I sat mesmerized as Olga Broumas—a poet whose own reputation I scantly appreciated—recited the poem in my undergraduate creative writing workshop. Her voice began with her usual airy breathlessness but quickly demanded attention. By the time the poem reached its final three stanzas, her voice was raw and unrestrained:

he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write

As a twenty year old, there was something romantic about the terms “passion,” “genius,” “good,” and “write.” They embodied my driving need to express a distilled, pressing urgency — to write poems. It was my hope that somehow my limited experience could reach someone else. I believed that the poem itself could change how just one person saw the world. Likewise, I also believed that other writers’ poems could fundamentally shake me to my core and offer me wisdom, hope, and faith in humankind and could connect me to another soul I might never meet.

Over the fifteen years since first hearing “Berryman,” I still believe — however naively — that poems can speak to other human beings and can make collective society consider our own convictions, experiences, and beliefs. Yet, I also am now deeply entrenched in the creative writing field, located squarely within university walls and my profession’s various conferences. The most notable conference is AWP (The Association of Writers and Writing Programs), where I annually see thousands of writers like me. We sport name tags announcing university or press affiliation and carry a phonebook-sized guide to the various panels on pedagogy, poetics, aesthetics, politics, etc. To the uninitiated, it might appear that such a vast, diverse gathering of community committed to poetry would be elating. Yet, at the end of every conference, I leave exhausted and somewhat deflated. When I mingle with other writers there, rarely do I speak of how individual poems transformed my life. Honestly, I rarely hear any writers talk about this. Instead, we talk about our bona fides and aesthetic theories because we want to participate in the academic world—one whose tenure-line opportunities are dwindling as our numbers grow exponentially. While MFA/PhD programs have abounded for decades, I’ve never heard of or witnessed so many writers — particularly younger ones like myself — unnerved and worried. Where will our place be at the professional table? I believe these anxieties have penetrated creative writing so deeply — especially poetry — that we have become unwitting slaves to the taxonomic tendencies of literary criticism and the institutional emphasis on publication and theoretical self-labeling. In the face of what we perceive as our “professional future”, many writers struggle to remember that poetry’s greatest gift is located in making intimate human connections, no matter how disfigured or disembodied.

While creative writing in American literature has always had camps, movements (and the prerequisite back-biting and bickering), I believe our current poetic climate is so conflicted and contentious that we have done away with talking about poems on their own organic terms. Let it be clear: I am not arguing for a return to New Criticism nor do I believe in the overtly easy-blame game of it’s the fault of those fucking universities. We live in the 21st century. What’s the point of asking to return to “the good old days” when those days would have excluded the likes of me — a working class, oddly educated, and peculiarly read writer with gaping holes in my canonical knowledge? I’m suggesting that while it is important to attend to our own academic reputations and political and aesthetic convictions, it is more important that we honor the imagination by not solely treating the poem against a singular interpretive mechanism. Poems can arrive from disparate and conflicting sources — should we not discuss how those poetic sources interact as a kinesthetic presence in our lives? Furthermore, can we believe that poems have the potential to matter to all kinds of human beings without “pandering” to the lowest common denominator? For if we fall further and further into the world of literature departments and literary criticism, we fall into a world whose axis spins, according to literary scholar Stephen Cohen, on “career-making” and “professional politics” by participating in “a self-perpetuating cycle of exaggerations, misrecognitions, and demonization.”

To speak more exactly, Shakespearean scholar Sharon O’Dair argues that the current state of much literary theory is located in the politics of The New Left—concerned with gender, sexuality, and race—at the expense of Eugene Deb’s Old Left—a class-based interpretive method. Whether I find myself intellectually agreeing more with “New Left” or “Old Left,” these are only labels—a shortcut in indentifying a select portion of my brain, heart, or soul. If I were to write poems whose primary genesis is overtly taxonomical, then my work would lack the complexities of human thought and experience. After all, humans contradict themselves, behave in morally troubling ways, think circularly or contingently, and resist a singular pinning. If we judge poems not on their abilities to capture human experience, but rather on their ability to perpetuate and frontload a singular aesthetic or political theory, then we rob ourselves of the right to be unknown to ourselves. We rob ourselves of the ability to try to find what is necessary in our own lives and to articulate that through the artificial and highly flawed artistic mode of poetry. Literature matters to most people not because it reinforces a dominant ideology or singular politic, but because it reflects tension and uncertainty.

As Karl Shapiro pointed out many years ago, theory looks to singularize and summarize experience—to be right. Readers usually don’t look to see how a poem measures up against notions of New Left vs. Old Left theory, just as many writers don’t create poems whose values rest in how well they measure up to the aspirations of positivism or critical/continental theory. Yet, even as recently as this past weekend, I watched an argument take place after a reading when a PhD candidate took one of the readers to task because he felt the writer overstated Wittgenstein in a poem. We spent a good half an hour discussing which concept of Wittgenstein was being hyper-inflated, which Wittgenstein was referenced, which Wittgenstein was pertinent, etc. In the process, we robbed the poet of his creative agency to take what he felt was necessary from Wittgenstein and discard the rest. After all, the writer’s impetus was not to stake a fixed claim within a rhetorical framework; it was to use his version of Wittgenstein as a jumping off point to something larger and more mysterious. A more appropriate question might have been “well, why did you use this version of Wittgenstein — I read him differently but am curious as to your interpretation.” It wasn’t that the writer didn’t know Wittgenstein; it was that the student wanted his version of Wittgenstein to be the correct version, and thereby he diminished the creative act’s potential.

If this story were an anomaly, it would be hardly worth the time to document. Over and over, however, I have seen New Criticism, Semiotics, Deconstruction, Neo-Marxism, etc. become the singular apparatus on which to judge whether or not a poet or whole poetic movement is not only worth a reader’s time, but whether a certain breed of literature has any business being present in the world. Don’t get me wrong: we are poets and should be part of the world. I see nothing wrong with healthy, socially-diverse debate on class, race, gender, cities, hot dogs…you get my point. But more often than not, certain writers of reputation take complicated and dynamic ideas and reduce them to a singular theory that the public has no foothold on. Often, the worst offenders are some “widely-read” writer blogs. These writers — some of whom are firmly established in their academic and artistic careers — speak with the tonal authority of gurus, but employ no substantive argumentative scaffolding in their posts as the medium requires none. In short, the bloggers assume that they are the experts and the audience continues to support, negate, or complicate their arguments with a similar lack of argumentative rigor. Of course, there are counter experts and counter counter experts — and so this galaxy spins and — most problematically — informs how many writers measure their intellectual, artistic, and personal worth.

For example: in the past decade, The School of Quietude debate has been fodder for the creative writing blogosphere. One of its most significant participants is Ron Silliman, who over the years has selected a vast assortment of writers and placed them within two camps — those who are creating “significant” poetry and those who are not, who are engaging, instead, in Quietude. What is Quietude? According to Seth Abramson’s blog, The Suburban Ecstasies, in Dead-Sea-Scroll=length response to Silliman:

In short, the School of Quietude is simply this: The belief, as exhibited in and by certain contemporary poems, that the near-totality of words in an individual poem should be employed in such a way as to utilize exclusively their transcendent rather than immanent meaning. To the extent this proclivity, as to word usage, commonly generates a poem whose individual on-the-page “marks” constitute merely an “echo” of the visualizable universe of matter the poem evokes, the actual words of the poem may be considered Quiet. They are Quiet in the sense that they are not permitted their full expression as “words-qua-words,” but instead remain merely signifiers of a series of referents whose acknowledgment, comprehension, and internalization is the most important work of the poem.

There is nothing simple in Abramson’s description because the whole discussion of this topic has been carelessly theorized, reinterpreted, and disseminated so vastly that the term has no clear meaning. Why? Because these debates’ ultimate goals are not to further artistic diversity or engage in fostering deeper thought, but, rather, to devolve into pissing contests based on exaggeration and the desire to drag one another through a Google-ready mud. For instance, Abramson feels compelled to list his “fifteen professional accomplishments” (his tongue only half in cheek) as a method to mock Silliman. Why? Because Silliman — bandying that he would “tarred” and “feathered” for arguing that WS Merwin is a Quietest—insisted that:

If there are to be adjectival poetry, whether we call our particular adjective Beat, Deep Image, Projectivist, Modernist, Surrealist, Actualist, New York School, Black, Gay, Feminist, Visual, Brutalist, Flarf, Hybrid or New Formalist, invariably it must be an instance of a marked case, something that sets it apart from the unmarked noun: Poetry.

Silliman further assumes that if one does not adhere to his theoretical notions — in this case, the School of Quietude needing to announce itself — then one is engaging in an act aligned with misogyny and racism, as calibrated against Silliman’s own recollections of his grandmother.

Ultimately, the problem is not so much that a few highly intelligent writers with well-regarded credentials are bickering over what constitutes “real” poetry. The problem is that this kind of rhetorical certainty and academic posturing is now what often serves as poetic dialog. I do not believe that writers should be innocent of the various theories taxonomizing class, race, literature, etc. But if I were a twenty-five year old poet entering into an MFA program right now (remembering my own emotional proclivities of last decade), I would be told that my job is to simply write, but I would also hear students and professors announce what kind of poet I am. Unable to situate my own writing in these contexts, I would feel stupid. I would no doubt surf the byzantine blogosphere and become convinced that either I must write with a conscious agenda on hand or I won’t have the chops to be a real writer. There would be no space for a tenuous naming, or a belief in intimate bonding. Instead, I would fixate upon whether or not my “ax” is someone else’s “ax,” and since these items mean different things to different people, I’d be pigeonholed into writing about nothing except my own inability to feel like I have any right to my own language and experience. I would simply revert to cleverness. And I would be miserable.

For better or worse, I am thirty-six, and these sweepingly large treatises do not factor into my own creative work. I take what I need from theory, history, or politics, and dispense with the rest. More importantly, I believe that my work can reach other people—that it can matter not solely for its theme or message but for its crafting and attention to detail. Whether it really does or not, well, “if you have to be sure don’t write.” I write with the belief that I will reach someone but once the poem is out of my hands and in the world, I also know I have no control over how people interpret or react to it. This is the basic tenet of art: art is tenuous. Matt Henriksen, in an interview for the Studio One Reading Series, similarly claims that his poems are often random “probes into space.” Still, connectivity occurs:

Sometimes grace overcomes that distance. In spite of our definite isolation, we experience closeness. I think everyone, myself included, cheapens that closeness through short-cuts, by naming ourselves avant-garde artists or Libertarians or Christians. We assert that familial bonds are unbreakable when the grace of familial love resides in the difficult fact that our love for family, even our children, is ultimately conditional. I need not give examples. In my experience, grace always arrives through the dismantled, disfigured, and disturbed.

Henriksen’s quote is especially inspiring in that he acknowledges the randomness of language and being, but still believes in the possibility for said randomness to procure intimacy. Not all people do. In the Sunday, March 26 edition of the NYT, book reviewer David Orr, on writing about the recent hubbub in the literary community in regards to Oprah’s fashion shoot of Rising Young Female Poets, laments that “The chasm between the audience for poetry and the audience for O is vast, and not even the mighty Oprah can build a bridge from empty air.” Orr suggests that poets ruminating on the importance of their work or the political issues they champion will not fill the gap. Rather, he believes it would be best for poets to simply discuss with non-poets what it would be like to “simply to read a poem.” Orr concludes the article by quoting a poem whose ending acknowledges its own “inscrutable ending” and then argues that conclusive inscrutability widens the abyss between artist and pop culture.

I find Orr overstates the case because he inhabits an all-or-nothing attitude. Either we change everything we do in poetry all at once or we will lose the art forever. While he insists that people simply want to know “what it’s like to read a poem” and don’t care about the conditions that inform the writer and readers’ lives, I know no other method of reading that doesn’t allow for our responses to be calibrated against our own experiences of the known and unknown. Rather than just wanting the whole chasm to disappear in one fell swoop, perhaps we writers could find a more moderate ground on which to meet more diverse audiences. Could we stop speaking to just one another? Could we, both experimental and traditional poets alike, inhabit Langston Hughes’ model of “my readings or gigs” and risk being booed? Perhaps then we could realize that change can happen slowly, capriciously, and via one person at a time.

For instance, one morning in April 2010, I poured my usual coffee into my usual mug before my wife and daughter awoke. It was sunny outside, and when I cracked the windows, an air arrived that could make a person picture baseballs and budding trees and clotheslines. But I had no delight in that day — or in any day — as I had been suffering a three-year bout with severe depression and anxiety. I withdrew from my wife and child: in fact I almost hid from them. And then I started to grow desperate. I pondered, what right do I have to a family? Haven’t I always been nothing but an obstacle, “a giant infant with insomnia” to quote Jon Anderson? I closed my eyes and began to sob in muffled tones. It took time, but I gathered myself. And something approaching gnosis or fate or luck occurred. I reached for Denis Johnson’s The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly, slowly paged through the contents, and stumbled across what is a rather incidental poem in the collection, “Behind Our House”:

My neighbor walks crippled, with a head half left,
toward the flag and boxes and machines
of the Post Office, having tried
once to shoot himself, having lived,
mails a letter…

The delay between the subject and the verb and the conditions built into the description still cause my spine to go cold. I picture these little PO Boxes in the student union and picture my daughter, now a young woman, lending me her shoulder as I’m consumed in drool and having to drag my leg behind me. How tired she must be, how utterly and perpetually crestfallen. It is not Johnson’s message that shakes me; it is my own experience with Johnson’s palette, language, and measure that rattles my stature.

That moment, my life: It seems so coincidental. I had spent the majority of my adult life hating myself, feeling unworthy to love and be loved. Through that summer and that fall, whenever I revisited those lines, I wondered why they took hold of me as if by the shoulders. I don’t know. But I know it wasn’t because of the poem’s canonical or theoretical location in 1980s poetry. Johnson believed his poem could reach someone. It did. And I am alive.

Joseph P. Wood is the author of two full-length collection of poetry, I & We (CW Books, 2010) and Fold of the Map (Salmon Poetry, forthcoming 2012), as well five chapbooks. Previous poems and reviews can be found in Boston ReviewBombVerse, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, Rain Taxi, Gently Read Literature, among others. He’s at work on series of essays about notions of “closed” and “open”. He teaches at The University of Alabama and lives with his wife and daughter in Tuscaloosa.


  • Fred says:

    I’m a 67-yr-old lit. professor a year away from retirement, so I saw, and participated in the rise and fall of “theory.” From 1980 to 1992, I taught a seminar on contemporary theory, from Derrida on down. Then, I gave it up in disgust, because it was obvious that “theory” was the main thing that was being taught in grad schools, and students were mainly learning that critics were somehow superior to authors. Richard Rorty rightly charged MLA in the mid-90s with teaching lit. students “knowingness,” rather than the sense of intelligent wonder students used to feel in the presence of Shakespeare, Dickinson, or Euripides. It was all a mock-political exercise in pretending to be “oppositional,” but, as Stanley Fish noted in the mid-90s too, “political correctness” in the form of “theory” was always mainly “professional correctness,” simply trying to stay trendy to get a job, then tenure, etc. Everyone rightly laments the decline and fall of the humanities in the American university (and abroad too?). I went into teaching because I loved the books so much in college. I still love them just as much. The students and the profession, not so much. More poetry is no doubt written and published in America than ever before, but never has poetry had so little influence on the culture as a whole. It has indeed been usurped by pop music (or alt rock, or whatever). Anyone who thinks that even Dylan is on the same plane as, say, Wallace Stevens seems to these old eyes to have questionable taste, and ears. But so it goes.

  • David B says:

    I think this essay is expressing the frustration of a professional in the field of poetry, but his complaint has managed, a bit obliquely, to resonate with the frustrations of laypeople. Charles, in his comment, spoke of the audience being ‘alienated,’ which is a little different from the essay’s portrayal of a poetry professional feeling alienated.

    So, the essay provides a meeting ground between poetry professionals and those laypeople who do exist and do like to read the occasional Eliot, Merwin, Broumas, et al–there’s a bit of naivete in the essay, if it’s not too presumptuous to say so, that resonates with laypeople.

    I’m interested in what happens when high-falutin’ art forms and genres become too rarified for their (non-expert) audiences and lose the thread of communication. There’s a book by an English blogger named David Stubbs called Fear Of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don’t Get Stockhausen. Regrettably, the subtitle does a better job of raising the question than the book does of addressing it. But the question of what it takes for non-expert audiences to be able to address and enjoy ‘abstraction’ or experimentation in the various forms of art is an interesting one.

    I’m not sure that the professional discussion that takes place among critics and professors is really supposed to help us befuddled laypeople understand all this difficult poetry, any more than I would pick up a copy of the Journal of Applied Physics to understand science.

    A discussion among biologists will not include how cute animals are, or how beautiful a rose is. Professionals don’t talk about the essential experience of things, they talk about technical details. This essay basically seems to be saying, that’s fine, but is the horse still in front of the cart? Are the technical descriptions becoming instead technical requirements?

    Like classical music, poetry, in broad summary verging on oversimplification, seems to have largely lost its lay audience. The difference, it seems to me, is that the would-be audience for contemporary poetry really does want to read poetry, but doesn’t know how. People hear Stockhausen and don’t get it, and they don’t care that they don’t get it, because it sounds like junk to them.

    People read contemporary poetry and they don’t get it, but it doesn’t sound like junk, it sounds cool…just incoherent. They ARE intrigued, but they don’t know what to do with the poems.

    So, if I go to a critic or a literary historian, I want to read an explanation of a poem, have its secrets unlocked for me, but instead I get something that reads like freaking Heidegger; can you just calm down and tell me what the poem means, please?

    No, they can’t tell me that, they aren’t writing for Charles and me. But I think this essay means to suggest that poetry professionals could be doing something more productive and vital than what they are doing.

  • David B says:

    Oh, and one other thing…

    No, I just wanted to mention that with the correction of the typo, that was how I had been reading it anyway (until Charles pointed out how an observant reader would go about it), my mind filling in the corrections, as when you cn rd smthng wth th vwls rmvd without even noticing.

  • nobody says:

    Could it be that what is wrong with not just poetry but all of it is that “working class, oddly educated, and peculiarly read [writers] with gaping holes in [their] canonical knowledge” are now running the show?

  • Mike says:

    Charles and Heather:

    The verb is “My neighbor walks crippled … toward the flag …” Perhaps the verb was unintentionally left out in the original html and added later, but it’s certainly there now.

    I took “half left” to mean “partly tilted,” for whatever that’s worth.

  • ana bozicevic says:

    Joseph, thank you for this well-reasoned and utterly sincere article. I loved the contradictions therein and, gasp, empathize with its lyrical and critical I, which some weisenheimers in these comments seem quite unwilling to do. Cut out the shwordfight gentlemen and go read some poems. Oh, and for the record–academia IS “life”. Everything is real, didn’t you know?

  • David B says:

    Did not know that, now that you mention.

    Thought for a while that I might get everything sorted into ‘Unreal,’ but that didn’t work either.

    Nope. I’ve still got some things sorted Real and other sorted Unreal.

    Academia…I passed through, and I can tell you.

    Very real.

  • Kevin says:

    I agree with so many of you that this started out as a pretty interesting article but then lost its way. I feel bad for the author or anyone else who finds himself stuck in this ludicrous trap of mistaking The Official Academic Thinking for reality. It is really quite sad that otherwise intelligent people find themselves at the mercy of people who make a good living teaching creative writing and can’t make a dollar writing creatively. And even in the unlikely event the professors are successful writers, why should an MFA candidate feel stupid or confused if he can’t pigeonhole his own emerging style into one of the moronic and arbitrary categories the authorities have certified?

    The article is also embarrassingly sloppy. Others have noted the misplaced modifier in the first paragraph, but there is plenty more that disappoints. “Devolve” doesn’t mean “degenerate” or “deteriorate,” but that’s how it’s used here; the excerpt from “Behind Our House,” so important to the author’s story and his life, is so badly misquoted that it doesn’t make sense; the author mistakenly writes “jive” where he means “jibe,” and on and on. I don’t think this is nitpicking; a professional writer – with an MFA, no less – should be able to write, spell, cite, and proofread as competently as we all were expected to do back in high school. Learning simple things like that would have served Mr. Wood better in his quest to move people with his words far better than fretting about pretentious nonsense like taxonomy. Stop biting your nails; get outside and enjoy life a little.

  • Samson Shillitoe says:

    I note that a greater percentage of these comments proceed from precisely the mentality that Mr. Woods decries. Game, set and match to Mr. Woods on this one.

  • Tien Tran says:

    How many days before a thread sinks back into oblivion? Let’s keep this one alive! It’s of course depressing and comical and uplifting, that any post on poetry is immediately swarmed with commentary, mostly reactionary. But I do want to respond to Shillitoe, if that’s Samson’s real name:

    Your point is taken. Too often a sincere piece of writing is immediately shot down; and as it’s been said many times, the discussion forum tends to produce a kind of piranha instinct, which is no credit to anyone involved. This is why many people stay away. However, the objections are legitimate, imho, and I do think that J.W. has skirted some difficult issues, which he himself brought up. You can’t start an article about the deflating effect of AWP and simply blame the state of affairs on the snarkiness of certain critics.

    I have said so on spirited occasions in the past, and will again: snark is often a legitimate and wholly appropriate response. If you were living in, say, Communist (current) Vietnam, snark is one of the only defenses that you have against the establishment. If you’re a writer or an ontological reader (to crib a phrase of Geoffrey Hill), who believes that the literature establishment is ruining the meaning and experience of literature (to be dramatic about it; in all likelihood it’s not that bad, though it is bad), then snark may be a legitimate response. Mayakovsky was snarky when he upended poetry readings. Rimbaud was snarky (though he transcended snark and ceased to write poetry). Pope was snarky and was a great poet for it.

    In short, I think that J.W. is sincere, but he seriously misses the point – as another reader has said, the article cunningly positions itself in the middle of a very particular (and equally exclusive) school of poetry, i.e. the no-one-is-undeserving and poetry-is-humanity-at-its-best school of poetry that pretty much runs the show (think Seamus Heaney, for example). The inescapable point that J.W. misses is that the industry he participates in (and for which AWP is the mouthpiece) artificially inflates the supply of poetry, leading to over-competition and destruction. Young writers and academics alike are so snarky because there are so many to compete against, for so few jobs.

    I propose we make nice, and agree that “there are things that are important beyond all this bother.” If you were ever in Madison, we could talk about it over a pint of fine Wisconsin lager.

  • Shelley says:

    Thank heaven that the Internet, for all its faults, can provide a small shelter for our work.

  • Fietsbode says:

    I find nothing striking about either of the poems quoted by the author. The language of both is bland, and in each one a narrative is indeed chopped up into strips.

    I do like some of Merwin’s work, but not this, which would be as good or better as straight prose–and which I had read before as prose.

    I’m afraid that the author’s own prose strikes me as overwritten, dense and at times pretentious–as in his fondness for the word “calibrated.” As for the idea of intimacy or connection, that could apply to any of the arts and not just to poetry, so what makes poetry “poetry”?

    As for me, I admire any writing that takes the top of my head off–Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Derrida, Proust, Woolf. Fred Jameson, etc.—regardless of genre.

    I agree with one comment that po’ biz needs real critics who aren’t afraid to say that certain work is boring or dull or bland or unimaginative or derivative. I’m tired of reading poetry about the poet’s own life and, as a grad school friend of mine put it, his or her “precious subjectivity.”

  • Yeah, because Dickinson, Stevens, Derrida, Proust, Woolf — all of whom are dead, canonical “greats” btw — are all totally objective writers. Right. I was re-reading Proust just recently, and as wonderful as the prose was (at times — I also found him “overwritten, dense and at times pretentious,” as you say of the writer of this piece), the striking misogyny and offhand classism (eg, the way Swan regards servants as animals), unbalanced due to the absence of any slightly more enlightened characters, was, frankly, jarring. And yet I had to give Proust’s anachronistic subjectivity a bit of leeway, because he was but a person and writer *subject* to the clime of his times. Maybe if you got your head out of the canon-ball & approached literature with a bit more subjectivity, you might actually learn a bit more about poetry and form some new opinions! Like, for example, that there are many different kinds of poems that mean many different things to people — and some are “narratives chopped up into strips,” which doesn’t NOT make them poems (is this really a newsflash? God(dess).)

    OK, must get back to work… Too-de-loo, gents – and PLEASE do me a favor & read someone that is not Dead and White one of these days.

  • Rick Marriner says:

    The article is well written, in my BS/MBA opinion. It sets out to complain and it does so. Was it worth it? Perhaps it changes one person, maybe it prevents a suicide. I like the sentiment of writing because it might impact one other person. Writing to be commercially successful is another matter, I assume. We don’t make the rules that define commercial success. The market makes the rules.

    After spending part of the week mulling over larger problems and “real life” issues concerning on harder topics, this article seems a little navel-centric. It is a fun read nonetheless.

  • Bob Tanner says:

    Clerk counted the cash; made a time lock drop;
    Fingers tell him “take it” but legs won’t walk.
    Near closing time at the Liquor Quick Stop,
    When a whore drags in off the auction block.
    Orient eyes say for a pint she’ll swap
    Whatever he wants from her private stock.
    Clerk’s wife and kids home snuggled down in bed;
    While down behind the counter whore gives head.
    Out on the street they call her Miss Saigon-
    Mouth and pussy hot as a napalm bomb;
    A war bride’s baby whose daddy moved on;
    She learned sucky-fuck from her Viet mom.
    Pro at 14; was a cop her first john,
    Used to be a grunt in the Vietnam.
    Caught, dealing dope, she stuck her ass up bare;
    Said: “Cop, take a shot with your ground-to-air.”
    Down on her knees showing silicone tit,
    Once a soft touch now insensible brick.
    Her cat scratch tongue and lips and hand don’t quit
    Till she’s sucked him bone dry and slurped his thick.
    Her eyes smile up, but stare in her obit;
    Handbags got a gun but she ain’t that quick.
    Very last thought before she’s bagged airtight:
    “White motherfucker got it free tonight.”
    Drags her in a storeroom; dick still erect;
    He ain’t felt this good since he left Art Tech.
    Tops in his class at the Special Effect;
    The Movies said: “Genius, write your own check.”
    Too much, too soon, and he totally wrecked;
    Lucky that his lady studied home-ec.
    Then staring down at delirium’s titty,
    He saw his road back to living Fat City.
    Props her in a chair; wrestles off her dress;
    Steps back and whistles at his late night guest;
    Thinks: “Doc did her tits was genius, no less,
    Carved Botticelli’s on a silk thin chest.”
    He bends down close pets her pussy’s recess
    Knows it was trophied in the old time West;
    Sets in to skin it with a razor blade;
    Now he’s got a pussy scalp custom made.
    He weaves the silky pelt through his gold throat chain,
    A spoil of war in the human skin game;
    Been played like that since the Abel and Cain;
    “Victim” is History”s immortal brand name.
    Each against all for the capital gain.
    Justified Sinners make the Halls of Fame;
    Like Natural Born Scientists in Nobel guise
    Helped “give ’em hell” Harry make Nippon fries.
    Clerk only wants the American Dream;
    Doesn’t give a shit its history’s obscene;
    Doesn’t give a damn who he’s got to demean
    To get his credits on the silver screen.
    Thinks: “A whore, no matter how it might seem,
    Just ain’t human- it’s a vending machine.”
    He hurries back up front to shut the store;
    Then cleans the “change” she dropped at Death’s door.
    Time to start work: he ropes her ankles tight;
    Hangs her head downward from a ceiling pipe.
    Then slits her wrists with a razor blade’s bite-
    Got to drain blood before she turns to ripe.
    Splits her flat belly; spills her guts outright,
    Swabbing out the hollow using Handiwipe.
    Rub a dub dub blood and guts in a tub
    Thinks: “I’m halfway back to the Country Club.”
    Cuts her carcass down; folds back her new crack-
    Butchered piece of meat got to be repacked.
    Lugs out a carton of Maxi Pad Pack;
    Soaks it in rum make a taste your last act.
    A wino said it’s like drinking shellac;
    Just what he needs to hold her gut intact.
    Just to make certain her neck holds her head,
    He scoops out her brain places pads instead.
    Sealed with plastic tape from her breasts to clit,
    Hangs her up again with an I.V. drip;
    Booze filled veins start to harden like her tit;
    Thinks: “What a shame he can’t take a last dip.”
    Suddenly though from his brain’s snake pit
    Crawls an idea from a snuff film clip:
    Hard, he cuts her down, shoves his closest kin
    Up her “dinky” ass till rigor sets in.
    Sits down in a chair with the whore on top,
    One hand grabs tit while its brother hooks twat;
    Her asshole squeezes till his eyeballs pop;
    It’s time to pull out but his prick stays caught.
    Pumps her up and down but she won’t co-op;
    His dick is stuck fast up her asshole’s grot.
    The bump and grind makes his semen explode
    Which acts the enema on her last load.
    His dick slicks free slimied sticky stink brown;
    Grabs his ground-to-air glad it’s safe and sound;
    Cleans up her pile, washes both of them down;
    Now to get her dressed, get her posed hardbound.
    Wrestles on her mini- the street deb’s gown.
    It’s meant to hook the interest that banks compound.
    Rich debs sell it at “till death do you part;”
    While a street deb peddles it a la carte.
    Lifts her from the chair then sticks up her ass
    A long-handled broom helps her stand steadfast;
    He smoothes down her dress, makes her up first class,
    But he can’t hide the truth that her eyes broadcast.
    Dark glasses cover up what he’s brought to pass;
    Now one last trick to make his icon last:
    From her short black hair to her feet high-heeled,
    He spray coats his sculpture with Scotchguard Shield.
    Like Greek Galatea she thrills his pride;
    But now the myth’s been Americanized:
    She’s no sex object; she can’t be a bride;
    She’s American woman idolized.
    He’s gone extreme that’s pretty cut and dried;
    But he’s just a man Americanized:
    He makes his money any way he can;
    And now she’s a star in the store’s floor plan.
    Hidden in the racks of the best champagne,
    One hand holds a gun, the other a frame.
    (No stick’s needed now to help her feign
    A threatening pose in the clerk’s con game.)
    She’s turned toward the wall, “pardon-me’s” are vain
    So you rub on past this deaf and dumb dame;
    Your heart almost stops when you see her gun
    Then you get the joke and you poke some fun.
    His agent came and looked; said, “I’d swear it bleeds.
    What you’ve done only genius could conceive.
    You’ve made from trash a figure that concedes
    The desperate life of a modern Eve.
    The gun in her hand shows where it all leads,
    If you don’t keep them locked in make believe.
    You’re back on the Movies’ Most Wanted List;
    But dump the body, boy, just in case it’s missed.”

    Is this a poem?

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