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Scattered Rhymes

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from KING OF THE FOREST

from City of Moths

 

My friend thinks that poetry has nothing to do with words. Poetry she says, is a mountain. An actual mountain. A thing that fools climb simply “because it’s there.” Poetry is there, but why do we constantly feel the need to prove it exists? To point to it? Like a mountain appearing in the distance. “Be an uncarved block of wood” is what the Sarah Lawrence kids, who hadn’t slept in 40-some hours, still high off ecstasy and acid, sitting Indian-style on the rock, otherwise-silent, would shout at me during tennis matches. They were right. What lies in the uncarved block of wood. Whorls and grains, stories and held smoke. Surrounded by. My block of wood, another person’s mountain. The sound of a finger pointing to some unseen thing. To be reckoned with, or perhaps, reckoned by. Something to draw a door in.

Poetry is exactly like sexual harassment. Don’t ask. Listening to James Brown I understood what you meant about poetry having nothing to do with words. Maybe my mountain is a woman…lying…down. Try me, a bridge, the black lightning of the body. Point to point, nearness to nearness, the point is always to get to the next poem. That’s it. Nothing else. There’s love, but either way, you end up going crazy. Pain is to have seen and tasted one’s desire, and to live with that apple in front of one’s face, forever, with no way to touch it. But that part of the story comes later. After we listen to Bob sing, One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain, poetry is the opposite. Language gets in the way. What I’m really trying to say is, Please, please, please…don’t leave me…be…wildered.

 Things fit together. Two inconsequential things can combine together to become a consequence. The poem doesn’t exist by itself. There is only poetry. The theory of relativity. Which means our fears and desires, our angers and dreams are not unique, they relate, become one and like us, will die if left alone. Did I tell you I was watching Game 2 of the Playoffs between the Pistons and the Orlando Magic when suddenly there appeared on the screen this skinny little white boy with glasses, a Pistons fan, maybe 10 years old, shirtless, standing in the aisle, flexing imaginary muscles, and painted on the entirety of his chest in glittery pink and blue spray-paint was the message, “There’s No Such Thing As Magic” and POOF— you were beside me, naked and trembling in my arms?

from The Dreams

The sky is way too blue like a TV set after kids have fucked with the remote, and for a second I don’t even see it— an enormous hot-air balloon hovering like the perfect ending to a simile. Then it hits me—this is the bright-striped balloon from the chemistry book I’ve been editing. I’m driving as if the sky won the war and there are no more roads. Just drifting toward whatever the air offers up. Following the law of we-all-need-a-balloon-to-help-us-home. Hypnotized by the bright balloon and its exquisite interruption of blue, I barely saw them, had to slam my brakes to avoid hitting the four giant buzzards sitting in the middle of the road, their backs to me, congregating over the carcass of something I couldn’t see but knew had to be the air from that beautiful balloon.

 

_________________________________

 

Impossibly this is an attempt at escape. Gravity, his uncle once told him, is only in your mind. There is a scene from Before Night Falls where the dream of escape is so beautiful it outweighs any consequence of the real: one would rather drown going down in a hot-air balloon in the ocean on the way to Florida than remain alive another second without freedom. The dream of it. A carcass of air. Language is secondary to silence. The most beautiful things we do, we do without words. Once, when he was the King of the Forest, he was chased by his brother, Emperor of Grasshoppers into an old overgrown greenhouse, a good 15 feet in the narrow aisle he realized his brother was no longer behind him and alone with the sound of his own breathing, he turned to see he was surrounded by over a dozen giant buzzards roosting eyelevel on marble slats— the next 10 seconds of this story is the stuff that dreams are made of.

from THE  NOTEBOOK

the shoulder has zero light
the shoulder has no reason
to rotate its discus in
perpetual motion unless
it is seasoned for a
tennis serve, I swerve
when I talk, let my
speech reply, here is an
audio grandstand
a launch into the public
biosphere, oh dirty
laundry how crumpled
and full of sense, this is
a poem where every object
take on meaning, where
it extends its
existence into the
voyeur’s eye, there is no
needle to rescue in
the haystack, there is
no in the sack to recoup
from, here everything is
a velvet potato
a perfectly lauded gift
set on its own
blessing, if I give this
to you all you owe me
is respect in the form
of food, like cooking me cabbage
then laying it out like
pillows, this is all written in
my will so no need to try and
memorize it just yet
this is where the
poetry turns, this is
where it becomes genius
this is where the doldrum
uproots itself, this is me
apologizing to my brother for
rubbing his eyes with tiger balm
this is everything that you
ever wanted to coming true
this is real historical
mass, mass on the subway,
mass in the form of many
strangers falling asleep
at once, they almost look
hypnotized/head-slumped
forward, the subways
hum sings them to sleep
I have a pie at home
and a window full of the
paperless things I can’t see
past like white lies
& karate smoke & an abandoned
bicycle, there are the kids
jumping rope, jumping fences w/age
award reaped benefits for
a singular provider, here somebody
is turning over on a white horse
a location is building-up
in the vein of prestige
I am putting my French
sunglasses on, reordering the
oracle, a frosted wishbone
how absolutely still the pie
lies, how begetting of circumstance
the trolley is delivering eggs
throughout the neighborhood
there is localized insurance
if you fall skateboarding
an elder will clean your
wound, rehabilitating the oxygen
cavities takes a nexus of
cytoplasm, reverberated
toothbrushes, through the gold cap
everyone’s a dentist who needs
a friend, try quitting
smoking for a change, melodramatic
knight in shining armor
rescuing your lung from the curse
of a violent death, willpower
ensues, try sleeping with
lesions, with the biggest wound
in the woods with a cabinet
builder insisting on finishing
the bookshelves at 3 am
prying the orange paper machine
apart in your sleep
like a Chinese character bent
sideways, contingent on its
placement lending it a new
meaning, if I were to walk
around town on hand & not
foot, how might the fabric of
my belief change, the brash
cause to wrap my fingers with
gauze, or an elliptical—
imagine that, that we
dance holding feet, so attuned
to the clever immobility
when the risk of losing
action makes its way into
the poem, the risk is boredom
how there are many ways of
losing where you digest
a loop, like that game
of pickup sticks on
the trottoir where nobody
is talking not noticing the
eagle eyes unflinching for one
who drops the stick
can never recreate a habitat
is it inhibition that makes
the sucky people keep on sucking
the lack there of I meant,
but instead I was busy
catering the floss to my teeth
some sort of tectonic
light bulb needs to go off so a
posse of angels can come down &
bless me, I’m mad ungrateful
sometimes to have a job
feels like the opposite of
survival
I fear that once we start we won’t be able
to come down from this mountain,
domino effect on the inside
where all the pride gets dismantled
and takes the form of a rock
I’m trying to come back to some sort
of original way where you don’t
want to fix the poem cause
the poem is alive, an inverted
tent takes its shape from the
wind, so many meaningful
pictures spread-out so full of
language tropes you just
have to be the one to color them
in with whatever kind of
vision you can stick with
it’s difficult to swing the
lantern all the way through
a mystery caught on the
outer-hinge causing the
little metal hinge to swing open
and whisk out the light
or however you want to
label this effect
it’s not a defect unless you
struggle w/it everyday

              have you ever walked across the
              floor to find another floor?
              how to be desperate, I mean
              in a situation where you’ve
              locked your keys in your car
              why do my wheels spinning feel
              like triangles, clunk,
              clunk, clunk
              batter up— hit the
              dinghy across the bay

all that was selfish became
prismed by our desires
to keep one another healthy
in the most acute perceptions of
our lives we’ve managed to keep
one another holy, with all the
growing sounds around us & the
obtrusion of light in our sleep
like whisks of smoke
that hold the ground by fire
after the wolves attack
after love is one of the causes
for fantasy that holds
the vinegar into the
lemon, sometimes such taste
such sour artifice recedes
into a velvet damask
this is what I say, what I fear
that we are all fake, no real
compass or station to hold
as I once was a sergeant
in my past like the dream of
myself inside a space shuttle
like the self that came
before the self before I
fingered the wreckage in
the dark before sifting
through the silt of an
underwater vessel, after
we were all attacked
and leaned back and attacked
others and saw that it was
identical, the same thing
standing in the same way
of one another, the
record breaking human
condition, the active body
of peoples, the peoples like
the squirrel’s acorn if we
were god that’s what sight
would be like, all a seen
protocol, the same for sadness
one takes washing-off
& clutching to a library of panic
“the pain parade”

from Gift Horse

you carry me
I bend
I bend so you can
carry me
I carry me you bend
you bend
beggetingly

the earth is on
crow fire
don’t forget
to powder
your wig

I’m a museum
with a hat of gold
my education only comes
once a year
I am w/out friends
standing in a field
my imagination is a hinge
endless swinging door
upon grass and pale sky
the frame
the only obstruction

yr. dog bites off
yr. doll’s talky head
dripping with starch
you bury the head in
a lilac field
plastic bones
bloom
begin again

my plastic Neanderthal
has a tongue ring
carries a flag
faux gravitas
etched with lions
somebody should
really stop him

into the black sky
one wing open
a French door
unlaundered by intuition
rain come over me
still prism
black market holiday
the new symbolism

root canal in summer
a hot bleeding waterway
lift your head to the nurse’s call
Gideon’s crossing
you slap your cheek against it
it’s gonna save you

I have a big gift
for a horse
a quilted water vest
you make your mark
across the lake
shimmy a row by
aren’t we all adults?
I stand in
as proof

POST SCRIPT

MACTAGGART JEWELRY

Buy Paige’s handmade jewelry and make sure to check out the impressive selection of poems she has published online!

Digital Macrame from Poor Claudia.

Polaroid Parade forthcoming from Greying Ghost Press.

The Ice Poems forthcoming from Doublecross Press.

Warcloud
The gentleman who collaborated and experienced paranoid delusions with Paige’s brother.

Paige’s brothers’ music:
Sydney Ducks
Blue Sky Black Death

The second line of Ben Fama’s chapbook New Waves, (Minutes Books 2011), is  “All I want is my life/ to matter somehow.” And it seems that this book sets out to execute that statement despite the line’s futility. I say this with sincerity since it’s an important aspect of the human condition (especially for writers) but remains an ungraspable, continuous pursuit. In short, this is a book composed with clear-minded longing. The cultural awareness is unpretentious, the feeling is real, and the structures are solid.

There’s been a post about Ben Fama’s poetry brooding in me since his last chapbook, Aquarius Rising, came out from Ugly Duckling Presse in 2010, and that’s because his poetry sticks with me. The word “hipster” has been thrown around a bit in reviews, but I find the term superfluous and dismissing. The difference between Ben Fama’s poems and many of his so-called hipster contemporaries is palpably clear. Some think it taboo to talk about things like texting and internet in poetry, but this calls to mind Ezra Pound who wrote “The artist is always beginning. Any work of art which is not a beginning, an invention, a discovery is of little worth. The very name Troubadour means a ‘finder,’ one who discovers.” Using off-limit terminology indicates the poet bending expectations, respecting the readers’ ability to move forward in thought. It is authentic ventures unto the brink of expectation I find most engaging in new poetry. Most importantly, the poet remains unequivocally loyal to the poem that wants to be written. Certainly that is the case with Ben Fama. How can we live in a culture so deeply entrenched in electronics and digital communication without interacting with it emotionally? Being “timeless” isn’t about removing the contemporary but about writing a good poem. Period. In this new collection, the poems feel they are exactly as they should be, even with their flaws. But flaws are imperative, essential to development, and are what make the poems here stunning.

Deeply entrenched in the occult, Fama explores known and unknown realms of human life. The speaker is concerned with prophecy, but in his impatience or frustration, he himself begins prophesying. He’s looking into a crystal ball, asking why the hell things happen this way, then taking on the roll of soothsayer himself: “Ivan the Inconsolable, / don’t forget how good things are. / You know you can always / sleep in the grass.” With all his questioning and yearning the speaker is still thwarted—with love (lots with love) with family, even with divination itself. But this yearning is what drives the poetry. To pause for a moment over the ending of [This world repeats a soft etc.]

Once I was a teen king
thundering over the peasants.
I was born in the image of Steve.
Once I was a farm boy
on the level of clouds.
Float me back to those heights.
I remember yellow heat
in my yellow clothes and
an idea like a campfire
telling me it wasn’t sure
I’ve ever done the right thing.
Now when it asks for cures
I retrieve an amulet from a secret
altar of things that make me calm
to look upon, and when it asks
Fama, where is your love now?
I think about eating poutine
from the small of her back.

In his interview with Ben Pease on Scattered Rhymes, I learned Poutine is a dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curds, covered with brown gravy or sauce and sometimes additional ingredients. What’s so arresting in this poem is the speaker’s concern with the enigmatic “idea,” something carried over from childhood maybe—something organic—perhaps even those first moments of real self-doubt. Indeed, the speaker is deeply concerned with the self (more universal than egotistical) exploring complex, layers of self-identity and self-assessment. The “idea” tells the speaker “it wasn’t sure / I’ve ever done the right thing.” The “idea” is purposefully vague, but seems as if it is the voice of the universe or the mystical, shrouded in the speaker’s consciousness. The voice of the universe is in some ways, indifferent, even cruel in this poem. I feel that the poem teeters on a concern with mortality. The occult, the “altar” of items that calm the speak down from these thoughts, again drive him to another question: “where is your love now?” To counteract the gravity of that epiphanic statement, the speaker reverts to a kind of ridiculous eroticism. In a way it’s a defense mechanism that appears (lightly) throughout the book—but somehow Fama manages to make the line both beautiful and absurd, just like poutine.

None of the poems have titles, and while the chapbook is a mere fourteen pages, it’s probably best. There’s a sense of long operatic movement in which each line functions for the whole pulse of a song. The first line of the book situates you in its realm: “The only colors in this world / are yellow and orange.” He doesn’t see things in black and white, but rather two vivid colors—as if this is a new perspective on old traditions. With all their contemporary airs, the poems have a classic feel. This hybridism is a strength Fama wields with finesse, and one I hope he sticks to. Adding to this traditional feel, the settings are, at times, deeply pastoral. It’s another element of yearning, as is his obsession with the mystical (a motif also explored by such poets as W.B. Yeats). However binary the world in Fama’s poems is, everything is turned backward, questioned yet paced at such a speed that we’re lulled out of absolutism. We’re in a place of melancholy, but it’s lit-up like a sun, and the wisdom in the voice helps the reader find it more relatable: “I wake heavy, I don’t know why.” The musical calm is perhaps one of the most striking elements; calm that resists the sometimes overt anxiety (“People want / me to do certain things but I won’t if it’s boring”). The book is wrought with a tone that adds fluidity to the dualistic system, keeping it interesting. The opening poems pull you in and carry you weightlessly throughout, the first lines burning in your mind until the last moment. New Waves is elegant, quietly devastating, but with an aura of hopefulness and clarity. He’s talking about gchats while wrapping the reader into the earnest futility of desire. The speaker seems young, but not naïve.  He’s lost, he’s looking, he’s examining.

The poems are intimate, but there are gaps of information. They aren’t necessarily confessional, as they give much space for the reader to do work. Delicate if not obscure references to the speaker’s past (“I was born in the image of Steve”) are mixed with flourishes of the surreal, and again there’re vague illusions to the speaker’s concern with mortality (“If I leave / leave a lock on my tomb.”) The poems are concrete, and still there is always a question of reality:

My therapist says
I use writing as
a perceptive model
that allows me to
interpret reality—

This passage seems almost a wry reference to the confessional poets, but we are quickly brought back into Fama’s unique landscape: “though my paradigm / remains immature and / I bring toxic energy / to new relations.” The humor and intimacy in the language allows for the reader to enter in completely, but without the feeling that we’re being told what to feel or how, nor does it employ the opposite effect of leaving us cold.

Ultimately, when I leave Fama’s chapbook, I think what is most important is that there’s passion. It seems such a simple thing, but it’s so often an elusive asset. In New Waves, healing and destruction are simultaneously experienced; ecstasy and pain are the same beast, yet the work is never overwrought. New Waves is a homage to love lost, to the mystical, to immaturity stained with experience.

The last lines of William Shakespeare’s King Lear have just come to mind. This collection feels like the wisdom realized after a long, insane escapade of emotional thwarting and general human grievances. Somehow, comingled within youth and folly and agedness, is the need to be (in its many forms) passionate and open. I don’t mean open as in confessional, nor do I mean that one has to write like Ben Fama does—rather the opposite: that what is sometimes lacking in new poetry is a patience and honesty with one’s inner workings. What is happening is Fama is interacting with his own surroundings and experiences with an astounding clarity. He doesn’t shut out what he experiences intellectually and casually. What is important to him becomes important to us. He doesn’t care about what he “ought to say” in pleasing an audience, he says what he feels. As writers, we needn’t stifle that unique element of how we each interpret reality. We can bring forth, with all its faults and strangeness, how we exclusively relate with the world. And this is the direction Ben Fama is going in with stunning, mottled vigor. As Albany says:

The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, not live so long
King Lear Act V, Scene III

See some of Ken Chen’s poems and find links to items mentioned in the podcast.

Ken Chen Interview

See some of the poems Colin reads in the podcast and find links to items discussed during the interview.

Colin Cheney Interview

See the poems Solmaz Sharif reads in the interview and find links to some items discussed during the interview.

Solmaz Sharif Interview


Read
some of Deborah’s poems here and find links to some of the things Ben and Deborah talk about in the interview.

Deborah Landau Interview

Click here to see some of the poems Ben Mirov reads and find some other links to items from the interview.

Ben Mirov, Part 1

Ben Mirov, Part 1

Ben Mirov, Part 2

Ben Mirov, Part 2

Anthropology, publishing houses in elementary school, estrangement, ants conferencing over Frank Zappa. Morgan Parker describes herself as equipped with the eyes of a surrealist, ears of an ethnographer, tongue of a cynical comedian, and heart of a brooding sixteen-year old.

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Morgan Parker, Part 1

Morgan Parker, Part 1

Morgan Parker, Part 2

Morgan Parker, Part 2

Sarah Schweig, neighbor to airfields, estrangement, mythology, imagination, opens up about how she came to be a poet of departures. Pardon my inability to pronounce Catullus.

Sarah Schweig, Part 1

Sarah Schweig, Part 1

Sarah Schweig, Part 2

Sarah Schweig, Part 2

He’s just a west-coast boy, living in New York City, he took the express train to where good poems reside. I must be tired or going insane, but Josh Bettinger is without a doubt on his game in these five poems—five because he claimed they were all shorties, but it’s not long into the interview that we see how stocky these poems are—look at these guys the wrong way and they’ll tear your face off.

Josh mentions this movie trailer several times in part 2, he insists you watch it: It’s all about the three parts of the trick.

Josh Bettinger, Part 1

Josh Bettinger, Part 1

Josh Bettinger, Part 2

Josh Bettinger, Part 2

Of course, the first guest on the show to grow up in one of the largest wilderness preserves in the United States, Yosemite National Park, provides me with a photo of herself taken indoors. Dawn Marie Knopf’s poetry feeds off a particularly American mythos: old wives’ tales, Farmer’s Almanacs, the revered stories of American pop heroes before they made it big. Playing both sides of the coin, Knopf enjoys both the extension of these fables to a magical extreme and the reduction of them to a sorry tall tale. Does the ball ultimately land in- or out-of-bounds? Listen to the interview to find out.

Dawn Marie Knopf, Part 1

Dawn Marie Knopf, Part 1

Dawn Marie Knopf, Part 2

Dawn Marie Knopf, Part 2

I’ve never seen Evan Hansen wear a cowboy hat, but his pensive look in this picture displays the same concern he shows in his poetry for people and the tremendous, unspeakable burdens they carry on a daily basis. While the characters in these poems at times find solace, it is by no means permanent, and Hansen makes us wonder if a lifetime of momentary relief might be the best we can hope for. With that in mind, here’s to the upcoming long weekend providing us all with a little more time to relax our way into the summer.

Evan Hansen, Part 1

Evan Hansen, Part 1

Evan Hansen, Part 2

Evan Hansen, Part 2

The Scattered Rhymes  podcast was making itself a home at THEthe. In anticipation of the coming podcast, we are reposting the old episodes from the Scattered Rhymes website.

Today we’re reposting the 3rd episode of Scattered Rhymes: an interview with Josh Bell.

Part 1

Josh Bell, Part 1

Part 2

Josh Bell, Part 2

Last week we made the exciting announcement that Ben Pease’s Scattered Rhymes  podcast was making itself a home at THEthe. In anticipation of the coming podcast, we are reposting the old episodes from the Scattered Rhymes website.

Today we’re reposting the 2nd episode from Scattered Rhymes, which features an interview with Joseph Spece.

Joseph Spece, Part 1

Joseph Spece, Part 1

Joseph Spece, Part 2

Joseph Spece, Part 2

Note: The interview takes place at JC’s apt., so here and there you may hear mention of a picture of the Winged Victory in the living room or various trinkets on a counter in his bedroom.

We’re pleased to announce that Ben Pease’s Scattered Rhymes podcast is going to become the official podcast of THEthe!

Scattered Rhymes is a long-form interview podcast in which poets discuss and read their work. Ben Pease has been doing the podcast for several years now and has created a back log of work that THEthe will be reposting over the next month or so in anticipation of Scattered Rhymes’ next installment. From that point on, we hope to make Scattered Rhymes a monthly endeavor. The latest episode will be posted and featured on THEthe and later archived at the Scattered Rhymes website.

The first featured poet from the Scattered Rhymes podcast is Gail Mazur.

Gail Mazur Interview, Part 1

Gail Mazur, Part 1

Gail Mazur Interview, Part 2

Gail Mazur, Part 2