Introduction for October: Being Unreal
I don’t know about you, but my right-now life is laden with reality: bills, the 9-to-5 (necessary to pay said bills), the leaden thing that weighs on everyone at said 9-to-5 (making them mean and me mean), family, the failures of family, a slowing metabolism and no will or energy to exercise. It’s a maddeningly endless personal abyss. And the language that surrounds me every day–mostly sad, simple transactional language–fails.
Yet the poems I’m sharing this darkening October month come from writers who somehow manage to slip out of the trance that keeps us subservient to reality, tethered to the mundane. When they lapse into consciousness, they are possessed as Nietzsche was when he wrote “No artist tolerates reality.” Those who are awake, if only momentarily, are the artists. And by artists, I mean these writers who feel and tinker until they’ve given form to something that exists within the bandwidth of reality but resists humdrum conventionality. Of course, it’s akin to the famed tell it slant. But more than that, they’re telling it like it ain’t, not keeping it real.
I wanted to place 100 music boxes in a large circle
in a darkened room
wind them all up
place a tea light in front of each box
light the wicks in succession.
I wanted to open each box
in a careful journey round the circle.
And I wanted to invite my boyfriend to dance
a slow dance
with me inside this flickering ring
until the harsh cacophony dwindled
to a solitary song.
in a parking lot in Tennessee
I looked into the sky and saw two bright white haloes
around the moon
one within the other
one brighter than the other
both destined for disappearance behind approaching clouds.
The spectacle was so large
wispy and perfect
like an animator’s cursive flourish in an old Disney film
that I laughed involuntarily
I watched a sick cat die in my parents’ garage.
I’d loved it for all of its life.
I watched its belly rise and fall
its fevered head slant to the floor
and its poor eyes
in tight loops of vertigo
surrender and shut over the course of an afternoon.
I understood in an instant that this
for all things.
Before the plug was pulled
my grandfather’s chest rose
in exactly the same way
in the two weeks following his stroke.
It was like watching someone sleep
is enough for anybody.
and bones that hollow out and break like promises.
I wished that I had a child.
Children are for people who want an audience for their autobiography
but lack the patience to write the book.
Joseph Whitt is an artist, writer and independent curator living and working in New York City. His work has been presented at MOMA PS1, Eyebeam, PPOW Gallery, Deitch Projects, CRG Gallery and Envoy Enterprises, and has been reviewed in The New York Times, Flash Art, and Sculpture. His writings have appeared in Art Papers, ArtUS, Useless Magazine and K48. His second chapbook, Defriendings, will be released by T.M.I. Ltd., a Brooklyn-based micropress, at the end of this month.
R. Stevie Moore is a singer, songwriter, and musician currently based in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to having numerous albums released on established labels around the world, Moore has self-released over 400 cassette and CD-R albums since 1968, as well as dozens of home videos. His eclectic work incorporates a variety of artistic styles; and he is regularly cited (by publications such as Rolling Stone, BOMB, Wire, and The New York Times, just to name a few) as a seminal influence in today’s independent music scene.