Saturday, January 27, 2007

I'm going through six months of chapbook acquisitions.

Right now I'm looking at several from the H_NGM_N Chapbook Series #1. I like the title poem of Dorothea Lasky's Art. Let's examine why I might like it.

First three lines:

There is a goodness in the world
Little boy named Bill, birthday June 9th,
Who has a smile like my father's

I read these and think, "ah, this is flarfy, who could ever use the noun 'goodness' without irony?" And then I think, "Bill's birthday is close to mine (June 11)." So far I cannot articulate a concrete reason why I might like this poem, other than the fact that 1) the word "goodness" makes me snicker and 2) it reminds me of my birthday. Specifically, it reminds me of my childhood birthdays, because Bill is a little boy and not a man." The poem continues:

And it is Matt who wants to marry me and there is goodness
Like the sun and the sound of children
Even evil children are good in their voices

So now I think, "oh, yes, this is flarf. More goodness and children. It's too precious not to be flarf. I find the move from goodness to the little boy who reminds the speaker of her father to marriage and then back to children stomach-churning and predictable. But it is ironic. But is it interesting enough? Not sure." The poem continues:

And the thought of beauty is something
That will always bring me back
Because beauty stitches and love regards

"Flarf flarf flarf. What the hell is 'beauty,' anyway, other than something that 'stitches.' And here I think of heart-shaped needlework hanging in a kitchen, maybe near the window that says something like 'bla bla bla love regards.' But is it nice to make fun of people who like to cross stitch little heartwarming (almost wrote "heartworming"), if clichéd phrases on things and hang them in their kitchen? It's smarmy; it makes me think of my own connection to smarmy-ness." The poem continues:

And Justin, age 7, made me a charcoal drawing
Of an ice-cream monster and said "Where's Dottie?"
So he could give it to me and I would hang it up
Needing is good you see
You know needing is good
It is good to need each other
It is good to love and I do
I do love

I have to go back and read this a few times because I misread "needing" for "needling.

"Children and animals show up in some flarf a lot, I suppose, because...children and animals are precious? Sentimentalized? I am thinking of 19th century American poems about dead children.

“I like the fairly standard lyric/incantatory repetition of "need" and "love" in the last four lines. And yes, I like how it ends in a tone of melancholy hope. I am a sucker for this kind of ending, and it seems rather sincere after all the goodness and children in the first half of the poem. It also makes me think of Lisa Jarnot’s work and Juliana Spahr’s recent work—though only because of the use of repetition (and yes, I know that other people use/have used it, and that it’s not new, etc). So, I like this poem, I suppose, but mostly because of its sound and mood, not because it is saying anything especially interesting.”

I’ve not talked about the title, “Art.” As in, this is some art? Oh, I’m done with my “reading” for now..


Ryan W. said...

I think it's quite possible this isn't flarf. it reminds me of something I write when I can't really write poetry. I think, well, I can't write poetry, so I'll just write what I'm experiencing. and I'm actually thinking things like "there is goodness in the world" and so I write that. and I keep going and it becomes a style. but almost always when I write something like that I ditch it. but not always. it's nice that you're a terrorist. that's mok-tod correct?
I think I read something by Marianne Moore about how Mark Twain would use a word and if it was the right word, he would just keep using it for the next several paragraphs and not worry about repetition. I can't remember if it was Moore... It's nice that you wrote what you think about a poem and parts of a poem. that's a good thing for people to write about. no, it's a boring thing for most people to write about but not for you to write about, b/c most people are boring when they write about that but you wouldn't be boring about writing about that. I can't think about "goodness" without think about food. I'm afraid to pay taxes. ugghh I hate taxes! I'm going to be an anarchist. ahhh I always wonder if women are afraid of being published because they are women, because occaionally you'll see something on an editor's blog like "I need women submissions." your visual stuff in womb is great and makes me jealous of it, and you should have an etsy where you sell posters of it.

K. Lorraine Graham said...

Ryan, I think you're right about how it's quite possible that this isn't flarf. And now that you mention it, this could be what I call a "tired poem," similar to what you described. I have to admit that I'm confused about the use of irony. Not just in this poem, but in general. I feel like I've been reading a lot of poems that use an ironic tone, but I'm not quite sure what the hell they're being ironic about. But one reason why this poem interests me is because the first half of the poem feels ironic and a bit trite, but the tone in the second half of the poem is direct and sincere.

I am also afraid to pay taxes. I have told myself that I'm going to do my taxes by the end of February. I've been saving money, because I know I'll owe plenty because of all the contract work I've been doing. But it's the first year I've paid my taxes this way and am nervous about it. Ick.

I suspect that some women are afraid of being published only because they are women, and some aren't. I go back and forth about it. I'm glad you like my visual stuff in WOMB and that you are jealous of it--that's a nice compliment for a Sunday, or any day. Thank you! I've been toying with setting up an etsy account. We'll see.

Ryan W. said...

"tired poem" is a good term. I call them sacrificial poems. bridge poem or a momentum poem would be some optimistic formulations. sacrificial is optimistic enough tho.

I think all reasonable people are presently confused about the use of irony. If you come up with a solution, you can sell it to reasonable people and become rich.

mark wallace said...

Sure, a lot of people are confused about the use of irony. But shouldn't they also be confused about the use of sincerity.

"I distrust all frank and simple people, especially when their stories hold together." That's one of my favorite lines.

I'm often stunned when someone will say, quite sincerely, something I'm convinced they don't mean. I never know what to do about it.

Ryan W. said...

Sincerity seems to promise irreducible mystery because sincerity is like one thing and irony is like two things. With irony there is a relation which isn't mysterious. It's rational.

The mysterious appearance of irreducible sincerity may be just that, but it's still an appealing appearance.

I'm turned off by the idea of "new sincerity" as a movement, what very little I know of it. But I liked the idea when I knew nothing about it.

I shouldn't be trying to be intelligent when I'm this tired but I'm interested in this issue. It's one of about three issues that interest me.

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