The Poet is wired
The Poet is wired
poem-prose (elmhurst college may 8 two-thousand-one)
the jivey retro-girl w/ magic glasses
sunny sandpaper skin
glitter lips & pure invisible sex-joy vibes
speaks my name
it is time
from plastic ass-warmed chair
& strolling squeaky nikes
up to dim-lit desk on poet-stage mind-display
i rise among the masses
cough-clearing thick-lined mucus-muck obstructing breath-beat-tube
(a swallow a prayer a glance cross room)
eyes the eyes billions in excess
focused on the shining holy-apex of my un-virgin essence
disillusioned devils waiting heaven from my sin-stained lips
waiting knowledge beauty bullshit-fancies
waiting poem-prose-proclamations pronto
dizzy in the silent nakedness of thought
till high & mighty muse envelops my brain
& blows & blows & blows
i am ready
first crisp crazy bright-hued line
down out my face into air mixed w/ stink & unseen gunk
striking lobes of aching audience-receivers not yet sure
next line the next flows in groove
bold beats molded into tangible truths
metric diagrams of pain & pleasure
ART—living breathing climbing over tuned-in body-pods
taking seat by punch/potato-chip stand
listening to its own naughty neon notes
enlightened among the mental-drool of awe-gripped faces
brain-full skulls amused in vocal-bursts of blow of wail
i am it
for once this nanosecond am real am full of me
yet somehow just a figment-speck of overactive poetic imagination
a 3D imposter-cartoon
pretending to be me
(it numbs me i’m confused i do not care)
out of the dolled up carcass-shield my soul flashed before these
god-sick human-drones who cry my tears
but have not eye enough to empty out emotive-waste
i just don’t care
i am a necessity
they idea-fuck me
grown-up cock-eyed boys & nipple-horny girls
deprived of the total teenage orgasm
who as twenty-something infants sold their souls for adjunct PhDs
& the book-bogged smarties
who scribble-translate their every heady word
recording A-plus pin-point decibel-maps of every arrant lecture-fart
the wobbly world falls off its puny stick
we land upside-down dirty
inverted in the flesh drift-away-minded
i am done
back to my lonely spot among the crowd back to the nonsense run-on un-poetic drab of the everyday push towards nothing my soul absorbing claps of hands & yells of throats i am simply me again shy-slouched poet-boy insane dreaming of a poem-prose about this massive manic night for all to know & feel as truth
c b snoad
published in Lynx Eye (spring 2002)
I imagine many folks enjoy art in itself. Maybe it takes their breath away. Maybe it shocks their bourgeois sensibilities. However art affects them, they move on—back to their families, 401k’s and streaming video subscriptions.
Against reason I’m driven to create my own art—a gratifying but often frustrating endeavor. Sure, I’ve been proud of a poem or essay here or there, but when I step back to judge my oeuvre against established writers I’m thoroughly unimpressed.
This is probably my depression speaking. To combat a severe lack of confidence my therapist has me on a new drug called Self-Esteem, a generic form of Empowerment. I’m still learning how to take it. Everyone—the most recent psychological literature suggests—has the same intrinsic value. This includes me apparently, but it takes four to six weeks before my gut fully absorbs the concept.
Perhaps my hesitant nature—an inability to assume a position of strength, to let words flow beyond my control—bolsters my writing. A deep consideration of language might constitute a conscious ethical choice. My ideas, unsure of themselves, reflecting the anxious tone of my unique artistic presence. Mastery of an uncertain craft.
From (and against) a place of fear and pathological aversion to criticism I put pen to paper and begin anyway. To reluctantly own myself, to inscribe my name in doubt: the mark of not just a struggling artist but a deeply conflicted human being.
In 1969, the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler wrote, “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” I’ve come to embrace Huebler’s ideas, though it might be retooled as, “The world is full of texts, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” It seems an appropriate response to a new condition in writing today: faced with an unprecedented amount of available text, the problem is not needing to write more of it; instead, we must learn to negotiate the vast quantity that exists. I’ve transformed from a writer into an information manager, adept at the skills of replicating, organizing, mirroring, archiving, hoarding, storing, reprinting, bootlegging, plundering, and transferring. (Kenneth Goldsmith; quoted in Jeffrey T. Nealon, Post-Postmodernism, 2012, p. 166; emphasis added)
Goldsmith is on to something here. He’s the author of The Weather, Sports, and Traffic, a trilogy that as Nealon (p. 165) explains, “consists of straight transcriptions of eleven o’clock news weather reports (a year), a baseball game (every word of a single Yankee game radio broadcast), and traffic reports (a full day of traffic reports, ‘on the 1s’).”
Is this the future of writing? What happens when poetry turns into data manipulation—search engines determining word choice, spreadsheets functioning as figures of speech—the artist transformed into a smooth operator stripped of Goldsmith’s ironic detachment?
People wonder if computers will eventually think like humans. I foresee a world in which humans think like computers. The end of Art signaling the end of Man. Life as intelligence gathering. Love as business transaction. What’s your number? exchanged for What do the numbers say?
I find myself attracted to art that might be labeled “depressing.” Sometimes I fear I’m simply indulging my illness, looking for verification of the thought: “Life sucks and then you die.” In my sadness, the theory goes, I long for the sadness of others. Perhaps I’d be better off listening to Joel Osteen or binge-watching Little House on the Prairie.
At the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy modernist, I believe that art can change the world. This doesn’t mean paint puppies, rainbows and butterflies. Authentic art depicts things as they are, exposes them as being socially constructed rather than natural, and suggests alternative paths to freedom.
A big part of my depression involves my tendency to be self-critical. I’m always looking to improve, sometimes to the point of exhausting myself in the mythical pursuit of Perfection. My internal critique extends outward, into social and political spheres. I’m not content with accepting things at face value. I ask questions and search for inconsistencies between what people claim to believe and how they act.
I’m attracted to “depressing” art not because I’m looking for an alibi for my sadness, but instead because I’m unhappy with the status quo and want to uproot entrenched cultural assumptions. It goes beyond my depression or the somber nature of contemporary art.
It’s life that’s tragic. It’s life that’s unkind.
“I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility . . .” –William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800)
There are two things in my life that have gone well together for a number of years: writing poetry and going to therapy. I have maintained since high school that my art and mental health battles have greatly defined my identity and place in the world.
Both my poetry and depression have roots in emotion, which is why I took a liking to Wordsworth’s quote about “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”
I see parallels between these activities. In the calmness and safety of a therapy session, I am given tools to deal with my emotions. The session provides moments for me to recall emotions of varying degrees; my poetry, meanwhile, serves as a vehicle for my thoughts and feelings as they’re expressed within the confines of the text.
To take it a step further: the time and place of a session is the container (the event). What we discuss and how I feel about it are the contents (the-tending-to-the-event). The structure and layout of a poem is the container (the form). What I’m saying and how it’s expressed are the contents (the-tending-to-the-form).
At the end of most sessions, I share a recent poem with my therapist. This has far-reaching practical applications. It’s beneficial for my therapist and for me.
Each informs the other: my poems help in my treatment and my treatment sessions help me strengthen my poetry. My therapist serves as a guide to living well and writing well. He’s my interpreter and editor for both life events and my artistic choices. He can tell from a poem my overall mood in the days surrounding its composition. This can be pleasing one time and troubling the next. (Ironically, what I leave out or try to avoid—in both therapy and writing—is significant regardless of my noticing it.)
I see no immediate end to the journey that is my therapy. And as long as I have my wits about me, I’ll continue writing poetry. Wherever my feelings take me, I’ll submit myself to the process—and have plenty to think about as I carry on.
My father told me that the man who, when alone, can keep his mind busy with great ideas, is wise beyond measure. He also said that different views on the same subject should be laid side by side, and that countering concepts can reside in a single mind.
I’ll admit that these lofty ideals didn’t affect me much when I first heard them. Over the years, though, I’ve begun to understand what my dad meant. In some of my darkest moments, times when I’ve felt totally lost and alone, I turned to art, which professes by its mere presence that there’s no Answer, only questions rife with possibilities.
Music, literature, movies, TV shows–various forms of expression that remind me of the complexity of existence–this is my salvation on earth. Life’s not all black and white, the adage goes, and I agree.
For me grays matter.