Monday, January 26, 2009

To K. Silem Mohammad, RE: "Breathalyzer"


I discovered your blog {LIME TREE} via Linh Dinh on the Harriet blog and was impressed with it so I bought your book, "Breathalyzer" (link to the book in the title). In the middle of reading it, I was interning at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and got into an extended discussion about inscrutability in contemporary poetry (a dead horse probably but we enjoyed it) and I showed everyone your poem "Working Class Bambi Fragmentation" which I said falls into the "scrutable" category because the reader knows from the outset that the poem is a collection of fragments and so reads it that way, mining it for whatever nuggets s/he can get. Other poems also struck me as being composed of fragments, too, but since they were presented as if joined by syntax, I felt I had to try to make meaningful connections between them (like reading Berrigan's "Sonnets") and wasn't always able to. During the festival, Dara Wier said, before reading a section of her book-length poem Reverse Rapture, that we shouldn't worry about losing the thread, that the poem was like water so if we feel like we're drowning, don't worry, we'll resurface. Is that the way you feel about your poetry? My guess is "No", but I also got the sense that, unlike a lot of poets, you don't take ownership over the words themselves, only their organization. Thus, we're in the realm of persona poetry, but instead of listening to, say, Herbert White, we're listening to the collective/collected language of the anonymous internet poster, who is in a sense, all of us. Is that your project? Sort of like a Whitmanic "Leaves of {Gr}ass" for the 21st Century? I also get the sense that you're somewhat disgusted with the level of discourse you're reverting to, but feel some sort of need to throw the feces back at the monkeys (so to speak). If so, is it in the name of justice? ("you get what you pay attention to") Or just to provide some sort of mirror? (I'm thinking now of the 'dagguerreotype' poem) Obviously, you can have more than one reason, and one of them is obviously humor b/c so many of the lines are hilarious:

"the way T.S. Eliot's poetry is 'about women's basketball'"
"I'm that eight-hundred pound / gorilla in your mist"

or beautifully weird:

"history a crab crushing a nude female in its claws"
"now darkness swims its last leg of mutton"

I also detected a rebuke of sorts towards poets who insist on beauty/truth (in the Keatsian sense) as the one and only aesthetic:

"Esperanto isn't trying to create a culture-free environment
in the face of overwhelming pressure from outside
we are"


"I want to have a journal but only special people get to dream
all you little faggots that run around drawing anarchy signs
on shit, just let me say that you are a pussy
whoever you are wherever you are
you all stink something awful
nothing gold can stay"

And in other poems you directly address poesy on behalf (it seems) of Flarf in the same way that other marginalized groups addressed the mainstream, daring it to keep them out. Is that fair to say?

Anyway, I enjoyed reading the book and obviously, it got me thinking, so thanks.

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