September 03, 2007

Two books about poets in the Lower East Side. Both the poets are queer. Both have sexuality issues, although different ones. Both are about masculinity. Both about poet as outsider, although in different ways. Not sure what is going on with women in these books. No women poets show up. And the women who do show up aren't really fully there. Or maybe that is not right term. There is some way that in these male poetry spaces, women end up being tossed around weirdly.

Richard Hell's Godlike. Retelling of Rimbaud and Verlaine. With Ted Berrigan thrown in. It has actual poetry in it. Which I love. (As the characters write poetry, we get to read it!) Pregnant wife shows up briefly. She is tossed aside for more exciting relationship with young boy. Some good moments of grandiose faith in poetry: "Those who deliver the new poetry make it possible for the world to go on....[New poetry shows us God: how things are.] The poets aren't supposed to be beautiful or sane. Shaggy, itchy, preoccupied, mal-educateds. It's a dirty and stressful and anti-social calling." (85) My favorite moment, this question: "What about the poetry from other planets?" (113)

Samuel Delany's Dark Reflections. This one all about the loner poet. I like how it gets at how little poetry matters. (Although it misses the community part of poetry--which Hell's book gets--because the main character is so alienated.) The character enters a poetry contest, which he wins. Later he learns that only about seven or so people apply each year. The character writes more formal poetry but he loses the same poetry contest, he reapplies years later, to poet who knows some people at the Buffalo poetics program who has written a book that resembles Grenier's Sentences. He is queer but marries a crazy woman he meets on the street. She kills herself in his apartment the night they marry. A nice touch is how the poet is an adjunct and barely surviving. Lots of talk about how little money he has and he is interested in poetry contests because they let him go to the movies, etc. I enjoyed the most moments like this exchange between editor and the main poet character... Editor says: "What Michael's [poet who knows someone at the Poetics Program] text does is turn me into a writer, a real writer, who puts together lines as beautiful as Hart Crane's, as witty as Clark Coolidge's, as knowing as Joanne Kyger's, as passionate as Ricky Porchine's." Then: "Who, Arnold wondered, was Ricky Porchine? He was not too clear on Clark Coolidge, either, though at least he knew there was such a poet." (108)

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