Poetry Criticism

Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 41

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“Why Dogs Hate Vets”
Based on a Real Dream

Edna St. Vincent Millay is a veterinarian,
Who with unendeavored confidence seeks
Proper Yankee out of a delectable Italian
Accent while she regards the mutt Sin-

Clearly’s been fostering and now wishes to
Make his and his wife’s own, as they have
A curious way of falling for misfit hearts
Born to be denned. [She outlined her stature

Upon metering into the examination room, eyes
Stressed downward to the prostrate mutt, his tail
Rising and falling dactylically enough to cause
The fear-shed hairs of past appointmented breeds

To become wee whirls out on the tiles: “I am
Edna St. Vincent Millay, I am t’ one bē-lone
Here ably ā-quipped to zense tease tings out
With talents of enprivatised ā-motion—” Sin-

Clearly interrupted there: “I’ve never read you
To give a flying—” I talked up in my sleep there:
“I apologize for his sleeper truth.” (Only later
I’d find my words woke the wife.)] Her eyes

Ascend into theirs: “A distease t’ poet zenses
By zense bē-lone conveerms in deregardance
Of t’ teets of zience.” Now with her pointing
Finger – in obvious regard to the splayed mutt

– Edna St. Vincent Millay slashes her own throat,
And in a near logically contained Italian temper,
She bleeds out crushed tomatoes but does not die;
And we are all like, What a real shitty thing to do.

 

This is wannabe John Hospodka’s bi-weekly instructional blog.

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Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 38

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Your Average Douchebags

Armed as it is with a barbed remonstration against complacency, the inquiry assaults imagination daily: will Chalice Sinclearly’s soul ever spinster away from this inclination of his to under-skin his own defenselessness to the notion of death? The confliction dawns within random moments of Chalice’s, positively sickening in its repetitive surprise, much like the emergences of open sores during a VHS porn’s over-muffed surge to climax: When will be my moment to cancel out – in a split second collapse with the life crushed out of me like a spider intentionally stepped on? What if it’s just a thing of utter absence, this thing of death? Absence. Holy hell, I am going to die! My God, there is no fucking choice! Chalice’s fear of death is unrelenting, often demanding that he forks from his spooning in the wee hours to pace the wife’s century-plus-old home with an anxiety that borders on what today’s MFA candidates can only suppose the brown acid hallucinations translated to for the sonnet-building underground of the SLA years.

Chalice understands there is a certain element amongst us who remain unthreatened by death: them who daytrip into diverse culture from their egocentric earmarks sprawled throughout the domain of high school massacres, and struggle to parallel park while keeping their cells to their ears, chatting-up fellow adulterers over how to remain emotionally vague – them who never once in their days, not even in the winter evenings after their suppers when they sneak to their backyard porches with pours of middling, shitty Scotch and with flakey stogies, possess the self-deprecating wherewithal to strive for the humility of purpose (rather than the conceit of success) in the endeavor to build an intellectual essence up over their families’ heads.

Well, such are your average douchebags. …

Them who understand nothing about their heritage, a generation or more already beyond the correct pronunciation of their last names, they can see no further back into history than their last brag about how many hours they work; them for whom the advertising world’s promises of sustained youth and endless health and perpetual wealth are tangible, “revolutionary” notions (remember things like Tiger Woods for American Express: “Boundaries are for golf, not life”); them who while seated across from husbands who keep their ball caps on backwards at the dinner table, announce to their pre-school offspring, “Me and this man here who has long ago been ousted from the cast in my masturbation mind-screens moved down here from Cleveland or Michigan or wherever it was to become Cubs fans, and that’s why we’re here today in this vastly overvalued home in the heart of ever-gentrifying Logan Square. We’re here to make the city Whiter and more anti-Union for a while, all while feeling like we’re brave, adventurous, liberal, since we’re now into our 30’s and still living, after a whole decade now, in this massively Brown and Black and mentally-ill populated city. But don’t worry, there is a ‘burb out there with our unhyphenated name on it, and just before we need to enroll you in the education system, the same education system this thickening man here and me got nothing out of but the complacency to accept the realization that our imaginations are doomed to be collectively mini-vanned, we’ll pull out there to where the American Dream is embodied in a videoed meeting between a school psychiatrist and a bed-wetter in which a discussion of asparagus verges on inappropriateness. And there’ll be so much heroin out there in suburbia for your teen years – we’ll never need this city again! We’ll never need this Illegals-packed city ever, ever, again! We’ll start going to church; we’ll start voting; we’ll still never, never, need newspapers or journalists—we got Facebook! We’ll be Friends: you and all your junkie high school chums and your mid-forties, hip, hopefully divorced, MILFy mom; all of us sharing our moods and distrusts in Posts of all-consuming-love-of-self. Now let’s eat this wonderful frozen Whole Foods thing before your empathy gets cold, which it will – O, thank God it will!”

Being unfearful of death: this is a notion that can easily be confused as being a formidable attribute, a strength. But what this notion actually transmutes into is the characteristic known as complacency. Complacency means being OK with the present – means living unmoved by the past, unmotivated by the future. Complacency is anti-Moment 101. To exist inside complacency means to exist in the constant act of surrendering. Complacency is the characteristic of those of a generation (any generation) who tender no ingredients, bestow no measurements. They are hollow. They harbor no imagination; whip up for our records no challenges from scratch: followers of recipes; they risk nothing. They are based in the cosmetic, not in the gutsy.

In this basemented reality wherein resides one Chalice Sinclearly there is the constant challenge of living under a constant fear of a surprise attack from his fear of death. He exists inside displeasure, meaning he exists in the constant act of persevering. And it is this devouring invasive awareness that drives his judgment, tempers his choices: it is the perception of this trembling existence that the Lone Wolf Poet searches for through his art; it is by the perception of this trembling existence that the Lone Wolf Poet catches whiffs of bad art, calls out the douchebags who pass them.

 

This is wannabe John Hospodka’s bi-weekly instructional blog.

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Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 28

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Episode 28: An E-Mail to William Logan
Cc: James Comey
Bcc: August Kleinzahler; Garrison Keillor
Subject: Unwanted: Dead or Alive

“I wasn’t very long at Stony Brook when it occurred to me that the English department
had all the charm of a street fight where no one actually landed a punch.”
―Jim Harrison, Off to the Side

Great Day Mr. Logan:

Me again. You may recall my email to you some time ago, regarding my take on a certain somebody’s debut release. I have copied the FBI on this correspondence – my way of assuring you that these transmissions are not from a deranged stalker. I do not pose a danger, merely a threat (wink wink). 

Thank you for recently posting on the great and wide internet machine a link to your brief essay published in last Spring’s The Battersea Review. Funny story: a few hours after reading “The State of Criticism,” I viewed The Battered Bastards of Baseball for the first time. What a sublime combination. But what’s more, throughout the days since then I’ve been frequently harkening back to a spat my main man Hoz and I had some time back (by the by, this is one dude who you should actually try to get to know; he is, after all, trying his damnedest here to scribe my irreverent core into upstanding theory – God bless his sagged heart; Hoz is without doubt the exact kind you’re referring to within “The State of Criticism” when in your requisite aloof / collegiate-funded way, you concede, “These days, with the internet open at all hours, there is more criticism than ever and more poetry than ever. … A few of these critics are rabid, most are rhapsodic; but the usual sins do not attract the rare virtues. On occasion, you will find a reader dogged with purpose, one who scours the poetry carefully, has an idea or two, and who can write a few sentences that don’t make your eyes bleed. … I am glad for them. They are obviously men and women of leisure.”), it was a spat that ended with him duping me into encouraging him to grow a rattail, which the douche can’t even really do because he’s bald as shit. On his way to duping me he touched on something about how by avoiding crawling into the skin of Trash, American poets are occupying a limited, limiting, scope. … His dupe, your concession, the thoroughly American spirit of anti-establishment on display in The Battered Bastards of Baseball—well, I’ve been put in such a state these past days that my inner-delinquent – the exact delinquent to whom I pay homage when shopping at the Targè, searching out t-shirts whose very near futures on Chicago’s South Side (bang bang) promise to be sleeveless—the delinquent in me feels justified. In the past days I have found myself at complete peace with the paranoia that I will most probably always be looked upon as an unwanted voice – an unwanted voice within the one artistic ring into which I have always projected tossing my lifer hat.

I just knew you would want to hear from me. …

American poetry needs to aspire to be as irreverent as a noon-time fight taking place on a gravel parking lot over the fact that one dude deliberately touched one of the chunky breasts of the other dude’s significant other, a significant other who, incidentally, having just entered the second trimester of her unannounced and as of yet unnoticeable pregnancy, at first didn’t mind the passing fondle, however unasked for, and actually thought for a split-second of grabbing the offender and yanking him out the back door and pinning his ass against a Dumpster and forcing his way to the resolve of her thirst (his unit, the weathered burnish of a curved leather stock in want of conditioning – this, her imagination’s accompanying snapshot) while her old man continued to do shots and play pool and stuff singles into the jukebox—continued to ignore her in favor of playing the outlaw and taking trips to the john for a few snorts here and there. But that’s all that lady allowed herself for fantasy – a split-second; a snapshot – because the offender no sooner gave her a wink of an eye than she screamed out bloody hell to dig up the attention of her old man’s vengeance. And right now out on that gravel parking lot (one dude is wearing a Slayer T-shirt, the other dude stepped out back humming the opening verse of an Ozark Mountain Daredevils tune while unbuttoning his flannel), with knuckles and bile and grunts and denim and oily hair all Tasmanian Deviling amidst the whoops and curses of the intoxicated spectators and the occasional approving horn-blow of a passing semi, we readers capture the faint writhe of a psychiatric cultivation bring on a nuanced cleanse to the trap-like lines in that lady’s expression, and we sense her trialed conviction’s just abandoned her for a backbone-swallowed stomaching of where exactly she’s at in all of this; and we readers mouth a “Sweet Jesus” to the nonjudgmental gauge of the words hand-picked to whip her back into the tavern to go cram into the broom closet and force down as much cleanser as she can lay her hands on.

There’s a goddamn scene to get the pulse going. Right there’s some content, some American-born narrative of the plain-ass real-world’s condition. But it’s my guess the majority of the curators of the American poetry world are shuddering right now: OH, but I just hate fights, and drugs, and violence, and psycho-sexual brain thrusts; they’re all just so ugly and nasty. I hold to autumn sunbeams penetrating mountain mist, to frosted moss on fallen limbs just inside the edge of an eve-wanting woods, to the untouchable possibilities surrendered in the quiver of ruby-colored lips behind a sunshower-touched window of a public bus. … Copping Sons of Anarchy for an atmosphere is quite simply not the thing of taste. … But I’m not talking about that crap specifically, Mr. Logan; what I’m trying to get at is the emotion that goes behind the seemingly mindless totality of such a scene. Yes, it’s ugly; sure, it could feasibly be politically incorrect to the Lefty Looseys, morally abhorrent to the Great Right Hope, and way too genuine for the blanked-out snickers of hipster ironics*, but tough titties. 

I’m attempting to purvey an emotion that exudes a poetry that will not reside warmly alongside the careful MFA character of the majority of the poetry that is perpetually touted in our publications of esteem, even when said poetry is being touted as “fresh” or “hip.” I’m trying here to purvey an emotion that exudes a voice that actually stands the chance of removing American poetry from the lingering nonexistence of an American poetry culture whose discernment is rooted in the cause of making poetry less dreadful to the reading public. 

Now, I get it: the American reading public – the intellectually curious and creatively attuned American public – is already a limited population, and those within this population who care an iota about poetry is limited even more. I get it. But I figure the poet doesn’t have to settle with that – well, not if he or she hasn’t made of poetry a “career” that depends upon him or her settling into the “careerism” of a “system.” We can attract more; we don’t have to assimilate to the “system” – the few.

The poet’s got to be a dropout. (Here I must thank you, as I did in my previous email to you, for being a stepping stone in my ever-establishing suspicion that a poem deserves to be more than poetry, and that the poet must risk his or her stake in poetry for the sake of the poem.) The poet must reach out unapologetically towards irreverence, bringing to the poetry world’s set table an offering rendered from the heretofore “sophomoric” endeavor of entertainment. The poet needs to rip the tablecloth from under the table’s setting, and if nothing’s left standing, Oh the fuck well – if he or she manages to pull off the trick, Holy shit. … The poet should not be crafting for the safety of a classroom stuffed full with student debt holders; the poet should be the craft of a nasty-ass fisticuffs between strangers out on a gravel lot, a fisticuffs that just as it’s taken a sudden turn into being a knife and a broken bottle affair is halted by a waitress’s unworldly scream coming from inside the tavern. In this way, the emotion of poetry becomes an expression of spite for the scam that claims poetry is for brainiacs. The conception that a reader needs to be skilled or educated to enjoy poetry is an entrenched false reality; it is as invalidly entrenched in our poetry culture as the word “God” is being stamped on our currency and dangled from our politicians’ tongues. Separation of church and state is a motto to absolutely live by, strive for, in American culture; separation of classroom and poet must become the motto the American poetry culture lives by, strives for. …

You see, Mr. Logan, when brought in and being interrogated by today’s American poetry culture, the unwanted voice makes no excuses: knowing and accepting full well the fact that she or he is the possessor of a Lone Wolf nature, the unwanted voice assumes full accountability for his or her criminality. From behind a one-way mirror the legend-less legacies of American Poetry Awards watch on as under the lamp of a closed-door basement the unwanted voice exhales smoke into the American poetry culture’s face; and staring the interrogator square in the eyes, the unwanted voice, without pause, without stutter or a blink of the eyes, sings like a canary, throwing his or her poem straight under the bus. … After all, that’s where the “system” has been throwing poetry’s potential readership for a long while now.

Cheers,
Chalice Sinclearly

 

*This is the second time I’ve used “hipster ironic” within an episode. My thinking is entirely derived from Christy Wampole. ~J.H.

 

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Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 25

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A Conventiently Self-Satisfying Manifesto
(The First of Many?)

It seems as though some unseen, omnipresent agent of “This second! Right now! Now! Now!” rides upon today’s vernacular breezes, surging the human condition into needing to be defined in the terms of immediacy. Within this age of Gizmobation the human condition has increasingly become saturated with the promise that immediate entitlement to expertise and that being immediately heard are tangible, acceptable, notions. (Notice how more and more folks are more and more talking over everyone within “conversations” because more and more folks are believing they know more than most and so have no time to listen?) And certainly, the DIY culture of self-publishing (blogging) is derivative of this province of immediacy.

In his or her willfully basemented, unpeopled, enterprise, the Lone Wolf Poet must not acquiescence to today’s human condition’s need to be defined in the terms of immediacy. The Lone Wolf Poet must refuse, by all means necessary, to be inconsequential to the growth of perspective, and so must elucidate a stringent (albeit a tad pigheaded) conviction to the no-nonsense illumination of how mutinous perfection in the poem, and so in the poet-life, is achieved:

  • First and foremost, never treat poetry as the thing of a career; poetry is anti-career in its nature.
  • Understand life is greater than poetry—poetry is never worth dying over, never worth dying for. Time is for living; so obsess over living, forget poetry—poetry attacks only in sporadic, Bam!-like, moments (see final bullet).
  • Know: the poem is never, ever, created in a single draft; or in two, or in even three, four, five, for that matter.
  • Once the poem is to your mind completed, put it away for a few months, forget about it. The longer the better, actually – put it away for a year, two even. The poem must become detached from the passion of its creation and its creator in order for it to unearth the means to its full realization.
  • In this time of absence—and to be sure, this will not be an absolute absence, you will on occasion come back to the poem for instances of conditioning—allow yourself to give up all hopes of having the poem published anywhere but in the self-published book-home you’re building for it and its kin. This will save the poem from unnecessarily growing up too fast, from missing out on a fully fleshed out childhood and young adulthood – sweet-ass delinquency and all. … (Some might contend that not seeking to have a poem published is counterproductive, that in that the poem becomes a shut-in, the poet performing a societal – moral? – disservice by not allowing for the poem to become “socialized” before it is experienced in its self-published book-home. And, of course, some might contend that not seeking to have a poem published before it appears in its self-published book-home is a direct indicator of the poet’s fear of the mental anguish derived from having a poem rejected over and over again. The Lone Wolf Poet fully acknowledges the accuracy of these accusations: indeed, they are intricate elements within the irreverent heart of the Lone Wolf Poet’s paranoid art.)
  • And so detached for a good length of time, come back to the poem removed from the poet who was once lurking inside the Moment 101—the fervor—of crafting it. It is bump up time: it is time to recognize the poem for the character it wants to be; it is time to recognize the poet’s say is no mas – the poem is no longer in that fool’s hands. Come back to the poem more weathered, less concerned for its vitality than you are skeptical of its temporality. 

For in the end, the Lone Wolf Poet – Chalice—my man—Sinclearly – aspires to position the poem on the side of the reader, not on the side of poetry. 

 

This is wannabe John Hospodka’s bi-weekly instructional blog.

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Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 16

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“Advice to Young Poets Who Want to Dropout”

Good. And know: Priceless time is the time spent
Away from poetry. Screw entitlement – the hour
Given to write per day, per week, will strain full
Presence straight up from your moment’s depths.
Grow up. Be a plumber. School is death. Death is
Not a poem. Poetry is never worth dying over. Stay
Clear of hanging with the mid-day poets; under-
Stand absence is the clear compassion. … Grow
Up. Know: School’s not worth even speaking of.
School is too insular for outsiders – reach out
For differences, never for opposites. Be critical
Of parenting if only because parents pass you
To school. Know: Blame invents unreason, where
-As reason tends to invent that which is to blame.
Forgive parents, but never forgive school. Doubt
Passion but deal with it. Befriend plumbers, know:
There is right, there is wrong. Answers tend to be
Right or wrong: Subjectivity exists, only in the pre-
Emptive strikes of the real world. … Stay clear of
Poetry Slams – a crowd such as that is as reactive
As the media are to the manifestos of juvenile mass
Killers. Know: The constriction of time emblazons
The Lone Wolf Poet’s gift. Buy rounds for plumbers.
Be absent in the eyes of poetry writers, be public
In the reading lists of Crime Fiction critics. Barely
Earn your diploma, hang it on a basement wall, dust
It regularly – any prop must be thought to aloud:
“School’s not worth even speaking over.” … We do
Not need mid-day poets rousing student bodies 
To purge from accountability: We need midnight 
Poets to pussy the uncomplicated away from career.
Young poets who hate school: Good. Save our time.

 

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Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 14

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Eke of the Jagoff

Under battery-fed candlelight, ahead of these so many more griefy years of withdrawing claim from the other’s conformity, this fatigue cheek-swishes a room temperature wish (as fatigue’s tongue is wont to have done over it when behind self-editorial doors – tests to see how long it can behold taste before needing to come up for air), and without outsider input weighs as an outsider which Tempter of the binary two – yes, two; yes, binary – a groundwork addicted chump-ass will align his word choices with while they come to life on the page before him to – as he is too in this very moment – peer up at the sky and stamp down on the dead—this fatigue cheek-swishes a wish into a warm swallow (air begets aftertaste), and ponders which of the two manipulators of heart-strings-tied detachments Chalice Sinclearly will be fully present for. But even that; and even though Sinclearly repeats himself constantly, fixated as he is on reading his own mid-life bewilderments aloud in this echo-shamed basement we’ll happily label as our “Shelter from the Storm,” and on having himself a skilled sob every few months, going to YouTube to view that one of that one mother duck who cried to police officers to help rescue her ducklings from a sewer, and the cops damn-well did, and them ducklings were so excited to get back to their momma, and they surrounded her with little leaps and quacks, cheering out “Momma, Momma, Momma!” and that mother duck was so overjoyed she touched each offspring on its head with her bill to make certain each was accounted for while also assuring each he or she was once again safe in Momma’s presence—even though all of this, this fatigue will assure you, Chalice Sinclearly is all man. … All man, even though his fellow man is beginning to make him feel more and more like man’s bitch – man’s fibs having become lazier, becoming as they have more bent in towards the other’s cool—hell, Sinclearly believed three things would happen when mankind matured: mankind would stop squirting ketchup onto weenies, would stop rooting for The Friendly Confines, and would begin to recognize that authentic criticism is not composed of the cosmetic questions of our vitality, but of the gutsy questions of our temporality. … Even though his fellow man ekes the jagoff out of him (as a measure of brainy self-defense he now crouch-walks and snaps fingers when coming up to any of our bricks-and-mortar bookshops), this fatigue will assure you, Chalice Sinclearly is all man. … Assured, he’s a special kind of freaking flake, his design a singular phenomenon, never quite way too opposite. But below this fatigue’s gauzy microscope, inside this committed moment down here, he’s being a variant waif of too-mindful angles. … And he can blow me.

 

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Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 12

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“In Prospective Distaste for Alt-Lit Culture (An Essay)”
For English Majors circa 1988

Shan’t imbue sulked dispatch of full-sleeved disciplinarians
Such cool let in arm’s length cloys our wits like typo’s trend
Taketh a Google of Zooey’s bath scene: a search all pretend
Lest Sinclearly stamps the blue balls of paper-free librarians

Lest Sinclearly stamps the blue balls of paper-free librarians
Foregone is a time scribes answered to in names not herds
So dispose of ticklish PC as we do of not our own dog’s turds
Achy tugs stalk the tronic broadsheets of gauged sectarians

Achy tugs stalk the tronic broadsheets of gauged sectarians
Whilst the quiet of a poetry sale obscures the poets on sale
Critical thought couches as a reference to Mom’s tat’s tale
Spokes rattle away, poemless, across pot-holed libertarians

Spokes rattle away, poemless, across pot-holed libertarians
Senior publishers run the credit-cardless off 1st Edition Rd.
Ghost Bikes plot evidence of the Lone Wolf’s awakened code
To snarl legible cursive amid the cash of future proletarians

 

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