More Radiant Signal - Juliana Leslie
Two new books are out from Letter Machine Editions. Here are a couple poems from one of them, Juliana Leslie’s More Radiant Signal.
Department of the Interior
A Little Sound in the Middle of Simone
Searching for a Heartbeat in Poetry & Music
Because language is a pendulum you need a ticket to ride, the further the distance from the world an art object can be, while maintaining a communion with the world, the greater its possibility for achieving the future. Or perhaps the closer to the world an art object can be, while maintaining its distance?
Words, however, come with their own forced marches. While you blink, they make fun of you. Still, they remain useful.
What might it mean to “achieve the future”? Simile? Metaphor? Analogy? Simile is clever, it’s an association. What about metaphor? Where is the line it crosses to become analogy? Parable?
It’s why they liked Pee Wee Herman and Ronald Reagan, in one life, and “realism” in the next. Realism is always comedy. Comedy though, is never realism.
That poetry is made of “words” and not “ideas” makes for a good line, but it misses the point. That a poem is made of words puts too much emphasis on getting the “best words” in the “best order.” That’s only part of the case. It makes people want to create apt similes. This spoon is just like my mother. When I look into it, I see myself reflected back upside down. And on and on.
Where is the line realism crosses into surrealism, when we allow for desire? And then we call it Psychological Realism, or perhaps Hypnagogic Realism. Where is the line that separates art from hypnology?
Poems are just as much—or I would argue, more—a project of getting, or setting, the messier parts of language and/or thinking in an arrangement, or sequence, that holds. It’s the sequence of words, not the best word that interests me.
Because of this, maybe, I have a difficult time defining metaphor for myself, beyond the easy denotation. Simile seems weak. Metaphor strong . . . but where does metaphor end and “direct presentation of the thing” begin? That feels best. A place to get to. And how does one make that jump?
What are the Leaping Poetry of Robert Bly and The New Sentence of Ron Silliman if not ways to enact enigmatic forms of metaphor? Isn’t juxtaposition a form of comparison? The reader must compare and contrast constantly while reading to make meaning.
(These examples are chosen through the use of an Ouija board.)
All things written are concepts. There’s great error in pretending otherwise. And great error in taking an easy walk with a faulty gait. We compare things to get at how things are. Which is how we are. We experience the difference and the similarity of things to bring ourselves into context. Someone else would say “focus.”
Classifying poets as either simile-loyal or metaphor-loyal can be a fun party game, but it ignores the necessary metaphorical underpinnings of the art act itself. Which can lead to fame and fortune, but what does it profit you if you lose your soul?
I could say these things, but I’d have to wear the blood suit, and I fear blood.
How negative can capability get? How capable can negativity get? (As a series of guesses.)
I love you because you are a metaphor for me.
Can’t we get away from ourselves? Shouldn’t we want to?
Does metaphor help more than simile does? Or is metaphor a smoke screen, a misty version of direct presentation?
We sing as a form of toweling off. We run out of our houses and into the streets to dance.
Some out-of-context quotes for the travel weekend that were sent to me in a pair of emails this morning:
(His new book, Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking: Airport Novel is on my to-do list.)
Instead of a photograph, A, that merely repeats something, a souvenir or keepsake, I wanted this to resemble nothing but itself, and thus to capture the blankness and non-theatrical spaces of the world ‘out there.’ The least repetitive photographs are the photographs that make us forget the things that we love. That is why most landscapes are so boring to look at. A beautiful landscape is like a beautiful photograph is like a beautiful landscape is like a beautiful photograph. Such photographs erase people, relatives, household objects, other photographs, and landscapes at a steady velocity. That is why it is normally so difficult to fall in love with the same person twice.
In paintings, all emotions become the symbols of things that they are not.
Everything that is beautiful waits to be forgotten completely by what it is not.
A Little Middle of the Night
Underneath (Side Effects)
We play the Make This Shape into Something game and he says
you always make the same shape. It grows worse, like a body.
Similarly, I like “heaven forbid” but it means nothing to me. That doesn’t mean
there is nothing underneath. That doesn’t mean the underneath is full of me.
A small part of what I’ve seen has lead me to believe this.
Including the fake things. Mostly I believe there is no me. So, listen,
I’m afraid of where I’ll go under the anesthesia. Don’t think
belief is uninterruptible. There is a reason, then there is murder, forgetfulness.
Normal and not normal. In my dream, Mom brings me a tassel of robin’s feet.
I have an owl in a cage exactly the size of its body. It escapes just moments later.
Like a Sea
Each H (V)
Something to be said for how long
what has been growing
along the road, has been growing
along a road, must change how
it grows. Louder then,
when you see the sign GUNS
has an actual white picket fence
around it. Around where
the little blue houses start
everywhere with what they collect
the position between
arbitrary and how long has it been
since you were assigned some-
thing? Look, they have
a harbor, and where the dock is
gone someone left the poles in.
edges rests, settled
between poles, one feels this
like being still doesn’t worry
us, this is what we have
chosen, to value this
looks like we have chosen before.
Dissertation on hipster irony?
The Gaudy Side of Town
Yes, that’s Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) back there on the Auto-tune. They’re having fun and playing it straight.
You can download the song for free today at the Amazon.com mp3 store. Just sayin.
Faded High (Live on City of Music)
On the album they do a version of Godley and Creme's "Cry." They also do a version of Godley and Creme's video for it. Whew. And with an appearance of either Godley or Creme, I never knew which was which.
Godley & Creme
Yes, it's supposed to be Godley & CREME. People are alwasy spelling it wrong. Alas.
That's what I've been upto this morning. How about you?
Here's a bit more on the album (heh heh, he just said "Moron"):
Paste: Has the response to the album been what you expected? Critics seem divided as to whether the album is intended to be taken seriously or as a joke.
Olson: It’s interesting that people have any opinion on it. It’s not a Weird Al album. It’s not a joke. If critics want to use the album to write a dissertation on hipster irony, though, they can go to town. It’s pointless for me to tell them any more plainly than the album itself what it’s about. It is interesting to see how people get fired up about it, though. I think some people are afraid that the album is an inside joke that they’re not in on. Like, if you like it, you’re being made fun of. That’s not the intention. There are definitely some quasi-guilty pleasures on the album, but we’re referencing them for a reason.
Coulter: People can read into the album however they want. With the last song on the album, there’s definitely some humor there—we can’t deny that. But the lyrics are serious, and the songs I wrote are just as deep as the songs I write for other projects. It was fun to make, and we were definitely having a great time and joking around record it, but when it comes down to it, all the music that was being played, and all the music that was written was definitely serious—at least my stuff was, I shouldn’t speak for everybody else. If people want to take it as a humorous project, that’s fine, but I think people can take a lot away from it as serious music.
A few Rae Armantrout suggestions, from VEIL – New and Selected Poems (2001):
How many constants should there be?
The slick wall of teeth?
The white stucco
at the corner,
flag on its perch
“Get to the point!”
as if before dark—
as if to some bench
near a four-way stop.
At what point does
replace the nest
and the body
of a parent?
redundant but syncopated.
The secret is
you can’t get to sleep
with a quiet mind;
you need to follow a sentence,
inward or downward,
as it becomes circuitous,
path-like, with tenuously credible
foliage on either side of it—
but you’re still not sleeping.
You’re conscious of the metaphoric
contraption; it’s too jerky,
too equivocal to suspend you
And Nature was the girl who could spin
babies out of dustballs
until that little man
who said he had a name showed up
and wanted them
or wanted to be one
or a cast of cartoon
characters assigned to manage
so even Adam and Eve discovered
they somehow knew the punchline:
the snake would swallow
the red bomb
Why is sleep’s border guarded?
On the monitors
professional false selves
make self-disparaging remarks.
There’s a sexy bored housewife,
very Natalie Wood-like,
sighing, “Men should win”—
but the only thing that matters
is the pace of substitution.
You feel like trying to escape
from her straight-arrow husband
and her biker boyfriend
You can’t believe
you’re on Penelope’s Secret.
A suitor waits
to be hypnotized
The very flatness
makes for nostalgia
in the connoisseur.
Here’s the latest
little lip of wave
and spread thin.
it shows our recklessness,
our fast gun,
which was really
with our own fame,
the easy way
we’d blend in
with the peasantry,
to our old gang
from among whom
it was our nature
to be singled out
A brand new book, suggested by G.C. Waldrep:
The Bark of the Dog
SAGE IN SEPTEMBER
Sprigs for sunrise,
sprigs for Taos, and soldiers
on the steep blue sea.
The slopes of Taos,
true south, building, firing
to the aspen smoulder-golden—
sage for the cello in its breeze.
Sprigs for small things
rousted, on the run, Septembered.
Flocks of longspurs slipping down
the continent by night. Sage for them,
moving through the mesh
of the dangerous starlight.
FOR LUTE AND TROMBONE
Darwin's deep-set monkey eyes
sad as sand. A woman,
then a man, go door to door
through Quercus City, all
the thousand oak jokes
falling off the bone. Blackstrap:
a pack of curs
the kind we like: rounds
of beer: to the death of a seer—
the bobolink think tank
left at the gates
of the town.
I. Piano Practice
I used to dream
of men like deer,
one leg green, spotted
like a frog,
the other yellow
flecked with black
or red (hail, small suns,
or eagle-bees), maybe
a slice of dentalium
through the ear.
It made it difficult
to focus on the keys.
to walk around as if
there were no dawn, no noon,
No driving in to Tallahassee
from the sticks?
The blue jays have a call
in late September
jibes with both extortion
Another poem suggestion from the comment stream:
The Rejection Group
“You are an interesting species.”
--Alien addressing Jodie Foster, through a holograph of her character’s dead father, toward end of the movie ‘Contact.’
The whole gymnasium is encrusted in sweat: the stationary bikes, the bolted rowers, the track that comes back to its start, the dead weights. The apparatus Donne hung from like a milk-pale bat, the medicine ball Dickinson rolled for measureless black--dross, these, in lichen and scum, for all your encrusted sweat.
We’ve had it with your strutting and grovel, your refusals to wipe the habiliments after use; we’ve grown weary of your wet seductive wear, your affected grunts and awful smells, not to mention all the wedding parties in chunks on the passes of the Kush--they never quite made it into your experiments, it seems. That is why we are closing the whole area for cleaning and remodeling. Sometimes one just has to start from scratch.
Come back in fourteen billion years.
Don’t tell us you can’t.
Good luck. It won’t seem long.
The whole classroom is encrusted in tears: the maps and the globes, the desks and the gowns, the gradebooks and the paddle. The dunce hat Lorca wore on his crown, serene and glowing in the falangist armoire, the chalkboard where Akhmatova dug sonnets with her nails--clumps, these, of goop and mold, for all your encrusted tears.
We’ve grown hound-tired of your infant treading, your little gasps just above the fluid line; we’ve had it with your teacher-pet cries, your conniving praises and calculated slights, not to mention all the children of the Congo, waving their little shoulder stumps in puzzled hurt--they never quite made it into your experiments, it seems. That is why we are closing the whole area for suction and purification. Sometimes one just has to start from scratch.
Come back in seven million reincarnations.
Don’t tell us you can’t.
Good luck. You won’t even notice you’ve been gone.
The whole convention hive is encrusted in gob: the programs and IDs, the Power Point remotes, the cash bars in predestined cells, the infinite exhibit of secreted wares, which extends for miles underground. The car of contents Creeley careened down the long, formal dark, the bluish enfants Césaire swathed in cotton wrap--glutinous, these, in glop and crud, for all your encrusted gob.
We’ve burst our coop of hens and hogs with all your clucks and squeals, midst your habits of feigning nonchalance; we’ve sprung a gush in the seabed sump of our sufferance for your googling and oh-so-tip-toe wont, not to mention all the circumcised little girls cowering in those nice post-colonial spots, they never quite made it into your experiments, it seems. That is why we’re boarding up the whole area until it’s choked with vines thick as twenty minotaur thighs. Sometimes one just has to start from scratch.
Come back when half of all the sentient beings in all the universes have been saved.
Don’t tell us you can’t.
Good luck. Just lie back and enjoy it.
The whole writing retreat is encrusted in cum: the porch and the cane chairs, the four-posted beds and the lamps, the deer on the grounds, the moleskin and the cup. The garret stairs Celan climbed, trailing his Heidegger cocoon, the oven where Plath baked her glowworm scones--encased, these, in glaciers of slime, for all your encrusted cum.
We’ve lost our patience with your masturbatory élan, your wild and ecstatic bleats; we’ve had it to the scalp with your self-regarding blab, your recycled tricks and your gossip-fueled ways, not to mention all the people self-tearing their throats in Gaza with gurgling despair--they never quite made it into your experiments, it seems. That is why we are closing the whole area for scrubbing and quarantine. Sometimes one just has to start from scratch.
Come back after ten thousand great extinctions, not counting the next asteroid.
Don’t tell us you can’t.
Good luck. It will seem like a nap.
Poets, wake up.
The whole Field is encrusted in time: the golden towns and the holograph böökes, the hovering raiment and the flowering drinks, the wormhole forms and the five-dimensioned bidets. The black chips pressed to your ears look super, it makes us recall that ancient shot of Spicer listening to the incunabulum, do you recall it now. The point is that quark and lepton are massed anew, melodically, in your skulls; look at you here, sheathed in dimensionless edge of Wave, forward and back, in Dream of Category of Mind, which is leading edge of aforesaid unfathomable Wave, you are quite the catch. One day we hope you will write of this, puzzling how it is you got back to where you are (though you really never left), not forgetting vast Humor and Pain is much the engine of it. We have waited for your tiny spots of light to wink and blink, for the faint beep of your incandescent phones and morphs, for the shy sign of your repentance. We foretold your weeping and yearning, the nub of your esoteric drive, and your hair extended back to glistening points three feet behind your heads; we foresaw your new modes of lyric wreathed to the cusp of nameless Being, modes inside Being bearing you forth, or whatever, we’re getting carried away. Forgive us our enthusiasms, but it’s true. We mean we saw you poised so patiently for redemption there. Sometimes one just has to start all over again. That is why we are reopening the whole Field for repopulation by your obsidian desire.
Welcome back after all these eons; bring the radiating language of your ridiculous, miraculous brains back tomorrow, too.
Don’t tell us you can’t; this is probably your last chance.
You are an interesting species. Chase the hornéd horse with all of your might into the sun.
Another poem suggestion from the comment stream:
The Game Changed
The phantasmic imperium is set in a chronic
state of hypnotic fixity. I have absolutely
no idea what the fuck you’re talking about
was his reply, and he wasn’t laughing,
either, one of the most repellent human beings
I’ve ever known, his presence a gross and slippery
lie, a piece of chemically pure evil. A lawyer—
although the type’s not exclusive to lawyers.
A lot of different minds touch, and have touched,
the blood money in the dummy account
in an offshore bank, washed clean, free to be
transferred into a hedge fund or a foreign
brokerage account, at least half a trillion
ending up in the United States, with more to come.
I believe I told you I’m a lawyer. Which has had
little or no effect on a certain respect
I have for occurrences that suggest laws
of necessity. I too am thinking of it
as a journey—the journey with conversations
otherwise known as the Divina Commedia
is how Osip Mandelstam characterized Dante’s poem.
Lebanon? I hear the Maronite Patriarch
dares the Syrians to kill him, no word
from my grandfather’s side of the family
in the Shouf. “There are circles here”—
to quote the professor of international
relations and anthropology—“Vietnam, Lebanon,
and Iraq . . . Hanoi, Beirut, and Baghdad.”
The beggar in Rome is the beggar in Istanbul,
the blind beggar is playing saxophone,
his legs covered with a zebra-striped blanket,
the woman beside him holding an aluminum cup,
beside them, out of a shopping bag, the eyes
of a small, sick dog. I’m no pseudoaesthete.
It’s a physical thing. An enthusiasm,
a transport. The melancholy is ancient.
The intent is to make a large, serious
portrait of my time. The sun on the market
near Bowling Green, something red, something
purple, bunches of roses and lilacs. A local
issue for those of us in the neighborhood.
Not to know what it is you’re breathing
in a week when Black Hawk helicopters resume
patrolling the harbor. Two young men
blow themselves up attaching explosives
on the back of a cat. An insurgency:
commandos are employed, capital is manipulated
to secure the oil of the Asian Republics.
I was walking in the Forties when I saw it—
a billboard with a background of brilliant
blue sky, with writing on it in soft-edged,
irregularly spaced, airy-white letters
already drifting off into the air, as if they’d
been sky-written—“The World Really Does
Revolve Around You.” The taxi driver rushes
to reach his family before the camp is closed—
“There is no way I will leave, there is no way—
they will have to kill us, and, even if
they kill every one of us, we won’t leave.” Sweat
dripping from her brow, she picks up the shattered,
charred bones. She works for the Commission
on Missing Persons. “First they kill them,”
she says, “then they burn them, then they cover them
with dead babies . . .” Neither impenetrable opacity
nor absolute transparency. I know what I’m after.
The entire poem is finished in my head. No,
I mean the entire poem. The color, the graphic
parts, the placement of solid bodies in space,
gradations of light and dark, the arrangements
of pictorial elements on a single plane
without a loss of depth . . . This habit of wishing—
as if one’s mother and father lay in one’s heart,
and wished as they had always wished—that voice,
one of the great voices, worth listening to.
A continuity in which everything is transition.
To repeat it because it’s worth repeating. Immanence—
an immanence and a happiness. Yes, exquisite—
an exquisite dream. The mind on fire
possessed by what is desired—the game changed.
Here's another poem suggestion from the comment stream:
"It is the living who cannot"
It is the living who cannot
live without the dead,
who wish them
who need their presences,
held her hand, Eurydice’s,
to lead her
back to earth out of
the gulf of Hades,
It is not so much
who need us
(as we think they do)
& that reconciliation
we long for, that knowledge
of each other to the uttermost,
which could assuage us,
one step beyond it & suffer us
to long for them.
If they could
return, it would be out of
patience with us merely: their need to
console us. For somehow an indifference
possesses them, for all their tenderness
& they see beyond us,
what they see seems to us
Here’s one of the poems that was suggested from the comment stream from the last blog post. As I get and find others, I’ll post them as I can.
IMAGINARY POEMS FOR THE OLD-FASHIONED FUTURE
1. Sooner or later I'm going to have to talk about the white house and how the men there don't seem to like big butt women.
2. There will also be a praise poem for the smartest, strongest, and/or fastest human alive should he or she live in a region with no reporters, printing presses, indoor plumbing etc.
3. And further additional efforts to demonstrate the ways my undoubtedly brilliant mind transforms day to day happenings into stuff. (parts 1-30)
4. A poem by someone named Lester Sea. Someone named Lenore. Headline sonnets maybe. Titles ripped from the annuls of jazz bebop, no doubt.
5. Written in seat 9A between Chicago and Traverse City. Little shacks with stoves on the big iced lake. (Fish cakes in the stoves.)
6. Four long titled poems transcribing recipes into poems using color, shape-senses, and the pronoun I where ever there is a the.
7. An "I love big" button somewhere. ("I love you, Portly, don't let em take me...")
8. Part I "Viscous circus"; Part II "Victory Circle"; Part III "Vicious Service" and if there be a Part IV "Very Surly"
9. "Dwell," "Furl," maybe. Girlish laughter in the pipes. (Keep talking, we know the same people.)
10. "The Short Age" followed by "The Us Age" followed by "The Bond Age" followed by "The Volt (or Re-volt) Age" followed by "Dose Ages," "Mile Ages" and "Out Ages." (See appendix)
11. Definitions of Divine Imaging, Speed Lightening, and Gerimantic Racial Demography. (Pronunciations of logistic as lowgetstick; stroll as scroll)
12. Half a dozen one hundred line attempts at resolving the poem: "I come from a long line of..."
13. A stanza rhyming bric-a-brac, brick-a-black, and papa bag.
I found a website where one can make a movie from text and I had fifteen minutes to kill. So here you go, for election day.
The Trouble with the Way Things Are
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