Wednesday, May 23, 2007



In the new issue of The Poker, a new “Draft” by Rachel Blau DuPlessis, number’d 75, titled “Doggerel.” Its epigraph is a couplet by the eighteenth century “Weaver” poet John Bancks:
Who would succeed, as well as greatly think,
Must sing by Rule, and ne’er in language sink.
Pure (“unruled”) language a bog, a trap, shifty ground, a suck-hole. DuPlessis ends the piece with a contradictory couplet:
We need more mixage-drivel, less straight-edged bevel.
We need poetry played on the mishegoss level!
Initially, what drew me: the word mishegoss, variant of mishegaas or meshugaas, a word I never heard before marrying a New York City-born and raised up woman, a word I warrant I’d never seen written (though it’s daily speech “in the household”), Yiddish-borrow’d slang for something like “crazy, senseless, messy activity or behavior.” One sees a lot of it “in these parts.”

Or, next, I think (odd moral querulous petulance pitching up the vocables): is that right? I mean, in a mishegoss “era” whyn’t call out for something besides a bigger mess, say, some cotton-to-able classicism, some pegged-down provisional camp tent against the mere raw hallooing off over the gadget-fill’d mercantile abyss of empire, something of obvious use. Which’d require something more ’n a slovenly (lazy) imagination. Which is not to suggest DuPlessis’s is so (slovenly): the doggerel piece is too complicated for that—she’s (partly) posing, Holy Irritant and wholly irritated.

Though, of late, in various quarters (I’ve done it myself) the calls go out—for “bad poetry,” for a kind of reflex (reflux) disgorging as, it is hint’d, a purer response to the general chaos and the planet’s incipient kaputnik orbiting, for stolid preconceived perpetual mishegoss. Which is not at all the same thing as, say, Nicanor Parra saying, En poesía se permite todo. (“In poetry everything is permitted.”) There’s the wooden clatter of the man trapped between the sandwich boards (invincible as advertising) to all that mishegoss-mongering, there’s the muck of the ideologue pull’d down into the earth, rather ’n tugged forth (with Blaise Cendrars forceps) to goad one’s citizenry with the loud besmirching of infinite possibles! Besides, bad poetry? How’d one know? There’s nearly nothing but! Parra:
Pero la poesía fue un desastre
Surrealismo de segunda mano
Decadentismo de tercera mano,
Tablas viejas devueltas por el mar.
Poesía adjetiva
Poesía nasal y gutural
Poesía arbitraria
Poesía copiada de los libros
Poesía basada
En la revolución de la palabra
En circunstancias de que debe fundarse
En la revolución de las ideas.

The poetry a complete disaster
Hand-me-down surrealism
Salvation Army thrift shop decadence
Old charts and planks heaved up by the sea
Ejaculate poetry
The nyah nyah poetry of the guttersnipes
Arbitrary poetry
Poetry copy’d out of books
Poetry lowering itself
To the “revolution of the word”
In circumstances when it ought to find its ass
In a revolution of ideas!
Every morning I climb a long hill, low-gearing the bicycle, pedaling hard, barely advancing. Pass a light pole shaggy with noticias dehiscing, cock-eyed, overlaid, flailing in the breeze. One’s a flyer for “Bringing Trashy Back,” a band, I gather. And I think of the ease of that “trashy” next to the grounds crew aimlessly circling the Diag on the big mowers, or, hid somewhere, turning spigots to make the lawn sprinklers erupt like clockwork. “Trashy” like what? Like Gaza, like Fallujah, like Mogadishu? (There the vocables go again, pitching up to a whine of moral one-upmanship, a kind of distemper’d howl for the rabble to temper its heigh-ho jiggy, make a poem something more ’n a cough-in-the-fist wipe on the pants.) Yuh.

Nicanor Parra