Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Strategies of falsehood

O sentiments sitting beside my bed
what are you thinking? of an ebony vase?
of a pail of garbage? of memorizing Whitman?
You are leaning on my elbow backwards.

What are you doing, my darling sentiments?
You are indeed bored. Can it be that I'm asleep?
Shall you stride on the shingle with an oar
in your hands, or beach my heart, my barnacled?

You would let me lay in bed all day,
free to drown in your wing-beatings as you fled
past and past my glazed, teary-from-the-breezes heart,
which is not going to open up and look out any more.

The great project of the new American government, to pulverize humane society into anomie through every pore of its apparatus, relies on sustained pummelings of humiliation by every available means. This afternoon, one of its pluperfect practitioners of vitriol, chosen for those qualities to be Attorney General of the United States, will carry out that task before every camera in the country, that can be conducted to the Senate. Again the beating will be inflicted, to cushioning huzzahs of Republicans on the dais, and especially from Rubio, to be rewarded soon with a crushing blow to relations with Cuba. What this nation can be conditioned to tolerate is written well enough in that revolting legacy of the Cold War; this new American government is but a sentimental monument to a transparent continuity.

So many of its rhymes are audible clarions of one reflex after another, tempered and tested for decades in demagogy's cauldron here, that I don't know why we aren't collecting this literature more meticulously as we go. But we do have another, incalculably more prolific in its tributaries than this procrustean lode of manipulation and force. As the poet Kenneth Koch wrote in The New Republic, "In its music and its language and in its conception of the relation of poetry to the rest of life, [O'Hara's] is a poetry which .. changed poets and others, and which promises to go on moving and changing them for a long time to come."

Refreshment rises to occasion, not to custom. Given the occasions mounted by this government, I shouldn't wonder that this language will do it in.  

Frank O'Hara
Donald Allen
  Dolce Colloquio
  Poetry, May 1970
University of California Press

Ryan Matthews

Kees Scherer
  Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon
  at MoMA

Matthias Lauridsen

Pier, 1950s, anonymous

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