Todd Hido, 2523 (from House Hunting, 1996-2001), c-print, 24 × 20 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pierogi Flat Files.
Peter Moysaenko So goes the story that James Wright, upon reading his son’s first attempts at verse, wrote to him, “I’ll be damned. You’re a poet. Welcome to hell.” Do you figure that a poem serves as a manner of balm or as an extremity probing a wound: does a fit poem aim at the amplification of human feeling or does its task rather concern an approach of quietude, of reconciliation?
Dawn Marie Knopf The image of the poet puts significant pressure on the poet and on poetry. How easily can we conjure up images of a lonely, white-clad Dickinson or a disheveled Berryman contemplating the bridge? For better or worse, we inherit these images because we place biography alongside poetry—through introductions written by esteemed critics, the first five minutes of a literature class, or the rumor chain whispered at the hip parties of today. The poet might even, but not necessarily, braid biography into a poem. The thing is, everyone suffers. Life is suffering. No one is touched by the poetry divining rod just because they live in Hell on Earth (oh and the poetry divining rod is myth too). The poet’s mental health is beside the point. I’ve grown tired of this celebration of the madness of the maker. What we should celebrate is the sensational madness in the poem. We should celebrate the muscle car exploding past the makeshift checkered flag. We should celebrate art roaring, which, strangely, can only be achieved through quiet and emotionally astute seduction. When it comes down to it, a poem’s success can be measured by how quietly the poet observes a fire-breathing, murderous riot.
Feedback startles each paying customer. The mic, we find, is too close
to the speaker. The blacktop whispers on & on Come lay it down. Says,
Come find a place dark enough to watch the Perseids. The pinkgold streetlights
stare down the chronos & aura, this city a competing star. What, with
Jamestown’s hounding about Old-News-Elvis, I’ve had to give him what they
call an illustration. We resurrect the Scout with the battered parts from Pick ‘n’
Pull junkyard outside Fresno & drive & drive. This is the time Christ fashions
a whip out of chords in the Temple. Don’t you talk about something you
don’t know nothing about, I say out the window. On the highway, Time
collapses even on our loved ones, who suffer sunlessly. The simulacra resemble
no original, then alter all that is behind us. The Archive does often distasteful
I watch you. I watch you. I watch you.
At night the streets are black rivers. I see no one. I round the corner news
stands—vulgar & handsome—to greet you where all of time is thick around us.