By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
How do I want it?
Abrupt as seams in jeans, in the stutterings of workshopping writers and community writing groups and the burblings of honorable MFA students and in those who hand-stitch the spines of fine poetry journals and in coarsely grained zines and Kinko-bound novellas, in short-shorts made proud and maudlin and sweetly masturbatory, in novels pitted with bits of history like pimientos because you have to account for everything, in poetry that coddles points of view as innumerable and pesky as fleas on a pooch, in nonfiction essays that honestly reek of their manipulations, in criticism keyed to human infinity, in wheat-pasted statements of vain purpose and earnest manifestoes, in the bright beaten breaths that, as Célan said, trust the trail of tears/and learn to live. In tracts that spill over the sides of cardboard boxes and tumble from the backs of boxcars, in sentences that fill all corners and come in all sorts of forms, and it’s coming, this new art, it’s racing ahead like paper browning before it turns to flame.
When do I want it?
Is this a manifesto?
This is a manifesto, a call for a new infusion of language, visual, aural and, above all, temporal, for language brutishly simple and hideously complex, as mandarin as oranges sublimed in cans and clean as a paper cut, for effusive language that soaks itself in the spume of its words and its words in a wallow of history, for a state of radical besettedness in which there is a highly personal yearn for warmth and the moist parts of others, a yeasty besottedness of raw sentiment, a fascination with the past and a preoccupation with the present and the province, wherein the erotic of the particular prevails, and where there’s a perverse faith in collective salvation through one’s spread-eagled belief and heartfelt blasphemies, a call for consciousness of all varieties, aspirations of all sizes, lyricism to a fault, rebellion for its own salty ends, for indiscriminate synthesis and the scrim of the clear and obscure, for petty moments made bigger and bigger ones tattooed small and flavored with almond, for sad Baudelairean romances with wrinkled co-workers and aching odes to girls in plaid skirts. For rot and ruin and elegant compost. For life in sum and as such. Wallace Stevens wrote of the duty to give life the “supreme fictions without which we are unable to conceive of it,” and if there is a duty today, it is this: to tell of our world’s beauty, of life layered like stacks of slides and love multiplied in the eye of a fly.
(The biggest lives
need the littlest knives.)
All night we handed her favorites:
donuts, Starburst and cigarets.
By morning, in April, we met snow-faced
and tiny as professionals.
Killing her was simple: a stainless needle
tapped into her tree-trunk leg
poison pumped in from a 5 gallon drum
like reverse maple syrup.
She fell backward in broad daylight,
hard, the wrong way after standing
on her own all that elephant time
on her crushed leg, too-late diagnosis.
It took a necklace of iron chain
and a John Deere back hoe
to drag her head off the drinker,
get her down to the concrete floor.
The researchers and scientists moved in
like a cloudbank, with wishlists and priorities:
The distal 12” of trunk and her head,
for the olfactory pits,
go to the gas lab for chemical
gateway studies; Seattle wants
her reproductive tract – they’re not sure
what for. The curator set the order,
then 15 of us, like crows, with hay hooks and x-acto knives,
began cutting up Tamba
into scientific, then renderable pieces.
After 6 hours, our failure was easy to lift,
carry off in 25 lb. chunks, in 200 garbage bags
on a flatbed truck.
(Her flesh was deep purple, her fat bright and gold.
We worked fast in the blood, before she got cold.)
Cutting Up Tamba