The Poet as Setting

By Douglas Kearney Douglas Kearney
The jolt that comes to bones inside a tumbled streetcar

is what the painter considers as she strokes her-
self into story. There is less to the jolt that
comes as he shuts his eyes before the monitor, save

what he imagines—a lightning bolt, a god tapping
the shoulder. He imagines the sky swelling
with ceiling fans or the guano of extinct birds,
a jolt riding from his shoulder
blades to his eyelids, dropping with roller
coaster clacks to his fingers. Here, he dreams of Frida

Kahlo. Here, he says, let me spread my flesh out like a
table linen, let my bones be silver that touches,
making, again, that clack. My skull will be a glass,
set properly, I have class enough. What jolt is
it to chew over class, his body set before him as

a reader sips (perhaps) a glass of something heady? We give
books spines, we break them. The table will have
its legs, its head. The body is upon us. Does the table have

a stomach? Is it simply there to bear our hunger
without its own, like a eunuch bathing a stripper?
What is the poet without eyes or ears—reading, listening? He is
a platform—a place to set, that to set it with. And if this is
all, what will he do when the reader finishes a glass,
rises from the poet’s head, and passes
into the city? Covered with a linen, he is waiting for
something to spill, perhaps a girl in Mexico rolling
her ankle in a street-

Douglas Kearney, “The Poet as Setting” from Fear, Some. Copyright © 2006 by Douglas Kearney. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Source: Fear Some (Red Hen Press, 2006)

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Poet Douglas Kearney


Subjects Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Painting & Sculpture, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

 Douglas  Kearney


Poet, performer, and librettist Douglas Kearney grew up in Altadena, California. He received his BA from Howard University and his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, and is also a graduate and fellow of Cave Canem.
In the Los Angeles Times, poet David St. John observed, “What Doug’s articulating is the fragmentation of the self and sensibility that you see prominently in T.S. Eliot and The Waste Land. He’s at the . . .

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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Painting & Sculpture, Social Commentaries, History & Politics


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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