Follow Harriet on Twitter

About Harriet



By Eileen Myles

I think of poetry mostly as something that trails off a little bit. I think of poetry as something that doesn’t happen in the page at all, and not in the reading either, but a little bit in all of those places. But on the other hand there is this thing – the crappy little poem. I know that the cardinal sin of my generation is to say that the poem is in the poem and not in the series of poems at all. It’s been a serial moment for about a hundred years, you can only be reaching for a long poem, the book but I myself have a single state of mind. I like what happens when I read the poem again and again and the thing I like doesn’t happen in the page at all but is something that’s writing me that I’m carrying around. I think poetry is released in the multiple readings of the poem. So even one little poem may do that. Within a wild book the poetry is like a fluid that whaps against the walls of the jar – that isn’t there. Inherently in poetry you feel some kind of limits. But mostly I like to feel the danger that the person writing the poem may not even know what a poem is, is deciphering one here but has not made up their mind about it. Yet and won’t. So I have been jostling with Ariana Reines’s new book for a week and I thought I’d audition all of her poems for this spot ici. The one spot. I’m going to write weekly for a couple of months about some radiant singles. Or even fragments of them. Ariana’s poem changes shape all the time. She takes a few things I’ve tried and maybe not so successfully. The all caps poem f’rinstance. She called hers “BARAKA”. Is it about that poem Amiri Baraka got in all the trouble over after the World Trade Center. A forceful and disturbing poem that possessed at least one incendiary idea. An incantatory poem. Her poem is triggered continually by the assertion:  I CAN’T WAIT:  “FOR THE MARKET TO CLOSE” and she “CAN’T WAIT TO HAVE KNOWN HOW TO WALK UGLY IN THIS PURPLE LIGHT.” And she “CAN’T WAIT FOR A MODEST APARTMENT UNDER THE HOLE IN THE ROOF OF THE PARTHENON” which in itself is so magical to me since I’m still reeling from a show at the Met last summer of paintings of rooms with windows and the life outside the window constituted another painting of a sort. If you were a young painter in the era of these paintings you’d probably go to Rome and paint for at least five years. And in that time you might want to let your family or patrons know you were doing well and you’d paint them a picture of you in your studio probably with such a window. And the painter might lie and paint something that wasn’t outside his window. Like this poet we have here, the painter made a wish. In an incantatory poem like Ariana’s the gaps between all the things she can’t wait for constitute a shifting and changing world. I hear this mechanism every night in a poetry reading. Charles Bernstein was reading a funny poem last night at the Poetry Project that decanted “a jew” and the jew was the punch line again and again. The jew knew certain things and sometimes they coincided with ideas about being “jewish” but the pause just before the reentry of the jew was what the poem was really about I believe. Anyone who was jewish in the room could of course jump in and subscribe to the jewish notions bumping around in the poem but what was I responding to? The incantatory poem allows everybody in, jumping between the poet’s asserted wishes, and jangling structure. In this moment we are living in I think buildings really are the supreme art – especially since the housing bubble has burst and real estate itself is a total horror. At wallstreet young woman proclaimed on her sign “My rent is too high” and all the signs there were lines of a kind of building the moment all of us were standing in observing and all the people on the news kept saying that it isnt coherent.  What is “it” we ask. “I CAN’T WAIT TO KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE,” answers Ariana and what does she mean, but her meaning is perfectly clear. This week, last week, when people were echoing what someone in the general assembly was saying in the pit: THESE ARE OUR RIGHTS! And the person twelve feet away was repeating it and the line would multiply across the entire assembly of Liberty Plaza or as far as it went. It is poetry. Its best and about. And Ariana CAN’T WAIT FOR A LOAN”, I CAN’T WAIT FOR EMMA GOLDMAN, I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE TIME TO BE RIPE, and “I CAN’T WAIT TO HURT YOU” (nobody is perfect here, especially a woman and I applaud Ariana’s desire to be disrespectful, lewd, broken, narcissistic —  all the unforgiveable female crimes which if instead were committed by humans would just be called “hot.”) She does it here and she does it WRONG, cheer, cheer. Her BARAKA is unfolding in such a formidable moment, in a formidable year, you can enter her poem at any point and that is the building I want, and a poem (duh) is a building, and some poems are more buildings than others, but hers is the most flagrant I know. Does that mean flying. Over the arch, down the columns.  I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE DOE TO STAND THERE STARING AT ME THESE ELEVEN/MINUTES,” and “I CAN’T WAIT TO REALLY UNDERSTAND.” See she’s just not coherent at all. And her building doesn’t even have walls.  “I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE GHOST DANCE.”  We’ve waited so long. And “I CAN’T WAIT TO QUIT THIS BROKEN HOME. That one, an architectural wonder, she says it at least three times. It’s the poem of the poem.





So it must be true.

Posted in Featured Blogger on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 by Eileen Myles.