Poetry adapts. It can permeate every medium, play with every medium, turn every medium into its proper form. There is no need for a theoretical underpinning. Poetry can.
But poetry can not just “be”. It has to happen, too. All the efforts to put poetry on the street, among the ‘normal people’ hinge on what happens in the normal people’s minds. Poetry must happen there.
The greatest enemy of poetry is the scroll, the mind-numbing finger-movement of social media users to pass ‘content’ in front of their gaze, for their instant gratification. This gratification is hardly caused by the quality of the image on their retinas, but rather by how good that image functions as a token of gratification. How well does it invoke associative patterns? Does it make the viewer (we can hardly speak of readers) feel good about herself?
I have sought out the scroll and published a number of very short poems on my Instagram account. Could poetry have happened behind the beholder’s gaze? What do you think?
Welcome back professor Trompsky, how was your month, I think it has been a month since we have seen each other?
– How was yours? [chuckles and murmurs]
To be honest with you, sir, it has been terrible. I was terrified by all the suspicious packages addressed to the president’s opponents, the horrendous rhetoric of Bolsonaro in Brazil, the shooting in Pittsburgh?
– What we experience is the continuation of a process that has been set in motion, really, by the election of this current president. As a scholar I think the Bolsonaro election could be something of a final blow to global democracy, at least to the spirit of global democracy. That spirit is now in decline and, uhm, against ultra-nationalism we will have to fight an uphill battle.
Do you think the world will see more terror in 2019?
– I prefer not to engage in that kind of speculation, hope you understand. What I do see is a general shift in administration. From the nineties to the early 2010s the world has been governed by comparably capable people (remember how almost everybody currently sees George W. Bush in a favorable light), and now we are shifting to, uhm, the type of rulers that appear to be the lesser hypocrites. Yes, it is a politics of appearance, what we see in Brazil for example. Bolsonaro knows, using fake news, how to appear a tough crime fighter, how to appear the equal of the ‘normal man on the street’, how to appear an outsider of the elite, which clearly he is not. Appearance trumps political expertise and experience, we have seen this in 2016 in the US [chuckles].
Do you think leaders with a similar media strategy, a similar strongman style, will come to power in Europe and the rest of the world?
– Oh yes. This is to some extent a trial-and-error process. The few mistakes Bolsanaro has made, will not be repeated by the next Orbán or Duterte.
What is the proper leftist answer to this? Should they engage in, and could they win the battle of appearances?
– I don’t know. [shakes his head]. I think it will be very hard. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or also Andrew Yang are very authentic politicians. But the left is divided and for proper idealists it is, and I think this is an important point, it is much harder to appear the lesser hypocrite. Wasn’t the media reporting about Sanders’ tax report? It is the absurd paradox of the politics of appearance that Donald Trump, with all his blatant lies, appears as the lesser hypocrite.
And the same goes for Bolsonaro?
– Yes. Brazil is in a way what awaits the US in ten, twenty years. The people are looking for an alternative and this man is filling the empty space on the right. In the case of Bolsanoara, he doesn’t lie directly but his supporters claim that what he says about gays, blacks, activists, women, minorities, it shouldn’t be taken seriously. And the riddle is why that makes him appear to the electorate as the lesser hypocrite.
We thank you for your time, Mr. Trompsky.
– My pleasure. Please do come back.
If democracy hasn’t died in darkness.
– Yes, ahum [chuckles]
if all hope is abandoned and you lay awake watching the Contenders
play tapes of some obscure rock band you’re welcome to enter
and check out this slender, delicate verse with metaphors galore
like a Roman brothel frothing incantations through the door
Benders puts his fledgling words in a titanium blender and renders
magic, genre-bending classics poured on the pages like the breath
of an inebriated unicorn, horny stallion like İskender the great
he conquers the known world with the stuff from which she is made
This man is kicking out the moneylenders like a messianic defender
No pretense, just a book of spells, hot as hell, howling like a Fender,
and he isn’t from Flanders, it’s so neat, featuring abundant night birds
you can hear between the lines singing that you can be the first
So nag your spouse for Christmas to upend your slack marriage
get carried away when you unpack Benders’ dense book in the bedroom
very rapidly you become the mender of your matrimonial gloom
your love-making blooms you be trend setter into the imaginary
Picture Oriental caravans of dark wild owls, howling
wholesome epigrams in Hesperian nights full of elves
while fickle lip ghosts approach in saucy steps
and drunk unicorns prowl at the N of hibernation
You don’t want to wait until the year is over to get this on your shelf
so treat yourself or your MILF, leave the cold rime outside
hush hush cuddle by the fireplace with this lush Dutch bundle
be the seamstresses at the seam, trundle into each other’s dreams
In the depths of the Internet I found a poetry competition called “Poetry on the lake” that published last year’s winning poems. I am impressed enough to read one here.
To enter naked is to feel no shock, no swift laceration –
more a swallowing of the self, a softening
of edges by metallic tang and green.
It’s not to lose oneself but to find
one’s breasts, buttocks, sex
attentive and alive, each slow stroke upstream
a gift of walking to the part of us that’s lame,
a gift of sight to the part of us that’s blind.
The depiction of the entrance into the living river (the “metallic tang” and green signify the algae) is well done. The water is not too cold it seems: no laceration of the nerves but a friendly gobbling up of the body. In interpret the softening of the edges as the disappearance of the boundary between inside and outside.
You don’t lose yourself in the fresh water, but get in touch with your body, more precisely a woman gets in touch with the more pleasurable and intimate parts of her body, that she was taught to hide. The liven up and become attentive in the absence of a prudish culture.
So she starts swimming upstream (it takes some effort to reconnect with the true being of your body). She conquers the “part of her that’s lame” when she is swimming, free from the gravity of societal norms. This also means that she regains sight, in the sense that she becomes aware of the truth conceiled by these norms.
Such a reading is not satisfactory, but I think we can read the final line not as “seeing the light” of some metaphysical truth, but seeing in a certain way that is made possible by the river swimming. Thus the ‘softening of edges’ eventually leads to the reappearnce of these edges in almost Hegelian fashion, as the sharp sight from the vantage point of someone who has “worked through” the immersion experience. Do you, dear reader, think this poem references baptism?
Now that I am lowered into my trench language
I become an invocation. I am muscles and tendons,
a pressurized blood machine, slowly releasing
what was stored between the apostrophes, like a captured animal.
I am a cormorant of the apocalypse, a confessing nihilist.
Opinions grow on me like frozen waterfalls.
My rage is inculcated, like a laminated smile, I visit
bars barracks and barricades, I lick soft dew in the marches,
I piss glum images in morning prose, I kneel for a working prostate.
Father forgive me my reflection on the holy crotch, for it is not authentic.
Authenticity my friends is the leftover moral we shall heat up and re-eat,
do you hear me? There is authenticity in the original orgasm, and in origami,
in bullet holes and butterscotch, in old ladies staring at a cross,
in cutting onions and Birkenstocks, in traffic jams and coins that toss.
It is time to stand up, to dust the language off my suit.
Surrounding me is a great plain and I feel life again is gaining.