The Impossible Art of Instagram Poetry

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?

The Impossible Art of Instagram Poetry was originally published on Meandering home

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The Slackted Poetry of Martijn Benders

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

The Slackted Poetry of Martijn Benders was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: River by Sharon Black

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.

River

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?

Reading: River by Sharon Black was originally published on Meandering home

Nostalvember

Today I found this:

Growl
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.

Nostalvember was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: Paradoxes and Oxymorons by John Ashbery

John Ashbery (1927-2017) was, to many, one of the greatest modern American poets. Famous New York School poet. Pulitzer Prize. Look him up!
I read a gentle poem called Paradoxes and Oxymorons:

This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What’s a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be

A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.

It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren’t there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.

A risky and common theme: the impossibility of language to touch us, to be possessed by us (rather than the other way around). John’s solution, “The poem is you”, strikes me as a bit quick and not entirely serious. Still, this is a fascinating poem to read if you like poetry about poetry (Ashbery himself warned against too much of it).

I like ‘a deeper outside thing’, and ‘the poem has set (sat?) me softly down beside you’ is just so sweet.

Reading: Paradoxes and Oxymorons by John Ashbery was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: Beauty by Tony Hoagland

Saddened by the death of Tony Hoagland (1953 – 2018), the sharp and witty American poet, I read one of his poems today.

Beauty
When the medication she was taking
caused tiny vessels in her face to break,
leaving faint but permanent blue stitches in her cheeks,
my sister said she knew she would
never be beautiful again.

After all those years
of watching her reflection in the mirror,
sucking in her stomach and standing straight,
she said it was a relief,
being done with beauty,

but I could see her pause inside that moment
as the knowledge spread across her face
with a fine distress, sucking
the peach out of her lips,
making her cute nose seem, for the first time,
a little knobby.

I’m probably the only one in the whole world
who actually remembers the year in high school
she perfected the art
of being a dumb blond,

spending recess on the breezeway by the physics lab,
tossing her hair and laughing that canary trill
which was her specialty,

while some football player named Johnny
with a pained expression in his eyes
wrapped his thick finger over and over again
in the bedspring of one of those pale curls.

Or how she spent the next decade of her life
auditioning a series of tall men,
looking for just one with the kind
of attention span she could count on.

Then one day her time of prettiness
was over, done, finito,
and all those other beautiful women
in the magazines and on the streets
just kept on being beautiful
everywhere you looked,

walking in that kind of elegant, disinterested trance
in which you sense they always seem to have one hand
touching the secret place
that keeps their beauty safe,
inhaling and exhaling the perfume of it—

It was spring. Season when the young
buttercups and daisies climb up on the
mulched bodies of their forebears
to wave their flags in the parade.

My sister just stood still for thirty seconds,
amazed by what was happening,
then shrugged and tossed her shaggy head
as if she was throwing something out,

something she had carried a long ways,
but had no use for anymore,
now that it had no use for her.
That, too, was beautiful.

A precise narrative poem. I like the rich picture he paints of the girl who ‘perfected the art of being a dumb blond’. The superficiality of her beauty and how it was over so suddenly.
And that description of spring! Isn’t it gorgeous, climbing up on the mulched bodies of our forebears to wave our own flags in the parade?

Being done with beauty seems to denote a higher truth here, an acceptance of the circle of life and love. And the disinterested trance of the ‘other’ women who continue being beautiful. Isn’t it the same trance as the sister experienced when she throws out beauty, to the secret place that keeps it safe?

Reading: Beauty by Tony Hoagland was originally published on Meandering home