Reading Susan Stewart on the voice in poetry, which she compares to the voice of a lover. “In listening I am listening to the material history of your connection to all the dead and the living who have been impressed upon you. The voice, with the eyes, holds within itself the life of the self—it cannot be the another’s.” (110)

I am not quite sure how the particularity of the voice then becomes attached to the voice as daimon—demonic, mediating, traversing—as Stewart suggests, though I follow her when she says that poetry is the creation of being out of nonbeing. (Is the voice non-being that becomes “being” through, first, its materiality, but more crucially through the lover’s identification of the accretion of material—which is really immaterial—with their lover? Particularity as “being.”)

Voice, she later suggests, is similar to the transgenerational haunting described by Nicolas Abraham in “L’Ecorce et le noyeau.” An amateur geologist smashes rocks on the weekend, and gases butterflies in a canister of cyanide, because his grandmother’s first love was forced into a concentration camp, where he broke rocks and was killed in a gas chamber. Voice resembles something like an emanation, superfluous, of what has become part of you without your knowledge. (115)

Sometimes I resist reading for the sole reason that I feel that it changes something in me, hardens something that I can’t identify or understand. It produces an alienation that is a response to contemplation, intake, mediation, as well as to a kind of latent understanding that I like to feel this distance, even if it threatens my being it is also, perhaps paradoxically, the only time when I feel most like I exist (in that nonbeing brought either into form—here—or wherever I go when I pick up a book (like my father retreating into his childhood bedroom to read a book after introducing my mother to his parents)). 

(Conversely, I spend a week, two weeks, reading, making tremendous progress, and then I stop—suddenly—something fails, as if I’m afraid of turning a final corner. Perhaps I’m afraid only of being who I am, but that part of me I do not fully determine.)

All 200 bad poems (1-236)

In the month of March, which is a tough month because it is the end of winter and winter is bad, I discovered, in a file on my computer, 36 bad poems that I had written in 2017. I had no memory of writing these poems but I thought that they were good and I wanted to write more of them. I thought I would do 200, after Anthony Clark (who invented the 200 bad comics challenge a million years ago). To make it harder I said I would do them in two weeks. I almost did that but I did not thanks to a stressful trip that I took in the middle of this journey. Anyway, they have already been posted on this website, but here are all 200 poems I wrote in March together with the initial 36.

too sad to think
I am too sad 
but I am writing poems 
poems don’t need thought

a poem about economic insecurity
economic insecurity sucks
there’s a moth
always crushing your brain

tips for managing yr workload
throw your task list 
into the garbage can
no one will ever notice

a crisis for office managers
dave said he couldn’t work Thursday
but shirley booked Thursday off
well, someone needs to be here

Continue reading →

200 bad poems (201-236)

You thought you were rid of me. But I had a head start. It was only right to continue until I had written 200 in this year. Now it is truly done.

I’d be betraying my friends and my poems by ending this with
bad Christian allegory—and I’d also be short of 200
since the first thirty-six were written in 2017

an interesting year
which I remember now
for a “couple things”

“a couple things”
a relationship, finally ended
a hundred emails
another relationship (more emails would follow)

writing these has been a kind of trial
and I’m not sure if it’s these poems or the weather
but I feel better than when I started

climbing the mountain
like I’m having the word for “sin” wiped off my forehead
by the brush of an angel’s wings, each poem is helping

the discovery
when I found the first 36, just last month
I was searching my hard-drive for a poem
I wrote in 2013 about “having a bad attitude”

the poem about having a bad attitude
was written after attending a craft workshop
in a museum in the middle of the country
attended by just me and two twelve year old girls

committed to my art
she looks at me from the couch
gets up, saunters over
but I’m writing these poems

committed to my art 2
with determination I turn back to the screen
she walks back to the couch
and hugs the dog

an owl sends me a “flame email”
it takes me three hours to download
it’s a 3D model of a rat, partially digested
in the centre is a message on a piece of paper: “fuck you”

a golden relationship
Fawn says “from a distance your relationship
seems ‘golden’”—which means, I think
that it casts a certain reflection and has a particular atomic weight

the cafe is packed
initially I can’t find a seat
I squeeze in between a stroller
and some guy watching “Rick and Morty” on his phone

Continue reading →

200 bad poems (153-200)

Can you believe this idiot did it. I thought he would never finish. Indeed it seemed like he never would. But in any case here are the final 48 bad poems.

for more than a week I stopped making these
it was too much, to do this and imagine myself flying just one hour away
to deliver a fifteen minute talk to a seven-person audience

excuse in an email
“I’m sorry, I thought that I could that I could see past
it, but it turns out I can’t, this stupid talk
keeps circling in my head”

anticipating things you’ve never done
some get excited
others anxious, imagining every possibility
I stare, like a snake has captured me with hypnosis

modern academia
I should have known it was no big deal
when the conference kept sending me emails
advertising discounted rooms for $200 a night

your final ultrasound
in this appointment there are three possible outcomes:
first, a healthy baby; second, a baby, maybe, not so healthy;
third, you are carrying a tiny dinosaur in your womb

wand in the jelly
okay here we have what looks like an arm…
so far so good… that flesh looks pink and fat to me…
oh… bad luck… this claw says you’ve got a Deinonychus

nature finds a way
when you’re carrying a dinosaur you’re flown
to a remote island compound where a man in a white lab coat
sits you down in a makeshift nest and urges you to “complete”

literary readings
oh how I love to see writers walk up and down
to the microphone, up and down from the podium,
where they read from a few pages and sit back down again

standing in a large crowd paths form between the people milling
and you are forced to wonder as you plot your maneuvers
why it seems so intolerable to talk to any person

pause for thanks
the next time I read I am going to pause after every paragraph
and wait for such a long time that people think I am finished
and begin speaking again and again through their applause

wine glasses are not for that
when you are finished with your wine glass do not
put it on the floor, do not step on it, do not squeeze it
in your hands until the delicate glass shatters

more things you should not do with wine glasses
do not take a bite out of your wine glass like it is
a cake or a delicate pastry, do not grind the wine glass
slowly into your palm, do not throw it suddenly against the wall

after every poet
I am first to the bar table, where I get another glass:
pointing first to the cab, then the superior shiraz,
then I guess the pinot, then the shiraz again

Continue reading →

I’m in Washington. For some reason this leads me to a documentary on John Diefenbaker.

A joke told in a rote rhetorical style:

Old Sir John said ‘You know, I’m one of those who believes in prayer. Excepting when the prayers are uttered by the rich. Because,’ he said, ‘if their prayers were answered not only would I be sick, but long since would I have joined my ancestors in another place altogether removed.

200 bad poems (103-152)

Wow, 50 more bad poems. Will this guy ever stop. Is he out of his mind.

the office
the fidget spinner came apart in my hands
and I explained what it was
as it spun wobbly with only two balls

the office 2
as I screwed in the third bearing she asked me
how does it work? —I had no idea
“bernoulli’s principle” (I’m dumb)

that’s terrifying
Zak messaged me after I sent him notes from a lecture
Gordon Lish had given on July 14 2018
“I’m still terrified,” he wrote me, half an hour later

I saw my friend’s “friend” walking in front of Shopper’s
they were lovers but not for a while now
their eyes flashed in the rain

tri-corner hats
yeah I ate three of those cookies
as soon as she pulled the bag out
I’m proud of it

we’re moving books from one section of the library
to another section of the library
it’s like they’re taking a little trip

in the tunnel the train stops completely
someone’s sleeping with his hand covering his face
I think he must be faking

Carson was already hitting the ball
when I arrived at the court and apologized
he said “no, you released me”

none of the photos I have seem good enough
the water is either too shallow, or too deep
no one’s going to believe I’m water polo MVP

for a long time in the office I think
I’m the only one who is going to be here
the loneliest of all outcomes

quiet 2
shortly after my colleague arrives
it starts, just a little bit, to rain
I get up and look out the window

the side door
most people buy their cars either through
the front door (dealerships) or the back door (stealing)
I wait in parking lots and say “please?”

if I ran a queer burlesque or was myself a performer
and I’m not saying this is happening
my show would be called “Daddy Augustine”

when I’m holding the book in front of me
I say what I like
“I think I’m at least a deist now”

the side door 2
I love my new range rover with 4×4 and a v6
thanks Val in the parking lot who thought it was sweet
to ask so politely

if you want to go back in time
just open Apple’s “iMusic” app
and put on the Fiery Furnaces’s I’m Going Away

Google says the above-mentioned Fiery Furnaces album
didn’t come out until three years later
regardless I maintain my initial point

Gordon Lish
I tell Zak I think Lish will never die
living long enough to bury us both.
but I quickly retract it: he’s old as fuck and I want to live

thank you Val
I drove over to Val’s house
—she still had a trunk full of groceries—
and pet her dog and wrestled her kids

Continue reading →

200 bad poems (78-102)

Here are 25 more bad poems. Can you believe it? Over 100 bad poems. Some people would say that’s a lot of bad poems. Not me though. There will be 200 bad poems on this website by next Wednesday.

this poem is out of control
it is not going to the office
it is not going to grocery store
it isn’t walking the dog

after three days of warm temperature
and then rain, all of the snow is hard, and grey, and thick
perfect for keeping your bowling ball out of the gutter

here’s the truth: my voice
keeps rising, and I keep saying more
and soon my head will lift from my shoulders

it’s hard to talk to me in the winter
when every thought
I deflect with a stick

Miriam told me she knows she needs to start writing
when she follows her partner reading the news
angry at everything she has seen

is waiting in front of a Paris bakeshop
and there are rows and rows of skeletons
and they all want a pistachio danish

high snowbank
the dog perches neatly on the huge snowbank
somewhere high above
an owl watches him poo

I keep rubbing my face
as if I’m trying to take it off
I’m not sure what I’m trying to say

a car splashed me with water
I shouted “fuck off”
it sounded like a little bitch

wrong parallel park
four sheets of drywall in the car I park behind
the guy says c’mon you idiot move your car
can’t you see this is a real construction zone

real construction zone
two pickup trucks and a broken piano on the front porch
every time I pass I think about how the man
threatened to beat me up with his “guys”

his guys
when he came back he was telling his guy
the guy said “no worries, we can move them”
I’m sure he’d have preferred otherwise

night walk
the dog wants to go out
I’ve been asleep for two hours
in the morning she says he pooed three tiny sticks

murder mystery
my character had three accents
and someone killed me
but not the right person

the accents
are accidental! where’s my voice
literally any one

sex cards
you’re supposed to trade them
they signify that you “did it”
but I only have two

if you don’t know what to say
sometimes you can just stand there
and the conversation will leave you

I’m worried I don’t care about anything
where’s my zest!
I watch an episode of Russian Doll

first meeting
when I first met the dog I thought
oh god
imagining it was too much to grant

I didn’t want to know a dog
come on
it sounds like the beginning of a holiday movie

the truth
it seemed exhausting
all that enthusiasm!
but the dog generates it himself

a literary solution
there are two ways of solving your problems
one involves getting your hands dirty
the other, turning things around in your head

3D chess
sometimes it feels like I’m playing 3D chess
with God
and God doesn’t care if he wins or loses

big magazines
you have to “play the game”
and “get off Twitter”
and “read a single book”

go to dinner
why didn’t you go to dinner
with the big editor
or kiss his hand when he put down the breadsticks