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16 Poems

David Antin

Recently he has spoken in writing
on the listserv Poetics: "If you encounter
a terrorist on a plane, you don't politely
request that he return to his seat, you
pull out a .45 and you shoot him."
History is unstoppable in its teleological
drive to unity: Pop culture merges
with the Humanities; the Talk Show merges
with Talk Poetry. And huge decompressed
machines fall, like ideologemes, out of the air.


Jackson Mac Low

Once I was on a panel entitled
"Buddhism and American Poetry"
at Poet's House. Armand Schwerner
held forth for a long time on the
shikirichi, and Anne Waldman
shouted sutras with a massive
intensity. I remember that
Jackson Mac Low didn't say
very much, nor did he move very
much, really. But at the end
of the evening he shook my hand
and said, "Nice to have met you."


Philip Whalen

"No, no, no," growled the Roshi, when I
called him on the phone to ask that he write
an essay for a book I was editing.
"The last thing I'm going to do is write an
essay on the relationship between Zen and
poetry. I mean, what makes you think either
one even exists, for fuck's sake? I mean,
give me a break. Goodbye." Click.


Tan Lin

Around Christmas, I sent him a musical
e-card, with the following classical paragram:
pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo.
"I didn't realize, Kent Johnson," he wrote
back, "that you composed not just in
Japanese, but also in Italian!"
And so I answered, "In fact, I don't, Tan Lin.
The line's by Letallicus, misattributed to Catullus,
 and it's in Latin!"


Dale Smith

Dale Smith looks like a young
Robert Wagner. Once, I said to
him, "Compared to astronomers
or molecular physicists, we poets
are nothing." He typed back, "Yes,
that's very true. But we've made
our choices, it's too late to go back,
and now we just have to go for
all the marbles."


Ron Padgett

Great balls of fire! Full of fur and noise,
rolling up my chest and then my mouth
is full of great balls of fire! And I'm laughing
so hard, and he screams at me, "Ice storm
tree!" which makes me laugh even harder,
though he is absolutely serious, he screams,
"Myth chariot fucker!" and then I'm laughing
so hard I almost bite it off, just as he screams,
"Bite your face off yeah!" and his eyes roll back
and it's what the Ancients always told us, and we
disappear together, despite me, into some kind
of sun."

Wow, I said, that has a lot of energy in it.
Yes, said Ron Padgett, I wrote it for
John Crowe Ransom, my former lover.


Geoffrey Gatza

He is a young experimental poet.
One time he wrote to me:
"In the end, or tonight, I am not
sure whether to eat you with a fork
or spoon. My reaction has been a
mixture of disgust and praise."

To paraphrase Su T'ung Po, may
Geoffrey Gatza rise, without impediment
or effort, to the highest offices.


Kenward Elmslie

"Indeed, I am dying, but I am here to say
that his poems are miniature theaters,"
said a boy on fire, standing on a paper
stage. BRAVO! BRAVO! cried the poet-pilot
in a little plane, dark blue against a
dark-blue night sky. VIVA DELAUNAY!


Andrei Codrescu

Years ago, concluding a brief essay, Andrei Codrescu quipped:

"One must be able to picture the bodies of Helen Vendler and
Marjorie Perloff, mortally grappling in a mud wrestling pit."

As Cicero says, in the Tusculan Disputations,
"Anakreon's poetic works are entirely erotic."


Peter Gizzi

I've been seeing his stunning photograph
for years now in APR, the one where
his head is leaning on his hand and his
burning cigarette (which he is holding
in the hand upon which his head is leaning) seems
stuck into his skull like one of those plant-food
sticks that help your geraniums grow. And I always
want to wave my arms and yell, really loud:
"Watch out Peter Gizzi, you young and handsome
minstrel, watch out-don't be like Michael
Jackson and let your hair catch on fire!"


Dan Featherstone

He is a very gifted youngish poet and critic.
His name makes me think of that physics
question in my fifth grade science book:
"If Galileo climbs to the top of the University
bell tower and drops a ten lb. bag of feathers
and a ten lb. bag of stones at exactly the
same time, which will hit the ground first?"

Hmm... Probably Perelman before Bob.


Bill Luoma

Bill Luoma is a poet and minor league baseball player.
In an essay, he says that the idea of disrupting the male
gaze through particular grammatical and syntactical
strategies has outlived its usefulness. Then, foul ball,
he says that if a man is going to write about a woman's
vagina, he should foreground strong verbs, as does
Eileen Myles, and not predicate nouns, as does
Andre Breton. Then, foul ball, he draws a picture of a
phallic-looking space ship getting sucked into a vagina-
looking black hole, where the space ship is The Poet
and the black hole is Culture. Then, strike three, he says
that when he strikes out, the catcher sometimes says,
"Does your pussy hurt today?" And that's how his essay ends.


Gary Snyder

When I had him come to read in Freeport, oh,
five or six years back, we drank a bunch of beers
at Tony's Oyster Tap. On the last night we ever
spoke, he suddenly and coolly said, "You know,
Kent, the Japanese are polite. But if Yasusada
had been Navajo or Sioux, you would have had
two or three long-braided dudes waiting on your
stoop." I lit a cigarette, blew a ring, looked at the
legendary man, and said (watching him straighten
in surprise where he sat), "You know, Gary, I, too,
am polite. But here're two words that would pop to mind
in such an event, and you can put them under your hat:
Baseball, and Bat."


Ray Di Palma

In the letters page of Lingua Franca,
Ray Di Palma had an argument with
Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein
over who came up with the idea for
the equals signs. Di Palma said it was he
who did; Andrews and Bernstein said it
was they who did. Each tacitly accused
the other of intellectual theft and the
wilfull revision of literary history. One thing
is certain: Somewhere, a naughty, naughty
Author is L=Y=I=N=G.


Russell Edson

A man is beating a dead horse in his living room. "I'm going to
beat the shit out of you," he screams, beating it, repeatedly,
with an implement. The years go by. Literary magazines rise
and fall. The horse shrinks down to a mummified chalk.
All the furniture in the room goes out of fashion. "I'm going
to beat the shit out of you," screams the man. "I'm going
to beat the fucking living shit out of you, you motherfucking horse."


Leslie Scalapino

That she was at the beach, all wet with oil,
pulling her hair and screaming as I died there on the
sand, inside the darkening ecliptic of a dune buggy's
shadow, in a circle of fading, martini-breathed friends,
was a miracle out of the movies, the projection of a pearl
repeating through time, or an image of Orion, my name like
echoing phenomena, or a phenomenon echoing, as it were,
appearing to unfold and stream like a string of dashed sentences
back into my gaping mouth, my mouth trying to say something I
can't now remember, and I don't think I ever shall, not for the
death of me. I know that to go out this way is in bad taste,
especially right after lunch, and especially after all these short,
witty epigrams by Kent Johnson, a poet I much admire, as does
Jimmy, and as will John and Kenneth, in their own time. And I
know that it makes little sense to die here with Leslie Scalapino
shouting down at me to Get up, because I'm the one who's supposed
to say that, after all. But fun is fun, I've had my share, and reality
returns, like Orion, in this poem.