"There is a voice in my head that I’d like to banish: an iteration of patriarchy that has told me to aim for emotional consistency & a controlled persona. Once my mother told me that I would never be loved as long as I couldn’t figure out how to have one single, knowable identity… Who I was shifted from moment to moment. My credibility was questioned because I acted differently with different people. But people are different, I always think. Shouldn’t you consider that? I don’t see what’s wrong with shattering into fifty pieces at once every time you try to commit to an idea. Much important thinking, writing, & activism seeks to unify those parts, but first you have to get to know the splits & fault lines. We know this! Yet ambivalence, fragmentation & contradiction are still often seen to undermine one’s authority in art, especially if the artist is a woman. How can you look so sweet & talk so ugly?" - Monica McClure, here.
"He told me he had to be touching me in some way all night or he couldn’t sleep: an arm slung across my back, a leg twisted together with one of mine, a hand on my hip. Most of all he liked me curled into his furry gut, the smaller curve of my boy swallowed by his larger one. Together we formed one large womb providing a safety neither one of us possessed on our own. Not so completely at least. I was shocked to think he needed me. I was willing to let him have whatever I had that he might want but I wasn’t sure that that might be. My attributes are invisible to me. The beauty he sees in me is different from that which I think of owning. He was falling in love with a person I didn’t know & I was that person." -
Sam D’Allesandro, from “Giovanni’s Apartment”
(still thinking about this book.)
"I tried hard to imagine my poems or any poems as machines that could make things happen, changing the government, or the economy or even their language, the body or its sensorium, but I could not imagine this, could not even imagine imagining it. And yet when I imagined the total victory of those other things over poetry, when I imagined, with a sinking feeling, a world without even the terrible excuses for poems that kept faith with the virtual possibilities of the medium… then I intuited an inestimable loss, a loss not of artworks but of art, and therefore infinite, the total triumph of the actual, and I realized that, in such a world, I would swallow a bottle of white pills." - Ben Lerner, from Leaving the Atocha Station
How is it that sometimes you don’t believe
your own thoughts? This happens with Love is
making me stupider & it must be because
what am I doing nothing is what I just want
to sit under this famed Southern California sun
more golden here, its true what they say
as boats glide slowly by hardly paying attention
to them other than vague acknowledgment:
yes, we’re having icecream at the waterfront & so
here are boats After work, you pick me up in
the rental, exit at La Jolla We swill fancy drinks
on a balcony & make fun of awful electronic music
It almost drowns out the seal-songs I wore
practical shoes out finally & you’re proud Now
we can walk along the rocks awed by the bright
full moon talk again about how crazy it is what
we’ve stumbled into Back at the room, you roll
sleeves up & slide the window out What hotel
allows open windows unless as invitation to get
high? After sex I notice how few pages I’ve read
of this book long flights & all It’s another thing
to blame on love The thought makes me laugh
what else to do You look at me just-so as if
testing it all thoughts dissolve twenty-three floors
over a glowing city We kill tomorrow afternoon
in an empty restaurant the bartender calling us
lovebirds a round on the house & I learn more
about keeping step with this steady rhapsody.
The books I love best are little else but identity politics crossed with luminescence: accounts of schlepping through daily life, taking inventory & considering one’s place in/relationship to the world. The language, not the frame of what’s happening, is what keeps me. When a voice is alive & compelling enough, being the reader is akin to being a nerve cell in the writer’s body.
Brandon Holmquest gave me a paperback with this real 80’s-looking cover (pub. year ‘89, so it wasn’t a cutesy throwback attempt)— fuchsia/black/cream color scheme; grayscale photo of author in a suit-jacket— & told me to read the stories, write my name inside, & pass on to someone else. There were two names listed already: his, & Jim Cory’s. Two trusted sources, plus Kevin Killian as the editor. The author, Sam D’Allesandro, was affiliated with the New Narrative movement.
K.K., in an interview with Gary Sullivan: “[W]e were reacting against the Language Poets & what we took to be their program of abolishing narrative, the lack of fun in their writing, etc. We agreed with everything they were doing except the density of their non-fun. We wanted pleasure & disgust mixed in about equal proportions.”]
These are ways to know that you’re going to love a book, even when seeing it for the first time.
Maybe it’s an aftereffect of spending my teenage years on Livejournal— all of us mucking around in each others fuck-ups & uncertainties & longings— but immersion in another person’s experiences brings my interior & exterior lives (& selves) more into focus. Reading about someone’s ennui temporarily alleviates my own.
from “Electrical Type of Thing”:
"I don’t think we can always be sure what it is we need, that seems to be different for me than it is for Scott & Jeff. Or is it? Maybe Scott & Jeff have forgotten how good pure intensity can feel. Maybe they’ve never experienced the vulnerability of being spanked during sex by someone they really want. Or known the relief you can feel when someone gets you to totally forget yourself. Someone who helps you to find a subhuman state— no language, no questions, no problems— just a pulsing, quivering slab of sensation."
If there’s a way to breathlessly send a text message, I must’ve done so. A little more than halfway through the book, I set it down in my lap & wrote to Brandon about how human it felt.
from “Nothing Ever Just Disappears”:
"I didn’t know exactly what he meant by ‘accessible’, He said he liked people who were, because he wasn’t. He said a lot of things that I didn’t exactly understand, or that seemed to carry connotations other than those most obvious. Or then again maybe they didn’t. And often I would have asked for more information, explanation… intent, if he had been someone else saying the same thing. I didn’t want to know him as much as I wanted to be able to be around my image of him. I didn’t want things to get too difficult. I wanted to continue to be uncertain about him for as long as possible— to sustain the way it is with meeting someone new before a more thorough understanding brings comfort into the relationship. I did not want comfort. I did want to be comfortable with not seeking comfort or predictability in him. I wanted to be challenged but not in pain. All of these thoughts came to me some weeks after our first meeting."
Not a sense of being moved so much as a sense of moving with; not relatability so much as recognition of some debased & elegant communication. Words imperfect & pulsing. By human, I meant human animal.
When the clocks handed over an extra hour, we tugged our sweaters on & yelled plans from bedroom to bedroom. Sarah said I’ll make a fancy salad! & I said Sunday nights are for lasagna!— & for booze, D. promised to find the French apple cider we’ve been craving ever since Brandon came over with a bottle at the first sign of chilly weather.
We joined the market’s weekend bustle & wound our way to Villa de Roma for a quart of their famous gravy, then Scott & Judy’s Produce for giant sacks of grapes & a quick tutorial in testing pomegranates for ripeness. At Di Brunos, the counter guy greeted D. like an old friend & kept leaning over with samples, which only threw off our decision-making further. We left with a bag full of wax papered delicacies, heads swimming from the pungency of that narrow room packed with gourmet cheeses & meats.
Back home, the record player crackled with Motown soul & I flitted from candle to candle in the living room. Henry showed up with more wine, & the good napkins were laid out, & at some point after several glasses were emptied, I remembered something I read recently— a line that an astronaut maybe did or didn’t say about how he never felt alone when floating above the earth. The loneliest people live in big cities.
But who needs all that space if you’ve found a corner of the city where everything fits just-so: you & all that you love, & all that you need, which turns out to be much simpler than you’d ever let yourself believe.
"Let’s just say I’m not thrilled with the limitations of the body. If I had my choice I’d live elsewhere. As an escapist, a dreamer, I can mindtravel anywhere. But in this lifetime the heart is made of meat. We’re tethered to it." - Melissa Broder, here.
Deliriously stoned & early to meet him, I find a bench on the sunny side of 10th & Walnut. Prime spot for people-observing, but not much variety this time of day: coffee-clutching med students shuttling & in out of Jefferson, a pageant of monochromatic businessmen with blue-blinking leeches attached to their ears. Simulacrum blinks across my mind like a defective stock ticker, & none of this is how it’s supposed to go, I don’t think, since these exercises work better without strained attempts at anthropological detachment.
I watch construction workers watching me from a ledge, & in waiting to hear Smile followed by some outmoded pet-name, there comes a demure Good afternoon instead. For that I actually smile until at least Jeweler’s Row, where felt-covered necks & plastic wrists wait unadorned behind bars in the window displays, as if someone might be tempted to reach into that empty space to grope for remnants of some infinite & glittering love.
Strolling past lit-up theaters along the Avenue of the Arts, every slightest jolt of pleasure attunes at once: tire swishes & the ruckus of buskers, aroma trails of leather & shampoo, heavy colognes of white-haired men escorting their wives to the orchestra, the trail of my dress billowing behind obediently in mid-air. I try moving from block to block in a straight line, testing a swelling sense of invincibility. Some people change their trajectories to avoid running into me; most others come so close, I become convinced that they’re passing right through my body.
I lean against the restaurant’s front windows & look up every so often in the direction I know he’ll come from, until there he is, wearing last spring’s jacket & a look I’ve come to recognize as equal parts desire & acquiescence.
Our pleasantries are measured, cartoonishly loaded. We’re not even trying to have a conversation anymore, I say. Poetry & politics & catch-up talk & all the rest irrelevant: I want to fast-forward through dinner, to the part where he takes off his coat & crosses the room to put his hands on my face & kiss my shoulders. He doesn’t disagree, & lets out an appreciative murmur— the first in a long series that night— along the lines of Your tits look amazing in that dress.
Gone are last year’s sweetness & reserve, but he feels better inside me than ever. The wanting itself, suddenly, enough.
Went for a long lunchtime stroll sans headphones, for once. Heard along the way: chorus of church bells, raindrops clicking against leaves & tin, Lou’s “Perfect Day” blaring from a car stereo. Well-played, universe.
"Sometimes I read reviews, & people say, ‘This sounds like her diary,’ or ‘She should’ve kept her breakup to herself.’ I think, ‘Yeah, maybe you’re right.’ But it’s okay with me that I’m working on the edge of being sentimental. I prefer that edge to the larded-up edge. I take heart in thinking I’m the whole of me. I know all these strains co-exist, but I’m not going to bend over backwards to make you think I’m a smart poet." - Maggie Nelson, here.