On meeting Robert Frost in a snowy wood

I never much considered Robert Frost, that ubiquitous poet of school English texts. The sort of thing people think of when they think of poetry — pastoral, conventional in rigid rhyme and meter. Easy. Old-fashioned.

Irrelevant.

I came across him again in Turco’s Book of Forms:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

— ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ by Robert Frost

And he thrilled something in me, old Robert Frost. Born in a time of war, coming of age in the Gilded Age, writing in the conventions of his time and place, oh this pretty picture of New England. A snowy wood on a winter evening. And yet.

And yet.

I’ve been in snow soaked woods in the dark of night, places where there is no ‘farmhouse near’ and they are not moments from Currier and Ives. They are dark, wild places where humanity is small and I feel the Fimbulwinter that awaits. Looking at the skeletal trees, the pines shrouded, and the world blanketed in white and silence, I imagine the end of the world and the heat death of the universe.

Robert Frost, with his little horse, thinking he’s crazy to stop here, in this lonesome place, this end of time place, this place of wolves and silence, he must have felt that too. The winter wood is not a pastoral place; it is not charming or idyllic. It is a savage place, a place that sleeps and dreams of death. And there is Robert Frost, longing to enter that wood, ‘lovely, dark and deep’.

Oh yes, that place of darkness in all its seductive power. And how easy it would be to ride his little horse into that dark. But he can’t. Not now. He has promises to keep, and miles to go before he sleeps.

Sometimes there is the right time for meeting someone. Meet them too early, and you don’t recognize them; you overlook them. When you meet them too late, the moment you could’ve fallen in love with them is already past. And I wonder, maybe, if I have met Robert Frost, again, at exactly the right time.

on reading ‘Peanut Butter’ by Eileen Myles

I was in the salon before our trip, waiting to have my hair done–it’s a little different than last time. Similar. But not exactly the same because I never get exactly the same haircut. I don’t know if you’d be able to tell the difference if I hadn’t told you. It doesn’t matter.

I was reading poetry on my phone. As I do when I’m somewhere with no wifi, waiting.

It’s good to be places without wifi. And to wait sometimes for something you want.

I was reading ‘Peanut Butter‘ by Eileen Myles. I never heard of her, but that doesn’t mean anything. There are lots of people I never heard of that are worth knowing. And some people I know that aren’t. But anyway. I like her. We are sympathetic animals.

She begins,

I am always hungry
& wanting to have
sex.

Then she talks about peanut butter. I, too, like sex and peanut butter.

Not together.

I, too, know the way hunger makes you aware of your body. Everything is more intense when you’re hungry. The physical becomes acute. There are times I live for weeks in the edge state of hunger. If you cannot, or will not, feed one primal urge, satiate another.

We are not meant to be fat and bloated animals, drugged on food. Lazy, castrated housecats. Do you remember what it’s like to need?

We are meant to be lean and always moving. We are meant to be hungry.

She says:

Pleasure
as a means,
and then a
means again
with no ends
in sight.

Pleasure being an end unto itself. I have a joke for you. It begins, an ascetic and a hedonist walk into a bar…

I don’t know how it ends.

I do wonder how they got to be friends.

This part reminds me of you:

When the water
boils I get
a cup of tea.
Accidentally I
read all the
works of Proust.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read Proust, but I can imagine you having that kind of accident. This is a love poem, but the love parts don’t make me think of you.

Eileen Myles and I are sympathetic in love, also.

She says:

why shouldn’t
something
I have always
known be the
very best there
is.

It’s important to know what hunger feels like. If you don’t know the ache of it, you don’t know when it’s soothed.

I’ve known people with a black hole where their stomach ought to be. They’re so out of touch with their own hunger, they don’t know when to stop eating. They can’t ever feel full because they don’t understand the nature of the hunger.

Tyson Bley’s Drive-Thru Zoo

Straight up, I’ve been a Tyson Bley fangirl ever since I read an extract of Normal Service Will Resume Shortly on decomP and wandered over to his blog at Soapstain. I was super excited when I found out Gobbet Press was putting out an honest-to-god old school paper collection of some of Bley’s poems. Tyson sent me a copy of Drive-Thru Zoo, fondled by his own Cheetos stained appendages.

(I like to imagine he dropped it in a post box while he was walking a dog.)

I read it the day showed up in the mail. It was awesome. I read it again. It’s still awesome. Which makes it hard for me to write about. I get weird and self-conscious when I write about stuff I really like. And explaining Tyson Bley challenges my powers of description on my best days. Double whammy.

What the fuck can I say about reading Tyson Bley?

His poems are the noise which we plumb for signal. The idea that Bley is saying something, maybe something important, rubs up against me like calculus. Among the aborted robot fetuses and gorilla shit, redolent of 4chan and America’s next pop culture, ADD as a Higgs boson and disjointed as a Twitter feed, lurks something profound.

My girlfriend has for a number of years been an Elvis impersonator.
The ghost she puts on every night like a gown, just before bed,
wants her body. One day, it will have it. In bed, it is a species
of ambulance that emits dengue beams and whose sweat smells
like tap water. She has not yet heard its threadbare siren. She thinks
the noise comes from the ants living in the pipes.

from “JEDI SANDALS”

Tyson Bley’s poems are achingly human: confused, random, and beautiful with stabby bits and festering warts and hentai tentacles that make me want to shower like I’ve never been clean.
They smell like the Ewok lunch box I had in the second grade. They’re blocky chunks of animation in Thundercat colors. They’re the sick fascination the first time I saw Goatse.

And they’re funny. Tyson Bley is a funny motherfucker.

There are not many books that make me laugh, but Drive-Thru Zoo is among them.

BALANCE IS KEY

my inner ear is circulating hot earwax as all inner ears must
my balance is not out of kilter
but why is there a squishy sound under my shoe?
it’s unlikely to be Jerry
but it is Jerry
Jerry is the insect I’d welded together from tiny shiny parts
I’d euthanized Jerry because of his unbearable anxiety
I am a human
I am not a prick
I have a heart
I euthanize tiny mechanical insects when they’re in pain
I am not a shit

when I created Jerry, a certain hope became unhinged and
dribbled
through my innards in grains
I’d hoped to create a truly cute being

but why does Jerry make a squishy sound and not a crispy sound
when I step on his little corpse?

Brass tacks, Bley’s like sex or drugs; I can tell you what it’s like for me, but you’re gonna have to read it yourself to really understand the experience. Lay back and enjoy Drive-Thru Zoo for the sticky dadaist mindfuck that it is. The point isn’t to dissect each poem and suck intent from its cracked bones, it’s to enjoy the frottage as the weirdness in Tyson Bley’s panting brain presses up against you in the crowded media train.

(Check out the sweet cover by Matthew Revert, too. Shiny.)


You can find Tyson Bley at Soapstain. AFAIK, Drive-Thru Zoo (Gobbet Press; 2013) is only available via Amazon.

A Confession

I like to read poetry.

It’s dangerous to admit in public. Poetry is one of those things that has a reputation. Suicidal women and sexually ambiguous men using big words and taking liberties with grammar.

If I do admit, publicly, that I read poetry purely for the pleasure of it, I’m usually gonna get the stinkeye. Sad fact is, outside of certain circles, people believe it’s pretentious. Like admitting you read Moby Dick for fun. Nobody does that. I must be putting on airs. Because nobody actually likes poetry.

On occasion, when I do manage to find myself in a hipster enclave where perusal of poetry (and one’s own poetical aspiration) is de rigueur, I just end up embarrassed. It’s safer to pretend I’ve never read a poem in my life than it is to say that I like Bukowski (“Passé.”) or Adrienne Rich (“Cliché.”) or have my shallow knowledge of modern poets condescended to.

So it remains mostly a secret pleasure, like masturbation.

I take out the confections of the poets that appeal to my plebeian taste and I roll around in an orgy of literary ecstasy, like a dog on his back in freshly mowed grass. I coat myself in it, every pore. I inhale until the words fill the alveoli of my consciousness.

Once in a very rare while, I meet someone else as ignorantly enthusiastic as myself. For a few moments, breathless, as fast as we can talk (or type):
“Have you read…”
“You’ve gotta try…”
“… is amazing.”


I started this post a while ago. Before dinner and a nap. I almost forgot where I was going.

Don’t worry, I remembered.

As I quietly, secretly read lit journals and online zines, the corners frequented by the poets that are still working day jobs and self-publishing their own chapbooks, the great New York bastions of the poets who’ve Made It with stipends and poet-in-residence positions, there’s a common discussion that always crops up.

“Why,” poetry people lament, “does no one read poetry? How do we make it accessible?”

Maybe it’s the apparent impenetrability. Maybe it’s the psychic scars of premature sonnets. I’ve got no answers.

Poetry seems a style of writing peculiarly suited to the way we live our lives. Brief, more often than not, condensed meaning packaged for quick consumption. Three minutes in a bank line, fifteen in the doctor’s office, half an hour on the train or bus or in motionless gridlock.

Last night I said to Em, “Remember when, if you wanted something to read, you had to go out and get a physical object and bring it home?”

It seems so antiquated. Now, the words are all around us, floating in the ether, waiting to be plucked down and tucked into the crevices of our lives.

Why not poetry?


And between those of us with more enthusiasm than education in these things:

“Have you read Hot Mamas and Little Gangstas by Kyle Hemmings? Or Avenue C?”
“You’ve gotta try Adam Coates!”
Kristine Ong Muslim is amazing.”