Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Whole Thing II

It's been a while since I've blogged, but that is a measure of mental health in that I don't feel the therapeutic need to do so, even if I had a little dip in my mood in the last week, though increased medications seem to have that on the run. I won't list my medications; I've done so in the past. I don't want anyone to think my cocktail is universal or easily applied to others. These combinations of drugs are beyond psychiatry's ability to determine if and why they work--as long as you're doing well, keep taking them. In medical school in a lecture on psychosis a professor opined: "This is an antipsychotic, Mellaril. Take 50 mg. a day and if you feel better, don't tell anyone."

(Doctors are the most serious drug abusers and RNs a close second. Availability, availability, availability. But Mellaril is hardly a drug of abuse.)

As for reading, I've plowed through a slew of novels of late, have nearly finished Wallace Stevens' collected poems, and am more than halfway through with John Ashbery's selected. Stevens is a master; Ashbery is a curiosity of our times, a man who shares his present, quotidian consciousness with us and often contrasts it with the past and muses on stages of development. He is not a lyric poet; he is not a logopoet; he is a discursive poet who throws everything in but the kitchen sink in his usual pastiche of narrating his own consciousness. He is boring, obtuse and self-indulgent. When he briefly attempts formal rhymes they are laughable. Had he been writing a century ago I daresay he wouldn't have been a poet at all. Back then you had to be able to master a sonnet. I cannot disrecommend him more highly, but he has benefited me in loosening my associations in my own compositions.

Earlier in this blog I attempted to encompass "the whole thing." Here's a link to that post: The Whole Thing

I have now worked the same thing into one of my recent poems:

The Whole Thing

Is a nimiety of untold proportions,
a whirling globe of radishes,
a carnival with a trillion barkers,
a moon braying at a palm forest,
a thousand-eyed politician,
numberless embalmers with brake fluid,
the naked ballerina twirling at the speed of light
like some vanishing gyroscope,
how the pumpkin seeds coat everything,
the evaporation of water,
salt crust of a diminishing bog,
carnivorous plants in a Gorgon wig,
the extinction of dinosaurs,
the Dodo holocaust, the decline of frogs,
nimbus of maggots, temple of flies
wound around a rubber center
like a golf ball with its shiny dimples,
the stainless steel contraption
we dreamed of that did everything,
the ultimate Swiss Army Knife,
a Hoover with a million attachments
for soldering and colonoscopy and carpet cleaning,
the crystal hagiography of various churches
spread like maps on the brown velvet
and all the funny hats, funny hats
in Cardinal red or Quaker black
honoring the birdbath of their flocks,
a giant gumball rolling down a farm road
picking up feathers and cigar stubs
and all manner of vegetables,
growing monstrously large
like an irradiated pumpkin
but uncontainable, incontestable,
always in motion while accreting substance
of sand, shells, gravel, straw, burrs
stuck to its expanding surface
like hemagglutinin spikes on a virus,
a thing of absolute obesity
gobbling souls like popcorn
while film coils around film
into the ultimate movie,
a chambered nautilus of action figures,
special effects and nausea,
the smell of charred spaceships
mixed with Chanel No. 5,
bubbling green alien flesh on no earthly channel
rather broadcast to us by them
who overpopulate the periphery
of the humongous outbreak of potentiality
that attracts everything, having more gravity
than anything, an all-absorbent ball
of paper towels, a thing without tonsils or teeth
that absorbs us through its porous skin
as a frog does oxygen, a sticky thing,
a caramel apple of prodigious girth,
taking the shape of a sphere
because it is the most economical
though it cares nothing about economy
as it eclipses the global GDP
in its relentless overbearing on everything at once,
pressing down on the collective forehead,
depressing eyes with fishing weights,
insatiable superplanet sucking up moons
like plankton, the whole pelican’s beak
but already molting beyond that,
plastered about with hummingbird wings
like bumper stickers, the whole damn
indefinable mess of it, an all-encompassing
space-time Thanksgiving turkey
obliterating the Big Bang with drippings,
stuffing itself with the bread crumbs of galaxies,
constantly feasting on the universe
but perverse enough to fuck with you
personally if you take it that way.

(It garnered an honorable mention at the Wild Poetry Forum one week.)

To recount the events from my life in intervening weeks would be beyond my scope or ability. The Mendocino Men's Circle retreat is happening the weekend of the 25th, a process in which I've been heavily involved, and Kathleen and I are leaving for NY on the 29th to see her mother and assorted friends. I hope to visit Norm Ball in DC and take in the Smithsonian as well. I am, however, a west coast snob, thinking our northern Pacific coast far superior to anything they have out there in Flatland, and the Appalachians are nothing like the Sierras.

For those who wished the Melic Board were reestablished, I can only say I have no plans for the immediate future, though I often regret ending the magazine when I did, but I was lacking a webmaster and engulfed in a two-year depression, as followers of this blog know.

I've purchased a stunt kite that is so far too difficult to fly, though I have lacked sustained winds. The other day I shot par at the local Frisbee golf course! Today I must spray the flower garden with deer repellent, made with spoiled egg salad and garlic, sold commercially--I kid you not. But it works. Those four-hooved rats don't like it at all.

I just had another rejection from Poetry but I soldier on. I hope my opinion of Ashbery doesn't disqualify me.

All for today,



  1. Soldier on, CE, it's a mark of honor to be rejected by Poetry, as it is the Ny'er, and all the other hi-falutin' magazines out there.

    Now and then I throw something out for them, knowing it will come whizzing back faster than is decent. And yet, considering what I see in the New Yorker from time to time for what passes for poetry, it's rare that I can even understand it, rarer still that I even like it.

    Not what I refer to as 'clippable" poetry.

    As to Ashbery, I have to agree, on a much more mundane level. I've tried, lord knows I've tried, but he always leaves me behind very quickly, lost in the dark. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one out there who has given up trying.

    That was, by the way, a dynamite poem at Wild.

  2. my last rejection from Poetry had a comment noting that a particular poem "almost made it". I can live with that. For awhile.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Mittens, you're a great encouragement, thanks for stopping by.

    I wear the badge of dumb persistence. Rather than honors I think of rejections as testimony to my perseverance. I want to break the glass ceiling, I want to be published in the best journals. I don't know what I have to do to accomplish that; for now my self-admonishment is "write better."

    Flash Paper, you rule! I've never gotten a personal note from Poetry, I was not even aware that they sent them. Good for you.


  5. Flash, I'd feel honored if they just made black marks on the paper. wow. Send them something else, quick.

    Basically rejections just mean that someone got there ahead of you. Once you can absorb that reality (no, baby, it's not personal), and that your poem doesnt suck, rejections arent so tough to take. in a way, submitting to Poetry (did you know they get (or got at one time) upwards of 8000 submissions a MONTH? I think even getting noticed must be up there with winning the lottery...

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  7. Anonymous11:51 PM PDT

    It's a fascinating and all-too-common dichotomy: openly disparaging the quality of work in the NYer and Poetry et al while at the same time expressing the wish to be included in amongst this work of dubious merit because, well, it is in "the best journals."

    A journal is what it eats, yes? Or no?

  8. Anon--yes, a dichotomy. But I don't remember disparaging the NYer or Poetry--I look forward to their issues. Generally the poetry is good. And I like seeing old friends like Strand (I mean in the sense he's an old friend re: familiarity with his work).


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