The Phenomenology of Error[i]

A solo Mission at the Ranger Station before group poetry night, hoping
for a good napkin poem. When we read like police we make a criminal[ii]
shot with red pencil corrections, the poet apprehended, booked.

Pull over the rotting rhymester! Handcuff this conceptualist clown.
Arrest that academic asshole. Ticket the doggerel running off-leash.
Slipknot a sleeping surrealist. Deny the pop songwriter his award.

We might read like Mother Theresa[iii] anointing the sores of lepers,
becoming the other for the time saving takes then letting go.
The poverty of poets paves the way to the cornucopia of poetry.

Line 14 stops and a pretty woman[iv] hops off in bright orange shorts.
She’s poetry in motion[v], no idea of me, and could not care less
what I’ve done to this napkin. For her, a perfect reader, I must error not.


[i] “The Phenomenology of Error” is a study by Joseph M. Williams showing when we read self-consciously we do so with bias from personally invested conventions that often have nothing to do with the reality of the text at hand (May, 1981). http://www.english.illinois.edu/-people-/faculty/schaffner/Williams%20Error.pdf

[ii] In “Seeing Through Police” (n+1, Spring 2015), Mark Greif says, “Police spend a large part of their time distributing crime to the sorts of people who seem likely to be criminals.” https://nplusonemag.com/issue-22/police/seeing-through-police/

[iii] Mother Theresa was canonized by Pope Francis in September, 2016, amid ongoing criticism of the quality and quantity of her work with the poor.

[iv] Any resemblance to the Roy Orbison song (1964, “Oh, Pretty Woman”), or to the Julia Roberts film (1990), is purely coincidental.

[v] Line 14 is the Hawthorne bus. Poetry in Motion places poems on buses.

4 Comments

  1. A fun poem, powerful, too.
    The article by J Williams made my head spin but also offered food for thought.
    My English improved mainly via unconscious assimilation, in the way toddlers crawl to achieve coordinated muscle movements.
    I once met a boy of 2 whose parents had prohibited crawling. They considered crawling primitive and had consistently pulled the child up to walk. ‘He walked with 8 months,’ the mother told me proudly. His movements were wooden – not poetry in motion.

    Body and mind dance together. Thinking further of language development, I imagine a child with a grammar tyrant at its elbow is likely to turn into a fierce error seeker.

Comments are closed.