The poetry post was taken down over night spirits the rules of cultural worm tongues relevance ad hoc heresy. Kicked to the ground old fashioned paper pages bestrew the weeds of diction and grammar. Who put up the poetry post unknown nor who kicked the post down still cadence broke at the base cracked where it entered the yard near the sidewalk free for passersby to read not the news and certainly nothing about a poetry post pushed over in the night nor who picked up the pieces and raked clean any evidence Who put up the poetry post unknown nor who punched the post's still cadence broke at the base cracked where it entered the yard near the sidewalk free for passersby to read not the news and anyway nothing about a poetry post pushed away in the night broken where entered the ground empty the post head where displayed a page a day now empty abandoned unfulfilled leaning fallen pushedfall
Readers who like unlikeable characters will love Binnie Kirshenbaum’s Lila Moscowitz. Lila is stubborn, spoiled, angry, bitter, promiscuously self-destructive. And, frosting on the cake, she’s a poet. That’s not to say she’s without redeemable qualities. She’s funny, hilarious, in fact, a natural wit, and as honest as a person can be without losing all of one’s family and friends and readers. Her humor is laced with sarcasm and irony. She’s quick, street smart and intelligent, independent. Experienced readers will recognize that Lila is not Binnie, that the narrator of a novel should not be confused with the author. This narrative truth is emphasized toward the end of the book when Lila takes some questions after a poetry reading:
“‘Did you really dance topless at the Baby Doll Lounge?’ Another one of the college girls is contemplating a career move, no doubt.
I smile as if I’ve got a secret, and I say, ‘I refuse to answer on the grounds that it could incriminate me.'”
Lila may be a poet, but she’s not stupid:
“That I never danced topless at the Baby Doll Lounge or anyplace else either is not what they want to hear.”
Does she “write every day,” another student asks, and Lila pretends for the audience that she does write every day. She’s then asked “how much money do poets make?” Here she tells the truth (192-193).
But while the perspicacious reader knows Lila is not Binnie, we all know that poetry does not sell, so why not only does Binnie put “poetry” in her title but structures her book with poetic devices, informing each chapter with epigraphs, definitions of poetic conventions? Didn’t she want her book to sell? The answer has to do with wheels within wheels, or how to turn a stand up routine into literature:
“Many of the poems I write are about sex. I have a gift for the subject. The ins and outs of it. My poems lean toward the sordid side of the bed, the stuff of soiled sheets” (21).
We don’t get to hear those poems, but they apparently are full of the tension created by want harbored in inhibitions freed in seduction, romp enclosed in forms, procedures, praxis, which express mores without which somehow sex is not nearly as much fun. The fun is enclosed in a box of gravure etchings. The notion of form as enclosure is conservative. The poet might want out, not in. Lila’s own explanation might solve both Binnie and the reader’s questions:
“There is freedom within the confines of form the way a barrier protects you from the elements of disaster. The way there is love in the bonds of marriage. ‘Without boundaries, you can be only adrift,’ I say. ‘Lost. Without lines drawn on the map, you are nowhere. It is better to be a prisoner of war than to be without a nation, a place, a people'” (194).
Jesus may have said the opposite – Come, follow me, and leave all that nonsense behind. Of course, most of his followers wound up wanting it both ways.
“Maybe they should stay in their cages and sing their hearts out. Unbridled passion…results from being tied to the bedpost” (194).
Which is to make of Lila a dynamic character, one who’s changed over the course of the work. She finds love only by losing love. She’s human, fallen, having slipped on her own banana peel, but she gets back up, and writes a book that stirs and calms the forms.
Pure Poetry, by Binnie Kirshenbaum, a novel, Simon & Schuster, 2000, 203 pages.
The Ant is a nickname for Delia Del Carril, second of Pablo Neruda’s three wives, and the title of her biography, by Fernando Saez, translated into English by Jessica Sequeira and published by Fiction Advocate, a small alternative press producing e-books and excellent quality paperbacks. As an enthusiastic follower of Jessica Sequeira’s work, I early ordered and read The Ant and considered a long reflective review comparing Delia to Joyce’s Nora, whose fictional biography I read and reviewed back in April (Nora: A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce, by Nuala O’Connor, 2021, Harper Perennial). There’s almost no basis for comparison. Delia was a wealthy and influential scion world’s away from poor Nora, and she would be cast aside by Pablo, her junior by two decades, for the younger Matilde. But Delia and Nora were born the same year, 1884, and both married men who grew to gigantic proportion in the country of books. Both were dedicated to and sacrificed for their husbands, who, it might be argued, scarcely deserved their affection. But that is love. That Pablo was no saint should come as no surprise to anyone who has read his poetry or his Memoirs. Likewise, Joyce was no saint, at least not one likely to be canonized in the eyes of Holy Mother Church. Yet both Pablo and Joyce seemed to possess boundless capabilities (some might say disabilities) for love and love’s expressions. Time is the great canceller of the postage stamp that is literature. “Neruda participated in a bohemia of bars and poverty” (86) – places from where Joyce also drew a good amount of inspiration. “Could there have been two people any more different [than Pablo and The Ant]? It’s difficult and risky to explain the origins of an interest, the unthinkable reasons that bring a couple together and make love possible. The mystery of why him, and why her, can lead to a number of questions without answer, in which there is surely more absurdity than logic” (89). “More absurdity than logic” – how’s that for a definition of literature? But don’t we go to literature to find the logic that might displace the absurdity of our lives? In any case, apart from the absurdity of the love story, there are good, practical reasons for reading Saez’s The Ant: to further our understanding and appreciation of 20th Century thought and expression; for an inside view of the history of politics, art, economics, and the geography of Chile and Argentina; and it details the ins and outs of the lives of artists and the families and friends they choose to live and correspond with. It’s possible that Delia and Nora might have met one another. They may have both been in Paris at the same time, where circles of expatriates, artists, and bohemians of both wealth and poverty often overlapped. If they did meet, would they have recognized one another? What would their talk have been about?
Drop by drip
prid by prod
she had me know
time to go.
Now is new
mew has won
calm bottoms up
What do we hear
when we are hard
sounds far and near
sharp metallic birds
the sorrow of the song
quaver and buzz
and foggy toots
warnings and come-ons
calls for help
turn-ons and turn-offs.
The ubiquitous it is at it
wait for it or go for it
again and again opposite its
clarity its antecedent it’s in
other words everywhere else
but here we will hide it
for good like its dark matter
it blankets, lids, sheaths
and sheets while we sleep
while we pretend to be
privy to it its fugitive identity.
Those words that come at night wash
swim the room like pieces of litter
flowing down a gutter in rainfall
cooling the street and gloom.
Then come the slow-moving
pulled by a pair of worker
words pulling like tugs
the barges of raw sense:
to to wit
to to whom
to to why
to to reason
of of love
in in fear
two by two
far and near.
Day ends with a walk to sleep,
ends again in the sober reality
of celestial shade, one awakes
in the dark and quiet, too early
to get out of bed, too late
to start some new episode
on the television or telephone,
and this is when one turns
to paper and words seep
out shy and uncertain fearful
like little furry animals searching
the brambles for food and drink
day’s fire now cool ashen,
and while certainly somewhere
in the city of night madness
drones on, an asocial tinnitus,
here in the paper we find
we can hear the pencil’s breeze
and feel the bluish-gray lead lighten.
the Word wears
nose and mouth
less it spread
or breathe in
once there was
full of tears
all dried out
dates from the
great drought age
when one stopped
the old style
What’s written by candle in yr cave
won’t be read for eons by anyone,
no views, no visitors, no likes, no
comments, until erelong perchance
some fair spelunker crawling
horizontally across the buried
rocks of yr commas, not too deep,
discovers yr degraded predicament,
etiolated undertaking to connect
images in the dark of creatures
now extinct, spellings archaic,
broken syntax of yr past, and finds
yr crushed crumpet of a skull
buried like a period at the end
of yr tunnel up against a wall,
a scurvy potation spilled betwixt.
If you fall into a round bottle,
it’s hard to climb back out.
Some fall from windows, heli-
copters, or love, uncapped
and uncorked, go with the flow.
Others fall into formation,
couplets on the go and make
do with whom or what
they find out or in line
falling in or falling out.