From the early period (“Poems from the mid-1960s”) I read this morning the poem called “Lulu” which is a five part poem of which the first part reads as follows:
what oh where oh what. . .
the earth or you
asleep in the quiet peace
and night, why not night
you won’t allow
its stars and blackness
it was the same with January
an edict after New Year’s Eve
for once sober, mindful of the traffic
along the unsafe wet streets
everyone tooling into morning
with hangovers and resolutions
later the card game broke up
(I still had my pants on
you were down to your undies)
Alphonso told us quite candidly about
the history of Spain
and as if that weren’t enough
we wondered about the color of the hibiscus
(was it pink, or rogue, or rose-red) such
in the morning
This undoubtedly smells quite vividly of the sixties that none of us remember (we are way too young) but still can more or less estimate through our extended TV-memory, something about the looseness and free wheeling aspect of the poem, those beatific twists and turns, always simultaneously casual and defiant, aspiring cool, laying out their little lazy riffs, the young vagabond hipster with his hair and stares writing/smuggling himself into any environment no matter how big or small.
One thing I like about this poem is the “I want to write poetry and I don’t give a shit what you think”-ness about that nonsensical first line, as if to say, I can’t afford to wait around for the right first line to appear, who knows what then, what then? These poems have to be written. But in the nonsense is also where the poetry lives, in that old school “Oh” sigh moan to call on the muse.
Yes it makes you wonder about our current poetry schemes, in a way, where the poetry seems seated more than on the run, slightly cautious , slightly afraid of what might happen if the fuck-ups aren’t fixed, slightly afraid of what might happen if poetry and environment, poetry and politics, poetry and bullshit, poetry and popular culture, merge lanes. What then?
As such it is a freeing poem, partly in its failure, its aloofness, it’s i don’t give a shit-ness, which threatens to make people that read it not hum contentedly but want to possibly write themselves, because we can do this, because everyone can do this?
The thought of everyone! The nerve!
Lets bring back cool, beat, punk.
The poem finishes with a question of such consequences and a reminder that it’s always lame to want to do shit:
here is a plaster wall
step up to it or turn your back
on its indifferent whiteness
(it is the same)
(it is the same)
Partial Biography 1
“Born in Brooklyn and raised in Miami Beach, Michael Heller was educated as an engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. While working as a technical writer for Sperry Gyroscope, he met several former students of Louis Zukofskyt, who introduced him to the work of a wide range of contemporary poets.”
The book is called This Constellation is a Name (Collected Poems 1965-2010) by Michael Heller. Published by Nightboat Books 2012.
Is This Your Establishment Killing Poet-Kittens!?