Re-taping the nearly flying away A4 page on the green street light base. A voice from behind. What are you advertising? I thought I was in trouble. Uhhhh, it’s a call for poetry submissions… Are you a poet? You’re too young. You don’t have the fire in your eyes! I stared. He stared. Studying me, he seemed to question himself as the words left his mouth. HA! I almost thought. No, no—I publish. Ahhh. Here it comes. At first hesitant, too inquisitive. Who’s your favorite poet? Alejandra Pizarnik. Alejandro? Alejandra. Pizarnik. From Argentina. Hmmm. But what about: names names names names. I barely kept up. But could complete a couple titles on the tip of his tongue. We began to like each other. Animation increased. Comfort rose. He caught his dad reading in secret the Henry Miller he scolded him for reading. I just read Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. Ah, yeah, but the one—Tropic of Cancer—he hated. Jane Janette! Jane Janette? From France. Existentialist. Janette? Janette. Genet. Jean Genet. Never heard of him. He was born a criminal, but man! He didn’t study, you don’t want to study, under these people in English departments who got turned down by publishers. That one guy at USF. I went to USF. You know that one guy? No, I wasn’t in Creative Writing. Took poetry with Zapruder though, and music history with Thiam. You see, I went to the MoMa recently, a friend gave me a ticket, very expensive, and this woman was trying to guide me and interpret the art for me, are you kidding me?! What could she tell me?! Yeah… you gotta get it straight. Genet read two pages of Proust and scoffed: I can do better than that! Ha! He was an antisemite, but the writing, it’s different. I brought up Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil, his eyes lit up: NATURE! Yes! Yes! You know di Parma? Diane? Yeah. Yes! Incredible! She just died. Yeah, recently, huh? Yes. Thomas Gunn? Uh, no. You don’t know Thom Gunn!? No, no… sounds somewhat familiar, but… not ringing a bell. Ahhhhh—you must read him. I saw him on Haight and Cole, at that cafe, back when it used to be something. Now, it’s nothing, just runaways, after that one girl—the mayor of Chicago’s daughter—came here and made street life cool. Once, back in the day, I saw the Hells Angels and Hare Krishnas on Haight get in a fight. Guess who won? The whites of his eyes, laughing in interrogation. My face grimaced back, I knew it wasn’t: Er, the Hells Angels…? Nope! The Hare Krishnas scared ’em outta there. Those massive bald guys! You know that woman who writes the stuff they sell even in the supermarkets? At Safeway and what not? She lives right here. She asked the city for 12 parking permits! 12 cars! Her books are trash. Ah, pop stuff? Yeah, pop. She lives in Paris half the year—you don’t want to hear about her. Charlie pawing at my calf to go. Names names name name. It became harder and harder to keep up. The accent stirring away. Trying, nodding, ah yeah… I’m from Ethiopia. Ahh, super cool. He looked at me like I hadn’t a clue about Ethiopia—I don’t. Where do you live? Right around the corner… Okay! Come find me at Cafe Oasis, I’m there most nights, I live here above the laundromat. Okay, I’ll find you. I need a notepad next time I see you… Yes yes yes. I’ll give you some books. I began to walk up the block as he turned to my puny sign and held out his pointer finger: SUBMIT YOUR POEMS: spectrapoets.org ❤ I shouted from behind, I’ll give you a copy! He smiled.
If you would be a poet, write living newspapers. Be a reporter from outer space, filing dispatches to some supreme managing editor who believes in full disclosure and has a low tolerance for bullshit.”
Poetry As Insurgent Art