Kent Johnson: Two poems

  Kent Johnson

  Two poems

  From Rimbaud, and Some Poetry Bumper Stickers
  from Rimbaud: Campuses (I)

Paragraph 1 follows: 1:

The Campus has it all over the wildest accomplishments of late Tang accommodation and decadence. Futile to describe the yearning looks on the faces of the apprentices, the imperial glint of the barrack-like edifices, the ancient silence of the snow-globes. The hubris is unimaginable: Structures of fantastical modernity inhabit the gigantic bodies of aging hybridists. I go to poetry readings amidst the architecture many times more spectacular than any in all modernity. And what sexuality! Pulitzer Prize-winning Nebuchadnezzars have arranged their attendants in haughty poses on the staircases of the ministries, though here and there some sit, normally, at affected attention; even the flunkies are fairly smug, confident of their station. When I saw their old masters dissected for exhibit, gape-mouthed in their shark tanks, I nearly fainted. Nevertheless, the hint of endless galleries beyond these gave me strength, not least the suggestion of careful arrangement and tactful selection in matters of frame and lighting these promised. The upper zone of the campus, I hasten to note, has weird segments: simulacral streets of hashish clubs filled with patrons, each of them encased in bluish tile, imported from an oil-producing backwater, where such fragilities are crafted by prepubescent no-names. Narrow tunnels lead to the frescoed vault of the Palmer House. This dome is an armature of well-wrought plaster approximately fifteen million meters in diameter.

1:

Here and there, at the copper readings, the golden celebrations of honors, the platforms and stairways that wound round the labyrinthine markets and institutional pillars, I thought I could grasp the meaning and purpose of the weird plan. Yet from the inside of it, I was merely cipher, happy and excited as I was in my astonishment of it. Are there other worlds more real than its marvels, above or below its game of Go? For the tourists in these hotel-marvels, Cairo, Aden, or Benghazi are old-hat, been there, done that. They enter the business of it, properly ordered, with arcaded galleries, shops full of curios. The trampled road waits to be trampled; a few nabobs ride in diamond-studded sulkies, though most still die, anciently, in the gutters. Here and there, an intricate web of microscopic tubes connects the sewers to writing retreats in deserts, mountains, and grape-growing regions. Furthermore, at the Associated Writing Programs Conference they serve tropical appetizers whose prices vary from eight thousand to eight million dollars. Insofar as nosing out a poetry reading in this place, I should say that the gold-leafed sewers I mentioned contain tragedies that are tragic enough. I think there is a State apparatus, but the laws of the Poetry State, communards, are already so exactly as strange as those of the Imperium that I’m ready to disembowel myself with a dull ladle. You can take Space and Time for granted, but look at my face in the daguerreotype: Space is a miracle and Time is a freak-house.

2:

Paris is now a suburb, but the avant-garde gives light to the Museum where the action is. Like forever, the real vanguard elements number in the mere hundreds. For apparently normal individuals, architecture is discontinuous and ecstatically erratic; their gated communities come into their communal gathering in periodic travel, meticulously arranged like any suburb, though these structures lose themselves bizarrely in the provinces after the rituals, where savage gentlefolk hunt down their gossip columns by artificial light.

  Some Poetry Bumper Stickers

3:

I KNOW WHERE LEW WELCH IS HIDING

4:

TRUMP/SEIDEL IN 2016

5:

BECAUSE IT’S THE PROJECTION OF THE PRINCIPLE OF EQUIVALENCE FROM THE AXIS OF SELECTION TO THE AXIS OF COMBINATION, ASSHOLE

6:

HEY, THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE INTEREST, INNOVATIVE AMERICAN POETS! YOURS SINCERELY, AFRICA

7:

THE NEW CRITERION: DOING LINES OF WHITE POETRY SINCE 1982

8:

THE MONGREL COALITION AGAINST GRINGPO: REPRESENTING PYONGYANG SINCE 2015

9:

DON’T LIKE CATULLUS? CALL 1-800-EAT-SHIT

10:

LANGUAGE POETRY: IT’S NOT YOUR FATHER’S IVY LEAGUE ANYMORE

11:

IT WILL BE A FINE DAY, INDEED, WHEN THE POETRY FOUNDATION HAS TO HOLD A BAKE SALE

12:

CONCEPTUAL POETRY: WHERE THE MEDICINE-SHOW RUBBER MEETS THE AUTHOR-FUNCTION FREEWAY

13:

I’D RATHER BE SCANNING QUANTITATIVE METERS

14:

FASCIST MODERNISTS: YOU WOULDN’T HAVE THE POST-AVANT WITHOUT THEM

15:

HONK IF YOU THINK POETRY MATTERS (PRESS BUTTON ON STEERING WHEEL)

16:

AMERICAN HYBRID IS FOR LOVERS

17:

I HAVE AN MFA; WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?

18:

DID HE REALLY SAY POETS ARE THE UNACKNOWLEDGED LEGISLATORS OF THE WORLD?

19:

BAY AREA COMMUNE POETRY: THE OTHER WHITE MEAT

20:

POETS & WRITERS: THE MAGAZINE FOR WINNERS

21:

WE CAN PUT A MAN ON THE MOON, BUT WE CAN’T WRITE A POETRY BESTSELLER?

22:

I BREAK LINES FOR NO APPARENT REASON

23:

I FLEW ON POETRY MAGAZINE’S LEAR JET

24:

OUR SON’S A STRAIGHT-A GRAD STUDENT IN CREATIVE WRITING

25:

THE SESTINA: GAUNTLET FOR TOUGH SISSIES

26:

BREADLOAF: BEST DISGUISED METH-LAB IN THE GREEN MOUNTAINS

27:

MY FAVORITE VICHY-COLLABORATOR-AVANT-GARDE POET IS GERTRUDE STEIN

28:

JOHN ASHBERY: SAYING IT THAT WAY BECAUSE HE CAN, SINCE 1956

29:

THE POETRY PROJECT: KEEPING LOWLY U OUT OF THE ‘CLIQ*E’

30:

THOSE WHO CAN’T, FLARF

31:

PROUD PARENTS OF A PUSHCART PRIZE NOMINEE
 

Kent Johnson, left.
Kent Johnson, left.

Kent Johnson’s latest book is I Once Met: A Partial Memoir of the Poetic Field (Longhouse, 2015). His annotated translation of Cesar Vallejo’s only known interview appeared as a letterpress object from Ugly Duckling Presse last year. With Kristin Dykstra, he has edited Materia Prima: Selected Poems of Amanda Berenguer, also to be published, in 2017, by UDP. You can read his translations of some poems of Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz (translated with Forrest Gander) in Jacket 8, and his interview with poet Henry Gould in Jacket 10. Like everyone else, he is currently writing a novel.

 

 

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