Jon Davis's Blog

June 23, 2013

Activist/Poet, n. Activist.
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Published on June 23, 2013 06:26 • 35 views

March 21, 2012

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 Poetry has been afflicted with meaning for too long. 
Certainly, there have been stabs at meaninglessness—dada, language poetry, flarf—but without a sustaining podium, without a venue, these movements have flared and died like matches struck and cupped in the general dark of meaningfulness. But the podium has been awaiting us, brightly lit and stark. The elevators, supermarkets, and telephones-on-hold have been longing for our words to soothe and cajole just beneath the consciousness--and then evaporate like hand disinfectant. The venues have been lonely without us. They are calling out for a muttered voice, a semblance of speech that is not speech, an overheard tonal flow of language that does not chomp down on a story or theme and hold on, but one that drifts, that touches wordly things lightly and moves on, that hints at emotion but does not deliver it kicking and squirming, that employs the language of ideas but does not insist on a full induction into the detailed argument. It is time American poets answered the call. It is time American poets produced sonic texts, well-voiced, well-sounded, but without the dynamics of plot and theme, poems that can deliver a tone in a one floor hop from copier to office or a long, smooth ride of 50 floors from Lexus to penthouse. 
What is required is a stream of image and sound that can accompany a shopper from the cereal aisle to dairy to household products without interfering with his thoughts. Only one American poet has come close to producing such poetry, and that is Nash Johnsbury. Johnbsury’s A Flume is the single monument of Poezac or Elevator Poetry extant. Younger poets should study this work not for what it accomplishes, but for its brilliant refusals.  Johnsbury’s avoidance of theme and story is, of course, well established. After flirting briefly with philosophical argument in Portrait of Eve in a Boutique Window, Johnsbury has pursued a vaguely troubled superficiality that suits the elevator perfectly. His avoidance of conclusion and closure, his natterings and digressions, his use of “the syntax of meaning” without any actual meaning, all provide a ground upon which a new generation can build a fully-realized Poezac. 
Much has been made lately of Federico Garcia Lorca’s notion of “duende.” American poets have clamored like pigs to the slop, trying to claim duende for their own work. Lorca, in his compelling, but ultimately misguided “Theory and Play of Duende,” claims that “The duende won’t appear if [the poet] can’t see the possibility of death, if he doesn’t know he can haunt death’s house.” Lorca’s continual pointing deathward is the opposite of Poezac, which seeks to deflect us from death and suffering and send us wholly into the distractions and episodes of shopping that constitute real life. In this passage from A Flume, Johnsbury masterfully counters duende with a vague nostalgia:
To have been kissed once by someone—certainlyThere is some comfort in that, Even if we don’t know what led up to it,Or it happened too long ago to matter now.Like almost too much light and warmth or a surfeit of powdered,sugary things—who can complain?
The syntax is vaguely Rilkean—thus giving it the frisson of serious poetry—but the attitude is insouciance, the ease with which loss can be borne if one recognizes that lovers are like products, and the next one promises to be more brilliantly packaged, new and improved, carrying perhaps a few more ounces for the same price—all in all, an equal or superior value. Played softly through a public address system, such work can be heartening, such work can serve society, can heal and distract and promote an immersion in life that can counter the deathward plod of much contemporary American poetry.
Death to death! The time has come for Poezac, for Elevator Poetry. 






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Published on March 21, 2012 20:17 • 37 views
By Guest Blogger Alice van de Wetering


Poetry has been afflicted with meaning for too long.

Certainly, there have been stabs at meaninglessness—dada, language poetry, flarf—but without a sustaining podium, without a venue, these movements have flared and died like matches struck and cupped in the general dark of meaningfulness. But the podium has been awaiting us, brightly lit and stark. The elevators, supermarkets, and telephones-on-hold have been longing for our words to soothe and cajole just beneath the consciousness--and then evaporate like hand disinfectant. The venues have been lonely without us. They are calling out for a muttered voice, a semblance of speech that is not speech, an overheard tonal flow of language that does not chomp down on a story or theme and hold on, but one that drifts, that touches wordly things lightly and moves on, that hints at emotion but does not deliver it kicking and squirming, that employs the language of ideas but does not insist on a full induction into the detailed argument. It is time American poets answered the call. It is time American poets produced sonic texts, well-voiced, well-sounded, but without the dynamics of plot and theme, poems that can deliver a tone in a one floor hop from copier to office or a long, smooth ride of 100 floors from Lexus to penthouse.

What is required is a stream of image and sound that can accompany a shopper from the cereal aisle to dairy to household products without interfering with her thoughts. Only one American poet has come close to producing such poetry, and that is John Ashbery. Ashbery's A Wave is the single monument of Poezac or Elevator Poetry extant. Younger poets should study this work not for what it accomplishes, but for what it fails to accomplish. Ashbery's avoidance of theme and story is, of course, well established. After flirting briefly with argument in Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror, Ashbery has pursued a vaguely troubled superficiality that suits the elevator perfectly. His avoidance of conclusion and closure, his natterings and digressions, his use of what I would call "the syntax of meaning" without any actual meaning, all provide a ground upon which a new generation can build a fully-realized Poezac.

Much has been made lately of Federico Garcia Lorca's notion of "duende." American poets have clamored like pigs to the slop, trying to claim duende for their own work. Lorca, in his compelling, but ultimately misguided "Theory and Play of Duende," claims that "The duende won't appear if [the poet] can't see the possibility of death, if he doesn't know he can haunt death's house." Lorca's continual pointing deathward is the opposite of Poezac, which seeks to deflect us from death and suffering and send us wholly into the distractions and episodes of shopping that constitute real life. In this passage from A Wave, Ashbery masterfully counters duende with a vague nostalgia:

To have been loved once by someone—surely

There is a permanent good in that,

Even if we don't know all the circumstances

Or it happened too long ago to make any difference.

Like almost too much sunlight or an abundance of sweet-sticky,

Carmelized things—who can tell you it's wrong?


The syntax is Rilkean—thus giving it the frisson of serious poetry—but the attitude is insouciance, the ease with which loss can be borne if one recognizes that lovers are like products, and the next one promises to be more brilliantly packaged, new and improved, carrying perhaps a few more ounces for the same price—all in all, an equal or superior value. Played softly through a public address system, such work can be heartening, such work can serve society, can heal and distract and promote an immersion in life that can counter the deathward plod of much contemporary American poetry.

Death to death! The time has come for Poezac, for Elevator Poetry.

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Published on March 21, 2012 20:17 • 57 views

February 3, 2012



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Published on February 03, 2012 11:18 • 28 views

December 16, 2011

Only One Animate Object on Man's List of "Things He's Thankful For"

Wife, Daughters Express Disappointment

The Williams family's Thanksgiving dinner was marred when Karl Williams, husband and father of two lovely daughters, ticked off the things he was thankful for and listed only one animate object, Charlie, his golden retriever, at number 7.

After his lovely and eloquent wife Giselle spoke movingly about how thankful she was for her husband's warmth and understanding and for their two beautiful and intelligent daughters, Mr. Williams eagerly addressed the theme. After listing the new iPhone 4S, his iPad, his new cashmere metallic Lexis LS, his half-empty bottle of Laphroaig, his new calfskin driving gloves, and the 1951 Fender Stratocaster that he recently purchased on e-Bay, he turned to the smiling, expectant faces of his family, saying he was also thankful "for the love and affection of his best friend in the world, Charlie."

In a brief statement to the press, Giselle and daughters, Fawn, 12, and Carly, 9, said only that "while they, too, appreciated Charlie's presence in their family, they thought it appropriate to also be thankful for the sentient, two-legged members of the family, at least some of whom occasionally appear among the accoutrements and largely wireless electronics that occupy most of Mr. Williams' time."

In response, Mr. Williams asked Siri to text the family that he loved them.

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Published on December 16, 2011 06:46 • 36 views

August 8, 2011

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President Obama addresses youth rally: "Ask not what your country can

do for you; ask what kind of crazy fucking you can do for your country."



PRESIDENT OBAMA TO AMERICA'S YOUTH: "LET'S GET FUCKING!"

"Yes, We Can Fuck Our Way to Prosperity!" Prez Exhorts Young People at Washington Rally

Reuters—In a surprise appearance at a youth rally on the Mall in Washington, President Obama drew a rousing ovation when he proposed a simple answer to America's Medicare and Social Security shortfalls.

"Look," he began, "we older folks have a little problem. It's a mathematical problem. America's population is aging rapidly, and there aren't enough workers to pay into Medicare and Social Security to keep them afloat. My Republican friends want to slash those programs, leaving many people without the means to carry on. But my economic team has been working hard to find a better solution. And I believe we have. But as with all difficult problems, the solution is going to involve some sacrifice."

The crowd of young people fidgeted at the mention of "sacrifice," boos and scattered, defiant shouts of "No!" rising from parts of the crowd.

"Now, now," the president continued. "Hear me out."

"I know you young folks love your Facebook and your Twitter and your Google +, your Spotify and Pandora and Photobucket and all that online stuff. And I know that many of you, when you're not twittering, are working hard in school, in internships, and some of you—a few of you—are even gainfully employed. But tonight I'm going to ask you to step away from your electronic devices and make some time for your country. Because, my friends, while you're twittering, America is burning. So it's time to do something for this great country. It's time to step away from all that busy-ness and get busy!"

The crowd, sullen and bored only a moment before, erupted into applause and cheers.

"My administration," the president continued to mounting cheers, "loves young people, but we need more of them. Millions more, and there's only one way to get that done, and that's to do it! So grab a couple of forties, drop some Barry White, or some Celine Dion for you white folks, and make your move. Copulate and populate! Fuck for FICA! Yes, we can, my friends. We can fuck our way to prosperity!"

The president's message was met with a rousing, sustained, standing ovation.

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Published on August 08, 2011 05:54 • 39 views

May 26, 2011

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Published on May 26, 2011 18:38 • 45 views
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Published on May 26, 2011 18:34 • 38 views
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Published on May 26, 2011 18:32 • 41 views

March 6, 2011

Dr. Curtis Sauer (right) discusses revisions with senior Texas Tech Creative Writing major Aaron Verlag

CONCEALED WEAPONS PROVE SURPRISINGLY USEFUL IN TEXAS TECH PROFESSOR'S CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOPS

by Staff Writer Charles Calabreze

Lubbock, Texas--It's a Tuesday afternoon in March, and Dr. Curtis Sauer is leading his level one Poetry Writing Workshop on the third floor of the English / Philosophy building. Sunlight washes over the clutter of backpacks, books, and notebooks. He's gathered the students into a semi circle. The class is working through a poem by junior English major Arlen Kammerer. The students have pointed out lines and images that work, others that don't, and made some suggestions on word choices and line breaks. Now it's Dr. Sauer's turn to summarize the class's work and add some comments of his own.

Sauer eases into the critique. "I know you're fond of the verb 'squirm' in line four," he says, glancing over his glasses at Kammerer, "but that's pretty average compared to the language of the rest of the poem. I'd suggest trying something else there."

Kammerer suddenly straightens in his chair. "Wait a minute," he says firmly. "I'm drawing the line on that one. I reckon I'll be keeping 'squirm.'"

In less time than it takes to recite "The Red Wheelbarrow," Sauer reaches inside his jacket, rips his vintage Smith & Wesson .38 Special out of its shoulder holster, wraps one arm around the neck of Kammerer's girlfriend Cassie Watson, and points the pistol at her temple. A startled Kammerer reaches for his own weapon, but it's too late.

"Okay, I'll change it," he says, adding meekly, "any suggestions?"

Sauer's voice is steady. "Change it to 'writhes,'" he commands. And when Kammerer stares blankly, Sauer presses the barrel closer. "Now."

Kammerer nervously scribbles the change on his manuscript, and Sauer sets the shaken Watson free. Sauer works his way through the rest of Kammerer's poems without incident.

With the recent passage of a Texas law permitting concealed weapons in Texas university classrooms, professors in the Texas Tech Creative Writing Program are working to turn what might have seemed a crisis into an opportunity. Dr. Sauer, called "one of the best gunslinger poets in America," by Sam Snead, Chairman of the Creative Writing Program, is a pioneer in that effort. "Nobody works harder at his craft than Dr. Sauer," Dr. Snead says. "He's down in the firing range every morning from seven to nine." Time Sauer once spent poring over poems and preparing lectures on line breaks and image-making is now spent drawing and firing in the underground shooting range beneath the English / Philosophy building. On one recent morning Sauer worked on his quick draw from a seated position, whipping the pistol from his shoulder holster again and again until the movement was smooth, the shots accurate and consistent.

The National Rifle Association was correct, Sauer admits. Even with a roomful of concealed handguns, the wounds have been minor, most of them the result of warning shots ricocheting off classroom walls, and all but a few have been treatable using the classroom first aid kits. Though Sauer himself walks with a slight limp, the result of a disagreement over a line break that was resolved with an exchange involving small-caliber handguns, he remains a staunch advocate of violence, or at least the threat of violence, in the classroom.

"What's been most gratifying," Sauer says, "is how quickly and enthusiastically students adapt my revision suggestions. An outbreak like the one you witnessed today," he continues, "is unusual. Most times if I say this poem should be in iambic pentameter, the student starts scanning immediately. If I say read a sonnet, they read a fucking sonnet. If I say Pound's Cantos by Thursday they're 'setting keel to breakers' by class's end."

Unlike some of his colleagues, Sauer embraced the change in classroom protocol. "I usually try to fire a few warning rounds when I'm introducing the syllabus. Then I'll graze a particularly contentious student during the first workshop. Nothing serious. I just crease a little flesh—just enough to get my point across."

It's little wonder, given Sauer's pedagogical prowess, that his students are winning prizes and publishing poems at an astonishing rate. Sauer's teaching evaluations are similarly excellent. He wins accolades even from students he has maimed. Kurt Verlang, a second year student in the PhD in Creative Writing Program, is quick to credit Sauer. Speaking from his room in Memorial Hospital, he is effusive in his praise. "I remember," he says, "the first time I brought a poem into workshop. Dr. Sauer wanted me to consider a change in form. I mean, he wanted me to recast my long line poem as a prose poem. I said, 'Over my dead body.' I was young and cocky. What did I know? In a second, he had his weapon out, pointed straight into my face. 'That can be arranged,' he said. I'll never forget it. We haven't had a disagreement since. Well, until this week, when I resisted turning a simile into a metaphor and he winged me. But it's nothing, really." He holds up his bandaged left arm. "I'll be back in class on Thursday."

Sauer readily admits his marksmanship left something to be desired at first. "In the first couple of weeks, I took out a couple of windows, a blackboard, grazed a T.A. But twelve hours a week in the firing range have done wonders." Such diligence will, Sauer hopes, serve him well in his upcoming tenure review. "I haven't actually published any poems in a while, but I've won several quick draw competitions both locally and nationally." More telling—and more useful for his tenure prospects—Sauer has not been drawn on in the last four weeks. Sauer goes up for tenure in the fall. Asked about his prospects, he taps his concealed weapon. His lips curl into a thin smile. "Oh," he says, his eyes shining, "I think we'll do just fine."[image error]
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Published on March 06, 2011 09:35 • 43 views

Jon Davis's Blog

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