*From: Epigramititis: 100 Living American Poets*
He is an Assistant Professor at Princeton,
a scholar on the names of famous poets
hidden as paragrams and hypergrams within
the works of various writers. Recently, he
organized a panel on Yasusada at his esteemed
University and didn't invite me. How weird that
all the letters of my legal name were contained
inside the names of the scheduled presenters!
She's a bit of a Christian Talmudist,
as if Dickinson had come back and could
believe. Something huge and metallic
draws signs in the sky over elaborate
systems of tunnels and caves. I hope she's
right that there is another place outside
"this purgatory of letters and things."
I mean above the signs, and not below.
He is often associated with the "Language school."
However, Norman Fischer is an ordained Buddhist
priest, and therefore should not be casually lumped
together with the modern-day Cavalier court poets.
He is a very gifted youngish poet and critic.
His name makes me think of that physics
question in my fifth grade science book:
"If Galileo climbs to the top of the University
bell tower and drops a ten lb. bag of feathers
and a ten lb. bag of stones at exactly the
same time, which will hit the ground first?"
Hmm... Probably Perelman before Bob.
All young poets and critics
of the post-Language after-image
yearn, as is human, to leave
a poetic something that has never
before been thought or said, something,
perhaps, that comments on their
singular cultural condition. By writing
about a cockroach eating a turd,
Sianne Ngai has done that.
Bill Luoma is a poet and minor league baseball player.
In an essay, he says that the idea of disrupting the male
gaze through particular grammatical and syntactical
strategies has outlived its usefulness. Then, foul ball,
he says that if a man is going to write about a woman's
vagina, he should foreground strong verbs, as does
Eileen Myles, and not predicate nouns, as does
Andre Breton. Then, foul ball, he draws a picture of a
phallic-looking space ship getting sucked into a vagina-
looking black hole, where the space ship is The Poet
and the black hole is Culture. Then, strike three, he says
that when he strikes out, the catcher sometimes says,
"Does your pussy hurt today?" And that's how his essay ends.
He has edited an anthology of verse about dogs.
Among minor poets, he alone can claim this honor.
Someone said he had seen her
five or six years ago, going, at great
velocity, down the 90 foot jump.
They have sent out a ski patrol, with
headlamps, to look for her.
When I had him come to read in Freeport, oh,
five or six years back, we drank a bunch of beers
at Tony's Oyster Tap. On the last night we ever
spoke, he suddenly and coolly said, "You know,
Kent, the Japanese are polite. But if Yasusada
had been Navajo or Sioux, you would have had
two or three long-braided dudes waiting on your
stoop." I lit a cigarette, blew a ring, looked at the
legendary man, and said (watching him straighten
in surprise where he sat), "You know, Gary, I, too,
am polite. But here're two words that would pop to mind
in such an event, and you can put them under your hat:
Baseball, and Bat."
Ray Di Palma
In the letters page of Lingua Franca,
Ray Di Palma had an argument with
Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein
over who came up with the idea for
the equals signs. Di Palma said it was he
who did; Andrews and Bernstein said it
was they who did. Each tacitly accused
the other of intellectual theft and the
wilfull revision of literary history. One thing
is certain: Somewhere, a naughty, naughty
Author is L=Y=I=N=G.
She is also on the beach. It is from the sunburn
of Poetry that her skin is peeling. Gingerly, she pulls it
off in long and quietly crackling rice-paper strips.
(Now a surfer wipes out and never comes up.
Now a small conch washes up on the sand. Now
a boy on an air mattress is torn to shreds by a shark.)
Katy Lederer's eyes are rolled back behind their
shut lids, and she peels and peels. Slowly,
satisfyingly, she sheds the dead form of the body
that has been, so to come into the true body, that form
which is here, on this beach, at this moment, and which
is the very Form and Idea of the younger Avant-Garde:
A nose and mouth, an asshole, toes, and hair, a form
forever new, moist, professional, and maximally ambitious.
He is author of a two-volume critical study,
published by Northwestern University Press,
and Dean for Academic Affairs at the University
of Alabama. The title of the two-volume set is
Opposing Poetries, wherein Language writing
is shown to stand in resolute opposition to
To read many more similar epigrams, go to Skanky Possum's Possum Pouch >>
To continue reading Kent Johson's work in issue six, click here >>