Anastasios Kozaitis Replies to The Miseries of Poetry by Alexandra Papaditsas and Kent Johnson

The Mi[ni]series of Poetry

Judas pointed down the road
And said, "Eternity!"
"Eternity?" said Frankie Lee,
With a voice as cold as ice.
"That's right," said Judas Priest, "Eternity,
Though you might call it 'Paradise.'"

"I don't call it anything,"
Said Frankie Lee with a smile.
"All right," said Judas Priest,
"I'll see you after a while."
--Bob Dylan


I wrote to my old friend Christodoulos Letrinos in Patmos. In a short note he replied, "It's high tourist season where tourists lose their sobriety metaphorically and actually." That was it. I had to fill in the rest of his laconic missive.

Alexandra Papaditsas and Kent Johnson carry out the opposite performance. The propagators of the traductions in THE MISERIES OF POETRY load the poems around their holes. They do not paint in the eyes. They leave the act of filling in the pupils to the readers of the poems. Eternal, as opposed to everlasting, is beyond time. Time shuts out eternity. Once the eyes acquire their black pupils, the eternity we experience--no matter how limited we are to understand it--slips in. Such details do not escape Papaditsas and Johnson. They completely control that which they can detail and leave the rest to satire and to the ancients.


First, the reader must wade through fourteen pages of blurbs. The blurbification of poetry and poetry book back-cover hagiographies proliferate like viruses, like the countless Tomentella fungus spores that "fall, orangely to the ground," or like the miracle of St. John the Theologian that takes place each year in Ephesus, in which a certain dust or powder, called manna, suddenly pours forth from his tomb and is used by the faithful for deliverance from maladies of both soul and body.


The miseries... Once infected, the reader moves on to the introductions and prologues. In fact, the front matter outnumbers in pages the actual traductions. Upon completing all the splendid discharges, the actual show begins. Like the stink ant, Slavoj Zizek conjures in "Vestibulum [spora tradere]," the reader climbs upward infected by the Papaditsian and Johnsonian drama.

Each traduction morphs into a Fayum portrait, each with the face of an antique poet. The slender wood slat and linen paintings mask the corpse and project a poem in its place. What's more, archeologists uncovered the Fayums in the old Roman burial grounds that are in close proximity to The Montazah Palace. In fact, in Xenophanes' "Social Dictum" we see, "[Here there is an oblong hole, as if burned by laser rays shot out from gauze covered eyes.]" It would be a shame if the dead did not know their power. I wonder if Alexandra found some Fayum paintings with the papyri mother load. Silence slips through the cracks of the sarcophagus. Revelation comes in through the linen holes. Emerson wrote, "Within us is the soul of the whole; the wise silence, the universal beauty to which each part and particle is equally related; the eternal one. When it breaks through our intellects it is genius; when it breathes through our will it is virtue; when it flows through our affections it is love." Silence fills these. An acute understanding of suffering brought on by our drives to revenge fame and reach successful heights fuel and have always fueled poetry. The contest, dare I say agon, has never ended. But to win must the game be rigged?


[ ]


Johnson and his horned accomplice ratchet up the rigging and on the sly while we pay little to no attention. I'll admit it: I was busy looking for gnostic dualism, for hoax and heteronymity, and for hard translations. When finally realizing that the gig was not that simple, I fell suddenly among buffalo and bacchanals -- a Papaditsas and Johnson moment, if there was one. While trying hard not to be duped, I was duped in earnest.


[Torn away, as if suddenly thrusting its haunches like an American buffalo.]

pressed into rancid oil for the arses of the discarded,
who rub it on, thinking themselves anointed

[Torn away, as if suddenly offering herself in heat like an American buffalo.]


Yes, I do recall reading somewhere of the exploits of Alkaios of Mytilene in Big Sky country. It may have been in Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Alkaios did rebel against the tyrants and exiled from the island of Lesbos. What better place for him to jet to than Bozeman, Montana? The special moment for the self-appointed: Johnson finds the potion for the magic ointment. All poets can achieve reputable status. All can have their pictures in the magazines, if they daub themselves with the ointment that has gone the way of the American buffalo. The charging buffalo shuffle off to extinction in a line like so many other lines have and will.



Much of today's contemporary and experimental work deals with the body and its being the nexus point for the experiential. Many claim the body is written and vice versa. A harbinger for many contemporary poetics, Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of the body took Husserl's work from the realm of consciousness to the physical realm of a human's own physical boundaries. But skin only takes one so far. Physicality is over-rated, but what else does one have if he only believes in existence?

Anakreon leaves us this.


On paper wings, pressed by Phokylidos
the Epileptic, I flap to Olympus, panting,
seeking my master, Eros. But he looks
through me, says no more dog-style fucking:
He sees my graying face-hairs and flies off,
looking outwards toward nothing-
while I stand transfixed in the breeze
made by his thin wings of gold.

There in a moment of rejection, we find revelation. In such abandonment our reason sets us on course to rationalize the pain and to rise above the suffering not stopping to consider how fleeting the moment. The fleeter the flight, the more profound we humans tend to weigh it. A symbiotic moment for gnosticism and postmodernism manifold like a little Homer Simpson matryoshka. "All final spiritual reference is to the silence beyond sound. The word made flesh is the first sound. Beyond that, sound is the transcendent unknown, the unknowable. It can be spoken of as the great silence, or as the void, or as the transcendent absolute," JC said. [Joseph Campbell and not the Christian point man.]



The defecation. The urges and desires. The suffering. The schadenfreude. The confusion of it all. Life is not a tidy thing and neither is the feeling of misery. Are poets predisposed to misery? Of course not. A call goes out to have philosophers catapulted through the air. The folk revel in the assuming intellect. How many times have we heard it? We all wipe our asses the same way. Or say, "Let the assholes of Assus preach about Truth and Form[.]"

Do poets lose their sobriety metaphorically?
                                                                                after awhile