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Reading a poem makes a performer of you. You cast your own voices for the writer’s first- and third-person characters, deciding, almost unthinkingly, whether the writer’s second-person is yourself or someone else. Not always effortlessly, you sort out the scenes, images, sequences, quotations, and metaphors. You evaluate each of the writer’s assertions, accepting them into or rejecting them from the framework of your own thoughts. Poetry is a kind of source code, requiring little math but rich in context, grammar, and logical subroutines, which your mind may assemble into the mesh of your own library of eclectic grammar, logic, and contradictions.
Your reading is thus uniquely your own collaboration with the writer.
For better audio, you can download it in various audio formats to play on the device of your choice. Choose Buy Digital Album and pay $0 (FREE). Then burn it or whatever you need to do to listen to it on your high fidelity speakers (or in some cases perhaps your grandparents’ hi-fi speakers). It is a single, so set the controls for 45 RPM. Not too loud; play it safe.
CHAZ? CHOP? Free Capitol? Free Speech Zone? Protest Zone? What we call it may depend on our personal experience, our hard-to-shake stereotypes, and our ingrained resistance to accepting new ideas that come from “others.” (Some people may simply call it Seattle.)
We interrupt your regularly scheduled program of pandemic updates, civil unrest disinformation, and other memes of the moment to bring you this thing.
This is from the 2018 book, There There by Tommy Orange (which we realize some of you are reading right now, or have read recently, or plan to read soon, because it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, a PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, etc., none of which it won but losers have stories to tell):
This is the thing: If you have the option to not think about or even consider history, whether you learned it right or not, or whether it even deserves consideration, that’s how you know you’re on board the ship that serves hors d’oeuvres and fluffs your pillows, while others are out at sea, swimming or drowning, or clinging to little inflatable rafts that they have to take turns keeping inflated, people short of breath, who’ve never even heard of the words hors d’oeuvres or fluff. Then someone from up on the yacht says, “It’s too bad those people down there are lazy, and not as smart and able as we are up here, we who have built these strong, large, stylish boats ourselves, we who float the seven seas like kings.” And then someone else on board says something like, “But your father gave you this yacht, and these are his servants who brought the hors d’oeuvres.” At which point that person gets tossed overboard by a group of hired thugs who’d been hired by the father who owned the yacht, hired for the express purpose of removing any and all agitators on the yacht to keep them from making unnecessary waves, or even referencing the father or the yacht itself. Meanwhile, the man thrown overboard begs for his life, and the people on the small inflatable rafts can’t get to him soon enough, or they don’t even try, and the yacht’s speed and weight cause an undertow. Then in whispers, while the agitator gets sucked under the yacht, private agreements are made, precautions are measured out, and everyone quietly agrees to keep on quietly agreeing to the implied rule of law and to not think about what just happened. Soon, the father, who put these things in place, is only spoken of in the form of lore, stories told to children at night, under the stars, at which point there are suddenly several fathers, noble, wise forefathers. And the boat sails on unfettered.
If you were fortunate enough to be born into a family whose ancestors directly benefited from genocide and/or slavery, maybe you think the more you don’t know, the more innocent you can stay, which is a good incentive to not find out, to not look too deep, to walk carefully around the sleeping tiger. Look no further than your last name. Follow it back and you might find your line paved with gold, or beset with traps.
We will end this There There thing there, but before you return to your normal social media programing, let me say, just for the record, my fairly recent ancestors did directly benefit from genocide and/or slavery. My father used to find arrow heads and broken stone hammers in our family’s corn fields, from which the figurative gold and hors d’oeuvres sprung forth. I myself put in many days of professional stone hunting and gathering in those fields, though I never had the privilege of finding an arrow head. Still, perhaps like you, I have had, fairly or not, a share in other privileges, though it does not stop me from looking into things.
I like the variety of poetry and pictures in Contradiction by Michael Boer. I like a lot of these poems. Being an offshoot of the William Carlos Williams school as a writer and reader of poetry, I especially like the shorter pieces. For instance, The Unforgetting,The Unimpaired Wind,Weathering Time,Exit by the Front Door at this Stop,Father’s Mirror,Motel Smoke Alarms. The ones I like the very best are Cord Theory and BYO Animal for DIY Meatpacking, especially since I worked in a packing house and observed pigs, etc. The book shows a man with great curiosity about the world and life, and I like that. This comes out so well in his tendency to write list poems. He’s really good at that!
Michael Boer’s Contradiction has a commanding look, cover & page layout. Well done, a weight well worth the wait! Love The Mission page. It’s a masque! (No matter how 21st century the word “tweet” is.) The phrase “speak for itself” will conjure up Robert Mueller. Trigger page is also inspired.
Contradiction, Michael Boer’s new book, shows an admirable combination of his analytic mind with an artistic, humorous liberal arts approach. It is highly personal, its moods varying just like his music does. It reveals his strong power of observation and sensitive reflection. While reading, at various times I thought: award-worthy, baffling, beautiful phrasing, moving, puzzling, and wow. It is not what an editor would call a balanced or consistent book, but serves as an indirect partial autobiography, or at least introduction to how he thinks. Well done!
Industrial mass media broadcasting, from its earliest days, has employed subliminal effects to bind the audience into a storyline with the goal of increasing exposure to the real payload: The advertisements (which have their own subliminal tactics). Continue reading →