PR for Poetry: Four Essays in a Lost Cause
by Stan Apps
1. Poetry Needs a Better Brand
Poetry is not very popular because it is not advertised enough. Poetry is a luxury, not a necessity, because you can’t eat it, you can’t sleep in it, you can’t drive around in it, and you can’t wear it. Poetry is packaged in an old-fashioned way, which is boring; maybe if it were in a plastic box it would be better? If poetry came in collectable boxes with pictures of poets in action on them, that might make it better. Of course, real fans would never open the boxes, in order to keep the poetry in pristine condition for resale, but that would be okay because the real fans could enjoy looking at the packaging and the poets would get paid.
Poetry is not distributed effectively enough to be popular; poetry is not even at the supermarket where people go to buy really important paper products like tissues. If poetry were on soft, scented tissues, people could read it after they put their snot on it, and then you could learn something just from having a runny nose. A big problem of poetry is that it’s supposed to be educational and also supposed to tell people what to do: let me tell you, nobody wants to be told what to do unless a major corporation does it, because why should people listen to what a person tells them to do when that person is just a normal person? If poetry had some cartoon animals to speak for it and tell people what to do (such as a poetry monkey that said, “Oot, oot, oot, buy Poetry! Poetry is for kids!” and then a nasty snake covered with glowing slime took the poetry and rubbed slime on it and then the poetry monkey grabbed the poetry back and swung away on the vine and then cleaned all the poetry back up really carefully with tissues and then read haiku that were printed on the tissues and the haiku on the tissues told you to buy poetry—that probably wouldn’t work, but it would be a start and you could show it to a test audience and begin exploring a real future for poetry.) 5-7-5 could be a poetry brand: it sounds like 7-11! “Buy more poetry / Poetry as soft as bread / Melts in your earholes.” “Buy love poetry / It’s the key to her earhole / Vibrating each hole.” “Earhole connected / To the peehole connected / To sweet poetry.” “Poetry hooks you / Up, you’ll be high as a muse / Inspiring yourself!” “Sweet love poetry / He or she will love on you / You’ll love yourself too.” “Poetry so soft / Soft as white bread on the sheets / Melts before you chew.” “Poetry so sweet / Like pure sugar disappears / Stirred in while she’s hot.”
Poetry needs a better brand, one that is not associated with dead men that talk funny and use big words. If the dead men who use big words were pirates, that would be something, and if they were the living dead and were sort of partially rotting with gooey skin but still kind of, sort of handsome and they had sex with living people and got glowing dead poetry goo on them: that would be something! It would be better if you could wash your hair with poetry, or with glowing dead poetry goo made by juicing living dead poets: that would be something! If poetry were advertised the right way, and also enough, American society might really change, in at least a superficial way. It would be kind of a new adaptation of American capitalism and once again American capitalism would be making people’s lives easier and better by supplying people with poetry to rub on themselves and read after they put their snot on it. Poetry would really be a friend to human beings then, rather than being aimed at ghosts that live only in books.
2. On Anal McMansions (On the New Mansions of the Spirit)
In the 70s, Poetry went totally Stonersville. Poets wrote lines like “Delicious unfertilized flesh-goblins, I seeeeeee you, you are my dorsal entrée.” They thought these lines would come true after the Revolution.
Now it is the 00s, and things are dull. Poets study the work of pornographers, economists, and real-estate developers. They know a poem must satisfy the needs of a consumer, and that the needs of a consumer must be defined in an abstract and generalized manner, without too much reference to specific persons, in order to facilitate the production cycle. Every poem is a new tax-free anal McMansion for that reason.
In the 70s, a poet with a buzzing cloud shading his brain from Time blurted, “Android amusement parks, I forsake your contemplative seed-pods! I ingratiate myself into the firm and juicy void of mine own vocabulary full of gnarled dromedary wallops! Each thought a loop curvaceously self-cuddling in a spurred infinity, the pants of the brown horse pulled down hanging up hooves and the peepee of the codboy like a firecracker hissin, tossed from hand to hand until it pops!” And meanwhile in the real world people died of poverty and other forms of politics, without enough education to understand this sort of bad poetry, or why it is bad, or why it might be desirable that a poem might be bad in that way. Thinking of them the poet wrote, “Ensorcelled victims of my affluence, you too have teeth and eyes accumulating in the warrior reefs of time!”
In the 00s, a poet writes, “She looked into me through yet another kitchen window. Her dishes fell into my heart and broke. I cradled the pieces of the broken plates: my heart, broken into tiny platelets.” The poet has his/her epiphany, like a dry-heave, and the veins of inspiration snap close, and time is sad. Every fake epiphany is a new mansion of the spirit, and it is entirely possible to live and have real feelings in a mass-produced place: there is even something poignantly democratic about it. And meanwhile in the real world people die of poverty and other forms of politics, without enough education to understand this sort of bad poetry, or why it is bad, or why it might be desirable that a poem might be bad in that way. Thinking of them the poet writes, “Looking through the angry window of the TV news, I tried to become you, you sad being, but I became your spokesmodel instead.”
3. On the Cartoon Sublime
for Gary Sullivan
I wish music would come out of the keys as I typed. I wish the music coming out of the keys would assume a concrete and pleasing shape as it came out, each note assuming a different shape: a red brick thrown out of a window that sprouts wings and learns to fly just in time before it smashes out the brain of some dude walking down the street. A little blue bird with the texture of carefully crinkled toilet paper, softening in the humidity and settling down on the sidewalk in a blue mushroomy lump.
And more examples: as I type the word “examples” I wish 8 strong men in rubber suits all colors of the rainbow plus black would fly out of the keys and jump around my living room in springy boots. That’s my idea of the sublime, and people who worship wise, bleeding corpses should get with it: the sublime has gone cartoon. The ideal cartoon combines the best few seconds of a complex, multi-layered piece of music (viciously decontextualized, to destroy music history) with the painstaking labor of numerous animators slaving away day-after-day taking hours on end to produce a single second of smooth animated movement (and all their labor is erased when the viewer sees the cartoon and believes in its narrative and continuity: cartooning is one of the artforms where the fetishization that erases the labor behind it is what makes it so great.) The disappearance of history and context, in general, gives a thrilling charge to life that redeems it and fills it with butterflies of specious joy in the midst of suffering and stress.
The key to American solipsism is that no matter how specious or spurious I say someone else’s pleasure is, I can’t prevent them from enjoying it. I may be correct in saying that they don’t really enjoy it very much, but I can’t prove that to them, and more I can’t stop them from “suspending their disbelief” and trying their best to experience pleasure that they might not really be able to experience. People can spend their whole lives experiencing pleasure in something that’s not really very enjoyable anymore, just by using the power of positive thinking to convince themselves that they really are still experiencing pleasure, contrary to the many sensory messages (headache, fatigue, itchiness, eyestrain, etc) that suggest the pleasure’s gone away. The ability to persist in a formerly pleasurable activity, when all it gives you now is a sense of routine, is called addiction, and it works.
Words coming out of the keyword as I type should become digital sounds that chime and blossom to emit material objects: a super-hero with two heads and three arms juggling families of 4 imprisoned inside screaming televisions. A glass bowl full of fish each of which has a pulsating glowing beat inside its mouth which bubbles out and out of which more music blooms.
4. On Poetwee
for Matthew Timmons
Poetwee is effeminacy at its most majestic, a slippery suit of muscles made of luminescent jello.
Poetwee is Time & Space licked into shape by the pink tongue of a pinker poodle.
The future imagined by Poetwee is a beautiful hi-tech garden full of labor-saving conveniences. The future imagined by Poetwee is just like the future imagined by Poetry, except that the future imagined by Poetwee is populated by chubby cuddly miniature cartoon folk instead of human beings.
The sensual fever of Poetwee brings small erogenous pimples on the cheeks and bottom.
Lovers of Poetwee feel that Poetwee means something so indefinite that it is infinite.
Poetwee is a form of algebra in which the numbers have been replaced by the faces of lions and bears and cows and dogs and rabbits, etc., and when you solve a problem wild noises form an ecosystem in your throat.
Women and men who read Poetwee gather in groups in decrepit places, where they talk about how much they love Poetwee in quiet desperate voices while weeds and dirty little animals flourish in cracks in the floor.
Women and men who read Poetwee know that love is no more dignified than Poetwee, and Poetwee is no more dignified than a runny nose.
Poetwee is a squid with a smile lipsticked on it hanging by a silver thread from the tip of the new moon.
Poetwee is the confidence that everything in the world is nothing but solidified encrustations of Poetwee, like barnacles or brown old boogers or a bag of Daddy Longlegs eggs.
Until books were invented, lovers of Poetwee bothered other people, trying to read their armpits and inside their eyes and pants. Lovers of Poetwee still do that sometimes, but they usually read books instead.
Poetwee is a pet with a mind of its own that sits in a puddle of eternal sweat.