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Showing posts from December 27, 2020

Le bateau ivre, part 2 by Karen Chamisso

    Mickey Mouse came to the new world with his ancient paraphernalia - a cauldron, a wand boosted from the paleolithic.   The wilderness was full of strange forces that Mickey could bind, but not understand. Chop down all the trees, all of them boil the Indians in the cauldron.   Around our tables we eat good food, a peasant dream of calories. Steamboat Willy takes the river down to sell his slaves at all the river towns.   Will he ever be forgiven for his innocence, that mouse? He’s gone now. Died in a quagmire of his own devising.

My Emily Dickinson

  When I first started reading Emily Dickinson in high school in the 1970s, she seemed to be either a tame poet, good for holiday cards, or a morose poet of the kind satirized by Mark Twain in Huck Finn, Emmiline Grangerford, with her creepy sub-Poe fascination with funerals. She was the farthest thing from the wilder shore of Walt Whitman, I thought. I read Dickinson as she was edited and domesticated, starting with her first posthumous editors, her brother’s lover, Mabel Loomis Todd, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. It was only in the 60s that the wilder shore of Dickinson’s poetry started to emerge, beginning with the complete edition of her poems edited by Thomas H. Johnson in 1960. Crucially, Johnson restored the dashes to the poems – which are to the poems what the axe was to Lizzie Borden. The dash, that punctuation interruptus, gave the poems back their sanguinary impulse. We could finally read Dickinson. It is perhaps appropriate that it took one hundred years. I’ve been readin

On not wanting to be like X

  There is an attitude that is at the base of great English comedy, from Twelfth Night to Wodehouse. It is the moment when judgment – moral or aesthetic – shifts to the register of competition. To judge that a thing is bad is a philosophical task, but in the novel of real life, we more often judge that a person is bad. We more often think, that is, about how we don’t want to be or function like X, and create a negative figure out of that moment of negative choice. Those are the figures, in essence, that we compete with. And often, the badness of the figure becomes stronger than the reasons we hold an act or a function to be bad. Out of this comes snobbery and wounded dignity. The latter emerges from the moment in which we are squeezed between the figure that represents ‘how we don’t want to be’ and something that upsets our judgment about how we don’t want to be. I don’t want to be a liberal academic, or a poser, or a fan of country music, or a supporter of   Donald Trump, etc., etc. t


  Love come out, I said, and fight I’ve got the gloves, I’ve learned the pace - Honey child, I’ll uncork my right And land you on your bitchass face.   The cutgal in my corner heart Said, that bitch is for the taking Follow my plan from the start And we’ll see who’s faking.   Straight up, take her every blow And bury it in your body. And by round ten she’ll start to show She’s grown old and flabby.   The bell went off:   I was fifteen And then it   rang every year or so. Although at thirty, in between 2 lovers, I almost fell to her strongest blow   And   almost lost it to an opened vein. At last at forty, the strategy Paid off. Tired, limping with pain Love fell, leaving me on my mattress free.   I turned to bow to the cheering crowd - but they had long left and the silence was loud. - Karen Chamisso