Monday Jul 22

KingAmy Amy King teaches English & Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College and works with VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Of her most recent book, I Want to Make You Safe, John Ashbery described Amy King's poems as bringing “abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living.”


Understanding the Poem

Only people who live in New York City will understand this poem
and even some of them will feel artificial and maybe real-world grief because
they don't understand the hell out of this poem for reasons worth pinning
down in this poem, but moreover, the approach is to be subjectively-framed,
that is, it is fully about you in your thick history of experiences and genetics
that declare the framework of Nature vs. Nurture in so many debates,

That is if I say,
To poet is to process is to Amy King, the poet is still one who longs for another
viewpoint not-her-own to see her own through and concur or opposite it…

Which is to say, someone who lives on the outskirts in Long Island
or Connecticut may not understand what this poem suggests to someone
who gets the inside clip, which is primarily the person who lives in New York City
at this juncture of the poem especially.

Put a better way,
The person who lives in another country, such as Russia,
will certainly understand this poem in an unsound chord
unlike someone who lives in Saudi Arabia
(which is a lot like saying “Putin” vs. “oil allies”)
and may not understand anything about this poem
at all akin to
the person who lives in 1908 because their talk of the poem
will be processed far otherwise than the person in 2008
before the towers fell and the modern day gulag
was realized as a for-profit privatized corporate prison system
in a nation hell-bent on peace the American way,

Which also means someone who lives in a 2014 Compton neighborhood
will certainly regard this poem askance from the person
who resides in New York City after years of growing up under Stop and Frisk
while viewing the protections that suggests this is also about
the person who sees through this poem as a person arrested and fined via Stop and Frisk,
which is a shade greyer than the other issued a summons and beat down by Stop and Frisk.

I hope I'm being clear enough here so that you understand
who will get this poem and who will not.
I can only be as honest with you as I am with myself
in the effort, the raw motion, to tell why
you may or may not understand this poem.  
This poem is akin to when Foucault offered a picture
of a pipe and declared no pipe present.
The linguistics didn’t gesture as much as Foucault’s offer,
much like this poem does right now, to you in your place.

I mean I have to ask myself with honesty, Amy King,
What would Amy King the reader do with this poem?
because we all need a starting point and right now it is this, Amy King,
and where are you among these words and by what gesture does this become not a poem?
Not a pipe?

The problem flashes face forward when I want to ask the poet
what she meant when she wrote poetry and she is no longer with us.
I mean, the poet may not be dead and she may even be in New York City
standing here beside you, but is she still the same person in touch
with her intuition, influences and body as she was the day she wrote these words?
Were the rats walking upright down alleys and were the delis open full force
the day she left her apartment for a cutting board of cheese at Spuyten Duyvil on Metropolitan
after which she’d meet her friend Sara and walk to the water’s edge for a brown bag beer
back when the towers were still smoldering black smudge across the river?

Is she trustworthy, can she be trusted to guide us, are her intentions aligned
with exactly a moral execution or her desire to entertain or flatter readers
by highlighting their analytical prowess with cheap & easy writerly gimmicks
as in, “See how you got this so quickly, poetry readers scattered widely?”

Truthfully, only people in New York City will understand
the difference between writing a poem on a cell phone and penning
it in a notebook standing on the East River shore in Brooklyn drinking a Red Stripe
(people in New York City know the East River is no river at all but a tidal strait),
where truth resembles the hooves of bullets when we take the romantic angle.

Although some in New York City haven't noticed today
the East River shores have been bought up by New York University
and barred with fences along Williamsburg’s periphery,
now relocated to East Williamsburg, as gentrified sprawl will do.
Those also who don’t get that Stephen King rewrote Ed Dorn’s
book of poems, Gunslinger, into his best selling novel, Gunslinger,
will experience a difference in understanding that this poem inspires.

So what this poem understands for one single soul in this split moment is:

Badass puppets exist
where singularity is self-inflicted
and my shame is not enough.
She thinks that makes her sound powerful, and so is also
invested in a fear of her own impotence,
the limits of which narrow just how she understands any poem,
a dilation that scares her to strangulation response
when the poem is only hugging her closely.
She whispers a mantra, Hello person,
I’ve been waiting for your step, your human failings,
each my own as I dream in visual patterns
for I am a poem and song too, a centrality. Let me explain:
I am unusual today.
The strange rain outside awakens
the strange rain within.
Sound and rhythm and chance.
I am out of your league, borne
by your language, and I supersede
your presence. We bounce between time,
we, the ever presence of strangers within us.
The drops stir a river bottom’s silt;
the waves make a tidal strait rush madly outstream;
you are the only pain my language receives.
What is this. This is this. You are this.
Nothing more than this.

But elsewhere in the gallery, down the road from the theater, up river from the stage,
we move, we ants, we beasts of burden,
thinking ourselves into ourselves, alone things, bodies
resistant, misunderstood behaviors.
We are the poems that become us, and there is no explanation,
no other example for that for the thing within you that
echoes and burgeons with reminders post-words.
Souls, spirits, and feelings are not pipes; this world is anything but poem.
This world is this, this world is poem, and I am unusual today, at least.

When we leave to walk the shores, now barred by tides
and officers of Stop and Frisk, remember your limits are the ways
in which you understand within your limits. Or as the poet Amy King
reminds her historical thickness:

My eyes smell of locust trees.
I hide my brown bag beer.
Georgia pines thread my veins at root.
The ants have returned and winter is a teardrop of words.
I have replanted myself as this;
I am in need of bull’s eyes to aim for.
In order to be without.
I am alone here with occasional friends, with occasional relevance,
more pleased than any cadaver,
more pleasing than a clubhouse romance.

As one would startle the sun, Amy King’s poem understands her first.
That is how you begin understanding, through this death you carry
and whose hand you fondle: the poem’s also, a handshake.  
Anyone else who is not Brooklyn nor NYC also knows this.