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Me and My Pharaoh . . . BY CHARLES BERNSTEIN [facsimile] | Poetry

Me and My Pharaoh . . .

BY CHARLES BERNSTEIN

[facsimile]

 

He awoke,

 

fully charged. You

 

can

 

bring water to a horse but you can’t

 

make it ride. All poetry is conceptual

 

but some is more

 

conceptual

 

than

others.

 

Ambient difficulty leads to poetic

 

license. Poetry has

 

no purpose

 

&

 

that is not

its

 

pur-

 

pose.

 

You have to get over

 

be-

 

in-

g over. April is

 

the cruelest month for poetry. And May

 

is not much better, is

 

it?

 

Why write in prose what you could write as easily

 

as

 

poetry?

 

The poem is a crutch that allows us to think with

 

and throu-

 

g-

h it.

 

Every poem must have 13 distinct frames, devices, motifs, styles, forms, or

 

concepts.

Poetry emasculates prose.

 

The body: can’t live with it, can’t live without

 

i-

t.

 

I want to be understood,

 

just not by you.

 

Last week’s weather is worth a pound of salt, just

like the lot of  wives or the snowy pillars of  Danton.

 

There’s not a crowd in the sky. Familiarity breeds

 

content. Yesterday’s

 

weather is as

 

beyond reach as tomorrow’s

 

dreams. The

 

move away from close

reading often got drowned in the

 

bathwater, even if   we could never find the baby. I wouldn’t  join a poetic

 

tradition that would recognize me as

 

a

 

member. The wheel needs

 

to be reinvented because we’re still

 

stuck.

 

I am for almost new art (gently used forms) — easier on the pocketbook and on

 

the b-

 

rain (undergarments not accepted). The only true

 

innovation is God’s. Others

 

pay cash.

 

This is a lie and that’s the truth.

 

Better truth in the shade than a lie in the sun.

 

The taste of madeleine ain’t

 

what it used to be.

 

(taint what it used to be)

 

all alone and feeling

 

 

Operators are on duty. Call now.

 

 

As dry as a bubble, as expectant as the dead

 

of night. Without product placement, poetry

as we know it

 

cannot sur-

 

vive.

 

Poetry should not be in the service of art any more than religion, ideology,

or morality. Poetry should be in the service of nothing — and not even

that.

 

If  you can identify someone as gnostic they are probably

 

not

 

gnostic enough,

 

for my money.

 

I believe in my disbelief, have faith in my reason.

 

The sacred in a poem is nowhere seen and everywhere

 

felt. There’s

 

more to transgression than

 

ritual, but not enough

 

more. There is more

 

to liturgy than doctrine,

 

once in a blue

 

m-

 

oo-

n.

 

I left my purpose in my other pants.

 

You’re not the only paddle in the ocean, shadow in the dark, line in

the poem, lobster in the trap, pot on the stove, wheel on the truck,

letter on the keypad, scythe in the field, lever on the controls, cloud

in the sky, fruit in the tree, rat in the lab.

 

Reality is usually a poor copy of the imitation. The original

is an echo of what is yet to be.

 

Time is neither linear nor circular; it is excremental.

 

Beauty is the memory of the loss of time.

 

Memory

is

the

reflection

of

the

loss

of

beauty.

 

American poetry suffers from its lack of

 

uncreativity. I have no faith in faith, or hope

for hope, no belief  in belief, no doubt of doubt.

 

They say God is in the details. That’s

because the Devil has the rest

 

covered.

 

God is weak and imaginary — a flickering possibility. The dogma of an

omniscient and omnipotent God maligns hope and denies the sacred, as

it turns its back on the world.

 

God has no doctrine, no morality, no responsibility. To sin against

God is to use that name to justify any action or prohibition, whether

murder or martyrdom.

 

I’ve got authenticity, you’ve got dogma  …    proclaimeth the Lord.

 

Saying one more time:

It’s true but I don’t believe it

I believe it but it’s not so.

 

“My logic is all in the melting pot.”

[wittgenstein]

 

Better an old cow than a dead

horse. Alzheimer’s:

 

What’s that again? So it turns out I’m

 

not a bull in a china shop but china in a

 

bulls’

 

shop. Sometimes a penis is just a s-

 

y-

m-

 

b-

ol.

 

In their gloom, the Jews go and come

Talking of Bergen-Belsen.

 

(I saw time but it didn’t return my gaze.)

 

My heart is like a water bucket that returns from the river

 

seven times full eighth

 

empty.

 

Zeno and Heraklitus are my father’s milk.

 

I think with the poem not thr-

 

ou-

 

g-

 

h

 

it. Turns

 

of phrase / my stock in

 

trade. Negative

capability: sure.

But also

positive

 

incapacity. I always

 

hear echoes and reverses

 

when I am listening to language. It’s

 

the field of my consciousness.

 

When we stop making — manufacturing,

imposing — sense then we have a chance

 

to find it.

 

A professional poet throws nothing out except the eggshells and the coffee grounds.

 

I think the idea is to be unoriginal but in as original a way a-

s possible.

 

Poets are the Pershings

 

of the imaginary: piercing

 

themselves as they perish

 

in spite of native ground.

 

I wish I was still in my pajamas.

 

The unironized life is not worth living.

 

When people tell that joke, three Jews

four opinions, what they don’t say is that two of them,

the schmucks, have the same opinion, while the third …

 

Ouzo something to me and it ain’t pretty.

 

Absinthe makes the heart gro-

 

w

 

foreigner.

 

“Throughout this prospectus, ‘object’ refers to the digitized file.”

 

Yesterday is a stone’s throw from tomorrow

 

& each new year a vast canvas of impossibility.

 

Kalip in North Folk, you’re on the air.

 

Stand clear of the clo-

 

sing

 

 

doors.

 

 

Too much is still

 

not enough.

 

 

Blameless as a sheep at slaughter, am I

Guileless as the toll of tidal tug

 

There are no absolutes except this.

 

It was a veritable bow across the shot.

 

“Sacred means saturated with being.”

[berssenbrugge]

 

So does scared. So does scarred.

 

 

Source: Poetry (April 2014).

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Notes for Poetries and Ecologies Panel : : The Arcadia Project

Notes for Poetries and Ecologies Panel | The Arcadia Project.