All the Thunder is a literary magazine operating out of Brooklyn, New York. I’d like to take a minute to point you in our direction, if you’re interested in submitting poetry or prose for our consideration. Submission information is found on our website. Poets can, if they have questions, contact me directly via ask box or fan mail or my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to be better.
I want to get DFW’s “This is Water” tattooed in its entirety on my face as a reminder.
I want to call all of my friends more often and say, “Hey, what’s up, put me on speaker and put the phone in your pocket and carry it around all day so I can hear everything that’s happening to you without me there. You should also narrate all of it, for the clearest possible picture.”
I want to buy a giant estate in the mountains somewhere and let everybody I love live on it with me. When people get the invitations to come live there, some of them will be surprised. They’ll say, “I didn’t know he loved me that much”; or, possibly, they’ll say, “I didn’t know he loved me.” I hope they’ll still move-in.
Lady Gaga’s conceptual basis is an interesting one: a full-on, unrepentant embrace of artifice and constructed identity, especially given pop music’s misplaced love of “authenticity” (e.g., read any review of Adele’s blank work). But Gaga has always kept herself from being an excellent artist in her own right because she never turned this concept into correspondingly fascinating music. She instead churned out songs which sounded indistinguishable from her Top-40 radio cohorts, and she continues to do this. Her music may be littered with lyrical references to her driving ideology, but these references are often half-baked and tautological. More damning to her project than lyrical weakness, however, is the aforementioned generic musical approach. Sound is the palette of the musical object. Working in that medium, then, she should be creating music that highlights, contorts, and subverts Top 40 tropes. Instead, she indulges in every last one. It’s a little like a painter seeking to embrace the artifice of portraiture by painting variations of the Mona Lisa that all play by da Vinci’s rules.
People are content to diagnose Kanye West with some version of savant syndrome: excellent producer, but utterly ignorant human being. This is most apparent, currently, in reactions to his reappropriation of the Confederate flag.
And yet, with each release, West proves this evaluation of him untrue. His music traffics unflinchingly in human arrogance and the destructive realities of celebrity worship and explicit wealth. “I am a God” is not a statement of unbridled narcissism, but a mangled, assaultive mess of noise and brash half-rhyme. It subverts the cult of celebrity by bringing it to its logical conclusion: the apotheosis of the famous, which turns out to be every bit as jarring and devastating as we feared.
The same can be said for his approach to emblazoning his tour merch with a historically racist flag: it’s not the move of a disconnected madman narcissistic enough to believe he owns the world. It is, instead, a demonstration of the powers with which we have imbued him. He can say, “It’s my flag now” because we gave him that right.
And we should be thankful for the way he is exercising that right: entangling a symbol of oppression with the reality of a successful, creative black artist. If anyone is ignorant, it is the people who are apprehensive of West’s act of reappropriation.
Third Addendum (This is Getting Ridiculous)
Also, read theory by people who aren’t Post-Modernist lodestars. Read their poems, too.
(I’m sorry: when I’m drunk. I gravitate toward the Post-Modernists.)
Also: Read things that aren’t poetry. Read prose. Read fiction. Read philosophy. Read queer theory. Read feminist theory. Read Wittgenstein. Pay attention to their ideas. Pay even more attention to their language. You are a poet! Language is your music. Language is your religion. Language is your terminal illness. Keep it with you, Keep it close to your heart.
Eavesdrop on conversations. Look at the world and everything that happens in it and ask, “What does this sound like in language?”
Turn your SAT booklet into a collection of found poems. Turn your minimum wage part-time job into a text collage.
Fuck:turn everything into a poem. Never stop.
The train has derailed. Goodnight, folks.
Second Addendum to Earlier Post:
I don’t think I made this clear: write to your heart’s content. Share it with friends and teachers and other trusted sources. But also: READ. Read a fuckton. Read poetry by people in your favorite movements. Read poetry by people tangentially related to those movements. Read poetry by people totally unaffiliated with those movements.
And don’t forget poetic theory, which is awesome and mindblowing and world-opening and edificatory. Read Olson’s “Projective Verse”. Read O’Hara’s “Personism: A Manifesto”. Read David Orr’s Beautiful and Pointless. Read Levertov’s “Some Notes on Organic Form”. Read Howe’s “There are not Leaves Enough to Crown to Cover to Crown to Cover”.
Read poetry to learn what poetry does. Read theory to learn what poetry can do.
Addendum to the earlier post:
I post drafts on the Internet all the time now. But that’s because I’m confidently aware of what I’m trying to do with these pieces. I know how to weed out the responses, to take the meaningful and trash the useless. But, when you post your drafts before you know what you’re going for with your work — which, in my experience, is what you do before you’ve festered into the poetic mission you desire — you get yourself into this problematic tangle of feedback, response, and influence that, when unraveled, leads you to nowhere other than square one.
It’s easy to waste time as a poet. The goal is to waste time meaningfully.
So many young poets publish (i.e., on blogs) their poems without first reading theory. Or, worse, without first diving headfirst into poetry in its manifold manifestations. Look, I did the same thing when I started out: picked up a couple Bukowski collections, read “Howl”, popped on a Bright Eyes record, and went to town. I threw everything at LiveJournal and Myspace and even, briefly, my Facebook notes (those were the times). But don’t make the mistakes I did! Write to your goddamn heart’s content. Share these poems with the friends whose feedback you trust (and maybe even those whose feedback you don’t). Get some teachers in on the game (my high school English teachers suffered graciously through reams of my teenaged nonsense). But save the public debut for when you are more fully-formed. You will, of course, never be fully-formed. Writing, as with any art, is a process, of constant exploration.
But the danger in publishing to the Internet so early is that you are not putting your best foot forward. You are selling your creative self short. And, suddenly, you’re wrapped up in a world of bankrupt aesthetic influences before you even have a chance to establish your own thoughts or theories or practices re: poetry.
The incubation stage — in which you write and workshop out of the public eye — is an awesome stage that I wish I had. Because I started writing at 14; I started “publishing” my poems as AIM away messages at the same time; I didn’t write anything worthwhile until I was 21 (and that’s being generous with the term “worthwhile”). Imagine the time I could have saved myself if I had fermented, incubated, read and wrote more before I put myself on display and got lost in the onslaught of influence. I would be years ahead in my poetic practice.
And yet, here I am, just now tentatively stepping out of the fray and wetly into my own creative space.
Incubate! Relax! Languish in the weird glow of poetry! There will be time for publishing later. Save yourself some confusion. Not all of it, of course: regardless of the process, you will find yourself confused and hopeless at points. All evidence points to this feeling continuing forever. But save yourself the unproductive and detrimental confusion of being young, unschooled, and brutalized by wave after wave of stupid response.
Do you know the feeling, the absolute urge, to hurl yourself through plate glass or from a mid-level balcony? To throw up everything you have eaten as a means of rejecting yourself, your worthiness of food and continued existence? You know this feeling: it sits terribly in your heart, in your skull, a Thanatos in the very fiber of you, wrapped up in meat and blood.
You know it: otherwise, you lie. There are swollen moments in which it is all you know: like nausea or a particularly beautiful person in the midst of sex. Then it goes, via vomit, orgasm, medication, an ecstasy of weeping. It goes. But not from you — just to itself, to continue brooding, to one day break the world apart again into white noise: hissing, popping, meaning nothing outside of you, or in.
There is a video going around the Internet. In it, a man with OCD performs a love poem he wrote. The video has been met with widespread praise. The man is called an inspiration. People love his poem.
Something has bothered me about this video. Or, more accurately, something has bothered me about the response to the video. I think I’ve finally figured out my discomfort: the whole affair feels absolutely pandering.
Yes, the man deserves a certain amount of praise because he has the guts to publicly declaim his piece. Presenting your work to any live audience is generally a pretty nerve-wracking experience for any of us. I know that my anxiety is often at its highest level before I give a reading.
I do not have OCD; I cannot claim to know what it is like to be this man. I do not know what he was feeling before his performance, or during the performance, or after. Perhaps it is much more difficult for him to perform than it is for the average person. But the singular focus of the attention given to his performance seems to be his disorder, not his poem. This is unsettling.
Again, I do not claim to know how this man feels. But I know how I would feel. I have a panic disorder and clinical depression. This makes standing in front of a crowd fiercely difficult. I often work up a stiff buzz before I read because I have such a hard time facing a crowd. If I gave a reading, and all anyone wanted to talk about was how cool and inspiring it was that I overcame my panic and depression in order to read, I would be supremely bummed. I read to present my piece. I want you to talk about that piece. I would much rather you tell me my poems sucked than tell me it was really cool that I was able to read. Because then my defining trait, in your eyes, is my disorder. I am panicked depressive first, poet second.
But poet is the identity I am choosing to present to you in this situation. It is the identity that has lead us to each other. You have decided to ignore that. You have decided that you are more capable of choosing an identity for me than I am. Worse, you have decided that a thing which I try actively to destroy every day is what defines me. You have reduced me to my sickest, most wicked parts.
You’ve created a situation in which I am a brave little warrior. You have made of me a pitiable object, an illness on two legs. Where has the rest of me gone? Where has my complex poetic identity gone? You swept it under a rug. You feel good about yourself for recognizing my difficulties.
I did not ask you to do this. On an abstract level, your sympathy is nice. It could even be comforting. But not here. Here, your sympathy (however good it may make you feel to be “understanding”) is misplaced. Because here, your sympathy ignores me in favor of my disease. I do not want your sympathy: I want your empathy, your total, thorough, understanding. I am trying to be irreducible. You have reduced me. Why write? Why read? I cannot be less lonely if you’d rather talk of and to my illness than of and to me in toto.
Again, I am not the poet in question. I don’t know how he feels. He may read this and think of me an asshole. You may read this and think of me an asshole. But to praise a poem because the author has OCD, instead of praising the poem because it is a good poem, seems, to me, to be pandering and self-congratulatory.
And I do feel that much of the praise is because of the author’s OCD, given how much copy is dedicated to his illness instead of his work.
Too often, I come across writers — young and established, but especially young — who mistakenly believe that metaphor is a descriptive tool, a sensory detail. Let me tell you that this sunset is the color of fire — that this sunset is a fire. We are taught early on in life that metaphors are tools writers use to “help paint vivid pictures for readers” (quote taken from a literature textbook I used this year with my 8th graders). But, no, I can’t abide by this view of metaphor. If you are in the business of painting vivid pictures, don’t take language as your medium. When language concerns itself with painting pictures, it often produces pale simulacra. There is a reason that painting and writing are two different genres, with different techniques and aims.
Instead, I think we should think about metaphors as tools for exploring reality — as prisms for the breaking-down of reality into its component parts. As a prism filters white light and breaks it down into its myriad colored components, so, too, does a metaphor — used aptly — filter the sum total of reality and produce, at the other end, a collection of reality’s pieces, an array of seemingly disparate things that, yoked to one another, form a seemingly seamless gestalt.
We see this in the language of metaphor, concerned as it is with a thing’s isness, not it’s likeness. The sunset is a fire vs. the sunset is like a fire. But we’ve already established the flaws in this sunset-fire metaphor — it is a word-picture that reveals nothing to us. Instead, we look at Berryman’s “Dream Song 50”, where he uses proximity to create a metaphorical relationship between Henry’s “weapons system. / Grenades, the portable rack, the yellow spout / of the anthrax ray” and Henry’s sharpened pencils. This is no flaccid word-picture, no facile means of explanation or description: this is a revelation, a way of discovering that Henry’s life — and, indeed, the entire project of the Dream Songs — comprises a fundamental destructiveness, an offensiveness. This metaphor exposes us to a stark and somewhat daunting fact: that the relationship between self and the world can be fiercely bellicose.
dave keeps referring to certain questions in philosophy as “64,000 dollar” questions
I have a pack of letters,”
I have a pack of memories.
I could cut out the eyes of both.
I could wear them like a patchwork apron.
I could stick...
lady gaga needs to stop making music
edit: needs to stop talking in general
“we accept the dick we think we deserve”— Margaret Thatcher (via spartanbitch)
Niles begins dictating notes on patient files to his secretary at work after developing severe carpal tunnel syndrome. Roz overhears a...