Monday, June 19, 2006

The Great Poetry Safari; or, Why Cupcake Loves Tylenol PM

Cupcake likes words.

She likes them because they grab thoughts by the throat and pin them to the page.

And Cupcake likes thoughts.

She believes that thoughts are flickers of energy. She thinks it’s a pretty nifty trick that words can transmute them from energy to matter, just like that, wit' no explosion or nuttin’.

So, to Cupcake’s way of thinking, the written word is pure power. It’s a little blip of pure thought (energy). And when you’re reading, you’re looking right at it.

Man, that’s cool.

Music don’t do that. One can write music, but it’s the experience of music, not the reading of it, that counts as music. And that sound of music – that is not matter.

Dance don’t do it. One can translate choreography to language but it’s not the experience of dance. And dance, as one experiences it, whether dance or audience, is not matter.

But the written word. That's matter.

And as Cupcake is living in a Material World, she is a Material Girl.

The written word, man. That's its own experience. It’s prime: divisible by itself and one.

Cupcake, who is easily confused, likes things that break down only into themselves. She applauds such integrity. It's easier to fathom.

Poetry, Cupcake reckons, has a shitload of integrity. It is the purest form of the written word.

Therefore Cupcake finds poetry (good poetry, that rarest of orchids) to be as close to pure energy as one can get short of getting zapped with electroshock therapy.

And to Cupcake, a good poem is better than electroshock therapy, for knocking her to her senses out of muddled thinking. (She's never had electroshock therapy. But without the written word-- ah, she might very well have needed it.)

Recently, in a fit of melancholy, Cupcake ransacked Google for hours. She was crazed and desperate, like a chain smoker after the shops have closed, digging in desks for a hidden cigarette. She thought that in all the internet, surely there’d be one poem, one goddamn poem good enough to assuage her unsettled spirits.

She longed for it; she was having DTs for it. She needed the poem, to apply like a poultice to a wound in her psyche. She wanted to wrap it around herself like a cashmere shawl on a windy day, a shawl smelling faintly of a long-lost beloved friend, patchoulie and jasmine. She longed to curl up under its downy warmth, resting in an emotional fetal position so she could cry herself to sleep, knowing that she’d wake up in a new day, a new state of mind.

But Cupcake’s read a lot of poetry. Cupcake’s at the point in life where she scans the Penguin Classic section in any bookstore and heaves a heavy sigh. There are just only so many times a girl can read Agnes Grey or The House of Mirth. Cupcake and Penguin Classics go way back. If Cupcake were dating Penguin Classics, she could finish Penguin Classics’ dinner party anecdotes by rote.

Word for word. Thought for thought.

So there’s Cupcake, scavenging like a wild thing for food, shrieking at Google, “No! No! No more sites where people submit their own amateur poetry, please I BEG you!!!!!!!!!!”

But there was no new poetry to find that was worth reading.

There was plenty of "poetry" to be sure. But most of it was crap.

Water water everywhere.

But the thirst that from the soul doth rise doth ask a drink divine...And dry as a bone, that internet search was. Dry, dry, as a desert.

And her eyes searched the land with her cup full of sand.

Cupcake was sure there would be one poem, one poet, someone say with the delicacy of a cummings, or the stern but complete mastery of Wallace Stevens, or the ability to capture the very scent of a meaning like Anne Sexton.

Instead, Cupcake discovered (to her disgust and horror) that one of the foremost contemporary American poetesses looks like Divine and has written a book of poetry about menstruation.

It is not, ahem, a beautiful work. (Cupcake was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and read some. It was gross. Not even interesting, not even well-written. It was just stupid and dull, and somehow this writer passed it off as poetry. Astounding. Perhaps it’s because she’s secretly Meatloaf’s twin sister.)

Cupcake also discovered that an aged lady who is Cupcake's own neighbor in Vermont is renowned as a poet. Cupcake knew she wrote poetry, but not that she was an icon in contemporary American literature. And Cupcake agrees that this lady has a knack with words. But sadly, the words spill all over the place without delivering meaning, rather like a cup of coffee half sloshed into the saucer, delivered by an unconcerned waitress who avoids eye contact as she moves quickly to another table.

Exhausted, Cupcake conceded defeat and curled up into the arms of Tylenol PM. Cupcake has been sleeping with Tylenol PM on and off for years, but only recently has she fallen deeply in love with him. She can risk it because, since he's only a casual partner, she's pretty sure she can get over him with minimal effort if he decides to ditch her for unexplained reasons.

But who knows. Perhaps she's wrong. She's been wrong before.

Still, that night, the night of the Great Poetry Safari, he was the best she could do. And sometimes one takes comfort it The Best One Can Do.

Although other times it sucks. Like bad poetry about Menstruation. Jesus wept.

So Cupcake implores her readers to recommend poets they enjoy. (Post 1980 poets preferred because anyone before that from Psalms to Brautigan, Cupcake’s been there, done that.)

Little blips of pure energy. Words.



Blogger rawasme said...

you beautiful glorious rattler - selflessness DOES come by, despite itself, and in the most amazing hue of discomfort - it is gone again.

p.s. write write write your own...
An academic does not a poet make. But pain helps...

9:32 AM  
Blogger cupcakegrrl said...

Cupcake thanks you, Reader, for your compliments. But she begs to explain that while writing ones own poetry provides emotional outlet, Cupcake was hungering for energetic input, rather like a blood transfusion, but with words.

Cupcake does not understand what you mean by "selflessness does come." In Cupcakes experience, it comes and won't effing leave. Cupcake tries very hard to BE SELFISH because it don't come naturally to her at all.

And while Cupcake's feet have trod a bare spot in the carpet of the Penguin Classics section of her local bookstore, she is no academic. She simply figures that Time Does Tell, and Penguin knows what she likes.

Cupcake also smiles at your statement that "Pain does help." At Cupcake's age---er, that is, Cupcake's been told by reliable sources that as one ages, one finds pain grows less and less enchanting. Thus the Hamlet who in one's youth speaks of one's own alienation and angst evolves to a spoilsport who's ruining his mother's chance at happiness.

Cupcake would like very much to talk to you in twenty years and see if you don't just think the same, sweet reader.

11:54 AM  
Blogger g8s said...

There are a few gems hidden within Thalia Field's 'Point and Line'. The book does obsess over form a bit more than it ought, however, I forgive that as it is a debut collection. Be sure to check "Outline, In My Mind" and "Walking Home", the latter being a masterfully crafted internal journey.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

After an evening with Tylenol PM, I can't look myself in the mirror in the morning. Possibly because I can't get up in the morning. My relationship with herbal relaxants is much more blissful.

I love this post, by the way. You took me on an odyssey.

1:17 AM  
Blogger rawasme said...

sefflessness, i have been taught/ told/ tried, is not a matter of saying yes instead of no. Nor is it a smile when you are sad; a sweet giggle at the tone of a gruff boys' antics; or staying quiet so that Mother may have a chance at happiness.
It is truth, with thoughtfull motivation. And, I think (at such a ripe age) it is the interest in another's spiritual growth - even if they are screaming at you Not To Leave ....hmmm.

9:42 AM  
Blogger matt said...

I rather like Michael Dennis Browne, though even he can be hit or miss.

9:08 PM  

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