07 November 2011

More Paul Foster Johnson

Between teaching and occupying, I haven't had a ton of time to read the many poetry books stacking up on my desk, but I wanted to share some of my favorite poems from Paul Foster Johnson's Studies in Pavilions and Safe Rooms, a book I've been carrying around in my bag for weeks.

Folk Education
Their singer suffered breakdowns. In their work
there was a sense of what it was to live there at that time.
One song described the dark around the military
vehicles between them and the cocaine waiting
in Gramercy. It was about the sepsis that followed love
or love repeated as farce, the neck neck neck
damaged by an anonymous hand unstringing guitars.
They got away with it and worked to abolish youth
by knitting and paying half-attention. I thought I was
in love because my sentiments were matched
by a generic, abiding sense of unfreedom. Nothing
survives lovers descrying the red flags of old flames.
Nothing is more relatable than an unreasonable person
operating subtractively, indulgently, out of exasperation.

[and another one]

Monument to the Plough
My head and life lines are invisible
but the plough fills in the blanks.
The plough is a frantic reproduction
in aluminum and I am a clown
tipping it toward oblivion.

In a program of self-study the brain
may suggest a formula for industrial weirdness.
In the tourism of crap jobs a brain
abets bad planning, the hand
grasps a glossy red handle, the brain
an isolated piece at draughts.

My job is to remind everyone
that spontaneous order is not natural
and to bus figures to their habituation.
In transit they stretch under layers
that deform their silhouettes
and smoke.

Undispersed among other gamepieces
the brain in a program of self-study
looks into a series of situations in space
amoral virtual homogeneous
much like garbage dumps.

[and another one]

Palace of Arts
In condemning Mount Parnassus as a joke
I am bad, dissolute, literally dissolved, unwilling
to be seduced by curatorial prowess, by rows
of bushes appearing as ground-glass opacities
in the lungs of the dead space. My bad unblocked
approach overruns it. I thought it was impenetrable
and should have known it was not not not from what
it exuded. I.e., the surrounding sky aflame with truth
receding to invisibility. Once in the booth I look out
through a one-way glass. The space was killed
by the lack of spontaneity of you-know-who.
His hidebound vision could not not not foresee
our being thwacked by hanging wires, our being
scarred for life in disassembled exhibition halls.

Pick the book up at Portable Press at Yo-Yo Lab if you know what's good for you. And watch this awesomely psychedelic video in which Paul chats about the book.

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