Posts Tagged ‘art’

Gas Station Employment

March 13, 2011

At a Super America convenience store

in South Minneapolis, 2007, nighttime

thugs & hustlers with modest aliases during the day

shot junk in bathrooms and brawled

by the coffee and donuts that shift workers

bought prior to morning.

 

Call 911; a routine that blurs eyes

behind bullet-proof glass,

hiding money in case the brawlers need a fix.

“You got somethin’ ‘gainst niggas?”

cause I was some hick honky

glowing in the night.

This was the curriculum for my

urban education.

 

It wasn’t all trouble, though.

Subtle requests to join clandestine three-somes

& purchasing handmade crafts

from Mexican immigrants who speak

enough English to find bathrooms

and peddle their goods.

 

It was a corporate oasis in the midst

of those making it anyway they know how.

Criminals on both sides, we would

lean against the cigarette racks, sitting

on milk crates & drinking coffee

hoping for the sun to peek out

from St. Paul.

 

Am I better acquainted with the man

who threatens me after I caught him

stealing energy drinks, or

with the faceless name who signs my pitiful paycheck?

The name, which I forgot,

fired my ass for drinking the coffee without paying.

I’m a thief in the night.

Fear me, as Super America does.

Who Wears the Jacket

March 1, 2011

I’m the only one in my head right now so

I’m comfortable enough to go to sleep.

The jacket is draped along the bed

unworn by me or another. The lights

are off. Save one. It’s keeping me comfortable.

The books on the shelf are unread as

in they’re not being read. Does it speak back?

Do they possess the tell-tail signs of

having given their knowledge away?

Am I alone in my head? The voices

of a thousand poets tinker at synapses

making me question my reasonableness

in myself.

I saw a painting by Jasper Johns

and I questioned my patriotism.

I am not my only voice

so I will not sleep well. I suppose

the jacket had a previous owner.

Short comings

February 7, 2011

I usually prefer when people

stop crying for me when

they’ve witnessed my shortcomings.

Really, it just makes me feel worse. That pity.

Makes me worry about myself. We

don’t want this. I function

much better when I take myself

out of my own equation.

Myself + 1 = 1, lest we muddle math

with personality.

Though I wonder if perhaps, just this

once, I’m wrong.

Can humanity be quantified?

Can humans be qualified?

Are these even questions

we’re allowed to ask?

That time I was caught

kicking my dog while

chocking my kitten

by the neighbor, I

cursed the neighbor out.

“Why don’t you mind your

own damn business?”

I yelled as a knowingly

convicted man would.

I have to ask… I have to…

but what is the measure of

my humanity at that point?

I might have an answer

to that question, but I’ll

take it to the grave.

This truth will go with

the dead flowers, whether

it belongs there or not.

Thoughts of a Sentimental Man

January 31, 2011

There’s a cat in the other room

scratching furiously at the door,

obviously looking for someone to

converse with.

If I were a sentimental man,

I’d use this locked-up cat

as an analogy for my heart,

trapped & desperate  to get out.

This melodramatic scene

at best would get me laid

if I told it to the right girl

in just the right situation,

waxing sentimental poetic

under a full moon.

This poor girl. Falling for

such cheap tricks from

a sexual predator.

The analogy could then

be used to describe her,

trapped in guilt

for allowing herself to

be so easily taken advantage of.

The cat in the other room

is quiet now. Obviously

at peace with the loneliness and guilt.

My Political Life

September 12, 2010

I called upon the Democrats.

I called upon the Republicans.

I called upon the Greens and the Independents.

I called upon the fuckin’ Tea Party.

I called upon Americans who wave a flag out of habit.

I called upon men and women so I would seem more inclusive.

I called upon the corrupt, who ate their own souls.

I called upon the corrupt, who tried to buy my neighbors soul for dessert, and got a good deal.

I called upon blacks and Hispanics whose culture I co-opted without credit, but ignored this fact and wondered why they didn’t respect me.

I didn’t call upon the Native Americans.

I called upon Democrats and their followers who couldn’t recognize righteousness.

I called upon Republicans and their followers who manufactured and sold righteousness in easy to store containers.

I called upon those whose righteousness judged me.

I called upon the hypocrite who actually lives in all of us (so don’t pretend).

I called upon liberals, conservatives, and whatever you call people in the center, and I forgot what the definitions of each were.

I called upon the gay and straight, and waited.

I called upon the Christian and Muslim who secretly wanted to kill each other who then just came right out and said it because it was never actually a secret.

I called upon those who complain about life’s inequities with a passion.

I called upon life’s inequities.

I called upon those who wish for change.

I called upon the ones who pretend to see change in the same box they’ve always lived in.

I called upon the Asians whom we deny are a superpower, then denied their influence.

I called upon the socialists and communists, who are evil, but I called them anyway.

I called upon the fascists who no longer use that name.

I called upon the system that perpetuates itself.

I called upon the system that we hope to change but don’t understand.

I called upon the system that won’t change.

I called upon myself, but ignored the call.

I called upon myself and hung up, thinking it was a prank.

I called upon the Independents again and laughed at the strange name.

I called upon the angry, then got exhausted.

I called upon the exhausted, then got angry.

I called upon those who call to battle and left a message.

I called upon the rest of the religious, who called back the next day wondering if I had accepted Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Buddha, Shiva, Lord Xenu, or whoever as my personal savior and completely ignored what I had asked.

I called upon deaf ears and finally got an appropriate response.

Where Have All the Artists Gone?

May 14, 2010

I read an essay the other day that posed the question “Why aren’t more poets politically involved?” So I said, “Yeah, why aren’t they?”

This reminded me of a time back in 2004 when I was still a student at the University of Minnesota and I went to a reading by Robert Bly, who shortly thereafter was named Poet Laureate of Minnesota. Bly has a long history of political engagement, most notably as a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam (to note it lightly). Between poems, he was quick to wonder out loud to the audience the same question as the essay I mentioned.

Where are the poets writing grand verse in opposition to the war? During the 1960s, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting at least one! (Paraphrased, not actually what he said.)

And you know, he was right. First of all, he was there during the ‘60s, so he certainly knew well enough what was going on. But today, there’s an awful lot of silence. There has been for most of the years the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on.

And of course, it’s not just poets. It’s artists of all mediums and genres. And whereas there has certainly been dissent against the war, not nearly to the scale that was seen against Vietnam.

I see this as a problem, and not just because I’m not for the wars. Have we become so complacent with the world we’ve developed around ourselves that we can’t see beyond our noses to what’s happening in our name both at home and abroad? I see this as more than just dissent. I see it as conscious involvement in something greater than one’s self. And that goes for whether you’re for or against the wars; whether or not you feel they’re just.

So my point is basically this: There seems to be fewer people nowadays who stand up and make their case for a cause they feel is worthy by using art.

I see two reasons for this.

One: Poetry and other forms of art have slowly taken a back seat to other forms of media that are far more accessible in the modern age of telecommunications.

And two: It only ‘seems’ that there’s silence.

I know for a fact there is no shortage of artists in this country who take notice of various political action by our government and compose pieces appropriate to their outrage. But unless you’re part of one of these inner art circles, you’re not very likely to hear about it (see reason ‘one’ above). But that doesn’t mean that Bly or the author of the essay I read yesterday are completely wrong with their assertions that there’s a lack of political involvement amongst artists today. For better or for worse, the art culture evolves to represent the modern culture. As it turns out, the ‘60s were a time of heavy popular political involvement, therefore it was represented in the art scene. Today, it’s less so.

But there has been a resurgence.

Over the last few national elections, there have been record numbers of people, especially youth, who are making it to the polls to cast their vote. The same modern means of telecommunication that has been squashing art forms in the national popularity contest has created a new informed population, and many don’t like what they’ve seen. If the numbers at the voting booths are any indication of political involvement, then there are plenty of people who want to stand up and make a case for their cause.

So what’s the problem? Did I just refute the original argument?

Not really. The point still stands that there’s not much political poetry out there that gets any attention out of specific circles. As a poet and writer, I’m a bit saddened by this. I have read a number of fantastic contemporary poems having to do with modern political issues (the wars, etc…), but people don’t take them as accessible, so they get drowned out in the flood of information we all get daily.

Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe not. Either way, it’s the evolution of things. Maybe I’ll just go watch a movie instead.

Apartment Items Concluded

May 12, 2010

For those of you who’ve paid attention to this blog, I’ve been posting a series of poems called “Apartment Items.” The series consisted of 50 poems and an adjoining essay about the series. I’m proud to say that tonight I posted the final poem in the series, titled Daily Poetry Calendar.

The poems truly exist as a series, feeding off of one another in order to duplicate an essence of my former living space, so individually they don’t say much. Now that they’re all together on my blog, I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

And don’t forget to check out the essay. It’s an informative piece that gives some greater insight to the concept behind the poems.

What Happens At Night

April 22, 2010

Who am I to deny my mind’s desire for multitasking?

It usually happens in my bed while

relaxing and my brain begins to wander.

The layman refers to this act as dreaming

but I know better. It’s the act of

surrealist planning:

complete with no timetable nor ultimate objective.

Only the mind’s mad desire for scheming

for what could be, or might be, or

what would be better.

I am a hopeless surrealist planner.

I made some plans last night.

The question that ultimately remains

is “what am I gonna do about it?”

Obviously the correct answer is to

live the surrealist lifestyle, which is

to avoid mathematics and any profession

driven by hard data, and simply be.

Existence is its own reason for being.

American Puritanism

March 4, 2010

Are we really that prudish when it comes to anything sexual? Spend any amount of time watching television (especially commercials) and you’d think that was an absurd question. But at the same time, I just read an article (kindly shared by my friend, Bill) about a family who made a snow woman based off of Venus Di Milo who was asked by police to cover it up. Why? Because of an anonymous complaint that it was “obscene.” So they put a bikini on it.

There were some pictures of this snow woman. First off, well done! It was executed with the type of attention to detail and expert craftsmanship not often seen in snow sculpture. I say bravo! Second of all, it looked more sexualized after the bikini was put on. The mother of the kids who made the snow woman said so herself. All of a sudden, instead of being a homage to classical feminine form, it took on the appearance of a swimsuit model centerfold.

This whole thing begs the question: are we that ashamed of our physical selves that we find their very depictions ‘obscene’ in and of themselves? If that’s the case, was Michelangelo a pornographer because he sculpted David.

And the other question it begs would be this: is sexual obscenity present only when nudity is involved? I certainly have my own opinion on that, but I’d like to hear what the rest of you think.

A Difficult Interview

February 27, 2010

Looking back, I remember my greatest dream as a small child was to be a pilot. Probably because it was one of three career tracks I knew existed; pilot, policeman, and fireman, and then I just narrowed it down from there. Freud probably would have remarked that my fantasies of flight no doubt meant that my hopes for the future were ambitious. “Why aim for the top floor of the building when you can be a mile higher?” Perhaps Freud would be right. But aspiration requires a will to succeed in order to be anything other than whimsy. In order to get to the bottom of this, in a first ever interview, I’m sitting with the dreamer himself, Mavin.

Mavin, interviewer: Glad you could make it, Mavin.

Mavin, guest: My pleasure.

MI: First off, throughout your life so far, you’ve had various ambitions for certain goals, be it to be a pilot when you were very young, then to be a musician and composer, then an illustrator, then a writer. Do you feel that in deciding your life goals that you’ve lacked a certain amount of focus?

MG: Well, I mean, if you’re going to take dreams of a developing personality and hold them to stone-tablet accountability, the entire planet would be populated with movie stars and rock stars. As time goes on, for me at least, there was a certain amount of understanding of myself that took place before I ultimately decided on writing.

MI: I have here numerous accounts in which you describe yourself as being lazy. Are you sure that your decision to become a writer wasn’t simply the end result of not wanting to do any more than take the notes for a given project?

MG: Say…Okay, I may have said that I’m lazy before, but there’s also many questions that should be posed on the nature of art and the forms that it takes. For instance, if you create a painting, your ultimate goal is to communicate something, whatever it might be, but in the process before making this image you will undoubtedly take notes or at the very least discuss with yourself the meanings in which you wish to convey. So I ask you, what is this painting about? I’d argue that it’s more than just paint on a canvas. It’s about an idea. And being social creatures who have developed language in order to communicate complex thoughts and emotions, I figure why not just cut to the chase. Writings are the most simple embodiment of ideas that we create, and anything else is filler at best, and distractions at worst.

MI: Fair enough. But if you’ll consider that the characters involved in the earliest written language were nothing more than abstract likenesses to the images in which they were meant to signify. Then by using these evolved characters in order to communicate your ideas, aren’t you simply using a series of images to accomplish this task whereas you could use only one?

MG: We both know that that’s an oversimplification of the problem.

MI: Or is it? I can tell by your past catalog of dream careers that you’re hopeful of making an original mark. Take Vito Acconci, who first considered himself a poet and writer. Seeing how by using a combination of only 26 characters that the limits of poetic expression were in fact finite, he took to conceptual art, and in one piece, took photographs of him biting himself attempting to make an original mark, since our teeth pattern is unique to each person.

MG: That’s an interesting point, but the concept of “Make it New” was a very Modernist approach to making art. They made it new, and did it very well, but we’ve ceased to make “newness” the ultimate end result. Repetition, repackaging, automation, these are all things that we experience in daily life in this era, and it’s only natural that concepts such as those will be part of the driving force behind art works that will define the 21st century. The mundane has been a large underlying topic in a lot of my writing.

MI: Very well. And I’m not saying that that’s not true. But it ultimately evades the original point. Despite the rationalization you have for your endeavors, have you considered the possibility that you’re gradually running away from goals you’ve set simply because they’re too difficult?

MG: Since you ask, yes. Yes I have. But going back, if in art it’s the idea that is king, does it actually matter the format in which it is conveyed? Even in writing, there are numerous genres to choose from; poetry, fiction, non-fiction. And from there you find sub-genres. It can’t really be stated what’s more difficult. It’s all too subjective.

MI: Considering the idea as king, as you put it, isn’t the idea of the self-interview one you took from the pianist Glenn Gould? Do you have a rationalization for your intellectual thievery?

MG: Well, I suppose the idea behind the self-interview is in and of itself self-referential. By admitting in the interview itself that it is a pre-determined genre, therefore taking the self-referentiality to the next level, I suppose in some small way that makes it my own. But then again, I’m not necessarily looking for the unique. Like I said, things like repetition, repackaging, and automation are going to be the defining characteristics of the art of this generation.

MI: That’s true. Well, thank you for your time.

MG: Anytime. Thanks for having me.