Dear Emily Post-Avant:
I am writing here at the hotel bar with my friends from the writing program at Texas to tell you and the ridiculous site Dispatches from the Wars of Poetry you write for why I am not interested in this so-called OBU: One Big Union/Oligarchy Busters United, blah, blab, blah. My friends here around me are nodding their smart and gentle heads. I am going to be brutally honest, and you likely won’t like it.
I mean, seriously, who’s behind this OBU stuff? Is it someone I know? Is it someone other poets in-the-know know? It comes down to the following, banal as it may sound, and it is banal, I admit, but let’s put it on the table like the actually existing men and women we are of this poetry moment:
What’s with the anonymous shit? I guess you might feel the “hiddenness” is pure-hearted, or whatever, since you yourself, in your column, revel in it, but I/we can’t very well promulgate this unknown work if I/we have no idea who created it.
Because what if it’s someone I/we don’t like (a real creep, like one of your editors famously is, say), or someone who really (through no fault of their own) isn’t all that talented, someone who doesn’t trawl in the right trough, as you might sarcastically put it, or troll on the right trail, ha. Let’s be frank and face it: If I don’t know who this is, then it very well might be someone I don’t want to be associated with. And in this climate, whether one likes it or not, one’s position in the world of political alphabets depends on one’s associations– Ut respublica poesis, as it were. So, I (and my friends who are offering me loud advice as I type, here at the Hyatt lobby bar) must be cautious. It is not just poetry that is at stake, it is also one’s broader welfare.
And secondly, there are, in this moment of the world, many more important and serious things to be pursued. This “OBU” project is, after all, a species of pretentious joke, as I’m sure you would admit, in any mood approaching unveiled candor. It clearly is a put-on, and not all that clever.
We are getting tipsier as we go, yes, and I am transcribing a bit from shouted commentary, but come on now. OBU is a movement that doesn’t exist. Ha ha. Stop, you’re killing me/us. Yeah, so OK, but how about we support movements that do exist, thank you very much. I’m calling and marching and texting and giving donations and knocking on doors and organizing and being at meetings. I’m doing it round the clock. As the song says, “I ain’t got time for that now!” (Well, ok, actually, I’m hardly doing anything right now except getting drunk… But I totally support anyone who does. I mean does stuff.). But look, who is this person or persons who thinks he/they has/have time to write literary parodies in a moment of deadly political seriousness when the life of the nation and the planet are on a razor’s edge? WAKE UP!! My boyfriend just yelled at me to tell you to go fuck yourself. She is licking an olive, just so you know, and that is pretty sexy.
And, thirdly, I am (and my friends are) quite frankly overwhelmed with projects and requests for projects and reviews and assignments and long poems and essays and archival wormholes and scholarly gambits and journalistic forays into zones of deeper importance than you could ever imagine, Ms. Emily. You do not want to see any of my Inboxes, and my phone is buzzing more and more, and that is not a metaphor. A lot of people don’t know, or don’t know yet, just how in-demand I am becoming, or have been becoming for some time, and will probably be even more becoming in the future, though life is short, as John Ashbery said, which is my point. And it’s slowly becoming apparent exactly how important what I write and do in connection with it really is. In fact, even the things I do virtually. I am donating my virtual reality hard drives to Harvard, this is literally true. Ha. So that everyone, I mean in the general public, can actually see what I see directly even more via a neuronal synaptic link. And this will be a great boon to the History of Perception. But I will continue to write. Writing is what I and my friends do when we are not drinking at the AWP, as opposed to your sorry shit, you slut. Writing is an art and I am an artist. And I could not possibly sink to the level of promoting such a text that is simultaneously unserious, ridiculous, and time-consuming to consume. And, as I say, I simply have so many truly important demands on my time. And I would not want to say that a task is vitally important simply on account of it being a task that I am now doing. It just happens to work out that way. Empirically.
So. Thanks for your kind offer of a free copy of The OBU Manifestos plus a pack of those nice powerful mint sugar-free chewing gum tablets, which are better than the sticks. They’re like the old Chiclets, but no sugar. Lots of flavor. You can get a lot done with those. But, I’ve got to pass. All the best of luck with your project.
–Michener Grant Writer in Austin (with the help of other UT friends, at the Hyatt)
Dear Michener Grant Writer in Austin (with the help of other UT friends, at the Hyatt)
I grew up on Chiclets, actually, in South America. Down there, in the late 1960s, they came in tiny packets of two, sold by street vendors, and each piece was what I imagine the shrunken size of your testicles or your ovaries to be. I would chew them, aged 13 or 14, lounging at my ease, hands behind head, thinking of the girl I loved, wanting to masturbate, but not doing so, saving it for later, smelling the rank, lush grass of the Parque Batlle y Ordoñez, in view of the unsmiling statues of Laforgue and Supervielle, with the historic stadia in the near distance– the Centenario and the Velodromo– through the palms and the giant eucalypti. What a terrible thing it must be to be you, in your terribly tiny and anxious lives, in the lobby of a chain hotel, at the AWP.
Good luck with your MFAs, darlings,