The below poem by Ariana Reines (reprinted in the new Gurlesque anthology edited by Lara Glenum and Arielle Greenberg) starts with a rather inane idea. It's a poem in the voice of a mini-mart located inside a dog. WTF, right? It's easy to imagine the first line ("I am a mart in the dog") being a random line in a non-sequitur-driven poem, less easy to imagine it remaining central, at least without the poem devolving into mere absurdity (not that there's anything wrong with absurdity). Here it is:
ANTHEMThe poem is absurd, to be sure, but it achieves its spikes of surprise and flashes of profundity (and a couple rather dumb moments, I admit) by pushing the idea in unanticipatable directions.
I am a mart in the dog and look, here’s some merchandise. I am a mart in the dog. Aye.
Being a mart in a dog is like being a world: overstated.
Do you know what love is if you are a mart in a dog. You sell Hoodsies and cigarettes and lotto tickets. You are real.
Do you know what a dog is if you are trapped inside of him.
Everything is part of something.
I am part of something because my life is so stupid.
Being a mousse made of stars in the night that I want to feel is being too because I am gluey like a girl.
I even am a girl. Wow, fuck me.
Being a night inside of the mouth of a loved boy. Red black and shiny teeth with a tongue. The word of a loved boy has sense.
In a mart where there are newspapers and burnt coffee all the night long, bic pens in a jar, scratch tickets and pornography, everything’s ok. I am not the nice man in the mart I am the mart itself, which is inside of a dog who would love me by instinct except he doesn’t know I am inside of him and a mart isn’t an I.
Infinity has got to become mine so that I can know which way to turn, so that I can know in what direction something like morning is breaking.
I think this poem is risky, and not (just) because it includes the F-word. It risks being detestable. A certain kind of poem is not detestable, it's too harmless and inert to offend anyone but the most determined to be offended. It risks only being boring. This one, I can see some people really getting pissed about.
More and more, I realize, I'm interested in the realm of the polarizing. I like plenty of things that everyone else likes, but I'm fascinated by the love-it-or-hate-it zone. I'm not even sure how much I like the above poem. I was very struck by it the first time I read it. Being striking is a feat in itself. The second time around I found it less rewarding; I had the urge to edit it. The third and fourth times, it mostly won be back again. I respect it. But I think I grok it a bit too much to be in awe of it. That Jon Woodward poem still sort of awes me. How did he do that?