Friday, May 4, 2012

What I've been reading: Partyknife by Dan Magers

The poems in Dan Magers' Partyknife (Birds LLC, 2012) take place in a world very like that of Jon Leon's Hit Wave (Kitchen Press, 2008) (both published by outfits at least partially headed by Justin Marks, incidentally). In Hit Wave, it's a world of endless parties with interesting lighting, populated by beautiful artists and the super-rich. These people aren't rockstars and actors like Tom Cruise. Rather, these are the parties in a Tom Cruise movie, where no one is an actor. In Partyknife, it's unclear if anyone is actually rich, beautiful, or even interesting, but who cares? They're still having fun. (Are the super-rich even capable of having fun? Is fun a third-world problem?)

Both books depict an adolescent-boy-fantasy-world of drugs and booze and hot chicks and car chases, but Hit Wave's world is navigated by a hero, and Partyknife's by an antihero. The speaker in Magers' poems is not a Cruise-like man-god, but a delusional loser who drinks Natty Lite and plays video games; he occasionally sees through his own bullshit but keeps partying anyway. As such, this "little dude girl" is exponentially more lovable. Witness the oscillation between extreme egotism (ironic, natch; that's one of the moves) and deflation in "Total Summer Vibe" (abridged):

My intern broke up with her boyfriend for me.
I did not ask for this. When she spoke
I saw your face. 
Misheard lyrics of my favorite songs inextricably linked
to my love and that time. 
Yeah, I love it the best. 
Fetishize the moment into a lifetime. [...] 
There's something about 4am that robs legitimacy of every effort. 
Check out that coat! I need me that coat!
That coat just says FUCK YOU WHITE PEOPLE! 
Dancing girls dance away from me. [...] 
Adderall is doing such amazing work in me,
I have little time to figure it out. 
Then I realized they were slumming
and were not my friends. 

This voice feels like a parody of Jon Leon's in Hit Wave, were Hit Wave not already an advanced parody of the artistic life, with fewer chinks where the contempt shows through. (I once described Hit Wave as a kind of mockumentary, "a fake memoir written in an absurd world where a poet can live the decadent life of the rich & famous. The depraved, egomaniacal narrator is better at 'making real life seem like movies' than directors are at 'making movies seem real.'") This is from the chapbook's Bret-Easton-Ellisesque first section, "1982":

Marcel and I had breakfast at Trieste nearly every day that summer. Late evenings we would drive out to the shore to relax. At those times a melancholic haze covered the sky above the surf. One memorable evening while reading Mountolive several seagulls landed near our recliners and I kicked sand at them for some unlocatable reason. At nightfall we'd take the Corvair back to my condo in the Matsonia Gardens building. I'd regularly fall asleep in the nude, recalling a poem from one of my favorite writers: "The Dreams in Your Heart That Never Die." 

Both Leon and Magers mimic the wealthy habit of name-dropping the recurring characters in one's entourage. See for comparison Courtney Love's food diary in New York Magazine:

I know Mario Batali well. Why bother knowing anyone else? Michael Stipe told me to talk to him artist-to-artist. Those clogs built an empire, man! I took my soccer-mom/lawyer sister with Stipe and some people from U2 to Babbo, and it changed the way she ate forever. It's like when a fat, American woman goes to France and she realizes there's another way to eat. [...]
Hershey leaves me my tray of usual foods. 
Me and Andr√© were going to open a salt store. And then across the street opens the Meadow with 800 kinds of salt. Even though they stole my fucking idea, I stop by there all the time. Of COURSE they're from Portland. I told Fred Armisen that I'll only do the show if they make it "Courtney Love Is From Portland Day." 
My art party is at the Americano. Someone booked it without asking me. I could have just called Mario! The last good party I had was for Ed Norton in '98. I'm scared for this one. I'm a stranger in a strange land with the art world. And I'm not an attention whore as much as people think.

Is this parody? Is there irony in Courtney Love's food diary? Who can say? Love and Leon occupy a space where self-awareness seems beside the point. Magers on the other hand is just hilarious. This may be a "project book" but he is a poet of the line, and he delivers a deadpan delight of one-liner after one-liner like some of our best crossover poet-comedians (see Sommer Browning and Mark Leidner). If you have the chance to see Dan Magers read, go. Here's one more to make your Friday and get stuck in your head:

At karaoke, I ruined 'Don't Stop Believing' for everyone. 
Someone is having a lot of trouble
in the bathroom---gasps and groans, 
and whoever's in there is morphing "Thriller"-style. 
Another inelegant night last night. Nice and stoned
back at the lab with Dr. Rob. 
His mix tapes suck.
Putting together at random would have more effect.
Mixing tapes at random,
then chunks of songs at random. 
I release them under the name Girl Talk. 
Looking at my face without mirrors
just blew my mind. 
Some serious dudes place amps
in full-circle manner of Stonehenge.

The amps are the band. The dudes are the roadies.

Noise through another
all layered and decayed.

We tried to achieve hypnosis
and one of us levitated.

If you're doing it with that girl right now
then this message means jackshit, but probably
you're not---probably she's like, "Where's the beer?"
and you're like, "I don't got any,"

but we've got the beer right here.

No comments:

Post a Comment