"Only Whitman and Crane and Williams, of the American poets, are better than the movies," wrote Frank O'Hara in 1959.
Blockbuster Poem Fridays, our 10-week series which starts today, presents work from poets who are current, Canadian, and better than the movies.
Better than the movies? Yes, a blockbuster poem is a perfect way to pause and drift a bit before rejoining the fast-moving flow of the Internet. Much better than Titanic.
But wait. Isn't The Tyee an online news source? Right, which is why the poems were also chosen for the vital headlines they convey from the frontier of the imagination. As William Carlos Williams (one of O'Hara's anointed) wrote: "It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there."
Our 10 blockbuster poems were selected with the assistance of the publishers and the poets themselves -- and in some cases by a vote at The Tyee office.
To get things going...
A Creation Song
By Max Middle
Before night absorbs the last shades of day into its cloak
and feet begin to chatter across a known typography of clocks and brown air,
the first airy morning of a new universe dawns
with the mouth of darkness disgorging its pigment on a scintillant cosmos.
The earliest stroke of daylight smells of chaos; rivulets of sap break the ground.
And loosed from the marrow of night, an egg adrift chaos is ablaze:
light separates from dark, sun begins its journey across the sky.
The aether is a door invisible in darkness.
The hand on the door is first sanguine,
then it slams scintillant S fits doorways.
Or, S sense shiitake blam palo alto pall tree lap thud.
Out of E there, poultry flutter of wings,
lacking all, all that a flaccid ant eater could.
Flopsicle easer kicks the keeper's shackles, picks a pal
eager as straphic, traffic stalled as afferestic,
analeptic to a papa point of paratchik paparazzi,
loftitude, a stratospheric let down into a slide of
laughed a lot when lancelot's allotted lands doubled.
Hopscotch to take on a chance leashing it to fermentation.
Alone best left on a pot to boil out the trouble.
An hour steamed soft tall ships afloat left ticking
aloud on clouds, salt crumbs and balloons.
Yesterday on the bus, somebody asked what was ready.
Another person asked what was being read;
Today they are both asking what are you writing?
What are you doing? How the fuck are you?
Taking the grease to chance and finding it in there,
without station walls or limits or tacked up posters or
starvation lacking victims or lurking predators without prey.
new snow puffed louder peeled on the purchased affluence of
powdering a powerful person on the nose on the loose.
Because a pastime crimps a boiled plant to toughness
and it's off the fuffle, now that the stink is gone and the best
of the plant eaten or planted stuffed became the rest,
flaccid afloat and laughed a lot like a smile in the tackle berries
with alotta rolla hopscotch taking a chance leasing it to cherries.
A lotta roll around Tony with the Rolex
made with how much chance heated in a litre
of went ditched with pieces of hose mixed upside.
You want to get in but nobody will mind your absence,
just note that you might get in, but never mind that,
fade in and isolate the apparatchik learning new dance steps.
Never mind trancing, the brain is just smelling its chances,
chucking loads of procPsverbaux into a procession.
'Cause lotsa rolla gotta letta prole up to the window,
into swinging pictures before the roll over of 1789.
Get in with the right crowd and swing a lot to the better letters
with cut in half pop songs, gotta bell ramp in elle B la
'cause cut halves don't make right singing mindful soup spoons,
full of suspicion, just in the happy hemispheric hunt for trip
and trap and happy flopping Shakers in the shadow of Cathars.
In that lap, nobody remembered, the other sex, in your quarters,
at night, Fra Angelico crackle on, patron saint of artists.
In the monastery the same sex may be mindful of the way you feel
although they are a ship full of streamers cascading across fields of flowers
and crowds of flags waving war makers on and on and on.
Gotta make it across the hunt lotta bella, gotta mind it wisely,
chucking loads of flags on the way rolling humble in hemisphere,
alongside hunters and saints going to meet their ends with thunder in the brine,
back to the same place the blood goes night after night,
and we say we eat the same way every day, walking, talking streamers
to my own ship full of streaming, say we can stand without the flags
and the tears and the on of off is turned on to the point that it's just
out of a lab with lots of chemistry and the roll off of perspirant.
Much hope bouncing in a litre of shake a chance too iffy
to get in first nobody will mind your absence,
just note that you can't get in but never mind that,
the blood is the same in the ocean is all round humming to
human feelings, plant animal, shelter generating why outers if
cuffed to get in with the right crowd and swing a lot to the letter,
suave and coiffed, angel bright angel stars, of the hungry ones:
wait for the hungry ones, crippled against rage, filling the night,
without a sound for the sleepless can drink from naked form;
that shelter is ocean is gut plant fibre outer of leaf of Ahab wave awe.
Take whirling dolphins and their numbers slacken the how from slavery;
at land’s sight all the beast and bulrush come chiming through the nose.
Head conscious again, taking shelter off the ocean, the sea obsession:
in dwellers by the fire comfort war machines airplanes factories,
forcing the man made shackles; waging war airplane factories.
Never mind if you can't get in because this is the outer limit of profit chance;
was profit was a chance became a profit became a number mimicked nose
and smelt a lot like worship or the burning of birch, freedom of worship
left a lot to roll around rollers, fiddling with how much chance,
freedom from worship like the burning of birch comfort nose.
Airplane factories flagging fugitive the social make up of in between.
Control tucks Tim in and comfort is all the rest he dreams between the sheets
Abo abo avo above errant exit of F fry.
A F fry cans how much chance, how much more hope
U O you ought to know you let the cat out to the UFO
and the Pluto fakes but that's how it mines the absence,
tickles the outer limits of chance for profit,
hacks comfort from war airplanes' trance.
Tim is now many miles underground in the mine, above,
spitting out of the spent dust, the orphaned offspring of chaos emerge.
Combustible sputter of phlox, firefly and phizogs turning in the fog:
fire in all living things issued from primordial ground being
chaos the birth tattoo charting the life cycle of a chastened cosmos.
Flares, fizgigs and star needles combing night's abstinent flesh;
flames welling the mined fissures; crows cawing for the ghosts of freedom.
The folks back home never signed the treaty, never saw the soldiers.
How many beer cans did it take to make an army?
Not enough to fit in the cave with J Tipping Wad who shook a fist, wagged a finger,
to let you know he never had any stubbled scar tissue needing shelter.
Only touched you to see if you're still there.
In the dirt above shelter, liberty was never achieved and bargained away.
Did someone ask why? and Tim's been down all the while,
asking for up drunk, drunk on amour fou, just for that moment
when you saw him through the floorboards,
splashing through a thousand drunk tanks.
Anemone, purer than the clearest sky purring,
perennially ready satellite, further than any late 20th century efforts
and deaths, who can remember who or why they fed themselves to the cameras or
earlier to the 1st world war trenches.
Just J being Jake in the nib of now being benign:
take what you want because he'll take with him what he needs
when he comes up the ladder from yesterday,
absconding with his twin brother’s blessing.
Plant has gone to factory getting harder, holding fire.
A scorpion grows in shade of shiny steel.
Heedless, a panther stalks prey down a throttled engine
and downtown she finds a helpless clutch of engines quaking.
She feeds with a full appetite to static background
in a time and place with ladders opened up to a cracked ceiling
the stagehand forgot yelling for more rope, gone but promised
a salad he longed to scratch the fibre from.
Known because under a recorder remorse was found.
A mouse remounting desire aloud, unlidded, wrapt green, jungle platter, near
end tea colour:
the scene thought through with paralinguistic details everything from um and ah to
sighs and screams to some interjection, grimace or shuffle.
But nobody cared for the loss, nothing written note
crowd callouses show little of a knitted late 20th century
wrapt green in a shallow grave without a funeral but for up it went, it went with the
sputum that it made becuddling its elder brother before he went off again
and wagered his stakes to the aether.
Built on the all again of legging that made it just plain,
played like a game with all the nations waiting in line
to emulate an older sister who is everything just released from night,
a player in the original act of creation.
Riding out on rip tides of enthusiasm,
in love with their own hair, nationalism, smelling of urine.
Waking up welcomed to i wasn't in love for the sake of it or the dream or
a body or making again or any such thing that could be remembered.
Just imaginable downtown with an engine left on combusting a jogger,
passing a coiled anaconda on the riverbank, redolence of ardour and assimilation
staggers off from the limits of Shakers who intentionally communed,
imagining a community with all its members seeking homeostasis,
too much water and the sisters and brothers are in search of salt,
swimming downtown only to find the streets closed to Liberation Square,
demanding paradise and returning without groceries.
In the most extreme case of circus mania an acrobat extracted me,
blue tinged, from a fish hook locked deep inside a drained lake in deserted night.
The following day after swimming or jogging not remembering which,
i was at home alone.
Downstairs an exiled cricket chirped at perfect intervals.
The morning chaos appears afloat a new dreamt universe,
sails are unfurled in darkness and rivulets of sap trill the ground:
oil slicks a puddle; a flag is folded and left on the shelf.
An egg adrift the marrow of night is ablaze and hatching,
sun begins its journey across the sky.