Word Germs 

What is essential in the weeks to come is that I establish the context of my poetry (which is prose) as outside the gates of self-censorship and well within academic precedent: I did indeed study both modernism and German, just not so much together as I intend to do now. But I’m 7 years out of grad school and so will approach the study just as I did before grad school, independently pursuing a haunted aesthetic of irony and hope–for alternate worlds and literary forms. How glad I am that I opened up NYbooks’s website tonight and landed on a review of Marjorie Perloff’s Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire. The Kindle sample is fantastic, promising precisely what I need to read right this minute…



After our beagle burst back inside from barking at those mean old thorny bushes again, he dug right into and upended the fabric bin that Allie had filled with every rope and bone she’d extracted from under the couches. This tidying up had served as her final act during the ending credits of a temper tantrum, filed under Allie’s Greatest Fits, over an ice cream trip to McDonald’s that no one had mentioned but had popped so persuasively into her brain. Since she was already flat on the floor she could see just where to train the broomstick Mama must’ve handed her for just this purpose.

Some of the things she said during this fit, a minute of which was filmed for kicks: “I’m gonna get rid of Oliver and I’m gonna get rid of Mama.” “I’m gonna tape your mouth shut.” That puts the little note she left for me this morning into a rather different context, doesn’t it?

Nah, she’s a sweet kid. She unleashes her Heavenly Creatures id and moves on with her life, taking her shower and brushing her chompers for Mama without complaint while I host my Comp II seminar downstairs. Students from Baltimore to East Texas overhear not shouting and slamming but laughing and rambling.

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Act Two: A Preview.

(The following piece of literary tomfoolery continues the story from my thesis.)

The shadows had it in for us: they squiggled out from the superstitious corners of a house that had a mind to creak but not to foretell or indicate, warn or presage. It made noises, sure, but the higher meanings came from without. Mulberries, distending but not falling from her house’s palisade of weeds, fused into crusts to stop her pinching fingers. Likewise she had ceased updating the Constabulary Poets blog as a living testament to her aborted career, a stillborn interface with the solicitors of her wit. She was done posting her replies. Unsure of whether this was the end, her admirers grew wary of her weblog’s subject matter for its hints of exploitation….

Thus went the novelty of a public-personal correspondence, Dolores’ fame having extended all the dramatic council she could afford. Meanwhile the Alterity stage threw out echoes, eating up the air of an empty theater as she baked and cursed back home. Stage lights were snaked out and distributed to the hoary multitude who toured the dirt roads blasting deer with vulgar illumination.

Tragicomedy, farce, her recent notes on Antigone, a plotted fiasco in a broiling kitchen, linguistic mutinies bashing her dry—how could I not be affected? If there was a word anyone could’ve spared, it was rubbish. For the manner in which James now sits—in a floral grey armchair with one arm sharply angled, bridging his brown hair to the back of his ear whilst the other, just off the arm of the chair with his elbow stabbing into his side (so that his green bottle of beer all but levitates)—has impressed Dolores with a sense of division. He is, in fact, cut in half. In the orange of an adolescent bedroom, the round knobs of a chest of drawers glare upon his cheekbones to set his mouth in an angry occidental scowl. If his pate remains a hovel then his eyes are lozenges of hemlock—with which to assimilate himself into the text.