A Call for New Sincerist Poems
What I find myself in the market for this afternoon is a handful - a slew if possible - of links to actual New Sincerist poems. Determining the New Sincerists' identities is not so hard, but finding poems that exemplify or indicate the movement are harder, even by Google, to find. Thought I would consult the sources.
Hole in my pocket
Sam Phillips has a chanteusey take on things that is both world-wearier than Nico's and poppier than Dar Williams's. I also like the fact that she, once a gospel singer named "Leslie Phillips", denounced her previous Christian record label as "a right-wing propaganda machine." Which I always thought Amy Grant would do, but she has yet to. Sam Phillips, for those among you who prefer your chanteuses to show up in the strangest places, was the sultry German villainess paired with Jeremy Irons in 1995's "Die Hard: With a Vengeance".
Wednesday, 8/17: Borders @ Columbus Circle.
Thursday, 8/18: Project Sunshine.
TBA: Legal Outreach.
One variety of job I could not brook is one in which I'd have to be on the street of this city all the time. Such as a mattress mover, say, or a political canvasser, or gyro vendor. Maybe a gyro vendor. Point is, I finally begin to see what the Rev. D Douglas Eldridge meant when he said that New York is like a ride into which you need to keep putting change. Sort of like one of those rides outside of suburban supermarkets, horsies and rocketships, which thrill their little riders for, although I've never timed it, maybe a minute. Sort of like a pay phone, if you druther. And only while in the street can I feel the city rifle me for whatever I've got. In Jonathan Lethem's superb-if-at-first-standoffish opus "The Fortress of Solitude," this process of affectionate heisting is termed "yoking." As in, "C'mere, you got a dollar I can see?", and then you're in a headlock. Is this phenomenon something only new full-time transplants to this place experience? Does it fade? I'm alright as long as I'm on my way to or from somewhere specific. But running errands up and down the island's West Side as I did today, that takes it out of a body.
Wrote a prose poem about the strip malls and speed traps of Provo, Utah. I also find myself fascinated with lightning these days. William Grimes has a wry observation on Philip Dray's just-out "Stealing God's Thunder,"about Ben Franklin:
"The clergy turned a disapproving eye on Franklin's great invention, the lightning rod. Who was he to disturb the instruments of divine wrath? Even Jean-Antoine Nollet, one of France's foremost lightning researchers, warned that it was 'as impious to ward off Heaven's lightnings as for a child to ward off the chastening rod of its father.' Franklin was amused. 'Surely the Thunder of Heaven is no more supernatural than the Rain, Hail or Sunshine of Heaven, against the Inconvenience of which we guard by Roofs & Shades without Scruple,' he wrote to a friend."
Which, again, is just the kind of sober understanding I flip for. Of course, Who are all my lightning poems ultimately about? As though I could help it.
New Sincerity in re: Poetry, Recent City Life
The Nick Drake song "Fly", especially the lyric "Now, if it's time to recompense for what's done", the ensuing lyric notwithstanding even, makes me want to choke up. I don't always choke up, but I want to. The song itself, and Nick Drake too one could say, is maudlin. That lyric, however, hits a note of sincerity. Is it representative of this New sincerity being much discussed around town? Nah. I think my desire to have it My general and fairly crystallized solitude here in the city seems a fine incubator for a New Sincerity. Filling out a slew of applications today, I completed a personality test for Borders. This test included questions such as "People can be so annoying" and "I take charge of small groups," followed by these options: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, Strongly Agree. After about 200 of these questions, I noticed a few things. One: responding to statements like "Not doing my work doesn't make upset", with their coupled negative constructions, can be a treacherous business should you try to answer too quickly. Two: statements like these garnered strong responses: "I fake being polite." "Most people are generally untrustworthy." "I prefer being alone." The first one especially got to me, perhaps because it touched on the strange social moments that abound every time I enter the streets. Looking for a job as I am, I phone or speak in person with all manner of strangers these days, and I turn on the charm to get the information I need, sure. As I type that, I a) dislike myself and b) know that that isn't the whole story. There is a real desire for self-representation, for mutual understanding in whatever encounter is going on, for yes some sincere congress with that person. It is and is not affected. I am my most socially content, am most comfortable and reassured of, I don't know, something, when convinced that some just-completed interaction has been genuine. I strive for that. Hopefully Borders feels that this trait suits me to selling books in their name. Kate, to use her poetic pseudonym, suggested in a recent & accidental excoriation of my poetry that I might not be writing for those people I think I'm writing for. "What do you mean?" I pursued. "You say you write so that everyone will understand just what you mean to say in the poems, but I don't know who 'Alex' is, or why his eyes are being propped open, or what that's supposed to mean in a larger sense..." If memory serves, she trailed off in frustration. "Well, that's a reference to 'A Clockwork Orange' ", I said, "but maybe the poem just needs another word or two there to provide a context..." Here, I trailed off. Because I do want the reader to follow. I have a sincere desire to alienate no man (or woman) of woman born. That's a Sincere desire I have. If I inappropriate ape the capital-S Sincere in the above paragraph, I trust someone will help me out. But I am unsure, now, struggling to write, how to accomplish this - how to achieve parity between innovation AND clarity, compression AND expansion, tragedy AND comedy. What's been said elsewhere about the NS chimes with my own theories about post-postmodernity, especially as it relates to poetry. The notion that postmodernism and its ironic dross does little for us now - although it did once do much that was crucial, I feel - is sound. How it jives, whether it jives, with the NS is a matter for tomorrow. By which time I'm sure, sure, I'll have a job.