Stinky Limes in the Poetry Blogosphere

Lord Byron sparring at the Pugilists Club in London

On the first day of August, 2007, Anno Domini, Kasey Silem Mohammad posted on his blog, Lime Tree, an entry that read, in full,

"All Purpose Intellectual Tag: "I'm interested in..."

He followed this by posting, on the same day, the following sentences (and fragment) generated by his tag:

>" I'm interested in the (real) improv of fake mechanized procedures . As in a big cardboard refrigerator box painted to look like a computer, with someone inside feeding a handwritten scroll out through a slot."

>"I'm interested in melancholy as a mode of negativity or refusal."


I thought these tidbits a bit "disappointing," to be honest, but I understood--wrongly, in retrospect--that KSM was opening a thread for fun exchange, inviting others to post, in his comments boxes, examples of their own interests, in like anaphoric phrasing. Thus, in a small fit of poetic transport, one I haven't enjoyed since my time on the Poetics List, I mailed in, on that same day, a string of rapidly composed 88 sentences, all beginning with the tag KSM had proffered.

I was, as is my wont, rather pleased with my effort, quite certain that some readers would find its affects (or is that "effects," reader, my handbook not handy?) genial and charming, maybe even funny enough to inspire a few to sally forth to some of the gently satirical formulations contained therein, with ripostes of like head-claused prosody. In any case, my serial tour de force seemed harmless enough, especially on a blog like Lime Tree, theoretical headquarters of the poetics of "Impropriety." I was enthused, even kind of excited.

Well, the next day I checked in, fully expecting any number of praises for my brilliance and good humor, even maybe an invitation from KSM himself that I become a card-carrying member of the Flarf fraternity/sorority, something I have yearned for since he'd been interviewed by the BBC about the movement's sub rosa mysteries. Imagine my surprise and dismay to find, then, nothing but a handful of lividly outraged comments, including a long one by KSM himself, accusing me of hijacking his blog, of being a "parasite" and a "homeless wretch," who used his comment boxes "in unrelenting waves" for no other motive than to get out of the rain in a rainy city, or something to that somewhat mixed metaphorical effect.

Not only that, though, for KSM went on to declare, in rhetoric redolent of some Weather Underground communiqué, my immediate, decisive excommunication from his comments boxes. And then, as if this weren't enough punishment upon a homeless person trying to curl his poor, lumpen body into a small, dry space, he proclaimed his intent to erase forever every single comment I had ever posted to Lime Tree! With a grace period of 24 hours! I was to copy everything I'd ever written, and at end of the generous allotment being granted to vacate my smelly belongings (not a second more), the Delete Bomb was to go boom.

Well, I sat there for a few minutes, my eyes getting hot with hot tears, and I sent KSM a couple of desperate, honestly bemused emails, more or less asking if he could possibly be serious. (1) What, after all, had I really done or said that was so awful? He promptly posted these on his blog, with a comment (referring to me now, rather coolly, as "Mr. Johnson") that he most assuredly was serious.

I sat there some more, smoked half a pack of American Spirit , maybe three quarters of a pack, and decided to go back and review in the archives all comment boxes at Lime Tree for the current year, beginning the first day of January, 2007, Anno Domini, to see if there might be something to "Mr. Mohammad's" claim that I had become an unrelenting, annoying parasite, sucking all the juice, as it were, from the limes upon his fair tree. Could it be that I'd been much more of an inappropriate pain in the ass than I recalled?

Forsooth, what I found surprised even me. For I counted, with exception of my last four wunderkammern bricolages, a mere *25 comments* over the past seven full months, a good number of these grouped in a couple of quite interesting, collegial, and well-populated discussions relating to issues of "Poetic Competence" and the writings of the Stalinist/Maoist post-avant poster-boy-of-moment, Alan Badiou. In fact, I noticed that numerous poets, during this time, were even responding in some earnest to me , as if they felt (perhaps they were mistaken, but this seems hardly the point) that my contributions were mildly relevant and interesting, even sometimes funny!

I set out to type a brief remark to this effect at Lime Tree (i.e., that Hey, 28 posts in seven months isn't such a horrible thing, lots have posted more, etc.), but stopped in mid- sentence, realizing, oops and duh, that it was too late, for I had already been proscribed from "Mr. Mohammad's" blog... And there, not a moment wasted in wake of my brusque banishment, how convenient and in keeping, was an extended, truly bizarre and disturbing screed by his girlfriend (this is how "Mr. Mohammad" refers to her), Anne Boyer, describing how clear it is that I secretly hold a kind of perverted psychosexual fascination for her boyfriend, see him as my dominatrix, clearly want to be "on the bottom," with him on top, dominating me, me showing my passive, pleading bottom to him, that I darkly enjoy this, and so on... Well, in the memorable words of Marv Albert, "No comment."

Now, I realize all this is in many ways a tempest in a tiny subculture's teapot, and only a few people inside the tiny teapot really give a hoot anyway, so I don't want to go on for too long... But I think it's fair to observe that "Mr. Mohammad's" (and Ms. Boyer's) reasons for banning me from his blog, along with his announcement of the impending disappearance of all record of my ever having been there, (2) have (given the empirical evidence I cite above) not a whit or whip to do with the claims. No, for the transparent fact of the matter is that "Mr. Mohammad" (sorry for all these scare quotes, you can take them however you wish) and his Flarfist chums greatly dislike me for what I write, not for how much I write. And part of what they don't like, part of what they can't abide (here goes my famous narcissism), is that I have often and most candidly (but always eloquently and politely) critiqued some of the hilariously sophomoric and ethically suspect aspects of their high-schoolish clique behavior and aesthetic. Which is to say that they like to be improper with and make fun of whomever they please (especially all those dumb-shit, subaltern types in chat-rooms), but oh my, when someone gets slightly "improper" with them, tries to kick-start some public exchange on certain touchy issues growing numbers of people are wondering about, well, their underpants get all bunched in a bundle...

Yes, indeed:   If the old war-horse game of ultra-low frequency silence doesn't dissuade troublesome leeches, well, then just laser beam the parasites and air-brush all their commentary from the public record. Presto! Kein Problem, ärgerlicher Blutegel! Hail Badiou, the Cultural Revolution, and so forth.

Seriously, though--and with all good acknowledgment to "Mr. Mohammad's cultural private property--we've seen this kind of censoring disposition in our "open-minded" avant poetry world before, haven't we? No need to elaborate at all, I think (Hey, Charles, wassup?)... Yes, Some traits in the body politic of the post-avant get passed down, it seems, like bacterial genes in a bathtub of twenty-year old standing water.

But so it goes and life goes on. All in all, it's rather laughable, the matter. And soon, anyway, we will all be dead! In the meantime, avoid the bathwater, young poets, I say.

[Here, a brief and impressively funny paragraph was accidentally deleted, and I can't remember now what I'd said, except for the carefully crafted phrase, "the new dispensation."]

So, here, with a few small revisions, is the poem that seems to have thrown some folks into such a snit. It is for the reader to decide if such light, innocuous satire and self-deflating parody is reasonable grounds for "Mr. Mohammad's" meltdown into theatrical, delete-buttoned angst.

As for me, I'm about to start a really good letter to Reverend Al Sharpton.

Thank you, and let us continue to undermine the bourgeoisie.

Kent Johnson

1  I'd mentioned in one of these emails to "Mr. Mohammad" that if he disappeared all of my comments, I would heroically set forth to write the "best little essay of my life." Well, so we all fail, from time to time...

2  After a few other people began to write in and state, for example--with reference to the blog's animated-kitten logo--that they were going to "take out the cat" * (in response to which "Mr. Mohammad" shrilly declared that he was being "threatened with physical violence"), "Mr. Mohammad" wrote on his blog that he'd decided not to delete my posts after all, for to do so would be too technically complicated. And then he publicly asked me to do it myself.

* As stated in a zinger of a comment by John Latta, expressing contempt for the pusillanimous comportment of "Mr. Mohammad."

[Nota bene: Shortly after finishing this little memoir, I clicked back, longingly (for the seventieth time, or so), to view the dry, warm rooms of my favorite squatter's abode, and discovered that "Mr. Mohammad" had now erased ALL of the commentary surrounding my banishment from his property, including the above mentioned post by John Latta, numerous remarks by others, the letters of inquiry I had sent to "Mr. Mohammad," and all the priceless remarks about my homelessness and sexual perversion. Click....]



                            --for Kasey Silem Mohammad, who wrote,

                                        "I am interested in melancholy as a mode of negativity or refusal"

I am interested in Monopoly as a mode of allegory for position-taking in the post-avant field.

I am interested in mushrooms and all their mysterious ways.

I am interested in games that poets play, pretending, as they do, that they aren't playing them.

I am interested in essays that speak authoritatively about Charles Reznikoff, where the author of the essay misspells the name throughout as Reznikov.

I am interested in the work of Farid Matuk, fantastic.

I am interested in Charles Bernstein, I mean, wait, Baudelaire.

I am interested in exclusionary listservs devoted to Poetic Humor.

I am interested to see if my list of interests makes it past the censor.

I am interested in India, a very interesting country, with an astonishing variety of wildlife and cuisine.

I am interested in the pantoum, a form that bears unrecognized homology, as it unfolds in composition, with the life cycle of the caddis fly.

I am interested in my first wife (I've had four, three female, one male), for I was glum and brutish to her in my young poet's melancholy, and in her, tender sadness and happiness blinked on and off in rapid sequence, like airplane lights.

I am interested in anyone who expresses interest in me; even more, I am interested in them when their interest is dissimulated as indifference, and such an attitude is good for the soul, you see, for one can believe, in this way, that almost everyone is interested in one's self.

I am interested to see what people are going to think of my soon-to-appear essay on satire (fingers' crossed!).

I am interested in fish; there is even a kind of poem called the "Piscatorial."

I am interested in knowing what became of my 9mm. Browning, the apple of my eye, lost in a game of Bridge.

I am interested in the future of "experimental" poetry, things aren't looking so good.

I am interested in antiques.

I am interested in Joe Brainard, I even wrote a book inspired by him, so ambitious, almost completely ignored--my book, I mean.

I am interested, at the very moment, in the urge to urinate, I should have done so before I started, I'll be right back.

I am interested in the notion of "Foucault's head."

I am interested in lassitude and ennui as jet fuel for ecstatic, sleek-shaped vehicles of the psyche.

I am interested in the fact that almost no feature films have ever been made about a poet; name two.

I am interested in my social anxiety at poetry events, how it can grip me without warning, swell my presence to the size of a dirigible with a swastika on its tail, and how the great ship slowly rolls over on its side and suddenly combusts, incinerating the whole room and its innocent humanity.

I am interested in the early films of this guy Renoir, which is interesting to me, since I've never seen them.

I am interested in my sitting here, writing I am interested in my sitting here, O, if only I could solidify that conceptual epiphany for the art market.

I am interested in the notion of Dasein , does this mean I have hidden fascist tendencies.

I am interested in the history of beer.

I am interested in the consciousness of a bee, the second or third one I've seen this summer; I wonder what you are and where you are going, bee.

I am interested in the fact that Ron Silliman is unable to take on the work of Alan Sondheim, the Joyce of our time, splayed in the ten thousand directions right in front of our dumb, gaping faces.

I am interested in the sociological similarities between poetry cliques and high school cliques.

I am interested in how epistemology and ontology could never exist one without the other, how the former is like a penis, and the latter like a vagina.

I am interested in how I have neglected the lawn; the grass is so high, I could mow my name deep into it, sign my habitus, as it were.

I am interested in my fear of sky diving; I've been in a couple of fire fights, but I have a serious fright of heights.

I am interested in my death, just like you, here it comes.

I am intereseted in my second wife, who was a pilot for Braniff , back when they had differently colored airplanes; she flew to Hong Kong once and never came back.

I am interested in medieval philosophy, its goldleafed, concentric circles of angels and saints, surrounding a dark center that is everywhere.

I am interested in how a poet who writes prolifically about his butt can also write finger-wagging essays about poetic narcissism.

I am interested in my third wife, a brilliant, former beauty queen, whose hobbies were welding and turkey hunting; she left one day, for Austria, and became a man.

I am interested in my narcissism, the dark center that is everywhere.

I am interested in this strange sensation I have in my chest right now, like there is a hippopotamus (sp?) burrowing into me, could I be having a heart attack?

I am interested in the notion that high officials of the Bush Administration knew something was going to happen, maybe not exactly the terrible way it happened, but that they knew something was going down, and they let it happen.

I am interested in how Dada is so attractive to most adolescent poets, even those in middle age.

I am interested in astronomy and the mysteries of cosmology, even though I know next to nothing of mathematics.

I am interested in the poetry of the young, spectacular British poet Peter Manson.

I am interested in birds; I have four feeders in my back yard: a riot of orioles, wrens, and grosbeaks, surrounded by all the boring, ubiquitous types.

I am interested in travel; I do everything I can to get myself invited abroad.

I am interested in the fact that I have gained 140 lbs. over the past five or six months.

I am interested in the debate between Lukacs and Brecht, both of them scoundrels.

I am interested in how an unrepentant Stalinist/Maoist like Badiou has become the latest name of fashion for the "most advanced sector" (as Lenin would put it) of the younger post-avant.

I am interested in how I seem to be more "famous" on other continents than my own.

I am interested in global warming, the fate of Bolivia's only and vanishing ski run.

I am interested in the fact that there is almost *no* frank eroticism in U.S. "avant-garde" poetry, as if everyone were wearing bronze chastity belts of theory.

I am interested in writing down my interests over the next few years, maybe longer; it's of interest to me, at least.

I am interested in a recent poll where over 75% of Icelandic poets admit they believe elves and fairies are real.

I am interested in fly fishing, how could I have forgotten, it's my passion, and you might be impressed by how good I am on the stream.

I am interested in baseball, still hold my high school's record for most times hit by a pitch in a season.

I am interested in how I catch so few fish, despite having such pride in my abilities as a fly fisher.

I am interested in Wittgenstein, though mainly his biography, which is heartbreaking.

I am interested in this heart-attack feeling I'm having, I'm serious, someone call 911.

I am interested in my EKG; I am holding it now, a few hours later, and it's supposedly "OK."

I am interested in my cigarettes, my companions on this journey.

I am interested in the New Criticism, in the sense of its deflected rebirth in the current "New Poetries."

I am interested in the thought of Mariategui and Lechin, true working class revolutionary heroes, yet unknown in U.S. circles; they make Badiou look like the Sorbonne pot-head he is.

I am interested in translation, its scandalously marginal status among so-called experimental poets of my country.

I am interested in super volcanoes and asteroids, the thought that suddenly poetry would mean nothing, forever and forever.

I am interested in how commonplace are spite and vilification in the poetry field, how generalized envy and distrust have come to be, in how funny this is, in context of truly superior people in superior fields doing meaningful things, like building bridges, or telescopes, or deep-sea mini-submarines.

I am interested in the widespread experience of alien abduction and its relationship to au courant poetic theory.

I am interested in the notion that poets of Classical Rome went at each other in verses with a vengeance, a time of poetic glory.

I am interested in Jack Spicer, asshole that he was.

I am interested in whales.

I am interested in the distinct possibility that Frank O'Hara never wrote "A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island."

I am interested in how I was air-brushed out of the book Leningrad, though that was before the fall of the Wall, and lots has changed since then.

I am interested in how I have a decent salary and the bank account is always down to nothing.

I am interested in buying a houseboat, fat chance.

I am interested in the dynamics of blog comment boxes, how poignant and funny the sublimated aggression can be.

I am interested how all literary theory, however disinterested it may seem, is driven by the sex-drive, tell me honestly it's not.

I am interested in Anthony Bourdain (have you seen his show on Vietnam? Borat, close up shop!).

I am interested in the reason people get erotic pleasure from peeling off their skin after a sunburn.

I am interested in Fernando Pessoa, the great poet of the 20th century; wake up Flarf, caught in sticky webs of   convention.

I am interested in haiku, especially that of Seisensui's Layered Clouds group; fashionable "minimalist" poetry today is hilariously lame in its light.

I am interested in the poetics of Deaf Poetry, much more complex and exciting than any "prosody" heard on PENN Sound.

I am interested in how some astrophysicists are beginning to question the dogma of the Big Bang, when will astrophysics get it right.

I am interested in whether you are interested, bored, contemptuous, or angered by my interests; whatever the case, I am interested that there be some understanding between us.

I am interested in the melancholy of my younger son, his beautiful compassion, his secrets and his yearning.

I am interested in the fact that science is at a loss in face of the "hard question" of consciousness... that you are reading, right now, this interest of mine.

I am interested in the people of Darfur; I'm driven silly by my powerlessness and righteous rage, which is periodic, whenever I don't have other things to be pissed off about.

I am interested in the price of gasoline.

I am interested in Iraq, like everyone else; I have written some poems about this interest, so what.














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