Sunday, 26 July 2015

Bob Perelman

Bob Perelman is the kind of poet I like best. I find his thoughtful, political, often satirical poems about the politics of language and the power of consumer society truly inspiring.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1947, he attended the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop before moving to the University of California at Berkeley for his PhD. It was during his time in San Francisco in the 1970s that he got involved in the language poetry scene and developed his own, decidedly political poetics. In reference to Perelman’s vision of his poetry, Hoover explains:
“Perelman holds that, just as Virgil’s The Aeneid justifies empire, much contemporary poetry exists for ‘a sort of Monday-morning Emperor,’ the bourgeois reader, who can feel ‘in the exquisitely disposed syllables, the pain of repression that come with the territory of world domination.’ Perelman calls instead for ‘defamiliarization’ of poetry by removing it from the comforting aegis of the oral: ‘Unlike the oral poet, who is reinforcing what the community already knows, the didactic writer will always have something new, and, possibly unacceptable to get across.’” 

As the Poetry Foundation puts it: “Perelman’s poems disrupt sense and syntax as they search to connect body and language amid layers of commercialization, violence, and literary memory.”

Perelman is the author of more than a dozen poetry collections as well as two critical studies of poetry: The Trouble with Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky (1994) and The Marginalization of Poetry (1996). He has been Professor of English as the University of Pennsylvania since 1990.

Links:  - Jacket Magazine: Perelman feature

My poem below is a response to Perelman’s use of the quip “A language is a dialect that has an army and a navy” in one of his political essays.

~ - ~

My language has an army and a navy too.

My language folds me neatly
My language swells sweetly
My language wants
My language draws the contours of something bigger than me
My language limps
My language is fat with age and inactivity
My language enjoys a certain status
My language knows how things ought to be
My language has an exquisite host of flying drones in the blue sky above the desert
My language is the majority shareholder
My language spells freedom
My language offers redemption
My language is posted
My language is not my language
My language answers all of the questions
My language forms my mouth
My language curves my spine
My language sticks to my dentures
My language causes indigestion in a small number of cases
My language sweats
My language waterbores
My language is phallic
My language is faulty
My language has an attractive centrefold
My language is virtually everywhere
My language suits all of your home and garden needs
My language comes in a variety of contemporary colour schemes
My language is a democratically elected form of representation
My language suggests nothing
My language caught your attention
My language is an excellent example of the kind of thing we would like to avoid in the future
My language can cure world hunger
My language needs your support with £7 a month you can make a difference
My language is slow roasted and coarse ground
My language attends a spinning class twice a week
My language wishes
My language always skips at 2:46 on this track
My language is sensible
My language can explain everything
My language fills pages
My language is the ultimate experience
My language lives life to the fullest
My language needs an upgrade
My language is at 5%
My language autocorrects
My language is young, dynamic, and innovative
My language is a paradise for those poor souls born in less fortunate parts of the world
My language just wants a bit more gratitude
My language believes in liberalism
My language adheres to a certain set of invariable principles
My language holds these truths to be self-evident
My language consumes
My language has an army and a navy too.

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