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Some Futurists (in addition to their bouts of dick-for-brains proto-fascism) seemed to find modernity’s beauty was its metalized mechwar glory, its supercession of the natural. Even beyond such death-cult enthusiasms, there’s a generalized sense that during the nomadic/hunter-gatherer/agricultist eras, circa the age of huts, we led a more organic existence, in harmony with the planet. This is false. We rolled around the globe’s surface, isolate pebbles, mutely subject to its forms. Only in the cities did we finally become organic, developing forms of life out of human possibility. These social forms were vertiginously complex, frequently horrific, inevitably destructive (Marinetti’s right about that), but also charming, surprising, funny, and there is often a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. This is what I mean by the organically human.
Something in language aspires toward this condition; poetry seems like a plausible mode for such an aspiration. This is how I think about Kevin Davies’s poems, for which few if any of the possible metaphors seem even close: weather, the fractured encyclopedia, disobedience. His poetry is not especially metaphorical in the first place; it is more a kind of realism, for a real world that seems all too often not just too awful, but too incalculable and messy to look at in its full unfolding. It’s a package deal: one gets Davies’s lateral, flickering macropoetics, the shockingly mobile mind-motion, alight with the “unembarrassed glee with which he asks to be read polemically” (as the poet Christopher Nealon put it). One gets the exhilaration that accompanies. One gets the nearest approach to descending through the smokescreens and the politely-imposed orders, into the cauldron of the global everything; one gets the flinch and the wry fervor of the impossibly wounded guide. And in return, one gets caught up in the spellbinding mess, the local-global traps, “the fact that we’re ruled by the money that owns the people who have the money that rules itself—.” No one of these things makes Kevin Davies’s poetry particularly of-the-moment, much less future-eyed. As a bunch, though—as a bundle . . .
The aggregating breadth of Davies’s world view is a rebuke to the narrow avenues of poetic communities. For some he’s closely watched, critically admired, signal; for many, his resolutely small-press and sporadic publications have an unfamiliar address. The poems themselves are long— pages and pages—and part of longer structures still; excerpting them is a kind of harm. This seems okay: as the poems register unfailingly, harm comes both to life enmeshed in big structures, and from trying to opt out. Full versions of these works can be found, unsurprisingly, floating out there in the semi-visible system: at UbuWeb (ubu.com), at Alterran Poetry Assemblage (ca.geocities.com/[email protected]). Though maybe “full version” is already a mistake, too Edenic, too satisfied. These poems, too, are just something poetry can do—.
What gets me is
the robots are doing
my job, but I don’t get
some extrapolated node
of expansion-contraction gets
my money, which I need
for time travel.
from “Lateral Argument”
as practical ways of speaking about
They awoke in a bookless world studded with lean-
to performance artists interacting with electricity.
This must be the place. Evicted from elsewhere, here
at last not rest but an apprenticeship in container
technology. A kind of music that, though apparently stopping,
starting, stopping, more specifically never ends, thus
displaying as virtue its greatest flaw. Successfully,
irritatingly. Who here has access to liquor? The youth
of this centreless void gave voice to the sensual trepidations of
the nearby chopping block. This transparency at once
a local pride and a fulcrum of alertness. Yes. They
then proceeded lengthwise down the postracial boulevard,
exhausted but coy, travel plans successfully forgotten.
Perhaps they would stay awhile. But
no . . . What’s that humming
sound . . .
. . . Hello . . .
The so-called outside
The newfangled windowpanes across
the street, emptied into deltas of greeting.
The burnt marshmallow stuck to your cheek
Like a weak rhyme, a new genre of pottery, bolt
upright in the midst of a daydream.
So that we all might be blessed with the darker gifts
of broken car, tank top, a castle
full of water-logged documents.
from “Karnal Bunt”
I love the look of humans when they sit or stand still and when they move around
I love the look of them looking back and barking arbitrary commands, which I obey
I love the fragrance of the grouping of incommensurate ego fantasias in the drone of winter
I love the fuss of the not-quite of submission techniques
I love to be an international unit in the measure of the loading of the fissures in the communal membrane into silos on a prairie in a basement by a government of souls in trouble at a party with martinis for a long time
Memories of overdevelopment
Words in the process of becoming cash crops. Verbal
exhaustion trying to stand in for millennia of solar-eclipse data hoarded by
the priestly caste. Wards of the statement—hunkering, predicated.
Uncles and aunts driving away to charges later reduced to booze- induced
melancholy. Port Babel, Ether Ridge, Extreme Junction,
Jackmormon Creek, Chumleyville, Them-Birds.
The kind of tough, stringy, and foul-tasting duck a sea gull
makes at table in the postwar DP forties, learning rope
Actually buying soap at the drug bodega
The posthumous jukebox of passion plays what it wants
what I’ve watched. • I AM THE GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM, ME • In the older days a big part of the job involved speeding up and slowing down
the machine in order to approximate
reality, but that is
no longer necessary.
an unsolved problem in the disciplinary literature
from “Karnal Bunt”
These cheesy little hypertexts
are going to get better.
I don’t know
how much better, but we’ll see.
from “Lateral Argument”
When a friend is leaving town, go with her and drink.
When he arrives where he is going, keep a photo
on the fridge.
A great flapping bird, looking for something to eat in Brooklyn.
I’ve lately been rereading my schoolgirl essays in Latin
and there is much I could learn from my younger self
if I were the sort of person interested in learning.
I debate the merits of cremation and taxidermy
while in Rome, New York, burning, doing as the Rome,
New Yorkers do. Slave to my dick
was a song of that spring. Later, whether Julie
should be executed as a traitor. Gerry,
the consensus: stooge. Ann the anarcho-Lenin, as if.
But at least they can look back from old age and think
yeah goddamn it, we blew something up, we blew
something up, didn’t we? The rest of us, what did we blow up?
A few hairdryers in domestic fits, correct?
Not really the same thing. Possibly once or twice
sabotaged a Zamboni or contaminated an enemy
laid a curse
or two. Model
Kevin Davies’s is the author of Pause Button, Comp., and Lateral Argument.
Joshua Clover is the author of Madonna anno domini, The Totality for Kids, and a monograph of The Matrix in the British Film Institut's Modern Classics series. He teaches at the University of California, Davis.
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