Always Be Closing, Always Be A Closer
written by David Mamet

In this scene, Blake (Alec Baldwin) is confronting the employees of a tough Chicago real-estate office, Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), Ed Moss (Ed Harris) and George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) while their unsympathetic supervisor John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) looks on. If you would like, this monologue I'm sure can be edited into one incredibly long one, if you want to take out the lines from the other actors.

Blake: Let me have your attention for a moment! So you're talking about what? You're talking about...(puts out his cigarette)...bitching about that sale you shot, some son of a bitch that doesn't want to buy, somebody that doesn't want what you're selling, some broad you're trying to screw and so forth. Let's talk about something important. Are they all here?

Williamson: All but one.

Blake: Well, I'm going anyway. Let's talk about something important! (to Levene) Put that coffee down!! Coffee's for closers only. (Levene scoffs) Do you think I'm fucking with you? I am not fucking with you. I'm here from downtown. I'm here from Mitch and Murray. And I'm here on a mission of mercy. Your name's Levene?

Levene: Yeah.

Blake: You call yourself a salesman, you son of a bitch?

Moss: I don't have to listen to this shit.

Blake: You certainly don't pal. 'Cause the good news is -- you're fired. The bad news is you've got, all you got, just one week to regain your jobs, starting tonight. Starting with tonights sit. Oh, have I got your attention now? Good. 'Cause we're adding a little something to this months sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize's a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired. You get the picture? You're laughing now? You got leads. Mitch and Murray paid good money. Get their names to sell them! You can't close the leads you're given, you can't close shit, you ARE shit, hit the bricks pal and beat it 'cause you are going out!!!

Levene: The leads are weak.

Blake: 'The leads are weak.' Fucking leads are weak? You're weak. I've been in this business fifteen years.

Moss: What's your name?

Blake: FUCK YOU, that's my name!! You know why, Mister? 'Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove a eighty thousand dollar BMW. That's my name!! (to Levene) And your name is "you're wanting." And you can't play in a man's game. You can't close them. (at a near whisper) And you go home and tell your wife your troubles. (to everyone again) Because only one thing counts in this life! Get them to sign on the line which is dotted! You hear me, you fucking faggots?
(Blake flips over a blackboard which has two sets of anagrams on it: ABC, and AIDA.)

Blake: A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-closing. Always be closing! Always be closing!! A-I-D-A. Attention, interest, decision, action. Attention -- do I have your attention? Interest -- are you interested? I know you are because it's fuck or walk. You close or you hit the bricks! Decision -- have you made your decision for Christ?!! And action. A-I-D-A; get out there!! You got the prospects comin' in; you think they came in to get out of the rain? Guy doesn't walk on the lot unless he wants to buy. Sitting out there waiting to give you their money! Are you gonna take it? Are you man enough to take it? (to Moss) What's the problem pal? You. Moss.

Moss: You're such a hero, you're so rich. Why you coming down here and waste your time on a bunch of bums?

(Blake sits and takes off his gold watch)
Blake: You see this watch? You see this watch?

Moss: Yeah.

Blake: That watch cost more than your car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see, pal, that's who I am. And you're nothing. Nice guy? I don't give a shit. Good father? Fuck you -- go home and play with your kids!! (to everyone) You wanna work here? Close!! (to Aaronow) You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can't take this -- how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?! You don't like it -- leave. I can go out there tonight with the materials you got, make myself fifteen thousand dollars! Tonight! In two hours! Can you? Can you? Go and do likewise! A-I-D-A!! Get mad! You sons of bitches! Get mad!! You know what it takes to sell real estate?
(He pulls something out of briefcase)
It takes brass balls to sell real estate.
(That's what he's now holding, two brass balls on string, over the appropriate "area"--he puts them away after a pause)

Blake: Go and do likewise, gents. The money's out there, you pick it up, it's yours. You don't--I have no sympathy for you. You wanna go out on those sits tonight and close, close, it's yours. If not you're going to be shining my shoes. Bunch of losers sitting around in a bar. (in a mocking weak voice) "Oh yeah, I used to be a salesman, it's a tough racket." (he takes out large stack of red index cards tied together with string from his briefcase) These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you, they're gold. Because to give them to you is just throwing them away. (he hands the stack to Williamson) They're for closers. I'd wish you good luck but you wouldn't know what to do with it if you got it. (to Moss as he puts on his watch again) And to answer your question, pal: why am I here? I came here because Mitch and Murray asked me to, they asked me for a favor. I said, the real favor, follow my advice and fire your fucking ass because a loser is a loser.


This from the Poets Against the War website


Kent Johnson
47 years old
Freeport, Illinois

Kent Johnson's most recent book is Immanent Visitor: Selected Poems of Jaime Saenz (U. of California Press), which he translated with Forrest Gander.


Oh, little crown of iron forged to likeness of imam's face,
what are you doing in this circle of flaming inspectors and bakers?

And little burnt dinner all set to be eaten
(and crispy girl all dressed with scarf for school),
what are you doing near this shovel for dung-digging,
hissing like ice-cubes in ruins of little museum?

And little shell of bank on which flakes of assets fall,
can't I still withdraw my bonds for baby?

Good night moon.
Good night socks and good night cuckoo clocks.

Good night little bedpans and a trough where once there was an inn
(urn of dashed pride),
what are you doing beside little wheelbarrow
beside some fried chickens?

And you, ridiculous wheels spinning on mailman's truck,
truck with ashes of letter from crispy girl all dressed with scarf for school,
why do you seem like American experimental poets going nowhere
on little exercise bikes?

Good night barbells and ballet dancer's shoes
under plastered ceilings of Saddam Music Hall.

Good night bladder of Helen Vendler and a jar from Tennessee.
(though what are these doing here in Baghdad?)

Good night blackened ibis and some keys.
Good night, good night.

(And little mosque popped open like a can, which same as factory of
flypaper has blown outward, covering the shape of man with it (with
mosque): He stumbles up Martyr's Promenade. What does it matter
who is speaking, he murmurs and mutters, head a little bit on fire.
Good night to you too.)

Good night moon.
Good night poor people who shall inherit the moon.

Good night first editions of Das Kapital, Novum Organum,
The Symbolic Affinities between Poetry Blogs and Oil Wells,
and the Koran.

Good night nobody.

Good night Mr. Kent, good night, for now you must
soon wake up and rub your eyes and know that you are dead.


In response to:


Shutting up is the act of choosing to be silent, to slam our traps shut. Silence is what got us Auschwitz, East Timor, Cambodia, Vietnam, Gulf War I, Reagan, Panama, and news stories about Michael Jackson. The NRA. George Will. William Buckley. Deion Sanders. Rush Limbaugh. And yes, even Noam Chomsky. Silence is also apparently what has gotten us the noise that is Neal Pollack.

The world is littered with bad writers and Neal is not one of them. He has a gift for satire, a flair for drama, and a penchant for meticulous revision. He clearly checks most of his sentences with loving care and is attentive to his craft--something painfully absent from so many writers.

But craft isn't everything, Neal. And sometimes even writing isn't everything. Sometimes, even, writing isn't merely writing. Sometimes writing is a log of customer complaints, a license number on a traffic ticket, a grocery list. And sometimes writing, specifically in the voices we all have, the voices that almost invariably want to participate in government, have no place to go. Sometimes writing is the form in which participation in government takes place. Unfortunately it's hard to find a place for that voice to go. Our supposedly democratic government seems to be averse to actually providing such a place for such voices (unless they are coupled with campaign & party donations). Sam Hamill gave some folks a place for those voices to go on record.

Whereas Pollack might be a good writer, he fails when it comes to reflexive awareness. Specifically he writes he is all for "democratic modernity" yet it seems he doesn't want anyone to speak out against the war or for the war. Neal, people speaking out and voicing their opinions and emotions, however "stupid", is the essence of democracy.

With "Poets Against the War" (PATW), Sam Hamill's idea was to have people participate in the democratic process. He was to take poems from maybe 100 or so of us regular and not so regular poets. But the email request spread like a virus while Laura's advisors received a message from the NSA warning of dissenting e-mail activity. So she cancelled the luncheon that Hamill was to give her these 100 or so poems, and Hamill had thousands, not hundreds, of poems. Many poems came from people who'd like to be writers but couldn't write a line of crafted verse even if their credit ratings depended on it.

Much of the poetry from PATW is HORRIFIC. Solipsistic poetry is horrible and so too is poetry from people who write more poetry than they read. Granted. Poetry written by many poets is bad, not to mention the poetry written by people who think all expression is art. It isn't. It's usually Crapola. ("Just because it happened to you doesn't make it interesting." - Howard Korder, "Search and Destroy") Bad writing is bad writing, and not everyone is born to write even if everyone wants to be a writer. (Nearly everyone...the mark of many a great writer is hir resentment of having been born as, or turned into, a writer.)

But Neal Pollack, in his disingenous self-positioning into the role of some 21st century E.B. White, well, he go fall down and go boom. He go make a boo-boo. He go make a gross oversight in his writing. PATW still an act of democracy, even if it is a poor excuse for an act of art.

You're for "democratic modernism," Neal?

George and Laura Bush, thier parents, and perhaps even their drunken offspring would like everyone to shut up about the war, to just say nothing, to go away and let them have all the goods. Thos Bushies come from a long line of shrubbery and other vegetable forms firmly rooted in oppositon to marginalizing the participation of voices outside their little Wall Street/Ivy League/Madison Avenue/Oil cabal. Yes, they don't want to hear anyone or let anyone say anything. They also tell people that they're for democracy, not just for us, but for everyone abroad. That's why they're preparing the Patriot II act, to shut everyone up. Permanently. So they can have their cake and, um, feed us ours. Something like that.

This isn't very funny, Neal. Nobody cares? Um. LOTS of people care. Nearly everyone. Even you. You cared enough to tell people to shut up.

Well, I'd like to say instead:


And this goes doubly for you, Neal Pollack:




It has been pointed out to me that my post of 1/31/2003 ("Ange Mlinko vs. Arielle Greenberg") was a rather dumb argument based on erroneous information. The first problem was that I used old work that was not quite representative of the poets. The second problem: Arielle Greenberg DID NOT attend Brown; she intended Syracuse for her MFA. I now agree that it was stupid of me and poorly researched. The inaccuracy evaporates the tidiness of my evaluation, particularly the criticism of the Brown/Burning Deck style and the concomitant irony of the argument. I admit: I'm a dummy. My apologies to Arielle and Ange, especially for the confusion.





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Thanks to Henry Gould, Jordan Davis, Anastasios Kozaitis, Stephanie Young, and David Hess for linking to my blog.


Equanimity INCLUDED!

Ineluctable Maps INCLUDED!

the well nourished moon INCLUDED!

Heathens in Heat INCLUDED!




Links Links Links Links, or
Do Your Homework, or,
Why George Bush is a Zombie

Centre for Research on Globalization (Michel Chossudovsky)

U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup: Trade in Chemical Arms Allowed Despite Their Use on Iranians, Kurds

Hamilton Public Inquiry Into Sept. 11

Halcyon Days (anti-war site)

From the Wilderness Publications (Mike Ruppert)

Infowars.com - Government involvement in terrorist attacks...

Media Monitors Network (Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed)

Center for Cooperative Research


Hijack 'suspects' alive and well

Hunt the Boeing! And test your perceptions!

UnansweredQuestions.Org: thinking for ourselves

Political Strategy.org


Did the US use VX Nerve Gas in Vietnam?

Eleven microbiologists mysteriously dead over the span of just five months surrounding Anthrax attacks

The Difference Between Money and Real Wealth

Is Iraq a True Threat to the US? by Scott Ritter, former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq

The Institute for Policy Studies


Arianna Huffington's columns

"The Unbearable Costs of Empire: Bush's war could help the economy in the short run. The big harm comes later" by James K. Galbraith

The Powell Doctrine: Baghdad/Jenin/My Lai

The Legend of Colin Powell

colin powell: don't ask about my lai, don't tell about iran-contra

Iraq develops oil fields without foreign help

Iraqi Oil and Gas Reserves, Oil Industry

Iraq's weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological, and nuclear

Special report on Depleted Uranium

The Massacre of Withdrawing Soldiers on "The Highway of Death"

40 Reasons to Kick George Bush’s Corporate Butt out of OUR White House

The Hegemonic Imperative: The Model of Central Asian Conquest

The Highway of Death

Bush Body Count

American/British Terrorism and Genocide of the Iraqi Peoples, 1991–Present Day

Iraqi cancers, birth defects blamed on U.S. depleted uranium

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark DuCharme [mailto:xxxx@x.xxx]
Sent: Thursday, February 06, 2003 7:14 PM
To: lester@proximate.org

Hey Lester, if I were you I'd be pissed off about this guy Christopher


He gives sock puppets a bad name.


Mark DuCharme


Hello Mark my old friend...

While I agree with Hitchens that an invasion of Iraq will not cause a general Middle Eastern uprising, and that it is a poor argument against invasion, I do think 1) there are no good arguments for or against invasion, since the entire topic has been proposed by a low-life criminal who happens to sit in a very large chair held up by yahoos, bloodsuckers, and moterfuckers and 2)an invasion of Iraq will only further the terrorization of the middle east--the invasion will make the middle east even more submissive and their governments more oppressive (a symbiotic relationship). I do agree with Hitchens that Saddam is a threat, but only in the future tense: "if left alone, Saddam will be a threat." Given the French and Russian exploration of new supergiant oil fields in eastern Iraq, the wealth created will likely surpass that created by Saudi Arabian oil fields. Since the 1991 Gulf War, oil fields have been discovered in Iraq that put Iraq's oil capacity at or above Saudi Arabia's. And it's MUCH higher quality oil than what the Saudis possess. If someone doesn't like you, is very violent, and has SHITLOADS of money, enough to buy nations (and Saddam has already bought France with the mere PROMISE of that oil production), then he is a threat. Saddam is on his way to being rich...but IF. IF. If is a short but strong word.

The real threat is only future tense...for example, what if Saddam dies of a stroke next week? What if one of his closest allies kills him? The threat of future vast wealth for Saddam evaporates in the mist of an exploding brain, or fades with the growing vagiaries of old age and dwindling power; he could, after all, become just some babbling King. Who knows. He's not doing anything to us right now, despite 11 years of daily bombing of his country & starving his country.

Pre-emptive strikes have a very dark history. Pre-emptive strinkes are aggressive and justified by unverifiable hypotheses about the future. Nazi propaganda created stories of German minorities being abused in Danzig, and faking covert attacks by Polish troops on the German-Polish border. The people of Germany rallied behind an invasion of Poland.

The WMD argument presented by the US is UNDOUBTEDLY a con, a lie to the world public and an insult to democratic people everywhere. Powell didn't present solid evidence because the US does not posess much; well it certainly has some, but the Bushies don't really want to share the real evidence: names like Bush and Rumsfeld are all over the bills of lading for nerve gas and biologicals shipped to Saddam throughout the 80s. The invasion will be a con just like the evidence, used to justify massive national debts designed to pad the pockets of friends with hard-earned tax dollars while opening up the opportunity for US bonds sales well on its long-term way to fail to fulfill those bonds. The invasion of Iraq will gut long-standing ties with France with the first bomb falling. It will gut our relationship with Europe as a whole. It will slaughter hundreds or even millions of Iraqis who have nothing to do with anything. It will send millions more cringing in terror from the presence of the US and encourage the US to terrorize even more countries in the Caspian basin region. It will destroy a young generation of Americans who, in trying deperately in child-like ways to do the right thing with military service, will come home psychologically eviscerated from the experience of slaughtering women and children and being rewarded for it. It will also further decimate the American economy, as new oil businesses and contracts in Iraq will be started by Iraqi companies (financed of course by US and British companies), and those companies will buy US bonds en masse. Because bonds will be used to finance the invasion, and what better investment for the new oil companies? "Buying War Bonds is Patriotic."

"But the problem of toppling Saddam Hussein next year is not fiscal. The United States would have no difficulty selling bonds to pay for it. On the contrary, with our domestic economy in the dumps, with private business disinterested in investment, government bonds would sell easily. And even if they did not, the Federal Reserve itself could buy them. So, too, could the successor government in Iraq, which will have the oil with which to purchase, after the fact, its own assumption of power. Either way, interest rates need not rise, and Bush's Iraq war will be timed to help, not hurt, the short-term performance of American growth and employment."
- economist James K. Galbraith (http://www.prospect.org/print/V13/21/galbraith-j.html)

But forget all of this: Bush is a criminal. We should not even have to hear someone like Hitchens babble ignorantly about things beyond his hacksaw. Bush stole an election, THE election. Dumya willfully protects his criminal pal at Enron. He's engaged in criminal economic activities on multiple occasions. Dumya is a criminal a barbarian and a spoiled Yale preppie dimwit born with a platinum coke spoon up his nose. Decsended from wombats letchers molesters rapists pirates and drug smugglers. Georbe Bush is, in short, a zombie.

Not to mention that the war on terror is a sham, instigated by some Hitlers wanting to burn down the Reichstag, American style. Bush never fit in on Wall Street anyway, so what does he care if a couple thousand brokers have to die? The fact that Hitchens continues to ignore the very painful truth that Osama bin Laden is a long-standing American intelligence asset (which does not necessarily mean he's an ally but a tool), that the American people are being manipulated, makes me want to vomit. Though it shouldn't surprise me. Fortunately I'm a dummy (specifically, a ventriloquist doll, not a sock puppet, by the way) and can't vomit. Even if Osama is not an asset and needs to be directly removed form being a threat as a legitimate terrorist cell organizer, he is an individual with flexible organizations supporting him and cannot be removed by mobilizing an entire national economy and thousands of troops. Everyone knows that trying to kill a fly with a Mack truck might lead you to kill a lot of flies while not enhancing one bit the possibility of killing the one fly you set out to swat. Osama's orgs need to be penetrated further and he needs to be excised, if he really is a serious threat. The fact that the US is using Osama as a justification for invading the entirety of central Asia underscores the farcical nature of anyone who tries however desperately to defend such a dangerous, murderous, terrible action. The farcical nature of Hitchens, in this case. He's OK with the US Military Mack-trucking its way across central Asia, treating civilians like flies to be smashed on its front bumper, in the desperate aim to kill one man.

Hitchens is also wrong in calling Chomsky a peacenik. Chomsky is not a pacifist; Chomsky's Middle Eastern domino-rebellion theory comes straight from declassified CIA documents. Chomsky, however, doesn't realize that it is very likely that such quickly declassified documents are fly-tape documents designed to get people like himself creating weird allegiances with CIA thought. Chomsky's linguistic AND political work was for years regularly published by Paragon House, which is nothing more than a CIA front operation started by the Reverend Moon himself. At best, Chomsky is a dupe of his own device, someone who had some revolutionary ideas for a brief period many years ago. (And apparently I've been told he's an academic plagiarist as well.) At worst, Chomsky is the fly tape of the American left, a person who provides the coordinates for the place where vital domestic anti-American organizational information gets stuck. The CIA just comes by and picks the flies right off the tape, whether Chomsky is a willing participant or not. The fact that Chomsky uses CIA analyses as support for his own, as corroborative arguments, says it all. Chomsky is an integral element of the marginalization of the American left.

Hitchens is a two-bit apologist greaseball, a limey drunk with a penchant for getting a dirty sanchez from rich guys in the pub bathroom now and then. He has bills to pay, and if being fisted by some guy named Colin wearing a large Rolex works for him, well, I guess that's his problem. I just hope he would drink more and write less, even if it is in such defiled rolls of toilet paper as Slate and Vanity Fair.

Perhaps the problem of why people listen to Hitchens is that Americans with a little money and a little education think everyone with a British accent is intelligent. Christopher Hitchens is intelligent, but only in the counterfactual sense.

Your friend,


Jordan Davis writes,

Brown doesn't charge for their MFA. It's the one program I know of that
doesn't treat poetry as a cash cow.

All best,

To this I respond (I was hoping someone would say this) that the program is not free. It still costs the university (for example, to pay for the classrooms and instructors, to pay visiting professors, speakers, etc.) lots of money. And to my understanding, not every student automatically receives a tuition waiver, and some have to work in trade for the degree. Regardless of who is paying, the program still costs about $100 per hour of classroom instruction per student. Whether the student pays that money or the university does or some trust or some loan supplies the 60 large, it still takes a slew of capital to attend. And that much capital in association with poetry is difficult but perhaps convenient for anyone to ignore. Poetry is in deep contact with money perhaps at any university, particularly at an Ivy League school like Brown where the dollar figures are highest. Students inevitably forge permanent associations between money (Greenberg?) and poetry or rationalize it away (Mlinko). Either you'll walk away with the feeling that money is somehow necessary for poetry (e.g., you're in debt 40k for the degree and need to get a teaching job to pay it off), or that money has nothing to do with poetry (your trust fund or the University quietly covered the bill). Neither position is correct.

An important point is that the relationship between poetry and money, often chosen by individual poets, is real and does have consequences.

I don't want to sound mean-spirited about Mlinko or Greenberg personally. I like what both of them have done in so many ways, I like them on a personal level. The public nature of their argument, the similarities in their writing, and the apparent wide gulf between their opinions is what attracted me to this topic.

Also, Jordan writes on his equanimity blog (http://equanimity.blogspot.com):

It's definitely how a poem feels as opposed to what it does, tho I empathize with the urge to figure out how what it does leads to how it feels, especially when it runs amok into rules-mania.

To this I say that "doing" and "feeling" should not be held in opposition. A poem making someone feel x is a poem doing something, though of course no one can perfectly map any set of linguistic expressions to any set of human emotions. It's a matter of getting in the ballpark, however, and that's the "magic" of poetry, that if a good poem contains a lament, it's going to encourage a sort of feeling of lamentation within the reader. It's not a function, a 1-to-1 thing, but it can get close. In writing about injustice in a poem, for example, one hopefully writes a poem that does something: it hopefully makes the reader feel that some injustice has been done, and that it feels awful. But what is most important to a poem is how it's read, which encompasses the diversity of what it does to different people and how it makes different people feel. A good poem is powerful enough...ahh, never mind. I have no idea what makes a poem good. I just have a certain feeling about it when I read it. That Dickinsonian chill in the spine.

I should alsdo not fail to thank Jordan for his loving attention. So thanks Jordan.


Ange Mlinko vs. Arielle Greenberg,
OK, Let's Be REALLY Frank!

The reason?

The original Village Voice article:


Round 1:


Re "Poetry Nation":

The only way to insure that poetry is taken more seriously in this country is to make it actually relevant to regular Americans. I'd propose that the money go toward innovative educational programming. Poetry could be taught in schools by energetic young poets who reach out to the students on their own turf, rather than requiring them to struggle through poems that don't sing to them. Readings could be sponsored in public places. Poetry spots could take the place of commercials during prime-time television.

As a poet, I am for poets' being valued and, as a result, viably paid and employed. But I know that in a capitalist society, supply and demand rules, so first we need to work on making poetry an experience that Americans demand, the same way they demand sports events, mystery novels, and a good milk shake—they have to be shown that poetry is something they can enjoy.

Arielle Greenberg
Dedham, Massachusetts

Round 2:


Re the responses to Joshua Clover's "Poetry Nation":

The idea of paying mediocre poets not to write is a good one—can we also pay Arielle Greenberg to keep her ideas for commodifying poetry to herself?

Poetry's historic resistance to soul-killing economic and political ideologies is what makes it "actually relevant to regular Americans"—and as for it being taken seriously, gee, people all over the world have died in the name of poetry while our versifying entrepreneurs put their thinking caps on only when they want to sell it down the river!

Ange Mlinko
Park Slope

Round III: Greenberg or Mlinko:

Masterpieces Unite!

Like rear window defoggers laid down in strips of tape
then stripping them leaving the wires like stripes
shook off a flag, many bridges of lit up bulbs
erased the actual bridges.

We walked around the railings
counting lifeboats chalked across the deck
where rope was lustily looped with the elbow
by men who say, "That's not for men!"

Oh yeah? It's like hunting with your aunt! in the park!
Your heroes' horses lurk in absurd modes
balancing through time and grown beyond by trees alone.

From secondhand to costume shop
your footprints stitched into a history walk.
In prison, joking
two champagne glasses in the armoire, no champagne...

All things locked
in a boot of ice like a police boot on a growing branch

For if you don't take
the splinter out it enters the bloodstream and goes to the heart
which bursts at a thought:
Paris! The medical supplies salesman stares...

Round IV:

Guess the Poet: Greenberg or Mlinko


part obscured by my rubberized green gordon's fisherman raincoat
and my cut-off combat boots with slapping green laces
my good Grom, she is being rinse-cycled
shivering off the wet with a girlish shake
of her taut velvety chops,
the leash slack in my hand
because she questions the sense of it, a walk in the rain,
my mascara spangled in runny asterisks around my eyes,
we skid down 45 Avenue
avoiding oily puddles, snuffling the toes of trees
light sensors ticking white beams of open suspicion
as we go
and then --- ahead ---
against the camphor sky
a pillow of white smoke sifts slowly rightward
revealing the Chrysler building and her nieces and nephews
nightlit in a gridded majesty of gold,
crisp in their autumnal afterwork peignoirs

Round V: Let's sum their positions...

Greenberg: Money is good for poetry In fact it would be nice that poets could actually make a living as a poet. Poetry could be intergrated into our society and made relevant. Particularly by giving the money to schools (!).

Mlinko: Poetry is ALREADY relevant and always has been. Money is the antithesis of poetry; it's part of the same thing poetry's been crying about throughout the history of mankind. Poetry is a calling out against oppression.

Round VI: The evaluation.

In practice, are Mlinko's and Greenberg's positions really different? First off, the above two poems really move to a remarkably similar aesthetic. Which may be explained at least in part by


Both, to my understanding, are graduates of Brown University's MFA program. Brown University, an Ivy League school, costs $27,856 per year just for tuition alone. To complete the MFA at Brown today, a person has to be willing to cough up about $60k to attend and complete the program. And they'll end up with a writing style similar to the one above, poems that end with a Parisian peignoir. Translation: an overpriced housecoat. Both poems have the very surface feel of dough in all its purposelessness.


So if we are to accept Mlinko's position, then we are to take it as a form of self-dismissal. After all money, lots of it, is what bought Mlinko the opportunity to study poetry at an Ivy League school. She must be suggesting that her own poetry is anything but rebellious since it is in part financed by 30, 40, 50 or 60 large. About $100 per hour of classroom instruction. $100 an hour, and for shared attention!

In all fairness, both reactions are cartoonish, not just Mlinko's. Mlinko's point about the relationship between society and poetry is certainly true, but only TO AN EXTENT. Poets have also served the monied classes perhaps as much as they've challenged it. Purchasing a poetry degree is not a purchase of rebel credentials, and neither is it a prima facie rejection of that rebellion. Poetry can subvert the status quo, but it also enforce it. The possibility inherent within the creation of poetry is what allows a poet like Mlinko to write beyond the expensive Brown aesthetic and being to witness things outside the realm of luxury linens (note the use of police and prison in her poem, something rich people are not typically familiar with). You just cannot buy poetry.

But can poetry buy poetry? Obviously, not necessarily. Money can buy an aesthetic, it can buy friends, valuable relationships, etc. It cannot buy poetry, but it CAN buy the title of poet. It can and regularly does, at least in some transitive form, get poets published, get them recognition, etc. But being puritanical about money isn't going to get one CLOSER to money.

VII The conclusion

Money is purposeless. It cannot buy poetry. First two rounds? Mlinko by 1. Money is purposeless, and affords one a life of purposelessness, and it might be little wonder that neither poem really serves any purpose except perhaps to underscore their own use of language, which is quite similar. The poems written by Mlinko & Greenberg don't really reflect any difference in aesthetics or any relationship to money. The lack of aesthetic difference might be due to the tens of thousands of dollars each writer utilized/leveraged/paid in order to develop said aesthetic. Rounds 3 & 4 are a draw. Round 5 is a draw as well; neither argument seems more compelling than the next. Round 6: Mlinko obfuscates her own relationship with money & poetry to a certain extent, while Greenberg somewhat celebrates it. Greenberg's position is a bit more honest and realistic even though it is a bit capital-indulgent and alien to this here dummy poet. Neither poet, however, notes the fiscal difference between being a poet and writing poetry. Round 6 is Greenberg by 1.

This bout has ended in a draw. Neither poet has won the Village Voice debate.

Perhaps a rematch?

I've glossed over so much and hit some really touchy issues along the lines of poets, poetry, publishing, and capital. Maybe Ange & Arielle would be willing to engage in a more developed debate? Maybe even use their own writing to illustrate? Both have written some terrific poems...don't be misled by my relative dismissal of both arguments. I imagine given my analysis they both hate me by now. I hope not but. But. C'est la merde. Poetry can't get you friends, though being a poet can. But I ain't no poet. I'm a dummy.

Excerpts from Küçük Iskender's Souljam, translated from Turkish by Murat Nemet-Nejat....


jim morrison is sherlock holmes, dr. watson
pulls down his calvin kelins. violence, at bottom,
is a crack of yearning.


am am, am ice vermin, so human goose the ice block on which i crawl


that someone's trying to kill me
is inlaying my mind, as if we'd
swapped secrets
making a night of it. many, many nights
of drowning and bruise


horse with a broken leg in my heart
who'll shoot you?

how many whispered words mopped up by my fingers wandering on your lips, words i
couldn't catch


my identity is the befouling of what is
knowable, and the downward velocity
of becoming young.


ignorant spaces


the difference between knowing that what is merely visible is woven
into what is longed for, and spelling out
that what is merely accepted is in conflict with what is rumored


a blur of moans.

let my heart beat like a rose
running fast from the scene


rain, brain, awesome harmony, a giant tumor
of knee jerk reactions. to insinuate into this tumor:
to be cross-examined by a bureaucracy


my soul the bribe given my body


god is useless
i'm god


my soul is a jelly fish, without a womb

light descends in the gutted out space of the dome.

The contents of Iskender's poems operate as if the totality of human emotion is something which violently emerges from and collapses into an endless void, illustrating the fundamental difference between the materiality of things in the world and being. They question the very nature of self.

It's nearly impossible to elaborate on these poem for me; they say it all. Which is of course a reflection of the power of these brief loops of language. Iskender is a poet to watch. Nemet-Nejat is a master of translation.

from the San Francisco State Poetry Center web site, a little info on Murat:

Murat Nemet-Nejat has been engaged for years in the great project of bringing contemporary Turkish poetry—drawn from a body of work that "is one of these gigantic forces basically invisible . . . in the West"—into English. His translations include: Orhan Veli Kanik’s crystalline lyrics from the 1940s (collected in I, Orhan Veli, Hanging Loose Press); Ece Ayhan’s dark, intensely visionary prose-poems ("a poet of the victimized, of the totally discarded and forbidden") A Blind Cat Black and Orthodoxies (in one volume from Sun & Moon); Küçük Iskender’s staggering Souljam (in manuscript), a long poem that’s somehow violent and tender at once, swirlingly baroque in sensibility; alongside numerous other contemporary Turkish poets, several introduced under the heading "A Godless Sufism" in a recent short anthology (Talisman 14)—the root-work of a larger anthology to be published in 2003.

Murat Nemet-Nejat was born in Istanbul in 1940, to a Jewish family of Persian background, and came to the U.S. in 1959, graduating from Amherst College and Columbia University. His books include The Bridge, a long narrative poem, and a remarkable long essay The Peripheral Space of Photography (Green Integer, 2002). A dealer in antique rugs, he lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

I believe Souljam is still only in manuscript and has not yet been published. I guess it's not so remarkable how, given the piles of absolutely bland dross coming out of the American Poetry Publishing Machine, this book remains unpublished. A great poet, a poet who has poetic subject matter for the contents of his poetry, who says everything he means in such short spaces permitting no further elaboration, just cannot get published? Eck. Iskender is everything the pre-sellout Simic was, but sans the pensive dorkiness. Iskender's got attitude and I think he's entitled to every bit of it.


Kenning #12 the audio edition, (cd)
Astronaut, Brian Henry
Fake House, Linh Dinh
Noise, Jacques Attali
Individuals: Post-Movement Art in America, Alan Sondheim
Language, Jack Spicer (White Rabbit Press 1st ed. near perfect!)