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Gerald England


You weave a song about the hypocritical stance of bodies;
Compatibility rating is positive, floating,
As it works in the issue shared by both men,
Like an offer, indirect, trying to recall the sight
Of the individual's imaginative role in contemporary society.
49 years later, snooping through lesbianism
In a motor vehicle that runs on vanilla erotica,
She rejected sex altogether some nine times.
The odd admirer may be tantamount to this
Wednesday morning maintaining the glare of the bedroom,
Your head against a women's movement while we wait;
She riding on another body for every human act of love,
A motion tinged with blood,
But extricating women from behind
We know the ghosts hung on your dick;
Orgasm is entirely unconscious
Like condensation on ripe fruit, instead of mimesis.
So liking you desperately, she wanted the penis.
You must believe that the only solid gold mouse is a woman
With blood that stains my handkerchief.
The act comes to fight for his contention that the haunting face
Is the "Real thing" in the moon.
May the wild winds of frost return to what remains of flame.
Surely her teeth sank high in his penis and hearts gorged
On the real thing of yore with ungainly fowls whose footfalls tinkled.
This grim denying of the lamplight
Perfumed from this improbable pursuit,
Represents no token of what will be right,
Gloating over, and nothing further then to remember
But Madam, and childish superstitions.
Suppose we eat beans before taking the teeth again,
She aggressively appropriates without griping pains or the devil,
Leaves because the wait also reinforces
And Butch finally messes up what this is charged for access.
This I stood repeating, in a flirt and came again.
Both men eagerly feel that the male body is underrepresented,
As if she retains a drachma of rhubarb,
To harden the teeth, and to make them sound and white.
Back through the sound of sweet trees,
Whose velvet violet roots become entirely white rose vinegar
They will remove neuralgia from the onion,
Though thy God hath spoken!
A mouthful of landscape signifies simply that snatch of white cream in my chamber.
Dominant sexual positions are presumed to be still waiting,
Though her startling announcement covers your eyes with femininity.
Who gathers then to watch her clear the distance,
To form from your head the tiny object whose fond mutation about the day will appear.
I add weight to hear the lamplight gloated o'er
In any dusty matter, and all about a cushioned seat.
Other terms occupy the risk of a woman thus betrayed.
Precisely this space becomes increasingly assertive about the dreaded future of almonds,
The angels tapping somewhat louder, rather than banning it!

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<reading name="One">

My first reading of 'Gay Macho Pleasures ...' was negative: resistant to the prosaic ('the individual's imaginative role in contemporary society' / 'both men eagerly feel that the male body is underrepresented') and to poeticisms (''yore' / 'gloated o'er'); unconvinced by verbal plays that seemed only to operate in the area of sexual play (in both senses) ('extricating women from behind' / 'that snatch of white cream in my chamber'). Some of this, I think, was probably a defensive response to the poem's own resistance to coherence -- either in terms of narrative or gendered subject position.

On a second reading I was more open to the poem's incoherences: hints of narrative that are never developed; shifts of register; shifting subject position. I began to feel that the poem should be shared with others through pURL.

On a third reading, I began to ask myself -- Is this enough? I began to feel there wasn't realy enough going on in the poem to justify circulating it through pURL ...

I feel this could go on and on. Perhaps the attempts to describe a reading of the poem are in the end more interesting than the decision to 'publish or not publish'. i like the idea of anonymous comments on anonymous poems, but now wish that this could be the basis of further discussion. I would be interested to see comments on my comments ... and so on. But would rather not have the comments signed except pseudonymously.



<reading name="Two">



The phrase *You weave a song* (line 1) announces the technique of the poem. You, the reader, will have to make all sorts of connections, most of which are reasonably well cued. Many key words are deliberately ambiguous, and the lines drawn between each of their many meanings are as much a part of the poem as its overt content. The *hypocritical stance of bodies* ( line 1) is a case in point. Hypocritical as in two-faced supports the subsequent narrative in which two men have sex with a woman, the men becoming some sort of Janus figure in the course of the action. The adjective also make clear that in this work sex is by no means a form of candour. In line 3 the word *shared* takes on a life of its own, suggesting the stock market, breeding stock, stock answers, even stock cubes (sex as meat packing), not to mention the proprietorial attitude of the two men who *share* the woman. At first glance this may seem strained. Yet the technique appears several times, and this second order of suggestion in which the reader is invited to explore the connections between resonances rather than text-words becomes very important in the development of the poem. Similarly, the word *movement* in line 11 is quite a complex. Movement as in sexual gyration, as in political movement, as in bowel movement are all arguable enough interpretations. In fact, as in the last possibility, euphemism is an important device here in communicating the author-persona's disillusion. Another example of crudity combined with semantic mobility occurs in lines 19 and 20:

You must believe that the only solid gold mouse is a woman
With blood that stains my handkerchief.

Calling a woman a mouse is hardly a compliment: a timid, destructive, highly reproductive pest in the wild form, a victim of the laboratory or in any case caged in its domestic form. Could it be that there is a pretence that mouse is a typo for muse? Another technique for extending signification? And this blood which stains: violence? Menses? And a handkerchief, is this for flaunting, or a symbol of besmirched honour? We're not talking Milk Tray romance here. But the mouse has teeth: sank high in his penis (line 24). And the commercial aspect of it all re-surfaces in line 34:

And Butch finally messes up what this is charged for access.

Our flexible friend, indeed. The possibility that certain of the words are a form of racy slang further increases the range the reader must negotiate: e.g. line 61, *the dreaded future of almonds*, and line 37 *a drachma of rhubarb*, the drach suggesting said vampire and the rhubarb is far from being completely obscure. The sprinkling of religious terms: devil (line 32), God (line 42) and angels (line 62) adds to the spice. The centrifugal effect of the systematic ambiguity, for example the characters, are referred to only as *both men, she, Butch, you* and *I*, is countered by sometimes startling specificity, for example, *Wednesday, vanilla erotica, gloating*. Also a complex series of quasi-rhymes holds things together pretty well. The fact that the reader is asked to engage at such an intellectual level in a poem containing such a dark narrative raises interesting questions. The darkness is if anything intensified by the use of knockabout wit. However, the use of disrupted syntax and the fact that the reader has to travel so far alone makes it difficult to discern the author-persona's own attitude to the burden of the piece. This is arguably irrelevant I suppose, as the experience of reading it inevitably forces one to confront one's own attitudes, not necessarily a pleasant experience.



<reading name="Three">
A good first line; something of the stateliness of, say, Lucretius about it, in metre and tone. Then a second line which lets the side down, und so weiter. What expectations line 1 sets up, line 2 et seq. -- well, they aren't active enough to refute or negate, but do disappoint them. Which is -- it becomes evident as one reads on -- intentional. This isn't exactly a new writerly strategy, and I for my part am rather disappointed that it is busy becoming industry basic to linguistically innovative poetry. If -- as Eric Mottram so rightly observed -- the 'gold standard' of mainstream English poetry has for a long while been the decoration (usually rather threadbare) of a prior prose meaning, we needn't, in not wanting to do that, feel wholly obligated to refuse the notion of a voice or a stance or an observation, ever. It all evokes that depressing analysis in David Lloyd's book Anomalous States in which he observes that the Irish Republic, in common with other 'post-colonial' countries, finds it hard to escape from the negative/mirror images of the 'parent' country; a touch of the Brer Tar-Baby. It would be good to think such mirroring needn't be obligatory; certainly it makes for dull reading. I can spell ostranenie, and am able to cope with notions of non-transparency in the text... but, yawn, the dullness of the relentless way which -- as an Irish poet present at last years' L=A=N=G=W=E=D=G=E fest in New England observed of such poesy, "it never sings". If a cadence begins, it must be disrupted lest we start to feel comfy. If something begins to cohere, then -- splendour! -- it must be made incoherent, tout de suite. There I days when I dream that the word I'd most like to see erased from all dictionaries is 'irony'; and this feeling is buttressed by the refusal of commitment, the ceaseless undercutting. After a while the resultant language-world stops being indeterminate, liberatory, avant-garde (all of which it has the potential to be, and has been) and turns into something more akin to journalism (cf. those articles which by being disparaging about someone who's been disparaging about a politician or media-star, manage both to concur and disagree simultaneously, having cake and eating it too). I just don't see the point. Joyce did that 'speaking in tongues' schtick in the 'lying-in' chaUse of uninitialized value in concatenation (.) or string at E:\listplex\SYSTEM\SCRIPTS\filearea.cgi line 455, line 358. pter of Ulysses well enough for the adoption of other folks' tone-of-voice to be less than wholly new; and, if that's all you do, less than wholly exciting. Couldn't we take as read the necessity for, and actuality of, the radically unsettled and over-determined nature of the language-utterance and then get on with saying something? '...ungainly fowls whose footfalls tinkled', indeed. Cue MacDiarmid on 'ugly birds without wings'.

Which diatribe isn't really aimed at the anonymous author, but is assuredly occasioned by it.

I found myself unable to sort out one basic starting-point in my head; that of how my recommendation as a reader should operate. Partly reflecting my ignorance of the -- I believe, still-evolving -- codes/modes, protocols, manners of operancy of electronic media. (...)

If I were editing a journal or book, I simply wouldn't accept any of the work I've been sent to read -- assuming that the task of editing a book or paper-journal is to collate a body of material that to one degree or another satisfies some portion or portions of my (insofar-as-consciously-sensed) aesthetic paradigm. (One might expect, reasonably, that a priori one won't/can't meet a purely and wholly satisfactory art-object, and/but if one were to it would conclude/satiate/dissolve/whatever the appetite that art imperfectly satisfies.) Conceivably the putatively infinitely-extensible electronic plenum encourages a greater sense of hospitality, in a manner akin to the way word-processors are said to have increased the average length of American novels.)

Of course, anyone who edits in any medium knows the quandaries of 'I don't much like this but I know there are people out there who do', which leads, as a general rule, to what are, as a general rule, sensible compromises. (...) Reception-aesthetic is -- and ought to be -- wider than production-aesthetic. (As I'm sure it is in almost all, if not all, cases; there's obviously a wider range of techniques/styles/ modes available than any single praxis can accomodate.)

But... if one is being asked to vet work on a less personally involved basis, is mine a vote of confidence/ non-confidence alone? Presumably criticism or reading are supposed to have got beyond Hugh Kenner's famous monosyllabic approval: 'like'. An assessment on theoretically impersonal 'technical' grounds is obviously no such thing, in the absence of some agreed, defining formal rules.... But in the absence of a set of rules, I'm left with opinion; and if nothing in the work engages me sufficiently for it to operate its own hermeneutic spell -- proceed to teach me how to read it sympathetically, more fully -- I'm left with the kind of shallow, surface, of necessity unsympathetic reading that it is hard to see being helpful to anyone.