The Operating System

2nd ANNUAL NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: DAY 19 :: JOHN KROPA on CLARK COOLIDGE

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“How I’d like to think is as words come. Instead I think how they go. Catch them as they recede. This is
because my brain is in my head and not someone else’s so thoughts are leaving from the get-go. Think
light in slow-mo. Think voice under chair. I was hunched with my head in my hands. It was dark &
damp. Afterwards we ate at Zaytoons & I handed out 2 dollar bills. Think ape of the way things look.”
—Notebook entry from April 2nd

On April 2nd I saw Clark Coolidge, literary badass and Grampy-voiced poet man, give a
reading at Unnamable Books. He read from his recent collection of longprose poetic
experimentations, hitherto unpublishable, A Book Beginning What and Ending Away (Fence
Books, 2012). The reading crawled at first, then died and dragged its own dead body to
completion. With the benefit of him being a little “out-of-touch” I’d say Clark’s reading lacked
any performative quality and required a tedious consideration, from the get-go, to be even
remotely enjoyed. It was like sleep paralysis on the couch while your grandpa snores in front
of the muted TV. Clark’s poetic endeavor has as always, at least peripherally, involved
messing with the fundamentals of language. One could called them “funda(mentals)”, as they
target the cerebrum and burst mental walls to allow words to flow like fungus or light over
everything now. The book, written throughout the 1970s and abandoned in 1981, however,
takes this endeavor to a sick extent.
Clark’s words do not construct. They are words to shave with. Words to shoot down whatever
object is already there in your head. Words that are inaccurate. Instead of hitting the object
they fly by and occasionally nick a corner. Over time the object is changed but you have to be
willing to let it. Imagine a hunk of marble and words as little random slashes and cuts. It
takes time. It’s not going to look like anything for a while.
A Book Beginning What and Ending Away is fat with thick paragraphs and heavy. The cover is a
dense, matte, black bath. When there are line breaks the lines are thick as the American
dream. Take this poem from part SIX:

1.

I am so large I liked suddenly being an American.
That is, this is just an old car I tried to open on a smile.
Liking to stir on the scale of looking on each as time to
a house expressing to the letter plans for matters of space.
The bedroom was though out to the very match for a light
I might have to have had to obtain. The letting of things
to a pound of the door, stamp rubber as gestures, separate
clouds. Donuts it is time the motor will time.
I’ll be here not at all a book to her. A house forward
as a greyhound clearly tightening Bach.
Mastered and joined.
Mastered and put to task it.

That’s a like. That it was. Again then a house as
forward will. That’s a letting with plans space. […]

There is nowhere else to go but with. The poems as real as reality and a narrative of thought
transferring into afterthought. I find them extremely useful and worth the intense attention
required to read them. I’m like a quiet, giant ape growing in the aftermath of a global
extinction. Eventually the whole world become a mountain. Eventually you are the mountain
and your hair is so long not even the light can climb it.
From A Book Beginning What and Ending Away:

The scene is built from the hands down. He leaps through the trapdoor valise
lid in the man’s fake body drape. He faces away from the eyes in the back of
the chair he sits in thinking of himself. Somewhere is no place. He gets in
particular the more he thinks. No more words for chair anymore. An eye on
abrupt, the plain wall. Clean clearage cleaved.

—–
John Kropa and Lancelot’s Runge’s collaborative chapbook, TALK ABOUT MAN PROOF, is now available in limited edition as part of the Spring 2013 PRINT! DOCUMENT. SERIES, a joint effort of Exit Strata and The Trouble With Bartleby. Pick up a copy at the chapbook festival in NYC May 3-4, and then join poets Kropa, Runge, Quinlan, Considine, and Hoffman for a reading in celebration of the release at Mellow Pages Library  on the evening of May 4th!
 
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2nd Annual 30/30/30 Poetry Month Series:

previous:
DAY 18 :: ELIZA SWANN ON BERNADETTE MAYER
next:
DAY 20 :: MICHAEL BROEK ON CHOOSING AND CREELEY
 

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