Sunday, July 05, 2009

Rachel Loden, Dick of the Dead

EPITAPH

I lived in those times. For a thousand news cycles
I have been dead. Among the giant smiling

Austrians I was a girly man. As diaphanous as Bush’s
brain, as feverishly sensitive as Cheney’s heart.

I lived in those times, yet I was free.
I watched the armored cars, the windflowers, the sky,

all moving past me, achieving their balance.
I drained my glass of sludge between atrocities.

Living people, how have you coped with your luck?
Have you cleared away the old heroic city?

Do you regret the days when deaths were fungible
and traded zealously among the hooded slaves?

Manly men, think nothing of me. I am dead. Nothing
survives of my spirit or my intolerable maidenhood.

Just what is it about Richard Nixon? For American poet Rachel Loden, her fascination for the late American president extends to a collection on same, with her eye dead set on America itself, through her Dick of the Dead (Boise ID: Ahsahta Press,2009), follow-up to her award-winning Hotel Imperium (University of Georgia, 2008). As she writes in her biography (included with the press for her new collection, and on-line as well):

But now, with Dick of the Dead, the campaign is against death itself and Dick is actually rather sunny about the prospect. He missed the game, missed the enemies. He’s tanned, he’s rested, he’s ready to resist and he storms the yawning underworld that fell open for him, so conveniently, after (what George W. Bush often calls) “the events of September the 11th.”

Dick is joined by a cast of conspicuously obsessed characters including Hugh Hefner,
Sylvia Plath, Wyatt Earp, Federico Fellini, Valerie Solanas, George Costanza, Captain Hook, and J. Edgar Hoover, as well as an outraged experimental subject in a pink tutu, an Egyptian god of scribes, a raft of venture capitalists and code-spinners, and (in various appearances) his own seduced-and-abandoned dog, Checkers.
How can a Canadian reader get the full effect of such? It doesn’t seem that far removed, but certainly a consideration of literature (specifically, poetry) that Canadians don’t seem to have for themselves; I don’t see too many writing about former Canadian Prime Ministers, whether for good or for bad, but for George Elliott Clarke’s work on the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau; where are the poems for Brian Mulroney, for John Turner or Kim Campbell, or even the current Harper, whether as praise or critique? The only poem for Jean Chretien I’m aware of was by Toronto author Stuart Ross, editor/publisher as well of a small collection of poems for George W. Bush. Not that we specifically need, but it becomes an interesting note between countries.

THE PURE OF HEART, THOSE MURDERERS

Preserve us from
the pure of heart,

those murderers,
unsullied

balletmasters of
faux-heroic

barricades, spoonfed
aesthetico-poseurs;

the spiritual
contortionists whose

precious bodily
fluids are unsafe

even in dreams;
the fiery reverends

of rentboy.com;
testacular guys

paralyzed
by female treyf;

the god-throttled
martyrs

and the chosen ones;
autogenocidal

provocateurs:
preserve us from

the pure of heart,
those murderers.

For Loden, Richard Nixon seems to be the focal point of a whole series of activities and of conversations, in what is wrong with America or at least should be discussed, but less as an activist but as someone writing through a series of fascinations, writing the parallels between what happened through and under Nixon, and more contemporary, under George W. Bush. Loden’s poems cut straight down to the bone, through cultural figures such as Sylvia Plath, Hugh Hefner as well as 9-11, Bush and “the war on terror,” mixing the mess of it up as an essay/critique on American practice itself, as though she is asking, how are we supposed to be expected to survive ourselves?

THE WAR ON TERROR

Satellite beaming
on the rose-
twined cottage:

no chains required
when slavegirl’s
in the mood.

Only your birthright
for a mess
o’ pottage,

and a barrelful
of sweet,
light crude.

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