I visit the zoo.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Visitor: Alice Notley's "State of the Union" (from BAP2004) was written, as she says in the notes, "at the time of the 2002 State of the Union address by the president, who is perceived finally [in her poem, though also, of course, elsewhere] as nothing but a set of genitals."

The first thing I noticed about the poem was that it made my eyes glaze over. It's one long paragraph of uncapitalized, incomplete sentences with few poetically interesting lines. But I got a coffee and made myself read it because I had declared it my duty to read it. To you, Ms Hyena.

Hyena: Fanks.

Visitor: Strippers are big in this poem. If I've counted correctly, they show up eight times here, wearing green g-strings in the "lime light leprous."

Yak: Naked people are disgusting.

Visitor: These aren't exactly naked people. They wear g-strings.

Chimp: It keeps them housebroken.

Visitor: And they aren't even real strippers. They don't have real strippers at SotU addresses, not even at the Republican-led ones. These strippers are the servants of money. They are the greedy, reluctant taxpayers who drive the Republican machine. They are naked greed personified, or militarism, or something like that. Maybe it's a G to cover the Bush. Only kids writing papers need exact interpretations. They're strippers in green g-strings.

The poem, with the help of sleazy dancers humiliating themselves for small bills, does capture something of the feeling I get when I watch a SotU address. But these are poetically skinny strippers, not the tons-of-poetic-fun strippers I want in a poem. There aren't any lines here I thought were great, and you'd hope for a few in a best-of-the-year poem. Maybe the editor wouldn't have chosen it if she hadn't been looking for topical poems from big names.

By the way, Notley says "State of the Union" is part of a 300-page novel-poem. I wonder if it's one long paragraph of uncapitalized sentence fragments?

Mayfly: Can't wait.


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