ModPo & Experimental Poetry
Better than Starbucks began wholly as a creation in my mind. Now the wonderful collaboration of four dedicated editors is creating a monthly magazine that I could have only dreamed about when I was starting out as a one person organization.
Having said that, there are no direct connections between U Penn, Al Filreis, KWH (Kelly Writers House), ModPo (Modern & Contemporary American Poetry), or any of the actual affiliated programs to ModPo and this magazine, other than I have been a part of ModPo for several years now. There is, however, a strong spiritual and intellectual connection between BTS and ModPo.
If I had not gotten involved in the larger community of ModPo, I don't think I would have restarted a literary publication. I am certain I would not have added a Formal & Rhyming Page, and probably not a Translations page. I have a pretty narrow preference for poetry, but the course and the people at ModPo have expanded my view of poetry to the point that I decided if I could find good people to help me do it, we would make BTS as broad of a source of styles and genres as possible. We have been fortunate to establish a team of talented editors and are in the process of an ever expanding quest to find poetry wherever it may be.
Thus, it seems fitting that we dedicate a page to my fellow students at ModPo, and/or anyone who wants to share experimental poems. The thing about experiments is, they often fail, but as the point is to learn, not to create perfection, even failed experiments in the lab or on this page, will offer something for us, if we will find it. and when the experiment doesn't fail... well, you will see! - Anthony Watkins
IT MIGHT BE SURREAL, BUT IT'S MY LIFE:
THE UNWRITTEN RULES
Lately the plague of monkeys I keep in the blue hut
on the bridge of regrets
has been making an unholy racket every night by
rustling their dry nest bits
and making their chrrrr chrrrr chrrrr noises, the ones
they've been making since just after they were born.
A sweet enough sound — but loud once they all get going.
They must be agitated because mostly they're silent
and it's just the African Grays out on the rotting deck
that can't keep their blasphemous mouths shut, who
I have to worry about
But as long as I keep a coverlet over the cage at night,
they're kind enough to be silent.
Now — it's both monkeys and parrots — some someone put
a massive tear in the bird cloth
and no matter how carefully I fix it over the cage, it
falls open every night
and I awake to one or both of them, squawking:
"fuck fuck fuck — hear me? hear me? fuck fuck fuck".
Of course, I hear them — I'd have to be bloody deaf
to not hear them; even with earplugs, I hear them.
And I'm sure everybody thinks I taught them the words
but I don't think so, or if I did, I don't remember.
I wish I could be shut of the whole lot, but they're my
family, you can't just rid yourself of family
You have to keep family . . . that's the rules.
Every evening at about half past House of Cards,
I tell the pugs, "Crate Time" and they don't move
They're cute little dogs but stubborn as glue on glass
after it bakes in the sun all day
And it doesn't matter how cajoling I am, how sweet,
I always have to forcibly move their rumps
until they can't balance on the couch any longer
And they tip onto the floor and then they'll
bounce down the stairs like rocking horses
To their kennels where I settle them for the night
I'd let them sleep upstairs or wherever they want
but I've tried that, and they don't stay put
They get up and wander about and get into things,
always different things — they've eaten CD's and
garbage, and all manner of stuff and it's just
easier if I know they're in their crates
And besides, I have hideous nightmares if they're
not crated — I think the house is burning down
Or floating down the street and everyone I ever
knew is in it, drowning — including me
I don't know why the crating and the nightmares
are connected, but they do seem to be
No, there's no doubt in my mind at all — they are.
FIRING THE SIGNALS
She fell into the day, a pond filled with yesterday's
friends and loose teeth
Struggled to her feet stamping through old money
and a ripped skirt that didn't fit ever
Shrugged on her jeans wondering about her DNA
and her other genes and that bridge
And if the signals in that part of her brain's tower were
firing on all circuits or if that poor organ
Had gone on strike for good and all, or if she was
thinking of some other cells.
SLIDING INTO DUSK
She slides into dusk with trepidation
and hypnotized, shatters like a glove
filled with mornings gone lost
Then lies amongst the peach striations of sunset
Until plush black starlings on the wing scoop the shards,
bevel the edges, attempt to rectify damage
Lost in chaos with more than one reptile
slithering down the corridors in her head,
She knows it needs laying down
Her heavy, filled with rotted fruit head
Needs syphoning off, dousing;
its hissing reptiles hushed
Flames begin licking round the edges
of hysteria building with wobbly certainty
in the bedlam of her mind
How much time has elapsed, she wonders
in the time it takes an eyelash to travel
down her cheek
Then float through the air like a dark angel's wing
broken off at the root
That is — no time at all.
There is a crack in her sanity
And if she squints she can just make out a drizzle
of "everything's fine."
But it looks like sap or resin
Just as it's closing she has time and cogency enough to wonder
if it's freezing over . . .
Or instead —
Published on-line by Red Fez (Issue 48 - 12.08.13)
IT'S BEEN MY EXPERIENCE
It's been my experience
When the mantle smells
Like swamp-gas, it's time
To brew a pot of never
Wind the battery clock
And set it to snakes
In a basket or half past
Crank the pepper-mill
Past the scent of jackboots
Or, being locked up in a jar
By now the tea should taste
Like forever and the mantle
Will be starting to sway
It will be past time to seize
A pocket level which will feel
Very much like nothing
Worth knowing, life
In prison, or a stack
Of quilted lies
Or, might I suggest
Instead, you take
The powder brush —
The one giggling there
By the clock — but hurry
— if it coughs or worse,
Sneezes, it will vanish
On you —
For by now, the mantle
Shall sound like a waterfall
That really tall one
In South America —
And the level well — it will be
Old news, the tea will be dirt
The clock a cow and . . .
It's been my experience
-published in Pyrokinection October 2, 2012 (editor Amy Huffman)
-chosen by editor Amy Huffman for "Storm Cycle: Best of 2012" Dec.26.2012
- read by Iain Kemp on his radio show in Spain, Fall 2013 (2 mins approx.)
Red Eye Open
I would like to say no words were harmed
in the making of the poem.
You see, I like words as much as some people
like puppies and small children.
As a grandfather,
and something of a pushover
I love babies, and puppies,
and old sad saggy red eyed dogs.
I also love sad saggy old words.
The ones that can barely move their rheumatoid consonants along.
Long time ago,
in a different universe,
I was a truck driver for Pepsi,
and in East Stuart, Florida,
there was a place called
Bessie and Ma’s.
I don’t really know what it was,
but it didn’t open until late,
like at dark.
By dark I had to be back in Rivera Beach,
so I would rattle
my long-straight-body-roll-up truck
alongside of the store,
bouncing over mud holes
and gravely bits of grass
and I would dodge the old hound.
He wouldn’t move.
There is a special sound a roll-up door makes,
you probably know it.
I hear it in my heart,
not my ears,
nor my mind, even.
I roll up the door in the slow late afternoon,
4 cases of non-returnable 10 ounce bottles.
Tossed on my shoulder.
Even though three was the limit.
Safety man says.
But It was a dollar’s worth of commission.
I wasn’t going to unhitch the dolly
for a quarter extra
and I had to take them all in.
Hell, I was young.
Thirty Years Ago.
The old storefront windows are filled with signs. You can’t see inside. I bang on the wood framed glass door. I wait. I bang, again. In a little while, a very old, very dark lady let me in. I shift the cases off my shoulder and onto the cooler box. I ask if she wants me to fill the box. No. she gives me the $36.00, I sign the yellow copy and give it to her. Thank you, she says. Thank you I say.
Out of the very dark place.
The hound is still laying on the edge of a mud hole.
Now he opens one red eye.
I don’t touch him,
but I lean down close and say,
“hey old guy, way to watch!”
then I rattle off to Palm Beach County.
No dog was harmed in this poem.
I am sure of that.
I read as much as I can that Al writes.
I have befriended,
or at least attached myself
like a groupie,
to some real LANGUAGE poets.
I try to protect the words.
I try to make sure my poem
knows it’s a poem
and that it writes about itself,
but maybe I am the dog in the mud hole,
just one red eye open.
I look in the mirror now.
“way to watch!”