To get the most out of this poem, one should be at least somewhat familiar with what is referred to as Language Poetry. Please take a moment to read some lines from Leslie Scalapino, and then come back.
I think Scalapino's poems are prime examples of what I'm referring to in "Memo To A Language Poet." By the way, I read "Memo To A Language Poet" in a literal den of Language Poets on one occasion, knowing what I was getting into, and somewhat apprehensive about how it would be received. When I finished, a young dude got up and read something that was just as disjointed as Scalapino's lines--glancing over at me in defiance a number of times. I applauded him at the end, because I think it's important for all poets to support other poets...no matter how their work strikes us.
MEMO TO A LANGUAGE POET
As a toddler you rejoiced not in stacking the blocks
but in knocking them down--
and it must have been difficult for you
when the teacher said to diagram a complete sentence
because you refused to write one.
And I understand that your favorite
game was DISCONNECT...the...dots.
Now, you say, the idea is to separate
Life has no meaning,
so why should poetry?
Imbued with ambiguity,
it's not just a poem--
it's an adventure.
But your fits and starts
are starting to give me fits--
and it would surely give me pause
if I could find one independent clause.
And it must seem like a ball
and chain, this societal expectation
to make a little sense--
for to write with coherence
would be grave interference
with your disjunctive conjunctive experience.
Now I'll admit that I've enjoyed your work--
this Chinese food of the literary world,
for three or four seconds at a time.
But I find that I'm always hungry again
when I reach the next line...
and I keep thinking that if you'd
only hold that thought for a few
syllables longer, you might at least
come up with some haiku.
In your defense, I know a guy who was on
a step ladder one day,
and stuck his head a little too close to the ceiling fan...
now he has a short attention span
and he thinks you're a genius!
But you're forgetting one thing:
Language was invented
for the purpose of COMMUNICATION--
otherwise we'd still be sitting around
the fire saying UUGHH...
and beating each other over the head
with clubs, and eating with our fingers...
otherwise you are mentally masturbating
on my eyes, so put that pen back
in your pants and get a grip
on reality this time.
Don't get me wrong--
I like to play as much as the next poet,
and I can be as cryptic as an Egyptologist
but to disconnect language
you might as well remove the ball and chain
from inside your toilet tank.
Either way you end up with shit.