Responding to Samuel Vriezen’s appeal for a list of unusual anthologies, both Murat Nemet-Nejat and I mentioned Jerome Rothenberg’s amazingly rich “Technicians of the Sacred.” It’s the mother of all mother lodes, all right, of poetic conventions and devices from around the globe, an endless source of possible and impossible methods, of permissions. Encountering it as a very young man, this book challenged me to reexamine what constituted a poem, to finger the poetry, tease it out, from various word constructions. One trick I had already known, however, was writing a poem in two voices. It’s too simple, really, even a mud-splattered illiterate could wing it. The Vietnamese folk tradition, ca dao, features many specimens like this:
Man: A river so vast, a fish will disappear.
If we are meant to be together,
I can wait a thousand years.
Woman: Repair the dyke if it's your paddy.
If it's meant to be, we'll be together.
Don't bother waiting.
Always with a male and a female voice, many of these are flirting poems. This one features two members of the cloth:
Stooping on a cane, a monk asked,
"Which way to Mound Temple, Nun?"
"Go pass Bellybutton Inn," whispered nun,
"You'll enter Mound Temple."
I know that much advertised, generic landmark, been there many times, though not recently. Mon pubis, mon amour? Cheap thrill over, there are also countless examples of post-flirtation poetry:
Woman: Never marry a scholar,
A waste of cloth. Eat, then sleep.
Man: With a rattan hammock,
The king’s robe on my back,
And rice in the shed,
Why shouldn't I nap
After a meal?
Woman: King, father, mother, you and me
Are all sitting on a boat, about to sink
During a storm, who would you save?
Man: Under a vast sky, I won't lie.
The king, I'll carry on my head;
Father and mother, my shoulders;
And you, sweet wife, swim to me;
With my hands, I'll save the boat.
Continuing that tradition, I wrote my own let's-get-it-on duet. Is it postmodern? Who knows. American? Most definitely. It's published in "All Around What Empties Out":
Sturm und Drang
Woman: Coalesce not collate salutary not solitary sing along not song alone libraric twit who you are.
Man: Baby I'm not a dictionary bloated I-Ching conjured by a bed-ridden scientist ninety-eight percent paralyzed but for a solitary finger force-feeding a computer who speaks in a female voice although he has only one recent castration the other day the pus was oozing from the Indian mound on your forehead not to mention the other Indian mound on your forehead.
Woman: Vulgarity is a forte meaning your language don't prick my ears blast my hymen but in an oblique way which is to say immaculate conception.
Man: Baby I'm not a dictionary bloated I-Ching conjured by a bedridden scientist but once or twice if you ask me nice I'll blast your hymen.
Woman: This dress made from toilet seat covers is not the see-through variety you're after but true enough I'm pretty even if nothing but mud is covering me the kind that daily oozes from your orifice.
Man: Your orifice is my orifice although the subtle difference is worth noticing don't crook your thumb like that the mere sight of which is making me lecherous.