Jake Kennedy: The Teaching Poet

I have given the fascicles a B-. I have flunked ‘Fifty Days at Iliam.’ I have written ‘self-indulgent’ in the margin of the Ellesmere manuscript.

A hundred critical letters (origami hatchets) arrive for the filmmaker (‘how dare you make such dross!’) and then a single astonishing letter unfolds (triptych) from a woman factory worker: ‘I have seen The Mirror four times this week because I want to get right inside it—only then I think will I be truly alive.’

How will I mark this student? How will I correct her will? Meanwhile, the director has helped her to keep on living and she has helped him to keep on, too. They both glimpse themselves in the other.

And consider Carlos Drummond de Andrade who has skipped so many classes and has just handed in ‘In the Middle of the Road There Was a Stone’ for his essay. And I think it is a fine thing, for what it is, but it is not an essay and perhaps he could ‘add a paragraph or two in lucid prose in which he might explore the concept of tiredness to a fuller degree’? Why must I erase the stone, which he is determined not to forget, with discipline? Why must I obliterate the other’s resolve in order to protect my contract with convention?

On the vellum the bird sits wondrously in the blue because the sky is skin. The body of one animal holds the representation of another. It’s a generous understanding! If the monk makes a mistake with his ink then it either becomes a wilder sky or it is scraped off the horizon with a knife. I wish the monk were denied the knife. I want to see the fuck-ups.

Hey, what kind of assholes are we? To mark means to leave a trace or impression, from the Old English mearc (West Saxon), merc (Mercian)—to mark means to create a boundary or a sign or a limit. The ink yearns to be activated within this pen—but not for gouging or boundary drawing. Giddy to mark an opening, however—so why does the ink not smell of blueberries? I can make it so (can I make it so?) if, instead of ‘awkward,’ instead of ‘faulty parallelism,’ instead of ‘no,’ I write field, sun, Layton’s tiny lamps of night…

Or no words at all. Just blot and an explanation.

Regarding this splatter: the blue is the explosion in the prison wall; it is a lake to disappear into for the purposes of remerging as something leaner, something fiercer; and it is a sky into which one enters to confirm that, yes, one is dreaming and that dreams are (in this world) constitutive. Blue also means a breathable vastness—of a right-here-outer-space.

In Huang Weikai’s Disorder there are three or four minutes of black and white footage showing a dirt walking-path, apparently through an otherwise derelict section of an unidentified city; in the weeds, beside the path, the grainy or digital bits of the black and white video can’t quite clarify a lump or animal carcass now in the middle of the screen; then the lump appears to possess a single, thick tuber which waves dumbly once or twice; several passers-by stop and inspect the mound; a mother and child walk closer and discover that the mound is a baby; beside the abandoned baby, who is (it’s clear now thanks to the videographer’s close-up) bundled in many layers of clothes, there is a plastic bag with some old milk or formula; the mother and child decide the milk is not fit to drink and they walk away; the baby’s arm moves up and down.

Louise Bourgeois missed class on Friday and she wants to know what she missed. Here is the script: ‘it’s not my job to inform you of… [talking-adult-muted-trumpet-sounds from Charlie Brown]’. Maybe Louise was skiing, maybe there was too much cocaine on Thursday night, maybe she was crumpled in her room because of whatever lovers’ quarrel? Bless the snow, bless the coke, bless the quarrel. She writes, ‘Professor, The snow is not white it is blue up at Big White because it wants nothing more to do with the colour of this world. When the sun comes up the snow (I saw this) is so blue it’s black and it permits of every beautiful and diabolical thought. The mountain, which lies under it all, refuses to give up even a disc of itself for a millstone or a Flintstone car wheel or a paperweight for your desk. The mountain holds it down, you know? I tell you it will not relinquish even a knuckle for the old guillotine-block. Please let me know if you need a Doctor’s note.’

I meant to write, ‘Dear Peer, if there must be a no, let it be the negation which is the yes in the belly of all of the Hepworths’ and I meant to write, ‘So why not try all the other worlds?’

The marketing copy says we send the student into flight—but we do so within the confines of a shoe-box. Through the diorama hole I can see the students in the air and several of them are snagged on the ceiling fan (a repurposed toy propeller).

I don’t even want Yes or No. I want ‘this’ and ‘this’ and ‘this’ to turn into an on and on and on—as a window would permit.


I asked about the blues-cure and EM said ‘There ain’t no real fix-all but why not try reading Suzanne Leblanc, Oana Avasilichioaei, Ingrid Pam Dick, Liz Howard, Caroline Bergvall, or Chika Sagawa?’ And now I am trying—and, bff, it’s working … and now I believe a little more fully, a little more deeply again, you know?

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