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Poems From My Ex
February 10, 2011 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Fifteen years after we broke up, my ex-boyfriend published a book of poetry. ... For months, the slim book sat on my shelf like an awkward houseguest. Then, one quiet night, something nudged me out of my inertia, or dread, and I settled into bed with his book. And there I was.
posted by Joe Beese (41 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for the link. Reading it was a strong reminder of why I got out of poetry.
posted by jtron at 7:59 AM on February 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


TL:Didn't Rhyme
posted by mippy at 8:02 AM on February 10, 2011 [8 favorites]



Thanks for the link. Reading it was a strong reminder of why I got out of poetry.


Its concerns cover all prose, not just poetry. But it praises them too.
Good read, thanks.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:03 AM on February 10, 2011


More seriously, though. Every so often I wonder if I became vaguely notorious, which of my past lovers would be most likely to sell their story to the papers. Fiction is one thing - all fiction is autobiographical to an extent - but is poetry fiction or non fiction?
posted by mippy at 8:08 AM on February 10, 2011


Interesting. There is a relief I feel now in not publishing, or blogging, or even tweeting. There is also a relief that I don't live in this echo chamber within an echo chamber of the poetry world. But the echo chamber is expanding and getting really loud. Always an aggressive edge to this -- the competition to be the authority on what happened. Yet the cacophony and the ongoing back-and-forth revision is more authentic than one voice who gets to calmly assert what things mean. Poetry seems maddening to me now -- it is more demanding than ever, since we've got so much stuff to read and we are forced to read large volumes of it very quickly. We are too many! I just want to shut it off for awhile. Read nothing written by anyone who has written during my lifetime.
posted by theefixedstars at 8:15 AM on February 10, 2011


You're so vain, you probably think this poem's about you.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:22 AM on February 10, 2011 [18 favorites]


I quite enjoyed this. Thank you.
posted by bardophile at 8:24 AM on February 10, 2011


Yes, I liked this also. I was skeptical when I first started reading it, but I was happy and convinced by her conclusions.
posted by OmieWise at 8:33 AM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the more interesting bits of trivia you learn in Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking are which Paul Simon songs are about her. In her words, "if you can ever get Paul Simon to right a song about you, DO IT!"
posted by nomisxid at 8:40 AM on February 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


I appreciate the melancholy I feel as a result of reading this a lot.

I'm not clever enough or sensible enough to get out of poetry. You can still find me many Sunday nights in The Pit, declaiming while the hipsters drink their PBRs. But I don't live in it anymore. I only visit.

Think I'll go sit on the hill above the trainyard at lunch today and read some Elizabeth Bishop.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 8:46 AM on February 10, 2011


Everyone loved him. His infectious energy, his talent, his great generosity (in a burst of enthusiasm, he gave my beloved clothbound Collected Shakespeare to a student)...

You can almost hear the gritted teeth.

(I have forgiven many men many things, but I will never forgive the ex who made notes in my hardbound Library of America Collected Poems and Prose of Wallace Stevens... in pen.)

This is a very interesting piece, thanks. I am fascinated to be living in this exceptional moment in the history of literature in which muses can answer back.
posted by stuck on an island at 9:21 AM on February 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


So can I be the first to say fuck that guy?

His bitter, insipid little poems are the lit-snob version of passive-aggressive "I wasn't talking about you, I'm just angry at a lot of things" LiveJournal posts. It's nice to see that she's found some meaning in it, but again, fuck that guy.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:40 AM on February 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ugh. I have parts of an album by a band that had a bout of popularity written about me long after a member of said band and I broke up. I have never listened to it, and I have no desire to read the lyrics.

So again. Ugh.

no, I am not telling you who.
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:53 AM on February 10, 2011


I don't know, Unther Bentrazor. It was fifteen years ago. Even if the poems are about her, they're not really about her, as I am sure he knows and as she concluded. You seem to be taking it a bit personally.
posted by Nothing at 9:57 AM on February 10, 2011


I happened upon a fairly long poem by an ex of mine on the web. I got her to take out some of the really identifiable details, but it's still out there. Not in a book at least, and not an album that anyone is going to hear, and, yeah, the relationship was over ten years ago, but there's some stuff in there I really don't want anyone to know about, and her artistic ethics precluded her from taking the poem down or altering it significantly. There's nothing egregiously false there, though as you might imagine, I have some different interpretations of the events described.
It definitely freed me to understand that this woman wasn’t a real person. She was an image, something made (and made true) by the poem.
QFT.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:15 AM on February 10, 2011


Yeah Uther, seems a bit harsh to condemn his art based on the information given. She cites two poems, out of how many? he might have submitted hundreds to his editor, had dozens or scores accepted for publication and she shows up in...2? and one of them has some bitterness over an emotional time in his life from 15 yrs in the past. Doesn't sound terribly lit snob p/a to me.
she didn't have to buy the book (it's not like he sent her a signed copy just to be an ass), or even open it, read past the first lines, continue at all....
In the end she seems mildly flattered, and happy for him that he has pursued his art.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:15 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It had been an intensely romantic, gratifying time, a union of bodies and souls, you might say...

I was ready to be fascinated until I read her line about their romantic time together being "a union of bodies and souls, you might say...".

I came over a bit bored, you might say...

(I don't know why I'm being snotty. Great post!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:16 AM on February 10, 2011


We
Were artists
My god, we were artists
And thought as artists thought
And shagged as artists shagged
Bad wine, good prose. Some of it
Ours.

Then we split up
As artists split up
We felt stuff ordinary people cannot
Or if they do, they cannot frame
In words.

But he could.

The bastard.
posted by Devonian at 10:22 AM on February 10, 2011 [32 favorites]


but is poetry fiction or non fiction?

Yes.
posted by dersins at 10:30 AM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is why I never, ever dated poets. Also because none ever asked me out.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:57 AM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, don't date poets. That's dangerous. Date stand up comedians instead. Our work is a lot easier to parse. And funny!
posted by msalt at 11:21 AM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ugh. I have parts of an album by a band that had a bout of popularity written about me long after a member of said band and I broke up. I have never listened to it, and I have no desire to read the lyrics.

I am compelled, therefore, to assume you're talking about either The Spin Doctors or possibly Ween.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:23 AM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh man. I would be so stoked if it was Ween.
posted by bibliogrrl at 11:24 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, so The Spin Doctors it is!
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:25 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Deep, so deep
The Number One I hope to reap
Depends upon the tears you weep
So cry, lover, cry, cry, cry...
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:35 AM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Being an un-dateable shitty poet and a person who writes a lot about people in my life, I found this really interesting to read, so thanks for that.
posted by Errant at 11:48 AM on February 10, 2011


Narrative lyricists have to draw on all sorts of real past experience and do elaborate fabrications as well, in order to do their work. I feel sympathy for anyone who sees themselves in someone's song or poem, but how can they not know it's a crazy funhouse-mirror version that exists only in the artist's head? Just because you think a song is about you doesn't mean you're owed an explanation or anything else.
posted by chaff at 12:08 PM on February 10, 2011


So her reaction to him writing about her was to then write about him writing about her. If he happens to discover this blog, I wonder if he would respond by writing about her writing about him writing about her. And so on and so on, ad infinitum.
posted by platinum at 12:12 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


We are too many! I just want to shut it off for awhile.

Doesn't this mean more poets will get their work read?
posted by Avenger50 at 12:19 PM on February 10, 2011


And so on and so on, ad infinitum.

This reminds me of the most unintentionally hilarious line from an interview I've ever read. Melody Maker, 14 November 1987, interviewing Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters of Mercy:

At this point I make a fascinating discovery. If I wear my mirror shades and look into Eldritch's, all I can see is my reflection within his within mine within his within...This is as close to oblivion as either of us wish to get at four in the afternoon so we call a truce, remove the mirrors, and devise promotional devices for the release of 'Floodland'.

Go to this page and read the whole thing, it's totally worth it.
posted by Errant at 12:40 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


An author I admire once said, "a writer's most precious commodity is his memories."
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:19 PM on February 10, 2011



Ugh. I have parts of an album by a band that had a bout of popularity written about me long after a member of said band and I broke up. I have never listened to it, and I have no desire to read the lyrics.


BAY CITY ROLLERS
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:45 PM on February 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ooh, ooh! Are you a half-Japanese girl?

I've had three or four songs written about/for me. In each case, they were among the worst ones of the writer's oeuvre. I guess I just have that effect on men.

except the last one, so I kept him
posted by Madamina at 1:59 PM on February 10, 2011


I don't get this, the idea of putting actual details of an actual person into a poem like that. I mean, I write stuff with the goal of publishing it, and sure, I use my life and my experiences to shape my stories, but I would never dream of putting *actual* details into a story, even couched in metaphor or oblique reference. I don't understand what the goal of that would be; you write to get the emotions under control, and then you're done. Slipping hidden references in only creates the possibility of someone recognizing them, and what on Earth is the point of that? What is it the poet wanted to happen as a result of that action?
posted by Scattercat at 2:00 PM on February 10, 2011


A paean to privilege...sorry, it read like a Style section article to me.

I'm going to randomly guess the band was the Eels.
posted by maxwelton at 2:06 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doesn't rhyme.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:07 PM on February 10, 2011


This happened to me. Except the poems weren't published. And I was in middle school at the time.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 2:27 PM on February 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's likely no poetry about me, bad habit of dating ad creatives. My name was on a huge tram for six weeks though, touting a mobile phone network. ... and so I lose a million cool points, right there.
posted by dabitch at 3:51 PM on February 10, 2011


I have never listened to it, and I have no desire to read the lyrics.


BAY CITY ROLLERS


"Dear sister poet, dear brother poet too..."
posted by ovvl at 3:58 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


She had brown hair, this
Curl that pushed indifferent
Over her ears like a wave
Breaking on the drunken beach

And in the Minneapolis
Winter we stole erasers
From the library until fratboys
Emerged out of sewers

Lost winter moles... until
Her kisses tasted only
Of sweat. Sorry for not
Making up more details

Jessica.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:46 PM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Holy crap. I wish EVEN MORE it was the Bay City Rollers! Scottish! Plaid! DREAMY.

If only it was power pop. I am not so lucky.
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:16 PM on February 11, 2011


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