Painted Bride Quarterly’s Slush Pile

Episode 90: Je Recuse! The Poems of Charlie Clark

May 25, 2021

This episode is all about craft and connections:  literary craft and professional connections. In the notoriously small world of poetry and creative writing, should editors recuse themselves from making editorial decisions? Things get wonderfully complicated when you know a poet— be it from grad school, from a workshop, from a conference. Or from dressing up in potentially crass Halloween costumes. (Listen for further confirmation that Jason and Kathy are soul mates via their 90s -era matching Princess Diana getups, complete with steering wheel as accessory and pals playing paparazzi). In addition to the nuances of professional ethics in poetry land, we talk sonnets and the divided self as we discuss 2 poems by Charlie Clark. Clark’s archive of references ranges widely—from Death Grips to inept gladiators to the power of grammar and etymology to charm readers. At one point we’re making rock n’ roll hand gestures to indicate his poem’s caesuras; at another we’re mesmerized by the way Clark works within the confines of  14 lines right under our noses. If you like what you hear, Clark’s new book of poetry The Newest Employee of the Museum of Ruin will be published by Four Way Books later this year.

 

At the table:

Samantha Neugebauer, Jason Schneiderman, Alex Tunney, Kathleen, and Marion Wrenn

 

This episode is brought to you by one of our sponsors, Wilbur Records, who kindly introduced us to the artist is A.M.Mills whose song “Spaghetti with Lorraine” now opens our show. 

 

Charlie Clark studied poetry at the University of Maryland. His work has appeared in New England Review, Ploughshares, Threepenny Review, and other journals. A 2019 NEA fellow, he is the author of The Newest Employee of the Museum of Ruin (Four Way Books, 2020). He lives in Austin, TX.

 

You can find him on Facebook.

Untitled-1.jpg

The Beast I Worship

 

 

I light my torch and burn it.

I am the beast I worship.

—Death Grips, “Beware”

 

 

The beast I worship doesn’t blame

 

the tree for its lithe, expanding

 

glamour, yet beneath a sky full of blue

 

kingfishers crying tears from the tree

 

the placard with its Latin name

 

laid out in a lush calligraphy

 

and as many as he can reach

 

of the narrow green articulations of spring

 

starting to feel their way into the air;

 

before he finally takes leave completely,

 

the beast I worship climbs in and sets the whole thing

 

burning down. The beast I worship

 

offers meek relief. What sometimes feels like

 

beauty sometimes feels like grief.

 

 

Address To That Inept Gladiator Timorous

 

 

  1. Supposing the Futility of Language as a Means of Protecting Oneself from Harm

 

 

Your armor amounts to the skin of some very large dead beasts,

 

yet you retain such glamour. If you don’t know the word,

 

that’s because the Scots hadn’t yet invented it. There wasn’t enough

 

enchanting mist strewn on even a rainy Roman summer morn

 

to veil the parts your opponent hoped to hack from you. Had there been,

 

had a cloud become the air around you, had you survived and done it in this way,

 

had the poets seen this and gone crazy, probably you still would have been

 

stuffed back into your cage, fed no more gruel than usual by the mulch-

 

hearted man who ran the place before next week’s show where he’d charge double

 

for all the people eager to see some new brute cut your meek gray swarm in two.

 

Pardon, please, these aimless suppositions. Did you know glamour

 

is only a corruption of grammar ? This proves nothing but the impossibility

 

of any word’s use to the dead. No word will build a door out of air

 

and let you step safely through it before it grammars shut.

 

 

  1. Concerning the Awfulness of Audiences Across Time

 

 

Should you somehow fast-forward through millennia, it would likely be

 

the sons of paper-product scions laughing at your harm. They will be no less noxious

 

than whoever watches you now. before I waste our time trying to explain the value

 

of flowered vines embroidered on what people wipe up grape-juice spills and urine with,

 

let me just call them rags. It is a sound so plain I hope it makes sense no matter what

 

the tongue or age. It’s rags the audience throws at you, not that they want to offer salves

 

or congratulations; they simply want to throw things at you and rags are the cheapest thing

 

on hand. Were I to acknowledge that the word audience existed in your tongue,

 

what would that matter, except for how it meant something more like listening then,

 

which means irony existed then too, as some hack-eared opponent hollowed out your mouth

 

and to slow the bleeding you filled it with the audience’s rags, the loosened red thread-ends

 

of some drifting in the wind from your mouth toward the lords drunk at center court,

 

who hear only their own voices naming which next portions of your body they have

 

paid good money to see your rivals cleave?

 

 

  1. Cataloging Some of what Awaits Him After the Morning’s Dogs Are Done

 

 

Heaven is an archive full of friends

 

whose legs have been restored. You can walk

 

with them through the ever-longing haze and regather

 

the other parts both they and you had scattered,

 

heads and brains and arms and tongues and eyes,

 

the eyes most especially, because there is so much

 

now that you are out of the arena’s daily dust and blight,

 

out of the darkness of its catacombs; there is so much now

 

for you to gaze at, it is worth acknowledging

 

the Norseman who would, drunk at sea some mist-

 

decked century hence, invent the verb to gaze as a variant

 

of to gape, what does not describe a wound exactly

 

but does suggest a body breached as well as it does awe,

 

which in this heaven’s tongue is infinite.

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App