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Last year was big for Big Brother, and 2014 is shaping up similarly. The queasy ethics of observation continue to fill front pages across the country, from the Snowden affair to the limited release of Google Glass. What is privacy, anyway, in an age of drone strikes and targeted advertising? What are our rights?
These poets—heightened observers by profession—have contributed new works, political and personal alike, entering into a larger dialogue on what it means to have open eyes and ears in the twenty-first century. Poetry is not a mirror held up to the world; it is a lens.
Don’t you have any privacy settings
An old man was massaging my scalp in a bath
and it felt delicious, then Dad barged in
Buy Pantene Rinse for
I only have dreams of people streaming
into my dreams
Oh wait, that’s Imogen
I’ve blocked her. Her traffic causes migraines.
She’s a megaplex of selfies
If she shat out scrabble tiles, she’d have better spelling
No, it’s Beyonce, I’ve been waiting
forever to gain access
Is she still alive
Boring! Beyonce’s just thanking God
and her ten thousand handlers
I don’t think she’s alive
The more people you thank, the more you’re worth
I have no one to thank. I’m worthless
I wish I had a paywall to hide behind
I’d kill myself
I keep his carbon data in a locket
Your headvoice is oily. It needs a rinse
His embalmed traffic is inside me
Latest news on Pwanu Trafficking
I hear they get exiled into their bodies
Gross, my lipids are now viral.
Can you zoom in
I see human-trafficking ships over an ocean
of dead links, no, they’re fish
Your Dream Recall is epic
Then I realize I’m in one too but I don’t care
Is this an ad-free zone
since this old man’s massaging me.
This is my hometown
I’m giving you a tour of my reverie
You’re in my reverie
He used to tickle me with his knuckles, it hurt
That’s my encrypted memory
as if he didn’t think I knew his thoughts,
but I knew, and he knew I knew
Stop thinking what I’m thinking
that he loved me more than my sisters
You’re so full of envy, it’s sad
how you hack into me
which made me feel secretive and guilty
so I learned to train my thoughts into an
ever long performance
because there’s nothing inside you,
you’re just a plug.
But I have this pang.
It’s my pang.
—Cathy Park Hong
to wake him up in July.) Still not doing
anything to incur our attention?
Then you have followed all what we have to say.
Cough it up—little green cross-eyed slits.
No bricks. Just mortar. Ready. Ready for a takeover.
The catalpas of reconciliation wilt,
proving, if little else,
why a good presentation matters.
A website smirks at Mexico & Pork & Cloud
Amid Al Quaeda (all spellings), Hazmat,
Enriched, Interstate, Nitrate and Phishing.
Delicious, unkosher, dark, vague, the Cloud
Of Mexico Pork threatens our borders.
Experts will improve the list, the logarithms,
Adapting meanings to effective analysis beyond
Effective and affective. Adopt and adapt.
Surveillance—French for watching over—
Preceded the apprehension of who became
The Disappeared. Their infant children, adopted
Were raised by Intelligence Officers as their own.
If I were a contemporary poet I’d make
A poem consisting entirely of that list.
Random, Shale. Repurposed, Information.
July 24, 2013
is the role
defined for each piece
by a system of rules saying
how it can move,
not the stuff
the piece is made of.
In the intersection,
a muscular, shirtless man
with small American
flags tied to each wrist –
so that he looks
like a wrestler –
pushes, no, shoves
then catches, a stroller
piled high with plastic bags –
City of the future,
where a tramway to the top
of a peak
a wax museum
extends one gloved hand
A trace of plausible explanation, we go
Together, take a very hot bath. Without you,
I am a bundle of sensations. Oxygen,
Overalls, this pair of rubber boots. We are
Now in the refrigerator, getting warmer
With our breath. Listen, you just could not
Go any further with the me, valiant comrade
To this stillness that passes. I don’t want to
“Grow” anymore. I just want to sit here
And bathe in our light that blinds, and sing
Songs about rivers or stars. Plump as a
Lamb, the universe, you and I, in it.
(what is that?)
choking you for years, the ochre blue, the veiny fatherly blue, beaten blue in the sedge. In this attached image, a fat infrastructure proctors your throat, unhelpful to the analyst. Listen to yourself. Are you even alive to this pain? All former orphans of collateral damage only point to exhausted landscapes not reported to the secret court, but know
IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN UNTIL IT DOES
Your escape routes,
The riffs and struts
On wireless maps, a participle medley from your breathing apparatus
Singing the Body Technology, a schizophrenia always giving back.
The way they watched me felt like love,
I said let me write you like love,
Let me write you like love’s fire.
But I missed the star guts crashing theGlobal Market ways,
Crushing me with its gentleman hands, eyes without a face.
Every man is a symbol
Along the axis of Rorschach etchings.
I see your face again, the fluorescent light
Repeating my face back to me. Echo chamber,
I learn so much in hiding, my electric nest cake.
Google Maps for the brains attached.
In Real Life sexual dimensions hold it against us,
Could not map us out of eleven dimensions.
They would just go on forever, smudging the details down,
Wearing us the fuck, most pleasantly, out.
After being released from a concentration camp and becoming an exile in Shanghai, Charles K. Bliss invented a language of no sounds. A writing system of symbols to circumvent speech, its manipulations. Ideographic. Ideo. Idea. Ideal as the space between mind and page as silent.
In the future, English writing more and more becomes the opposite of this. Each word must be said aloud before it appears on the screen. Seeing, without saying—that’s the manipulation. From voice, which has become content the way sex is the subtext. The flesh of meaning.
English adopts a notational system of dots and dashes above and between words to approximate tone, to make the speaking silently talk. We can’t trust them, the words, to be the mind behind. A dot. A dash. The speech within speech.
In 2013, a Canadian company released the program ToneCheck that screens emails for potentially conflict-causing language. Post-meeting anger: alert. Late night reach/bite toward a lost lover: don’t.
In Future English, the thread of feeling in each word has become an overt overture, a prioritized primal focal point. Words are color-coded according to an emotional template based on the smallest fluctuations of pulse and temperature in the tips of fingers. What do we encode into words with our bodies as we speak? There is technology for this. It’s right there in red red red.
I just want to say. I have been. I think about. Now you know.
With a feeling,
were not ears but body
a common sounded space
How they embrace
it the new ones with nothing
to lose to occupy
the street is to meet
and assemble, greet and garble
what truncheoned man
would flatten straight out
yours was a beautiful tower
it was no god
struck it down
—Maureen N. McLane
John Ashbery won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. His most recent book is Breezeway.
Robert Pinksy's recent books include Singing School, Selected Poems, and Gulf Music.
Harmony Holiday is author of Go find Your Father/A Famous Blues and Negro League Baseball.
Richard Greenfield is author of Tracer and A Carnage in the Lovetrees.
Jessica Baran is the author of Equivalents (Lost Roads Publishers) and director of Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts in St. Louis.
Cathy Park Hong's first book, Translating Mo'um, was published in 2002 by Hanging Loose Press. Her second collection, Dance Dance Revolution, was chosen for the Barnard Women Poets Prize and was published in 2007 by W.W. Norton. Her third book of poems, Engine Empire, was published in Spring 2012 by W.W. Norton. Hong is also the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Her poems have been published in A Public Space, Poetry, Paris Review, Conjunctions, McSweeney's, The Baffler, Boston Review, The Nation, and other journals. She is an Associate Professor at Sarah Lawrence College and poetry editor at The New Republic.
Charles Bernstein's most recent books include Girly Man, With Strings, and Republics of Reality: 1975-1995. He is Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
Noelle Kocot is the author of seven collections of poetry, including The Bigger World, Soul in Space, and Phantom Pains of Madness, due this May from Wave Books. She is the current poet laureate of Pemberton Borough, NJ.
Rae Armantrout’s most recent collection of poems is Partly: New and Selected Poems, 2001–2015.
Jennifer Kronovet is author of the poetry collection Awayward and co-translator of The Acrobat.
Maureen N. McLane’s most recent book is My Poets. She is Associate Professor of English at New York University.
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