July 22–28, 2013
Danniel Schoonebeek’s first book of poems, American Barricade, will be published in early 2014. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House, Boston Review, Fence, Gulf Coast, BOMB, Indiana Review, Guernica, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, Verse Daily, Drunken Boat, and elsewhere. He writes a monthly column on poetry for the American Reader, hosts the Hatchet Job reading series in Brooklyn and edits the PEN Poetry Series.
Men loyal first off to silence run in my family.
Ask about the women we say women.
What a scream. Ask about the men we say.
Men loyal only to stillness run in my family.
Not the same, you understand, as when a man.
Who refuses to budge withdraws into himself.
As when one wounds a tree to draw its sap.
Only to find the bucket come evening is empty.
Men of such stillness you hear us pulse.
Loyal to nothing like my father whose father.
Was a man who when he saw himself said.
I am too small. Too small within this world.
And too full of talk. My life I would live.
Could I live as a potato bug loves, beating.
Myself into the ground when I need you.
Then comes the sun and draws its cutlass.
And Opa’s tongue the first off to silence.
Story I learned my father wouldn’t tell me.
For though he was a man who couldn’t read.
Music, he still found a way to write it, his life.
A short movement composed solely of rests.
Two sons he had two summers far too loud.
Now I am finished with my strings, he says.
Enough hammer, enough sustain, the end.
Men loyal first off to sustenance or sentence.
Ask about the women we say what women.
We have are women who have nothing.
There is my brother leading a horse whose.
Hunger is so loud it shakes the earth shakes.
The trees and when the apples fall he eats.
If she feeds he feeds her only from his knife.
If she rides he rides her only when he leaves.
There is me. Loyal only to when I tell myself.
That boy who has written across his wrist.
I’m god would make a good son but only if his.
Voice is a silence in which now I appear.
Ask about his mother he says mother.
Let her rip. Men who mean something.
Different than you when they say we.
Are loyal first off to the end, to the end.
–Originally published in Crazyhorse 80 (Fall 2011).
Tell us about the making of this poem.
I wrote “Genealogy (Rest)” at 187 Stockholm Street, in Bushwick, with my hands over my ears while my friends taunted me and committed a lot of noises. I’m remembering one of those same friends once beat on my door with a wrench. I was remembering how the men in my family—and I’ve heard this is a Dutch disposition—all despise loud noises. Which is curious because I tend toward loud music. So I suppose I should say the men in my family despise the shrill. Like the sound of a bus braking. And I’m remembering how I’d started to feel disgusted with punctuation. How it’s little else apart from a handful of laws. So I decided to taunt myself, as my friends taunt me, and write a poem in which one feels the disallowing reach of those laws. Every time a line began to build momentum I needed it to halt. De Kooning talks about the fleetingness of “the glimpse” in his paintings. I was after a poem made of glimpses that were all forced to cease against their will.
What are you working on right now?
I wrote a book called American Barricade and it’s publishing in 2014 with YesYes Books.
I’m a poet.
Many days I write people postcards.
Or state my claims about poetry for The American Reader.
And I’m behind a reading series called Hatchet Job.
But working forty hours a week for schlock makes me difficult.
As a man I am difficult.
But I would like to be personless.
What’s a good day for you?
1) Nobody calls me her boss.
2) Feeling of 0.8% enmity toward strangers.
3) No laws pass that leave people in shambles.
4) It’s $1.23 more for the good bread and that doesn’t terrify me.
5) I don’t tell my boss the following: the job of poetry isn’t to justify its existence to you.
6) A postcard arrives from two friends who are biking America.
7) People I love are writing alone in their rooms tonight.
8) A man with mother of pearl buttons, he raises a toast.
9) The creditors lose my name in the system.
10) It’s the first day of winter.
How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?
You know you tell yourself Manhattan is an island. You fire yourself through a tunnel in order to reach the island, and standing next to Americans who are falling asleep on their feet (the way cows sleep, you think) you start muttering a few lines from Blake: “mark in every face I meet / Marks of weakness, marks of woe.” Manhattan is an island, and you fire yourself at the island in order to make money, but then Brooklyn is home. At the moment I live nowhere. Meaning I pay a poet money to sleep in her room while she paints in the woods and her books rise up around me and there’s nowhere I’d rather be. It feels good, like skipping a stone, when someone asks me my mailing address and there isn’t one that belongs to me. I’ve lived in six apartments in five years of living in Brooklyn. It feels good, maybe like eating a handful of snow, when I think about bills and notices and rejection letters all continuing to arrive in places I no longer live. This is one way you make Manhattan pay for you. They hound you, they follow you around the city with envelopes, hunting you. And the hounding is free, like matchbooks. A man who is dead once said to me outside of The West: “a piss, like everything else, costs money now, which makes a book of matches the last free thing in this city.”
Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?
In the year he spent in New York—during which he witnessed the Wall Street crash of 1929—Lorca wrote the poems of American grotesquerie and lucre that I find uproot me the most. There was dusk on Coney Island and he wrote these lines: “The fat woman, enemy of the moon, / ran through the streets and empty apartments / and left in the corners small pigeon skulls / and raised the furies of last century’s banquets / and called on the demon of bread through the hills of the barren sky / and filtered a hunger for light in the underground traffic.” He was shot in the Fuente Grande by nationalists some seven years later. And he could have crossed out the word barren.
Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?
Berl’s Poetry Shop has this knack for appearing, ex nihilo, all over Brooklyn. They’re like the reddleman from Return of the Native if the reddleman trafficked in poetry. Which is to say I love them. Unnameable, for my nickels and dimes, has the best acquisitions. The Dot Devota reading I saw there, in the garden two summers ago, sitting on the gravel—that was enough to call them a station of the cross for me. And I like to walk into Spoonbill in early December wearing a scarf and listen to everyone’s stress. And Mellow Pages is proof to me that I never want to live in Manhattan. They won’t sell a book to anyone. Which is why I say I love them.
Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?
I wrote a chunk of my book in an office building on Madison Ave while I was supposed to be writing cover copy and harrassing authors who publish books that are part of a snake oil racket. I tend to gravitate toward that kind of tension. I feel berserk and honored to write, especially when writing is an act of disobedience. Getting fired for being a poet would be a milestone for me. Because poetry continues to exist in defiance of the forces that can’t find a way to manipulate it. All this talk about poetry as capital was a hoot for about eleven seconds and then it became putrid and gullible to its own stammering, just like any endeavor where earning capital is king. I think about this on the train when I’m reading a book called War Music or The Noise of Time and everyone around me is staring at a little machine in their hands. On good days I feel berserk and honored to live in a city where reading a book is an act of discord with the people around you.
Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?
This strikes me as the following question: knowing that money and the spending of money are inescapable in your city, where are the places you spend money without dread, and where are the places you’ve come to love because no one is flooding them. I’m writing this on July 16, 2013. To date I’ve been in love over brunch at DuMont in early spring. I’ve waited out a hurricane at Pearl’s. If you walk far enough into Greenpoint you can stare at the water tower that says save the palestine in white paint on its haunch. There’s a bartender at Tradesman who’s generous with her pints. I’ll never turn down an invitation to sit in the dark at Nitehawk. I’ll never tell you about the train trestle I discovered last summer. But the Trinity Cemetery is a heartbreaker in winter. You can drink a beer while they cut your hair at Person of Interest. And listen: Junk is where you buy postcards. It’s easy to trespass onto the roofs of Williamsburg condos and take pictures. You can blow a bad paycheck on martinis at Weather Up. If you climb under the fence at Flushing and Rust you’ll find a lot of graffiti to admire. If you still like loud music visit Suburbia and drink from a thimble. At Dram, the American Trilogy is a triumph. I know who stole the Bogart Santa and I’ll never tell you. Because I walked into Prime Meats once and the hostess was my childhood neighbor, whose father used to pay me to cut his lawn. And I’d rather spend an hour in City Reliquary than a day in Chelsea. Because Rye has the only happy hour that matters. And there are streets that I love for their names: Ashland Place, Stagg Street, Rutland Road. I once saw a puppeteer faint during a performance at The Bushwick Starr. On the bill there was also a beautiful rendition of a lost Tennessee Williams play, which was made even more beautiful when one of the actors ripped the seam of her pants and blushed and continued the show.
Last awesome book(s) / poem(s) you’ve read?
1) People on Sunday – Geoffrey G. O’Brien
2) “Millenial” – Allyson Paty
3) Imperial Nostalgias – Joshua Edwards
4) My Struggle – Karl Ove Knausgaard
5) Cotton Tenants – James Agee
6) Blood – Shane McCrae
7) Rise in the Fall – Ana Božičević
8) “Crucifixion” – Federico García Lorca
9) The Hermit – Laura Solomon
10) “What Ye Went Out Into May to See?” – Mary Ruefle
Also I can’t stop reading “Lotus Eater Sutra” by Ben Kopel.
Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:
I celebrate & sing,
belongs to you.
–Text of a censored correspondence between Danniel Schoonebeek and Sarah V. Schweig.
I leave this to James Agee:
(All over the city on streets and walks and walls, the children, and the other true primitives of the race have established ancient, essential, and ephemeral forms of art, have set forth in chalk and crayon the names and images of their pride, love, preying, scorn, desire; the Blacks, Jews, Italians, Poles most powerfully, these same poorest most abundantly, and in these are the characters of neighborhood and of race: on an iron door in Williamsburg: Dominick says he will Fuck Fanny. On another: Boys gang up on Don and Down with Don and Don is a Bull Artist. Against green shingles of a Bushwick side door: The Lady in this House is Nuts. In an immaculate neighborhood of lower middle class Jews in East New York, against a new blood wash of drugstore brick, the one word: strike. On a Bensonhurst street, bourgeois Jewish: Bernice Davidson is the future Mrs. Allan Cunn. She may be the future Mrs. Henry Eiseman. In Brighton, among Jews recently withdrawn from the ghetto, a child begins an abstract drawing and his mother quickly: “Don’t do-that,” and a ten-year-old boy immediately, to a younger, in the same notation, “Don’t do-that.” On Park Slope on a Sunday afternoon, not printed, but in an unskillful Palmer script: Lois I have gone up the street. Don’t forget to bring your skates. In Williamsburg: Ruby loves Max but Max HATES Ruby. And drawings, all over, of phalli, fellatio, ships, homes, airplanes, western heroes, women, and monsters dredged out of the memories of the unspeakable sea-journeys of the womb, all spangling the walks and walls, which each strong shower effaces.)