November 4–10, 2013
Jared White‘s chapbooks include Yellowcake, published in the anthology Narwhal (Cannibal Books, 2009), My Former Politics (H-NGM-N Books, 2013) and This Is What It Is Like To Be Loved By Me (Bloof Books, 2013). With Farrah Field, he is co-owner of a small press bookstore, Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop, and parent of a baby, Roman Field White.
This is what it is like to be loved by me question mark
Is this what it is like to be loved by me?
that is a different question
what is it like?
I have watched you while you are sleeping so I know something about you that you don’t know about yourself. What do you know? Do you know much? Do you know some? Do you know anything? Do you know if there is anything that can be known? Do you know nothing? Do you know how much nothing you know, how much nothing about everything, or nothing about nothing, nothing at all except sometimes something, something like what it is like to know something, like what it is like not to know exactly but to be known about, to be known about by me and by me to be loved?
This is what it is like to be loved by me in the Odyssey when most of the time in the epic is spent safe on the island of Calypso, having a lot of sex, wherever the island is, and everywhere is the island. Sex-style sex, going from rhythmical to metrical. Then calm of concrete. Calm of asbestos. Spray calm consolation. My moustache gets too long before my beard does. Fat ass of a god. Everyone is neurotic, everyone is eventually dead. We don’t know you but we will, ancestors, patrons, pets, brides, gentlemen, carpenters, sailors.
beeping on the sailboat:
map of the eye of the hurricane
All possible pleasures. Navel, tree scar rock hole aluminum music. Miró and Ibsen in a tug-of-war over you.
This is what it is like to be loved by me danger danger every itch feels reasonable. Like which knight am I in tin, aluminum, bronze, steel, titanium. More people die in car accidents more frequently than in any scenario that scares us. From hot rocks come metals the ground threw up the opposite of puke. Of animal and/or vegetable and/or plastic. Good for incorporation. Good for riding horses. Good for the big bend the big band.
You. Are there mountains in Massachusetts? Are there mountains in the Berkshire mountains? If we see a horse you say zip one point zip two zip zip more than three zap ten points zap like a defibrillator. Wake up, happy me-man! Wordsworth: Emotion in a car recollected in tranquility in a car in the mountains. That was clunky that came later I married a woman I passed in a stable. I still can’t canter. Cantorian infinities of different infinite sizes. Dardar. King Arthurs sleeping under a hill next to sleeping horses, and motorcycles.
–From This Is What It Is Like To Be Loved By Me, Bloof Books, 2013.
Tell us about the making of this poem.
I started working on the chapbook this work is excerpted from while traveling, thinking about love and absence and how love is like reading, like trying to describe something objectively and in exquisite detail while being in motion and also in flux, like Monet’s haystacks repainted in different light of different days or different times of day. I found myself thinking in particular about describing the person you love and how love becomes like a projection onto a mirror, as Roland Barthes theorizes in his very mysterious and beautiful book A Lover’s Discourse. Looking so closely at someone they turn into pure imagination, or something unimaginable.
I began writing prosey pieces that began with a ping-ponging phrase, “This is what it is like to be loved by me,” and found my sentences kept veering off into playful tangents, literary cameos, profuse and assorted brain noise. Often my attempt at description gave way to recalled conversation, as my little blank dialogue scenario suggests, or the passage about looking for “mountains in the Berkshire mountains,” which is so totally something a one-time resident of the Rocky Mountains would say (and did)! I wanted to capture the texture of a relationship but in a sort of funny cubist way, set against fantasies of separateness, like the fake solitude of sailing away or being a hermit on an island, which was a short leap to thinking about Calypso.
The odd breaks from prose to tercets were inspired by a Brenda Hillman poem I read in Lana Turner as I was editing this all together in which she was loosely adopting ‘haibun’–mixing haiku and prose, a traditional travelogue-ish Japanese form–in a lyrical American context. It seemed a wonderful and appropriate way to bring lightness and air into this roving work, this love poem in motion real and imaginary.
What are you working on right now?
Mainly taking care of a baby and getting a bookstore off the ground and occasionally spending time with Farrah. When I have time (which is basically never) I’ve been assembling a longish serial poem made of terse nine-line pieces organized 3×3 with titles that might be a tenth line on each page. They’re a little bit Frankenstein: one-liners cut into pieces, tonal shifts, intentional badness, repeated closures. (I think of them sometimes as all last lines.) It’s called My My Country. I was thinking it might be finished but I might have written a couple new pieces for it last week.
What’s a good day for you?
Any day with my son. He’s learning to walk so I hold his hands and he totters down the sidewalk.
How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?
I’ve lived in DUMBO since 2001 and before that I lived above the Waterfalls Café on Atlantic Ave, looking out my second-story fire escape right into truck windows driving past. I got to DUMBO when it still felt abandoned and fable-like, an end-of-the-world enclave. It is totally different now but I appreciate its grandeur and entrepreneurial energy, the feeling that creative people are getting things done. Also, the sunsets.
Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.
In the winter and spring of 2003 I spent a fair amount of time on the south end of Prospect Park taking piano lessons from a jazz pianist who lived just around the corner from the Parkside Avenue Q. Sometimes I’d go ice skating after appointments; one time I even went cross-country skiing in the park after a blizzard, bushwhacking through the snowy woods along Flatbush Avenue and past the zoo. Somehow I got tangled in my skis on a knoll just bushes away from the boathouse and as I was fallen over in the snow, two kids came up and tried to mug me! I was so tangled up in poles and skis though—not to mention bundled in mittens and a heavy winter coat, etc.—that I literally couldn’t even have gotten to my pockets if I wanted to. After a brief standoff in which I responded to their threats by asking if they could just give me a hand, they gave up trying to rob me and helped me back onto my skis instead.
A few months later, jealously watching all the riders cantering down the bridle path, I got it in my head to take a few horseback riding lessons in the Kensington Stables near Ocean Parkway. I didn’t realize how many lessons it would require to actually take a horse out in the park, or how sore I would be! One time on my way into the stables I distinctly remember passing an intriguingly hip-looking, pretty young woman on her way out and appreciating living among such offbeat Brooklynites. Years afterward, I was trading stories with my wife Farrah and she told me about taking horseback riding lessons as a lark and briefly catching the eye of a stranger after a lesson and we realized we’d crossed paths in one of the quirkiest Brooklyn locales imaginable, years before we ever met!
Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?
My favorite living Brooklyn-poet couple is Sampson Starkweather and Paige Taggart who live together in Ditmas Park in an apartment that seems constantly to be filled with out-of-town poets visiting. They embody tireless generosity in their writing in completely different ways—Sam seems to be re-writing his most beloved literature in his own language while Paige seems to be inventing new languages in every poem. They both spark; I might compare them to a Tesla coil and a Van de Graaff generator but I’m not sure which is which. Both enact unpredictable gestures that are funny and brave and weird and personal and personable.
Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?
There are so many great bookstores here in Brooklyn–my list of favorites might feature every bookstore in the borough after a while! Unnameable Books is peerless for browsing and discovering all manner of engrossing, intellectually stimulating books that transcend genre. PowerHOUSE just around the corner from our apartment has been amazing for finding unusual children’s books for our son. I used to go to BookCourt practically daily when I lived on Atlantic Avenue. (At the time I was working at a literary agency in the city and I’d stop on my way home from the Bergen F station and browse, often with a pile of books I was bringing home from work. One time when I got home I realized I had accidentally shoplifted four or five books with me out of BookCourt by putting them on top of my pile of work books and forgetting about them as I left. I felt so horrible! So the next day I mustered my most discreet expression, sauntered back into BookCourt carrying the books I’d walked out with, and as sneakily as possible un-shoplifted the books back onto the shelf.) I love PS Bookshop, Spoonbill & Sugartown, Book Thug Nation, Word, Greenlight, Molasses Books, Community Bookstore in Park Slope. I’m pretty sure Mellow Pages Library in Bushwick is my favorite Brooklyn bookstore I’ve never been to, though it’s not exactly a bookstore and I have a good excuse for not making it to Bushwick lately, between having a baby and a new bookstore myself!
Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?
I love to write at readings at Pete’s, in the Brooklyn Museum (though I lost an entire notebook full of poems in a taxicab right outside the museum a few years ago), on the subway, and especially in the park outside my house. One of my first attempts at poetry I wrote in my early twenties was called “The Muse Arriving At Nightfall in Fulton Ferry Park” after the place it was written, back when there was a Fulton Ferry Park, before the city took it over and tore down the pretty old weeping willow to make space for the carousel.
Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?
I love the bike ride out to Red Hook and also other stretches of bicycling from Bay Ridge to Coney Island under the Verrazano and then around Jamaica Bay. Also, the bizarre, somewhat intimidating empty reservoir in Highland Park near the Queens border at Cypress Hills on the backside of Bushwick. Since having a baby, I’ve come to love the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Museum, particularly the documentary painting of a street corner in future DUMBO (roughly where Washington crosses Sands near the stairs to the Brooklyn Bridge) in the 1700s. I love walking in Brooklyn Heights and Ditmas Park. I love the London Plane trees and the fireflies in Cadman Plaza Park. I love Cobble Hill cinemas. I love the Spectacle Theater in Williamsburg. I love Calexico burritos, Juliana’s and Di Fara pizza, The Good Fork tofu and eggs, the BAM opera house and the Brooklyn Flea.
Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?
Just finished Robert Duncan’s Ground Work for our poetry book club. It’s wildly inconsistent—which is itself a kind of awesome quality for a book—cryptic, silly, pompous, stiff, annoying, visionary, sweet. In the last year Jane Gregory’s My Enemies, Kate Zambreno’s Heroines, Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be?, Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School and Eileen Myles’s Snowflake/different streets also made big impressions on me.
Best poems read live: before Berl’s, I thought Nick Sturm read some amazing work at Unnameable, some of which is in his new collection. Lucy Ives read a stunning piece from her new book just this week at Berl’s.
Also, it’s in the name of our bookstore so I guess we should be here.