An Anecdoted Topography Of The California Poem


      The California Poem

      Eleni Sikelianos

      Coffee House Press




1.        This poem is  autobiographical, imaginary, quasi-learned, quasi-teenage-bullshitterfs companion, beatnik biologistfs bedroom field guide, trailer park trailer trash epiphany, exorcism, & extension, Baudelairian cowboy catalogue, poetical Grayfs Anatomy, tiger tail Tristram Candy, inflated egotistical balloon popping, stakes-raising, quasi-everything, blah blah doctorial glam-thesis, American appendix, roman candle & endnote, exegesis resisting, anti-pantheon pantheon-joining, 190-page holiday companion, entrance, warning, welcome, exit plan, & travel guide.


2.        From the back cover: gA native of California,  Eleni blah blah blah book about blah blah blah California blah very good blah remarkable blah female blah book blah blah blurb blah blah blah.h But like a burger I will rise


3.        & then I start reading The California Poem and:  gThe flame of materialsh / amaze 


4.        It spills insects & pills over its front and then throws off its shirt and then embarrassed thinks better of it & spends some time in the dirt looking for where it landed & instead finds more & different bugs, rocks, junk, cowboys, needles, things & goes back into town & does something teenage& trashy to prove that itfs not what everybody thought it was in the mountains.  over the anomalous orbit of Pluto / tipped at 17 degrees to the solar plane  And then goes back.  & then goes back.


5.        Thoreau moved from culture to nature.   as if space were / a readable object   The California Poem starts with nature, encounters culture.  & licks it.


6.        California is all surface – and so everything is here, now, available, immediately.  With soft foots & mean teeth / bite I mean / bite Holyfieldfs ear / twice  Served in super-size, bite-sized, disposable, organic gobs of California, the poem, the state.  eg. to state: the State: a state  [of being]: & to be in a State.  According to my lights / as I circle & touch upon this state or that / uncouth gringos are  lounging in the shade


7.        California in the lights of the trees  c

      California with my eyes  c

      California / stitched up twice  c

      California / & its industrial wastelands  c

      The dental imprint of California

        Jack Kerouac would speak through the medium of Eleni.


8.        This is, I mean, an easy, as in enjoyable, book to read.  a dictionary arranged not alphabetically but from heaven to earth 


9.        >>The sublime c.  But?           <<The Sublime But>>


10.     California [When I write eCaliforniaf in this text  I mean both the State and the Poem ] = Cornucopia.  Everything IS interconnected, utopian, included, mulched, special, banal, singing, intoxicated, purged, bleached, immaculate, broken, shaved, washed, sweating: & I remember all the Republic of California Flags hanging in the fogs.  Where Blake / stuck his finger into the bloody deer and all you ghosts who could give a fuck / about aesthetics, that strictly human endeavor


11.     As good as J.H. Fabre, The Life of Spiders.  1912.  The pleasure of natures.  Or the opposite.


12.     everything belongs in California, / the esodium squalls,f tomatoes / of injustice  A man in San Francisco – on Valencia St – said to me -- as I bought a shitty 3 gear bicycle off him for $30 – gSON, you know why everybody in California is so fuckinf weird?  Itfs because they arrived on the east coast and were driven out of every town they tried to settle in until they got here.  And then they couldnft go no further.h 


13.     So it goes so far out that when you have got that far out you find that actually you have got to where you came in.


14.     But here in this State, Eleni Sikelianos [ eEleni Sikelianosf in this text = the poem] is made by California and what making she does comes out of this pot.  a child making up a childfs songs, / singing to the Pebbles & Peerless Lachrymara 


15.     As the poem goes, possums wander across the set.  & that possum – as a stranger to California [we learn herein] with its pouch and its inducted nativity works as a metaphor for the writer herself.  Curious.  Wandering under timber framed houses, becoming familiar with the grubs and the candy wrapping, either putting things in or taking them out.  Stealing from everybody because everything is necessarily hers.  Crossing highways.  Being among all the earths but not of it.  Eating donuts & bugs.  Hiding & obscuring or revealing what? 


16.     Herself? California?  Whatever.  Eleni.  Escaped.  Alien.  Courier.  Shoplifter.  Shopgirl.  Showgirl.  Shopper. 


17.     The poem is the pouch.  But is it a case of putting in or taking out?  the researches of Eleni, of melatonin patches  


18.     Or: this is and at any time can be turned over by the fault lines that run up and down it.  & so the strata that the surface necessarily covers can & does break through too.  Or be submerged.  Will the writer be raised up or swallowed?  over the / veering / Earth.


19.     The most enjoyable  blah read of 2005.  The most enjoyable.


20.     What evidence – thus far – do you have that I have even read the damn book anyway?


21.     Sikelianos, it is reported   sprawling, self-seeking-as-in-seeking-of-self, sentimental, sub-atomic, stripped, straight, stoned, stratospheric, sad, stung, shining, speeding, slouching, solitary, sensuous, shipwrecked, scientific, swinging, spidergirl, shaggy-dog, striated, psychic, submarine, sublime signees & signets / a sideskip,  a skid, a     


22.     Here now, available, consumable, pointless in the past and if only of the future unattainable, & therefore NOW.  And now = eternity in California & eternity = NOW.  & if everything is in nature & nature is perfect then everything that happens is natural & everything that happens is perfect.


23.     California is too large & it breaks.  But – and here the epic is dispensed with – the California Poem [to q. Whitman] does contradict itself / AND contains multitudes -- and how could it not? The truth of Georgia is not to be found here in sushi dinners  


24.     Without contraries therefs no progression.  William Blake.  – If, however, language expresses only the universal, then I cannot say what only I mean.  Hegel / Encyclopedia. hometowns invaded by Huguenots, Reaganites / Daughters of the Did you wait for our languages to disappear?


25.      In California – is the natural world more present than almost anywhere else?  SF fogs, earthquake news every day, surf, the eternal desert just at back, the fires.  & what sits on it is therefore so superficial & so profound – because – this is all there is.  Meditating on daily objects – / to find any aura & possible


26.     Her line breaks.  As miraculous / effortless / glorious as [on-a-high-wire]-Schuyler.  HER LINE BREAKS.


27.     The artistfs function is quite clear; he must open up a work shop and take in the world for repair, as it comes to him, in pieces.  Ponge  The god of imaginable objects / made me    


28.     Lisa Jarnot once in a lecture said something like eI inhabit the space between Bob Dylan & Gertrude Steinf.  When I think of Eleni Sikelianos I think Captain Beefheart, Lorine Niedecker, Jaques Cousteau, Jack London, Eartha Kitt.


29.     & what California does to The California Poem is – As Paris did in Sikelianosf exquisite poems of the mid 1990fs – take the poet out of the body and into the world.  And this capacity for tasting it, being coloured by it, being it almost before being self, is – in its glorious transcendence of self – where Sikelianosf most original & eternal & exciting writing happens extends & is extended.  for the moon / malls made a language / gto eat up / available realityh 


30.     we / opulent stars /  as suggested / by Virgil  are Barney Hoskynsf Waiting For The Sun, Laird Huntfs Indiana, Indiana, Brenda Coultasf Bowerie Poems, Helter Skelter, William Least Heat Moonfs Prairy Earth, Christopher Dewdneyfs Spring Trances In The Control Emerald Night, Pet Sounds, Clark Coolidgefs A Geology, The Big Sleep.  The California Poem made me find & want these landscapes.


31.     A good book because:  The crystalline style / will rise and write: / gnot an animal gives a hip-/ hop, the moon     & all in it is perfect & broken. 


32.     Chamise, Scrub Oak, hard tack, wild lilac, Bear Brush & Quinine, manzanita, Sugarbush  Thus names of frogs, trees, beetles, etc birds.  Showing not saying, etc.   The hope that at least a few are made up.   ePoetry is really loving the name of anything. Gertrude Stein.


33.     Lost animals, lost languages, lost tribes, lost childhood, lost innocence.  This is a sad book.  But of this ye sing?  And the beauty of parking garages illuminated / in the night


34.     Reading The California Poem reminds me of reading Paradise Lost in school and having it in the ear & staring out of the window as far as I could into summer.  I too / moving viewer / in the indeterminate land, an always moving / horizon at my front / or at my back 


35.     I can call myself / a Californian because / I was there in the state of the Sisters / of Perpetual Indulgence  & though the lists of endangered & extinct are listed & the extinguished customs are named, there is no – because of the expanded self [?] – finger.  By naming them they are here.  And by the very dialogue with the transitory nature of everything in California – they are no different from the cars, the movie stars, the fleeting, the absolutec.& thus already gone.  I have said this before?


36.     Americans like to keep the sound going – Americans from the west.  Alice Notley.


37.     and tectibranchs and bryoza, down to the Mexican sea  (eNothing could ever again help us to fulfillment, except / Our own solitary course over the sleepless landscapef – Rilke: Elegy [for Marina Tsveteaeva])


38.     Dipping my toes in the Pacific off the edge of –  / Tell, what lurks at the boundaries  Or it is as if somebody has stuck a huge finger onto the spinning globe and the whole of California – as if in a car without seatbelts – has all  -- from pre-history to now – in the land of the neophyte beasts, rats in the palms hit the fan that is The California Poem.  Up to now nobody has been able to tell it.


39.     Our long hours / in dormant crooks in cool canyons lazily drumming along the pipelined coast  /  Wefve roamed these  When I read the woody, seedy, parts, of the poem, I want to be sitting in a car and eating fast food.  When I am climbing hills with the teenage Eleni & I tire, I want to fall under the sea or read some philosophy.  When I am sitting with the turtles, I soon want something more c trashy or profound.  & Sikelianos [because she is restless, because she is somehow unsatisfied[?] or interested]  but there is the dirt bike parade  provides it. 


40.     How it is for the author too.  gbecause I think the lake / is better than meh & this is another instance.


41.     The California Poem is too interesting to be an epic.  For this work, the authorial ego is too absurd, the form [that is an epic] too restrictive. In general - An authorfs ambition to write an epic automatically damns it.   Look,


42.     A thought wavy and loose / showed me / the endings of matter, things / beyond / hope  The California Poem is an exciting, restless read because the investigating that goes on [anthropology, archaeology, sociology, identity, mechanics, astrology, puberty, poetry, gender, etc.] is done by an amateur who doesnft know exactly where she is being pulled but who looks at everything with the same capacity for ecstasy & boredom that I bring to the book & the world.  What will happen next?  The author allows you to not know.  & thatfs unusual for any kind of reading [particularly poetry] experience.  Ie. The rejection of closure through content as well as form.


43.     ________________________________________________________________________________________________


44.     & so this poem is?


45.     Autobiographical, imaginary, quasi-learned, quasi-teenage-bullshitterfs companion, beatnik biologistfs bedroom field guide, trailer park trailer trash exorcism, epiphany, & extension, Baudelairian cowboy catalogue, poetical Grayfs Anatomy, tiger tail Tristram Candy, inflated egotistical balloon popping, stakes-raising, quasi-everything, blah blah doctorial glam-thesis, American appendix, Jungian journal, roman candle & endnote, exegesis resisting, anti-pantheon pantheon-joining, 190-page holiday companion, entrance, warning, welcome, exit plan, hipster litany & travel guide.


46.     And what this book makes you want to do [and Bernadette Mayer says as much] besides being excited about reading and writing - is to be in your poems or for you to be here in this one go and write your own.


47.     Go and write your own.


48.     Hand me    the black / prison phone  Tell them / all chola girls to be set free 




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