reading thru diane di prima’s “dinners and nightmares”, part 5 (the last part): more or less love poems

In Part 5, Di Prima gets basic and writes minimal, lineated love poems. Of course, many of the love poems are actually ironic hate poems and feel very similar to today’s talking-about-the-dramas-of-my-sex-life writing because they indulge in the ever-popular poetry of address. They are tonally overwhelmed with the kind of dejected humor that reflecting on your petty dramas and/or the feeling of ripping open your chest and laying your heart on the bare sidewalk to be knowingly trampled on by hoards of uncaring strangers and ex-lovers begets.

Here are some of those poems:


you bet your life
next bedtime
I’ll get even

I’ll call your name wrong
and you’ll think
it happened



I hope
you go thru hell
I hope
you choke to death
on lumps of stars
and by your bed a window
with frost
and moon on frost and
you want to scream
and can’t
your woman is (I hope)
right there



they all say
you’re lovely
but everytime I look
the sun
(or something else)
gets in my eyes



you are not quite
the air I breathe
thank god.

I have been wanting to write a piece about the poetry of address. I have also been attempting to try and step back from the idea of the ‘finished’ piece of writing and begin to break down written objects into something less ideal. I want to work within these drafty spaces and try and reemerge with critical writing that is tonally concerned with the idea of the draft, i.e. sketchy, unedited, and spontaneous rather than perfected, polished, smooth, cohesive, intelligent, and meaningful. When we write anything, we are basically attempting to arrange scattered thoughts and images to serve a certain meaning, because this is what we have been taught makes good writing. Cohesion is intelligence. Cohesion is craft. Cohesion is command and power. This makes it exclusive. Those who can’t clearly communicate their ideas, by extension, are not warranted to be critical. I want ugliness to factor in, procrastination and fragmented thought, and all the other actual textures that make up a piece of writing, not some illusion, not some veneer.

Writing by hand in a notebook versus writing on a computer versus writing on a typewriter changes how and what we write because of editing. When we fuck up on the computer, it is instantly brushed over like it didn’t happen. The distinction among editing and formatting in these three modes is even more drastic. Word processors are a glorious and addictive way of denying our own humanity as writers and the ugliness of our thoughts and concepts. If you present drafts as writing, what you have is going to be called bad writing. But obviously this binary has been obliterated everywhere and especially in poetry and especially especially in much of the poetry of address. I have been wanting to write a piece on the poetry of address but I already have. “Notes Towards X” is already “X.”


1. you’re not supposed to know they’re there

2. you are the most beautiful
person who has ever
confessed allegiance

3. Your face is
a face of three

4. you’re making your house wait oh buddy
a gobble male truant officer heavy
symptoms, we’ve got a Ramones phase over here!

5. What’s wrong with your nipples?
He meant how they’re inverted,
but I said they’re not in your mouth

6. they’ll hold your head under water and they’ll call you a horse
if you can’t hold your breath it’s you’re fault you’re a horse
if you don’t succumb to the cold waters and drown
they’ll smear your horse all over this town

7. We’d prefer to lie on our side by the lake letting the tips of our fingers rest on its top

8. We warned you
About April: first taxes
Then everything else.

9. I’ll wander around with you for a while

10. Your body does not
want to hold in waste—
it is just that,
waste—and your body
cannot wait to get
rid of it

11. Chris, thank you for lending me books I have not read them
as I assume, you have not read the books I gave you

12. oh
burn up my notebooks
and you watch me
watch my words
get all gobbled up
in front of us

  1. when the animal is close you don’t say anything you just sit there

14. O if Man
were a toe
you would be a falling object

15. I’ll still be your brother
but you’re social

16. there is no should other than where you are and what you are feeling
it is, despite the difficulty, a beautiful gift and part of your growth process

17. I’m laying
on the solar panels playing
with your curls
I don’t care about your dad

18. in front of us
she chose me


In 2014, I was asked to submit a piece to a poetry collection called All Stars. The pronouns we, you, and us overrun the publication. Four out of twenty-two poets in the book did not use them. The eighteen that did are listed above. This is not a coincidence. It is a microcosm of the dominant mode of poetry being written today and has been written for decades. The All Stars are all under twenty-five and college educated. This mode extends deep in and far outside of this subset. Can I substantiate this? Let me try.


February 9, 2015.

From Stephen Dunn’s “Whereas the Animal I Cannot Help But Be”

The possum knows how to play himself,
is one of us.

From Robert Pinksy’s “Chorus”

My real name is Israel Beilin. My father
Was a Roman slave who gained his freedom.
I was first named Ralph Waldo Ellison
but I changed it to the name of one of your cities.

December 15, 2014

Terese Svoboda’s “Contrail”

Whereof fluff rushes, muscles through,
pre-pendulous, a skat-enough-in-the-blue
about to come apart or together like
stitching you soak in the rain—
that fluff could fall, you decide.
When you stop, corner-struck—O.K.,
there’s a light—you’re shocked
at the other clouds because they don’t.
It’s pouring forth a Bible would note.
You’re so under it.

From Robert Pinsky’s “Genesis According to George Segal”

The Spirit brooded on the water and made
The earth, and molded us out of earth. And then
The Spirit breathed Itself into our nostrils—

November 3, 2014

From Michael Homolka’s “Riposte to Ode”

It isn’t like that Horace Life stresses us out
However many hundreds of decades later we’re told
to welcome anxiety is beneficial
and to quote honor our imperfections

From Suzanne Lummis’s “How I Didn’t Get Myself to a Nunnery”

That girl they found ensconced in mud and loam,
she wasn’t me. Small wonder, though, they jumped.
To a conclusion. Water puffs you up,
and we pale Slavic girls looked much alike—
back then. Deprivation smooths you out.


You have to trust me that only one poet in the February 2015 edition did not use the poetry of address.



There are a lot of yous in this poem and none of them are you”

And basically everything here. 


This poetry is comfortable, chatty, honest, intimate. It is based on speech and talking. These poets are not writing, they are talking. Transcribing. Diarying. Language is a conduit to talk and not material for writing.

This mode seems to emerge from one tonal voice. Most of the fragments from All Stars could be collaged together into one poem and this poem would read fluidly. Try it, it’s easy.

There is delivery and reception. 

Some permutation of the love poem.

It is interesting to write poems of address, or poems that speak TO something. This might be an angle you wish to try with a topic. Instead of writing ABOUT something, speak to it, as if it were right there with you. What would you say? And if you wish for it to answer, simply begin a new stanza and write a conversation poem.

These poems address a particular or vague you. You makes a we or us. To make sure the speaker is there they have to be there they have to hold on they have to exist. Because without you what am I. This poetry is not only relatable, it is relative. This poetry reads as a communal voice saying I love you I love you do you hear me I hear you I love you I need you I need you what am I who are you what are we I am you!

This is the common satisfactory standard.

Like in a pop song, where the drop comes exactly when you know it will. 

Cyclical, endless feedback.

It all makes sense. You makes us what we are. Something for you, about you, to be consumed by you. Consumption is easy. Like pasta with butter and cheese. Like bread. Comfort food. Mac and cheese. I know you. Rice.

This poetry is based on the history and tradition of emotion. And so, don’t fix what isn’t broken. Ancient colossal structures of meaning guide this poetry and we ask how did u know, how did u know how I felt? How did you say what I have been wanting to say?

And within the tomb a mummy opens its eyes and sees this situation and closes them again. 

And if this mode was taken away from you? What else would you do? And could and should you do?


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