Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
In the juvenescence of the year came Christ the tiger.
— T.S. Eliot
There is a modesty and reticence in these poems, so tender or rare for his gender. It is levity once called light. It is joy in minor splendor. Forest to fortress, intelligence is its ruler.
Deathwish by Ben Fama opens with 14 pages of null-set, niche-cult zeroes. Dim-bulb quasi-queasy plastic trash and tinsel.
HANNAH BRONFMAN AND BRENDAN FALLIS
Conceptualism? Formalist? My pet name is Epic Lyric. Could be Guest List poetry if they weren’t all loser-friendly. Insolent flatliner provocation. I first noticed Kanye when he chummed up with @realDonaldTrump. Tweens twerk to Drake.
In ’68, students burned cars in the street. Now their greatest fear is dropping their “Smart” phones. In 1978, Brian Eno launched his startling, ambient Music for Airports. Next, meta-post-millennials brought us poetry for the phone.
let’s all Uber to the beach
for sunset then
stay up drinking
unregarding the nation
Poetry as gated community. Ethos without ethics. Pop a bull rhino tranquilizer, unfriend capital and war.
Personne in French means no one. Frank O’Hara’s offhand manifesto Personism upgrades here to Personne-ism. Lights out. Nobody home. When Fama stood before The Polish Rider, he refreshed his phone. Which is a kind of truth. O’Hara marked a 1%. Rembrandt van Rijn did, too. Ankle biters. Copy cats. 99% view them on YouTube.
Our new Narcissus “I”s (eyes) himself, reflected in a Selfie.
Sigmar Polke called his friend Joseph Beuys “dangerous.” You never knew what he was going to do. I’m a white sex-positive (criminalized) cisgender hetero male. An endangered species. Ben, you make balls out statements! Politically insurrect. Wotta shockaroo! Paint a target on my back, why dontcha? Must I don Kevlar just to walk around with you?
Critics say you’re Patrick Bateman. Whiners. We love American Psycho! We HEART the idea of a Dark Net, though it’s all kiddie porn. One such piddy-pot petty moralist finds your oeuvre superficial. “I like superficial!” You bit back with an adroit riposte that championed unseen umpteenth depths of surface, over, under, around and through:
I think there’s a Samhain roaring inside you, the dark mirror
of the Beltane we’d celebrated watching
television eating biscuits in the bath, hitting
the bowl as I brought you things
(From “Easy Peasant Dick”)
Embroider then enlace. Samhain (Sahween), or Halloween, night of the living dead, and Beltane, May Day, Wicca’s fete for fertility’s goddess, wed Fama’s sex and drugs chant, My Chemical Romance to The Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosenkreutz, their occult 17th-century Rosicrucian manifesto.
I’m reminded, too, of Chic Death, by Gerard Malanga, and God with Revolver, by Rene Ricard; both Andy Warhol Factory stars.
she texts me
she texts me not
Emotion pictures. The illusion of continuity, better than actual fracture. Put water through a pipe, tension builds. It could do work and will move faster. BDSM. The restraint Fama puts on feeling heats it to a glow. Though we are called upon to inject surplus spiritual value into some of Fama’s poems, when he hits the Richter scale, he pays us back in solid gold.
Power of example. Since composing most of Deathwish, Fama became clean and sober. This opens a new era. Liquor and drugs stunt emotional growth. 40-year-old boys. Fama has the spine to get clean in his Addie-addled milieu. That go power shines like lightning in these poems.
fuck you’re on molly again
grace to live, to see
“Gymnopédie 4” on a grave
that aching deal we’d made
Ben Fama dedicates his Deathwish: “for those who kept mine from coming true.”
Deathwish (2019) by Ben Fama is published by Newest York.