Friday, July 24, 2009

"When I say 'post-/Apocalyptic,' I mean "contemporary"/Nick Demske's provocations in Half Glass


Nick Demske is a dangerous man. His principal offense is poetic, mostly in the form of blasts of sonnets with shrapneled linebreaks and toxic content. The work plugs into the formal obsessiveness of John Berryman, the outrageousness of Frederick Seidel, and the clownish political prophecy of Allen Ginsberg, as he challenges our (bourgeois) taste and what it hides.

Here are a few sonnets from Half Glass (2009), a chapbook of "self-portraits" which are evidently exploded subjects themselves.

In "Hot Dog," he skewers our Dorian Gray-like obsessive concern with our appearance (and the global inequities and devastation we ignore, and how it comes back to us as violence).

HOTDOG

Does this fanny pack make me look fat?
No, but it makes you look like a big fucking idiot.
And, also, slightly fat, yes. I have no idea what a hot
Dog is made of. If you're going to act like a brat,

I'm going to eat you like one. Why feign this as coincidence? Why don
Ate your body to science when it could feed
An entire village? I want to lick you in places that would leave
My tongue bacterial. Does this hard won

Prosperity make me look fat? This humor so dark you mistake
It for chocolate.
Nick Demske, you are everything wrong with the world. Which is to say: the wor
Ld. Share with me your most secret ingredients. This megamart once was a for

Est. These teeth marks, once a kiss. Does these priorit
Ies make me look fat, these scars, these explosives beneath my sweatshirt?

***

In the hard-minded, "As Far Away," (published in Moria), Demske challenges our beliefs--for example, on the necessity to fight every denial of the Holocaust. Demske's poem is not a "holocaust denial," but rather a reflection of the odd power of denial itself (which is to say, that the more one attempts to suppress certain ideas, however insane, the more those ideas accrue a perverse power). Further, the poem pushes our thinking about what it means to know the Holocaust at all, or what it might mean to "believe in" the Holocaust. There is no argument here, but the staging of a kind of comic nihilism against the backdrop of historical trauma. What, indeed, can we ever know events distant geographically, temporally, psychically?

AS FAR AWAY
“mortals were careful [then] and never forsook the shores of their homelands.”
--Ovid

The Holocaust never existed. What are you going to do
About it? The Holocaust never happened, but your mother’s autopsy reveals
It can if you just believe. To
Page this person, press five now. All sales fatal. All sales

Symbolically representative of mortality. I know a woman so redolent
Of pulchritude you’d contract second
Hand erectile dysfunction from the mere hint of her figment.
The Holocaust never happened. Better luck next time. A woman

So pulchritudinous you want to turn away, as far away
As humanly possible. I meant to do that. For old time’s sake. When
You’re finished recording, please hang up and try
Again. God is of not much use here, like a lesbian

So beautiful she turns gay men
Straight. I don’t believe in the Holocaust. Amen.

6 comments:

tyrone said...

Nick is amazing...

Ann said...

I want to wear a fanny pack to 501 this fall just to ask if it makes me look fat . . . and then to hear the rest of the line . . . Good work, Nick!

psychomonkey said...

Nick Demske is the canary in the coal mine of human carbon. Just because a warning siren is hard on the ears doesn't mean we shouldn't listen and heed the alarm. It is only when you get to know the love and beauty in Nick's heart that his apocalyptic messages become love sonnets as stunningly wonderful as Walt Whitman reading poetry accompanied by Hendrix's guitar feedback.
You go, boy. Kill Daddy.

psychomonkey said...

Nick Demske is the canary in the coal mine of human carbon. Just because a warning siren is hard on the ears doesn't mean we shouldn't listen and heed the alarm. It is only when you get to know the love and beauty in Nick's heart that his apocalyptic messages become love sonnets as stunningly wonderful as Walt Whitman reading poetry accompanied by Hendrix's guitar feedback.
You go, boy. Kill Daddy.

Anonymous said...

"Fence Books is delighted to announce the winner of the 2010 Fence Modern Poets Series, selected by Joyelle McSweeney from an excellent bunch of finalists: a self-titled manuscript by Nick Demske, to be published in the fall of 2010."
Now go buy his book.

Philip Metres said...

Yay for Nick Demske!