There is a right and wrong poetry; but I think that I both kind of loathe this poem and kind of love it. In any case, it’s definitely by Alice Notley, so.
As Good As Anything
I don’t see the point of
remembering you; you’re too boring,
Iowa City, Iowa,
much duller topologically than
Needles, California. I’m here
in the Rebel Motel, with
my grape-colored sweater
and maté tea, whose smoky odor’s
bound up with first rooms and foods here
sex and snow. I
write about Needles
Herman and rocks, the story’s called
As Good as Anything,and in it
daft Herman–true local
Rocks is as good as anything.
I figured that out summer after
first love affair in New York:
hung out, home, at a rock shop
inspecting geodes and thunder eggs
Arsenic samples and petrified
What can I say about Iowa City
everyone’s an academic poetry
groupie, I haven’t yet written a poem,
there’s a bar where for 25 cents a
meal of boiled egg and tiny beer.
Really I don’t know what kind of poetry–
what’s the name of the make they
use here–or what kinds of
poetry live people write in the world.
Is there a right and wrong poetry, one might
still ask as I patronize,
retrospectively, the Iowa style,
characterized, as I remember,
by the assumption of desperation
boredom behind two-story houses
divorce, incomes, fields, pigs,
getting into pants, well not really
in poems, well nowells and all
in the costive mode
of men who–and the suicidal women–
want to be culpable for something,
settle for being mean to their wives
and writing dour stanzas. God this is bitchy
I modeled for art classes
that’s rather interesting
the hypocrisy: nobody needs
to paint nude women
they just like to. So here I am
naked for art, which is a lot of
dumb fucks I already know,
same with poetry.
Written and judged by. Those befoibled guys
who think–you know–
the poetic moment’s a pocket in
pool; where can I publish it; what can
I do to my second or third wife now.
Nothing happens in Iowa, so
can I myself change here? Yes
I can start to become contemptuous
is that good or bad, probably bad.
In New York I’d developed a philosophy
of sympathy and spiritual equality:
out the window, easily, upon
my first meeting real assholes.
A rock’s as good as anything
there are no rocks in Iowa
shit-black soil, a tree or two,
no mountain or tall edifice,
University drabs, peeping Toms, anti-war
riots, visiting poets
treated like royalty, especially if
they fuck the locals or have a record
of fighting colorfully with their wives.
You can go to the movies once a week,
like in Needles. You can fuck
a visiting poet; you can be paraded before
a visiting poet as fuckable but not fuck.
You can write your first poems
thinking you might as well
since the most stupid people in the universe
are writing their five hundredth here.
I’m doing that now. What
difference does it make.
I like my poems. They’re
as good as rocks.