Where 23 Poets Float the Amazon

In spite of globalization, there are still places around the globe that hold backpedal Relentlessmystery: kelp forests and cold seeps; K2 and Dante’s View; shopping malls and Amazon. Often, poetry provides a key to these mysteries. We might not visit these places were it not for the pull of poetry. To relent is to unfold, to let the sheep go. A river dissolves stone with patience. Like the rest of nature, poetry must swim upstream against that relentlessness.

“Relentless by Jeff Bezos” is a 29 page, electronic chapbook of 22 poems written by an assortment of poets[1]. Its primary trope is the meme of the startup, a trickle of an idea that with flash flood funding grows to a river that overflows its banks. The ideal business venture is one that makes only money, as the raw material of a river is only snow. But a poem needs more than words if it’s going to rub rocks smooth.

The poems in “Relentless by Jeff Bezos” are satirical, some with a flair for flarf, but some following traditional and referential forms. An example of a lyrical poem that alludes to a different kind of river, and a different kind of poetry, is “Jeff Bezos names Amazon,” by Leontia Flynn. Here, Langston Hughes’s lyrically serious “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” provides a bed for the new, virtual river that will subsume all industrious souls.

An example of flarf technique is illustrated by the poem “My Peculiar Geography,” by Daniel Bosch, in which selected words from a Bezos bio via Wiki are juxtaposed with excerpts from Wiki’s entry for the Amazon River. But Bosch’s poem may not be a perfect example of flarf, because it contains too much meaning.

We find varying kinds and degrees of irony: the speaker is not the author; the reader hears something the speaker does not; a poem takes an unexpected course; the speaker takes the reader by surprise. The river is at flood stage. The language is colloquial, procedural, the poems witty, the forms eclectic, open or shaped with alternative design. The poems seem primarily playful, but purposeful, but if to the proposal the solution is poetry – well, the river is awfully wide.

Both the connotative and denotative meanings of Amazon have changed course: the river as depository; Poem on layaway; “Order by…”

Some flarf may seem gratuitous in a cynical attempt to avoid what Zizek calls “the temptation of meaning.”[2] Flarf is like a heckler at a poetry reading that begins with the warning no laughter aloud allowed. It gets harder and harder to shock anyone in a river full of piranhas. In any case, what effect, for example, from an f word following Lenny Bruce or the Nixon tapes? Water over the damned.

But maybe we don’t know what flarf means. Does flarf turn poetry into theory? Theory is where we learn there is no Santa Sentence Clause. In “There Is Authority In My Frozen Frosty by Jeff Bezos,” Sharon Mesmer repurposes Christopher Smart, avoiding any appearance of conservatism. The river becomes conceptual, flowing toward some future convention.

Tom Daley, in “Advice for My Critics,” rhymes red with bed but agenda with sender in three quatrains wrapping around the theme of business as usual. But the speaker does indeed respond to his critics, and Daley’s poem seems to speak to the other poems’ speakers. It’s a satirical rebuttal. Of course the opposition would use rhyme.

What is convention in a world with one river? Globalization. It’s a perfect day for flarf fish. Where are those flarf bags? But the river is both relentless and patient, and for every stream that flows into it, another branches off, as this June 21st, 2014 Economist article titled “Relentless.com” suggests.

Everybody’s stuff flows into one river. Eiríkur Örn Nordahl in “After Vito Acconi” uses the persuasive means of all caps where click here is the content: Click here to jump in the river and get some stuff.

Track your poem. Out for delivery. These are not the poems your parents purchased.

“Relentless by Jeff Bezos” is a kind of conceptual project around a protest poem idea prompt. Is Amazon a catastrophe, like the asteroid that turned the dinos to oil, or a miracle, where water is delivered by drones to thirsty cities? If poetry is to thrive, it might want to avoid, continuing Zizek’s logic, ideology. Ideology is a river with a monstrous rip that lulls and pulls listeners under.

In Andrea Cohen’s “No End,”

Peddlers are selling
silence in an empty

Come out of the river and read relentlessly for free and the freedom of poetry.

[1] “Relentless by Jeff Bezos.” Version 1.0 published December 2014 by Pendant Publishing, London, UK. Ebook, 29 pages. ISBN: 978-0-9928034-4-5. FREE. Download PDF. Poems by Russell Bennetts, Daniel Bosch, Andrea Cohen, Tom Daley, Katie Degentesh, Leontia Flynn, Benjamin Friedlander, Drew Gardner, Nada Gordon, Kirsten Kaschock, Rauan Klassnik, Daisy Lafarge, DW Lichtenberg, Sharon Mesmer, Teresa K. Miller, K. Silem Mohammad, Jess Mynes, Lance Newman, R.M. O’Brien, Eirikur Örn Norŏdahl, Joseph Spece, Ken Taylor and Laura A. Warman. Multiple choice cover design: Evan Johnston.

[2] Zizek explains how ideology mystifies causality in the “Ecology” segment of Astra Taylor’s “Examined Life.”

Frames and Paints

Apropos pickle
Butte barely there in tumbleweed distance
Colloquial circus on edge of town
Drab hard rust
Emergent sea
Fish scale sliver
Glass stippled bass dress
Hercules sleeping like a cat
I don’t know slick
Just relax
Let there be dark
Maroon full of water
Noun ironing board
Oh peel up
Preen winged words
Quick thick sailboats pass across a canvas
Red banal rose
Startled pimientos brush along a landscape
Thesis slope mint
U-pick raspberry squeeze
Very faraway pink
White lime yellow summer clouds
X marks tableau vivant spot
Yield sudden silk
Zeus striped sock lint

At the Beach with Peepa and Moopa

At the Beach with Peepa and Moopa

Meet Peepa ‘ and Moopa ‘`

They like to play on the beach

The waves are pipes made from sea foam ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

The lifeguard looks like

?{   Alfred Hitchcock with a pipe   ~{

Peepa jumps off the end of El Porto pipe pier ‘~~~

—|—|—|—|—‘`~~~ Moopa jumps kilter and akimbo

|’——–~~~ Peepa runs and dives |——–‘~~~

\~~~~~~’~~~’`~~~ They swim back to shore

In the evening when the sun goes down ~~~,~~~

they sleep on the beach and dream of waves

‘` ‘    \~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~’~ sleepy wave eyes ~’`~

Peepa walks alone down to the water  ‘ \ ~~~

Moopa awakes and cries ‘` Peepa, where are you?

Peepa comes running back to Moopa  ‘`   ‘    \~~~

A Cat’s Argument

A Cat's Argument

“Aren’t you hot sitting on that heater vent?”

“Alas, summer so fast has passed.”

“Yawn. Fall curls my tail and bristles my fur. Just yesterday you were complaining of the heat and wondering if summer would never end.”

“Shelley was right: ‘We look before and after and pine for what is not.’”

“I once lived in a basement room paneled in knotty pine.”

“I’ll bet it was not when you finished with it.”

“I rebut that. The finish was sprayed shellac. I used to rub against it a good polish.”

“Why can’t cats live without argument?”

“Who says they can’t? Cite your sources if you’re going to talk to me like that.”

“An old cat’s empirical knowledge.”

“Remember that imperialist cat came into our yard?”

“Can facts suffice? Or must cats argue?”

“Argument is a fact of life, a must.”

“How does meaning behave in an argument?”

“Meaning is an alley cat on the prowl and up to no good.”

“Is every text an argument, every argument a trick, every text a test?”

“You ask a lot of hollow questions.”

“I once lived in a hollow.”

“Have you ever been back?”

“Does Theory eschew the behavior of meaning?”

“Go ask a theorist.”

“Do theorists like cats?”

“I suppose some might, but they all want to know how and why we purr.”

“Where do assumptions come from?”

“Assume I don’t know, and wake me up when winter has passed.”

“What a flock of lucky theorists who can fly south for the winter.”

“Have they anything to say to us?”

“I don’t know. Anyway, it’s too hot in the south.”

“It’s going to be too hot in here, too, if you don’t move off that heater vent.”

The Assumption: A Graphic Post

We’re in primary school art class, where the students have been told to draw a picture of a house.

Francine draws this:

Sun Over House by Francine

“What’s this?” Missus Portmanteau, Francine’s art teacher, asks, pointing to the big red circle in the sky. “It looks like a big rock is about to fall on your house.”

Francine is nonplussed in the face of a teacher who doesn’t recognize the sun.

“The sun,” Francine explains.

“The sun isn’t that big,” Missus Portmanteau says, and enters a note in her red book.

The following week in art class, Francine draws this:

110820141928“What’s that?” Missus Portmanteau asks Francine, pointing at the orange and red circles over Francine’s house.

“Mister Sapidot [science teacher] said the sun spins,” Francine answers.

“Your sun is too big, your house too small.”

Francine feels like the rock has fallen on her house.


“Now what?” Missus Portmanteau asks.

“Someone is taking a nap,” Francine says.

Missus Portmanteau doesn’t say anything, but she makes a firm mark in her red book with a red pen.

It’s the final art class before summer vacation. Francine’s father has promised a special surprise if her report card looks good. This week, she nails the art project.


Francine has learned that to do good in school and please her father she must conform to her teacher’s view of reality.