All poetry is experimental poetry. All experiments are failed experiments. All poetry is personal. You can argue about it all you like, but usually we go on one assumption, not being too worried if the answer we come up with will matter to anyone but ourselves. We get to make sentences. The missing ingredient in each sentence is time. Time surrounds the sentence. For example, the experiment was a success but the chemist died. The quip depended on who was saying it. All confessional poetry is admissible, the lawyer said. The doctor said she was losing her patience. The defense maintained that it is admissible as evidence but not as sex. The jury debated the meaning of it. Philosophers, both amateur and academic, debated the meaning of “it.” The amateur wondered at the vastness of the three questions: where did we come from, what are we doing here, and where is there left to go? The professional philosopher, a serious and taciturn person with an excellent head for logic, defined the terms and arrived at the humbling knowledge that out of the four words that make up the phrase “the meaning of it,” only two made any real sense, and they are “the” and “of,” the uses of which in language as a system can hardly be overlooked. A last-minute confession broke the deadlock and lessened the convicted man’s sentence. The judge threw out the confession, saying confessions are invariably exaggerated. Yet the jury’s foreman held the attention of all when he smiled in the benevolent, avuncular way promoted by Hollywood producers in the hey-day of the studio system. “All exaggerations are true,” he said in the sensible manner that older people had back then even when they spoke arrant nonsense. “On the other hand, the systems are never the same.” This time the speaker was a woman, as intelligent as she was beautiful, intensely aware of her sexual attractiveness to men, unafraid to exploit it even if it led to bourgeois conventions she suspected she was supposed to shun but also, on the whole, loyal to solid feminist practice. She said one sentence only -- "I don't exist" -- and disappeared from my life. “The systems are never the same,” a second woman echoed, this time a cheerful and adventurous person who ran her share of risks but had a fund of good luck to keep her from getting into trouble. “Language as a system is a closed circle," she said. "The ‘studio system’ is a convenient marker for the period in history when the making of Hollywood movies was dominated by such studios as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, RKO, Columbia, Twentieth-Century Fox, Warner Brothers."
He was sure of one thing. A glass of club soda with a lime wedge or even better a tall glass of homemade lemonade dominated by ice cubes was all that it would take for the experience that would quench his curiosity once and for all. He had a hunch he would recognize it when it came. And as he walked he thought, and as he thought he talked, and the hours went by like miles in an air-conditioned town-car you rented for the black-tie occasion. All exaggerations are true or have their source in truth.The desire to escape this truth cannot be overstated. Poetry is escapism therefore. But poetry is also evidence of sex. Sex is exaggeration. Confession is to sex as belching is to a fine meal in a friendly home when you are two middle-aged couples who have forgotten their lines but had a fine old time with the guys talking about basketball and lfe and the women doing what two women put in that situation invariably do. It doesn't take a genius to figure it out. You just need to listen, to think, and to be quiet once in a while. No evidence is required.The impulse of the moment was proof enough that their love was real. Sex is not evidence. All evidence is personal. All politics is impersonal. There is something to be said in favor of impersonal sex, where it is rendered as a straightforward cash transaction, but we left that stage on another continent. The brush with the unknown changed us in some way not visible to others and not well understood by ourselves. And so I offer you this y-shaped glass chilled to perfection with only the twist of a lemon peel as adornment and the aroma of juniper in the air. These sentences have I written in lieu of the message you expected you would find. I'm confessin' that I love you. Do you [word or words missing here] love me too?
-- David Lehman (rev. 3 / 20/ 14)