The Operating System

5th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: Day 13 :: Laura Carter in Praise of Anne Boyer

[box]It’s hard to believe that this is our FIFTH annual 30/30/30 series, and that when this month is over we will have seeded and scattered ONE HUNDRED and FIFTY of these love-letters, these stories of gratitude and memory, into the world. Nearly 30 books, 3 magazines, countless events and online entries later, and this annual celebration shines like a beacon at the top of the heap of my very favorite things to have brought into being. [If you’re interested in going back through the earlier 120 entries, you can find them (in reverse chronological order) here.]
When I began this exercise on my own blog, in 2011, I began by speaking to National Poetry Month’s beginnings, in 1966, and wrote that my intentions “for my part, as a humble servant and practitioner of this lovely, loving art,” were to post a poem and/or brief history of a different poet…. as well as write and post a new poem a day. I do function well under stricture, but I soon realized this was an overwhelming errand.
Nonetheless the idea stuck — to have this month serve not only as one in which we flex our practical muscles but also one in which we reflect on inspiration, community, and tradition — and with The Operating System (then Exit Strata) available as a public platform to me, I invited others (and invited others to invite others) to join in the exercise. It is a series which perfectly models my intention to have the OS serve as an engine of open source education, of peer to peer value and knowledge circulation.
Sitting down at my computer so many years ago I would have never imagined that in the following five years I would be able to curate and gather 150 essays from so many gifted poets — ranging from students to award winning stars of the craft, from the US and abroad — to join in this effort. But I’m so so glad that this has come to be.
Enjoy! And share widely.
– Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Managing Editor/Series Curator [/box]


[line][script_teaser]”CREATIVE POWER IS THE CREATIVE ASPECT OF POWER REFLECTING OUR ABILITY TO CREATE PSYCHOLOGICAL RESOURCES IN SPACE”. Whenever I want to know more about how to do that, I read Anne Boyer. And I think you should read her, too, and I hope you’ll have the same reading experience. [/script_teaser]
I first encountered Anne Boyer’s work back in 2004 or so, when we were both bloggers in the quickly burgeoning poetry blogosphere, now defunct. But her blogs were so, well, beautiful—with original paintings, quotes from books, poems, and overall just a lot of verve that made me want to seek out her poems. I had read a few—No Tell Motel, Fascicle, other journals that one might have found then. I got Anne Boyer’s Good Apocalypse from Effing Press (remember them?) for $7 and was greeted with a pale pink and black image of Anne herself, maybe age 7 or so, on the cover. The poems were, as they always are with her, consistently great.
I was drawn to poems like “I Love Literature,” where Anne writes that


I love Literature
but what I love about is
the reproductive organs of Capital”

and “Travail Mechanique,” where she writes that [line]


[b]unnies occupy the same
semantic field as question-begging.


I know that Anne played with Flarf in some her work, and I was really struck by the poems that she made seem so seamless and yet that contain clipped lyricisms befitting what might not be a cut-up technique after all. Anne Boyer’s Good Apocalypse also has quotes from Guy Debord and images that I’m guessing Anne made herself inside.
I also bought Selected Dreams with a Note on Phrenology in 2007. Here, I’m guessing Anne really relays her dreams—it’s a lovely chapbook with an image of a toy horse on the cover, in black-and-white. These are paragraphs, and they’re about people, and they’re Anne at her best prose, really writing about things that she may have experienced in sleep. They read like a story, possibly a foray into future prose, a glimpse. She has a gift for description here: [line]
[articlequote]Outside THE SPRING SOUL FOOD KITCHEN DELUXE pretty women in spaghetti strips sipped water from stemware and the windows of the restaurant were painted gaily with tempura.”[/articlequote][line]
Her first full-length collection is The Romance of Happy Workers, from Coffee House. I ordered it, of course. I love these poems, and you can probably read more thorough reviews of this book on the web somewhere, if you’re looking around. The book begins,
[line][articlequote]In the beginning we will begin / with Woody and his ideological kiss.” [/articlequote][line]
I love this language for using theoretical terms (something Anne does a lot in relation to capitalism/Marxism/ideology) but also for its lyricism. The poem “Larks” in this book is one I remember from TYPO for its ending:
[line][articlequote]My people / (larks) I would catfish. I would bass boat. I would cast a fly.” [/articlequote][line]
Somewhere during this time I met Anne in Atlanta, and we hung out at a pizza place and ate dinner and then went to East Atlanta and had drinks and talked about literature and poetry. After this, she sent me her chap Art Is War (Mitzvah) in the mail, with a note: “I hope it’s still fresh.” I love this chapbook the most because I agree with the title! Anne’s prose here is theoretical, philosophical even, and beautiful:
[box]“An Artistic Thought differs from an Idea in that an Artistic Thought, while informed by one or more ideas, is evidentiary, and an Idea is not itself evidence but that which evidence must attempt to prove.” [/box]
I love this book.
Then there was My Common Heart (Spooky Girlfriend). After this chapbook came out, I hung out with Anne again, in Atlanta, in a hotel bar with a ton of poets. I remember we were talking about the Occupy Movement. She has great poems in here, like “All of a Sudden the City on Fire” and “The Crowd”:
[line][articlequote]“I prefer the teeming crowd of souls to the teeming soul itself. This has nothing to do with my material condition. Every kind of virtue is found in a crowd….” [/articlequote][line]
I remember hearing Anne read “Questions for Poets” at the reading and thinking that she had such a powerful voice in poetry. And she does!
The last book of Anne’s I really love is Garments for Women, which was published by Ahsahta last year. I reviewed it at Jacket2, and this book is mostly prose and is remarkably mature and lovely. My copy is all marked up, with sections underlined from poems/sections like “The Animal Model of Inescapable Shock”:

[box] If an animal has previously suffered escapable shock, and then she suffers inescapable shock, she will be happier than if she has previously not suffered escapable shock—for if she hasn’t, she will only know about being shocked inescapably.” [/box]

Perfect logic! Anne goes on to write about writing, something I was all too pleased to read about. [line]
I love this, from the aforementioned book:
[articlequote]I live in the innocent question. Subjectivity will be convulsive. I read on the Internet these words about art, philosophy, politics, and poetry, also this information about the lives of my friends.”[/articlequote]
I’ll leave you with just a few words from this amazing volume:
Whenever I want to know more about how to do that, I read Anne Boyer. And I think you should read her, too, and I hope you’ll have the same reading experience.
[textwrap_image align=”left”][/textwrap_image]Laura Carter lives in Atlanta, where she also works and teaches. She is a freelance copy writer and online humanities instructor. Her chapbooks have been published in recent years by Dancing Girl, and with WonderRoot/Loose Change. She has also published numerous book reviews and poems in print and online. Find her author page here, or follow her on Twitter.
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