Notes: Le Chat Noir from Posit

Anyone in America, especially along the Eastern seaboard, who lives past thirty-five will probably notice that, despite a tremendous press build-up to reinforce the “mega” quality of New York City, New York has no more material power in America than several other commensurate, or more than commensurate, cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, and, of course, Philadelphia. Indeed, the inversion between Philly and New York is almost perfect: i.e., Philly is precisely what New York is supposed to be, and vice versa. Philadelphians over thirty-five will usually have discovered the labyrinthine dimensions and depths of Philly, reaching out in myriad directions (including our sublime architecture here and what it signifies in the world), and touching Philly’s tremendous, forcibly underrated material and spiritual power in the United States. There are few American power-structures without Philly roots somewhere; yet, this structuring is largely “operative,” and not directly verbalized. So, older Philadelphians must live with what we can and cannot express on the surface, the way in which, in Philadelphia and out, we must be criminally misrepresented in the media, and also the false luster of NYC (and LA) lording over us their empty, bloated, comparatively ugly narratives and mythologies.

Dedicated New Yorkers, are, for the most part, a naïve race, a baby race, who understand little of what they see, and make every attempt to stay on the surface and embrace the false idol which is the city where they live. Yet, as they age, there will always be something missing for them, a sense that everything they see is a mirage, and that New York is the kind of city where fools rush in and almost no one else. New York art stinks of this syndrome. And, to the extent that I am winding this around to note something about the poem “Le Chat Noir” from the Posit chapbook (also included in '17's Posit Trilogy), it stands to reason that I should express where I feel New York School poetry needs to go: into the garbage forever, with all the other gamer crap from century XX. What I’ve discovered is that “Le Chat Noir” can be parsed as a heave-ho to the New York School, if we take the protagonist of the poem to be spry, pop-culture consonant, semi-hysterical, never profound Frank O’ Hara:

I pressed a frozen face
forward into an alley off
of Cedar St., herb blowing
bubbles (am I too high?) in

melting head I walked &
it was freezing & I walked
freezing into pitch (where’s
the) blackness around a

cat leapt out & I almost
collapsed a black cat I
was panting & I almost
collapsed I swear from

the cold but look a cat
a black cat le chat noir oh no

The poem is a sonnet, but the form doesn’t seem to be as important here as the thematic gist and the spin I want to put on that particular ball. If this is Frank O’ Hara, stuck in the bowels of North-West Philadelphia (the Eris Temple was located at 52nd and Cedar in the Aughts), and he imitates a Lana Turner-ish (for those who know his poems) collapse, it may be because the real decadent glamour on the East Coast is not where it is supposed to be, according to surface-level narratives, in the West Village or Soho, but in Philadelphia. I would like to argue that the realest glamour has always been in Philadelphia  for the hip and worldly-wise, and O’Hara’s New York is a non-existent joke in comparison. People forget what Le Chat Noir was in Paris in the 1890s— a Bohemian haunt where artists used to hang out, in absinthe-laden, concupiscent decadence. So that, if the real Le Chat Noir vibe on the East Coast is here, in Philadelphia, then all the NYC stooge celebrations in the world cannot redeem O’Hara from knowing that his aesthetic number is up, and we’ve got it.

***this picture of me was taken by Abby Heller-Burnham in 2002***