What happens to a genuine artist forced to survive in academia? I entered Temple University with the University Fellowship in 2006. I already had a Penn degree and an MFA. What I noticed instantly about hardcore academia is that everyone had a way or manner of fronting heavily involved with jargon and “jargonese.” To keep up, in academic discourses, I had to learn all sorts of idiolects and dialect tricks. If you know the right jargon, in these situations (which ran the gamut, from seminars to Temple-sponsored poetry readings to everyday, office-bound interactions with peers), you can appear to be “in” the right way. By the time I wrote Apparition Poems in ‘09/’10, I was pissed off with the rigors of academia and academic fronts, and was, in fact, more than ready to take the piss, in App 1607:
Every live body has a dialect:
to the extent that bodies are
in the process of effacing both
themselves, what they efface, I
move past dialect to the extent
that there are no no-brainers
here, what’s moral in this is the
belief that properly used dialects
emanate waves to hold bodies
in place. As to who’s saying this,
I heard this on the street last
night after a few drinks with
an ex at Dirty Frank’s. It was
a bum who meant it, it worked.
Temple English specialized in a certain form of academic feminism, where gauntlets were perpetually being laid down by ersatz powerhouses out to dazzle us with their gravitas. What I found charming about their rhetoric is the sense that they always demonstrate a moment of “getting real” or “being real” with the audiences for their presentations, articles, and books; thus, throwing in “there are no no-brainers/ here” has to do with the attempt to be imperiously earthy amongst all the verbiage, “in” references, other kinds of codes, and general aura of totalized pompous pretentiousness. I had to set the poem at Dirty Frank’s, because to me all the blarney of academic feminism, its pretentiousness and faux-earthiness, belong in the gutter, and Dirty Frank’s is as charming a dive-bar and a trough as any in Center City. In fact, Dirty Frank’s was a major PFS hang-out in the mid-Aughts— located at 13th and Pine, caddy-corner to the Last Drop, and thus as easy access as it could possibly be, and a place where the booze was cheap and the ambience about “ease in sleaze,” down to the “Frank” mural painted around the bar’s outside façade.