Believe the Hype: Gordon Massman's The Essential Number (1991-2008)

by on Mar.01, 2013

I have been thinking a lot about love and hate. I love love poetry, but I also love hate poetry. I suppose it has to do with the intensity of these feelings, the way the self is ruined by them, how they seem to generate proliferations, versions, repetitions.
A while back James wrote a post praising hate:

So much American poetry post-1950s has virtually outlawed hate. Or rather, anger and hate is allowed in slam poetry, but not in “literary” poetry, where such forces are often considered bad form. Tragedy is good. So is melancholy. So is a Marxist-Hegelian analysis of X and Y and Z, if you happen to be an experimental poet. But hate?

If I remember correctly, Lucas wrote a comment to that post suggesting how close love and hate are in Genet’s work, a correct observation for sure.

One of the great poets of hate, for whom hate might also be love is Gordon Massman, whose hatred seems to burn with a gem-like flame mostly reserved for love.

Here’s 1699 (and I feel like me even typing this is out is a piece of performance art in the emotional extremity of love and hatred):

“I have never loved anyone, not you Elizabeth, nor you Cynthia, nor you Betty Sue, I fucked you all but never loved you, I bought property with you but never loved, I fathered children with you but never loved, not you, not the babies, not the babies as teenagers or adults, I did not love Scottie that regal Afghan, Kimberly, I never loved you in your devotion, I invaded your body hundreds of times, ate you, watched you suck me, we came steady as pulses, but I did not love you, I usually stared abstractedly over your shoulder or relived some parental indiscretion or felt nothing but mechanical pleasure, friction, buildup, climax, to the dozens of women I sampled but rejected, hope was never yours, I presented you the illusion of loving you but I did not, I wanted to but did not, aware of others awaiting my seduction I dumped you with small remorse, like a fly bite it hurt, I recorded in poems like this indictment, it should not have surprised when the guillotine dropped, I am fifty-seven, bald, gray, appreciably fit, gelled, and suspect I shall die without bestowing love, women I am incapable of loving, men I despise, a concentrated emotion: I hate men, I hated their shoes, I hate their cellphones, I hate their slacks, I hate their cars, I hate their stupefying vapid tongue, I fantasize clocking men, opening fire on omen, I refuse acknowledging the presence of men, rather I stare through them or ignore their existence, if I say hello I am thinking screw you, to me men fail, scooting butts foward against commercialism’s kick, scheming and negotiating, absorbing into vampiric corporate labyrinths squandering the exquisite human potential on marketing techniques and implementation, sold down the river, defenseless and propagandized, the contemptible gender ground into fodder, troweled into graves by invisible hands, big shots, movers and shakers, unknowingly licked to the paper stick like dimestore suckers by diabolical tongues, tragic creatures lanced through heart and believing it fine, I never loved you Jean though we coupled on beaches, in hot tubs, and inside some Hawaiian cottage quieted by drizzle, hazel steel unblinking eyes gaped over your shoulder like a porcelain doll, I never groaned nor abandoned control, a textbook technician, man floating in jar of liquid, handsome, naked, smoothly muscled, formeldahyde riven ready for the scalpel-clutching, squeamish high school biology class dissection.”

The aesthetics reminds me of a definition of “drive”: a demand that keeps going, cannot be answered. And it’s also strange to me how it feels like a kind of love, this love of not bestowing love, this love of hate. Gorgeous poem. Believe the hype.

1 comment for this entry:
  1. gordon massman

    Jesus, did I write this? Painful to read. Ironic that my next book (NYQ Press) is a book of love poems. Anyway, thanks for your review and kind words.