I can’t stop reading Patricia Lockwood’s Rape Joke. Published by the Awl this afternoon, the poem is (in terms of poetry, at least) blowing up. It’s received over 6,000 likes. For some context, the 10 previous entries on the Awl’s “Poetry Section” have a cumulative total of 320. This is the most attention I’ve ever seen a new poem get, and that includes the work of the major forces of alt-lit , most of whom have earned a fiercely loyal, communal, and expansive fanbase. As someone with great personal and financial stake in poetry, I have not yet given in to the troll-baiting, thoughtless journalism which claims that poetry is dead or dying. I have been lucky enough to immerse myself in the genre for the past several years, and am confident that there are more talented poets writing and publishing today than ever before. This is, of course, exclusively because of the internet, which has given a stage to styles of work that were either previously ostracized by larger schools of American poetry over the previous several decades, or just plain not born yet. But what gets me truly excited about Lockwood’s poem is that neither hype, youth, or new architecture is responsible for its virality. Raw, human bravery is. Poetry is freedom. Ever since everyone’s favorite Grandpa Walt declared “fuck it, I’m celebrating” poetry has been more or less enjoying a never-ending teenage rebellion. The poem is a space where a writer/reader can get immediately to the vibrating part of existence that deals with big important selves: sex, death, god, nothing, meaning, meaninglessness; poems don’t need to waste any time. As such, poetry continually offers up these insane little representations of the human experience that are undeniably incredible. Lockwood’s poem is the newest of these. A noun killing reflection of a brutal (is there any other kind?) rape, the piece doesn’t let people that still have the capacity for it get away with feeling anything less than empathy. It’s a here-I-am-wasting-time-on-the-internet-oh-what’s-this-rape-joke-what-a-title-ok-ok-oh-oh-god-jesus-christ-almighty sea change happening (for now, at least) every few seconds to a new person that in a several hundred well chosen words changes them from a person that is in a familiar space to a person that is in a space of uncomfortable and immediate connection. It is amazing, incredible, and a very real even if unintentional “shut up” to anyone who is small minded enough to think that poetry’s health depends on its profitability. I hope you experience it right away, and also hope you put it in front of other people you care about.
MYSPACE is the cruellest network, breeding Tom out of the dead land, mixing Orange and blue, stirring Profiles with autoplaying songs. Xanga kept us warm, covering Posts in customizable HTML, feeding Our little lives with semi-regular narratives. Facebook surprised us, coming over from Cambridge With exclusive access for college students; we stopped to register our .edus, And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, And poked, and tagged stupid pictures drunk CHEZCH DEEZ MUFUKKING TITTAAAYYYSS And when we were graduating, moving to some amorphous city, Portlandish, you tried to explain 4chan And I was frightened. You said, dude, check out this butthole.  It’s goat.se, hold on tight. And down we went. In wikipedia, there you feel free. I read, much of the night, and watch porn in the winter. How many pop-ups clutch, what penis ads grow Out of yr stale hotmail account? Son of man, You cannot say, or guess, for you know only A heap of broken urls, where the sun beats, And the dead link gives no shelter, the spam folder no relief, And that russian .mp3 site he told you about is nowhere to be found. Only Limewire is compatable in this version of IE, (Come in and download Bright Eyes under the shadow of this reliable file), And I will show you something different from either Your unclicked notifications at morning striding behind you Or your newsfeed at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of status updates. What’s with this new homepage? “You showed me AIM first a year ago; They called me the AIM girl.” —Yet when we woke up, late, from chatting till 3am, My inbox full, and my eyes wet, I could not Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither Living nor dead, and I knew nothing IRL, the silence. Öd’ und leer das Meer. AskJeeves, famous clairvoyante, Had a shitty algorithm, nevertheless Is known to be the most sentimental SE With a doable series of results Is a page you’ve been looking for, the cat asking for a cheezeburger, (Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!) Here is a Bjork video where she’s a Japanese robot The lady of situations. Here is the man with a golf club he pretends is a light saber, And here is the 2-girls 1-cup video, and this shit, Which is unclean, is a lemonparty Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find A RickRoll. Fear death by water. I see crowds of people, posting about the 2004 election. Thank you. If you see dear Mr. Kerry Tell him I forwarded his concession speech myself: One must be so careful these days. Unreal City, Under the promise of a better way to communicate A crowd flowed into Twitter, so many, I had not thought Facebook had undone so many. Tweets, short and simple, were exhaled, And each man fixed his eyes before his screen. # up the hill and @Cupertino, To where we kept refreshing With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine. There I saw a new iPhone, and stopped him, crying “Is that the new iPhone? My contract isn’t up for 8 months! That version of OS Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? Or should I wait until they work the bugs out. Oh keep your contacts up to date, that’s friend to men, Or you might have to really talk to them! You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”
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© Raul Rafael Alvarez