poetry: Chad Bennet

 

 
 
 
 

Chad Bennett is a poet based out of Austin, Texas. His poems read like fragments of lust and longing, desires that pulse in and out, persistently, sometimes fading but never forgotten. He has shared with us some insight into his process and inspiration, and the way that queer culture plays into  and informs his work.

 
 

CB: These poems share a form—“Ten discrete lines: four repeated”—that I’ve been writing in off and on for the past few years. I think of the poems as sonnets, although the impulse behind them is probably closer to the pleasures, and odd terrors, of the villanelle’s inevitable repetitions. Describing their lines as “discrete” is admittedly redundant, since all lines of poetry are in some sense discrete from each other, but I imagine these lines as further discrete in that, in the first poems I wrote using this form, at least, they were mostly culled from other, abandoned poems. I also think of the lines as discrete bits of the cloud of language that eddies around anyone in public in the 21st century, our visual field clotted with the text of signage and screens and our air thick with information, overheard talk, pop songs in earbuds, the one-sided cellphone conversations of passersby. In the midst of and drawing on this vast, collective language, these poems sing queer little songs to themselves. Their unit of thought, feeling, and music is the stray or discrete line.

  ertainly Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets, with its interests in repetition and overlapping temporalities, was somewhere in my mind while developing this recursive form. Also Gertrude Stein’s ideas about “a space of time that is filled always filled with moving.” But probably more immediately, I was thinking a lot about the art (mostly collage) of Joe Brainard and Ray Johnson, and all those beautiful boys that their work celebrates, pursues, and (lonely) laments. I wanted to get into words that feeling of slightly embarrassed melodrama I find in their work, something intentionally minor yet lush. The form of these poems is an attempt to emulate these queer post-war visual artists’ efforts to build small but sustaining emotional artifacts out of the detritus of a culture not particularly interested in offering queer people sustenance. θ

 

White Halls

[Ten Discrete Lines Four Repeated]

Follow any boy down white halls to find

Or follow blue arrows to where touch maps

The small of his, the bend of his, each thing. 

Be skin to sound, static to transmission. 

Follow any boy down white halls to find

What the air records speaks now to me. 

Be buzz to bone, be any, be none. 

Wait for the swoon where the cassette’s teeth catch

The small of his, the bend of his, each thing. 

Or follow blue arrows to where touch maps

Room after room after room after room. 

Begin at the end before my heart breaks. 

Funny what the song in memory becomes: 

Be buzz to bone, be any, be none.

 

Black Jacket

[Ten discrete lines: four repeated]
 

When I nodded off, I was skimming the trees 

 

So tender in the frenzy of, menace of 

 

Your keen t-shirt, back’s curve, piano keys

 

With what we know now could we want it back

 

While on TV the secret century leaks

 

So tender in the frenzy of, menace of 

 

My throat, tongue, my lip to testify 

 

Your paperbacks, black jacket, awkward sigh 

 

Like waking to the arms of a strange room 

 

When I nodded off, I was skimming the trees 

 

Or in the kitchen door with the party conked out 

 

Your eyes’ lines, jeans’ crease, steady sway, yours 

 

My throat, tongue, my lip to testify 

 

While on TV the secret century leaks

 

Lake Fogged Silver

[Ten discrete lines: four repeated]

There where life cleaves I woke against the grain

 

Hounding each dark lead through to air so queer

 

(For now into thick the straight ways had wandered) 

 

And in that blackest wood sometimes would find 

 

A lake fogged silver by daybreak’s breath. 

 

Can I tell you what it was finally like? 

 

There where life cleaves I woke against the grain 

 

And in that blackest wood sometimes would find 

 

Words half-worried into chewmarked worlds, 

 

Hounding each dark lead through to air so queer 

 

Until how I came here I could not say. 

 

“You’ve had your fun”: how it always begins 

 

(For now into thick the straight ways had wandered) 

 

Trailing sky with a stink of blood on its lips.