This fall, poet Eileen Myles treated a lucky group of participants to a Poetry Pop Walk around Cambridge. Myles, a native of Massachusetts, has written 19 books and won several awards, including the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Prize (2010), a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction (2012), and most recently, the Clark Art Institute’s 2015 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing.
On an October afternoon, the group met in the galleries of the special exhibition Corita Kent and the Language of Pop to discuss Kent’s use of poetry in many of her screenprints, and then embarked on a walk through Harvard Square to the Charles River and back. The goal was to collectively compose a poem inspired by the sights, sounds, and smells of Harvard Square (which, coincidentally, was hosting an Oktoberfest celebration). Commanded by three questions posed by Myles—What is pop? What is poetry? What is today?—the group ultimately crafted three poems. Each was recited at the end of the event, in the museums’ Calderwood Courtyard. Audio files can be accessed here, and below are transcripts of the poems.
Poem America is made up of I can and repeat. People have different ways of dying. POP! When I hear bread breaking I see something else, subway gates locked in a square, someone pushing through all the blues, pews, stews, mews, dues. Freedom demands a bow, I’m too pooped to POP! Broken stoplights mean people when you take them off, now we’re in the bread zone. Autumn sun’s warming the Madonna of Route Two. In the sky of infinity more rare, God, the great air conditioner, God, of new colors in the addition. This is not a river bank see, of Freon and neon of itself to the old, of new colors in the addition, feet to follow. Finger paint. Oh yeah.
Poem Sequined sea of light, shimmering and never still, today is a magical system, the glitter, my glimmer, attend to love, pops here and rocks there make you wonder, wonder what to do with all that bread. I could make it with a machine, and the urine of a cow, like one great mouth eating one great loaf, free milk for babies who will take everything, the cry that will be heard. Spray paint my openly joyous heart, pick a color for the sky, make it day-glo, building you a better blue table. Light of someone’s transubstantiations, the light of someone’s construction.
God Vows to Put a Bow in the Sky My immaculate heart has a passion for Friday. Children at the Hong Kong Epoch go pop. Every Friday, three cheers for candy. Homeless prophets sing, how much will a suitcase hold? We’ve got plenty of nothing. Empty gas tank: a caption for the impossible. What’s pop about the river is the people. Pop falls the rose of pop goes wet & wild with wall-breaking potential. Someday is now. God vows to put a bow in the sky as lamers get lamer. Harvard is the least pop college & the caramel candy flavored E-cig is the platonic ideal of pop.