I was trying to figure out how to say something about my self-inflicted predicament (being a poet and eschewing institutional support, while refusing to give up on life goals typical of my economic background and social class). Having grown up in the New York School, I felt some pressure not to name names — or, I enjoyed the permission to try out using proper names in poems and learned quickly that I could say more of what I felt if I kept on the abstract side of town. But I needed the sensuous anxiety and reverie of the “I do” poets (I suppose the line “I do this I do that” is what gave John Ashbery the idea to say Frank O’Hara was always marrying the whole world — which is not something the authorities allow anymore, if they ever did).
The poems in Noise do try to have it both ways and as a result they sound to my ears a little frustrated, with gusts of exhilaration, and inescapable (almost unplaceable, I hope) sadness. Some of the ideas are practically foreign — do you remember phone companies promising the ideal immortality of “unlimited nights and weekends”? — and as for the “science section,” that’s another world now. I wanted to make sure all of the poems here stay off-center, old-fashioned, bordering on incoherent. Some wander across the border of coherence, tourists of unreadability. It’s a fun, slightly dangerous place. Noisy.
Wherever we go, though, as the deadpan classic “Buckaroo Banzai” put it, there we are. I’ve been worried about the tension between absolute aesthetic judgment and personal freedom to play, and how to even dream of having a democracy when everyone has to work every waking minute to afford to live. I think these poems go as far as I can stand toward the uninhabitable zone where responses to those problems are worked out, without turning into autobiography, or self-dramatization, or catastrophes of celebrity and righteousness. But that’s connoisseurship of myself and I better clam up before I give anybody the idea there’s a specific way I want to to read these poems. There is, of course, but the fun, and I use that word in the broadest sense, is in how you get there.
Jordan Davis’s [photo credit: Adalena Kavanagh, 2022] second collection, Shell Game, was published by Edge Books in 2018; his third book, Yeah, No, will be published by MadHat in 2023. Recent work appears in The Brooklyn Rail, The Canary, and American Poetry Review. A free broadside is also available from Benjamin Gantcher’s unbound books. He lives in Brooklyn and works in the financial services industry.