"I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance." --Wesley Snipes

Monday, July 18, 2005

Poem for You Know Who You Are (or "Freestylin' w/Joe Massey")

& we almost did

it is october my favorite month
& there are more birds in the trees
than leaves & this coffee on my face
steam essence of a certain nut

makes me think of you somewhere
alone & that squirrel carries
cargo for the months ahead & you
your memory is yellowed as the moths

that circle the porch light when
it gets dark early here because early
here is later than you think & when
you think about it the light ebbs

the way your face grew dim & grave
on nights we drank too much
& felt too much desecrated the kitchen
floor & haunted bars to show off

one to the other your hand pushed
out toward the camera making love
with your shirt still on the branches
at the window bare because of winter

& its quiet light by spring we’d
had enough but not enough to drink
because the water we stood at
edge of was deep enough to drown


Lorna Dee Cervantes said...

& we almost did

----for Joe Massey (maybe)

too much desecrated the kitchen
floor & haunted bars to show off

one to the other your hand pushed
out toward the camera making love
with your shirt still on the branches
at the window bare because of winter

& its quiet light by spring we’d
had enough but not enough to drink
because the water we stood at
edge of was deep enough to drown

~Anthony Robinson
here's the poem
1st 2/3 not a poem in the sky
I only read through to prove a point
not rasquache just bad
repeated words
a moth cliche
yellowed memory worse
all not very interesting
however Sincere
my point, as always
and *poetry*
isn't the place to prove a point
or hold a classroom
sing or otherwise get off
sometimes off the pot
sometimes, in the best, and
sexual sense
poem doesn't get me off
until these last lines
the rest wouldn't pass the Bullwinkle test
read them aloud to your favorite
alter-ego, Rocky the Squirrel
or otherwise
in Bullwinkle's Poetry Corner voice
it's hilarious
until you get to these lines

this is what I mean by "*help you* sand your plank"
I was going to say, "I meant to say, "wax your surfboard" but it was late & I was headed off to Aztlan.

What this has to do with *ANY* of the *OTHER* I have no idea, other than that it is a text-book example of latent behavior. Listen, I'm older than you, and I have read all of your blog, even stuff you took out, (when you "quit" blogging I was missing the only other true foodie I had found) whether we like it or not some fool critic of the 20th century is going to start trotting out pedigree ("You Bring Out the Mexican in Me") sooner or later. Prepárate, hombre, your chones are showing, and not in a good way. I want my raza (that's race as in human race, there is only one) to shine if they're going to be representing instead of presenting like a scarlet butt baboon. It's like homophobics, you're resistance is showing, and that's precisely the Chicano in you: "I don't gotta show you no stinkin' badges." Cool. I like that. Nowhere is it writ that "chicano" is "Mexican-American" exclusive; any state of consciousness is a moving hand at work. However, "The moving hand, now writ. . ."

I haven't commented on your blog before because the poems just aren't any good. But they have their moments. But I have to look. And the only reason I take the time is your heritage. We all have to draw the line somewhere, delineate the texts, or there's just not enough time for living them. It's not as if there are all that many xicanerati poets blogging compared to the hungry masses of Poetry clones & wannabes. Listen, I don't need any more students, or any more people sending me poems. I get 4-5 inquiries a week. I get a minimum $5,000 a shot for holding an out-of-state workshop. I'm on sabbatical. I'm on my own time now. If I were selecting poets for the program, I would not choose you based upon this sample. Just the truth.

But, everybody can improve. Just offering to help. Thanks for saving me the time. Unlike my comments to Anne Haines (Land Mammal) or A.D. Thomas on his Rilke poem. And on Eduardo's blog, now gone. These feed my muse, make me a better poet. Because they are good. But, some people don't want criticism ON THEIR OWN POEMS, rwal nuts & bolts stuff, not impressions or digressions, but their own words on the page. So I asked.

Show me my words on the page that have anything to do with ethnic markers or subject matter. You presume too much. All I was saying is that I know what you eat. And what you have eaten. Maybe, a good commentary on the state of contemporary creative writing programs, upon which, I think we would agree. Otherwise, wátchalos, these cultural assumptions and poetic presumptions. You are crossing into defamation - what started this in the first place. For, who else is the more ubiquitous "tortilla" taco of all? At least, now, I'm seizing the opportunity to bite back.

IOW, don't blame me for Garrett's sins. & don't ass-u-me. Not in print.

Tony said...

Professor Lorna,

Thank you.

If you don't like, fine. That's cool with me. I don't seek your approval.

And I don't want to be sought.

I may be the worst poet in the world, Chicano or no.

And so...

And so?

Okay, my poems suck.

I don't like your poems either--but hey, I didn't ask for your approval, as I've said.

Perhaps blogging is a bad idea.

Perhaps not.

But look--

And oh yeah, you're older than me.


This is ridiculous.

And I don't understand what your point is. If you don't like me or my poems, don't read them.

I don't care how "famous" you think you are. I don't care how many inquiries or money you get.

In fact, I'm really pleased to know that folks seek you out for your expertise. It makes me feel good to know that some of us actually do well by their poems and their rhetoric.

I just don't know why you want to pick on me, or my surfboard or my planks.

I'm a nobody. Go be famous.

Do your good work and leave me alone.

As far as someone's sins, please don't assume, either.


doejohn69 said...


i actually love this poem. the original, in its entirety.

what i admire, and this goes for the bulk of your work that i've read, is the way you almost reinvent or revive o'hara's idea of "personism" and the notion of "putting the poem squarely between poet and person."

in this particular poem, i really love the humanness of the first stanza (great coffee image). the "you" enters in stanza two. and the move from self to other is seamless. the overtones are quite moving, i think. shirt on branches. porch light. squirrel.

tony, you are a west coast new generation new york school poet.

and, never say your poems are bad, please. remember frank o'hara again, "how can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them!"


Anonymous said...

Lorna's comments are offensive. Especially comments like "I want my raza (that's race as in human race, there is only one) to shine if they're going to be representing instead of presenting like a scarlet butt baboon" and "the only reason I take the time is your heritage."
Tony's poems are wonderful and just because they don't conform to your warped ideas of a "poetics" doesn't mean that you can post nasty comments on his blog. I was going to post a "close reading" (totally new criticism style) of one of your poems but thought that it wouldn't be very nice. But if you push me baby---I can be really mean.

Tony said...

"I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch. You'd better think about it, baby."

Anonymous said...

The 5K a pop for workshops line, that just kills me. Why would anyone pay to get "workshopped" by a poet whose last book came out 15 years ago, from a non-existent press? And anyone who talks like an issue of Poets & Writers should not be allowed within 500 miles of anyone who wants to write poems. Wow.

Eduardo C. Corral said...


I would encourage you not to allow anonymous comments on this specific post. People who make stupid statements while hiding behind a mask of anonymity are pathetic.

Tony said...


I've always allowed anonymous comments, and unless things get out of hand, I'd rather just continue to allow them.

In the case of the first anonymous comment, I know the poster's identity. While it may seem mean-spirited, this poster is simply offering my detractor the same "service" she offered me. Tit for tat, I suppose, or that's how I read it.

In the case of the second anon. (whom I do not know), while I don't agree with the ad hominem attack, I agree that bragging on someone else's blog about one's "fee," esp. after giving an unwanted crit is a little audacious, a little crass.

In any case, this thread will die eventually. (Of course it will spring up again within a year, but es la vida...)


Lorna Dee Cervantes said...

Please recognize that my comments are in response to numerous comments Tony made on *my blog* and in his in response to my blog, and most offensely & defamatorily, all culturally & ethnically loaded comments: assumptions & presumptions about me & my work based upon what I represent to him as a Chicana poet. Beginning with this in a post from early June

"There is a period style (or maybe it’s a sub-style of the Wonder Bread style) that I’ll call the “Tortilla style.” This style takes one’s ethnic, racial, sexual, economic, or political identity and fetishizes or ghettoizes it. There are several MFA programs that specialize in this sort of writing. One, which I will not name, even calls itself “The MFA of Color.” Is there any innovative or even interesting writing coming out of programs like this? Not much. What good there is flies extremely low to the ground, and leaves the airspace as soon as the two years are up. Features of this style include obligatory poems about grandparents (and how they’re different from white people), foods ( and how “exotic” the foods that the poet ate growing up are), living oppressed and poor (most of these poems are written by rich kids who got a SUV for graduation and who have never seen the ghetto in their life). This period style holds hands with the “working class style” that serves the same function as the Tortilla style—to fetishize, exoticize, romanticize, the lives of poor white folks. These poets long to publish in the “Best” magazines—the ones run by upper middle class white folks, i.e. the oppressors. Hm."

Some of us can't help what we are or how we grew up or the languages we speak or, most fixedly, the socio-economic class to which we are born. Some of us don't have the luxury of having a name, a face, a hue, a gender, the punctuation which allows us to pass from being a mere shadow on the dime of the field. In other words, I am constantly reminded of the forefather of "New Sincerity" movement, Chicano poet Orlando Ramírez: "Being a Chicano bores me" and "the pressures are just the same/ when it's your raza who are/ screaming at you to miss."

Tortilla style???!!! Bro', we don't have blogs enough to discuss that one. And, how you get the Cultural Revolution out of my offer to look at your manuscript (for free) is an offensive mystery to me. If Li Young-Li offered would you scream "fortune cookie" poetry! And accuse him of trying to turn you into the Red Guard? Do we screen, as well, all bagel eaters who do not reside in Manhattan? The original post and these comments came following the death of, and before the public memorial for, my father, which is why I didn't comment right away.

I NEVER leave negative remarks about anyone's poetry, anywhere. Nor do I ever write prose. Period. This 4-month old blog is my foray into that frontier. And, along with my former colleague, Ed Dorn, I am vehemently against all forms of criticism of one's own age, and even language. Let the poem stand for the poem. Nor do I ever link to blog poets I wouldn't invite to my home or hearth, my library. You indicated that you had no idea who I was or that I was a regular reader. Since yours was the first visitor to my own home, my blog, begun in early march, and one the first links I put up on my site & the first to link to mine, I assumed your attack on writers of color, and Chicano writers, specifically, an attack upon me, personally.

"Why waste your time?" My husband asks me. And I have to stutter in the reply. "Because, there IS something there." I have dedicated my entire life to knowing, seeking out, nurturing and promoting developing *poets* who are *good*. (The humble fact is, now stepping well out of my Emo self, none of you would have ever heard of Sandra Cisneros, Alberto Rios, Jimmy Santiago Baca or Ray Gonzalez had it not been for me, and the MANGO aesthetic stamp of approval. And the schools be dammed; schools are for fish, and I prefer mine on the platter. You accused me of trying to gather students. Huh? That's why I point out to you that if I wanted students I'd hang up my shingle, that I do receive good money for helping people with their first books & early poetry. I've never self-promoted (but my academic situation in the current economic climate demands that I do) and am used to being ignored by the dominant classes. But, dang it, it's like growing up hearing "Beaners stink" all your life, and you devote your adult life to scrubbing everyone around you, and *yourself*, only to get way-laid from within by the voice in the corner, with a megaphone for a personality, chanting, "She stinks, she stinks, Beaners stink, I'm one, I stink, I know. I've been to their houses. They all stink. Here's a whole barrio MFA of them, and they definitely stink." I have been holding on to these last five books for just this reason, that I am one of the only poets held to what I've written at age 18--and not because I am Baudelaire. It's living with insult my entire literary career. I'm tired of being pegged, especially when so much of the pegging, for this bird, goes on in a shooting gallery. (btw, it will be an interesting surprize to Univ. of Pitt. & Arte Publico/Univ. of Houston to know that they are defunct presses. Me, I don't care, as long as I get the royalties from 2 books still in print.)

Fíjate, there's a buried battle in that abuelita. There may be your definitive poem in that hand stirring the wooden spoon in a pot of beans.

The only reason I care is that I am Xicana, the helper class. I want to be of service to the suffering. Listen, I have read *all* your pages, and frankly, I was worried. "Classic shell-shock" is what I thought, what I saw in Provincetown WC, the walking wounded from Iowa who, if they never saw a poem in their lives again it would be too soon. Poets who live among the taxidermy of their own damaged muses. I share your shudders. But, don't assume that that's where I'm coming from. You talk, in the blog, as if you hate your own poetry, you say, over & over, that you think it's bad. That's okay. We all write 100 bad to one good. So what. Long as you write. that's why manifestos & self-proclamed movements are bad. (I never said I didn't like the poetry--show me the poems. I'll show you eclectic.) You shoot your own muse for the sake of the stuffing. Get a few eggs first. I was offended, again, that you assume that "crit" from me means turning you into, oh, any number of things you accuse me of saying in the single word "crit" so it seemed easier to demonstrate on a poem that was, finally, a poem and a good one at that what I mean by crit (yes, anon, close reading: paying attention to the words on the page & the order in which they appear; something I wholeheartedly welcome on any poems I post to my blog or the Cafe. That's why I post. And, it's a safe assumption that when a poet posts an unpublished new poem on a bog that allows comments & anon comments like my own or this one that s/he wants them. Because no poet can work in a vacumn. Language artists, all, we deal in matter which is both personal & private at the same time it is social & communal--the latter the dominant classes have the luxury to ignore.

I was attempting to compliment you and to acknowledge how you have chosen to define yourself on your blog. (a latent tortilla eater) Then, you went ethnically ballistic. Like a "homophobe" being approached by a gay urologist. Cálmate, carnal, nobody's trying to turn you into anything not white, or transparent. As I voiced to Diana Delgado & Rigoberto Gonzalez, as many times as I could, "It's not what you write about that makes you what you are" and "don't ever censor yourself."

Nor, by the way, did I call you a red butt baboon, but that's my point. Pay attention to the words on the page, particularly your own. "Love the words" as Dylan Thomas said, when it comes to your own work. And what you display here is a ton of self-loathing. My question is what good is sincerity at the expense of authenticity?

Just trying to help. I would hate to lose a potentially good poet to depression. Needlessly.