About the Poems
by Steve Kistulentz
“The David Lee Roth Fuck Poem...” was the first in which I hoped to invoke a sort of poetic cloture on the idea of Los Angeles as a place of benign beauty. The dual nature of the city—for every star, a failed starlet—is at the poem’s center, but then again, so is the idea that every pop song is about girls or cars or money; what else is Los Angeles but some amalgam of all three?
“Hot Child in the City” addresses some of the same turf, but in a slightly darker vein. My mother is inclined to read everything I write as thinly veiled autobiography, so to satisfy her I will admit that this poem arrived almost in its entirety after I read the program from a high school reunion that I refused to attend. A female classmate was listed on the in memoriam page as “rumored to have died in a fire,” a reading of a human life that I found irresponsible, reductive and tremendously sad.
Wonderama was a children’s television program that aired on Metromedia television in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In Washington, DC, where I grew up, it aired on channel 5 on Sunday mornings and the world of the show, the “Wonderamaland” of the poem’s title, seemed a far more pleasant neighborhood than my own. I wanted the poem to reflect what the five-year-old me wanted then: a life that resembled what I saw on television. At the same time, I hope I let enough of my adult sensibility creep in to make clear what a naïve and dreadful wish that was.
“Fuck Poem with Language Borrowed from Brothers Karamazov” owes a great debt to a short film by Hal Hartley called “Surviving Desire.” But in its truest sense, its largest debt is to the type of profound, Eastern depression that seems to come over me in the “happy dead of winter.” In Brothers Karamazov, the novel, every utterance by Father Zosima is a showstopper. For a Russian character, the good priest emerges as a strangely contemporary blend of cynic and optimist; for every utterance like "Many times, it is necessary to treat people as if they were children, or as if they were sick," he offers a more uplifting sentiment such as, “What is Hell? It is the sufffering for being no longer able to love.” The poem takes some of Father Zosima’s monologues and puts his words to my own nefarious purposes.
“Fuck Poem with Language from The Gospel of Mark” is, if nothing else, about the lunatic passions of a younger me. Among any sacred or mythological text, I am drawn most to the missing parts of Mark’s Gospel, the deliberate omissions of both the author and later, the church.