i was takin sad ‘dont wanna get up n go to the dentist’ selfies but then mom told me i had mail and OSCAR YAY I LOVE YOU DARLING
All the poets that you love listening to
love lying to you.
I’m not that egocentric to make you believe that I’m not one of them.
I lie all the time,
mostly up here.
See, I’ve been doing this for a little while
and I’m starting to understand things:
poetry is not about telling you the truth.
It’s about telling you the version of a story
that gets the most reaction,
the one that flows the best on the mic,
the one that has all the lines
that the audience is going to like.
See, maybe the truth
isn’t supposed to rhyme so well.
Maybe it doesn’t have to rise to a crescendo.
never sounded like sound bites
and name dropping.
I promised myself I wouldn’t write poems about poetry,
but I woke up at 3 AM the other morning
and started spitting out all these lies that I couldn’t roll off my tongue
and thought that maybe at this hour
I could write a poem about honesty
without having to choreograph the hook at the end.
I woke up at 3 AM
and I’m having trouble remembering how to spell the word “wouldn’t”.
Four years ago, I featured at a youth slam in Jersey City,
and tried to show some children how poetry is supposed to sound cool.
Jessica sat in the front row
thinking I could teach her about spoken word.
I lied to her, in metaphor, for a half hour
only to hear the silence of a fifth grade explosion;
Jessica explained it to her thirteen year old peers
how rough her father’s beard stubble felt when her was drinking
and how a foster family is just a fresh coat of paint over stucco
when you’ve been running against the wall.
She didn’t actually say all this.
Not like I can.
But I could hear the inhalation of truth
in between breaths of her poetry.
Her name is not really Jessica.
I don’t remember what it is.
But for a moment, I can make you care about her,
even if she’s not real.
Don’t ask me.
You wouldn’t know the difference anyway.
I don’t write poems about honesty.
I’ve written three poems this year to make me sound cute to girls,
but not one about the medication that I’m taking
because there are some things
that I don’t fucking talk about.
Why am I 33 years old and still trying to sound cute to girls?
A couple weeks ago,
two friends asked me how my roommate is doing.
I use the word “roommate”
instead of referring to her as the girl I’m afraid of falling in love with
because she is the most beautiful overturned school bus that I have ever seen
and I slow down sometimes to watch the trauma.
And because she knows me.
Like how she knows that I look in the mirror too much,
and I always eat the last peanut butter cup,
and I fuck girls with my poems,
and use the word “roommate” too loosely.
And the poet in me
should’ve told them she’s doing just fine,
but I hadn’t memorized all the lines yet.
My best friend is not doing fine,
and I can’t fix it.
The students in my class
like me because I say the word “bullshit” during my lectures
and let them out early.
They don’t see that fear has me losing focus on the bullet points
when I’m thinking about how many slit wrists I’ll return home to tonight.
My roommate’s not suicidal
But it sounds sexier than saying
that she closes her eyes sometimes
when she’s changing lanes.
Because it keeps me driving to work
instead of holding her all night and crying.
I need somebody to talk to
but poetry helps you meet people who want to fuck poets.
Who do you talk to when your best friend is biting off her cuticles,
while other girls are sharpening their nails?
I need to go to bed now.
I’m sorry I lied.
I’ll write the rest of this poem tomorrow,
when I can differentiate what’s none of your fucking business
and write poems with hooks that rhyme.
It doesn’t matter what you believe.
I’m tired of being the strong one all the time.
So let me explain this theory for those of you who haven’t heard it before already.
The Great Gatsby is a story of a man that makes his fortune bootlegging and throws countless magnificent parties all in hopes of attracting the attention of his old flame Daisy.
But it’s really a story about insurmountable class barriers. Daisy will never be with Gatsby, no matter how much she claims to love him. No matter how hard Gatsby tries, he will always be stuck on West Egg, only able to admire the ‘green light’ of upper class american romanticism from afar.
Themes of insurmountable class barriers permeate the entire novel right from some of the famous opening lines:
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
And so here’s the theory:
Jay Gatsby was black, passing for white (“High yellow”)
Lower class vs upper class. Old money vs new money. East Egg vs West Egg. White vs black. Don’t believe me?
- Early in the novel, Daisy’s beau Tom goes on a full fledged rant about the oncoming threat of the rise of the black race in society
- Another reference to race is made when Nick and Gatsby pass by a limo driven by a white chauffeur with “three modish negroes”
- Numerous references are made to Gatsby’s notably dark skintone in comparison to Daisy’s lighter skintone
- “I would have accepted without question the information that Gatsby sprang from the swamps of Louisiana or from the lower East Side of New York. That was comprehensible. But young men didn’t— at least in my provincial inexperience I believed they didn’t— drift coolly out of nowhere and buy a palace on Long Island Sound.”
Not only was the insurmountable barrier between him and Daisy one of class and upbringing, but also one of race.
What we take for granted as Gatsby’s whiteness is actually a omission of detail rather than a specific indicator that he was white.
From the article Was Gatsby Black?
Thompson adds, “When I ask people what basis there is for Gatsby being white, I get silence. I have asked students, colleagues. They don’t know. They cannot give me any evidence to back up the speculation. And why haven’t people made this argument so far?”
Of course as with any theory or reading of a classic text, there’s room for disagreement:
Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli has one answer. “Because it’s mishigas! If Fitzgerald wanted to write about blacks, it wouldn’t have taken 75 years to figure it out. If that’s what Fitzgerald wanted, he would have made it perfectly clear in April 1925. Great works of literature are not fodder for guessing games. This kind of thing is bad for literature, bad for Fitzgerald, bad for ‘The Great Gatsby’ and bad for students who get exposed to this kind of guessing game.”
But why shouldn’t we play a guessing game with it? We don’t have Fitzgerald around to verify any of these details so why not have a bit of fun with the text? It’s a very modern reading of the text and it makes it not only more relatable but more heartbreaking.
Everyone has their own reasons why they can’t be with their own Daisy.
Why shouldn’t Gatsby be black? And why can’t he really be with Daisy?
In this discussion about whether or not Beethoven was black, the point is made:
Another tight question along these lines: Was Jay Gatsby black? Again, it’s probably not literally the case (as Fitzgerald intended it) –- but what’s much more interesting is everyone’s utter inability to take it seriously as a legitimate reading of the text, which it is.
So in high school I never had to read The Great Gatsby (we read The Dubliners instead, and then one of us found out about Joyce’s uh, love letters, so endless giggling), and never had an interest in reading it on my own because come on.
Another novel about a white man’s life? Nah bruh, I’m good.
But reading it within the context of Jay Gatsby as a white passing black man, suddenly my interest is piqued.
remember the 90s. remember the 80s. remember the 70s, the 60s, the 50s. remember the alamo. remember to brush your teeth and wash behind your ears. remember your multiplication tables. remember the smell of her hair. remember to do your homework. remember to write a thank-you note. remember the way her hands felt on your skin, the way your hearts would beat out the rhythm your bodies used to dance to in the back seat of your dad’s car. remember, remember, the fifth of november. remember the titans. remember the name. remember how you used to see someone who looked like her and then get disappointed when you realized it wasn’t her and only then would you realize exactly how much you loved her. remember the milk. remember how your heart felt like the bottom of the ocean when she ended it and walked away. remember the 90s.
i felt kinda cheated because i generally needed at least one character i could relate to or at least like and everyone was so fucking proper and rich and full of the most ridiculous fucking silly ideas about life that i just was completely alienated and i didnt wanna root for anyone i just wanted them all to die
honestly now im really glad i couldn’t relate to any of them because y’all are DICKS n_n
i spent most of my a level lit classes bitching about daisy
like when i first read gatsby i was like ‘this is BULLSHIT people dont fucking ACT LIKE THIS what the FUCK?? THIS GIRL…YO…THIS GIRL… THIS ISNT HOW PEOPLE ARE FUCK THIS GUY AND HIS DUMB BOOK’
for months, i was convinced that tgg was the fuckin worst thing and i resented it SO MUCH
but then I re-read it nearer to exam time and i was like
…this is the wrongest i ever got it
but i SWEAR TO GOD if i see ANYONE shipping nick and gatsby im gonna PISS PURE LAVA RAGE ALL OVER WHATEVER IT IS YOU HOLD DEAR
Would you kill him in his bed?
Thrust a dagger through his head?
I would not, could not, kill the King.
I could not do that evil thing.
I would not wed this girl, you see.
Now get her to a nunnery.
~ Green Eggs and Hamlet
the charles bukowsky tag is fantastic,
the best part was
pulling down the
stuffing the doorbell
putting the phone
and going to bed
for 3 or 4
and the next best
We can’t get enough of Nina Katchadourian and her “Sorted Books” project.
For more of this morning’s roundup, click here.