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Time is a Toy

The Selected Poems of Michael Benedikt

Edited by John Gallaher and Laura Boss

Publication Year: 2014

Michael Benedikt (1935–2007), who has been occasionally grouped with the New York School poets, as well as James Tate and Russell Edson, published five books of poetry in his lifetime, and edited several anthologies, including the influential The Prose Poem (1976) and The Poetry of Surrealism (1974). This collection brings together for the first time work from all five of those long out-of-print volumes—along with work from his five unpublished manuscripts, which were nearly destroyed after his death. Finally, this once widely published and influential voice is back in print, and a fuller understanding of the development of American surrealism and the prose poem in the 1960s and 1970s is possible. Also, the more expansive work that he began in 1980, which investigated the line between the lyric and prose narrative, is finally getting the book presentation it deserves. A lifelong New Yorker, Benedikt was at various times an associate editor with Art News and Art International, managing editor of Locus Solus, and poetry editor of the Paris Review. Benedikt also taught at institutions such as Sarah Lawrence, Bennington, Vassar, and Boston University.

Published by: The University of Akron Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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The B0enedikt Suitcase

John Gallaher

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pp. 1-4

I graduated high school in 1983, and by that time had already started collecting anthologies and all the inexpensive and free books I could. Several of the anthologies I had (Contemporary American Poets, edited by Donald Hall; The Young American Poets, edited by Paul Carroll; The Major Young Poets, edited...

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Of Michael

Laura Bass

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pp. 5-9

I met Michael Benedikt at the New York Book Fair in 1984. He was wearing a yellow and blue striped rugby shirt that I discovered over time he would almost always wear. He stopped at my table where I had copies of my poetry magazine, Lips, and began to talk to me in a way that was serious and flirtatious...

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Six Passages

Robert Archambeau

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pp. 10-16

Benedikt came by his interest in the unconscious through a long, deep, and fruitful engagement with Surrealism. Encouraged by Robert Bly in 1963 to investigate Surrealism, Benedikt became devoted to French Surrealism in particular, and in the early sixties alternated between undertaking translations from...

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Preface to Benedikt: A Profile (1977)

Michael Benedikt

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pp. 17-18

Poetry for me is, finally, irreducibly, a way of knowing. It is not so much “knowledge,” in the final, conventional sense—valuable as that surely is—but knowledge in process; or, rather, self-knowledge in process. Sometimes, in writing poetry, it seems that the further along that road one travels, the longer...

Of Poetry, My Friend

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pp. 19-20

From Changes: A Chapbook

Raising

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pp. 23-

Landscape

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pp. 24-

The Gift Steeds

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pp. 25-

Victoria Falls

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pp. 26-

Ironies

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pp. 27-

Survivor

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pp. 28-

Consolation

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pp. 29-

Changes

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pp. 30-

From The Body

The European Shoe

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pp. 34-35

Fraudulent days

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pp. 36-

Procession

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pp. 37-

The Eye

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pp. 38-

Hiding-Place

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pp. 39-

Developments

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pp. 40-

Gemini Emblem

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pp. 41-

A Beloved Head

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pp. 42-

Some Feelings

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pp. 43-

At Night

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pp. 45-

Thoughts

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pp. 46-

After a Reading of Mcluhan, Whom I Admired

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pp. 47-

The Bathroom Mirror

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pp. 48-

Pyromaniac’s Lament in Spring

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pp. 49-

Old School Ties

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pp. 50-

The Guardian Angel

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pp. 51-52

From Sky

The Future

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pp. 55-

Clement Attlee

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pp. 56-

Money

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pp. 57-

The Blockhouse

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pp. 58-

The Artillery Portrait

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pp. 59-

This Morning I Fooled A Butterfly

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pp. 60-

On The Lawn

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pp. 61-

Passing Through Troy

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pp. 62-63

The High

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pp. 64-65

The Sky

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pp. 66-67

Four Psalms

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pp. 68-69

Let Me Out

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pp. 70-71

The Esthetic Fallacy

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pp. 72-

Naming The Baby

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pp. 73-74

Definitive Things

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pp. 75-

Mirror

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pp. 76-

For Jane (and Roger) but Certainly Not for Henry; or, Barbarella

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pp. 77-78

To Persuade A Lady

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pp. 79-80

From Mole Notes

Social Concerns

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pp. 83-

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The Sandhog’s Monologue

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pp. 84-

Is it at the center or the edge? Perhaps it’s enough that I simply recognize its presence, hanging there in front of my eye like a loose eyelash. But loose eyelashes don’t mean much; following a night of regret, or twisting and turning, and elaborate psychic gyrations, it’s easy enough to understand awakening and...

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Of the Difficulty of Finding A Friend

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pp. 85-

Mole tries to find a friend. What is the best way to go about such a thing? A mole figures out an answer for himself. Circling around the underground part of the large rock, he digs a long, long tunnel, and comes up right in the middle of a large garden party in Scarsdale. The conversation is certainly interesting...

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How A Navy Man Goes Down

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pp. 86-87

He dreams of being surrounded by rushing sounds—it must be enemy aircraft on the attack. They go soaring around his head and buzz the brain, then one dives into his collar; it comes out through the starched cuff of his shirt. He waves his arms around wildly but one swoops up his pants leg and then comes out his...

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The Angels; or, God’s Eyeball

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pp. 88-

The angels, the conventional angels of history, are coming to turn in their wings—a long line of identical pilgrims winds out of the warehouse where they are supposed to turn them in; the line stretches out in a straight line as far as that cliff over there in the distance; then the angel line comes down at an angle...

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The New Christ

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pp. 89-

The lady eight months pregnant entered the room in which everyone was carrying on in a gay way. Despite the fact that the room was very crowded with carousers and merrymakers, the bump of her unborn baby so altered the center of gravity in the party, that a wallflower who happened to be poised on the...

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On Painting the Bathroom Window

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pp. 90-

I’m trying to get something done for a change: I’m trying to get away from this tattered stack of manuscripts. Enough concepts! What I want to do now is some household task, beginning by repainting the entire house, starting with the battered old window above the bathroom sink. One coat covers up all the...

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The Journey Across Your Thigh

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pp. 91-

At last! The greatest of all explorations on earth! Our ten intrepid travelers set out across the vast expanse by traversing the narrowest section of the promontory. Confident, cheerful, chatting, they are moving spiritedly, and breathing easily despite the fact that they are heavily loaded down with jewels...

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Esthetic Nuptials

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pp. 92-

I invited our favorite famous writer, who happens to be a distant friend, to our wedding. To celebrate, he gets high and cuts up the manuscript of one of his most famous love poems, using a paper punch; then he throws it all over us in our hotel room, like confetti. And everybody considers us just one more nice...

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Physical Love

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pp. 93-

(1) Everybody knows that, whenever true lovers encounter, the last thing it is, is mechanical. Nothing is a thing. It is so direct, so physical, the pressure is so specific, that when one part of one lover rubs against the other, if it rubs with any strength, the other part actually falls off. It falls to the floor; and among true...

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Portable War

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pp. 94-

(1) There are people who are pressing to end this war, and Mole considers himself one of them, having even by adolescence spent more than his share of time digging for peace; then later, actually digging peace, revising political manuals to include serious discussions of the process of Molarization, etc...

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Of Holes

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pp. 95-

(1) Bad night. Harder even to sleep than to think. Entire body clenched like teeth, omitting no finger, cell, or nail. At least, if these teeth were smiling . . . but no, this is a genuine grimace. It’s the fault of the dark, it’s the fault of the dark!— suddenly it fails to resemble one big single nice enormous nothingness, but...

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A Hope Chest in Reverse

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pp. 96-

For the sake of his continued “development” he was always shedding a new skin. Finally he had a chest full of them, a sort of hope chest in reverse. So in order to convince everyone of his continuing progress he held a celebration. At the party he came out wearing all these ancient diaphanous rags—of course...

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Christmas on Earth and Other Vacations With Pay

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pp. 97-

(1) Their famous curious position: almost everybody knows it; but of course almost nobody believes it. What they insist on is that it is better to give than to receive; and, by implication, that the best blessings are the ones denied, and by extension, that to reject and to donate are identical. They dream all their...

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In the Hospital

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pp. 98-

So we see the landscape of being alive at last! At last, after a long time of traveling we’ve arrived here, in the middle of the night, where we can really feel completely abandoned! Here anything visible turns out to be rocks. All there are, are these definite impressions, all so clear-cut that the shapes of the...

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Embodiment of Embeddedness

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pp. 99-

What if you thought that the best way to cross a wall was to systematically destroy everything on the side where you are, and opposite to where you wanted to be? And what if, after a while, you felt you ought to be all the way through, since nothing at all was left anymore on your side; but what if when you lifted...

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Understanding; or, A Much Better Place for the Same Price

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pp. 100-

At last, some ultimate philosophical questions! (1) Is there any greater human humiliation than dining in the worst corner snack bar on the Upper West Side— the Remeldia Luncheonette at Broadway and 69th Street—and understanding that it is awful as you go there, but knowing also that you have to go there, because...

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The Night of the Foot

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pp. 101-

It is very dark tonight inside the foot. This is logical enough: isn’t it one of the deepest regions of the body? It is so shadowy here that traveling through like this we can see only the light-colored objects:—the good bones moving around slowly, like travelers at half-fare, dignified, with shabby baggage; bones, but...

From Night Cries

Explanation of the Dark

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pp. 105-

A Gift

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pp. 106-

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The Meat Epitaph

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pp. 107-

This is what it was: Sometime in the recent but until now unrecorded past, it was decided by cattle ranchers that since people were increasingly insistent that “you are what you eat,” all cattle on the way to market were to be marked with brief descriptive tags noting the favorite food of each beast, and how much each...

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The Taste for All Things Formal

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pp. 108-

(1) “I ask you: is there one man in the world who doesn’t long every now and then for that feeling of formality, that sense of artifice, that certain feeling of neatness and security which only a tuxedo jacket can really provide, surrounding its wearer so snugly with its square-cut shape, its elaborately decorated box-cut...

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A Face in the Trash

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pp. 109-

(1) I took the top off the trash can outside my bachelor apartment and what should I see there amidst the usual beer cans, peanut shells, and fat scraps; citrus-fruit rinds and old poetry textbooks, and the many other anonymous and almost unidentifiable slimes such pails are apt to contain, but a woman’s...

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The Melancholy Moralist

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pp. 110-

Am I really supposed to stay here with the rest of these people making the usual surreptitious motions, tentative gestures, and shifting around guiltily from foot to foot? Because I can feel that there is obviously not going to be enough room to move in this room. To scratch the top of my head I have to go slipping my arm...

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The Disappointed Philanthropist

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pp. 111-

How do you feel, you who yearned half your life for endless friends, but discover that all you’ve ended up with is a succession of clever operators? Well-schooled in charitable ways at only the most privileged of academies, how could you have realized that when you said your first friendly hello to any stranger, your...

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The Adventures of Resentment

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pp. 112-

Resentment, you remember—since somebody told you once—spreads like a stain. But somehow, now it’s also a point of light in the brain, a train coming toward you down a long tunnel. It pulls up at the little station and you get on. Out of the tunnel, beyond the station, you ride ten thousand miles. Out in the...

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Living With Adversity

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pp. 113-

There are some mountains you can’t move. Moreover, not only that, but you will find yourself under severe pressure to sit there at their feet, lying around for half your life, like some sweet boy or girl scout, saying how happy you are, and exclaiming about how good it is to simply experience such scenic beauty...

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The Voyage of Self-Discovery

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pp. 114-

It’s the voyage of self-discovery: it started out with enormous sails, a drunken captain, and a bosun going toot-toot. Now, when you think you hear them piping you to quarters, it usually turns out to be a reference to a heavy smoker who is about to receive interest at the bank. So now the ship sits upon this bank, fifteen...

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Discouraging Evening

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pp. 115-

Hiccupping sounds in the night—then pretty soon the smell of cat vomit beneath the bed where my life’s companion and I are lying. One of us ought to get up and clean it up, but both of us are pretending not to hear. Neither of us moves even when the odor suffuses the air. And it’s not that we were up...

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The Pills

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pp. 116-

Midnight—An alternative way of looking at it: All around the globe, whenever and wherever the clock strikes midnight, billions and billions of the prescription and non-prescription sleeping pills which restless, stressed-out people worldwide take about an hour before bedtime are starting to dissolve in billions...

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The Awards of Water

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pp. 117-

At first it seemed as if it were the morning coffee again, overflowing in the percolator with the usual loud hiss; but then, when I reached the kitchen, I saw that the brown stain on the white stove was in the form of a “splash,” which is to say a circle with fringed edges, and that it was actually only another...

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New Year’s Resolutions

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pp. 118-

Yes, I’ll admit that I have been sinful. For one full year I had been having a love affair with the number four. That was back in 1974. But we all love best what we know best! All that time, 1975 was practically a mere cipher to me. Then, suddenly, the affair was over. But, oh, the love poems I wrote! Beautiful verses...

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The Search for the Source

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pp. 119-120

I can’t imagine where it comes from, but surely there must be a source for this all, somewhere. True, streams can be seen sometimes, using a dowsing-rod, or even if you simply look carefully under rocks with a flashlight at midnight; but this source isn’t so easy to find. In fact, the harder you look, the more it disappears...

From Universe & Persephone’s Telephone

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The Tragic Landscape

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pp. 123-

The tragic landscape, the only true tragic landscape in which one must believe, the tragic landscape of the medicine cabinet, waits in the bathroom like a battlefield strewn with the fragments of various abandoned hopes. Here, at the far end of the apartment, the very least of our expectations is expressed...

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Picnicking in the Infinite

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pp. 124-

The absolute is fun to visit but I certainly wouldn’t want to live there. This way, right on schedule, and more or less like clockwork, we have a pleasant journey roughly every three weeks. Mother brings the umbrellas and her husband, Uncle Fred the sandwiches for the infinite to eat. It’s a relatively easy drive from where...

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Strong Tastes

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pp. 125-

Strong Tastes: spices in spaces at the rear of kitchen cabinets slowly burning holes in their canisters. Perfumes that hurt. Visions that sprain the eyes, sounds so loud they prevent thought. Occasionally, dangerous acquaintances who carry around models of cliffs off which you will be the first to fall. Fatal secrets...

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Poem to be Looked at During a Nauseating War That is Making Everybody Sick

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pp. 126-

If you could see everybody as they sleep, if you could see how likely they are to assume the defenseless and trustful positions that the active body remembers best by relapsing, by imaging silently into flesh; if you could see the closed eyes, the mouth half-open as if expecting to be fed, the hair almost perfectly...

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In Praise of Children (I)

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pp. 127-

Looking around all the time, as we do, on this earth, focusing as we do so clearly on everything that is visible, we sometimes tend to overlook things. For example, the fact that not only is everybody human, but everybody is some kind of child. Yes, the great secret wisdom of Mother Earth, the one thing she verily knows...

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Cornelia and Her Friends

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pp. 128-

A conversation with Cornelia about her friends. People love to meet them, she says. There’s Harry—he’s kind of quiet, and stupefied by everything, yet manages to amuse everybody by sitting in a corner and staring at the wall with his thumb in his mouth. There’s St. Angelo—he likes to make kites and is covered from...

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Arnold

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pp. 129-

I still don’t quite know what to make of my best friend, the one on the city hockey team who used to play right wing while I used to play left wing. And we had such a good time, afterwards, in the country where we once set up our booth, and he sold painted clam-shells and I sold lemonade at 5 cents the sip...

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Landscape

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pp. 130-

I saw the famous bearded little old man by the side of the road, sitting crosslegged and singing to himself. “What are you doing, famous bearded little old man,” I asked. “I’m fishing,” he said, “and since you were obviously about to be so inquisitive as to ask me, what I’m fishing for here is your life.” “But what...

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Persephone’s Telephone (I–III)

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pp. 131-

(1) Persephone’s telephone; already, her last message was received a long time ago; and still, all I can see are flowers flying through the air, flowers flying from the mouthpiece, flowers softly falling on my lap and filtering through my ear. Petals are slowly surrounding these black metal centers, making a ring, as in a...

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The Crematorium of Boredom

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pp. 132-

What’s that murmur of voices? All the angels are still over there in the GYMNASIUM OF SELF-CONCERN, hopping around after each other on pogo sticks, trying to get each other to listen to their life stories. The trouble is that the angels know all too well what to expect from other angels; everyone in there...

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Secret Singing

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pp. 133-

Even in sleep, an undreamt virtue: Secret singing in cracked and ancient pots, mumbling in tunnels and fantasies behind closed doors; quirks in mechanisms, schematic drawings inexplicably casting long shadows; denouements beneath bridges with stealthy hands, sneaky fingers, investigative probes, and incipient...

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Desire and Its Conduits

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pp. 134-

Suddenly there are pipes running downward from our desire; who put them there anyway? If the pipes are short and efficient, the engineers must be our friends; is there any quality we love our friends for more than their best wishes for the accomplishment of our best wishes; for their joy in our joy; in short...

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Accomplices

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pp. 135-136

(1) At St. Polyana’s party, everybody is so bored that all they can find to talk about is whether or not other people might be enjoying themselves elsewhere. Also, whether or not some other guest who happens to be there, and whom you have met for the very first time, is actually your long-lost or secret lover...

From The Badminton At Great Barrington; Or,Gustave Mahler & The Chattanooga Choo-Choo & “Puffton Poems(Poems from Amherst)”

Saturday Night and Sunday Night Blues

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pp. 139-

I Tried

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pp. 140-

Portland Taxis

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pp. 141-

Where

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pp. 142-

Reunion: The Fourth of July

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pp. 143-

The Agreeable Weekend

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pp. 144-

Styles of Orgasm

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pp. 145-

The Diary

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pp. 146-

Up the Hill

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pp. 147-

Letter to Jim / May, 1975

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pp. 148-149

From Poems Around the Home

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pp. 150-

[There is So Much in Life That Poetry]

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pp. 151-

Bye-Bye to Somebody

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pp. 152-154

From Family Blessings /Family Curses

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From Like Many Other Necessarily Peripatetic Americans...

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pp. 157-162

Here’s where I find myself currently: I’m afloat mid-flight, poised (sorta) around noontime, in a window-facing seat, & crowded in with lots of the usual-seeming computer-type commercial travelers, in one of the good old “Eastern Airlines” busily...

For Gerald Fenichel (Who, “Way Back” in 1947, Lived “Way Back” in N.Y.C.)

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pp. 163-165

From To Peggy Gabson...

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pp. 166-167

Don Hall & Jane Kenyon of “Eagles Pond Farm,”...

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pp. 168-176

Xmas on Bay State Road, Boston, by B.U., 1978

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pp. 177-182

From Transitions & Of:

Elegy for Eddie (My Stepfather, Briefly)

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pp. 185-189

The Fourth of July & New York & New Jersey & Laura & Me

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pp. 190-192

Folonari Red Wine

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pp. 193-195

Of Friendship vs. Conflict-of-Interest: Meditations From an Office Desk

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pp. 196-201

Of “The Taganka Troupe” in Soviet Russia, 1957

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pp. 202-205

Of an Only Child’s World

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pp. 206-208

From Of Garter Belts; & Also of the Hooks & Snaps Attached to the Garter-Straps Customarily Dangling Down Therefrom

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pp. 209-213

Rita & Ringo

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pp. 214-216

“Your Life is Your Own Life . . .”: Variations on A Theme by James Wright

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pp. 217-219

Of Living Alone But Not Brooding Too Much About It

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pp. 220-222

Afterword

Time

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pp. 225-226


E-ISBN-13: 9781629220062
E-ISBN-10: 162922006X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781937378790
Print-ISBN-10: 1937378799

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2014

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