The Jim Jones of Poetry

By Blake Butler

There’s something of the psychopathic violent child in the writing of Rauan Klassnik. He makes drawings that look like this:

His blog is full of obsessive posts about Nicholas Cage and guns and National Poetry Month. He seems like someone you’d find lingering out behind a porno bookstore in a jacket and hat, creeping around the dumpsters. When you approach him he just looks into your face like he sees through it and says something about the sweetness of the smell of the trash. Then he follows you to the bar and doesn’t order anything, just sits on the stool pretending neither of you are there. 

I’ve probably read Rauan’s first book, Holy Land, at least half a dozen times. It takes about 15 minutes. The chunks of words are quick and to the gums, kind of like a bunch of pokes to the stomach that hurt for hours afterward. There is a primal quality to his images, like his drawings, that lurks somewhere between murderous and kitsch, blunt in a secretive way, like the colors of the badges on a solider guilty of war crimes. He is not afraid to talk about flowers and clouds in the same space as jacking off and church bells, a strange mix of high romance and lust and intentional infantilism. It makes for a really complicated feel. I have seen his words silence a room to total stillness when read aloud more than a few times.

There’s such a need for this kind of writing. I like the feeling of thinking about award winning poets rolling their eyes at a line like “—Prayers Ought—To Be Castrated—Stand— / —In The Corner—& Taste My Piss—Huge & Silver— /

—Condors Vomiting—,“ and yet I love the sound the rolling of those old crudded lids makes in my own head when the crude word is allowed to stand alone. Klassnik does not need to qualify the image; instead, he stacks. The lines gather together like licks from a gold dog’s stinking mouth, surrounded with a lurking feeling you don’t require naming.

Rauan Klassnik’s new book, The Moon’s Jaw, follows in the black trough of his first, appending the space there with something perhaps even more strangely pregnant. It’s full of knives and silk and peacocks and breast milk and ghosts and fetuses and orchards and wounds and girls and suns. It shifts continually between horny and cruel tones, meditative and exacting tones, stiff and puffy images, swallowed up somewhere in the space between all bodies, where nature mutates and crushes you and grinds against itself forever.  There’s a constant succession of murder and regrowth, as if no matter how many times you undo a person they’re still here wandering around half-erased. It feels terse and epic at the same time, like the old surrealists, but suited for our age of insane kids. It’s like a Jacuzzi full of semen. A sky-blue hacksaw.

An Excerpt from The Moon’s Jaw

Under the moon’s tightening wrists—Leaning down to pet yr dog,

you looked up at me, & shot the dog in its face. We fucked. & we

fucked again. & when I came to you were sucking me off. Like my

brain—Slow & aching. A rat’s in a maze. It stops—Grows—& it is

the maze. Futures—Stopped. Coins, chips—& rippling, cash. All—

Bone white.

 

A bride, young as a Barbie, holds on to an opened watermelon. Like

a bee—Its gold wings shuddering. A man & a woman climb out of

a car—& come, bristling, towards me. Like a machete: Or a cake

knife. Orderly. & jagged. Soothingly. Vicious: & raw. I have learned

to die. & not to. I am filled w/ silk.

 

      —Encrusted W/ Emeralds—Stinking Ditched—Boiling—

—I’m On The Back—Of An Elephant—Rubbing—My Pussy—

          —Blooming Magic—Night After Night—Flowers—

     —Birds & Sun—Whore’s Meat—Hanged—On My Soul—

    —Glowing—& Moaning—A Stabbed Cosmos—Drooling—

 

Curled up against each other we licked & sucked till we came

splashing in each other’s faces. A chimp’s running down thru the

rain: Like fish, hanged, ecstatic—All the ways to scream! Suddenly

he pulls into a doorway: Where a woman’s undressing. Like the

heart’s taut shadows: Light’s dribbling in thru the frozen leaves.

Soldiers: & music. Swarmed: In our hair. Down our faces.

Columned. Spired. Domed.

 

                    —Scraped Into Rain—The Sea’s A Spider—

        —Dancing In Shit—Spliced Open—Like Skulls & Skin—

  —In My Throat’s Semen—Towering Up—Breasts Sprouting—

—Groaning Barking—Screaming—A Shore—Tumbling Down—

                                —In Drops—Whitening—

 

In Vegas—Lilacs, boiling, cool, & dark—You begin to eat my ass:

Wiping yr mouth, from time to time—& glaring up at me: Like a

Vampire, a Lion, a Shaman—Swaying, bubbling, seething: Down

into every nerve . . . Till—At last—You slide in a finger . . . Then

two. Fist! Elbow! Shoulder! Head! . . . & you’re inside me: & yr

breasts are my breasts. Yr cunt—My cunt. Yr slow dark heaving

mouth—My slow dark heaving mouth.

 

—Grazing Deep In Me—Deer Stand Up—Like Clocks—

 —Chirping—Chirping Gargoyles—Between Our Legs—

     —I’m Two People—Me & A Woman—Abruptly—

        —Then Playfully—Passionately—Adam & Eve—

           —A Plucked Bone—Wreathed—& Teething—

 

Waves. & Flowers. Revolving. In black lace: Gurgling.You’re pushing

me back down on the bed now. & you’ve got my wrists above my

head. & you’re eating me out—Licking up between my breasts. It’s

dusk. Lights, Wound, Up, In a Spiral: Hooked—Thru Me, Like

Gut, On, Fire. Yr grip’s tightening. I’m sinking: Like fish—In cool

shade. Birds, like planets—All ripped up.

Previously by Blake Butler - How will the David Foster Wallace Legacy Survive Itself?

@blakebutler

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