Rae Armantrout: Four new poems



Reindeer pull a sleigh

(through early spring thaw)

on the roof

of the True North

nail salon





Signed turn-out

where tourists take snapshots

of the pipeline, elevated

on small plinths,

amid scattered birch





Aurora’s green sky

gives the mind

what it thinks

it wants: a different

nature, a new world





And notes

of a wind chime —


dissonant, rounded —


Nabokov’s “nymphets”

fleeting in place






So the problem we pose

is how to create an intelligent


and then prevent it

from destroying this world?





“Content monitoring

that required the AI’s

intentional states

to be transparent

might not be feasible

for all architectures.”





A long green straw

stuck in the ground


with two ears (leaves)



on either side

at intervals





What we meant

by “listening stations”


and when we began

to mean this.





Perhaps its goal would be

to have “thoughts”

pass through its “head”

so it could record them.





“Preparedness is critical.”

“Kiss all hope goodbye.”

“A friend wants you to like it.”






Small white lights

twined around white


dead sticks

under a glass dome


flash -

like getting an idea


was the idea.





Like thinking

I want to fall asleep,


each night coming so soon

after the last,


and hosting a string

of tedious dreams


like trying to get back

to my office





I head

back in

to clear it



my head








What are your interests?


I’m interested in the way


creates finitude.





Differently translated,


“in choosing itself,

existing being

closes a circuit.”





Now every sixteen seconds,

the engine will pass the brakeman

with his arm always raised

beside the empty station.





What do you want to do?


All impulses come

from the gods,

as we know,


and lead god knows where,


though each hero

has her own set

of god-given epithets,






[Rae Armantrout has emerged in recent years as an essential contributor to a new and evolving American poetry, the force of the work in fulfillment of Lydia Davis’s earlier assessment: “In every line, every stanza of these brief and dense poems, Rae Armantrout’s powerful mix of scientific inquiry and social commentary, wit and strangeness, is profoundly stimulating. She changes the way one sees the world and hears language — every poem an explosion on the page in which her individuality shines through. Is the work funny? Absolutely. Moving? Yes. But beware — after reading Armantrout you will question everything, including what it means to be ‘funny’ and ‘moving.’” Previous postings on Poems & Poetics can be found here and here, as well as Marjorie Perloff’s essay “An Afterword for Rae Armantrout.” (J.R.)]