Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Poetry Break: "Automatic Bifocals"

Hydrogen Bums
Rebby Sharp and Jon Graham
(Image from Good Reads)

Recent ridiculosity in some comments on another blog has reminded me of a 'poem' that I first heard as a song -- on a Skeleton Crew album, I think -- when I was living in Fribourg, Switzerland back in the winter of 1986-87:
Automatic Bifocals
threesomes in sparse metaphysics
trees barking up the underdog
grabbing from higher ups the low life
scanner scanner where are you?
drums of ancient children
caustic grins peddling through crowded zoos
Apparently, these are only the first six lines of the poem, composed as a collaboration between Rebby Sharp and Jon Graham for their surrealist book of poetry, Hydrogen Bums, apparently self-published underground in 1983, for there seems to be no ISBN code. You can find more such surrealist poems by Ms. Sharp on her art website, where they accompany a gallery of images. Elsewhere, she's set poetry to music. As for Mr. Graham, I know less about him.

The book Hydrogen Bums is also mentioned in passing by Jonathan Shipley, "Running with Scissors" (Fine Books and Collections, 2009), as having a title that pokes fun at the whole enterprise of book-making as an art form.

This poem "Automatic Bifocals" ain't high art, not by any means, but to echo Burton's Joker standing before a Francis Bacon painting, I can also say, "I kind of like this one."

Especially that second line, "trees barking up the underdog," which works very well as a handy retort to stubbornly insistent -- despite reasoned refutation -- online nonsense.

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