TOP40-DES37
This Old Poem #40:
David Muraís Chorus On The Origins Of His Lust
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 12/7/02

  Contemporary poetasters hate it when they are called on how they use their own perceived victimhood to foster literary careers that their actual literature cannot. Itís OK for a Wanda Coleman to call herself a victim because Madison Avenue only cares about young, attractive, pale-skinned, & pencil-thin females, & sheís none of those things. But donít you call her those things, especially not without mentioning sheís a victim. Itís OK for Donald Hall to literally weep on stage when he foists his dead wifeís doggerel on a cringing audience. But donít you call him exploitive of the dead & dull without mentioning his IMMENSE grief. Similar to those 2 poetasters, in their exploitation of their perceived insecurities & losses, is local Minnesota poetaster David Mura.
  Never heard of him? So, why does he share traits with WC & DH? Well, I would not tell you, normally, because it has little relevance to his startlingly dull poetry, EXCEPT that the primary reason his dull verse has gotten published in book verse is BECAUSE of his public self-flagellation of his insecurities & griefs.
  You know the drill by now. Hereís 1 of the several online bios of DM:

David Mura. DOB: 6/17/52, Chicago, Illinois. Author, poet, and performance artist. Third-generation Japanese-American sansei. B.A., English, Grinnell College, Iowa, 1974; graduate work in English at the University of Minnesota, 1974-79; M.F.A., Vermont College, 1991. Served on the board of directors at The Loft, Minneapolis, 1982-84; president, 1987-88. English instructor, St. Olaf College, 1990-91; visiting professor, University of Oregon, 1991. Published in The Nation, The American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, The New Republic, and The Missouri Review, among others. Awarded two National Endowment for the Arts grants, a 1984 U.S.-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship, the 1987 "Discovery"/The Nation Award, and the 1995 Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Writer's Award. National Poetry Series Contest winner, 1989 (After We Lost Our Way); Josephine Miles Book Award, 1991, and Minnesota Book Award in the Biography category, 1991 (Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei); Minnesota Book Award in the Memoirs category, 1997 (Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity). With African-American writer Alexs Pate has created and performed in the performance piece Secret Colors and a movie, Slowly This, for the PBS series "Alive TV." 

  So now you have the bare facts. Yes, he is a dread Lofty, & his PBS piece with Alexs Pate was a self-righteous tour-de-force of anti-nihilism, but- note the sentence: ĎThird-generation Japanese-American sansei.í OK, what does that mean? Well, itís a redundancy, because if you ever hear DM read or perform he always prefaces his art with that statement- YET a sansei is a 3rd generation Japanese American; so the point is redundant. Another fact that the suburban-raised DM feels a need to torture his victims- er, audience- with is the fact that his grandparents were interned during WW2. Of course, this was a violation of their civil rights & our government belatedly recognized this fact & gave meager financial remuneration for the wrongs. That none of this touched DM, merely to serve as fodder for art his own humdrum existence could not give, well- give him some props- at least heís looking for raison, even if it is emotional vampirism. The 3rd personal factoid that DM flogs his audiences with is that he is/was a porno addict. But, instead of acknowledging that this is his own cross, he blames white society for impelling him to lust after milken-breasted Aryan babes. Most of his poetry deals with these 3 themes. A small purview, granted, but DM seems to have taken on a dislike of his own lifestyle, for he married & has fathered children with a white doctor. Oddly enough, these failings have garnered him, at least, public praise from middle brow white intellectuals & simple-minded liberals, even as they sneer at him behind their back.
  Again, I only bring these points up because he has relentlessly done so, & it may help you evaluate the titular poem with these facts- not in its success (or, more properly, not) but in the origins of the poems & why they so often misfire. The poem is from his book The Colors Of Desire. Cringe if you must:

Chorus On The Origins Of His Lust

Come, come, we've heard this before.
You think, in this age, anyone cares?
What we really can't forgive is a bore.

You seem to believe in sin
as if you'd been dunked as a boy
in some red-clay river and born again.

This is merely the excellent sophistry
of the age: that, in our sickness,
we can make of our guilt a family,

and instead of the proprietary
influence of stars, Orion
and the Dog snarling overhead,

or the Scorpion raising its tail
on our birth or bridal bed,
we say each disaster that assails

comes simply from the primal
Oedipal, Electric scene:
Father, mother, child in hell.

Or take this second dispensation:
That in the firmament rising
above a boy's masturbation,

the planetary dream of a world
whitened, nightmares of
yellow, dark-skinned hordes,

all fissioned desire, as if nothing
in his nature grew naturally
perverted, lecherous, wild. Your

goatish glint, where did it twinkle?
In the eye of mother? Father?
Or guards in the towers

at Minidoka, Jerome? Nonsense.
Cock, bull, you made these disasters...

--Yes, yes, I acknowledge my own. 

  Can a poet self-examine his motives? Of course. But do it interestingly. This poem actually has decent music, mostly because of its quasi-form. But the rhymes need to be maintained in lines 1 & 3 of each stanza- the dropping of such would be fine were the words used so imperative to the narrative that that imperative overrode the benefits of form. They donít. That said, drop the 1st 3 stanzas- just prosaic self-flagellation that is repeated throughout the poem- dropping stanzas 1-3 makes the later appearance of guilt stronger & more true to a depiction of real self-flagellation, by heightening the appearance of each point by only 1 appearance. Also, why the word ĎChorusí in the title? It has no real use, as the poem is clearly not a give & take (even with the last lineís non-italics), nor is the term applied in the musical sense. Letís also tidy up some of the rhymes & the narrative:

On The Origins Of His Lust

And instead of the proprietary
influence of stars, Orion
and the Dog snarling cosmically,

or the Scorpion raising its tail
on our birth or bridal bed,
we say each disaster that assails 

the planetary dream of a world,
whitened with nightmares of
yellow, dark-skinned hordes,

fissioning desire, is a nothing
that his nature grew naturally
perverted, lecherous, wild. Bring

goatish glints, where do they glower?
In the eye of mother? Father?
Or guards in the towers

at Minidoka, Jerome? You have sown
cock-bull; you made these disasters...

--Yes, yes, I acknowledge my own.  

 Note that we dropped 2 stanzas:

comes simply from the primal
Oedipal, Electric scene:
Father, mother, child in hell.

Or take this second dispensation:
That in the firmament rising
above a boy's masturbation,
   

  Again, DM is guilty of blatantly telling us what is going on in the rest of the poem- his primary flaw as a poet is he has never learned the value of concision. He has a horrible 30+ page poem called The Affair (in His & Her versions) from the same book which could be a great poem were it whittled to about 2 pages. But DM canít help himself. In the rewrite we get hints at the percipientís problems, but enough shadow to make us reread. The only reason 1 would wanna reread the original is in the vague hopes that 1 skimmed over the part where the speaker blows his brains out in a 1st reading. & thatís no way to treat art, right?
  Yes, DM is incredibly gauche in his exploitation of othersí sufferings to justify his desires to be someone other than himself, & his use of dull Japanisms can drone. But, worst of all is the fact that someone like this teaches younger minds the exact wrong ways to approach art. But, who am I to protest? He leads me in Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Writer's Awards by a hefty 1-0 margin!

Final Score: (1-100):

David Muraís Chorus On The Origins Of His Lust: 60
TOPís On The Origins Of His Lust: 72

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