The Believer Poetry Award

Is Hereby Presented to ECODEVIANCE by CAConrad

“The world as it could be (or a collective version of it),” writes CAConrad in ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness, his seventh book, “is always trying to bend the air around itself to be heard.” CAConrad developed the creative basis for ECODEVIANCE following an artistic crisis. The poet had come to believe that his writing process had become automated, and that the poems themselves had become “these factory-like structures.” As he writes in this collection’s introductory essay, “That morning I started what I now call (Soma)tics, ritualized structures where being anything but present was next to impossible. These rituals create what I refer to as an ‘extreme present.’”

The performative exercises from which the poems result are not for the faint of heart or the bashful of temperament. They include (as detailed in ECODEVIANCE by twenty-three mini-essays) asking passersby on the street about the consistency of their semen, talking to crystals, communicating with a giant sycamore, and “pollinating” flowers with one’s tongue in front of sidewalk security cameras. Again and again, CAConrad’s poetry demonstrates that self-exposure—the braver and more apparently audacious, the better—has the capacity not only to create some of the rawest, most intensely intimate and original poetry being written today, but also to act as a powerful force for overcoming the communicative barriers all around us.

In fact, CAConrad’s poetry is obsessed with communication (with strangers, with a ghost, with one’s seatmate on a plane, via the aid of a crystal, via webcam), and it reminds us, as well, of the inescapable moral dimension of language—and of communication more generally. This is never more clear than in his exhortation that we understand life to include more than just human life (“jails,” he writes, “some call / zoos where no prisoner has / ever seen a lawyer”).

A Philadelphia resident and self-described “son of white trash asphyxiation,” CAConrad has become, through his writing and his presence, a hero to many in the poetry world. He may well be the most sensible lunatic we have.


                    he puts it
                    down in
                    front of himself
                    instead of passing it
                    this is the way of
                    men all over
                    the world
a camera with a pen wrote this poem
                    bending back into giant sleep
                    ink on pillowcase
                    night leaks into
                    mind’s library
                    things you won’t be able to
                    open without a
                    gun would include
                    my dreambank
                    we promised to
                    shake one
                    another into
                    a new phase
                    every few years
                           I sewed this heckler-proof
                           suit for you sorry you get
                           so much shit onstage
                           Clyde Barrow you
                           faggot bank robber
                           in my dream every bullet flew
                           back into their little piggy guns
                           were you ever so
                           strong as this
                           on earth

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