Jeff Alessandrelli to Janaka Stucky
Do you worry about getting older? I do. I worry about getting older. I thought about time and age and aging a lot while reading The World Will Deny It For You, mostly because all three of those verily mortal conceptions seemed to be invisibly hovering in the margins of much of the language of the chapbook. You don’t necessarily write about them directly but there are hints and wisps in a number of different poems in the book: “Under a white sky we stand/ In a vast pasture of black tentacles/ Enduring the aeon/ Of invisible age” (“The Concept of Our Great Power”); “You remaining days turn out to be years” (“Be the Unicorn of Your Neighborhood”); “In the moment you arrived you were/ Already leaving after you left” (“There Was A Monster, But I Never Saw Him”); the title of the first poem in the book, “Everyone Thinks I’m Ancient But I’m Only Seven.”
You don’t write about time and age and aging directly, that is, except in the poem “The Opposite of Dreams,” in which time is addressed via the opening stanza:
“Every lover is a home and what is architecture
A place which is nothing and indistinguishable
From all the other nothing until we place it
By placing something in it and thus experience time”
and age and aging via the line that follows said opening stanza: “The architecture of my past is slipping away.”
The opposite of a dream is reality, and the architecture—physical, emotional, spiritual—we surround ourselves within that reality undergoes a multitude of changes throughout each person’s life—“thus [we] experience time.” “The architecture of my past is slipping away” constantly and there is little I can do about it. But the fact that there is little I can do about it makes me rally and rail against it all the more.
When I was younger I used to be afraid of growing up and now that I’m all grown up I’m still afraid of it. It’s a mental handicap, of course, not a physical one. In “You Find Beauty In Ordinary Things Do Not Lose This Ability” you, Janaka Stucky, write, “There is nothing wrong with being alive” and “I feel like I was always meant to be” and both of these sentiments seem to be—for me at least—almost absurdly sunny and positive. In a good way, a redeeming way, one decidedly non-gratuitous. These statements seem neither ironic nor sincere, but rather incontrovertible. Of course there is nothing wrong with being alive. Of course we feel like we were meant to be and exist, were meant to sit down and stand up and eat gummy bears and hug loved ones and dance and sniff and listen. But it’s easy to disregard such notions, especially nowadays. Let’s face it: sometimes it’s hard to willy-nilly look on the bright side. It’s hard to forget about the daunting stuff situated in front of us, brightly splayed across screens and inside texts. “The truth is/ We are perfect” is how you put it in “The Art of Loss Is A Lost Art” and this is something that I often find myself forgetting. I used to read a lot of Taoist texts when I was a free-thinking undergraduate– The Book of Lieh- tz’u and The Book of Chuang-tz’u— and what I liked about them is the fact that each person’s interpretation of Tao, or the Path, or the Way, is wholly personal and interpretative; there isn’t one overriding doctrine or orthodox that can—spiritually, emotionally, bodily— sum things up. The World Will Deny It For You seemed to contain a similar type of Taoist mindset. In “You Must Go by the Way of Dispossession” you, Janaka Stucky, write, “Deny yourself nothing/ The world will deny it for you.” And in their own idiosyncratic way these lines also seem extremely sunny and positive—they admit that that the greater world cares little about our day to day doings and accomplishments, while at the same time they flaunt our own heightened presence of individuality. That we don’t much matter makes us matter all the more. Taken from a book I admit I haven’t read, Raja Janaka’s The Mahabharata, the opening epigraph for The World Will Deny It For You reads, “Unlimited is my wealth/ At the same time I have nothing.” Perhaps incongruously, this quote reminded of the fact that the dinosaurs reigned and existed on earth for over 160 million years. Human beings have reigned and existed on earth for no more than 200,000 years. “Deny yourself nothing/ The world will deny it for you.” The future is always right in front of us and always hard to identify or ascertain. Yet it’s still a future worth striving towards, no matter the circumstances.
Janaka Stucky, I enjoyed your chapbook. In its entirety, your poem “This Is the Hour When You Learn To Love Without” sums up its appeal for me:
No this is
No this is
No this is no this is
Thank you, Janaka.
We are not alone.
Jeff Alessandrelli writes vast letters of speeched mouthfuls. He lives in Lincoln, NE, where he co-curates The Clean Part Reading Series. Hi Mom!