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Poetry Focus: Tao Lin

Eyewear is very pleased to welcome Tao Lin (sort of pictured) the significant American writer and poet, this vaguely snowy Saturday in London, as part of our ongoing series featuring American Poets all British poets and poetry readers should know about.

Tao Lin is one of the key 21st century poets singled out for attention in the last chapter of Jennifer Ashton's edited collection, The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry Since 1945 (2013). Tao Lin is the author of seven books of fiction/poetry. His third novel, Taipei, will be published early Jun 2013 by Vintage. He may be followed on Twitter here:

i saw you on the street

i went away

i saw other things

i went away some more

it rained

it did something else

it did almost all the rest of it

it was a thing too and it wanted to happen

‘i am bored,’ it said

‘tao,’ it said

i went away from it

i got away and stood there


i don’t know

there was nothing to do

i was far away from things

but things were everywhere

and i was a thing anyway

a thousand pages of reasons said i was just a thing

every reason was good and supported by footnotes

the font was huge but on each successive page the font got smaller

‘it would take a long time to refute all that,’ i said

i sat down

it was raining

every five minutes the thing nearest me changed into a mistake and disappeared

sometimes a beach ball came from the darkness and i hit it back into the darkness

after a while someone turned on all the lights

i was in a bright room

everyone was there

the person who i threw cherry tomatoes at the library with from a balcony across the street in college was there

someone in back was saying, ‘i think i would almost rather be unsuccessful and unhappy than successful and happy’

cake was coming

a human who looked trustworthy said that you were looking for me

and gave me a beer

i cried

something good was about to happen

i cried and the crying made me sad

loneliness is just a word that means you are feeling alone and depressed and starting to think about how difficult and strangely impossible it is for you to be interested in the same people who are interested in you and how if you don’t change your worldview and personality soon then you will probably always feel alone and depressed because you can’t remember a time when you haven’t felt alone and depressed but really you can and that is when you were a small child but that small child seems like a different person, really, than who you are right now and you can’t become a different person anymore because you are over twenty years old and people this age don’t change unless they fall off a barn and get a long metal rod through their brain and then they change drastically and get studied by scientists and never have to get a real job again but always look very alone and far away and doomed on TV even if they and all their friends and family and an international team of doctors, neural surgeons, and psychologists—cognitive, behavioral, courtroom, and analytical—say that they aren’t at all

on the internet you say you hate people
i say i hate people a lot more than you do

we are at a restaurant
everyone is talking
i feel sad and frustrated
because that is how i feel when i am around people
i hear you say that you hate people
i say that i hate people way more than you hate people

in the train station you are talking
i move very close to you
i hug you a little while you are telling me something
you laugh and twist away and take my banana and throw it in the trash

on the train i put on sunglasses
i say i wear sunglasses all the time now
you ask why
i say so people can’t see the weakness in my eyes

it is the next night and four in the morning

poem published online with permission of the author; copyright Tao Lin 2013.


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