“On Watching ‘Makin’ Bacon Pancakes (10 Hour Version)'”: new poem in 300 Hours a Minute

In late September, a crowd of good-looking literati and the 6 sweaty weirdos converged on Reunion Island Coffee to celebrate the launch of Desert Pets Press‘s two inaugural chapbooks: the gorgeously designed poems from Still by E. Martin Nolan (you may know him as Ted); and the too-hip-to-be-square anthology 300 Hours a Minute: Poems about YouTube Videos.

poems from Still - E Martin Nolan

If you’re jealous of this cover…

300 Hours a Minute: Poems about YouTube Videos

…swipe right.

Thanks to Catriona Wright for (let’s say) commissioning my contribution to the anthology, “On Watching ‘Makin’ Bacon Pancakes (10 Hour Version).'” She may not remember insisting that YouTube poems are “the only kind of ekphrastic poem that counts,” but it was a pretty polemical pitch. Fastforward seven months: I was overtired and also ‘tired,’ so when I read “On Watching…” at the launch, I failed to read its title (yup), synopsize its source YouTube video, or explain its kid’s-table-seat at the venerable feast called durational art. But the Desert Pets Press website has gone live! And you can order this chapbook now! So here:

How to Write Your Own (10 Hour Version) YouTube Poem:

  1. Read the Vice interview with Benjamin Bennett, YouTube’s livestreaming meditation Lothario.
  2. Complete a statistically insignificant random sample of Bennett’s four-hour videos to determine that, yes, he’s sat motionless and smiling for a total of [updated as of posting] 596 hours.
  3. Stare at Tom Friedman’s “1,000 Hours of Staring” for 1 minute.
  4. Consider you’re staring at your screen, which has already suffered
  5. (calculate this quickly) some 10k hours of your eyeball beams.
  6. Read the comments section below the picture of Friedman’s sheet of paper, attending carefully to this apt deflation of literary criticism: “The fact that ‘art has no definition’ allows people to get obscene amounts of money and fame for staring at paper. Shameful.”
  7. Read the comments section below the KnowYourMeme entry on 10 hour videos to find one deemed the ___-est (e.g., an eleven-second clip of Adventure Time‘s Jake the Dog making excellent use of musical diegesis, not to mention bacon pancakes, looped 3273 times).
  8. Bid your live-in partner farewell / call in sick / file your living will.
  9. Watch for 10 hours straight, taking notes toward your poem.
  10. Confess. Confess.

“Olbers’s Paradox”

after PK Page, Leonard Cohen, John Keats, Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin

“Here is the problem with eternity!
Guerrilla ranks of starlight taunt us
a lonely ragged column on a forced march
our umbilical slashed.
We clink and tumble onward, bones
shaken from a burlap sack. We weep
that this will never end. We weep that it will.”
The doctor takes my pulse in shirtsleeves,
his eyes bruised like there was a vigil to keep.
During the day I laugh and during the night I sleep,
I have no quarrel with eternity.
But he receives me in his attic,
fingers the melon readiness of my gut,
and says, friend, there is something wrong.
Like a batty priest through a parthenon,
he patrols his stacks of paper, tweaks wheels
on a telescope. On a bank of the Weser,
on a bench, lunch in lap, I vomit blood.
The reddest waterclock peals.
My favourite cooks prepare my meals
but my stomach has declared its sovereignty.
The Weser courses on unconcerned
for the whole day, for its last ten long miles.
Peeking at my blood-flecked shoes,
I think, did it not run into the sea,
it wouldn’t run at all, just sit, an icy shelf.
In the mornings, I leap from my bed
a Lazarite. Life pinches like new boots,
as if I come at night—I come, an elf—
my body cleans and repairs itself.
The doctor takes my pulse in shirtsleeves.
He is an old doe, shuffling through white trees.
He salaams at an eyeglass and is a moth
drinking nighttime slow through his proboscis.
My body, he says, is a broken planet.
I grin oceanic. I heave and swell
ambergris as the fields of the North Sea.
“Once things stop happening…once all verbs become
be. Then are we indissoluble
and all my work goes well.”

A glosa unapologetically,
“Olbers’s Paradox” takes as its cabeza
a quatrain already borrowed for the purpose
by P.K. Page from Leonard Cohen’s
“I Have Not Lingered in European Monasteries”:

During the day I laugh and during the night I sleep.
My favourite cooks prepare my meals,
my body cleans and repairs itself,
and all my work goes well.

As the winner of Echolocation Magazine’s 2012 Poetry Contest, this poem was published as a broadsheet by Echolocation Magazine and printed by Massey College’s Brian Maloney. It is available for purchase here, with all proceeds going to Echolocation Magazine.