James Brock: “Upon Hearing That My Grant Application Was Passed Over…”


“Your poem should touch God in places only Emily Dickinson has dared touch….Your poem cannot save anyone. Your poem must be seven words or fewer, or two thousand lines or more. Entry fee: all of your boss’s money,” James Brock directs in his witty prose-poem “The Jim Brock Poetry Contest: Guidelines”, which appears in his new collection Gods & Money (WordTech Editions, 2010).

The poem below is reprinted by permission from his previous poetry collection, Pictures That Got Small (WordTech Editions, 2005). Denise Duhamel calls this book “a lush, sexy, nostalgic (in the best sense of the word) look at old Hollywood, the experimental films of Matthew Barney, and home movies of southern Florida. Irreverent and unpredictable, intelligent and haunting, deadpan and dead serious, these poems are buoyant and felicitous.”

Upon Hearing That My Grant Application Was Passed Over and the Winner Was a Bio-Tech Professor Who Has Designed Genetically-Altered Protein for Buckwheat Seed

      —for Denise

Okay, call me Tallulah Bankhead. I wanted that award,
the crystal glass eagle, the pendant, the certificate,
the lapel pin, the thousand bucks, and the parking space
next to the university president’s spot—the whole
platinum and sapphire tiara. I knew I should have
written that poem on the manipulations
of amino acid balance in buckwheat seed proteins.
I knew I should have named that new genetic
strand Omicron-Brockide-32, should have brokered
the patent rights to Monsanto, let them spread the seed
of my pumped-up, high-octane, drought-tolerant,
American-can-do-know-how buckwheat
to sub-Sahara Africa and southern Mongolia.

One year later, then, I would have written
the grant report, presented it to the committee
on PowerPoint, and finished off my presentation
with a streaming video clip, showing some adolescent
boy, from Gambia, say, and he would be eating
my buckwheat flat bread, and there he would be,
digitalized, smiling, full, and muscular. Yes,
and at that moment, vindicated and wise,
teary-eyed and generous, the grant committee
would gather and lift me on their shoulders, laughing
and singing, joyful for all the corporate sponsorships that
would follow me and bless our humble home
institution. For me, dare I dream further confirmations?
O, to be Nationally Endowed, Guggenheimed, MacArthured!

Of course, in Gambia, and other geographies
beneath the sweep and hoozah of fellowships
and announcements in The Chronicle of Higher Education,
the newly nourished could be striking the flint
of their first syllables of their first poems, poems
whose phrases—under the most subdued of flames—would
coolly scorch and burn our best American intention.

****

Read more poems from this book here.

12 comments on “James Brock: “Upon Hearing That My Grant Application Was Passed Over…”

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