Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tony Tost as an Assuring Male Poet

I just came across an outrageous distortion of Tony Tost's Invisible Bride, perpetrated by Stephanie Cleveland (who I don't know who is, I'll admit). In "The Myth of Women’s Masochism", she writes as follows:

In “The Great Submarine Race,” Mathew Rohrer describes penises as metaphorical submarines (that is, warships) which slumber in the bloodstreams of all men. These “submarines” want desperately to “burble [i.e. shoot off] in shallow slips.” Erection and ejaculation are the primary focus; the woman’s vagina becomes passive, a port where the poet docs his sub:
A man in the square nudged his wife/and told her they were Mammary clouds. Everyone’s bloodstream burbled faintly./ The wife loved the lumpy clouds, the man’s submarine slipped its mooring/and nosed her coral arches. Simultaneously, all the world’s submarines exhaled and plunged deep into the shifting water, with their little engines racing (65)
Men fuck women as a collective entity, bonding through what Tony Tost has aptly poeticized as “the ancient male ritual of penetrating” (49). Some envision themselves as charming submarines who “enter her” magnanimously. For women, to reject this image of being plunged or parted by a man’s ship is to hurt men’s feelings, to risk making a male partner feel less substantial, less like a man, and potentially less willing to stick around. Every one else is fucking this way, every other woman in the world waits eagerly to be nudged by her partner’s penis; the male poet assures us this is so; every woman is happiest in her natural role of passive port directed were to look by an erection-wielding husband.

But anyone who reads the poem on page 49 will immediately see that Tony was not talking about a ritual of penetrating per se. Rather, he has “Agnes”, who recurs in the book as “the otherworldly force that silently and insistently explains [his] reason for being” and also “theorizes about the sanctity of airports" (8), say something completely different. I'll quote it here along with the set-up.

When I was ten I broke into my father's office to steal some money and there he was digitally stimulating my mother and talking on the phone. Agnes said I have spent my life's capital perpetually sneaking into my father's office, then telling myself I was a trespasser of the unknown.

"The ancient male ritual of penetrating the public sphere only to stumble upon a penetration of the private one," she said.

Cleveland, the "female poet", if you will, lops off the clauses that give a sense to "penetrating" and now assures us that this is a poem about how “men fuck women as a collective entity, bonding”. Very assuring, indeed.

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