Dan Schneider’s Poem: The Finn

Sometimes I love Dan Schneider.

This poem, which is located in his Le Bestiare collection, is apparently based on the time he was hacked by some troll Finnish girl. An email of that event is located over here. And Dan describes her like this:

“Sari claims to be bisexual, is a bulimic, ex-mental patient whose dad is a Finnish diplomat- you can search for Ole- her dad- online. She claims to love to lie in cemeteries & likes Goth BS. She’s a very lonely but sick person. I doubt she wd ever be dangerous in person but on the web she’s a nuisance.”

And what better way to get back at a troll Goth hacker than to write a metaphysical dream-like poem about her? This is what I call – having the skills to write a poem about almost any goddamn thing in the world and still make it into some kind of higher statement. And, really, it shows that having nothing big to write about is no excuse for a true poet – but you just have to be able to write it grandly. Poetic vengeance is sweet.

THE FINN
*Sari Sotamaa

Who would understand the remote dream of difficulty
save the dreamer? Sailing in to her body past
a single moment of sky and sea made one,
under the violent pastiche of indigo and sun, which will not set
this time of year, in the saltless ego made
an instrument of space, pressed into the flowers
she bears. She glares devoted meaninglessness

into the star, equal with its temperaments, stung
into orange and violet hues her eyes gather phosphenes
from the singular suffering of and, and its lack,
as she dreams behind the rote blue of her computer
screen, circling about the world, breaking
into fragments, motions of springs replicating
away, as she hacks into universes where gulls circle
over dead buffalo husks, and gophers swim free
in some Baltic Sea. Identical to a dream
she once had, when her name was unworn by years
or bones, when she was six or seven, or not.

The importance of all this is merely the eloquence
in which she skips to the barn, and strips
to her self, at the center of the blue-tinged eye
of a goat. She becomes one. With the roll, in the pass
of time, all things align in the dream and the real.

And does the goat understand it is dreamt, by the girl
in the dream, as it bleats or brays or makes
some kind of sound, in tones Neolithic
as its breast baring heat into this pile of meat it meets
remembering a time when it was flesh and more?

It seems natural as it is. The girl and the beast,
as they lay in the sun, as she used to lay
on gravestones when young, to sense the power
of death, terrifying and breaching ethics with fragility,
postulated arrangements of bare whispered presence, the dawn
unmentioned with her own hard kiss into living with this flesh,
this beast under the sun’s demure hands slowly heating them one.

It is moments as these which recall her abandon,
by father or mother, or other such things, as she wakes
from the seem of a mind, pressing the fresh darkness
of her face into the void, the meaning of beginning,
and the questions therein, abandoned and undone
by not one instance, as the computer flashes, her mischiefs
sing of flowers, and malls, and things European, under it all
alone as a lion in a drought-filled land, plagued
by hyenas, as this rogue imagining, and its absence
of fear through indigo flares, the sun, and the union of all things.

In the torpor of her fingers she senses union, and thinks
of the moonlit reunion of the thing and the thought, the keys
of a half beating whole, rising to be her emissary
to brilliance, till the other calls, in its bray she is comfort,
on her knees she writhes, vertebra becoming constellations
made flesh. The rim of her moon curves her shape into its.

If you look at the center of the poem, it seems to include some kind of metaphysical goat-fuckery as well. Anyway, let’s get into it!

Who would understand the remote dream of difficulty
save the dreamer? Sailing in to her body past
a single moment of sky and sea made one,
under the violent pastiche of indigo and sun, which will not set
this time of year, in the saltless ego made
an instrument of space, pressed into the flowers
she bears. She glares devoted meaninglessness

The abstraction is strong here! There are all sorts of images phasing in and out, of nature, of dreaming, and that statement at the start. The first line can be read in quite a lot of ways, because of the enjambment. “Save the dreamer” can be read by itself, but the whole line “Who would… the dreamer” – seems to be talking about first world problems. The ‘dream of difficulty’ that many people, like dumb Goth trolls whose fathers are diplomats, carry within them, separate from reality. Of course, the first line, by itself, can also be talking about Dan’s own poetic prowess – his ability to write ‘difficult dreams’ (he believes Art is a lie after all). Then it focuses on a ‘her’ – and this ‘her’ melds into nature and time and all sorts of metaphysical stuff. She ‘sails into her body past’ but w/o the enjamb, it becomes ‘past a single moment of sky and sea made one’. So we have two moments, sailing backwards in time, and sailing past something that seems like a transcendental vision of nature.

The rest of the description ‘under the violent pastiche of indigo and sun, which will not set’ – can be referent to a lot of things. The overall depiction could be about Sari being stuck in this kind of mental state where everything blends into a violent sunset that she cannot escape from. This reading could be seen to be reinforced in the next line, where she is ‘an instrument to space’ with a ‘saltless ego’. Saltless has many connotations, especially to the sea, but it could also mean lack of salt from lack of sweat – a kid that hasn’t work a day in her life. The enjambment at ‘pressed into the flowers’ shows her as both a young girl bearing flowers, but also being ‘pressed into them as an instrument of space’. So it’s both showing her as an adoring young girl (Dan claims she hacked him because of some spat with his wife in some Sylvia Plath circle or something – the standard emo fan of Plath) and a plaything to natures she cannot understand. To top it all off, the stanza ends with ‘She glares devoted meaninglessness’ – which is as direct a statement as you can get.

into the star, equal with its temperaments, stung
into orange and violet hues her eyes gather phosphenes
from the singular suffering of and, and its lack,
as she dreams behind the rote blue of her computer
screen, circling about the world, breaking
into fragments, motions of springs replicating
away, as she hacks into universes where gulls circle
over dead buffalo husks, and gophers swim free
in some Baltic Sea. Identical to a dream
she once had, when her name was unworn by years
or bones, when she was six or seven, or not.

If this is a Plath fan, then the ‘star’ could be Plath herself – but the metaphor seems to just be about the ferocity of the star – and how she is ‘equal with its temperaments’ – so not necessarily Plath. Calling back the colors of the violent sunset (indigo + sun vs orange + violet) – there is this beautiful image of ‘stung into orange and violet hues her eyes gather phosphenes’. And the next one is farther talking about her self-delusion – the ‘singular suffering of and, and its lack’ – and that extra ‘and’ is most likely not a typo, but could imply a lot of things.

The next part is as beautiful a description of troll hacking as you can get – ‘dreaming behind the rote blue of her computer’ – ‘circling about the world’ – ‘breaking into fragments’ – ‘motions of springs replicating away’ – ‘hacks into universes where gulls circle over dead buffalo husks, and gophers swim free in some Baltic Sea’. What the meaning of that last image is – could of course mean a lot of things – but it’s a juxtaposition of freedom as well as a kind of desertion – which is an apt description of people who are ‘free’ but ‘landlocked in their own desire’. The main point is that its dreamlike and subtly implies psychotic states without openly revealing, which is the power of a poet – generally a Confessionalist Poetry Technique.

The last part continues to push in that theme of self-delusion, but the ‘unworn by years’ could also be talking about her immaturity of not being old enough, as well as her Gothic dreams of alienation despite being a spoilt girl. ‘Six or seven, or not’ – is probably talking about people’s tendency to remake memories into constant ghosts.

The importance of all this is merely the eloquence
in which she skips to the barn, and strips
to her self, at the center of the blue-tinged eye
of a goat. She becomes one. With the roll, in the pass
of time, all things align in the dream and the real.

And does the goat understand it is dreamt, by the girl
in the dream, as it bleats or brays or makes
some kind of sound, in tones Neolithic
as its breast baring heat into this pile of meat it meets
remembering a time when it was flesh and more?

Let the goat-fuckery begin! But it’s quite an amazing technique that Dan segues the ‘blue-tinged eye’ which could mean the computer monitor, into that goat. Of course he’s been conjuring out many kinds of idealized Finnish scenery images as well throughout the poem. ‘Eloquence’ in this case points more to ‘ease’ – of how eloquently she can fall into her own madnesses, dreams, and whatnot – and the goat is a cosmic metaphor to her primal natures – well, that’s my reading. Or it could just be that Dan wants to make an elaborate Finland bestiality joke (we know that that stereotype exists). Either way, knowing the context makes this amazing hilarious.

To up the game, Dan doesn’t just want to talk about the perspective of the girl who fucks a goat, but he also wants to talk about the perspective of the goat that fucks a girl. The lower animal consciousness views it as a ‘pile of meat’ – and may I remind you that all this poesy pretty much boils down to the idea that Dan thinks of the filthy troll hacker as a lower than animal goat-fucker? Perhaps, also with a bit of sadness because he talks about whether the goat can be cognizant of the fact that there was a time when that meat was ‘flesh and more’. This, overall, is a poetic admonishment of this young girl who debases herself to her passions rather than higher human consciousness – such as writing great poetry, like what Dan does.

It seems natural as it is. The girl and the beast,
as they lay in the sun, as she used to lay
on gravestones when young, to sense the power
of death, terrifying and breaching ethics with fragility,
postulated arrangements of bare whispered presence, the dawn
unmentioned with her own hard kiss into living with this flesh,
this beast under the sun’s demure hands slowly heating them one.

Now Dan is taking that thing that he learnt about her being a Goth that was always lying around in gravestones like some nut – and it’s interesting that he conflates that grave-lying image with the beast lying image ‘natural as it is’. This is quite a brilliant image of how passionate people, that seem to be brimming too much at times with excitement and life, especially adolescents who care too much about stupid things – are also so close to their own destruction and fragility. This ‘postulated arrangements of a bare whispered presence’ reminds me of how I would also get many stupid thoughts back then in adolescence (well, I still have many stupid thoughts, but can pinpoint them better) – almost seeming like some kind of fairy mood took my mind and wanted me to do something. That so called ‘YOLO’ mentality. Dan places this image at an ‘unmentioned dawn’ in contrast with the earlier violent sunset – once again, many multiple implications but I won’t dwell on this. And ‘her own hard kiss into living with this flesh’ is a brilliant wording that can be used to talk about delusional pride. The stanza ends with the image of how both her and the beast are heated by the sun – two animal subjective pulsing with heat under the light of one transcendent entity.

It is moments as these which recall her abandon,
by father or mother, or other such things, as she wakes
from the seem of a mind, pressing the fresh darkness
of her face into the void, the meaning of beginning,
and the questions therein, abandoned and undone
by not one instance, as the computer flashes, her mischiefs
sing of flowers, and malls, and things European, under it all
alone as a lion in a drought-filled land, plagued
by hyenas, as this rogue imagining, and its absence
of fear through indigo flares, the sun, and the union of all things.

I think this stanza is quite clear, and pretty much unleashing all the ‘first world problems’ criticism in one tight stanza. ‘Abandon’ is enjambed to mean both her wild abandon and her own abandonment by parents. Then she awakens and faces her own existential void – but although facing this could be ‘the meaning of beginning’ – the ‘questions therein’ are left ‘abandoned and undone’. She’s stuck in her own cycle of existential hell – and ‘her mischiefs sing of flowers, and malls, and things European’ – but at the bottom is herself ‘alone as a lion in a drought-filled land, plagued by hyenas etc…’. Dan wants to force the knife in farther, relating in this poem her psychotic condition, and her immaturity, in verse. All this powerful animalistic and natural imagery links her state closer to Nature than to the higher thought that humans can encompass.

This is the beauty of Art as Communication, of how it is able to commentate and turn personal experiences, and observations, into some kind of higher speech. This entire poem is so applicable to the thousands of adolescents and self-delusionists in their own hells right now, but they can’t even see it because they don’t have the ability to view its subtle grandeur, its sly mocking of them, and its detailed tearing apart of their own beings – and those that are able to see what its talking about will be able to deeply and intellectually understand its grandeur. If there is a half-cyborg kid on a ship 500 years from now stuck in the same state, the same flaws of being human – this will be applicable to them as well. Only when we all fly up into higher intelligences will it no longer be talking to us – but we will still be able to understand it better.

In the torpor of her fingers she senses union, and thinks
of the moonlit reunion of the thing and the thought, the keys
of a half beating whole, rising to be her emissary
to brilliance, till the other calls, in its bray she is comfort,
on her knees she writhes, vertebra becoming constellations
made flesh. The rim of her moon curves her shape into its.

And this is the most beautiful image of cosmic goat-fuckery you will ever find in Poetry.

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