KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Prose Poem: 273 words


by John Yau

Hasn’t this happened before? You open your eyes and see yourself standing on a peninsula jutting from another time and space conveyer belt where Zeno is incorrect. Sun blotted shore. Back home, an unnamable liquid drips onto your cheap polyester shirt, its bouquets of red and blue flowers. The last clouds have removed themselves. A canary is being taught to greet nightfall on a neighbor’s porch. The rest of you ambulates toward the horizon, its remnants. Another fold in the season is arriving, ready to squeeze you into proper sections.

Are you still betrothed to black cracks and yellow decay? Or have you stooped beneath a fictional apple tree to ponder where your inclinations are leading you? You would like to think that there are alternatives, ways to hop over the walls of this maze, but you wonder if this might be another trick you are playing on yourself.

Will you ascend this slope in time to catch the evening bus, or will you try to rouse some moment from years past, now that you have lost your ball bearings? The moon is a mute lavender wafer. A woman sits behind a sewing machine and points to the door.

Would you be willing to exchange your outer sections of nocturnal pornographic armor for a carcass cleansing kit complete with extra brushes?

Is this really the film of your life—populated by neither villains nor couples stamped out by a sitcom production line? Is this what it has come to? An embarrassed ambassador doodling on his freshly ironed shirt. Or sitting in a rickety lawn chair contemplating the gravel glittering beneath your feet?

John Yau
Issue 1, Fall 2014

Poet, fiction writer, critic, and freelance curator, John Yau is the author of numerous books of poetry and art criticism. The most recent include a collection of poetry, Further Adventures in Monochrome (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), and A Thing Among Things: The Art of Jasper Johns (Distributed Art Publishers, 2008).

He is a prolific writer on visual culture, with reviews appearing in Art in America, Art News, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. He served as arts editor of The Brooklyn Rail for five years (2006–2011); and in 2012, co-founded the online magazine Hyperallergic Weekend: Sensitive to Art and Its Discontents. He also runs a small press, Black Square Editions, which publishes translations, poetry, and fiction.

His collection of poems, Ing Grish (Saturnalia, 2005), is a collaboration with artist Thomas Nozkowski, dubbed “the Chardin of contemporary abstraction” by The New Yorker. Yau’s collaborations with artists may also be found in museums in Chicago and New York, as well as in Bonn and Karlsruhe, Germany.

He has received grants and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Warhol Foundation, to name a few. His awards include a General Electric Foundation Award, a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, and a Brendan Gillin Award. In 2002 he was named a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government.

Currently living in New York City, Yau teaches art criticism at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.

Comprehensive bibliography at Poetry Foundation

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

The Rise and Fall of the Blanket, prose poem in Connotation Press: An Online Artifact (“Hoppenthaler’s Congeries,” May 2012)

I never learned Singlish, excerpted from Yau’s collection of poems, Ing Grish (Saturnalia, 2005)

The Sunday Poem: John Yau, 320-word micro-review by Michelle Aldredge in Gwarlingo (6 October 2012); includes three excerpts from the title poem of Further Adventures in Monochrome

Further Adventures in the Monochrome: A Conversation with John Yau by Rachel Mays in Los Angeles Review of Books (27 October 2013)

This 4300-word discussion covers a range of subjects: Yau’s natural inclination to experiment (what would happen if?), his love of writing about art, how looking at painting has taught him to see words differently, how he tries to surprise himself in his writing, and more.

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