This month we’re featuring Danielle Chapman’s poem “Meet Me in Hollywood,” which appears in Poetry Northwest Fall-Winter 2008-09 v3.n2. According to Chapman, “If there’s anyone lurking in the shadows of this poem, it’s probably Allen Ginsberg. I’ve always felt a bit conflicted about his work; of course as a teenager I guzzled down “Howl” as if it were a ritual libation; then, as a college student, I dismissed it as dated and a bit silly; but, when I reread it again as an adult, I was overcome by the power of its ecstatic perception. While its peyote-dream quality can seem schticky to an ironic reader, it’s ultimately triumphant in harnessing visionary experience, territory which is uniquely suited to poetry. This poem pays homage to the sort of mystical openness that Ginsberg accessed, but it’s also an indictment of the flophouse romanticism that we’ve inherited from his generation. “
Meet Me in Hollywood
I let myself go and watched the signs arriving green
in the violet glow Los Angeles put out over the freeway
through the boulevards and bad apartments
to that pink Best Western tangled in the hills
where you stood smoking by the windowsill,
the hot day hung behind you like an outfit bought on debt,
the little fuchsia exhalations of the bougainvillea sexual
and suicidal. We drove to Malibu, speeding through
billboards, oil fields, mechanical beaks pecking the soil
till wildflowers sparked the cliffs and our wish
for love mounted the coast like an infatuated angel,
evening drowned with its appetite for alcohol
and argument while a mural of Clint Eastwood
smirked over the motel pool.
Late that night,
someone walked gently in the room, then left as in a dream
and, switching on the lamp, we found my purse was gone,
a handyman trembling with it in the rhododendrons.
He handed it back as if he’d expected to be caught,
and we’d forget that anything was ever stolen.
Danielle Chapman writes essays and book reviews for Poetry, the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times Book Review. She has new poems forthcoming in the Atlantic Monthly and The New England Review.
Meet Me in Hollywood appears in the Fall-Winter 2008-09 v3.n2 issue of Poetry Northwest Subscribe today