The New San Francisco Poetry Underground:
Andrew Paul Nelson


Andrew Paul Nelson

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 124 in September, 2010.

Bio in his own words:

I saw “Waiting for Godot” at San Francisco’s ACT theater when I was seventeen and have been unable to discern sanity from madness ever since. Aesthetics, esp. poetry, has become a necessary space where this absence of distinction becomes something life-affirming and creative. I currently live in San Francisco and I am completing my first book of poems.

Soundbyte Interview:

How would you describe your writing?

Play with language as a means to escape ennui.

Why do you do what you do?
Why are we doing this?
This question is at the heart of many of these writings.

Sublimation is the only thing that keeps at bay my debilitating neurosis.


Amiri Baraka, M.G. Martin, Baudelaire, Thelonious Monk, Ed Bowers.

Do you need your friends around to make art?

Friends who do not create are bad friends.
And they are boring. They only drink on weekends.

Interviewed by EVAN KARP


Escaping Place

one cannot
escape place
one cannot escape
place except in words
one cannot escape place
except in words because
words are not places

(for example)
you can't take the bus
to infinite Idaho
or James Joyce New Jersey
and you will never relief yourself
on the side of the road
on the outskirts of Dementia
or in the public restrooms
in Recrudescence R. I.
you've never been to these places
trust me they don't exist
even when I claim that I am
standing on the corner
of 16th and mission as
thursday night abdicates
her comfy chair
to friday morning I am not
insinuating this place
which now encumbers me but having
a syllable snowball-fight in semantics
16,000 miles above nascent nowhere

Boring, Oregon is a place
though I've never been there
once two of her
racist redneck
residents rescued
us from snow fall enrapture
which stole our autonomy
when we were too young
to die with frozen snot in
our mouths however
San Francisco is not a place
I've never been there
she's just two words
four syllables
twelve letters
S is standing
in the line for the bathroom
three letters behind F
thinking to herself how
she will never drink Sloe Gin again
cuz she goes right through me
and F speaks ill of O
calling him the Anti-christ
and attempting to convince
all the other letters that
this is not the line for the
bathroom this is a race war
and O feigns indifference
because he is a poet
disinterested in politics
and as soon as the bathroom
door opens up it will finally be
his turn to defecate

when I say that one cannot escape
place except in words
I mean to say
how I am afraid of this:
we've become
so used to words
we've begun to believe they exist
even though nobody has ever seen one
we've only read about them in books
or the cover of national geographic
so take my picture
to prove once and
for all that I exist
without this artifact
it would not be possible
to decipher what is
one time I could have sworn
I found god
but it was just another
my idiopathic myopia
mistook ephemeral syllables
for absolute divinity
just like when you were fifteen
and I said I loved you
because it sounded more convincing than
my loins are on fire and masturbation gets

when I say we can't escape
place except in words
I mean to say how
we are on a metal
bird btw two places
we used to be there and
soon we will be here but
right now we haven't the
slightest inclination as to
where we are and
how we got here
even where we are
going but to be
earnest the only
truth value w/
the audacity to escape
the collectivity of our lips
that meaningless vacuum of
tastes for one place over another
would be to say
'we are here and here is nowhere'

when I say I can't escape
place except in words
I mean to say that
we would perish w/out poetry
nothing would be
beautiful w/out madness
he who sublimates
is a masochist
but I will love him to death because
poets are not problem-solvers
but when you sing
you only breath
through your nostrils
sleeves cover your elbows
through which we can still see
the soft topography
of your collarbone
in each moment you become
lightness shifting
your weight from axis to
excess in heaven
beggars sketch caricatures
of your likeness while
those of us still grounded
in the temperate climates of treason
would sacrifice the suspect
gifts of our humanness
just to shiver in your sunlight
to walk barefoot on your trash cans
and exhale through your exhaust pipes

you cannot escape place
except in words because
words are not places
but when you get there
you can stop looking
you've already found it
like your mother's legs
before she met your father
yet more aerodynamic
they open when you get there
and they close when you leave
and there is nothing foreign
to the sounds of our voicelessness
and the sunrise comes easy
most likely you'll catch it
without even casting
a shadow and I am
not trying to sleep with you
I just want a cigarette