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Chris Martin


I have always been keen on mistake-ism, even before I knew what it was. In my Western youth I loved that Navajo blankets each bore a flaw so as to take place alongside the real. Years later I read the early film criticism of Jean Epstein, whose epigram you’ll find below. While researching Epstein I was reminded of Harmony Korine, whose Gummo had throttled and mesmerized me with its aesthetic blitzkrieg years before. I actually bore witness to one of its premiere screenings, where Werner Herzog placed a reassuring hand on Harmony’s shoulder as he decried the history of American cinema and frankly stated that Gummo was the first true American film. Although my first viewing left me fairly repulsed, subsequent viewings would deepen my appreciation for the film to a state of near reverence. The following poems are disparate nodes from a serial work of mistake-ism.



We demand to see more because of our experimental mentality, because of our desire for a more exact poetry…because we need to make new mistakes.
—Jean Epstein

I wanted to invent a new film. If I had to give this style a name, I’d call it a “mistake-ist” art form.
—Harmony Korine


Disband all
relics of the eye

Let this bird outside
your window be
a hole in your poem that
refuses explanation

a swerving refusal, a veer
so as to see slips
in the horizon’s wall

The city of the sky has no past
The whorl at the tip
of the finger is a little wind

The wind does not doubt
the mistakes it brings
into being

It is not hard to write a mistake-ist poem
It is hard to be alive


Do not disbelieve the birds
Notice the leaf’s bored twirl

Look out at the world as if
it were a telephone you

hadn’t expected to be
buzzing so suddenly

in your already fluttery hand


Noon is hard on
a priest. An egg
wants company
and so cracks

This is my shepherd
this wind
patiently embracing
and yet I would

not be so
easy. That man that
is my father
We know only

what might
be made to sing
through mishap


The glass
plays its daysong
on the patchworked

wood floor

There is nothing less
apt than
in our time

The poet may live on the edge
of a lake or
radii of smog

and drift like a neon hush


Tuesday wholly
composed of close-ups
indefinite fragments
swelling out
of frame—the eye
of the girl
suddenly an eye of
a girl, the lashes
closing on their black bulb
only to open
once more with the inexorable
movement of a thresher
sifting tints or


The grain of the wall
welts into a harrowing blanch
of arbitrary

topographic routes

The fruit flies whip
and stall, torpid with youth

or age or
both at once

The toe looms
The sunlight drapes encaustic
The penis curls into

an old mine still threaded
with blue-green ore


Sometimes the lack
of the roof of

the cinema is
the cinema

like misreading lines
into a skewed grace

she staged ‘a wave
offering’ and hoped

to commandeer ‘another
formal pornography’


Part of today is
taking the bus
facing the face
that is yours
behind those curious
and key-scarred
frames, dumb, totally
rapt or detached
the advertising that
persists like a fog
made of skin
evacuated into
razory planes
your very own face
pushed over the streets
miraculously arriving
decades late
to the perfect song
voiced by ghost
today the snow
that is our hearts
flutters and love
will truly tear us apart

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