Much as I appreciate Tom Beckett’s contribution to “Books on Chairs,” I can’t be as frank in featuring it because I hesitate to show the male organ, so to speak, on this blog. It’s not because I’m a prude so much as I don’t really know who’s reading this blog--I mean, someone (relatively young) might come here from playing in a dollhouse looking for miniature chairs! How’s that for raising your interest (pun intended)?
After my first read of the book, I came to think of that white spot on the left page as like a drop of semen. This effect may not have been planned by Mr. Beckett, but it does seem appropriate to his project.
What’s nifty about the insertion of this reference is how it was done subtly—it’s not presented as an overt concern of the narrative; it’s just presented matter-of-factly (though that matter-of-factness may not be discernible in this cut-off image that focuses on the torso). The matter-of-factness of the detail’s inclusion indicates something about Mr. Beckett’s view of identity’s multiplicities—perhaps that it’s a natural enough thing so there’s no need to make a big deal of it. And/or, even if one does identify with a specific gender, it does not mean that other genders do not exist within that person. This image, by the way, reminds me of the cover to one of Mr. Beckett’s books, UNPROTECTED TEXTS: SELECTED POEMS 1978-2006:
(The cover image for the above book was a sculpture by master artist Robert Gober. If you go to link and scroll down, you’ll see image of the sculpture featured on Mr. Beckett’s book.)
Well, so what does the Chairman say? He says what’s in the thought balloon which offers the following poem:
I don’t know about you, but I read/view the above shape of the white cut-out as partly that the poem-sentiment was revealed during a man’s orgasm. During orgasm, one is not fully in control—and so this could be an uncontrolled revelation. As an uncontrolled revelation, this could mean that the Chairman was inadvertently being honest in expressing his statement.
There is, though, another possibility as regards the line "If my dick worked." The line implies that his organ isn't working, bespeaking impotency. Does this mean that he, even if a "Chairman," does not possess the power to change things? This would certainly fit in with the idea that all of us exist within a context (e.g. capitalism) that is larger than any individual, including perhaps the individual's ability to change such larger context. Depressing? But it fits the color of the pages -- blue pages as in "blue balls." If "blue balls" represents unrealized desire as in a desire to change how things work, then no wonder the Chairman might give in to the rant to "rail against the Man."
THE CHAIRMAN SPEAKS—like many other great poems—generates as much questions as it offers possible answers. I thank Tom Beckett for sharing his intelligence in such a minimalist but hugely-resonant way.