Trinidad, David (Allen)
TRINIDAD, David (Allen)
Nationality: American. Born: Los Angeles, 20 July 1953. Education: California State University, Northridge, B.A. in English 1979; Brooklyn College, New York, M.F.A. in creative writing 1990. Career: Poetry workshop instructor, Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center, Venice, California, 1987–88, The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church, New York, 1990–91, The Writer's Voice, West Side YMCA Center for the Arts, New York, 1989–96, Hudson Valley Writers' Center, Tarrytown, New York, 1991, and Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, since 1996; adjunct lecturer, Department of English, Brooklyn College, New York, 1988–92. Since 1996 director, Writers at Rutgers Reading Series, Department of English, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, and core faculty, M.F.A. Creative Writing Program, New School for Social Research, New York. Visiting faculty, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, 1998. Editor/publisher, Sherwood Press, Los Angeles, 1981–84; editor, Brooklyn Review, Brooklyn College, 1989–90. Awards: Dorland Mountain Colony fellowship, 1979; Michael Tuck Foundation fellowship, Brooklyn College, 1988; Fund for Poetry award, New York, 1988, 1996; Blue Mountain Center fellowship, New York, 1992; artists' fellowship, New York Foundation for the Arts, 1997. Address: 401 West Broadway, New York, New York 10012, U.S.A.
Pavane. Los Angeles, Sherwood Press, 1981.
Monday, Monday. Los Angeles, Cold Calm Press, 1985.
Living Doll. Los Angeles, Illuminati, 1986.
November. New York, Hanuman Books, 1987.
A Taste of Honey, with Bob Flanagan. Los Angeles, Cold Calm Press, 1990.
Hand over Heart: Poems 1981–1988. New York, Amethyst Press, 1991; London, Serpent's Tail, 1994.
Answer Song. New York, High Risk Books, and London, Serpent's Tail, 1994.
Essay with Movable Parts. Normal, Illinois, Thorngate Road Press, 1998.
Plasticville. Chappaqua, New York, Turtle Point Press, 2000.
Three Stories. New York, Hanuman Books, 1988.
Editor, Powerless: Selected Poems 1973–1990, by Tim Dlugos. New York, High Risk Books, and London, Serpent's Tail, 1996.*
Manuscript Collection: David Trinidad Archive, Downtown Collection, Fales Library, New York University.
Critical Studies: "Subjectivity and Disappointment in Contemporary American Poetry" by David Kaufmann, in Ploughshares (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 17(4), winter 1991–92; by David Yezzi, in
Parnassus (New York), 18–19(1–2), 1993; by Gary Sullivan, in City Pages, 14 December 1994; "Pop Culture and Poetry: An Interview with David Trinidad" by Richard Marranca and Vasiliki Koros, in Literary Review (Madison, New Jersey), 42(2), winter 1999.* * *
With a Whitmanesque generosity of spirit, David Trinidad embraces the seemingly prosaic elements of daily life, shaping the stuff of sitcoms and hit songs, shopping trips and love affairs into a poetics of longing. His spare, direct language, grounded in narratives of love and in the iconography of popular culture, reveals an awareness charged with affection and regret.
Trinidad's lines are pure, clean, and uncluttered, describing moments of intense clarity. "The Boy," from Pavane, is typical of the poet's mood and approach. The autobiographical account of an adolescent boy's homoerotic awakening, it begins on a note of wistful remembrance or dream: "Looking back, /I think that he must have been an angel." Obsessed with this figure of a thin blond boy ("I couldn't stop staring"), the speaker in the poem recounts that one night, toward summer's end, the silent boy appeared in his room and entered his bed. "But perhaps I am not remembering /correctly," he immediately adds, concluding with the question whether the apparition was actual or whether
...it was me, not
blond but dark, who sat all summer
on that sunny corner: seventeen
and struggling to outlast
my own restlessness.
The nostalgia with which the poet views his early self develops into a more complex and nuanced awareness in "Red Parade," from Plasticville. Deceptively simple, the poem explores the tragedy and pathos of artistic ambition. In the first lines Trinidad is sulking on the couch, "depressed because my /book wasn't nominated /for a gay award." When his partner Ira comes home with red tulips to cheer him up, the poet associates the flowers first with the Barbie outfits he loves to collect and then, seeing them as Sylvia Plath's "bowl of red blooms," with the destructive trajectory of that poet's life:
Sylvia, who so
desperately wanted awards,
and only won them
after she was dead.
The sudden contrast between his own ambition and Plath's nudges Trinidad from self-pity toward gratitude for the love that surrounds him. "You guys," he concludes, addressing Ira and their dog Byron: "My /spirits are lifted by their /tulips, kisses, licks."
In much of his work Trinidad revels in the material of popular culture. "In My Room," from Plasticville, is a litany of titles of 1960s-era pop songs strung together with the phrases "in my room I listened to" or simply "I listened to." Devoid of artifice, the poem is an irresistible evocation of both a particular time and the more universal loneliness of adolescence. Several other pieces from Plasticville employ similar pastiche techniques. "Fortunes" arranges fortune cookie adages into rhymed couplets, and "Chatty Cathy Villanelle" cleverly exploits the intricately repeated patterns of the villanelle form in its use of the talking doll's rote phrases. "The Love Machine" cuts and pastes sentences from Jacqueline Susann's novel of the same name into a grotesque yet strangely moving comment on sex. "Garbo's Trolls," written in terza rima, recounts how art dealer Sam Green, a friend of the reclusive film star Greta Garbo, bent to retrieve a cocktail peanut that had rolled under Garbo's couch and found
a plastic gnome with thick
orange Dynel hair and coal-black
eyes, peeking out at
Discovering a whole group of trolls hidden there, he becomes intrigued. Whenever he has the chance, he checks under the couch and finds that the trolls are obviously rearranged, played with. The secret of the trolls becomes as weirdly obsessive as the myth of Garbo herself.
Indeed, obsession is Trinidad's theme. Poems saturated with snippets of pop songs and TV commercials, references to movie stars, sitcom plots, and toy accessories convey, through their very excess, the obsessive's insatiable need for connection. Yet there is an element of banality, too, in such excess, and occasionally Trinidad's work presents what is merely trite without illuminating it. In a sense, however, this is consistent with the all-embracing reach of his poetic vision: what is a plastic, kitschy, mass-produced—aesthetic junk food can also bring pleasure and is worthy of our attention.