IN THE SUNLIGHT

One of the most curious episodes in Letters is T.S. Eliot’s declaration in 1920, in the wake of J.M.Robertson’s similarly-themed book in 1919, that Shakespeare’s Hamlet is an “artistic failure.”

In that infamous essay, Eliot attacks the Bard’s greatest work as “puzzling and disquieting…” Eliot berates Hamlet chiefly because, according to the young banker, Hamlet’s “madness” and the “delay” in killing the king are dubiously presented, and the fault is that Shakespeare sloppily complicates Thomas Kyd’s straight-forward “revenge” tragedy by relying on “the guilt of a mother” which lacks emotional correlation in Hamlet’s updating of Kyd.

Eliot’s hackneyed notion that Gertrude’s guilt and Hamlet’s torn feelings are not sufficiently developed is ludicrous, but what’s even funnier is the way the author of The Waste Land, makes his point:

“The subject [Hamlet’s delay and Gertrude’s guilt] might conceivably have expanded into a tragedy like these [Othello, Antony, Coriolanus], intelligible, self-complete, in the sunlight. Hamlet, like the sonnets, is full of some stuff that the writer could not drag to light, contemplate, or manipulate into art.”

The sickly hodge-podge of The Waste Land—which saw publication thanks to the efforts of Eliot’s wealthy friend, Scofield ThayerEzra Pound, and the slick, modern-art-collector-and-lawyer, John Quinn—and all the rat’s nest poetry from Pound and Pound’s insane asylum visitors which followed in its wake, are the last things anyone could, or would want to, “drag to light.”

Eliot’s “objective correlative” dagger, used to cut Milton, Pope, the Romantic poets, and whole swathes of literary eras, flashes forth for the first time in this crazed essay’s attempt to assassinate Hamlet.

Is the young employee of Lloyd’s Bank writing of Shakespeare when he cites poetry “full of some stuff the writer could not drag to light, contemplate, or manipulate into art?”

Or himself?

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17 Comments

  1. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 29, 2009 at 6:54 am

    A fascinating perspective, Tom — on both Eliot and Hamlet/Hamlet — i.e. the play as well as the person.

    The irony is, of course, that an artistic exploration of the disintegration of the personality can still have coherence even when neither the audience nor the individual can come up with a coherent explanation for what is happening. Which is precisely why the artistic treatment is so important, isn’t it, and why none of us ever get bored with Hamlet even when we’re fed up to here with Hamlet? For even an individual blessed with Hamlet’s extraordinary linguistic powers can’t avert the absurd personal tragedy that overwhelms anyone like him, and in the process damages so many others as well –which is the heart of almost every tragedy worth it’s salt, isn’t it? Isn’t that also the fine-line between our own precarious security and Hamlet’s insanity. We’re all almost there, aren’t we?

    So it’s the personality, not the tragedy that’s inartistic, and T.S.Eliot can’t make that distinction, he being such a Hamlet himself! Art heals by reconciling the irreconcilable, and making the totally unacceptable not always explicable but worth examining — which is, needless to say, the mind-boggling effectiveness of perhaps the most inartistic of all our unacceptable images, the Cross. And what great art that one great image has produced too — yet so tasteless for the most part, hideous, kitschy and neurotic!

    Which is almost certainly why Eliot embraced it too. For how many modern critics and readers take seriously Eliot’s Christianity, even when it was the most important commitment he ever made in his life, even more self-defining than becoming English or a banker!

    The essay arises out of Eliot’s own inability to let that secret out, it seems to me, and is far more about himself than it is about Hamlet. As you suggest, “this crazed essay’s attempt to assassinate Hamlet” is just about Eliot’s own inability to drag “some stuff … to light.”

    But I can’t go all the way even with that, Tom.

    Yes, I agree with you that The Waste Land is a “sickly hodge-podge,” but I just don’t see what’s wrong with that — it’s such a gloriously artistic sickly-hodgepodge, after all. I love every word of it, and the mess makes sense of my own sickly hodge-podge too! On the other hand, what does irritate me no end is when facile modern imitators think they’ll do their Golden Bough thing too, wield the knife and cut it up to shreds, or even off. And worst of all, how they fawn upon the completely indigestible remnants, “hiatus” they call the wanton entr’acte, as if it were some sort of Tantric Portal through which the blessed gods of modern art rush in. Give me a break — it’s no more grown-up or deep than Californians talking Bardo!

    Hiatus — the deliberate omission of the links to make a work feel deeper than it is, which Shakespeare never does in Hamlet or anywhere else. Deliberate obfuscation, deliberate dismemberment, deliberate in your face trickery and cheating, and then calling it something “new” and writing a Manifesto to build a whole new school around it!

    The Cult of the Hiatus is at the heart of most of modern poetry too, isn’t it? The gap that has no meaning at all yet pretends to contain all that cannot be expressed in any other way. The shock that doesn’t shock, yet the whole academic Court covers its eyes in sore amazement. The imperial dysfunction of our undeveloped arts and artists!

    What a joke, what an inartistic, babbling con!

    Christopher

  2. thomasbrady said,

    December 29, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Eliot locked his wife away, out of the sunlight, didn’t he?

    Eliot belonged to England, he reveled in his blood and his ancestry.

  3. thomasbrady said,

    December 29, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Anyway, Christopher, I could slam Eliot all day. He’s an easy target.

    You say he was a Hamlet himself? Perhaps. Son of Emerson, anxious to kill the usurping Poe. Both Emerson and Eliot gloried in their English stock, and I don’t mean privately, I mean publically. Sadly, it’s on record.

    But as to the art of ‘The Waste Land,’ I’m not sure Eliot knew what he was doing with it. I saw it recently performed at Harvard as a dramatic reading, and it really didn’t work. It’s neither a poem, nor a drama. It lacks unity.

    Eliot clearly wrote a number of poems, stole a number of lines from other poets, and then, in a melancholy mood, cut and pasted. Here is a method, but I don’t think it is the method which triumphs in “The Waste Land” but rather it is glimpses of lyric poetry fighting to be heard through the cutting and the pasting which is the key to its success; the fragments happen to support a theme of fragmentation, but this can work and work once, only, for there have been no more successful ‘Waste Lands,’ since, fragmentary works which attempt to piggypack on a theme of ‘fragmentation’ cannot help but come across as cynical and insincere. “The Waste Land” escapes the charge because it was the first attempt. As an aesthetic principle it can work but once. All poets who have repeated the attempt, have failed. The influence of “The Waste Land” has been pernicious. Eliot’s lyrical gift has been used to kill.

    Modernism’s great aesthetic legacy was to make art and ordinary life the same. But here’s a virtue that contains risks. Ordinary life is ordinary because it is a “hodge-podge” and once it takes on a unity and a meaning it is no longer ordinary.

    My point is not to find fault with ordinary life, or to find fault with art that reflects, to a certain degree, ordinary life, but to be wary of the view that makes art disappear into it.

    Of course it’s easy to say: come now, we kid ourselves that we, or those we love, or a nation, or a cause, or a people, ever transcends ordinary life, except in a deluded sort of way, and all of it, even great art, is tangled up, finally in ordinary life, and ordinary life is all there is.

    Ordinary life provides infinite interest and art which presents itself as broken off chunks of ordinary life is bound to be admired; ordinary life is sufficient for art, and art appreciation.

    But art which disappears into ordinary life presents the possibility that ordinary life will become even more ordinary, and that if a people do not practice to make an art that rises above the ordinary, there is a very real danger that something important will be lost.

    Thomas

  4. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 30, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Two loud “hear hears!”

    1.)

    “I don’t think it is the method which triumphs in “The Waste Land,” but rather it is glimpses of lyric poetry fighting to be heard through the cutting and the pasting which is the key to its success; the fragments happen to support a theme of fragmentation, but this can work and work once only, for there have been no more successful ‘Waste Lands,’ since fragmentary works which attempt to piggypack on a theme of ‘fragmentation’ cannot help but come across as cynical and insincere. “The Waste Land” escapes the charge because it was the first attempt. As an aesthetic principle it can work but once. All poets who have repeated the attempt have failed. The influence of “The Waste Land” has been pernicious. Eliot’s lyrical gift has been used to kill.”

    2.)

    “Art which disappears into ordinary life presents the possibility that ordinary life will become even more ordinary, and that if a people do not practice to make an art that rises above the ordinary, there is a very real danger that something important will be lost.”

  5. Christopher Woodman said,

    December 30, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    And a list of four similar seminal disasters that became one-off ‘greats’ for various odd historical, emotional, political and sociological reasons, and which have spawned countless imitations that have limited the development of modern poetry:

    1.) In a Station of the Metro

    2.) The Red Wheelbarrow

    3.) Howl

    4.) ?????

    If you dare to ask yourself why these poems have become so influential instead of just why they are so great, you will have made huge progress in finding your own voice independent of the modern tendency to sanctify the pedestrian and perpetuate our peculiar artistic limitations.

    Because would any of these poems have become so famous and influential without our creative writing programs? Isn’t that what makes our contemporary poetry so uniquely drab and unreadable, and of course reductive?

    Have poets ever before been schooled so badly, and with such unsatisfactory models?

  6. thomasbrady said,

    January 2, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Christopher,

    “Howl” benefitted from the obscenity trial.

    The other two pieces of haiku imagism by Pound and Williams benfitted from unalloyed praise in the influential textbook by Warren and Brooks, “Understanding Poetry,” and these New Critics Warren and Brooks were part of the Modernist group which included Ransom, Eliot, Tate, Pound and Williams. These people were all looking out for each other.

    We don’t realize today that the modernists had no audience until poetry writing was taken up systemically in the academy. It was not until the Workshop era and when textbooks like “Understanding Poetry” were widely read in college, especially during the postwar GI Bill influx, that poets like Wiliams had any audience at all.

    Elizabeth Bishop writes of a reading at the Brooklyn Institute sponsored by Poetry magazine on Dec. 4, 1936 by Marianne Moore and WC Williams:

    “There was a very small audience, mostly in the front rows, and I made my way self-effacingly as I could down the steep red-carpeted steps of the aisle. As I approached the lower rows, she [Moore] spotted me out of the corner of her eye and interrupted herself in the middle of a poem to bow and say, ‘Good Evening!’

    One can see from this scene how inconsequential these ‘stars’ were. It was a tiny cabal of friends. The modernists had no audience until they were taught in college—by themselves, and then, by the first generation of their student creative writers—who became teachers in turn. The same things is happening now; there’s just more numbers and it’s hopelessly diluted; no more ‘stars;’ just MFAs reading MFAs. Back then there were two dozen Alan Tates; today there’s 50,000. But it’s the same process.

    Thomas

  7. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 3, 2010 at 1:23 am

    It’s like the last post by Amber Tamblyn on Harriet, in modern poetry you can’t tell anymore when any tongue’s in any cheek. It’s all got to be self-parody, every bit of it, including the ‘comments’ — in the MFA lecture hall, in the blurb of the latest prize-winning author’s collection, in the broadsheet APR, even in POETRY Magazine! Even Amber Tambyn’s own last comment to her own last post at The Poetry Foundation has got to be tongue in cheek — and if it isn’t, of course, it’s genius.

    But where’s the beef if it isn’t, ever?

    I never said she [Benazir Bhutto] was wearing a bikini. I could only see her face.

    This was all I can remember from a dream I had 2 nights ago. Wanted to share it. I woke up feeling freaked out by it.

    A

    POSTED BY: AMBER TAMBLYN ON DECEMBER 9, 2009 AT 1:27 PM
    Report this comment.

    So on 11/22/09 she writes, “I took an editing break to go see my friend Beau Sia perform at the Bowery Poetry Club,” and almost gets killed. Then on 11/01/2009: “Prior to the cold, I was able to make it to Rachel Mckibbens’ book release party at the Bowery Poetry Club. I had my book release party there as well back in September, and the energy can sometimes be stressful and a little crazy. Rachel was incredible and her book Pink Elephant is filled with the kind of poems some women spend their entire lives trying to write. It was a magical evening.” Then she needs “some Dayquil and a nice Scotch,” she says. (what’s Dayquil, and who are these women who spend their entire lives trying to write this poetry? Do they walk unchaperoned on the Bowery too? Do they let it all blog out between readings like Amber Tamblyn?)

    10/11/09 with her Mom.

    “We left for Los Angeles, bumping Notorious B.I.G. in the car, eating In-N-Out burgers and planning our sets for that evening’s Beyond Baroque show (Oh, youth). I performed with my mom which is always extra sweet because we sing together, judge each other’s scarves, threaten to take each other to Judge Judy then sing again. After the show, my adorably sloshed and most favorite Uncle on my dad’s side approached me. He’s got a weepy eye that cries no matter what’s going on, which usually makes you feel his sincerity even more, but can sometimes be deceiving, depending on what’s about to come out of his mouth. He said, “Did your cousin get to hear you read any of these poems you read tonight when you read in Oakland? Did you read the one about your dad? I wish I could sing the way you do.”

    Well you can if you just follow the instructions, the red-brick road, the dots, Stephen Burt, whatever.

  8. Christopher Woodman said,

    January 3, 2010 at 3:43 am

    But seriously, as I’ve already suggested to Amber Tamblyn herself, poets shouldn’t allow themselves to be used like celebrities who get on party lists because it makes the real guests feel they’ve arrived. This is demeaning, particularly when a poet is just starting out on his or her career.

    We’ve deliberately refrained from talking about another young daughter even better connected than Amber who got a poetry book contract while she was still an undergraduate — and apparently before her book had even been written! We feel that’s not her fault, but the parents’ — not to speak of the publisher’s. So we just wish her well, and hope her career will not be damaged by the careerists who would use her.

    But Amber Tamblyn has of her own freewill allowed herself to be shamelessly used by The Poetry Foundation, and now she’s become a laughing stock — indeed, she’s now more of a butt of jokes than even Gary B. Fitzgerald.

    At least Gary has enough confidence in his poems to post them, and he’s right to do that too, and his poems can take it. Amber just posts her assets.

    ~

    What would T.S.Eliot have said about that, following on from his essay on the inauthenticity of Hamlet? Or is it Hamlet?

  9. Bob Tonucci said,

    April 16, 2010 at 9:30 am

    8. Rose Cottage (from “Send Bygraves”)

    by Martha Grimes

    Miss Ivers serves the Chivers marmalade
    With trembling hands. Miss Ivers is nervous.
    Miss Ivers is in love with Dr. Whipsnade,

    Engaged to Lady Madrigal du Bois,
    Pale, blonde, and vaguely foreign, whom he saved
    From being trampled underneath her horse.

    The reins were cut. But who would have believed
    The girl had enemies? There was that awful
    Episode in Creeper’s Wood, that brief

    Incident at Snively’s with the rifle.
    A good thing Whipsnade found the arsenic
    Traces in the cocoa and the trifle.

    Poor Madrigal. Thin, faded, turned to drink,
    Imagining her body lying on
    Dredcrumble Moor, or buried in a trunk.

    “More marmalade, my dear? Another scone?”
    Miss Ivers asks. Her rooms are cold and poor.
    Miss Ivers has lived all her life alone

    Watching the fog roll off Dredcrumble Moor,
    Thick and close and certain as old age.
    What will she do now Scotland Yard is here?

    Who walked behind her from the vicarage?
    Who tampered with her lock? Who took her key?
    Who left the knifemark on the window ledge?

    “More marmalade, my dear? Are you unwell?”
    “It tastes a bit bitter,” says Madrigal.

  10. Bob Tonucci said,

    April 30, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Mr. Bleaney

    by Philip Larkin

    ‘This was Mr Bleaney’s room. He stayed
    The whole time he was at the Bodies, till
    They moved him.’ Flowered curtains, thin and frayed,
    Fall to within five inches of the sill,

    Whose window shows a strip of building land,
    Tussocky, littered. ‘Mr Bleaney took
    My bit of garden properly in hand.’
    Bed, upright chair, sixty-watt bulb, no hook

    Behind the door, no room for books or bags –
    ‘I’ll take it.’ So it happens that I lie
    Where Mr Bleaney lay, and stub my fags
    On the same saucer-souvenir, and try

    Stuffing my ears with cotton-wool, to drown
    The jabbering set he egged her on to buy.
    I know his habits – what time he came down,
    His preference for sauce to gravy, why

    He kept on plugging at the four aways –
    Likewise their yearly frame: the Frinton folk
    Who put him up for summer holidays,
    And Christmas at his sister’s house in Stoke.

    But if he stood and watched the frigid wind
    Tousling the clouds, lay on the fusty bed
    Telling himself that this was home, and grinned,
    And shivered, without shaking off the dread

    That how we live measures our own nature,
    And at his age having no more to show
    Than one hired box should make him pretty sure
    He warranted no better, I don’t know.

  11. The Noochie-Coochie Man said,

    August 3, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Notes from an MFA Holder

    by Tom Lombardi

    Saw a pregnant woman collapse in Brooklyn last week. Fucking heat wave, I thought, sprinting toward her. She was still breathing when I got there. I pulled my MFA out from my pocket. Fanned her back to consciousness. A few days later, I received a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble. Nice!

    My former MFA professor won’t stop calling me. “It’s me again,” he says, “you sure you don’t need an agent? Or a book deal? My editor’s looking for new writers, you know? How about a place to write so that you don’t have to worry about a job or bills?” “I’ve told you a thousand times,” I tell him, “I want to make it on my own.” “All right, all right,” he sighs into the phone.

    “You apply for another MFA,” L. said recently, “and I’ll apply for a divorce.” She’s got a Masters in Social Work—like that’s a real degree! Bunch of idealistic pansies traipsing around trying to save the world . . . ha!

    Dinner party at G.s’ last Saturday. Told the story of the time my former professor and I split three pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon and drove up into the mountains to visit the cabin where an old, famous poet had once taken a sabbatical to write. At which point a really drunken H. flat-out denounced all MFA programs, saying the diploma and education to a writer was “as useful as a poop-stained piece of TP.” I was shaking I was so mad. I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help it. I called her a cunt. I might as well have dropped a bomb, everyone went so silent. Wait, if I’d dropped a bomb on the table, how would everyone go silent? They’d be dead. Fuck! Bad metaphor!

    Met a guy in bar who’d gotten his MFA from the University of Iowa. Swear my heart was thumping when I shook his hand. I’m afraid to tell L. that I had thoughts of making out with him. He told me that one professor spoke with such wisdom about the importance of using smell in a story that, during the class, “one got the sense he was levitating.” Why can’t I write like that? I suck! It’s so obvious I should just apply again, do it all over, and better this time!

    New magazine saying they don’t care about MFAs, and not to include it in the cover letter. Dorks. “If it weren’t for MFA programs,” I fired off in a letter, “Raymond Carver would have died much earlier. Anyway, best of luck finding talented writers who’ve never been to a workshop.”

    Another rejection letter from The New Yorker. Form letter. No pen ink. Had a pink stain on it, though. Vodka sauce? There was a scene in my story in which the narrator (nameless) orders pasta primavera. Did that inspire them? Workshop taught us to use food as much as possible in a story, that it’s visceral. “McDonnell woke up with a hankering for hangar steak and French fries over which, he imagined, he’d dabble salt and pepper with a loose hand.” Now that’s a keeper.

    That anti-MFA mag sent me a box of Belgium chocolates in the mail. What the!?!

    Idea for a story: Little boy finds an old clock in his attic, only to discover that it’d belonged to his Polish grandfather, at which point he reminisces about the time Gramps, reeking of whiskey and pirogues, took the boy to Coney Island. Story circles back to the attic, where the boy clutches the clock, and his hands begin to shake as he suddenly becomes aware, for the first time in his life, of the cyclical nature of time. Fuck yeah!

    L.’s moving out. Good riddance. I mean, I love her more than she’ll ever know but let’s face it, I can’t seem to put my affection for her into sellable prose. Besides, now I’ll have something even better to write about.

    Boo-yah! Got into the University of Bar Harbor! It’s no Iowa, but it’s cold during the winter, and they’ve got a professor there who studied with a guy who used to drink with some famous writer whose name now escapes me. If the TA goes through, I’m living large, motherfucker! In two years, but probably less, when I nail down a contract, L. will come see me read, clutching my book to her shapely breasts.

    “Is there a master in creative writing on the plane?” the pilot said over intercom as we were about to penetrate a lightning storm somewhere over southern Maine. I winked to the freckled nun sitting beside me, whose perfume smelled like geraniums, downed my Sprite, and began to hoist myself up from the seat. My course is fixed.

  12. notevensuperficial said,

    August 3, 2010 at 2:30 am

    clutching my book to her shapely breasts

    What a great idea! – literary classics printed on brassieres.

  13. Noochinator said,

    November 27, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Gas From a Burner
    by James Joyce (1912)

    Ladies and gents, you are here assembled
    To hear why earth and heaven trembled
    Because of the black and sinister arts
    Of an Irish writer in foreign parts.
    He sent me a book ten years ago.
    I read it a hundred times or so,
    Backwards and forwards, down and up,
    Through both the ends of a telescope.
    I printed it all to the very last word
    But by the mercy of the Lord
    The darkness of my mind was rent
    And I saw the writer’s foul intent.
    But I owe a duty to Ireland:
    I held her honour in my hand,
    This lovely land that always sent
    Her writers and artists to banishment
    And in a spirit of Irish fun
    Betrayed her own leaders, one by one.
    ‘Twas Irish humour, wet and dry,
    Flung quicklime into Parnell’s eye;
    ‘Tis Irish brains that save from doom
    The leaky barge of the Bishop of Rome
    For everyone knows the Pope can’t belch
    Without the consent of Billy Walsh.
    O Ireland my first and only love
    Where Christ and Caesar are hand and glove!
    O lovely land where the shamrock grows!
    (Allow me, ladies, to blow my nose)
    To show you for strictures I don’t care a button
    I printed the poems of Mountainy Mutton
    And a play he wrote (you’ve read it I’m sure)
    Where they talk of ‘bastard’, ‘bugger’ and ‘whore’
    And a play on the Word and Holy Paul
    And some woman’s legs that I can’t recall
    Written by Moore, a genuine gent
    That lives on his property’s ten per cent:
    I printed mystical books in dozens:
    I printed the table-book of Cousins
    Though (asking your pardon) as for the verse
    ‘Twould give you a heartburn on your arse:
    I printed folklore from North and South
    By Gregory of the Golden Mouth:
    I printed poets, sad, silly and solemn:
    I printed Patrick What-do-you-Colm:
    I printed the great John Milicent Synge
    Who soars above on an angel’s wing
    In the playboy shift that he pinched as swag
    From Maunsel’s manager’s travelling-bag.
    But I draw the line at that bloody fellow
    That was over here dressed in Austrian yellow,
    Spouting Italian by the hour
    To O’Leary Curtis and John Wyse Power
    And writing of Dublin, dirty and dear,
    In a manner no blackamoor printer could bear.
    Shite and onions! Do you think I’ll print
    The name of the Wellington Monument,
    Sydney Parade and Sandymount tram,
    Downes’s cakeshop and Williams’s jam?
    I’m damned if I do– I’m damned to blazes!
    Talk about _Irish Names of Places!_
    It’s a wonder to me, upon my soul,
    He forgot to mention Curly’s Hole.
    No, ladies, my press shall have no share in
    So gross a libel on Stepmother Erin.
    I pity the poor– that’s why I took
    A red-headed Scotchman to keep my book.
    Poor sister Scotland! Her doom is fell;
    She cannot find any more Stuarts to sell.
    My conscience is fine as Chinese silk:
    My heart is as soft as buttermilk.
    Colm can tell you I made a rebate
    Of one hundred pounds on the estimate
    I gave him for his Irish Review.
    I love my country– by herrings I do!
    I wish you could see what tears I weep
    When I think of the emigrant train and ship.
    That’s why I publish far and wide
    My quite illegible railway guide,
    In the porch of my printing institute
    The poor and deserving prostitute
    Plays every night at catch-as-catch-can
    With her tight-breeched British artilleryman
    And the foreigner learns the gift of the gab
    From the drunken draggletail Dublin drab.
    Who was it said: Resist not evil?
    I’ll burn that book, so help me devil.
    I’ll sing a psalm as I watch it burn
    And the ashes I’ll keep in a one-handled urn.
    I’ll penance do with farts and groans
    Kneeling upon my marrowbones.
    This very next lent I will unbare
    My penitent buttocks to the air
    And sobbing beside my printing press
    My awful sin I will confess.
    My Irish foreman from Bannockburn
    Shall dip his right hand in the urn
    And sign crisscross with reverent thumb
    _Memento homo_ upon my bum.

  14. Noochinator said,

    February 2, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Barbie Doll

    This girlchild was born as usual
    and presented dolls that did pee-pee
    and miniature GE stoves and irons
    and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
    Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
    You have a great big nose and fat legs.

    She was healthy, tested intelligent,
    possessed strong arms and back,
    abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
    She went to and fro apologizing.
    Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.

    She was advised to play coy,
    exhorted to come on hearty,
    exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
    Her good nature wore out
    like a fan belt.
    So she cut off her nose and her legs
    and offered them up.

    In the casket displayed on satin she lay
    with the undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,
    a turned-up putty nose,
    dressed in a pink and white nightie.
    Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said.
    Consummation at last.
    To every woman a happy ending.

    Marge Piercy

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 2, 2011 at 5:17 pm

      Wretched, transparent, self-pity will never write a good poem.

      • Noochness said,

        February 2, 2011 at 11:38 pm

        Flaubert, to his mistress Louise Colet, who had published a poem maligning their contemporary, Alfred de Musset: “You wrote with a personal emotion that distorted your outlook and made it impossible to keep before your eyes the fundamental principles that must underlie any imaginative composition. It has no aesthetic. You have turned art into an outlet for passion, a kind of chamberpot to catch an overflow. It smells bad; it smells of hate!”

        — from My Life as a Man by Philip Roth

    • Noochinator said,

      February 5, 2011 at 11:43 pm

      Barbie

      by Henry J. Morro

      Long after the head was ripped off,
      the shoes lost,
      her huge, pointed tits were still hard.
      I used to grab her ankles, hammer her tits
      on the table like a woodpecker.

      I would slide her long, skinny legs
      into a wild split,
      lift them straight
      into the air, but her legs
      wouldn’t spread open.

      And she wouldn’t kneel.
      I could get her to raise her arms
      as if she was going to bow,
      but she wouldn’t kneel.

      I stripped her, tossed her
      under the bed with the hair balls.
      I chucked her into the freezer naked—
      she came out cold to the touch,
      her skin still perfect.

      I sat her on a fence rail
      in her cheerleader outfit,
      took out my B-B gun, cocked it.
      The first shot caromed off her wrist.
      The next one grazed her cheek.
      The last shot rapped her in the chest
      and bucked her off the post.

      When I picked her up, her cheek crushed,
      her blue eyes glittered in the sun.
      I strode for the garage; on the workbench
      was the adjustable vice.
      As I cranked the steel jaws against her skull,
      and reached for the hacksaw,
      her mouth puckered into a kiss.


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