East- James Wright v. William Matthews
North- Philip Larkin v. Joseph Duemer
South- Robert Penn Warren v. Jack Hirschman
West- Donald Hall v. Douglas Crase
Poems by Wright and Matthews both rueful and poignant; Wright’s has more concentrated power, but Matthews is less self-pitying and finally has more interest.
Sleep, the most cunning weapon? Both opponents seem to think so.
Wright’s “And Yet I Know” ends thusly:
Beside the tomb in the shade of a head of a man, a living man is lying down under a pine shrub dead drunk. It
is exactly two minutes after one o’clock in the afternoon.
Then I found later that monument is the
Funeral Kiosk of the Antinore, and beside
it the tomb of the poet Lovato de’ Lorati.
I have never read Lorati’s poems. His name is so lovely.
I have been drunk and asleep beneath a pine shrub myself.
I wonder who the sleeper is.
And Matthews‘ “Good Company” ends like this:
The conversation luffs. The last
bottle of wine was probably too much
but God we’re happy here.
“My husband stopped the papers
and flea-bathed the dog
before he left.” One of us has a friend
whose analyst died in mid-session,
non-directive to the end.
Now we’re drifting off to our nine lives,
and more. Melodramatic wind,
bright moon, dishes to do, a last
little puddle of brandy or not,
and the cars amble home:
the door, the stairs, the sheets
aglow with reticence and moonlight,
and the bed full to its blank brim
with the violent poise of dreams.
Matthews 68, Wright 64
In North play, Larkin and Duemer both doubt the soul lives after death: Larkin, with rhyme, his own, Duemer, with prose, another time’s.
from the beginning of Larkin’s “Aubade”:
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused — nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
The end of Duemer’s: “Theory of Tragedy”
Tonight, odor of skunk hanging like a philosopher’s soul
in the air, I sit beneath a xerox copy of a photograph—one of those
Greek vases called a lekythos, this one showing a daughter of Memory,
loosely draped, feet bare, sexy, her right hand indicating
a songbird on a branch sketched near her knees.
Without a definition of tragedy, we cannot understand
the dance our words and grammar pattern intersecting
the facts of the palpable world–a maple tree’s black
branches against the amber/blue stripes of sunset,
perfume of skunk and wood smoke hanging in the air.
The old man always said his wisdom was nothing but ignorance,
and at the end of his life he couldn’t prove the soul
survives the body. Perhaps it was nothing but a feeling,
like tragedy, which is only the awkward singing
of a small bird on a flimsy branch pointing toward memory.
Larkin scores at will and it’s lights out for Duemer.
Larkin 98, Duemer 84
Over in the South, Robert Penn Warren looms under the moon, as the poet observes his son walking in the moonlight. Warren’s opponent, Jack Hirschman, asserts that in the name of working people it’s OK to censor art—especially the art of corporate museum curators. Warren’s “Night Walking” takes on Hirshman’s “The Painting.”
Hirshman is impressive in his bold thesis but Warren’s art finally prevails.
Warren 78, Hirschman 71
In the West, Donald Hall’s hysterical “To A Waterfowl” has no trouble with Douglas Crase’s more sober rumination, “There Is No Real Peace In the World.”
Hall 66, Crase 49
Three No. 2 Seeds advance, with one upset, as James Wright falls to 15th seed William Matthews.