NOT EVERYONE IS BEAUTIFUL

Not everyone is beautiful
Because beauty has less to share
Than confusion, pity, deformity,
Fear, and the heaviness of what is simply sitting there.

Not everyone is beautiful
And this is beauty’s fame:
Beauty is what we desperately seek
If only in a name.

For beauty has lips and eyes,
And everyone has those,
And I once knew a lover
Who loved his beloved’s nose.

Why is beauty rare?
If everyone has eyes?
If everyone has ears
To listen to the wise?

A TUNEFUL MELANCHOLY, A NEW SCARRIET POEM

A tuneful melancholy
Whispers in my ear!
I wish for music,
But more, that you were here!

A tuneful melancholy
Teases my soul!
A wine for the tongue
That escapes the bowl!

A tuneful melancholy
Has me lingering
To play a song sweetly,
To learn the fingering.

A tuneful melancholy
Starts from far away.
When will it get here?
Oh, it will not say.

A tuneful melancholy
Whispers through the trees,
Not just pleasing me,
But pleasing these,

For trees love themselves,
As they stretch out sadly
Over the ruined turf,
Where I lie gladly—

As a tuneful melancholy
Forever and forever lost,
Listens for your breath,
And sighs across the moss.

MADNESS INTERLUDE: NEW SCARRIET POEM

I LIKE IT WHEN I SLEEP

I like it when I sleep,
A dreamy paradise of rest,
It blocks out all—
Including all I detest.
Indifference is sought
By those who would otherwise weep.
Gold can’t purchase love.
The heart can’t purchase sleep.
Sleep is found in the arms
Of a conscience, bright and clear:
Jealous, he followed me.
And found me sleeping here.

POETRY AND PARTISAN ZEALOTRY

Should the poet ‘take positions?’ We say, invariably not, for partisanship always implies progress or improvement and such a position can never be timeless—since improvements always involve present problems. You don’t fix a leak in the roof with philosophy, symbolism, or beauty, and to write a poem out of some political position is just like assuming this.

The other problem with partisan behavior is that it forces us to adhere to a laundry list of associations with whatever we happen to support. For instance, if you support this good, it inevitably means you support, through a network of connections, that evil–and eventually this pins you down into a position fraught with embarrassment, and to be intellectually embarrassed is the worse thing that can happen to a thinker or an artist; it mars the artist’s contemplative solitude, it stalks with social frenzy the serenity the poet needs.  The poet is naturally irritable, because he is more sensitive than others; but to be defensive in the face of social embarrassment undermines the irritable poet’s inspiration and takes the naturally private poet wholly out of himself.

Do not, then, stoop to politics if you wish to make art.  Do not be political. Politics will not fix the leak or write the poem—it will hinder fixing the roof and writing the poem, because whatever aims to triumph in the realm of advice (the default rhetorical purpose of political discourse) hinders the artist (who is, if art is properly understood, not an advice-giver). 

You must never attempt to triumph; the muse will have nothing to do with the artist who makes an attempt to win her.  The muse must already be yours. 

The artist must be victorious before the game even begins; the great artist sees the game entirely before it starts; the poetic work is simply copying out the pre-seen result.  There must be no struggle, no harangue, no attempt to convince, no argument—for then the artist will be no artist at all, but a mere Emerson, a mere sermonizer.  The art must flash upon the consciousness like a piece of music, the argument hidden in the folds of the exquisite notes. 

If the argument is key, leave it for a sermon—as I am doing now.

Oh, and even better than the sermon is the dialogue.  Allow comments on your blog. 

Do not be like Poetry’s Blog Harriet or the blogger Ron Silliman.

IMAGINATION: A NO FRILLS DEFENSE

Imagination is not just one thing we have—it is the only thing we have.

Imagination is how we experience the world. No other person or thing experiences it for us. Only we experience the world—which is the same thing as saying only we experience ourselves.

When someone is rude or short with us, or fails to meet our expectations, we feel pain beyond the rebuke itself because this is a glimpse into the truth that every soul is trapped in its own imagination: communication exists, but it is not communication with you. Even when someone loves you, they are not loving you—they are simply in an imaginatively loving state. None of us are capable of loving another, but some of us are able to love—by using our imaginations.

Individuality exists only so much as it feeds into a type. The imagination is able to combine types, but it cannot appreciate individuality, since imagination depends on universals, and universals depend on types.

These observations are only true of myself, and only so much as I am a universal, will they make any sense to you. The detail I invoke requires participation in a type for you to understand it.

Details are only experienced as they participate in a type. If a recognizable type is not acheived by the imagination, the detail will not be seen as useful, but will be felt as a waste or an annoyance.

This is easily demonstrated by song—a note is welcome as it contributes to the tune. One wrong note can destroy the loved and familiar musical phrase.

The imagination can re-work wrong notes into an improvisational framework or coloring—the variation on a theme relaxes this precision, yet improvisation takes skill, and notes will sound wrong if the governing spirit of the improvising musician is not doing its imaginative work. The imagination makes details disappear into a higher unity.

We can break it down morally.  Good aspires to a higher unity. Evil descends from higher unity into chaos. Stupidity has no idea of unity, or type, at all.

The imagination: there is no outside to it, and it is all we have.

An objection will arise: but the world outside is real and the world outside defines the imagination, etc

To this objection we respond: We are not defining the world, we are defining the imagination—and this is the only way to do it.

We can make a list of all the things in the world, but what can the actions of human beings possibly have to do with this list? Reality’s list is too large to have any impact. If reality is more than a word, we must acknowledge its bulk—a tiny part of it is enough to overwhelm. Reality filters into our imagination from a limited perspective in time and space—the imaginative reality is our only reality.

This is not to say that artistic consciousness is some kind of goal or ideal—it is not.  Given what has already been said, all of us are artists already. The worldly vanity of the artiste shall be safely ignored.  Poets need not prove they are poets—but that their reader is.

The poet should be involved in demonstrating imaginative skill, not attempting to convey what is real. Perspective in painting, for instance, as art history has demonstrated, is imaginative—the merely flat canvas is real.  Where should the poet’s desire lie?

Happiness belongs to our imagination.  Reality gives us food out of necessity—eating is pleasurable when it is social and imaginative, not when it is natural. Yes, sugar is a delight and is found in nature—but too much sugar makes us miserable.  The imagination, in its harmony and beauty, curbs all excess. The imagination requires no checks, as nature does, for imagination’s measure is beauty and happiness itself.

Material necessity has no claim on the imaginative.  As Da Vinci wrote in his notebooks, geometry is the basis of perspective in painting, and the point (which forms the line, etc) is the basis of geometry, and geometry’s point has no material existence.

If imagination suffers from being a mere isle in reality’s sea, it is the isle where we find all love, all harmony, all beauty, all happiness.

That, my love, is where I’ll meet you.

VALENTINE’S WEEK CONTINUES

What the gods love most is their own face.

Greetings Votaries!

Tomorrow is the Day.

Today we’ll not quote from Lord Byron’s Don Juan or Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, or the writings of Shelley against marriage.

The best way to enjoy love the longest is in our thoughts—and what are thoughts made of, but words?  (No, not those kinds of words! Nice words, beautiful words, words that light our way to the sun.)  Poetry enables love to unfold beautifully in our minds all the time. This is why poetry and love will always be sisters, and why love is poetry’s highest calling.

One of the best ways to express love is in song.

Ashbery’s art might make us giggle, but Adele’s art will always have more followers, because she can make us cry.

Didn’t Sir Paul sing a brand new song at the Grammy’s last night, called “Valentine?”

The lyrics were simple but luv-ley.

Here is my attempt to write a famous, iconic love song.  The song has never been recorded, so the music exists in notes on paper sitting on my piano at home.

But the words to the love song follow.

FINALLY

Finally, your heart decides.
Finally, you try all the rides.
Finally, you love in the spring.
Finally.

Finally, it all makes sense.
Finally, there’s no coincidence.

Finally, you jump right in.
Finally, you play to win.
Finally, you love in the spring.
Finally.

Finally, it all makes sense.
Finally, there’s no coincidence.

Finally, you catch her eye.
Finally, your lips say “hi.”
Finally, you love in the spring.
Finally.

SCARRIET TURNS TWO

When Thomas Brady, Alan Cordle, Christopher Woodman, and Desmond Swords were banned from Blog Harriet two years ago, there was no crying.

There was revenge.

Cordle sprang into action after the banning, creating a website called Scarriet—a well-deserved joke on the bumbling, mean-spirited site, Harriet, named after Harriet Monroe, the late 19th century blue-blood aesthete who raised enough money for a little poetry magazine, a toy in the very early 20th century of the idle rich who collected Asian art and swooned over haiku.  She was fortunate to have an operator named Ezra Pound as her London editor, well-connected to the decadent ins and outs of the new art market machinations.  A great wave of calculated anti-Romantic, anti-Renaissance fervor was in the air:  Palgrave’s golden treasury was a great albatross around the neck of Progress; Plato’s measurement was being replaced by ‘blah blah blah,’ measured art was being replaced by art that said it was art, and art, like money, could now make money just for being whatever it was that someone said it had to be.  This generated, as one might imagine, a lot of hustle and bustle.  Art that had value for the middle classes was relegated to reprints, art seeking value now became a process of the rich seeking to distance themselves from the middle class.  Imagism hopped on the back of haiku and Pound and Monroe were off and running.  Pound and Eliot threw in their lot with fascism while Monroe’s little magazine, safely ensconced in the midwest, insinuated itself into the Modern Poetry graces of certain would-be poets, one being Ruth Lilly, who happened to have a fortune, and gave a lot of it recently to Harriet Monroe’s magazine.

Blog Harriet gave up on its great democratic experiment of allowing comments on its site about 6 months after banning the Now Famous Four.

Blog Harriet is now a dull cut-and-paste site (despite the Poetry Foundation’s millions) while the banned Brady writes the original bounty that is Scarriet, taking a true measure of poetry in all its aspects.

That’s our two cents.

BORED WITH POETRY COMMENTARY, MORE ORIGINAL POEMS

HOW DO WE KNOW?

How do we know the movie starts or the poem begins?
If we cheer the anti-bourgeois,
Do we do so because somebody sins?
If these fragments please us,
What mind or book
Shall eventually please the greedy advertisers?
Will unfaithful sex lead to good,
At least in the abstract?
Can all these vagabonds fit in this wood?
How long has my memory of Rimbaud been under attack?

ON A MODERN POEM

The first time I read it,
It blew me away—
The next time I read it,
I said, yeah, OK. 

The third time I read it,
I skimmed it quite fast—
The fourth time I read it
Was probably the last.

THOMAS BRADY: THE INTERVIEW, PART I

Who was a bigger drinker, Ashbery or Poe?

Ashbery, easy.

Is Ashbery deep?

No. Dense, maybe, not deep.

By dense, do you mean difficult?

No. ‘Difficult’ implies a problem to be solved. Language allows you to load up a twenty pound vehicle with two tons of stuff. Language allows one to be problem-free. It’s magical, really. Ashbery takes a traditional poem and loads it up with excess prose. It’s playing with the magic of language, without having anything to say, or being too smart, or worldly, or sly, to have anything to say. It’s analogous to a businessman who plays with money and has no morals. That’s why Ashbery is dense, but not difficult. The wealthy businessman has no problems, no difficulties—he isn’t looking to solve a problem, just push money around. Perhaps he gambles with his investments, but that’s not ‘problem-solving,’ per se.  That’s just playing with money.  Maybe he could lose his shirt.  But what he does is not solving a problem.  But the world is full of gambling businessmen, and the world needs capital. Does poetry needs an Ashbery?  Readers don’t need an Ashbery, but if poetry, as a metaphorical device, didn’t have an Ashbery, it would invent one.

You’ve said early Auden sometimes sounds exactly like Ashbery.

Yes, there’s a few poems Auden wrote as a young man which sound like ‘the Ashbery poem,’ the poem we read over and over with Ashbery’s name under it in the New Yorker, next to those wealthy ads, year after year.  It’s the poem that fakes curiosity and interest and then disappears into the smooth lake, a glass surface left in its wake, and if you as the reader complain, if you get the least bit ruffled, you lose, and the poem wins. We  see what a working-class cad you really are. The poem, by its mere being, has found you out. Similarly, if you ask what an abstract painting means, you are found out as a clod. It works the same way.  Yea, so early Auden is like Ashbery, but then Auden had ideas, and was far more forthcoming with all sorts of opinions than Ashbery, and pretty quickly then, in the 30s, Auden’s poems, and of course his ballads, had lots of content. If Auden had remained with nothing to say, he would have become the first Ashbery.  But Auden ended up choosing the first Ashbery.

Auden anointed Ashbery with his Yale Younger ‘bring me that fellow’s manuscript who didn’t enter the contest, will you?’ choice.

Yea, and O’Hara was runner-up. Auden knew Ashbery and O’Hara were cartoons of himself; both poets were larks, clever, but they weren’t serious poets, he knew that. But Auden had started out just like them, and Auden had famously said a poet who likes to play with words will be better than someone who merely has ‘things to say,’ and this trope: ‘poetry is how you say it, not what you say,’ is the most important linguistic, artistic,  philosophical, political, rhetorical trope of the modern era. If matter is nothing but negative and positive charges, if communication is nothing but code, if political leaders triumph with style alone, if the secret agent is the true hero of his country and the double agent the true hero of the world, if William James and Wittgenstein were right, if the Language Poets are right, if secret handshakes mean much more than open ones on the count of secrecy alone, if foetry, not poetry is the rule, than certainly how something is said is more important than what is said.

But doesn’t this mean that aesthetics is more important than power?

Power is a given.  Power cannot be beautiful, for the two are distinct.  Beautiful art inspires, it empowers the audience, makes society more beautiful by making its art more beautiful, and there’s always room for more beauty, that problem of putting more beauty in the world, and making citizens more beautiful persons will never go away; the poem of power works quite differently; it takes away the free will of true response and makes the reader non-critical and acquiescent, which is not the same thing as being inspired by beauty, even in a passive way, because the critical response is always inspired when beauty is involved, since we judge beauty and power judges us. Before the abstract painting, or the Ashbery poem, one must rejoice in its lack of beauty and perspective and harmony or be ‘found out’ as a cad.  Modern art works like the secret police.  It finds you out as a worshiper of beauty or not, and knows you, thusly. This is power, because the art does not know anything itself, but it finds out what you know, how you feel, how you think, and thus who you are, in a purely binary way: are you one of us, or not?  In terms of power, in terms of political intelligence, in terms of political organizing, modern art is very, very important in how the world is run, in how the world is classified. Modern art is code.  Aesthetics has nothing to do with it.

But isn’t ‘how you say it” aesthetics, by its definition?  Poets who write with meter and rhyme, for instance, surely are more concerned with how they say it than with what they say.  But the formalist poet is the very opposite of Ashbery.

The formalist poet who only cares about sounds—of which early Auden was an excellent example—is like the Abstract painter who only cares about color. Aesthetics boiled down is abstraction.  The key to poetry isn’t code or abstraction or only ‘how it is said,’ or only ‘what is said,’ but a harmonious combination of all elements.  Power breaks down those elements.  Art and all the virtues are reduced to code where people can say, ‘we have to keep the riff-raff out,’ which is a residue of virtue, since keeping out what is bad is the residue of good, but now it’s coded and we all know what it really means, and the code can be thinned out until only the important people know what it means.

You see poetry as something that ought to match a good society.  But what if poetry isn’t supposed to do that?  What if poetry’s function is to go its own way and if it’s good for society, fine, and if not, well, it’s more important for art to be free to pursue its own path than having to fit into, or contribute to, a virtuous society?

I guess it does sound like I’m making a heavy-handed assertion, one that goes back to Socrates and follows a moral tradition, because it certainly appears that I’m saying that we can only read Ashbery through the lens of a harmonious, or potentially harmonious, society.  But isn’t that what we’re all saying?  Except that some defer the issue to a greater extent than others?  Those who say ‘art must be free’ do not say this because they think it’s a bad idea;  they think it’s a good idea—and ‘good idea’ means here what’s ‘good’ for society.  Even the person who says there should be no society is making an assertion based on the worth of a society.  So all opinions on the value of anything, really, are backed up by the implicit understanding we’re talking about ‘the good’ in the Socratic, ‘Plato’s Republic,’ sense.  Those who would make a fetish of art would deny this bit of common sense: society or ‘the good’ have nothing to do with it, and will never have anything to do with it, they say. The New Critics will claim it only matters if the poem ‘works’ as a poem, and the Ashbery school will essentially say it only matters if it ‘doesn’t work’ as a poem, which is the logical next step, but the phrase “as a poem” can’t possibly have any meaning separate from society, since “as a poem” is a term that implies distinction between ‘poem’ and other things, and, in addition, the “as a” part of the phrase implies the person who intellectualizes that distinction, and once you posit an intellectual person, society quickly follows.

Do you think poetry can be a window into scientific experiments, so in that way it is free of what you are talking about?

I can’t think of any poetry that can be classified that way.  Is there an obscure poem somewhere, beloved of scientists, and no one else?  I can’t think of such a poem, unless perhaps the essay “Eureka,” which Poe called “a poem.”  But this was not the bogus science of a Charles Olson.  Poe can be forgiven for his misnomer, only because his science was real; it concerned the stars, the planets, the nebulae, gravity, light, and the miraculous physics of the heavens.

BLIP

Not kisses, me.  —N. Cissus

The sentence is no longer necessary.
We’ll need God, the universe, the earth, the sea,
And my poems, of course, in a book marked me.

The van is outside humming!
They’ve come to take my punctuation.
Take my commas!  I pause no longer.
My reflection…my heart is thrumming!
Plato asked: can music dionysian
Ruin a nation?
The answer, by the way, must come from me.

I stare.  I no longer hear.
I look at the violin.

My art is flat.
I have nothing to put my soul in.
I’m only myself when I’m just this near.
I look in my eye—where you spat.
I’ll need to borrow your semi-colon;

My sentence will no longer be.
My point of view has won.
What was that wooing noun doing looking at me?

SNOWSTORM, UNABLE TO SLEEP

My burning is my burning, but it is also the world’s flame.
My breathing is the world’s breathing, the world breathing the same.
The body is a body, but this world is a name.

In my fit is the world’s anger and spasm;
Sitting in it is a secret knowledge: a thrum.
Tell me to speak, I am deaf; tell me to listen, I am dumb.
The science fiction always springs from scientific fact.
The story is the memory, torn, as it walks back.
When the storm comes to my window, in frozen rivulets of snow,
Buried in that multitude of flakes is one separate thing I used to know.
The burying is my knowledge, burying my knowledge,
White roads, sky, pregnant with snow; the announcement closed the college;
Everything is blocked, and for the sake of getting a look,
I am reassembling my sorrow, sorrowfully, in a book.
Here is my poem; you can go to it right now.
We can stay up all night; this much love will allow.

YOU, TOO, CAN MAKE ELEGANT, LO-FI POP MUSIC FROM YOUR POETRY!

When I saw her, she looked lovely,
So I looked, so I looked, once again.
I went down the garden stairs toward her.
Nothing like her in all the world of men!
I greeted her with a common phrase.
She replied in whispered tones so fair!
She had sandals on her feet, there was a wedding,
But all she seemed to be concerned with was her hair.

WHAT THEY ALL WANTED

Four guys know a girl,
Only one can have her—
She’s a sister to them all—
Each one her friend, her brother,
Yet all want to be her lover
Or smile still, or joke with her, or fall
Into hell, where fire flames up from every beauty in the world.

MARY BY THE ROSES

My Mary danced her luckless way
By the roses,
My Mary danced her feckless way
In between the roses.
In my dream she poses
In a fragrant dream of roses.
My Mary was—but I shouldn’t say.

My Mary sang, “Away, away!”
By the roses,
My Mary sang, “Away, away!”
Hidden in the roses.
She undid them all that way
By the bright and rolling roses.
My Mary was—but I shouldn’t say.

My Mary caused some disarray
By the roses.
My Mary caused someone to say,
“You’ll suffer losses!”
“You’ll suffer losses!”
Only I know what the loss is.
And Mary, too—but I shouldn’t say.

My Mary loves her roses
In outer space.
My Mary flies with roses
In outer space.
Where is the man who talked of losses?
Who talked and talked of losses?
There’s not a trace.

If the roses, the roses
Are here, you might think Mary is close—
Because the odor of the roses
I couldn’t go that way;
I couldn’t breathe
When Mary danced by the roses,
Is what I’m trying to say.

LONGFELLOW PARK

That summer we were devoted to baseball
And counted dexterity highest of all things.
Under high trees we learned what we could do on our feet
With the wiffle ball—make it soar or run and with its curve
Baffle both the left handed and the right handed batter.

Our umpire was the venerable Henry Wadsworth Longfellow;
On Brattle Street in Cambridge,  Longfellow’s house stands,
Between it and the Charles River, Longfellow Park;
A dozen stone steps on either side descending to the river
Frame a monument fifteen feet high, featuring the bust

Of Longfellow, with his fictions carved in low-relief
On the wall behind him; the base on which his bust sits
Is a pedestal forming a strike zone perfect in width,
The wall a fine back-stop to the field of play, formed by
A three foot stone wall enclosing the infield, lamposts

Perfect foul poles just beyond the short wall’s two corners;
Three stone steps opposite the statue twenty feet away
Lead to the grass outfield and a curved path: homerun.
Two is all that’s needed; one bats, one pitches.
Singles need to clear the three foot stone wall,

Doubles are any hit which hits an outfield tree on the fly,
Triples those hits which on a fly strike the distant path,
Homeruns those which clear the path, sixty feet away.
Home is the vertical area behind the batter,
Under Henry’s beard.  He watched the called balls and strikes

We threw against his pedestal all summer.  My fastball
Was okay, but then I changed speeds—she’d lunge at the ball
Before its anticipated arrival; that was the change-up,
My best pitch.  She threw hard and learned a spot
Where I just couldn’t hit it and threw it there all day;

She shut me out once; we’d play nine innings
And we took it seriously.  We fell in love with the game;
We hated to stop when tourists came by to peek at Henry,
Or when it rained, or grew dark, or when lovers
Were there ahead of us, sighing in our perfect field.

A CONTINUAL EXTINCTION OF PERSONALITY

Van Gogh (d. 1890) Japanese influence due to U.S. Navy’s trip to Japan in mid-19th century, thanks to Poe’s friend, Joseph P. Kennedy, sec. navy.

Tom, I dare not say.
Little review, I’m afraid you’ll go away.
A light rain might interfere with the sun
In terms that might upset you, or anyone,
Gliding past an ordinary World War One day.

I’m afraid you’ll go away.
The rain dissolves near the mist-resembling sun.
Clouds were bright last night, and I see every magazine is done.
Is it possible to be published? Will I be kissed?
Is it wise to duck the sun?

Haiku was all the rage in 1904
Due to the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japan war.
Imagism and “objective correlative”
Would soon follow.
Ezra Pound insisted, but Tom’s father wouldn’t swallow.

Perhaps aeroplane and typewriter
Made poems go
where they didn’t want to go.
Futurism was a gas—funny and slow.
Is light in the eyes of the crowd the light of night or day?
Are we closer to each other now?   Stein’s secretary,
Hemingway…

Tom, I dare not say
Why there’s no ideas but in things,
For things work better in painting,
Not in poetry, where things do not stay;
Do you remember the stars?  The wide bay…

WE THE VAIN AND BEAUTIFUL

 

We, the vain and beautiful,
Are the most unhappy of our race,
Because we are unhappy at heart,
Being interested in only the face
And the things which adorn mere nature
To make her more beautiful still,
When the mouth is an ooze of blood,
And seeing releases the will.

Is life a jumble of rude sensations?
What good is ugliness, per se?
We did not dream of trench warfare,
Or of sending the different away.
Our single criterion is beauty,
And then simple worship of the same
In whatever we find beautiful,
Without note of number or name.

I FLEW OVER

I flew over the round world, round-eyed,
Spying what the raven who first rode westward spied:
Three ravens, who sat, like the ballad, in a tree.
The ballad did not mean a thing to me.
I sang that ballad because my voice was smooth,
Samita! of all things done with the mouth I loved,
I loved to sing, and make vowels and consonants move,
That I might please, simple as daylight sighted
When black in the forest is first removed
As day inside the wood is first lighted
By an ancient, or maybe, modern, sun,
The same one, Mediterranean-whited,
Who blues the wave, now in this mossy wood,
Spilling sun-change on shadow, day-improved,
As each shadow plays upon the day,
Turning around to look at itself, day’s shadow,
Wanting to inhabit music, luxury, and play
In spots between trees, dying into harmony
As song finds that a small misunderstanding pleases.

I find the raven inside every shadow—
The world does not allow absence.
The philosophy was “Everything exsts.”
Do you hear my song as it invades the day?
As I watch the stretched earth all day changing,
Hated, not for blindness, but for being near-sighted,
As officials ask for fur, for my impressionism;
Hollow inside, my answer is low and murmuring:
“There is only you, there is no impressionism.”
The light takes time, as time, always away, takes.
The prose is the photograph the sly poem takes,
The prose who lived years ago somewhere else;
The prose is someone else’s. It surrounds my house.
The sun inhabits the fire that inhabits the sun.
The many beautiful prevent us from loving one.

POETRY IS WHERE YOU TELL ALL

Poetry is where you tell all.
It takes no talent or skill.
Make yourself small
By telling all.

Poetry does not take learning.
It is but a fury, a burning,
A passion which makes you small
By telling all.

You enter rooms watching your back,
Your life in place, your pride intact.
But you must burn, crash and fall
By telling all.

CAT STEVENS, YOU BASTARD

I was trekking nostalgically through Youtube, as I occasionally do, last weekend and Cat, you made me cry three times.   “Tea for the Tillerman” was one of those iconic records I heard in my adolescence and your intense, yet gentle singing style really knocked me out.  I think it was my sister’s record, not mine, but I grew to really like it.

Now that I have a young son and daughter, there’s an added emotion for me to the songs “Father and Son” and “Wild World” (the latter is about a girlfriend, but it could almost be about a daughter) and as soon as I heard these two songs: instant tears.

It’s a good thing my kids didn’t see me blubbering at the computer—I don’t know what they would have thought.  My sentimental music tastes freak them out enough, already.

Then I decided to watch Yusuf Islam, a much older Cat Stevens, play “Father and Son” to a gathering of Muslims, and that, too, made me cry.  Maybe because he was older and singing the same song, maybe because he was singing it to a different people who were enjoying the same song in the same way, but it really got to me.

Cat Stevens, you bastard.

But, unfortunately, the pedant in me would like to say a little more.  The lyrics of “Wild World” and “Father and  Son” have parental, moral, and sentimental strains which are the basis of all art—and all religion.

Every impulse in both art and religion has some kind of parental or authoritative guidance, and this is inescapable.

The poet who has no morals is still a moral lesson.  Art is trapped in morality; to be a poet is to be a priest: from this there is no escape.

In the lyrics to “Wild World,” the narration quickly moves from the painful Petrarchan trope  of the indifferent beloved (she’s leaving him) to tender, paternal guidance and concern; the poet escapes from the hell of disappointment into the heaven of care.  Amor’s resentments and regrets are quickly transformed into a kind of selfless agape.

Now that I’ve lost everything to you
You say you wanna start something new
And it’s breakin’ my heart you’re leavin’
Baby, I’m grievin’
But if you wanna leave, take good care
Hope you have a lot of nice things to wear
But then a lot of nice things turn bad out there

CHORUS:
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world
It’s hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world
and I’ll always remember you like a child, girl

You know I’ve seen a lot of what the world can do
And it’s breakin’ my heart in two
Because I never wanna see you sad, girl
Don’t be a bad girl
But if you wanna leave, take good care
Hope you make a lot of nice friends out there
But just remember there’s a lot of bad and beware

Imagine if such passionate advice-giving took this form:

So much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

This little poem seems a radically different address; and yet, would equals speak to each other like this?   No.   If your friend turned to you and said, “So much depends upon a red wheel barrow…” you would laugh in his face. The power, if it has any, of this poem is in its moral guidance.  There is an implicit authoritative voice (religious, if not poetic) speaking to a child or devotee or follower:  here is my wisdom.

The “Wheel Barrow” wisdom is not the wisdom of “Wild World:” be a good girl, beware of a__holes, but rather: be attentive, don’t forget mere things are important, too.

Even though “Wild World” and “Wheel Barrow” seem to be very different, they are not.  Both rely on:  the advice of some kind of authority. They are both highly moral.

A BOOK OR A MOVIE

“the world never wrote to me”  –Emily Dickinson

Had I been asked,
I would have done so much.
Had I been asked—
But I wasn’t, and yes, yes, I knew
I wasn’t going to be asked.
I was too much in love with you.

I knew when I saw you I wanted to go with you,
So I studied you for a sign
But I didn’t want you to see me staring,
Thinking, “Oh God! I wish he were mine!”
I kept my passion masked.
I waited to be asked.

I knew, early on, how much life requires
That we stifle our desires,
That, instead, we write poetry, or reach for a gun.
Despite the fact I fell in love with you
I kept my passion masked.
I waited to be asked.

I knew you would be perfect for me.
But I didn’t talk to you. I stared at TV.
I read books on every subject, looking for a sign
From the world that one day you would be mine.
I kept my passion masked.
I waited to be asked.

Oh! It was sublime! The hours I took, the time, the time,
I printed out footprints of purple and red sublime,
I constricted my breathing in the dark,
Watching love movie after love movie for a spark.
I kept my passion masked.
I waited to be asked.

Had I been asked, I would have taken off this mask.
I would have laughed, puffed, flicked an ash
And taken you to task
For making me wait a thousand years
To the tune of my own tears,
To the tune of so many tears.
I would have laughed and said, “Is that all it was?
A million years?” How absurd it would have seemed.
And then there would have been no tears.

CHEEP

It is a talking and a whispering,
That’s all poetry is, and a door
To where we talked as we walked along
Where we don’t walk along anymore.

It is feather warning feather of imminent death,
That’s all poetry is, for the door
Creaks and the cat
Will kill us before
We have taken a breath.

Speech, when its singing, is singing
Inside singing, not a precise command,
Not right or wrong,
Loving pretending a loving that is wending
Its way into syllables saying a seven-syllable-song.

Poetry is how beauty recognizes
Beauty truly, for foot and eye
Don’t speak, and what doesn’t speak
Doesn’t like to speak and when it finally speaks
Will likely lie.

Remember the trees where we walked along
Where we don’t walk along anymore?
No, you don’t, for I was writing a poem in my head.
I was a terrible bore.

We can’t see right from wrong
Unless another die.
Singing birds are hopping and flying
Darkly, cleverly avoiding dying.
Poetry has made a song,
But song made poetry, why?

THE CURIOUS CASE OF MONDAY LOVE

m-love

Thomas Graves, a.k.a., Monday Love, a.k.a. Thomas Brady–poet & oxygen-sucking blogger.

Alan Cordle was the mind of Foetry.com. Christopher Woodman was its heart.  Monday Love was its soul.    Monday Love’s anonymous poems on Foetry.com have received over 74,000 hits–and counting.   The impulse of the true poet–who cares who wrote them?

The following poem, in which ‘telling all’ destroys the poet, is more than just a confessional poem; in the new post-foetry climate, the paradoxical reigns: self-pity turns into a boast; anonymity is the way to be more revealing.

~

…..Poetry Is Where You Tell All

…………Poetry is where you tell all.
…………It takes no talent or skill.
..……….Make yourself small
…………By telling all.

…………Poetry does not take learning.
…………It is but a fury, a burning,
…………A passion which makes you small
…………By telling all.

…………You enter rooms watching your back,
…………Your life in place, your pride intact.
…………But you must burn, crash and fall
…………By telling all.

http://foetry.com/forum/index.php?topic=47.120

A BURNING QUESTION FOR THE WORLD AND THE POETRY FOUNDATION TOO

Filipinos jpeg

So here’s a really big one, Barbara Jane Reyes. Isn’t the looseness in the creative souls of your Filipino poets, the flexibility, the disorder even in their language, isn’t that actually an advantage? And don’t they get that freedom precisely by being part of a marginalized, deracinated culture? Isn’t that their big reward as artists?

When you’re shut out, can’t you also feel liberated by not having to make sense in the eyes of the establishment? Can’t you even survive better by realizing you’re your own Cirque Soleil, and the sky is your tent and anything you say way up on a very high, and very shaky, high high wire?

Like Cockney humor when London was such a God-awful place to be a worker, or Puerto Rican street talk when so-called ‘Latinos’ were just a Westside Story? Or Gypsies anywhere in Europe, even now, or the really great Yiddish in the Ghetto. None of those people wanted to be understood, their language was their hidden treasure!

And isn’t the creative nonsense-genius you get in English from Latinos, Cockneys and Filipinos just the opposite of Flarf, for example, or Stephen Burt’s  ‘New Thing,’ both of which are so studiously the product of too much money, too much leisure, too much education, too much self-regard, and cultural cabin fever?

I hope you’ve had a chance to read Thomas Brady’s two essays on the Not A Radical Treatise thread (click here, and here). Isn’t the role of what he calls “Limits” applicable to all ‘overly-racinated’ cultures, not just mainstream American poetry — bound feet in China, for example, what a heart-breaking limit that was? And if you begin to feel too privileged with Franchisement, might you not begin to affect Disenfranchisement today, pretend to be a Revolutionary, and start another very self-conscious, very rarefied, very hard to understand and therefore very deep New Movement? (I almost said “fake” there, but the tragedy, of course, is self-delusion. Yes, it’s “new” alright,  but so what? The question is, is it genuine? Does it have any genuine human value?)

And the real thing, the diamond, Desmond Swords, isn’t he just the opposite of a Stephen Burt? I hope you’ve read Desmond too — he writes about his struggle as a working class Irish poet to get accepted by the British blog establishment (click here). He also reflects specifically on his experiences on Blog:Harriet  (click here)  and goes international on the Guardian Blog — quite a read, including the flabbergasted responses!

So what do you think it did to Desmond’s voice when he found out it was just being read as “blather,” Or getting booted off The Poetry Foundation’s site for that matter? How much pleasure did that give him do you think? How high did that make him fly?

Or even in a tiny little way, the three of us here on Scarriet, Tom, Des and myself, uprooted from Harriet and cast adrift by The Poetry Foundation of America? Aren’t we sort of lucky?

Christopher Woodman

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