INSINCERELY OFFENDED

Image result for the offended in renaissance painting

The biggest asshole is the one who insincerely takes offense.

To be offended, as wrongs go, is a relatively harmless thing in itself, and often earns the offended party points for virtue—and here lies the insidious nature of the insincere who are always offended: their bad spreads and increases, inspired, and under the cover of, the apparent good—which makes the insincerely offended impossible to stop simply and virtuously.

To take offense is to give offense—the offended shame the other by being offended by them, even though the “offense” is harmless—and sincere. And here the insincerely offended strike an even greater and more insidious blow against sincerity: when they insincerely take offense at something which is offered sincerely.

The asshole’s insincerity—because it hides behind virtue—is protected, increasing the truth of its insincerity. The asshole’s bad—which hides behind the good, is, for that very reason, is even worse, as all that is insincere (and called good) gradually chases out all that is sincere (and called bad).

This common, yet applauded, wrong, is able, like an infection without a cure, to spread harm and mischief vastly, and incalculably.

Justice longs, like any pressure, or force, to manifest itself in some way—for it would not be justice otherwise.  The more wrong and the more torture the faculty of virtue suffers, the greater likelihood of a dramatic reversal of the state of things—perpetuated over time by insidious wrong which hides itself inside the good.

Murder, and other truly criminal, brazen and anti-social acts, don’t happen out of the blue, but we are nonetheless often puzzled by the sudden and seemingly unexplained ferocity and evil of human behavior. These terrible offenses, replete with horror and irrationality, come about, very often, from the far less harmful, but constant, behavior of the assholes—who are able to seem good as they constantly shame and torture others.

The insincerely offended asshole is the root of all evil.

The good person is made to feel bad—even as they know themselves to be sincere.

The good person sees the bad person winning, as a seeming good person—and there is nothing the good person can do about it. Good is defeated by the bad, as all the good is sucked out of the room.

Good can, and will, suffer, in silence, knowing itself to be good.

Good, however, in a weak moment, may take offense itself, because of the insincere strategy of the bad who are offended, and good, now offended in turn, and rightly so, transitions to the idea that all offense taken is insincere, and bad is all—good succumbs to the atmosphere of bad, believing there is no more good, since being offended is the only reality, whether it is sincere, or not.

Since taking offense sincerely is actually a more helpless order of being than taking offense insincerely (the latter perceived to be more clever and ambitious and socially successful) good falls in line with the prevailing bad behavior—which ambitiously and insincerely takes offense.

The bad perpetuates bad as normal, and the bad flourish in their status quo status, insincerely offended by every means and manner one can think of—since the world is imperfect in every way, there is an infinite store of things which offend. “To be offended” becomes not only the de facto normal and safe position, but the strong and superior position.

This is how, in a normal and self-perpetuating manner, the bad grows and flourishes, always on the offended end of things, while the just and the good either convert to the bad-and-insincerely-offended normal, or, the good ineffectively fight back, either violently or pitifully, committing more harm, and looking truly bad, and becoming truly bad, in the process. The good is not only defeated by the bad; the good ends up becoming even worse, making the triumph of the bad even more certain and inevitable.

But take heart.

Build a house–or a poem—which doesn’t fall down.

You are good.

It is them, not you.

The world is more creepy, unfair and crazy than you ever dreamed.

But we’ll find a way out of this.

I promise.

 

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IF THE INTROVERT

If the introvert is really so,

Where can the introvert go

To escape public notice—their fear and doom?

They just slip into the bathroom.

Whether in a public place, or at home,

There’s a place where the introvert can truly be alone—

Better than the living room, or even hiding in bed,

Where someone else might lurk, the introvert’s dread—

Is a private room where the introvert really spends their life.

Look around. Where is your moody wife?

You might speak to them as they half-listen, half-hidden by their hair;

You might even make them angry. They aren’t really there.

You might feel fortunate to get them on the phone.

The truth is, the introvert is always alone.

The introverts, silent ghosts, climb inside their walls,

As Churchill’s voice looks for them, echoing in the stalls.

 

THE ENTRANCE

Image result for entrance with blue pillars

The entrance is all.

The entrance allows you to enter,

Unless it is locked, or too small.

This entrance seems meant for you,

And, as you go in,

You hear the sounds of love,

And feel the grip of sin.

The entrance had blue stone

Pillars on both sides

And marble for miles

Which no one derides.

The entrance is expensive

And when you entered it, you were

Different afterwards. But don’t ask her.

She is the queen of entrances.

She is official. She knows

Death is the entrance

Every palace shows.

This entrance, however, is so tall

You don’t see it. The sky

Seems to beckon.

But you are too small.

At the beginning of the entrance you die

To get out. She knows why.

You signed up with the others.

They waived the entrance fee.

And now you’re in a submarine

At the bottom of the sea.

 

 

GREAT

Image result for statue of shelley

His love was great—but I always hated that word.

Word associations are true, though they seem absurd.

The expression “great with child,” disgusted me;

I hated the word, “great;” men were obsessed with it especially;

“I’m great,” or “that’s great”—and I would roll my eyes.

I learned eventually everything great was everything that lies.

He did love me, and I found him difficult to resist;

He had such beautiful hands, and I never saw him make a fist;

He would have died for me, though melody and poetry

And beauty made him die.

I worked at loving, but he didn’t have to try.

His love was great. And that’s when I realized the lie.

He was gallant and romantic and tall.

But he loved me too much. So I chose not to love him at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEN MAZER: THE LAST MODERN

Image result for ben mazer selected poems

Selected Poems by Ben Mazer
Paperback, 248 pages
Madhat Press
Preface by Philip Nikolayev

T.S. Eliot was born in 1888. As Ben Mazer’s Selected Poems, with its T.S. Eliot heft, lands on America’s doorstep (as writing workshop and slam poet hives hum in every college town) this is the question a few may be asking: is Mazer a genius, or a copyist?

When we write in the ascendant style of an age, we position ourselves for greatness (think Beethoven atop Mozart), or neglect—a copyist the world doesn’t need.

W.H. Auden—younger, English-born, sassier than the somber American, T.S. Eliot—whom Eliot published, and who, after traveling to Berlin and China with Isherwood, subsequently moved to America and awarded John Ashbery his Yale Younger—is Auden Mazer’s fountainhead?

Are the following quotes from Auden or Mazer?

1.Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day/Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,/He got down to work

2. The flier, at the Wicklow manor,/Stayed throughout the spring and summer,/Mending autos in the drive

3. In a strange country, there is only one/Who knows his true name and could turn him in./But she, whose father too was charged with murder

4. Look, stranger, on this island now/The leaping light for your delight discovers

5. And move in memory as now these clouds do,/That pass the harbor mirror/And all the summer through the water saunter.

The insouciance of rhymes flung against the language of hard-boiled detective fiction. It’s Modernism longing to be Romantic, but finding it quite impossible.

1, 4, and 5 are Auden; 2 and 3, Mazer.

Shelley in army uniform, cynically resigned to domesticated Empire life—which pays better than it ought.

Ben Mazer is for, by, and about poetry which sings out the following historical paradox:

Shelley, the Romantic, is quick—look at him riding winds and swift ocean currents.

The Modern, with her machines and her anxiety, hasn’t got time for Romanticism singing Shelley, and, yet, the modern boredom and leisure which the modern affects, allows for poetry which goes deeper into the Shelley of Shelley than Shelley ever did.

If you give Mazer a few minutes (since a long poem doesn’t exist) he will pour more Shelley on you than you’ve ever known before.

The Mazer quoted above, in the comparison with Auden, is early Mazer.  The later Mazer is less like Auden and more like Eliot.  But these comparisons are not entirely fair. Mazer is Mazer.

Here’s an excerpt from Mazer’s “The Double:”

I remember chiefly the warp of the curb, and time going by.
As time goes by. I remember red gray green blue brown brick
before rain or during rain. One doesn’t see who is going by.
One doesn’t think to see who is going by.
One sees who is going by all right, but one doesn’t see who is going by.
The bright lights attract customers to the bookstore.
Seeing, chalk it up to that. The bitter looks of the booksellers,
as you leave the shop without paying. Rickety steps that will soon
be history. A ripped up paperback book with some intelligent inscriptions
in very dried out blue gray ink. Lots of dumpsters. And seagulls.
Or are they pigeons. They seem related, as the air is to the sea.
When it gets darker, or foggier, it is a really big soup
of souls, works of art, time tables, the hour before dinner,
theatrical enterprise, memories of things never happened, warnings
spoken in a voice familiar, a keen and quickened sense
of possibility glimpsed through windows.
Handbills, whatever to mark the passing time. And sleep.
I know it is good when the good of it is not noticed.
It is something you try and tell someone privately in a room
where the light is broken in October. Your sense of time
is the source of your charm with strangers,
who would accept you anyways.

Mazer’s accumulation of details—this is the first 22 lines of “The Double” (Poems (2010) in Selected pg. 9)—unlike the poetry of Ashbery, which explodes in non sequitur—narrows down to philosophy. With each additional observation, Mazer’s centripetal process pins down meaning; notice how the passage we have quoted is not just creating categories, but reflects on category itself: “They seem related, as the air is to the sea.” See (“seeing, chalk it up to that”) the subtle manner in which observations are linked throughout the passage: the ambiguity of the poet’s seeing-but-not-seeing-who-is-going-by is repeated in the “booksellers,” who by their very nature see-but-don’t-see visitors to the bookstore, since they want visitors (our poet) to buy books from their store—a store which has “rickety” steps, indicating not many people are buying books, and the store itself will become “history”—the bookstore itself will become a book. The poet embraces the trope of attracting customers (readers) himself—the poet comments on what makes poetry good (“I know it is good when the good of it is not noticed”) defines imagination (“memories of things never happened”) and the actual surroundings of the poet’s rambles (“lights, fog, handbills, dumpsters, gulls, bookstores, the hour before dinner) cunningly mingle with the walking-and-seeing poet’s thoughts on poetry: “try and tell someone privately…” “your sense of time” (poetry, a temporal art) “is the source of your charm with strangers”—and with “strangers” we are back to the booksellers—and the customers who don’t buy (“strangers” to each other) and readers of poems—the more successful, the more “charm” the poet has, the more readers (“strangers”) the poet will have.

The hidden meaning of “The Double” is the lonely enterprise of the seeing-but-not-seeing poet who strives to be successful—the background of urban poverty and charm denoting the modern is just one of its layers. There is a density of significance impossible to define, but Mazer’s poetry has it.  “The Double,” “Death and Minstrelsy,” and “The Long Wharf,” three longish poems which greet us in the beginning of Mazer’s Selected, should be taught in every writing class—these three poems alone ensure Mazer’s immortality.

We also think “Divine Rights,” Cirque D’ Etoiles,” “Deep Sleep Without Reservations,” “Monsieur Barbary Brecht,”  “The King,” (excerpted in Selected) and “After Dinner Sleep” fall into the “immortal” category, though there are shorter pieces (mostly sonnet-length) in the book of great charm, and even sublimity.

In Auden’s “The Partition,” quoted above, Auden was writing about the immensely real: the British Empire dividing up its conquests.

Mazer writes of the real, but almost religiously avoids current events.

Mazer writes of what is close—he is Romantic in nature.

The British Empire splitting apart requires the poets of that Empire to say something, to mourn, to capture.

The American Empire holding itself, remarkably, together, is impossible to speak, except in amateurish and splenetic bouts of boring and dubious prophecy. The best American poets are not historians. They enjoy being in the middle of a dream.

In the wider historical scope, it could just be this.

Mazer is properly, we think, poetry, not history.

Poetry, in a certain historic time and place, which tries to be history, fails.

Poetry of any sensuality, which doesn’t try to be history, tends to be Keatsian.  We don’t read the poetry of Keats to find out about English history.

Mazer, the neo-Romantic, might be called the Wordsworth of brick, but he is really closer to the sublime Keats than the more mundane and pedantic (though still good) Wordsworth. A Romantic urbanity thrills, and when a natural scene is glimpsed, it is all the more beautiful. To this extent, Mazer is Wordsworth.

Still more powerfully, Mazer carves out, half-self-consciously (there’s genius in that “half”) the leisure to travel wholly in Keatsian revery—into and around reality (we use “reality” in the plainest and most mundane way possible)—which makes Ashbery look like a mere manipulator of words, by comparison.

Ashbery’s prose-poetry might be said to resemble the Stars Wars trinity of prequel movies: Ashbery’s pyrotechnical ur-poetry attempts to modernize the nostalgic; Ashbery is a kind of hyper-contemporary of quotation and copying, done very well, but missing what makes the franchise (Poetry) great.

Every major contemporary critic, from Harold Bloom to Helen Vendler, acknowledges Ashbery—now the mourned, late Ashbery—as the contemporary master. But no one would say Ashbery is the future of poetry, or a reenactment of what makes the “old” poetry “great.” Ashbery took the franchise, Poetry, and inserted himself in front of it as a language machine which artificially generates poetry with a small “p.” The Ashbery “river” is like poetic consciousness, but without the Poem. Ashbery is (or attempted to be) the equipment of poetry without Poetry, without the poetry itself, without the ‘iconic poem.’

Ashbery also has a Jar Jar Binks quality, a silliness which condemns him before a certain more serious crowd.

William Logan, known for his critical rigor (and rancor?), isn’t fond of Ashbery. Logan, much younger, will outlive Bloom, Vendler, and Perloff, and so we’ll see.

Mazer may be the last Modern—his Modernism resembling Luke Skywalker’s lonely predicament in the currently much discussed, and much maligned, Last Jedi.

The High Modernism of T.S. Eliot is new, yet old, situated, in terms of politics and taste, somewhere between Dante and the new diversity.

Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi—and we might as well say it: Mazer is the last Modern.

Mazer gets his “Force” from the Tradition (in our crude analogy, the “Force” from the original Star Wars films)—Mazer’s work belongs to High Modernism, but if his poetry is “heroic,” (and we believe it is) the poetry is both nostalgic (timeless, longing) but also unique—when we read Mazer’s poetry, we care about the person in the poetry, and this is what gives the “great” poem an added, human, interest. The reader identifies with the poet on his quest, but also with the poem-significance of the quest, in terms of the bigger picture—Tradition, Poetry.  The great poem will use both elements in its appeal—1. this is a good poem 2. my heart is moved to pity and understanding by this poet who lives in this poem.

Mazer writes poems first, and secondly, poetry. Mazer’s poems will ensure his immortality—or not.

Ashbery wrote poetry first, and secondly, poems. Ashbery’s immortality depends on his poetry—as time rolls on and does its usual up-rooting and destroying.

A poem is probably a better shelter, but who knows how the future moves?

A review of a poet’s Selected Poems—retrospective by its very nature—would not be complete without some discussion of the arc of the poet’s career.

Critics love to talk of an artist’s phases, but most of this talk is speculation and half-truth; it is the fate of a poet to be a poet—never to be a poet in this or that phase.  Tennyson wrote about Crimea because Crimea happened—not because Tennyson was in a phase.

The quality which makes any artist significant is

1. recognized by the connoisseur immediately

2. transcends phases.

A long poem does not exist.  In the same way, a book of poems does not exist. Mazer’s Selected is hefty, but even if it were not, any poet’s Selected is for reading, at one’s leisure, a marvelous poem, or a series or marvelous poems. Eventually, the whole book may be digested and understood, and even memorized, but a Selected is not intended to be read straight through in one sitting.

The arc of any great poet’s career is: over a certain amount of time, they wrote poems.

And that’s it.

If a poem is successful, it escapes the circumstances of its writing.

We can say Dante was “exiled,” and this fact contributes to our understanding of the Divine Comedy.  Well, yes and no.

A biographical fact is good. The imagination of the poet rarely finds it useful, however.

But what happened to Mazer?  Don’t we care?  And shouldn’t his Selected Poems reflect this?

If you want to know, read the poems.

Keats, the most iconic Romantic, once complained of Wordsworth writing about Dover.  “Dover?” Keats groused, who would write on Dover?  The Moderns, of course, would laugh at this—why shouldn’t the poet write on anything he wants?  But Keats—no matter how much his advice may fly in the face of “freedom” and “common sense,” is correct.

No poet should write on Dover.  The poet uses his imagination to describe his own imagination.  Otherwise, the poet should be a photographer, a political writer, or a travel writer.

Mazer did write on New York. “Entering the City of New York” Selected, pg 84

It begins:

Entering the city of New York
is something like approaching Ancient Rome,
to see the living people crawling forth,
each pipe and wire, window, brick, and home.

The times are sagging, and it is unreal
to know one’s slice of mortal transient time.
We angle forward, stunned by what we feel,
like insects, incognizant of every crime.

We are so duped, who make up civilization
in images of emotions that we feel,
to know the ague of the mortal steel,
each one perched balanced at his separate station.

The graves are many, and their fields decay,
where nothing can be meant to stand forever.
No doubt in due course God will have his way,
and slowly, slowly, all our bonds dissever.

Mazer is obeying Keats’ edict, and not writing on New York City; these opening lines are certainly redolent of some very large city which a humble, rural, meditative stranger enters, but more importantly, an almost 18th century sublimity is expressed—the subject is not New York City, but the soul.

Mazer should be read for poetry, which vibrates to the times, to the reality—which surrounds all of us; and as we read, Mazer’s poetry frees itself of that reality, and then returns to it.  It’s the new return in the poetry which matters, not exactly what is he writing about. 

Even as the exact, in the winding, mossy ways of the poetry, is paramount.

If this advice sounds like a truism, it is, but it is a truism which is fading away, as Keats is fading away.  Mazer is Modernism returning (impossible!) to Romanticism, and not in a bookish sense, or a scholarly sense, but in exactly the way we have described it—it is poetry returning to poetry.

A minor drawback: Mazer reads his poetry aloud in a manner which does not do justice to its greatness; admirably, he speaks plainly, letting the poetry speak; at times, however, monotone eclipses music. The verse of Mazer’s Selected Poems Tour comes out of his body, which can barely know his mind, the latter being so vast as to have no affinity with mere lisp and gesture. (In person, Mazer tends to be very intense, and very quiet, rather than ebullient, but this makes his occasional joking and excitable nature all the more charming.)

In person, Mazer is a wit, one who does not waste words.

At one of his readings, there was a long question for Mazer, involving the structure of his poetry.

Mazer paused, and then said, “It all rhymes.”

The drama of the poems is missing in Mazer’s recitation, perhaps, because the drama is delicately locked within, guarded by the brain of the poet, which, when it comes to speaking its treasure, fails to properly spill outward the swells and currents of its majesty—in the ephemeral instruments devoted to breath.

We saw an anecdote, once, of Rupert Brooke reading his poetry so softly that he could only be heard in the front row. Mazer can be heard—he is certainly competent when he reads. Mazer is a talented musician, and his devotion to poetry (to the delight of poets everywhere) overtook his earlier interest in music.

Who are the great living poets today?

The audacity to seriously ask this question precludes, perhaps, an answer.

Should we say it?

At the top, or near, of the greatest living poets, is, without a doubt, Mazer.

THE DAYS YOU HATE

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The days you hate come fast,

Taking the days you like, the days you love, the days you want, with them into the past.

This day, for instance, which is blurry and cold.

It is moving and sunny. The moon

Wants days to love, at least a few, before time grows old.

The day is for flirting, for making eye contact, and soon

Night welcomes your tide of regret and sorrow.

All these days!

Tonight these regrets dive down—

Before rising up to ruin what you love tomorrow.

 

HOT AS HELL—2018 SCARRIET POETRY HOT 100.

The world has not gone crazy.  The world is the same. The idea of progress is vanity. Human happiness is zero sum.

But the news, these days, is definitely crazy.  And maybe even hopeful, as cracks in the old arguments begin to appear. Certain prominent narratives are flipping.

And poetry, which belongs to change and tradition, is news

So here we go:

1. Garrison Keillor   Accused!  No more Writer’s Almanac poems!

2. Jill Bialosky  Plagiarist! Norton editor. 72 poets, many published by Norton, have defended her.

3. William Logan  Critic and poet, exposed Jill Bialosky’s widespread plagiarism—which he as a reviewer discovered in her memoir, Poetry Will Save Your Life.  Logan’s review, in Tourniquet Review, was picked up by AP and the NYT.

4. Robert Pinsky  Poet Laureate of the U.S. (1997 to 2000). Published by Norton, and one of 29 signatories in letter to Times defending Jill Bialosky.

5. Ben Mazer His Selected Poems just published  (Madhat press). Three poems early in the volume, “The Double,” “Death and Minstrelsy,” and “The Long Wharf,” ensure his immortality.

6. Kevin Young  New Yorker poetry editor! now that Paul Muldoon is retiring. Studied under Seamus Heaney at Harvard with Mazer.

7. Valerie Macon Briefly N. Carolina poet laureate, forced to resign because she lacked academic credentials, has new book.

8. John Ebersole  Questioned for writing an in-depth, honest, but less than flattering review of a poet’s book—see no. 9.

9. Kaveh Akbar Calling A Wolf A Wolf released in 2017 by Alice James Books gets pummeled in Tourniquet Review.

10. Dan Beachy-Quick “I don’t know how to sing” closes his poem in December Poetry issue. Well, damn right. Most contemporary poetry cannot.

11. Forrest Gander “You who were given a life, what did you make of it?” After obscure parts, occasionally contemporary poetry tries to sound frank, and accessible and wise. As in Gander’s “What It Sounds Like” in December Poetry, it fails.

12. Angie Macri has a poem in December Poetry, “What pleasure a question,” which gives us some drama and psychology on Adam and Eve: “It was the first time she had/something to give, what/the man couldn’t take, the first time/the man said please: please let me have bite.”

13. Cornelius Eady has a poem in December Poetry titled, “All the American Poets Have Titled Their New Books ‘The End'”, leaving open the question whether this is foolish, or not. Contemporary poetry never shows its hand, for then it would fail.

14. Valzhyna Mort makes a rather obvious point in her “Scene from Medieval War,” published in Poetry for December, with her first line, “When God appears before me he is a burning woman tied to a bush.” Poetry still aims for the High Modernism of Eliot and Yeats, but fails.

15. Kristen Tracy strives to update Tradition in the December Poetry: “she died there. Stuck. Like a tragic Santa.”

16. Paul S. Rowe the young college professor, poet, translator, and editor of Charles River Journal, is serially publishing Thomas Graves’ book on Ben Mazer.

17. Billy Collins must do something controversial soon, or we’ll forget him. No. Who could forget “The Lanyard?”

18. Jorie Graham who married into the Washington Post Graham family, has won the 2017 Wallace Stevens award, with a stipend of $100,000. She commands a chair at Harvard, and about 10 years ago was caught cheating as poetry contest judge.

19. Ed Roberson is the recipient of the 2017 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, worth $25,000.

20. Patrick Rosal has received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, worth $25,000, for his book Brooklyn Antediluvian (2016). Rosal teaches Creative Writing at Rutgers.

21. sam sax has won the James Laughlin Award, worth $5,000 and a one-week hotel stay in Miami.

22. Piotr Florczyk in 2017 received the Harold Morton Landon Tranlation Award, worth $1,000.

23. Thomas E. Peterson was awarded the Raiziss/De Palchi Fellowship for English translations of modern Italian poetry, worth $25,000.

24. Frances Revel an MFA student at Cornell, won the Aliki Perroti And Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award, worth $1,000, for her poem, “Hymn for the End of Drought.”

25. Rayon Lennon is the 2017 $10,000 prize winner of the Rattle Poetry Prize for his poem, “Heard.”

26. James Henry Knippen has won the 2017 Discovery/Boston Review Contest with “Poem,” in full: “I wanted to rescue the moon/from our hopes. I wanted/to rescue our hopes from hell./I wanted to rescue hell/from existence. I wanted/to rescue existence/from itself.”

27. Stephen Cole puts one in mind that poetry is a sounding-leaf which needs a tree—the great and kindly interest in love and philosophy; the leaf is artificial, otherwise. Cole, who lives in Kansas, doesn’t artificially hoard for acclaim; his prolific output goes right on the Internet.

28. Sushmita Gupta is wise, but poetry declares itself in the homely passions; she is Cole’s poetry-as-natural-as-breathing, female equivalent: vulnerable simplicity of expression, sorrow never feeling sorry for itself, shining on the World Wide Web.

29. Sharon Olds won the Pulitzer a few years back—one of the best living poets, her skill lies in creating domestic, intimate scenes that flash upon the reader like an old master’s painting or drawing.

30. Philip Nikolayev is a poet, philosopher, and linguist, who belongs to Ben Mazer’s Harvard/Boston University brat-pack-genius circle of neo-Romanticism—which is genuine because it pursues so many things; he is currently translating Sanskrit into English and Ben Mazer into Russian; his Facebook discussion threads attract the best minds online.

31. Steph Burt is the critical heir to Helen Vendler at Harvard, a de-centered, eclectic, whirlwind, part of the 21st century movement of American poetry outward from Harvard, where Emerson/William James/Gertrude Stein/Santayana/Wallace Stevens/TS Eliot/Bly/O’Hara/ Ashbery/Bishop/Lowell/Heaney/Mazer sometimes eked out a living. Harvard is poetry’s center no more, as Slam, Creative Writing and the internet pull it apart.

32. Steven Cramer hides out at Lesley University, which is next to Harvard in Cambridge, and exemplifies the truth that poetry is not about geography, but where minds gather; American poets in the 19th century crossed the ocean just to visit Wordsworth—the poet god no longer exists; “The Hospitals” by Cramer is one of America’s best poems.

33. David Lehman is the Series editor of Best American Poetry (1988 to present) the volume poets hate  each year when they see they are not included; Lehman desperately, recklessly, felt compelled to include the late Ashbery in annual volume after volume—like a drowning man clinging to the rope of poetry’s decreasing importance; in his general introduction Lehman always protested too much, crying out, “poetry is well.” But the Series has served.

34. Derrick Michael Hudson Years from now, when BAP is no more, this will be, no doubt, the one incident in its history talked about the most—a white male poet achieved much better publication success when submitting poems to journals using the psuedonym of a Chinese woman. Sherman Alexie, BAP guest editor, chose the poem, discovered the trick, still published it, and was excoriated.

35. Joie Bose is a poet from India; a wife and a mother; she traveled to Japan alone, just for the delicious poetic hell of it; she personifies the poet as restless spirit, and belongs to that great, international, Romantic trend in poetry which one can see on the internet, but which few have bothered to document or record.

36. Bob Dylan made as little as possible, it seems, of his Nobel Prize in Literature. Is this because “rock star” means so much more than “writer?” Sell records and get the girl. “Prize?” “Writing?” Fuck that.

37. Amber Tamblyn is an actress who has published poetry—no American good at anything else has ever been revered as a poet; Michelangelo—yes, that one—wrote great poetry, but no American knows it. Poe dared to write great short stories, too—and to this degree, professional American poetry critics, such as Vendler and Bloom, cannot admit Poe is a good poet—it’s an iron law. What of Wallace Stevens? This proves the point—he had a job—but had it been excelling in another area of the arts, his poetry would be forgotten.

38. W.S. Merwin is America’s most time-honored, living, iconic male poet with the passing of Ashbery and Wilbur—not that these guys were household words—but Merwin, who knew Robert Graves, has little star power, somehow. The famous American poet is not a dying breed. It’s a dead one.

39. Ron Padgett has some hoary prominence—he wrote a few poems for the recent movie, Paterson, starring Adam Driver. England had Lord Byron and Lord Tennyson. The U.S. doesn’t like lords—or their kind of poetry much anymore—though it’s still good.

40. Claudia Rankine was the poet who clashed with Tony Hoagland and his ‘watching tennis’ poem over race before she became big with her race book, Citizen. The Victorians (beneficiary heirs of the slave trade, created by the British Empire) had children as their poetic subject. 21st Century Americans (victim heirs) have racism.

41. Mary Angela Douglas should be discovered. She writes lines of real beauty. She is unknown, like a basketball player sinking a number of thirty-foot shots in a row, in some empty stadium.

42. Mary Oliver is a national treasure. We’re glad she’s still around. She proves to us nature poetry doesn’t really exist. All poetry is of nature, and never gets beyond it, if we are honest, and if we turn off the blurbing trumpets.

43. Donald Hall is about the same age as Merwin. He has written harrowing poetry and should not be forgotten.

44. Terrance Hayes has a lot going for him: major prizes, sensitive poetry, alive to the times, and he’s young. He’s 46. Which in American poetry today, is young. A hundred years ago, 26 was young; fifty years ago, 36 was young; today, 46 is about right. One needs time to get that MFA, or two.

45. Eminem is not considered a poet, and no hip hop artist will ever be considered a poet. There’s a hierarchy, and it goes something like this: Prose poetry difficult to understand is first, prose poetry which is politically correct, a close second. Rhyme, quietism, slam, and hip hop are kept in cages.

46. Rachel McKibbens is a feminist poet and mother who writes of sexual assault and abortion with a fervor which challenges poetry which repels subject, and cares only for poetry.

47. Joanna Valente is a poet who belongs to the post-post-post-Feminist Wave which is not so much pro-woman, as we-are-going-take-the-whole-concept-of-woman-away-from-men-entirely. This is the right of every non-binary creature. There’s an epidemic sweeping across our land of daughters wholly estranged from mothers which poets like Valente, striking out into the unknown, represent.

48. Ron Silliman belongs to an old SUNY Buffalo/L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E/Charles Bernstein/anti-Quietist  School which has nothing more to say. Like so many similar movements, it arose out of a fetish sensibility—which inevitably condemns itself to irrelevance, since it enacts newly what was never really new, but merely odd, and with the passage of time and any success at all, there is the attempt to be more than what was odd at first (normalcy is greedy in all of us at last) causing the radical impulse to die.

49. Dan Sociu is a Romanian whiz kid poet who now must be taken seriously on the English speaking stage thanks to the publication of English translations of his urbane and sensitive work by Ana-Maria Tone.

50. Richard Howard is the living tradition (he’s of the generation of Donald Hall and W.S. Merwin) of James Merrill, the highly learned, lavish, baroque—which enhances, but sometimes gets in the way—of American poetry.

51. Patricia Lockwood wrote a date rape poem a few years ago which went somewhat viral on Twitter. She was “me too” before that became famous. Prophet is probably too big a word. Perhaps poets may serve as the canary in the mine?

52. Collin Yost is an Instagram “dude” poet who was critically savaged in an offhand remark (and then re-tweeted) by a feminist woman for his naively bad “dude” poetry.

53. A.E. Stallings is the last gasp of New Formalism—which attempted to make rhyme critically respectable and failed, because formalism has nothing to do with formalism and everything to do with the rare great poet who inhabits it and validates it.

54. Rupi Kaur is selling, but there’s always a catch, when it comes to poetry—and this is certainly poetry’s fault, and we shouldn’t blame Rupi Kaur.  Her successful book, Milk and Honey, is full of trite advice, the “inspirational” mode of truly fake poetry, passing itself off as wisdom—but which makes people feel good, so the critics and poets (are they wise?) remain wrapped in silence.

55. Frank Bidart is the poet (his Collected won National Book Award in 2017) who exemplifies sociology and psychology in dramatic guise; he’s known for highly personal, ALL CAPS pronouncements in his poems. Once a poet gets inside not just language, but font, and is able to make it a bit strange, together with ‘everyman’ observations, a certain amount of success is assured.

56. Eileen Myles has a nice combination of things going: well-reviewed novel and poems, a museum presence, a cool, older lesbian presence, a Boston, Catholic background; shrewd, nice, but with a loner vibe, as well.  Such things probably happen by accident—but poetry, which is never an accident, does well with it.

57. Paige Lewis is a very young poet who has already written two great poems: “You Can Take Off Your Sweater, I’ve Made Today Warm” and “The River Reflects Nothing.” But American poetry has no apparatus to make good poetry known. So what is a poet to do? Ginsberg’s fame arose from obscenity charges. The last legitimately known poets, Frost, Cummings, Eliot, were born in the 19th century.

58. Tyehimba Jess of sensitive Jim Crow era passions and historiography, beat out Adrienne Rich’s Collected for the 2017 Pulitzer: Living Black Male Slam 1, Dead White Lesbian Book 0.

59. Marjorie Perloff is like those other experienced, learned poetry critics, Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler: hoary American Criticism generally likes Pound, without looking at his writings very specifically, and generally dislikes Poe, without looking at his writings very specifically—this respectable but odd opinion towards the hyena and the lion is a terrible drag on American Letters.

60. Frederick Seidel belongs to the Scorched Earth School of American poetry. The older poets today are far more eccentric than the young—for about a millions reasons.

61. Wendy Cope is brainy, English, and funny. She uses rhyme to “win” arguments. Which is sort of what rhyme is supposed to do. Of course, she’s poison to those who practice “serious” poetry in the United States. The British poets used to matter in the United States. They no longer do.

62. Daipayan Nair belongs to the English speaking avalanche of Indian poetry on the Internet. He is a master of the very short form—his mind is so complex that compositions of any length tend to misfire; he can say more in a few words (I am a poet/I kill eyes) than most can say in a book.

63. Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong, named after Marilyn Monroe; she landed as a child on the west coast, found her way to the University of Iowa, is now a well known Chinese American poet; her best known poem: “How I Got That Name.”

64. Dana Gioia was chair of the NEA under George W. Bush, a New Formalist who champions Longfellow. New Formalism arose during Reagan, and has managed to assure that rhyme is used even less by critically acclaimed poets today. One cannot just impose rhyme on trivia. What the New Formalists did not understand (and the free verse advocates do not understand, either) is that good rhyme does not elevate expression; it humbles it. Humbling the trivial is boring.

65. Diane Seuss was Pulitzer Poetry runner-up in 2016, an extroverted feminist with a new book coming out this spring.

66. Charles Simic is another respected, older American poet who may not wish to go gently from America’s poetry landscape, but probably will. Simic belongs to the late Mark Strand school of European surrealism.

67. Kay Ryan writes clever, dryly humorous, brief poems, was U.S. Poet Laureate for awhile, and perhaps should be better known than she is.

68. Kenneth Goldsmith lived and died by the ‘found poem’; “poetry that stays news” was taken a step further (or backwards) by Goldsmith to “poetry that is, literally, the news.” Michael Brown’s autopsy was his downfall.

69. Cathy Park Hong destroyed Ron Silliman’s white Modernist avant-garde with one short, racially outraged, f-bomb essay.

70. George Bilgere is perhaps the best current example of the Carl Dennis/Stephen Dunn/Dean Young/Billy Collins/James Tate school of wise-acre, poignant, middle-aged, dude poetry.

71. Rita Dove did very well to stay above the fray when Vendler and Perloff blasted her anthology for being too black.

72. William Kulik toils away as America’s prose poem Dante.

73. Louise Glück does not have Sharon Olds’ powerful Adele vibe, but as an influential and respected female poet of American Letters, she’ll do.

74. Vievee Francis won the greatest poetry prize in 2017—the Kingsley Tufts Award. It’s worth $100,000. Her poetry appears in BAP, 2010 and 2014, and the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry.

75. Sonnet L’Abbé edited Best Canadian Poetry 2014 and is highly engaged in decolonial projects and erasure poetry. Her name comes from her father, Ja-son and her mother, Ja-net.

76. Lisa Robertson has won the new C.D. Wright Award for Poetry, worth $40,000.

77. Jennifer Reeser is a poet’s poet: a high quality formalist, praised by X.J. Kennedy, translated into Persian and Hindi, she has four books; and can be found in anthologies such as Phoenix Rising: The Next Generation of American Formal Poets. She also engages with Native American literature.

78. Terence Davies directed a sensitive movie on Emily Dickinson, A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon, released in the spring of 2017.

79. Saheli Mitra is a highly interesting poet one can read on the Internet. There’s a certain tension these days between poets one can read (and see) freely on the web, and the more “respectable” poets—who provide links for purchase of their books, but it is difficult to read a single one of their poems. The poem, and the way it is presented, will always be divided—and very much related. The critic must discern. Readers will gush—or not.

80. Don Mee Choi recently published an autobiographical book of poems about the American wars in Vietnam and Korea called Hardly War, which gets a thoughtful review in The Margins by Sukjong Hong.

81. Matthew Zapruder currently enjoys a critical perch in the NY Times. In his July 10, 2017 column he opines what Scarriet has been saying for years: a poem is not a riddle which deliberately hides its meaning, or is “difficult” on purpose to impress. Zapruder faults Harold Bloom for keeping this fallacy alive. Good. But then Zapruder concludes poetry is meant to bring “language back to life again” in the “machine” of the poem. This is wrong, too. Language is far bigger than anyone’s poem-as-machine. Zapruder has traded one mumbo-jumbo for another.

82. Timothy Donnelly has one of those poems, “Unlimited Soup and Salad” in the November 27, 2017 New Yorker—the trending kind of poem made of breathless facts and extremely long sentences.

83. Don Share is Poetry editor and chair of the Kingsley Tufts Award finalist judges—the Kingsley Tufts Award ($100,000 prize) has nothing to do with Tufts University; Kingsley Tufts was a wealthy LA shipyards executive who published poems in The New Yorker, Esquire, and Harpers.

84. Gary B. Fitzgerald will remind you his poetry is Taoist, not Zen.

85. Ellen Bass writes poetry accessible, poignantly honest, and self-effacing. Her poem, “Indigo,” in the October 16, 2017 New Yorker, about seeing a tattooed man she wishes had been the father of her child is an example. It begins, “As I’m walking on West Cliff Drive…”

86. Ada Limón was a 2017 Kingsley Tufts Award runner-up for her book Bright Dead Things (milkweed). We would be depressed for a long time if we just missed winning $100,000. Perhaps this prize thing is out of control? Aren’t poets anxious enough? Can one imagine Shelley or Dante writing for a gigantic pile of cash?

87. Leila Chatti appears in the anthology, 2017 Best New Poets (series editor Jeb Livingood) with her poem “Motherland,” chosen by guest editor Natalie Diaz.

88. Taylor Swift is, according to Carrie Battan this past year in the New Yorker, “the most consistent singer and songwriter of her generation.” More from the magazine: “The album [“Reputation”] tries to nail down the center of pop at a time when such a thing hardly exists.”

89. Osama Alomar has two books published by New Directions in the United States. A Syrian exile, he is a poet of simplicity and power.

90. Kim Addonizio is receiving a lot of praise for her latest book, Mortal Trash.  It’s published by Norton. We like this line from it: “We believe in the one-ton rose”

91. Shohreh (Sherry) Laici is a young performance artist, poet, and translator from Tehran, who is beginning to get published in the U.S. and belongs to the Iranian Miracle which began on November 8, 2016. She confirmed for us Jimmy Carter’s State Department did in fact help put the current, corrupt regime of 1979 into power.

92. Dylan Krieger has a book of poems which is one of three to make the NY Times 100 Best Books of Fiction/Poetry of 2017. It is ” obscene and religious” and titled Giving Godhead. The others are by Jorie Graham, who writes of “ecological crisis,” and Layli Long Soldier, who is of Sioux heritage. The new faces should be easy to remember: think of the two best American music acts of the 20th Century, Dylan, the folk/rock/”Blowing in the Wind” Nobel, and Krieger, guitarist for the Doors who wrote Light My Fire. Long Soldier should be easy to remember. But, really. What the hell does the New York Times know about poetry?

93. Alan Cordle is a name you need to know. He changed poetry forever with Foetry.com by exposing crooked prizes and contests—the under-the-radar academic money flow which modern-poetry-which-nobody-buys needs—to have any “official” contemporary visibility at all.  Of course dishonest puffery still rolls on—and the general reading public has little confidence that quality in poetry matters at all. True critics wanted—it’s the only real solution.

94. Kushal Poddar belongs to the English speaking India poetry Renaissance taking place around the world, which has yet to gain the attention it deserves—it is too spontaneous for the MFA/New York publishing route; Poddar is especially deft and subtle, more than enough for editors at Norton, or professors at Iowa.

95. Tracy K. Smith was selected as the 22nd Library of Congress Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in June. She is the winner of a Cave Canem and a Pulitzer poetry prize. She was born in 1972. She has an MFA from Columbia.

96. Rae Armantrout continues her smart assault with this from her poem, “Project,” published in the New Yorker in August: “Your clock’s been turned to zero,/though there is no zero on a clock.”

97. Daniel Swift is the author of  2017’s The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound (FSG) a look at the poet who made more than 200 radio broadcasts from Rome during the Holocaust and World War Two, supporting Hitler and the Nazi liquidation of Jews. In 1949, his “insanity” having allowed him to escape hanging for treason, T.S. Eliot and Robert Lowell thought it would be a good idea to issue Pound a major poetry prize—which they did. 1949 was also the year T.S. Eliot won his Nobel Prize for Literature, and published an attack against the American poet Edgar Poe. Remind us who won World War Two, again?

98. Simon Armitage is currently the Oxford Professor of Poetry, following in the footsteps of Matthew Arnold (“Dover Beach”), W.H. Auden, Geoffrey Hill, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, James Fenton, and Robert Graves—who, from that venerable position, in the 1960s, recommended eating psychedelic mushrooms. William Logan, the American critic, reviews Armitage’s latest book, The Unaccompanied, in The New Criterion, and Logan calls Armitage’s “whimsy…a touch labored” and, in this spirit, the Yank punishes the Brit in the Logan way, accusing him of “premature ejaculation of style…his bullish charm is everywhere undercut by the constant smirking and cutesy quirkiness,” as the reader can’t help but laugh and shout, “Hurray, Criticism.”

99. Nathan Woods may not be a big prize winner right away, having recently discovered, as a young poet, Scarriet, but we trust he will enjoy himself all the same.

100. Robert Tonucci is an invaluable Scarriet editor, as it enters its 10th year—Happy New Year, Nooch!!

LIFE IS A TROUBLED DREAM

Life is a troubled dream, and all that is written,

And recorded, and published, is wrong.

The poet studies notes because notes are seen,

But never by the ear which hears the song.

The paper is presented; the scholars nod, and walk away

Into misty decision.

All that was perfected and built,

Falls in the middle of derision.

Innocence will admit its guilt

To the assembled, or be silent, and be guilty, anyway,

Tomorrow, in worry, or in joy the next day.

She, with the deepest sigh,

A wife, deeply conflicted,

Lets the kiss stay, and life go by.

She can go into the public places,

Hear the music and see the faces,

And what they report later will be false.

In the moment Lily came near me,

Her eyebrows were all I wanted:

A shape in a moment hides for eternity,

Belonging to a bright world by a dark poem haunted.

 

 

 

 

EVERYTHING IS SPOILED

Everything is spoiled.

Young flowers are having sex.

Your adorable first love has a powerful ex.

The jokes you think are funny

Are not, and they are old—

The young’s mocking variations are soon to be told.

All the insights you thought you had,

Are reversed in the tongues of others

And they prove you are bad.

The ignorant and the bossy will always be the same.

The supervisor is calling your name.

Everything is spoiled.

All for which you surrendered, and toiled.

What you thought was new is faded around the edges.

A beautiful suicide you envied

Blabs your secrets on ledges.

Now up for ridicule, all you adore.

All not trending is trash in your favorite store.

Your heroes and hobbies are no longer on the shelf.

Surprised by the mirror, you are someone else.

The old and the feeble tell you what to do.

You triumph. In that moment you’re replaced by the new.

Everything which ran to you, now runs away,

Because you got older in a single day,

And the one you thought was pure and true

Loves someone even uglier and more ignorant than you.

LOVE THE INSANITY OF LOVE

I was yours when you loved me,

But ownership in love is no guarantee

Love stays—but here is ownership

Still—your breast, your arm, your lip

Are no longer mine to touch; but you live

In me, and “mine,” “yours,” words we give

To ownership, still apply.

Our love existed, and it will never die.

You hate me now, but I am yours.

Love cannot shut, once we enter the doors.

I am yours, and if I live inside your mind,

You belong to me; love is not kind or unkind;

Love’s a bridge which connects two,

The bridge is ours; nothing else belongs, or is true.

Just so, the doubtful truth of God. The thinking

Is ours, even as all the hates and loves are sinking.

If God speaks to you—they will call you mad;

Love the insanity of love; for only doubt is bad.

Believe in God, which you must do.

The mind is doubt; what loves your mind is true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FOOLS MOVE TOO FAST

The fools move too fast—

But the wise see the fools were wise at last.

The wise shudder to find their wisdom was sick,

And healthy is foolish, for life is quick.

Life, in a moment, fades away.

The wisdom of years is blind to the day.

The sun rose and she let something show—

And calmly you stood there, as she slowly turned to go.

The wise scans the poem, and strives to see

What the fool, laughing, perceived instantly.

The wise talks on, holding your arm.

The fool slept, but still heard the alarm.

DO YOU EXIST TOMORROW?

Do you exist tomorrow?

I think you do,

But I don’t see tomorrow.

I only see today, and today, sorrow.

I see sadness because it doesn’t see tomorrow.

I hear madness because it doesn’t heed tomorrow.

I only see today, and hysteria, and a lack of care.

Hysteria was frozen before it was dancing there.

Does today have an obligation?

Does today have a choice?

On the calendar I see tomorrow’s teeming nation,

Without an understanding, or a voice.

Today, they say, has a choice.

Tomorrow wants to say something, too.

How somber the ear which hears tomorrow!

Tomorrow writhes and anguishes, suffering with old sorrow

Because I didn’t listen to you.

LIBERAL WARMING, OR REAGAN II

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Deep State, you’re no Jack Kennedy. 

“He told me to talk to the Russians.”  Flynn on Trump.

If the Russians had invaded, and now occupied Florida, this might be an issue.

Trump is the new Reagan.  It’s pretty simple.  History repeats.

One could argue the tax rate is the heart of the matter.

Govt (high taxes) vs. the People (low taxes). This may be simplistic. Maybe not.

JFK was for lower taxes. After he was murdered, we had napalm dropping LBJ and the “Great Society” and the Deep State became entrenched.

Nixon was Deep State, and his overthrow was Deep State deception to make the media look like heroes.

Nixon creates the EPA.

Then Jimmy Carter, friendly on the outside but Deep State all the way: Pol Pot and Iran 1979 supported by Carter’s State Dept.

Jimmy Carter also made war on atomic energy, as Save-the-Planet-politics became another means to tax and control The People.

Then the “Reagan revolution” based on the simple “high taxes vs. low taxes” formula mentioned above.

Reagan laid out the simplicity for the American people to see and the High Tax Democrats knew they were had.

Amazingly, we read that Trump’s tax bill is the first major tax lowering legislation since 1986.

Capital investment, which lifts all boats, had to wait 30 years, and an election miracle, and by the slimmest all-GOP margin, to get a boost.

What an irony if the U.S had defeated the Soviet Union, and then became the Soviet Union! Defeats communism—and then, wut? becomes communist.

Obviously it’s not quite that simple. The U.S. defeated the British Empire, and has gradually become the British Empire.

Divide and conquer. The British Empire: deceptive. Not nice. Ambitious as hell.

The Democrats, since 1986, found a marvelous rhetorical trick: Democrats abandoned their tax raising principles in a very clever ruse: the Democrats became tax-cut Republicans for “the middle class” only. But you either believe less taxes will improve the economy or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways. The Democrats have had it both ways for 30 years, and nobody has called them on it.

Who can forget the “read my lips” liar, Deep State, CIA, RINO George Bush Sr.—and then Bill (me too) Clinton, the Democrats’ savior (who needed Ross Perot to get 19% of the vote to win his election)?

That’s when the Democrats became creepy and mean: the Clintons. (If we forget LBJ and the earlier KKK Democrat party).

So here we are, with Hilary Clinton fuming and blaming “the Russians” as Reagan—oops, sorry, Trump—presides over an improving economy.

If you want to talk history, during America’s greatest boom in the 1790s when Salem merchants (whose ad hoc navy captured 450 British vessels, helping to win the revolution) were among first to trade with Far East, producing the first millionaire, the Custom House where Hawthorne worked, was how taxes were raised. There was no income tax. There weren’t a lot of taxes, really.

Then Jefferson’s embargo ruined the Salem economy. We backed down to the British pirates. Then follows the War of 1812, the Civil War (Brits clandestinely back the Confederacy) and the Deep State is born.

Dante, in his Inferno, puts traitors—those who betray their country—in the Ninth Circle—the deepest place in Hell.

But who, these days, even understands what a traitor is?

Democracy vs. Deep State might be a good place to start.

Happy holidays.

ONE HUNDRED GREATEST SONG LYRICS OF ALL TIME

Image result for man singing renaissance painting

The end of the year is a good time to reflect; the top 100 list is the most attractive way to put reflections and reveries into an easily accessible and memorable form.

The following list is a zeitgeist of iconic phrases from popular song. “Greatest” is a huge exaggeration. This is merely a populist snapshot. But Scarriet is fast becoming the master of these zeitgeist lists; we occasionally do web searches of these attempts by others, and generally find no criteria whatsoever: a presentation of narrow musical taste, compounded by highly personalized choices—trees entirely without a forest.

Scarriet’s criteria are based on the moral, the historical, and the popular, and the excitement of what a few words can do.

We avoid fixating on some intricate series of words—by an artist we like—simply because we find it personally pleasing. We don’t eschew the intricately cool, but more important to us are lyrics that vibrate, resound, or agitate the popular consciousness, for whatever reason; we don’t see how this can not be an important criterion. We use this criterion, naturally, within the widest possible array of tastes applied to the widest possible audience (in English) in both time and place.

The moral criterion is crucial—it contributes to popularity, certainly, but it also engages judgment in a way that makes it more trustworthy, and also good—if we may use that word in the widest possible sense. This is why “Let it be” is number one on the list; without indulging in a lecture, this fountain of wisdom seems to us to be the best ‘moral high ground’ advice which, in our highly fraught and frenetic times, it is possible to make, in the vehicle of song. It is even better, we think, than “All you need is love,” and almost as popular.

We like “She loves you” and “Mrs. Brown, you have a lovely daughter”—these two examples rise above the “I love you” two-person formula, adding characters, charm, and interest.

To illuminate another crucial criterion: The simple phrase “paint it black” is on the list mostly for this reason: the phrase emerged in 1966, before the great tidal wave of darker material transformed popular music from “June/moon” to Black Sabbath/death metal, etc. This phrase (from a Brian Jones era Rolling Stones song) is presented as an historical indicator.

Intro over. Enjoy the list.

 

1. Let it be.

2. One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small, and the one that mother gives you doesn’t do anything at all.

3. Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.

4. All you need is love.

5. Good night, Irene, good night, Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams.

6. It’s only a paper moon over a cardboard sea, but I’ll believe in make believe if you believe in me.

7. What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away?

8. This land is your land.

9. She loves you.

10. How does it feel? To be on your own? A complete unknown? With no direction home? Like a rolling stone?

11. Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike, they’ve all gone to look for America.

12. Where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find me.

13. I knew a man Bojangles and he’d dance for you in worn out shoes.

14. She’s buying a stairway to heaven.

15. We shall not be moved.

16. O’er the ramparts we watched the twilight’s last gleaming.

17. And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills

18. I will survive

19. Imagine there’s no heaven

20. I will follow you into the dark

21. You can’t always get what you want

22. You broke my will, but what a thrill, goodness, gracious great balls of fire.

23. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, all over this land.

24. Some say this town don’t look good in snow; you’re gonna go, I know.

25. Nights in white satin, never reaching the end; just what you want to be, you’ll be in the end.

26. I walk the line.

27. Have you ever seen the rain, coming down on a sunny day?

28. You’re living in your own private Idaho.

29. I did it my way.

30. The times they are a changin’.

31. This is the end, beautiful friend.

32. Boxes, little boxes, and they’re all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same.

33. Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

34. Here comes the sun.

35. Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills, and everywhere.

36. The thrill is gone.

37. I put a spell on you.

38. How will I my true love know, from another one?

39. Blue moon, I saw you standing alone.

40. Yesterday, all my troubles were so far away.

41. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.

42. Don’t you want somebody to love?

43. We don’t get fooled again.

44. Paint it black.

45. Stopped into a church I passed along the way; well I got down on my knees and I began to pray. Well you know the preacher’s like the cold—he knows I’m gonna stay.

46. Yonder stands your orphan with his gun, crying like a fire in the sun.

47. O Maybellene, why can’t you be true?

48. Put a ring on it.

49. Stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper I love you.

50. The man who invented the stream drill, he thought he was mighty fine; but John Henry drove fifteen feet and the steam drill only made nine.

51. Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry, go to sleep my little baby; when you awake, you shall have cake, and all the pretty little horses.

52. Fly me to the moon, and let me dance among the stars; I want to see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.

53. This is ground control to major Tom; take your protein pills and put your helmet on.

54. Don’t let the sun catch you crying.

55. What’s goin on?

56. Mrs. Brown you have a lovely daughter.

57. Why must I be a teenager in love?

58. Hello darkness my old friend

59. The moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup, I say a little prayer for you.

60.  That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.

61. Well I heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord but you don’t really care for music, do you?

62. Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.

63. Wild thing, I think I love you.

64. Is that all there is?

65. So you think you can tell heaven from hell?

66. Imagine I’m in love with you.

67. No phone no pool no pets, I ain’t got no cigarettes.

68. Stop in the name of love.

69. I’ll find you in the morning sun; and when the night is new, I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you.

70. Everybody dies but not everybody lives.

71. On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair

72. I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king

73. Oh mother tell your children not to do what I have done, to spend your life in sin and misery in the House of the Rising Sun

74. Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, til you find your dream.

75. Out here in the fields I fight for my meals

76. You don’t own me.

77. When you’re a Jet, you’re Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying day.

78. It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside

79. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.

80. Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before; I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war.

81. There was a lofty ship, and she put out to sea, and the name of the ship was the Golden Vanity.

82. Did you bring me silver, did you bring me gold—or did you come to see me hang from the gallows pole?

83. Hey Jude, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better.

84. I’m going to lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside

85. There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief.

86. If you don’t know me by now you will never, never know me.

87. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord; he is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.

88. You can’t hurry love.

89. To the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left.

90. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.

91. Where do you go to, my lovely?

92. My dear lady Anne, I’ve done what I’ve can, I must take my leave, for promised I am.

93. Look at the stars, look how they shine for you, and everything you do.

94. Never mind, I’ll find someone like you.

95. Oh the sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home, and the young folks roll on the floor.

96. If you go away on this summer day, then you might as well take the sun away.

97. Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

98. Eleanor Rigby, wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door.

99. They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad.

100. Cry me a river, ’cause I cried a river over you.

 

ACTING IN THE BEGINNING IS REAL IN THE END

Image result for green in renaissance painting

Acting in the beginning is real in the end.
So love, ritualized and slow,
Now, with me always,
At first, always made excuses to go,
And was sometimes seen,
Creeping with her. It seemed fruitless to send
Overtures of love into the tangled green,
Where she and the other moved,
But I did, and if she loved,
I knew it only when, once, she claimed:
“Custom and ritual defend
The best of love,” and she whispered I would soon be named
As one who loved in the end.
I was named. So, send, send.

Real in the beginning is acting in the end.
So death, which seems everywhere,
In deeds and thoughts,
Waiting, and always there,
Is yet, never seen,
Except where letters vanish, because to end
Love, we send love to where it’s always green,
Where love after love moves.
In fear, everyone loves.
I knew death best through hope, which claimed:
“Custom and ritual defend
The best of love,” and she whispered I would soon be named
As one who loved in the end.
I was named. So, send, send.

YOU MADE ME CRAZY

Image result for the lover swoons in renaissance painting

You made me crazy.

You made me sick. Sick at heart.

You put your smile in a dart.

Love thinks a lot. Love isn’t lazy.

I hope to never be rid of this.

Well, yes—maybe I do.

Let me go away.

Into the land of your kiss.

You made me crazy. Congratulations, you.

Survival is simple: Drink water. Stay out of the sun.

Be careful. Do what’s right at all times.

Don’t trust anyone.

But survivors don’t dream in rhymes;

Survivors don’t write rhymes for another;

Survivors don’t string their days with songs—

Lullabies learned from mother.

Forgive me love, for these wrongs.

You put love inside a letter

And sent that love to me.

I hope I never get better.

But has anyone hoped so bitterly?

 

 

NO ONE LIKES

No one likes to be beloved of insults.

No one likes free speech when something goes wrong.

No one likes freedom when freedom is free

To interrupt your song.

The news has a point to make—

Which, because it is news, is slanderous and wrong—

And makes it quickly in large letters

Before you have a chance to turn away—

Stay, poetry, stay—

Seeking better advice from your betters.

Old religions conflate loyalty, God and beloved—

In this, only, find the truly true.

Your lover came looking for you

But, you, an addict, wanted privacy—

You want this moment to hide from the last;

Addiction wants privacy—the privacy of now erasing the past.

Too much pain dwells there:

Hate. Terrible hate. And his love, of which you were hardly aware.

 

 

THERE ISN’T ANYTHING

There isn’t anything in the Constitution

Or in your heart or in these inscriptions

Discovered carved in rock by a lost sea

Which interests me.

There isn’t anything in the Sunday Times

Or in a doomed poet’s obscure rhymes

In a dusty room long locked without a key

Which interests me.

There isn’t anything in the sad story

Told by art and dance and everybody is sorry

As you turn yourself into a community

Which interests me.

I do what I want to do. I don’t care

What’s inside myself. Or inside there.

I am the outward life,

I can handle guitar, ship, knife.

Yes, I know. The unhappy wife.

A VERY THOUGHTFUL PERSON

A very thoughtful person

Told me everything was physical.

The universal is material, he said,

And vibrates with song.

One moment his face was beautiful

And then ugly, and I found this very beautiful.

He was ugly because he was afraid.

He preferred Edgar Poe and whole milk.

He unsettled me the way he disagreed

With smart people in funny ways.  And yet he was agreeable to me

In a closed personal space; I never knew the personal could hold such bliss.

When we broke up I told him, his face streaming with tears, “you can’t worship me like this.”

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN

Image result for beautiful face with malice in painting

What does it mean when I want to cry

But I have no idea why

And I can’t, and heavily sigh

For a whole dull and dark cold day?

The release of crying would be a joy,

My tears like a penetrating ray,

Loosening the gloomy air,

Curing the darkness; feeling saving feeling

From a feeling of despair,

My crying, like a spring rain,

A harbinger of winter’s demise.

Will my tears be made of joy or pain?

Will joy joyfully render my cries?

I don’t know. Pain and joy, there is a lot—

But then I see a face

Beautiful with malice—not grace—

And I know why I want to cry, but cannot.

 

IF THE WISE DON’T PRAISE

Image result for death in renaissance painting

If the wise don’t praise

Heartbreak and cold,

Death, and getting old,

Who will? I count the days

From my beginning to my end.

Indifference will not make me bend.

A child in the womb not wanted must die.

A lover, without warning, turns cold

And waste and dark and gravity

Oppresses; the new becomes old

So death can make room for the new.

Who is wise who doesn’t praise you?

 

 

 

 

MORE WELCOME THAN THE SUMMER SUN

Image result for low sun in cloudy winter sky

More welcome than the summer sun,

You sun of December.

You simmer in my slumber.

Summer sun repeats the world

But the sun of December

Is the sun I remember.

Waking in cold dark,

There are no peaches outside my window growing, no lark.

The December shroud

Has made the crooked day

Esteemed far away.

I wake, and my fearful thoughts speak out loud

To no one in the dark.

There are no peaches outside my window growing, no lark.

No nightingale is singing.

Soon the sun will climb mistily into its seat

Where my life and dull December meet.

It’s just another cloudy day.

Estimation estimates summer far away.

The sun of December

Is the sun I remember.

 

I HAVE AN IDEA FOR A SONNET

Image result for chiaroscuro in painting

I have an idea for a sonnet.

I am going to let you in on it.

Once I share this idea with you

I hope this is all I need to do:

Sharing and writing it

The same: the dark, and lighting it

Will make the dark disappear—

A dark idea the poem hopefully makes clear:

My idea is not darkness, but darkness fled,

A light seen, instead,

So the writing isn’t the idea at all,

Except you see the shadow crawl

Down the page—the idea fleeing.

Light is the only thing you’re seeing,

But not as light—only in the way

It is making my idea (darkness) go away.

My words, dark, represent light;

My idea, wrong, couldn’t be more right:

The very act of writing erases

The dark idea my bright poem replaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARTY OF BILL CLINTON GETS A FEMINIST BONER

Against our will, we choose.

We have no will, not because we don’t choose, or cannot choose, but because we do.

Are you a Democrat, or a Republican?

“I’m neither.”

Of course. Wink wink. 

It is frighteningly apparent to every soul how crudely dual life is. Yes—I mean “no!”—it really is a binary existence; everything in life is a series of 0/1, eternally.

This is why every American is either a Democrat or a Republican.

And why “being a Democrat” or “being a Republican” is finally meaningless.

We might as well say “One” or “Two,” and, as throngs crowd around One, or Two, endowing One or Two with this or that virtue, the crowds are hardly aware that they are only participating in duality, in One and Two. The “Democrat” and “Republican” duality is a laughable and impossible affair.

But “heating up” is what “discussions” and “contest” and “rivalry” will naturally do, as existence would rather be “heated up”—the world would rather be warm than cold. The force which gave birth to you (the arms of a parent or a lover which clamber towards you) is from an ancient energy—a rivalry and a desire long forgotten, but still burning in history and mankind: swirling, bright, brutal, senselessly binary.

“Meaningful” itself is an opposite, and so on.

Everything exists because of its opposite (the binary) and not because of itself.

The binary is why we never feel comfortable or satisfied—why desire and doubt go on forever.

The initial choice exists because of the binary nature of reality.

“Democrat” or “Republican” = only a further elaboration of hidden, forever branching out, 0 or 1 choices.

The most famous modern American poem: Frost “The Road Not Taken,” concerns an either/or choice at a fork in the road.

The world’s most famous poem: “The Raven,” wonders is that someone at the door—or not?

Betrayals—in love—the switching of sides, the switch from “I love you” to “I hate you” in lovers and friends and close family members—betrayals are particularly noteworthy—and similarly, the sudden revelation of love where previously there was none—these switching actions fill us with awe, not just because of their immediate social effects, but because duality itself stuns our very souls, and the secret is briefly revealed and powerfully felt: the terrible truth that our reality is in fact nothing more than zeros and ones.

We are only half-aware why, in certain moods, we don’t want to talk. We know that talking, in the long run, will be better for all parties, but we can’t bring ourselves to join any sort of dialogue.

In our deepest, contemplative selves—when we get in touch with ourselves, feeling content in our soul’s lonely existence—the dialogue, the binary nature of conversation, just because it is a binary existence, is what we strongly abhor.

God is the singularity of existence; a devotion to God—the one—is how we attempt to defy the weary back and forth of binary life, even as unhappy, binary life encompasses God itself: Do you believe in God? Or not? Yes or no? Give us an answer, please. In our souls, the annoying binary of dialogue is precisely what God transcends.

The greatest philosophy, the great pagan one which spread outwards from ancient Athens—anticipating Christ, clearing the ground for monotheist religious ecstasy and reason—promoted the dialogue as its method, even as binary, counter-philosophical souls looked on it suspiciously as “not actually binary” since its dialectic sprung from an apparently monotheistic self-assurance—anathema to the great thinkers of Doubt, awash in the worldly pain of the binary.

The dialogue which has a design on us is not really binary; its “dialogue” is a trick, and many revolt against the genius of Shakespeare’s plays (dialogues) and hate monotheism, the divine, the sublime, and all that transcends the binary—with the crass, wild, laughing energy of chattering monkeys in the trees.

The organizing police action of politics makes use of the monkey life, the binary life, the chattering, empty dialogue life, which implants “us against them” in the appalling socialized brains of the unthinking. The “organized,” the binary political animal, wakes up hating others (and sinks, swooning, even in love, hating others,) and hating others is the mantra they live and encourage; hate, which is easily spread, like a flame—vindicates itself, and triumphs, and spreads, and, alas!, grows, simply by being hateful for no reason. The political, binary philosophy wins, apparently so easily, and conquers its opposition apparently so easily, since opposition itself is its god.

The binary (I belong to 1 and you belong to 0) is an error which only love and genius escapes.

 

YOU ARE THE ONLY AUTHOR WORTH READING

Image result for chappaquiddick

You can tell if it’s bad—you can feel it in your blood.

Witnesses to these events will write books,

Calling it fact, calling it fiction. Sometimes I believe them.

CBS is your parent. They don’t

Tell you everything, because today things need to be done.

The scandal sheet destroys your faith in mom and dad.

Or Christianity; innocent belief was all the joy you had.

Chappaquiddick was bad, or was it bad?

It all depends.

One glance at that right wing rag and your innocence ends.

Gangs come into government believing what you cannot believe.

It’s not belief. It’s muscle. To make you fear and grieve.

Here’s temptation. Money to do bad things may be really good.

The poet finds himself in the middle of a dark wood.

A scandal sheet is set to rhyme so the horror might be understood

By women in scarves. Those who are good.

Darling, be innocent and smile.

It will be okay, for a little while.

 

 

 

 

I CAN SUM UP WHAT YOU’RE FEELING

Image result for passengers on a train in painting

I can sum up what you’re feeling

Though you’re ignoring me,

You don’t know me, and you’re reading a book.

All I have to do is look.

The painter who can depict an actual person is rare.

Poetry has an even tougher task,

But I don’t care.

A woman is pretty, about thirty two,

She has brown, parted hair.

She could be any young woman,

But look what my poetry can do:

The worry in her forehead—

A few wavy lines—

Shows an unconscious awareness of former times,

Happier times, when she was a child.

But what has changed her?

The author she is reading is explaining, as all authors finally do:

You are no longer young, my dear,

And there’s nothing you can do.

 

 

I DON’T THINK THEY KNOW

Image result for three graces in renaissance painting

I don’t think they know

How beautiful they are.

They are beautiful, but how beautiful can

One faint light be to one faint star?

What medium can allow me to see

How beautiful—Oh God—

These creatures are to me?

I would tell them, but modesty,

By elaborate custom, will not speak.

This is why there is art and love:

To say with the Roman how lovely flows the Greek.

To say with marble how a form,

Despite enduring modesty,

Can make the coldest thinking warm.

Do these look in the mirror

And find their own form beautiful and strange?

Can they know what I know,

Before I come in range?

I think they know. They already know.

Therefore, before I sigh, and go,

There is no art I can leave to express

Both what is, and what doesn’t dare express

This love. My eyes and sighs are helpless.

 

 

PROSE SAYS IT’S OKAY

Image result for purse in renaissance painting

Prose says it’s okay.

Prose says, “Tomorrow is another day.”

And prose, in its way, is always right.

Poetry has no advice for you in the night.

Poetry is the heart, broken forever,

And light and happiness will never

Enter poetry’s chambers.

The new erases. Poetry remembers.

All scholars are uncomfortable

With poetry which sounds like song.

Poetry breaks what is already broken.

Embarrassed love tried to hate. But that was wrong.

The scholars are now forgotten. Their verse

Was prose.  Put secretly into the purse,

A folded note for the ages,

Will now be read aloud for the animals in their cages.

 

FUNGUS

Since she made an end to us,

Her elegant head looks like a large fungus.

She is too old, now, to breed.

She’s the food, and will feed

On herself, with increasing regret,

Hating herself, my revenge yet.

Hatred has made her a hateful monster;

And to think love almost saved her.

She followed me by lake and wood

And we saw beauty, and it was good.

But love adds love to what is already there:

Love found nothing in her, and she didn’t care.

We love for the first time and don’t know how.

She chose safety. So it doesn’t matter now.

 

 

 

MAXINE SINGLETON JONES

Image result for clouds in renaissance painting

Stand in the way of elysium,

With cloudy garb haunting

Your classical body and face,

On the steps of the outdoor symposium.

Clarity is the rhetoric of your race,

Clarity from bitter centuries, oppressed,

Your rhetoric beating like a drum,

Around your outdoor speech, nature

Is complacently dying—

The autumn mist is beautiful—

Historically oppressed, your race,

And you, every oppressor, defying,

You accuse, and therefore no poetry—

No poetry, your rhetoric’s disgrace.

How can you express desire

Without a poet’s cloudy fire?

Your beauty fears beauty will come.

You stand in the way of elysium.

 

 

I DREAMED YOU ASKED ME TO PLAY

I dreamed you asked me to play

Something I couldn’t.

I remember knowing I dreamed—

And anything can happen in a dream—but I wouldn’t.

A piece of music which I loved, was impossible,

Which I once played.

I played that piece in a dream long ago;

What kind of dream, I don’t know.

I searched for a second, then a third chord,

So you wouldn’t be bored.

I suffered through a passionate harmonic interlude.

I revived, and found you half-asleep, but still with that attitude

When you somehow manage to be indifferent, yet charm.

I pressed my face against your slightly pudgy arm,

Your hair surrounding your face, tickling me.

For you, I always translated musically.

Barbarous fruits hung in the shadows.

Bats would soon be on them.

I remember what it was–but not exactly how—I played.

If that dream had stayed,

Perhaps I could have learned greater music;

The tide gives swimmers an important clue:

How not to drown, when viewing languorous you.

But I drowned. This is what I tend do.

In dreams I sometimes know what a composer understands:

It has nothing to do with mathematics,

And everything to do with the hands.

 

THE LOVE OF ANNABEL LEE: SEX SCANDALS AND THREE ICONIC AMERICAN POEMS

The rose is no longer a rose?

There are three types of love/poetry/sentiment/politics.

Poe, Eliot, or Ginsberg.

All of us participate in these categories. The three types belong to all of us, to some degree.

Warning. This will not be an exercise in saying which is better.

Divide, we shall not.

This is not one of those “Which poet/lover are you?” exercises, in which a sad little person attempts to find out ‘who they are.’ Games such as these merely indulge human vanity. The question here is not “what are you?”

The question is, “what is it?”

What is love?

It is always better to be a scientist than a gossip—especially when gossip gets the upper hand.

Love has a number of elements:

1. Practical, or natural.

2. Moral, or sentimental.

3. Traditional, or cultural.

How is it useful? How is it personal? How it social?

Love is a wave—it has its own existence and reason for being.

The person is the particle in that wave; a person is unique, and is not the wave—but the wave nonetheless impacts the individual.

Whether a woman has children, or not, love—as it relates to children—will impact all women, and all human beings.

Nature, the mother of us all, has a great interest in reproduction.

Intimacy—or love—in its all phenomena, contributes to reproduction.

And further, Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ aspects (fighting, attractiveness, territory) intersect with reproduction, so nature interacts with love in ways brutal and rough, so that love finally sits with characteristics many do not consider loving at all.

So the first consideration—the practical, or natural one—defines love in such a complex manner that love hides, or lurks—and is manipulated by things we don’t recognize as love, at all.

This is why many scholars argue that love is a human invention.

Nature is interested in babies, not love.

But even if we accept that love is a human invention, belonging to society—the third consideration (customary, social) above—it would not make sense to pretend that the natural doesn’t impact society, or that the natural doesn’t matter in love.

Finally, we have the middle distinction: the moral or sentimental, and this is how love matters to the individual—how it makes us feel about ourselves, how it affects our feelings; in other words, matters “of the heart.”

So these are the three basic elements of love: nature, society, and the heart.

Society is what causes people to call certain aspects of love “weird, or perverted.” Society is what makes people “cry at weddings,” and makes people have weddings, and gives priests, or the state, authority to marry people. Society makes rules on abortion. Society has a great deal to do with love.

Society also has a great deal to do with “the heart,” and how individuals feel about love in their hearts.

Many feel “in their heart” exactly what society expects them to feel.

For many, the aspects of love we call, on the one hand, “society” and on the other, “the heart,” are precisely the same.

Further: since society—to a certain degree, successfully—reflects natural, or practical functions of love, there are many individuals who unite all three aspects of love—nature, society, the personal—in their hearts; love is their child, their husband, and their heart.

But love is not always so simple, or successful, or happy.

Love can be as simple as gravity—as relatively simple as the pull, or the dance, of the planets. Love, simple or not, operates in all human beings.

But navigating society, nature, and the heart, proves difficult for most of us, to say the least.

Biology is difficult, and biological reproduction involves sex; reproduction involves picking out whom to have sex with, and whom to reproduce with.

And to make things even more complex—and here we seem to leave the natural, or practical, realm altogether—sex exists for itself, and sex occurs a great deal without having anything to do with biological reproduction.

And society must ‘come to grips with’ this apparently random, and pleasure-or-power-driven, sexual activity—which seems to exist outside of the practical concerns of nature.

But speaking of “power-driven,” nature does care about power—and this is at the heart of Darwin’s view of nature—turf wars, mates competing for mates, and the whole martial aspect of nature belongs to all varieties of non-reproductive, sexual, and sexually-related, activity.  Sexual activity never stands on its own. It always has an object. This is true, whether we are talking about reproduction in marriage, a love sonnet, casual dating, rape, or purely-for-pleasure, kinky, sex.

Try as we might then, we cannot think of sex as somehow apart from nature, or apart society. Sex always belongs to the nature-society-heart formula, as does love, from which sex springs. Love does belong to one thing, then, as itself, within the three main considerations: nature at the top, influencing society, which then influences the individual.

Love should be seen, and can be seen, as one, with all its parts connected and related.

Love obeys nature, but how society views love can have a radical impact—think of Islam, versus the Modern West. The woman covered from head to toe versus the woman in a bikini. Or the Old South in the United States, when cousins married. Or ancient and not-so-ancient cultures with harems, or “child brides.” Homosexuality and the Non-Binary is accepted, or not, differently, by different cultures in different places and times. Society, attempting to reflect nature, manufactures how individuals feel about love—we are all caught in society’s web. Family, a microcosm of society and nature, also influences how individuals feel about love. Objectivity is nearly impossible; some look towards nature to find the objective truth of love; others cast away objectivity altogether, and listen to the vibrations of their hearts (which could mean testosterone hormone therapy).

Every radical and different view of love can be traced back in one direction to nature, and in the other direction to the heart. Love always connects to the three considerations: nature, heart, society.

How should men and women relate to one another? Nature created man, woman, and reproduction. But society created so much more, and society makes the rules. And in our hearts, we may agree, or not, with a part, or all of, society’s rules. But no matter how deeply love winds through our hearts, we cannot escape love defined by society, and, in turn, defined by nature. Conversely, no matter how strong nature and society are, the heart wants what it wants.

Poe’s “Annabel Lee” may be the most iconic love poem in existence. “Annabel Lee” represents a certain kind of love.

We all know the beautiful poem—“I was a child and she was a child.”

The Annabel Lee love is innocent, not worldly. It escapes nature—that is, reproduction—since a “child” is too young to reproduce. Society is present—we get the beloved’s full name, implying parenthood, genealogy and the record-keeping aspect of society. But children are not yet full members of society. So in that sense the beloved belongs to society, but not quite. Also, a child qua child belongs to nature—what is more natural than a child? But since the child has a name given to her by society, and she is not an adult, she doesn’t belong fully to nature, either.

The poet says “you may know” this maiden; and this “may know” is significant.  This situates Annabel Lee in the center of ordinary society—she is not famous (you “may” know her) but she’s not a recluse, or an unknown living in nature, either—precisely because you “may know her.” Or, Poe could be slyly implying that you, the reader, may be aware, or not, of the exquisite sort of love he is describing. Either way, it works. The poet needs society to speak, and be understood by others.

The “Annabel Lee love” belongs to society, and hopefully, to you.

“And this maiden she lived with no other thought/Than to love and be loved by me.”

Here’s the third element—the personal, the heart: “no other thought.”

Poe, in “Annabel Lee,” quickly sketches the trinity: nature, society, and the heart.

The poet takes care to establish the three as one: she is a child (nature), she has a name (society), and she “lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by me” (heart).

We do get introduced to her as a “maiden”—-before we get introduced to her as a “child.”

“Maiden” is more societal in terms of love’s rules, than “child,” and only when called a “child” in the second stanza (she is called a “maiden” in the first) do we get the transcendent passion blurted out: “but we loved with a love that was more than love.”

The impossible attempt to transcend, to escape, love—which is determined by nature and society—is seen in these two famous phrases from the poem: “no other thought than to love” and “loved with a love that was more than love.”

This attempt to transcend love, to be “more than love” leads to the elaborate trope which continues to the end of the poem: angels “coveted her and me.” Annabel Lee dies, envied and killed by the entire universe—“angels,” “kinsmen,” those “older and wiser”, “demons”, nature (a “wind” which “chills” her).

This transcendent love—what might be called the ultimate romantic love—all encompassing, pure, innocent, monogamous—fully existing in nature, society, and the heart—is tenderly hymned in a divinely beautiful, poem of ideal, musical expression. It belongs very much to the 19th Century, to High Romanticism.

Poe presents sweet, ideal, transcendent love, the kind which belongs to our dreams.

But the Annabel Lee love will inevitably lead to envy, disapproval, and death.

The tone of “Annabel Lee” is Shelley’s “sweetest songs tell of saddest thought.”

Melancholy, the sadness of idealism inevitably spoiled, hovers over “Annabel Lee.”

Yet, finally, the ideal—though it must die—is expressed, and finds its way into our hearts, and lives.

The tone of melancholy isn’t accidental, but primary—precisely because the ideal is placed, by the poet, in the world which destroys, and casts it out. The ideal doesn’t exist pristinely and abstractly on a blackboard—it suffers inevitable death and decay—and produces its natural result, melancholia—by facing its ridicule and downfall, in the actual world of brutal nature and envious kinsmen. Even the “winged seraphs of heaven” are jealous—the whole thing is even worse than we think. The established ideal envies new ideals which strive to be more ideal.

The ideal is always tragic.

Idealism is the most profound manner in which the horror of the real is known. The ideal can hide—but also reveals—the real.

There is no victory, no escape, in any attempt to be ideal, for ultimately it is vanity—songs and poems which are ideal are finally abstract and do live apart from reality (the final, true reason for the melancholy) and so it both is, and isn’t true, that the ideal “lives” in the poem and in our hearts, and does not die. The ideal always hits the wall, always disappoints, always sinks into despair and sorrow. But because it is ideal, we continue to seek it, even if it gives us sorrow—and the beauty which accompanies the sorrow becomes the one, real thing we do experience, and is valid, and gives lasting pleasure.

T.S. Eliot’s early 20th century poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and Allen Ginsberg’s mid-20th century poem, “A Supermarket in California,” follow directly in the footsteps of “Annabel Lee,” Poe’s mid-19th century masterpiece.

Eliot and Ginsberg’s poems, like “Annabel Lee,” despite being “modern,” are both melancholic, idealistic, iconic masterpieces on love.

All three poems feature characters with full names:

Annabel Lee. (Imaginary woman)

J. Alfred Prufrock (Imaginary man)

Walt Whitman. (Real man)

All three of these lyric poems end with the trope of water: forgetful, drowning, memorable water.

Romantic love is satisfied to provide a lovely sounding first name—but in these three poems love is examined in a larger context.

The Romanticism of Poe in “Annabel Lee” is a romanticism already a failure, albeit in a beautiful way.

But Eliot, a few generations, later, follows Poe naturally, with the hyper-sensitive male suffering a Hamlet-like indecision in the presence of…not Annabel Lee, but a number of women. Eliot originally called his poem “Prufrock Among The Women” and this seems to be part of the problem—there are too many choices, perhaps?

“And I have known the arms already, known them all…And how should I begin?”

Alfred Prufrock doesn’t form a union with Annabel Lee. There is no “Annabel Lee love” in “Prufrock.” In contrast to “Annabel Lee love,” Prufrock’s love is the modern situation of secret desires, without any love.

Allen Ginsberg, 100 years on from Poe, and 50 years on from Eliot, in his poem “A Supermarket in California,” describes heaven in the following manner:

“Tasting” item after item in a supermarket while “never passing the cashier.”

Like Prufrock, the narrator in “A Supermarket in California” is unlucky in love, but with Ginsberg, the issue of class is implied—perhaps if he wasn’t a poor slob, he could have Annabel Lee?

The Walt Whitman in Ginsberg’s poem is a less refined Prufrock, with a hint of the wandering, the predatory, the scandalous: “lonely old grubber…eyeing the grocery boys.”

Ginsberg presents us a picture of breeding nature as it relates to love: “Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!”

Despite this picture, the melancholy and the lonely prevail in Ginsberg’s poem: Poe’s melancholy amid the plenty. Prufrock’s sadness amid the salad.

“Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour.” Nature (“babies in the tomatoes”) is not enough; nor is society (“doors close in a hour”).  The restless, nocturnal heart needs some place to go.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets begins with “From fairest creatures we desire increase”—-in this dense phrase Shakespeare’s genius expresses love in the framework of nature/society/heart even quicker than Poe does in “Annabel Lee,” which, in its melodic melancholy, establishes love as hopeless ideal. In Shakesspeare’s Sonnet #1, “increase” is 1. nature, the “desire” for that “increase” is 2. society, and to “desire” the “fairest” constitutes matters of the 3. heart.

Is the healthy when all three are one?

The great rash of sexual harassment cases making headlines currently, are matters of nature (sex drive, power and dominance) and the heart (secret, squeamish lusts, and desires).

But while they reflect nature and the heart, they are making headlines precisely because they don’t fit societal norms.

But one might say they are making headlines because they do fit society’s “norms,” and this is precisely the problem—societal reform, which protects and respects women, is necessary.

Society is the focus in these current scandals—and how we as citizens/individuals feel about these sexual harassment cases.

Our reactions are filtered through our politics (as accusations hit those on the left or right), politics which significantly define many individuals.

The politics of the “cashier.”

The current political landscape, some argue, is why all these scandals have suddenly become public—they are driven by 1. frustration with the success of Trump, and 2. the hubris of Bill Clinton.

As individuals, we chiefly feel “glad it isn’t me,” and “let the courts and the individuals affected decide how to proceed,” and “hope this scandal brings down a politician I don’t like.”

But somewhere in our hearts we also perhaps bitterly realize that nature and the heart never change—the plethora of scandals will do exactly nothing to change the human heart and the laws of the jungle.

Society—as it rather ineptly attempts to mitigate the horrors, encourage the pleasures, and administer justice—is too large and corrupt to improve anything.

Many don’t finally trust that these scandals will make things better—even if secret, taxpayer-funded payoffs by congressmen are exposed.

A scandal always means an individual has been caught. A heart has been found out. The secret heart which is wrong has been seen—but too late, we feel, for prevention, for good to be done, even as we glory in selected shame and punishment.

What is normative in society, as it pertains to love, happens slowly over time—it doesn’t happen as a result of scandal. Scandal is not the cause, but merely the effect of what society at any given moment happens to see.

The case of Poe—was this southerner Roy Moore’s ideal?—in which a chaste and studious twenty five year old man marries a thirteen year old virgin—and both remaining happy in a faithful and artistic marriage, as long as they both live—is considered foul today.

The 21st century American citizen, who condemns Poe—lives by a code in which one has numerous partners, induces numerous heartbreaks and quarrels, divorces numerous times, and aborts offspring along the way—and this, in society’s eyes, is considered perfectly acceptable.

Scandal gets at a truth—but not the whole truth. And endless curiosity may get at a greater truth, or not.  Meanwhile, public opinion frets, the law acts, and the vulnerable continue to live in fear, and perhaps take risks to further themselves.

The truth of love lies in the endlessly complex interaction between nature, society, and the heart—as it plays out in different cultures, and local politics, over many thousands of years—the single thread of love twisting and turning, like a snake—partly in pleasure, partly in shame, and partly in agony.

 

 

HERE’S THE PATH

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Look. Here’s the path I used to take.

If I took it now, my heart would break.

It’s the path she and I took.

Now I can’t look.

Here’s the train I used to take.

If I took it now, my heart would break.

It’s the train she and I took.

Now I can’t look.

Once, I spoke tenderly in these places to her.

It’s not uncommon to see love occur:

Actors can make it happen.

It’s a simple matter of math.

The universe is one. We were two.

Now I cannot take that path.

 

 

 

ONLY ARCHITECTURE SAVES THE POEM

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Only architecture saves the poem;

The stairs can be built with sighs,

But there should be a hint of something solid

When the poet in front of the audience cries,

When the poet mourns never, never, never,

Will I look into your eyes.

The poem can be built with emotion.

But will it withstand the heavy wind

As it stands by the picturesque ocean?

The wind has a tendency to blow

About the roof—which covers what you will never know.

Architecture makes the poem last—

Famous Raven rhymes and stanzas from the past.

The fact of your form dissolves and fades;

Never will your old self return;

Never will you return to the earlier grades.

But this poem balances on a block,

Devoted to a poem’s walls, equipped with a clock—

Deep-voiced, vibrating, in heavy tick-tock.

You can see from the top of the poem

Where the passages of rhetoric go.

Your promotion, thanks to architecture,

Allows you to see insignificance below,

The whining around Big Sur,

Masonry too close, now, for anything to grow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRAVELING TO THE MOON

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I write poetry, every day,

In a cartesian way.

I’m traveling to the moon.

I have less and less to say

To those comparing bars in bars.

Yes, pretty soon

I’ll fall into silence,

The various winking stars

My only friends.

They crowded upon me, once,

North of the busy city,

When I was a boy,

Cousins young, life a floating joy;

The plentiful, silent stars

My loyal companions, not

The panting excitement of politics,

Government and ego distributing sticks.

Distance is my mother. Bless me, I’ve got

A body, ambition, and a mind;

I feel; I know; I’m not blind.

Thank you. Of course you’ve all been kind.

I’m traveling to the moon,

Where silence envelops me soon.

 

 

 

 

 

HURT ME AS I SLEEP

Hurt me as I sleep. Sleeping, I know nothing,

There is no injury, when nothing is real.

Invade my orchard. There are no apples to steal.

Hurt me as I sleep: the poetry stays inside.

Seeing my inner melody only, you cannot possibly deride.

The girl, frozen, on the gloomy stairs,

Who seems to be reading a book,

Is merely frozen. Take a look.

You might remember that it was then

You failed to remember. And again.

Or her, laughing. Do you think she cares?

Hurt me as I sleep. What can hurt us when we’re dead?

Only slander, by malice, or innocence, fed.

Fire, earthquake, or flood: the dead will not feel pain, or wake.

The same with sleep. It has no heart to break.

 

 

WE SEE MOMENTS

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We see moments, and moments

Don’t make any sense.

The moments are going to places

We cannot see.

The all of it moves forward gallantly,

But living in the present tense,

We flounder blindly.

We cannot understand faces.

When strangers arrive,

We try to know them when they smile,

And know in a moment the truth,

That dies after a while.

We don’t know our friends.

We know them in the beginning of a moment,

But the moment ends.

 

 

THE IMAGE

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This poem hides what inspired it.

If mentioned, the poem would fall apart.

This is the pity of love. This is the cunning of art.

If you saw the image which inspired

My words—words which make their debut

As a poem, you would laugh.

I leave it out. Even though it’s true.

Truth contains some laughter.

Expression begins in sorrow and rage.

The emotional life weakens you.

What starts warmly in life, ends on a cold stage.

It must die: the seed, the laughter, the loud heart.

This is the cunning of love. And all its art.

 

 

SOMEONE KNOWS HOW WE LOVED

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Someone knows how we loved,
Someone knows how we sighed,

Someone knows how we met secretly.

Someone knows how we laughed,
Someone knows how we cried.

Someone knows how we wanted love,
But no one knows how it died.

No one knows we still love the love our very love denied.

Only love ends in love,
In love, as in the beginning.

But we were ignorant.

We thought we were sinning.

When our love ended, we smiled weakly;

We were strong only in our resolve

To end a love we couldn’t solve.

Love couldn’t solve the love, either.

I was weak in love. I could not leave her.

So I loved her more.

She went back to herself.
No one knows how.

Only poetry
May write to her now.

Isn’t this what love is for,

To make the end resemble the beginning?

Killing the end defines the sinning.

 

 

 

 

UNOFFICIAL BECAME OFFICIAL BECAME LOVE

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Kiss, a word often used,
Came to mean something lovelier when we kissed—
As when honey oozed and snake hissed
In all that uproar of nature;
There can be no dictionary meaning for that rapture;
The meaning will inevitably be missed
Even if you see the word:
Kiss, kissing, kissed.
But use the word anyway, because our kiss
Isn’t anything a scholar can dismiss.

Our kissing was unofficial; it was slang;
It was like love being taunted by a gang.
Our kissing wasn’t supposed to happen,
Just as nature and existence weren’t supposed to occur.
I don’t know if it was me, or her,
Or why, or whether it had to be,
Only that it was joyful, and joyful still,
Now that our kissing is official.
Our kissing has its uses now.
You cannot find us in the dictionary,
But no scholar stands above
The result. It doesn’t matter how
Unofficial became official became love.

 

EFFICIENCY

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Efficiency, the lauded, is no one’s friend.

If work’s efficient, your employment must end.

Quick robots are making humans obsolete.

I put my humanity, humbly, at your feet.

Where is my use? Where is my pride?

A machine? A poet? Can you decide?

Love is pleasure—the highest efficiency

Makes you happy in a robot’s arms, miles from me—

Out of work, alone, slowly revising poetry.

The news of the layoff came in a flash, from above;

I had no real choice—as in poetry, or fate, or love.

 

 

 

 

MAY THIS POEM NOT KNOW

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May this poem not know what I’m saying.

For the best poets are just playing.

May this poem not know my mind.

For the best poets are unkind.

May this poem never pause or think

What I’m mixing into this drink,

What in the reader’s blood will flow—

Before the poem has a chance to know.

Yes, I loved you—but it was all in fun.

It’s a sensual poem. Are you done?

ASK ME

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Why would a poet ask for anything?

Like the philosopher, he disturbs

By questioning.

He wants reviews, blurbs,

Public praise, letters of introduction.

He’s empty. He doesn’t own a thing.

The poet is constantly needy,

And needy with honesty.

The poets feels a lascivious heart

Is not as bad as slander.

Do you think a poet has anything?

Do you think truth has anything to give?

A poet is the last one to tell you how to live.

Sit on a hard seat, and listen to him gas.

He’s no ordinary lunatic;

He wants you also to be an ass,

As you celebrate poetry,

And give stuff to him.

This makes you civilized.

O, the ice cold glass!

Before you drink, kiss the rim!

You, too, can be prized,

By writing things on him.

Hey, try poems yourself, stylized

In a way which makes them extra short.

Almost say. Be a modern heir.

He’ll give you a glowing report.

Look for it in that great big pile of papers there.

 

PERFECTION WAITS

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Perfection waits,

In the word, heaven,

Or perhaps somewhere else,

And look, it is almost here,

In the morning’s white-turning-to-blue sky,

With the intersection, the streets, clear

Of traffic at last, the holiday tourism gone by,

Since all obey the calendar,

Like one cell in your body telling you to die.

Everybody listens when the time arrives,

But you missed the signal, thank God.

Here you are, waiting by the stream.

I was afraid you would find my request too odd.

Perfection is more than a dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAREWELL ALWAYS

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To those we love, it is farewell always.

Those we hate, do not get, from us, a goodbye,

But like those we love, they, too, may give us a wave, when they die.

If rivals receive fearsome displays,

The nothing the hated receive, is more unkind.

Yet the calm we affect

For those we deeply love and respect

May make us seem careless and blind.

We are in this fix and we cannot get out—

We hate with such certainty, and love with such doubt,

That sometimes we find—

In the morning, after the battle,

Everything cold and still—

One we loved with our senses poisoning our mind.

The body hates the mind—

Which tells it where to go.

And death is only bad because of the ones we love, you know.

THERE IS ONLY ONE LINDA

There is only one Linda,

And Linda wants it so.

Linda will always be Linda

As far as Linda will go.

The first time I saw Linda,

I didn’t know Linda was her name.

But Linda came out of her mouth

And that’s when Linda came.

My eyes fixed on Linda

And Linda registered fast.

Her name flew quickly after:

Linda, a memory to last.

Perhaps the leaves she held,

Bunched in her lovely hand,

Will keep the memory,

As I in my memory understand.

She belonged to Linda,

And seemed to want to be Linda,

As I later thought,

When I reflected on meeting Linda

By chance—not sought.

Not seeking Linda, or anyone at all,

I had sauntered up to her.

Sometimes these things occur!

She was indifferent then,

Indifferent now. But when

She complained that even men

Were using her name, Linda,

I wondered what possible agenda

Could there be?

Linda! Tell me.

But Linda remained aloof,

And sad, like any owner,

Turned away, as I cried,

There is only one Linda.

And I have proof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE MAKES BEAUTY IMPOSSIBLE

I love beauty more than love, and she

Was able, after a while, to see,

Because she was beautiful, this truth about me.

Everything to me gradually became ugly:

The farms we visited, rural places

With ponds and moss, faces

Of other women, sunsets, the sky,

The bees. Music needed her sigh

Before I could listen. Beauty flew

Away from everything. Finally, I knew

Only what she was, what she could see.

Her love took beauty away from me.

Beauty was hers, and love made this so.

Her beauty the only beauty possible to know.

But she knew this was wrong.

She didn’t want her beauty to be all of my song.

She was uncomfortable with her beauty’s report.

She thought her legs were too short.

She didn’t want her beauty filling my head—

So all other beauty to me was dead.

She knew beauty lives throughout

The world; of course she began to doubt

My love for her; it was only beauty

I loved—her, the only beauty, was insanity.

She could not be the only beauty for me.

And now that she’s gone, a door

Opens: Beauty I’ve never noticed before.

But beauty only makes me sad

Because of her—her, who I had.

 

 

 

 

MISANTHROPY [THE ESSAY]

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And love all human kind” —Shelley

Misanthropy is the greatest evil.

Misanthropy’s siren song is difficult to resist.

Misanthropy will make us love—by hating someone else, by hating others.

Misanthropy insinuates itself even into love.

Misanthropy takes many forms, and is the great seductive pull against all that is necessary for life.

The poor depend on small favors from people to survive, and vast millions of urban poor have no escape from the worst aspects of the human race—most of the world’s poor either put up with people to some degree—or they perish.

Great persons emerge from peopled poverty armed with the greatest weapon: a deep love and understanding of mankind.

Misanthropy is the basis of insanity, false rhetoric, slander, crime, and all sorts of human misery.

The rich can select who they associate with, and boss around the rest.

This is why the wealthy lifestyle is so attractive—it allows us to keep needy and annoying people at a distance, but the danger to those who escape the gravity of having to deal with people is that the rich devolve into hateful misanthropy, and end up seeing people as objects.

The rich, at the top of the food chain, fall prey to hatred of those below them. They loathe sprawling humanity—and the buying and selling which caters to humanity’s wants and needs.

This is why wealthy elites hate “capitalism”—which, when we clear away the endless, complex, professorial, socialist, theorizing about it—is just buying and selling.

Pro-capitalists cannot be “elites”—no matter how large their bank accounts. You may be rich, but if you are a businessman, you will always be seen as an uneducated buffoon.  You will never be fawned over in Vanity Fair. You will never be loved by the Windsors. You will never be a senator from Massachusetts or New York. You will not belong to secret societies—unless you are a secret traitor to the capitalist cause.

This is why the elite believes contraception is preventative health care. Less people is considered healthy. After all, in their hearts, all elites feel it is the poor and the ignorant who tend to have more children. Women in poverty who are in the trenches having children and peopling the world live the most painful life imaginable.

Misanthropy belongs to money, and it isn’t stupid; it’s quite logical—which is precisely why its evil is so seductive.

Actually, misanthropy, for all its “logic,” is finally more stupid than stupid, as evil always ultimately is.

“Less people” drives up prices,—college tuition, food, fuel, everything we need—because there are less people paying to keep elitist institutions afloat—institutions whose very message boils down to “less people is better.”

The fashionable Left is educated dumb.

The working class Right, because it is less misanthropic, is even dumber.

But there is no Left or Right.

There’s only top and bottom.

The “right” is near the bottom—those Trumpers, those members of the working class, who vaguely, in an uneducated manner, or under-educated manner, object to elitist manners and logic.

“Left” and “Wealthy Elites” (some call it “Deep State,” some call it Kennedys—or any family seeking to be the new American “royals”) have become the same thing.

Human devolution is always a top/bottom event, not a left/right one (and here, ironically, the Left is correct! but the Left—again, an irony!—is now the “top.”)

Why does the ‘no debate’ philosophy of radical, doom-oriented, environmentalism—misanthropic at its core—spring from wealthy elites?

Isn’t the answer obvious?

Why is liberalism, which favors, in all its edicts, less people on the planet, the essential religion of the richest of the rich?

Isn’t the answer obvious?

It is the siren call of misanthropy—which seeks to free itself  from the torture of living.

Ah, living! The “fever called living” as Poe called it: all the painful, human-centered burdens of life: raising children, exploiting and controlling vast, indifferent nature, the complex and laborious tasks of engineers and businessmen and blue collar workers. And then, in addition, the ‘car salesman’ support of this painful, traditional life with morale-boosting religion—human consciousness giving itself up to something ‘higher.’

And what is this ‘higher’ entity, finally?  This God that the secular Left sneers at?

What is God, really, after all the symbolism is wiped away?

Nature, fecundity, and growth.  Stupid capitalism. What people do.

That’s what it is.

God, a fancy which defies settled, logical, misanthropy, is the opposite of the savvy, scientific, leftist “less people is better.”

“Less people is better” is the modern, leftist, elite mantra.

And the opposition’s mantra, only vaguely understood by the working class members of the anti-Left (anti-Top): “More (and the efficiency and ingenuity necessary so more can thrive) is better.”

Misanthropy seeks escape from “more people is better” pain.

Misanthropy seeks peace, extreme pleasure, future-less hedonism, the ease of limited feeding from natural sources—so much easier than the complex needs of an ever-increasing, “more people is better,” human society.

It is easy to see misanthropy as a good.

Misanthropy is the desire to be alone with the beloved.

To exist in perfection apart from the competing, striving, teeming world.

Misanthropy is the poet, the lover, and the sage.

But, alas, false gods, these.

Misanthropes are smart. The cheerful are stupid. So the elites say.

Misanthropy is extremely seductive—and has a myriad of songwriters and flute players.

Necessity, which is at the heart of labor and comfort for masses of sprawling, buying-and-selling, waste-discarding, polluting humanity, is the most powerful enemy of misanthropy—the phenomenal advance and expansion of human society since its primitive recorded beginnings is proof that misanthropy is the temptation, but not the rule. Misanthropy is the solipsism from which we eventually wake.

But why necessity?  Why is expansion, why is more—the growth witnessed throughout history, since humans were hunter-gatherers—necessary?

Death.

Death makes wild, reckless, cunning, persistent, growing, stupid, capitalist, breeding, life, necessary.

The sorrow of death has one cure. More life.

Crushing sorrow has one cure. More of whatever is good. Never less of whatever is good.

Good always demands there be more of itself.

More is not always good.

But good is always more.

The only antidote to death is life—life, whose essence is to ever increase, in order to safely defy the eternal pull of gravity, entropy, and death.

The highly educated, avant-garde, misanthrope lives in constant fear, as ever-naive, ever-productive, ever-needy humanity—whether the Mozart, or the simpleton—crowd in.

The misanthrope is certain: cunning, sleepless humanity, irresponsibility breeding and increasing, is evil, and this evil can only be remedied by the misanthrope’s “quality of life.” And this “quality” always demands the faucet of humans to some degree be shut off—the “quality” of the misanthrope inevitably means one thing and one thing only: “less people.” Not less pain. Not less bullshit. Less people.

The misanthrope fancies there is no God—in exact ratio to how much he fancies he is God. The misanthrope is certain he knows happiness—in people individually, and in humanity as a whole—and the misanthrope is certain that 50 million people have a better chance at happiness than 100 million people. Not in some cases. But in all cases.

The misanthrope is obsessed with “quality,” and “quality” always translates, for the misanthrope, to “less people.”

The misanthrope asks, why shouldn’t “Nature-and-how-people-live-in-it” define human behavior, rather than “ever-expanding-human-happiness?”

The misanthrope, being a misanthrope, doesn’t want to hear the answer.

All “human behavior,” and all “how should humans behave?” questions include “Nature” by implication, and “happiness” and “expanding happiness” is the only human motivation which can possibly exist. And what is the very essence of “Nature?” It grows.

The misanthrope, in his less-is-better dream, in his desire for the immured, and the peaceful, and the self-ordered, lives in constant, anxious, tortured, indignant, superior, elitist, dread.

In person, he may not be misanthropic at all.

His learning makes him so.

 

HOW CAN I CALCULATE YOUR WORTH?

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How can I calculate your worth?

Diamonds, gold, oil, are tucked inside the earth—

To the penny we calculate their worth.

And the calculation of getting them.

Are you worth more than a gem?

Are you as rare? I got you for a smile,

And you make it infinitely clear

I cannot trade you. You’re here.

Let me be in your quiet company for awhile,

And never estimate your worth

By things we wrestle from the earth.

You’re common, and came to me with ease.

You weep; you say “thank you” and “please.”

So why are you more valuable than gold—

Which everyone wants, and which never gets old?

 

WRITING RETREAT

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Virtue grows to become vice, until it shrinks again, back to virtue.

Vice grows in stature, is virtue, and if it keeps growing, becomes vice again.

The dials of morals constantly adjust.

Vice and virtue are not absolutes.

This wildly fluctuating truth often escapes morally determined individuals—who contribute more to vice as virtuous individuals, than those, who bent on vice, accidentally discover they have done a good thing.

True condemnation must be reserved for those (usually leaders in a position to impact society) who grasp the dynamic described above, and, masking themselves in virtue, fan virtuous behavior into a conflagration of vice.

Love, for instance, is a virtue— until it becomes so predominant that it leads to hurtful promiscuity.

Selfishness is a vice, but growing into a healthy independence of spirit, turns to virtue.

Moral transformations are unpredictable, and even unruly—continually challenging our moral intelligence.

The usefulness of the Program Era—where mere students of literature were converted into students who write literature themselves—has devolved from virtue to vice.

We have gone from: “I would like to become a writer.”

To: (whiny voice) “Look what I wrote!”

Millions who fancy themselves poets (that is, every reader of poetry today) are now purveyors of harm—the virtue of curiosity for what it might be like to be a good writer, has expanded into the vice of certainty that one is a good writer.

The virtue of literature as a bridge to understanding, sympathy, and knowledge has been replaced by the vice of literature as personal soap box. The people have turned into an ignorant mob. Democracy guided by law has grown into a clamor of self-interest.

Not only do the poets ignore any writing which is better than their own—no, the situation is far, worse—they positively resent writing which is better than their own, since they fear it will usurp them and their mantra, “Look what I wrote!”

Talk about the bad chasing out the good.

Vice (for the moment) is rampaging like a flood, through all channels of poetry, to a profound degree, and the Creative Writing Industry is to blame.

In the rush to be someone, no one knows anything.  Like what a good poem is.

Quadrivium has been pushed out by trivium.

The swords and spears of rhetoric, grammar, and logic have crushed what used to be the feminine charms of poetry’s soul: geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy.

The virtue of literature—a beautiful device for subtle yet expansive communication within a nation of educated readers—has become the vice of literature—a megaphone for anyone with a loud voice, a sore bum and a big ego.

But this could change, and quickly.

Present vice need not be destroyed and conquered, only diminished—into a virtue.

The clamor will tire of itself, and reduce itself into a voice.

Mine.

And you will hear.

 

 

 

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