To confuse the women,

The men sent the homosexual,

Hid the executives dying,

Took the ad campaigns of flimsy dresses

To new levels of prominence,

Published a sports essay on male power

And the need to bunt a man to second in the bottom of the ninth,

Hid the minister’s heart attack,

Hid the CEO committing suicide,

Displayed ships, guns, bombs of slaughter,

The sacrifices for the sake of the daughter.

Oh a great conspiracy,

This mask of masculinity.

To confuse the women

The men invented professors, poetry

And laboratory Christmas parties.

Men sent the innuendo,

The sack of Rome, love, the George Washington bridge,

The furry, purring tom called pussy.

The weary humiliation of earning and hustling,

The crumbs of pride and desire,

Were hidden in tall buildings,

Were thrown into the prairie fire

By large groups of singing men,

Who get up to get up to get up again;

Men hid the superficial, the despair

The inebriation, the passive self-love,

But advertised feminists, in great misery,

Confessing women always held back, fearing

A strong woman would offend a man,

Or offend a woman. Men made sure women

Feared rape from all of them, feared

Their power, which they said was real,

Sending in men of every sex, and finally, the child,

Who every woman wants to steal.




Image result for walt whitman

The sentimental, as this 2018 March Madness Poetry tournament is finding out—as poems smash into each other in the particle accelerators of Scarriet’s aesthetic criticism—refers to any emotion at all, even anger.

Emotion, which the Modernists sought to distance themselves from—because the Victorians and the Romantics were too emotional in their poetry—is the beating heart of any poem; the poem cannot survive without emotion.

Are poems truth, as in scientific truth?  Even those who hate emotion, would not make such a claim (it would be an emotional one).

So if poems are not scientific documents, what are they?  They are sentimental documents—as much as feeling can be registered in a scientific (aesthetic, philosophical, psychological) manner.

The Modernists were fashionably reactive, but rather bankrupt philosophically and critically—the New Critics’ objected shrilly to the relevance of  the reader’s emotional response to a poem (yes, poems may make us feel something, they conceded, but this was not as important as the objective description of the poem as a thing).

T.S. Eliot, the father of New Criticism, famously  called poetry an “escape from emotion,” but he was confusing Poe’s formula that verse was 90% mathematical and 10% moral.

Poems can certainly be written, as Wordsworth said, in “tranquility,” even as powerful feelings flow between poet and reader.

The poem itself is not emotional.

The whole question of “escaping” emotion, or counting emotions bad in a poem, the way emotions are bad if one loses one’s temper in real life, is besides the point.

The mathematical is not emotional, and verse is largely mathematical—even prose poetry relies on rhythm, which is music, which is math.

But should the poet invent, and impart, emotion as part of the poem’s effect?

Yes, and this is a truism.

Aristotle says emotions can be “purged” by poetry. Aristotle was arguing with Plato, and looking for a way to praise emotions, but the “purging” idea is incomplete.  Let’s say a poem elicits disgust—how does this “purge” anything?  Does this mean we will never feel disgusted, again?  Of course not.  The poem has given us a feeling of disgust where there was none before, and whenever we remember the poem, we are disgusted.

The emotional content of a poem can include some “bad” emotions—fear or sorrow, for instance—disgust should probably be avoided altogether, but even disgust may be used, sparingly, perhaps—but the poem itself should do more than just produce an emotion, or a combination of emotions; the emotions of the poem must be accompanied with—what?  And here’s the mystery; here’s what the poet must decide with each poem.  All we know is that every poem should be highly sentimental, in the old, less pejorative, meaning of the term.

In the Fourth Bracket, the Sushmita Bracket, we feature some living poets, who don’t give a damn what contemporary critics think, and find joy and weeping in the poetic euphoria of grand, old, high sentiment.

Ben Mazer—one of the greatest living poets (tell us how he is not)—gives us a poem burning on emotional jet fuel.

As we have said, the “emotion” of a person and the “emotion” of a poem are two different things.

Personal emotion could indeed be something we would want to “escape” from, to tamp down, to control, etc.

A poem, however, understands no such social limits or niceties.

The more the poet understands this crucial distinction, the better the poet will be; those who do not understand this distinction produce poetry which is either purely dull, or purely offensive.

Number 5 (December Poems) –Ben Mazer

I was at the Nuremberg Rallies pleading with my wife,
I love you, I love you, more than anything in the world!
As she looked off to see the dramatic spectators,
she turned to me and said, you hate my guts.
I wept, I pleaded, no, it wasn’t true!
I only married you because I love you!
There is no force to plead with that can change her course,
now everything is quite its opposite,
and yet she said, “I wish that it were true,”
and would not answer “Do you love me?”
or contest “You do! You love me!”
What are we then? Man and wife
hopelessly lost and separated in strife
and worser grief than was known to despair
at using words like markers, no means yes,
when Jesus Mary Magdalene won’t you bless
the two true lovers, their heads to your thighs,
and let this nonsense out in bursts of tears and sighs.

The famous poem by Walt Whitman is Mazer’s opponent.  We copy the first stanza.

O Captain! My captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red.
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Many know and admire this poem, and Walt Whitman was embraced by the moderns—Pound put out a hand to Whitman (while ignoring Poe, and other important figures of the 19th century.)

Those who admire Whitman’s poem, when pressed, would probably not remember “But O heart! heart! heart!/O the bleeding drops of red.”

What respectable poet writes anything like this today?

And yet, “O Captain! My Captain!” is a great poem, a powerful poem, a memorable poem, with a wonderful rhythm—if Whitman had checked himself and said, “I can’t write nonsense like O heart! heart! heart!” who doubts but that the poem would never have seen completion, would never have been written at all?

The only drawback to Whitman’s poem is that it exhausts its theme in the first stanza, and the next two stanzas merely recapitulate the first.  It is a bold and lovely poem, however.

Ben Mazer, similarly, pours on the sentimentality in his poem—the poet is vulnerable in the extreme.  The hysterical and desperate nature of the poem is announced at once, with, “I was at the Nuremberg Rallies pleading with my wife.”  This alone, marks the poem as genius, and then Mazer presents the searing, simple words of an actual, intimate conversation, which adds to the drama, and then Mazer ends the poem with a direct, emotional plea at the highest possible pitch.

Mazer’s poem has four parts, with the poet’s position never wavering—the first part announces the setting and situation, the second part features a dialogue, the third part presents a key, yet hopeless turn in the dialogue, “I wish that it were true,” and in the last part, the poet seeks divine assistance, after beginning the poem with a reference to earthly power.

There’s no crying in poetry?

Yes there is.

Mazer wins.


Image result for the lonely walker in painting

It is best for you to be true, and practical,

Even if it means you are dull;

You should work hard and be sensible.

A lot of people depend on you,

And people are generally kind, and work for your benefit, too.

It is easy to understand this—and I do.

But if there is one who ventures, in silence, into gardens,

Who walks beside secluded lakes, or mountains, or fens,

Who dreams of poems in the chilly weather, while animals crouch in their dens,

Who smokes a cigarette, as the end of their fingers freeze,

Who takes pleasure in lonely outdoor walks because their own thoughts please,

Their own words a devotion converted from a life with no real care,

Can we allow one, at least, to go out there?






Image result for lightning in the fog

All that is below me,

Everything ephemeral I notice and feel,

The fog, accident, electricity,

Cheerful conversations, music, a good meal—

The picture which combines a human with an animal face,

Neither one real, and even less real the hybrid which takes its place—

All that lives below the soul of my highest thought,

Things which in my highest examination and love are caught,

In my absent-minded mood for the pleasure I might derive

In all that finally proves nothing; in a bad mood I watch them go,

For they are neither consistent, nor lasting, and only seem to be alive.

I must learn to say goodbye to them—my knowledge is how I know they go—

All that is below me is nothing.  So, easily, the physical you I adore.

I love you deeply and love you more

Than all the thoughts and things which live below

Think I can. I am what tomorrow I will think.  You are everything I know

And believe and taste and notice and feel

In the forest of these shadows which love me, but are not real.





Image result for owl and the pussycat

Admit it.  You love good sentimental poetry.

“The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear is sentimental and lovely.

But what of Lear’s opponent in the first round?

Shelley’s political poem, “England 1819” may not be considered “sentimental.”

Let’s consider if it is, since this tournament is as much about ‘what is sentimental poetry?’ as it is about sentimental poetry.

“The Owl and the Pussycat.”  Surely this is sentimental, if anything is.

The first stanza is as follows:

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

The poem is extremely musical—but music, as we all know, is mathematical (“runcible spoon” in the final stanza is verse-math genius)—is mathematics sentimental?

The poem is also a fantasy—it depicts the unreal. We all know feelings are strongest when they pertain to real life. Is the unreal sentimental?

The poem aspires to beauty–and all beauty has something cold about it.

And finally, Lear’s poem also has a certain archness; a whiff of the comic.  Is comedy sentimental?

So is “The Owl and the Pussy-cat” really as sentimental as all that?

If this poem calms and amuses us, and does not evoke strong feelings, perhaps it is not sentimental.  Unless we take the song of the owl seriously.

Shelley’s poem, on the other hand, is meant to generate strong feelings—doesn’t revolutionary fervor, the righting of great wrongs, require strong feelings?

An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying King;
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn,—mud from a muddy spring;
Rulers who neither see nor feel nor know,
But leechlike to their fainting country cling
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow.
A people starved and stabbed in th’ untilled field;
An army, whom liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield;
Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
Religion Christless, Godless—a book sealed;
A senate, Time’s worst statute, unrepealed—
Are graves from which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.

Which poem has greater feeling—the child-like poem by Lear, or the grown-up poem by Shelley?

Shelley writes of his own government—its brutality, its genocidal horror, its wrong, all very real to Shelley, the poet.  Had the poem been published while he lived, Shelley would have been thrown into prison.

Lear sings of an owl singing a love song to a cat on a boat under the moon.

Those, today, finding Shelley’s poem implausible and unfair, might label it “sentimental.”

Those not amused by Lear’s poem would probably call it the same—“sentimental.”

In the first instance, “sentimental” would mean “untrue.”

In the second instance, “sentimental” would mean “trivial.”

No one would call Shelley’s poem “trivial,” and no one would feel the need to point out that Lear’s poem was “untrue.”

Shelley’s poem is sentimental in attempting to call out a truth.

Lear’s poem is sentimental in murmuring a lie.

Both are beautiful poems.

Most would assume Lear’s poem is highly sentimental, and that Shelley’s poem is not sentimental at all.

Anger is never considered sentimental, and Shelley is angry.

Lear is certainly not angry.

The softer emotions are considered sentimental.

But anger is sentimental.

Shelley wins.

A stunning upset!



Image result for rainy suburban street at night in painting

How do you know you’re home?

The sight of your station when you leave the train.

When you first got on, something seemed wrong,

Things outside the window looked unfamiliar,

But it was only the rain,

Or the ongoing urban alteration,

Tearing down and building, station after station,

Passed with machine-like precision

By the wheels and the crew and the schedule of your train.

When you climb aboard, you may be home already,

In the warm, lighted car of the stealthy train.

Later, among dark, rainy streets,

You look for home, again.

Home may be when at last, you fall into bed

And dream of the combed green graves,

Home to the noiseless dead.

Or home could be in the arms of your wife

Who gave herself to you, and gave you life

Again, in children. And their home and the home of your wife

Is the home you find in the streets,

Which tonight the rain invades and eats.

The rain falls on the roof and eaves

Until the last meteorologist leaves.

Let yourself out. Now it’s safe to go.

Time to pity seekers, adventurers,

Famous poets, heartbroken.

How do they know they’re home? They never know.




Image result for FAIZ IN PAINTING

The seven poets under review this month—the March poets from Linda Ashok’s The Poetry Mail—“read seven Indian poets a month”—comprise our second installment of a brief critical look at contemporary poets from India. Our second ‘look at seven’ proved as enjoyable as the first. So let’s get right to it:

1. Shobhana Kumar
Two collections of poetry published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata.

Kumar uses big themes in a simple, accessible, organized manner.

Her poem, “My Will,” begins with “To you, my daughter, i gift my smile.”  She leaves her “dreams” to her “little one,” to her parents, her “memories,” to her friends, her “warmth,” and finally, “And to you, my love, i leave nothing./Nothing save freedom from everything/That binds you to me.” She is not always original, but when Kumar invades the house of your heart, your house falls down.

In “What Would You Say, Kafka?” the soul is “put on display.” Crowds “look, observe, critique.” The poet commands us to “Weep as commerce whores purity.” The second half of the poem offers no solace, except as it references a famous writer:

Watch, mute.
As every thought is bought
And sold.
Bought and sold.
Until nothing remains
The eagerness of who
The biggest bidder will be.

Kafka, what would you say,
If you were alive today?


2. Tishani Doshi
Works in fashion, dance, journalism; a prize-winning fiction writer and poet

“The Immigrant’s Song” gives us plenty of concrete imagery—the poem’s theme is secrecy for the sake of a normal life: “Let us not speak of those days,” “Let us not speak of men stolen from their beds at night,” “Let us not name our old friends,” but the truth arrives metaphorically in the poem’s conclusion:

And you might consider telling them
of the sky and the coffee beans,
the small white houses and dusty streets.
You might set your memory afloat
like a paper boat down a river.
You might pray that the paper
whispers your story to the water,
that the water sings it to the trees,
that the trees howl and howl
it to the leaves. If you keep still
and do not speak, you might hear
your whole life fill the world
until the wind is the only word.
“your whole life fill the world/until the wind is the only word” is poetry filled up with poetry.
“You might pray” is both commanding and helpless.
Helpless poet, strong poetry—this is how a poem by Doshi typically goes.  In the opening stanza of “Lament-I” the poet is full of doubt—“I wonder, how to describe…” but the poetry is wonderful:
When I see the houses in this city,
the electric gates and uniformed men
employed to guard the riches of the rich,
the gilded columns and gardens,
the boats on water, I wonder,
how to describe my home to you:
the short, mud walls,
the whispering roof, the veranda
on which my whole family
used to spread sheets and sleep.
Nature, struggling humanity, rhetoric urgently thrive in her poems.  “Lament-I” concludes:
The monsoon finally arrived the year I left…
I think of returning to that life,
but mostly I try to remember
how the world was once.
I want to open my mouth like my son,
and swallow things whole—
feel water filling all the voids,
until I am shaped back into existence.
In “Lament-I,” she speaks in the voice of a father.  Doshi inhabits her poems omnisciently.  One feels she can do anything—except that she inhabits a tragic world.

3. Semeen Ali
She has published many books of poetry and has earned a Ph.D. 

Poets can do one of two things—they can praise or reject.

To reject is the better choice, because praise either looks like groveling, or demands great skill, since praise, by its very nature, aims high.  Modern poetry, which many think began with Baudelaire, rejects the poison of life; in the modern Poetry of Rejection, the poet is a wary fortress, and to protect herself from toxicity and grief, the modern poet hides from flowers, behind flowers, with poems small, obscure, thorny, defensive.

But every trope contains the seed of its opposite. The following poem is representative of her work; Ali is in a reticent, mysterious mood.

You look at me
eyes fixed on my face
a slight change
to be detected and noted
what do u expect?
A blank face
troubles you
Piece of paper flies past you
diverting your attention
for a minute
That one minute
contains my life
my undisclosed life

A great poem. It begins with rejection—why do you scrutinize me—but ends in praise—a life contained in “one minute,” a life “undisclosed;” a mysterious beauty which strangely comes to life.

In an age which is afraid to praise, in a poem which seems to reject, Semeen Ali steps magically into self-praise—the most difficult praise of all. For who can praise themselves without appearing to be a boastful jerk?

When Socrates banned the poets from the Republic, he did so with a caveat—you can stay, poets, if you can praise the deserving gods, and show us with your poetry why you should stay.

The proud poet, immediately struck by the word, “ban,” naturally feels no love for intolerant Socrates and his intolerant Republic, and goes on to write any poetry he wants.

The greatest poets, however, were humble enough to rise to Socrates’ challenge—poets such as Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, and Shelley, who produced not only praise, but beautiful praise to put it in. These poets live as eternal citizens of the republic of poetry—because they cared not only for poetry, but what the greater society ultimately needs and wants, a peopled society which extends all the way to heaven.

It is not that poets like Dante and Shakespeare are “better people;” nothing like that at all. It is just that the poets who submit to a greater and higher challenge will be greater poets. The “proud poet” who “writes any poetry he wants” emerged triumphantly in the 20th century under the tutelage of Modernist freedoms. In poetry today, praise, humility and obeisance of any kind is no requisite at all. Do we think of Dante or Milton or Shakespeare and Shelley as humble? To be humble was the challenge which they met boldly—this paradox saved them, for the paradoxical is the ticket to everything profound.

Semeen Ali has internalized the Socratic challenge. The praise—self-praise, actually—in her poem, “You look at me” is not gaudy, but marked by the deepest mystical desire it is our pleasure to imagine.

4. Manik Sharma
A journalist from the former summer capital of British India in the Himalayan foothills, Shimla

We have always had a sneaking suspicion that poets who write poems about poems are the most intelligent and the most worth reading. A philosophical self-consciousness always indicates some genius. Sharma’s poetry is manic and full of testosterone. He has a journalist’s eye for detail, the black humor of Hamlet; his poems eat frenzy and privacy—and everything else.  A poem about a poem is never just about a poem; it breaks things open and heals at the same time—a gesture we never could resist.

“The Perennial Poem” is a weary, ironic, powerful joke of a title, and the poem underneath it shows a poet who knows every poetic button to push, from sad paralysis to jumping glory.  Complex, but not too complex.  Action rescuing over-thinking: “In between fears of idleness, poems run away.”  A sibilant saunter reveals a poet easy in his letters—“fears of idleness, poems” ending in “eyes,” the sibilant essence ceasing dramatically with “people” and “look up” and “eternity.”

In between fears of idleness, poems
run away.

Some return with the sunshine
of last letters

while others are left to remember
people’s lives like they would their deaths.

A poem, that finds no respite from
its own becoming,

has to be thrown through the window,
into the streets, where it must

stay lost. But people, being people
still look up. Eternity awaiting in their eyes.

We found a page with three of his poems, all different—a riffing brilliance in all three—and interesting, “Football Player,” “Not Everyone Is Lovely,” and “Beaten To Death With An ATM Card,” and the brief bio telling us that he also enjoys “photography and trekking.”  Well of course he does.  Here’s a poet with so much energy and talent that poets who have doubts about their own ability will read a poet like this and get slightly depressed.  Sharma’s poetry will not get the praise it deserves, but he won’t care; he’ll just throw himself deeper into journalism, photography, trekking. Yeah we are sure.

5. Ananya Chatterjee
Wife, mother, software programmer, poet

We all know about poems about poems, but what of poems about writing poems—or rather, not being able to write poems?  What do we think of these? And what if the author of the ‘not able to write poems poem’ is a busy, working mother, who is married to a writer who does have time to write? The poem will be tragic no matter what, won’t it?

We must let the following poem speak for itself:

When a woman writes
She tosses and turns
words in her head
while marinating deveined
prawns for dinner .
She garnishes the thoughts
gently in her mind
like a tongue would
with a lump of sugar
too precious to be
absently gulped.


She then lays the table
Unloads the washer
Irons the creases
In her daughter’s shirt
She empties the wastebin..
and packs the rucksacks
her children would carry
to school next day.
All this while..
chanting the lines
with voiceless fervour..
anxious to retain
the sudden poem
that’s visited her
on a busy weeknight.
And now she stirs
the moon white froth
in her husband’s coffee,
smoking hot..
He too writes
In his olive walled study
His manuscript, now
a publisher’s delight.
She tiptoes towards
his fragile quietness,
rests the mug
and slips away
A corner of her eyes
has caught him though.
chewing at the near end
of his royal blue Parker.
She hides
the violence
of shudder and thrill
the sight has swiftly
raised in her soul..
Just for a wee second.. though, not more..
For now her youngest
wails again. She walks to the crib..
Lifts the newborn..
A lullaby is hummed
the unquiet is calmed.
The woman too..
unknown to herself
is sleeping now..
snoring softly
beside her girl.
The lines in her head..
are sleeping as well
Stanzas fading out..
like morning mist..
When she awakens later
there’s a teardrop nestled
in the shore of her eye..
for the unwritten verse..
For giant thoughts that sunk
in a sea of weeknights.
When a woman writes..
She seldom writes.

What did a poet do to become a poet?  What did a poet do, without our knowledge, to write and publish a poem?  What does a poet conceal from the reader?  What can a royal blue Parker conceal? Is it possible for the truth to be concealed?  What does the poem say?


6. Barnali Ray Shukla
Writer and filmmaker

What do poems which manage to sound like action movies, or best-selling novels do for the poetic sensibility? Shouldn’t we be watching this on the big screen? the reader thinks. It makes us wonder—is the genre which resembles another genre better for it, or not?  “Palash and the Padmini,” from Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry II, pictures for us a certain make of car, wrecked and burning.  That’s a movie, right?  Not a poem.

The valley stands bare-shouldered
A hint of mist softens the gnarled carcass
of the Fiat Padmini BRY 1709
and the claiming fire.

The flames leap to the sky
like the blossoms of that tree,
as Palash would have called it,
looking out of the window
bare-shouldered with sinews
like the ash-grey tree

His spoken words in a dead-language
Inflammable punctuated silences
coveted moments so very abundant
in the bliss of our union.

Even without words
Palash lights up the dark.
Flame of the forest
Upright and unyielding, stark.

The ambers now glow
louder than the undone vermilion
of a smudged sunset.

A pair of headlights sweeps the darkness away
The ambulance arrives many hours late
Men in white find a tapering pulse in him
While I hold on to a tiny beating heart, growing inside me.

A surge of pain
now tugs at my womb
The waters break
to douse the fire
and wipe away the salt
from my kohl-tattooed cheeks.

Help now is at arms’ length
in the safety of scalpels
but the bite of the metal
can’t bury the voices.

Someone whispers, a power claimed him
Another calls it … sabotage
A cynic calls it suicide.

Of course, most speak of destiny.
I wait for those fingerprints
On the bloodied sickle that was found
Right next to the Fiat Padmini.

A fast-paced poem with everything!  Action, excitement, sex, visuals, mystery!  Sabotage! Suicide! And the long name of a colorful tree gets its own line! Verse! Prose! Cars!

A story always unfolds, and the action of that unfolding requires a certain amount of heft and plot to give that unfolding a certain amount of delight.

Dancing isn’t running.  Poetry isn’t fiction.  Unless it resembles a ballad, like “Belle Dame Sans Merci.” This is not a ballad.

Never have we reacted to a poem with a set of iron rules like this one.  O Fiat Padmini with fingerprints, on fire! Pardon our iron rules!


7. Huzaifa Pandit
From Kashmir, he publishes poems, translations, as well as essays.

Pandit is a politically engaged, scholarly, historically-minded poet, with a delicate ear.  From his poem, “Buhu Sings An Elegy for Kashmir:”

Buhu sings sighra aaween sawal yaar
Call out to your dead lovers a little longer.

The beloved weeps in a hollow tongue
Smear condolences with meaning a little longer.

We know the law, and all the statutes
Let the murderer deceive us a little longer.

Amulets hang from black coffins
Untie half-burnt promises a little longer.

We promise to bare heads in mehshar
Command the last sun to beat down a little longer

Spill scented ink, and bury brocade paper
Bear the drought of good poems a little longer.

Indian poets today, like poets the world over, tend to be a shy bunch—highly educated and humble.

It’s not considered poetic to come out and say what you mean. Rhyming is no longer considered poetic (a little half-rhyming is okay). Don’t use your language like a drum! With every respectable poet getting advanced degrees, a poem first produces a learned topic to immerse itself in, and then the poem, tenuously and slow, begins. The educated sea has swamped the poetic shore.  Every sea bird cry has multiple meanings. The change from Romanticism to Modernism over the last couple of centuries is chiefly the addition of circumspection and a diploma.

Pandit is a wonderful poet—“Bear the drought of good poems a little longer” !!—and the chains of circumspection he wears are not his; they belong to the age.  The repetition of “little longer” is as rousing a refrain as poetry gives these days. We’ll take it.


—Scarriet Editors, March 16, 2018




Image result for why so pale and wan fond lover

In the Blake Bracket—a contest between Sir John Suckling and Lord Byron—“Why So Pale and Wan, Fond Lover?” and “When We Two Parted.”

Both poems are about love, and sticking to it—or not.

Why are there so many love poems in the old days?

The ‘Dante explanation’ is that the origin of poetry was the phenomenon of high religion moving outward in Letters (religion the only real Letters there was at the time) to the less learned.

The ‘more learned’ were, in this case, men, and the ‘less learned’ were, in this case, women.

Poetry was, in its origins, to put it bluntly, sexual/religious indoctrination of women by men, or, as it is known today, “mansplaining.”

The poetry which survived as the best models of this practice was exactly as one might expect—the poems of poets like Dante and Petrarch, and later the Elizabethan poets—appalling expressions of sexual excitement elevated to religious ecstasy, and masked by language which evoked serene, pure, delicate religiosity.

This type of poetry naturally died a quick death when manners changed, and men and women lost interest in poetry as the expression of love masked as religion and religion masked as love.

But the trope was powerful—the elevated language of poetry, the beautiful language of poetry, served two things at once—1. religion in the outward manner and 2. sex in the hidden, or private manner.

Modern poetry has no ready-made duality, the kind which naturally existed, and attended the origin of poetry itself, when religious letters spread out into the secular sphere.

Modern poetry has everything and nothing.

Modern poetry lacks manners, since manners no longer need to hide what religion is doing. Modern poetry even lacks sex, because without manners, hiding of any kind is no longer necessary—even as real life hides from the poet all the time.  Real life isn’t codified—there’s no template—in modern poetry; looking around for its new poetic identity, Modernism seized on objects (Imagism) and quickly turned into a dreadful bore; modern poetry was kept alive in the tedious textbook; poetry was no longer profound/dirty or high/low; poetry was now democratic and plain; the public turned to Sinatra and Elvis and the Beatles—the Dante trope didn’t die at all.

The Dante trope was not really killed by the Modernists.  The Modernists today still don’t understand the power of love poetry—and sneer at it, as romantic drivel.  And most of it is romantic drivel, because the learned don’t write love poetry anymore.  They write modernist drivel, instead.  The learned alone will always be boring.  We look back at the learned Dante and don’t see the excitement, because secular, over-sexed modernism is incapable of seeing the beauty because they no longer understand what the beauty was for—to hide what back then was filthy and forbidden; the priests using religion for sex, Dante following Beatrice into heaven because that’s the only place he could follow her.

Modern poetry has neither heaven nor the unspeakable desires—which are now commonplace.

Love poetry was popular for a reason.

The Renaissance—think of Shakespeare’s Sonnets—saw ‘love poetry’ as more than boy writes girl—but sex was always the underlying thrill, the secretly sexual/religious, thrilling trope in the days of priests and virgins.

In Shakespeare’s Sonnets, you had a lot of ‘man giving boy advice about love,’ and that’s what we get with this Sir John Suckling chestnut:

Why so pale and wan fond lover
Prithee why so pale?
Will, when looking well can’t move her,
Looking ill prevail?
Prithee why so pale?

Another reason for the great number of love poems back in the day arises as we contemplate these few lines: poetry was too effeminate a practice for men—unless poetry concerned itself, in an almost joking, or advice-giving manner, with love, and love’s effeminate traps and weaknesses. Men wanted to write poetry, and couldn’t, because it wasn’t manly, unless the slightly respectable trope of courting women (love) was made present.

Only a “pale” fop wrote verse—unless one were a clever knight (or aspiring playwright) who made it his business to trade in the trope from a knowing perspective.

Suckling is quite modern compared to Dante—in speaking of his reluctant Beatrice—or his friend’s Beatrice, in this case—Suckling ends his poem, “the devil take her.” Yikes!

Dante would be appalled.

Byron, a modern compared to Dante and Suckling, returns to a simpler, more purely romantic sensibility; the Romantics knew the Dante trope had “legs,” had staying power; the sophisticated, renaissance knight can be as clever as he wants, but love will always be love, and it hurts, and hell if it’s still not good for poetry.

Byron’s poem surveys the wreckage of the Dante trope—as he invests in it like crazy.

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
Sank chill on my brow–
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
A knell in mine ear;
A shudder come o’er me–
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well–
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met–
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?–
With silence and tears.

Byron, the modern, almost seems like he’s mourning not so much the woman, with all his religious bells and sorrow, but the modern ruination of the old trope.

Suckling, writing in the 17th century, is having more fun.

Sir John wins.


Image result for embarrassment in renaissance painting

Embarrassment is thought.

The embarrassing situation

Of no money makes us do

Embarrassing things for money.

No money, no food.  But starvation

Is a physical fact beyond thought.

Embarrassment is thought.

Embarrassment keeps us from starving,

Makes us say hello, makes sure we do not

Embarrass ourselves on the job

Interview; embarrassment makes sure

The driver does not crash the car, the accountant

Does not get the figures wrong, the speaker does not forget

The words to the poem or the song.

Embarrassment is everything.

You listen to embarrassment, or listen to nothing.

If you say, “I love you,” and she looks blankly,

Embarrassment calls the cops, for every embarrassing

Thing has been extended into law.

When you talk out loud to yourself,

It’s embarrassing. You jerk,

You say to yourself, don’t embarrass yourself,

Do you want to lose your job?

How will you live? How will you think?

It’s going to be alright. We’ll survive this embarrassment.

What is this invisible thing called thought?

What did I do?  Was the message sent?



Is a poet a smoker who doesn’t smoke?

Who looks at a tree, as if the tree in the winter silence spoke,

Who knows the tree will never speak,

As every word of the poem burns to ash,

As the nicotine strikes, and makes the poet weak;

Anonymous, common, unknown as cash

For secret and dirty uses

Every word the poet uses,

As the smoke of what the poet expresses,

Drifts into the stark branches of the tree,

And the nicotine rush interpreted by me

As smoke, is the smoke of the poetry?

Is a poet one who breathes the air,

Invisible, necessary, and everywhere,

Through which the world is seen

And lives? The drifting, invisible air

Which the poet pretends to own,

And pretends to give, so the invisible reader pretends to care?

Is a poet a drinker who doesn’t drink,

And moves off from the gathering,

Lonely, to be alone, and think?

Is the poet one who loves, but doesn’t dare?

Who moves off to think, thinking poetry is not anything,

Thinking perhaps you wait there?


Image result for dark earth at sunrise

Without introduction or preface,

I offered my line

Right there on the Internet,

So you didn’t know the poem was mine.

All human error looks like this:

In love, you either did not kiss,

Or did not prepare them for the kiss.

You did not tell them at first

That you would always love.

Handsome houses have handsome introductions,

Long porches with pillars which welcome you in.

Madness is an introduction,

So we can see we might be walking into sin.

Life is introduction.

Remember to introduce yourself. The sun

Snakes along the horizon of the frozen earth,

Prior to your darkness spotting the gold above.

You know I am the one.

I am not just quoting the sun.

You can tell that it’s me.

I understand your poetry

Not because of the chatter, not because of the wounded earth,

But because you introduced me to poetry,

And love, and all that love will prove to be worth.



The poet loves the symmetry and the resemblances,

Melodies which sing inside of melodies,

Intricate, but almost the same.

This is why the poet loves the love,

The infant face, the rhythms inside the harmonies,

All the sweet mimicries of love,

And every love by poets achieves its fame.

If you see the close resemblances of arms entwined,

If you hear in the songs the repeating idea,

The poet approves, and dies

To live again inside the repeating thoughts repeating themselves inside the beautiful eyes.

Did you think your strange behavior

Wouldn’t be repeated in the lake?

Did you think your unkindness to my love

Would be the only mistake?

Justice and love are similar.

Love returns to the love, and the love is always sure

The final love resembles love’s ingredients made in the original cake.

Justice will arrive when the night arrives.

Justice dreams at night. Love will be as brutal

As justice in pursuing the revenge and the heart ache.

Violently justice will make the lover cry and shake.

But this is simple. From justice you get what you deserve.

Maybe you didn’t expect this, but you should have expected this.

But you loved him, they told me. Why did you throw him the curve.

You embarrassed him. Was that just? That took a lot of nerve.

I did love him. Love, even more than justice, does not swerve.

He was not straight with me, so I threw him the curve.

It was the true song. Maybe not beautiful. But the poet always gives you what you deserve.





How did I get pushed into love?

Pushed and pulled into love?

I didn’t want to go.

I wanted to take it slow.

I wanted to examine what it would mean.

Who pushed me? Who gave me a shove?

Who pushed me into love?

Today I’m changed. I feel I can get away clean.

I wasn’t ready for that shove.

The eyes got me thinking about love.

Looking into the eyes I wasn’t prepared for the shove.

What shoved me into love?

Will someone push me again?

Push me, like I was pushed back then?

I was pushed into her. We bumped.

We struck lips, we talked. We laughed. We humped.

Will someone push me again?

Easy, isn’t it? To love like I loved back then?

Like Mozart writes music: a childish laugh and a shove;

You push two together and say come on, you two. Love.

But when the evening ends, you put the instrument in its case.

You look at the person and the embarrassment starts up in the face.

You hope for another good shove. One more good shove.

You hope. But what is hope? Hope is something. But hope isn’t love.






Image result for fighting in the rain in painting

Sentimental Poems are fighting it out for the 2018 MARCH MADNESS POETRY crown, but don’t let “sentimental” fool you.

Nothing fights harder than sentimental, for sentimental reasons. Think of a mother bear defending her cubs.

“Western Wind” is a short anonymous poem which once graced anthologies. Was it merit which made it well known? A tricky business, poetic reputation and renown. Found in a 1530 collection of songs for Lute, it’s older than Shakespeare, and apparently 16th century English composers loved writing music for it. The leather-bound Oxford Book of English Poetry reproduced “Western Wind” in the early 20th century, and the New Critics used it in Understanding Poetry, their mid-20th century textbook.

Western Wind, when will thou blow?
The small rain down can rain.
Christ! That my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again.

The first line has interest because it’s 1. a question 2. to a non-person (wind) and is 3. onomatopeia (sounds like the wind).

How sentimental is this short poem?

Brevity can both hinder and help sentimentality; extremely powerful emotion will vanquish verbosity.  Yet brevity is the soul of wit—and wit is the opposite of sentimentality.

“Western Wind” is offensive—it breaks the third commandment, by “taking the lord’s name in vain” with its utterance of “Christ!”  In today’s terms, this is like saying “Fuck!” in polite company.  Whether this had anything to do with the song’s popularity, we are not sure. Can we be sentimental as we curse?  If sentimentality is any strong emotion, then yes.

Here is the history of the modern world in a four line poem.  They say “Western Wind” is  English because it references “rain” and the “west wind.”  True, but the break with Rome, the ravenous, secular British Empire—it’s all there in that irreverent, passionate, outburst, “Christ!”

Does sentimentality have anything to do with a passive (love) complaint?  We certainly think so.  “Western Wind” is passive (love) complaint, if nothing else.

Speaking of passivity, Milton’s “On His Blindness,” the Round One opponent of “Western Wind” in the First Bracket, might be the most famous expression of passivity in poetry: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

The complaint of Milton’s poem hides behind the rhetoric of the devout believer—reading Milton’s poem, the reader feels that somehow there is a complaint which wishes to be expressed (life sucks), but which is transformed, by faith, into I dare not complain.

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Milton shows us how God can be an antidote to mawkish self-pity: “God doth not need/ Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best/Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.”

Can sentimentality be stern?  Is there a sentimental setting, in which the poem, or the poet, fights completely free of sentimentality?  And can this still be called a sentimental poem?

“Western Wind” remains a complaint—and is sentimental for that reason.

“On His Blindness” fights against complaint—and is more sentimental for that reason.

Milton wins.


Image result for socrates and the symposium

Socrates shocked the crowd:

Love was not pretty, but obnoxious and loud,

Love wants love. The paradox is this:

Love is cunning, not ready for a kiss.

Love incapable of love. Does that seem dumb?

Well you haven’t read The Symposium.

Beauty for eternity is the goal.

Simple. All want this, if they have a soul.

Beauty is the only thing that’s loyal.

Beauty causes all treachery and toil.

After the confused person is gone,

Only the beautiful person lives on.

Love is when beauty is only for you,

But beauty is desired by others, too.

Sad: Beauty cannot be mortal and true.

Disagree?  But I’m more attractive than you.

Love loves. Love loves! But love does not love, too.








Image result for how do you light a pastry case

A truth is never a choice

Because a choice is never true.

You could easily have made the other choice,

Couldn’t you?

The difficult decisions are simple

Because you are simple.  You don’t understand

The life which has happened to you.

You have no choice but to put the glow

Of the pastry case in your poem,

Selecting words in the café.

As a poet, you must find descriptions for your words;

You must put words and pictures together,

If weather contributes to mood—or mood contributes to weather;

Or, you could make it all up: the huge wave of rain,

The corresponding reasons for discomfort, cloudiness, or pain,

Which, if questioned too deeply by the critic,

The poet may count as disdain.

What if “married” were the same as “gay,”

To choose whom you sleep with, or never sleep with? Who is to know?

When you found yourself loving Bobbi, you examined the pastry case glow

On that rainy day,

Writing meditatively in your little café.

When you decided to go, only then did you know where to go:

You went directly to a word meaning stop instead of a word meaning slow.

The poem’s choices are not the poet’s, displayed in café or rain,

And your choices are not choices, because they were made in pain,

Which has nothing to do with the poem composed on, or in, the café.

You write the perfect poem when you throw every choice away.



Image result for billie holiday

Misery is not the same thing as sadness. Misery

Belongs to the history of the world; even the mineral world

Invokes misery: stone in the dark, buried deep under stone.

I worry about going into the ground when I’m lying on my bed alone.

Lonely misery is commonplace

And misery is written on every older face,

Even the handsome ones having affairs to remember.

Sadness isn’t misery. Sadness is thinking about September

A little sadly, in a slightly sadder spring

Because the calendar—a practical invention—

Turned device to make reflective sadness a thing,

Like the phonograph record, a thing

Used by the recording industry, which found, accidentally,

If a miserable woman, in a pool of light, will sing,

Sadness can be boiled down from misery,

As when the distiller makes good whiskey

From plants, fermented—which once grew

Towards the sun, happy, exactly like you.

Did you ever hear sadness like Billie Holiday’s before?

Or do you buy it like eggs, at the corner store?




Related image

This year’s Scarriet 2018 March Madness Tournament is a contest between great sentimental poems.

We use Sentimental Poems because sentimentality in the United States has long been seen as a great fault in poetry.

It is necessary we bring attention to a crucial fact which is so obvious many overlook it: In the last 100 years, it is considered a virtue for the poet to avoid sentimentality.

But poetry does not belong to the factual.

Ever since Socrates pointed out that Homer wasn’t trustworthy when it came to chariots, law, war, or government, the fact that poetry is not factual has been understood and accepted.

As science grew in stature, it was only natural that Plato was seen as more and more correct—science, the eyes and ears of discovery, made the imagination of lyric song seem feeble by comparison.  Entertainment, Plato feared, could take the place of truth—and destroy society, by making it tyrannical, complacent, sensual, and blind.

Plato’s notion, to put it simply, triumphed.

Homer was no longer considered a text book for knowledge.

Poetry was just poetry.

Religion and science—one, an imaginative display of morals, the other, an imaginative display of reason, became the twin replacements of poetry for all mankind.

Poetry still mattered, but it belonged to entertainment and song, the frivolous, the sentimental—as much as these matter, and they do.  The sentimental was not considered a bad thing, but it was never confused with science. Nor was poetry confused with religion. Religion, with its unchanging sacred texts, was society’s moral guide; a poem springs up suddenly in a person’s mind, a fanciful thing, a piece of religion for the moment—not a bad thing, necessarily, but ranked below science and religion.

Poetry sat on the sidelines for two thousand years.  Homer made it glorious, Plato killed it, and then Science and Religion, for a couple of millennia, were Homer’s two important substitutes.

For two thousand years poetry was sentimental, not factual.

Religion bleeds into poetry (quite naturally) —Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare, Milton—and in the rival arts, painting, and music—helps religiosity (high sentiment) to thrive and not be overthrown by science (fact).

Music and painting were especially glorious—we use the word without irony—(and religious) during the Renaissance, becoming almost scientific; musicians like Beethoven proved music is more than entertainment—it enriches the soul as much as religion.  Plato would certainly have approved of Bach and Beethoven, if not Goya and Shelley.

Poetry crept back into good standing (since being dethroned by Plato) through religion’s back door—as religion—especially during the Enlightenment and the 19th century—became more and more disgraced by science.

Modernism changed all that.

In the beginning of the 20th century, poetry (together with painting and music) decided it didn’t need religion or science.

Perspective (the mathematics of seeing), which developed in Renaissance painting, is science.

Cubism, Collage, (2-dimensional fragments) and Abstract painting’s color-mixing do not constitute scientific advancement.

Speech and versification enhance each other in poets like Pope and Byron—this has a certain scientific validity—poetry dribbling off into awkward prose, as it pretends to “paint” an “image,” does not.

Verse exists as written music.   Verse, like music, is a system of notation.  Beethoven’s notes do not float around experimentally on the page—Beethoven’s genius exists both in the notation, and in what the notation projects, with the sound of musical instruments. Beethoven’s genius also lies largely in the realm of the sentimental. Which is not a bad thing at all. Sentimentality occupies the battle-ground middle between religion and science—the genius of the modern is found more in artists like Beethoven and Byron, than in the more self-conscious “modernist revolution” of the 20th century—which was largely a step backwards for art and poetry, as talkers like Ezra Pound and John Dewey gained ascendancy.

Here’s an example of the pseudo-science which infested 20th century Modernism: Charles Olson’s idea that poetry is expressed as “breath,” and can be notated as such, on the page.  Yes, people breathe as they read verse, but “the breath” has nothing to do with verse in any measurable way.  A sigh is dramatic, sure. But a sigh isn’t scientific. Yet no one laughed at Olson’s idea. Modernists took it seriously.

And here in 2018, in the wake of Modernism with its sharp-pointed, experimental, unscientific irreverence, poets continue since 1900 to frown on anything sentimental, associating it with flowery, Victorian verse—when the sentimental belongs to the genius of great poetry.

Poetry is sentimental.

Bad poetry is sentimental only because all poetry is sentimental.

The damaging mistake Modernism made, dumping anything pre-1900, in its pursuit of the non-existent “new” (never really described or defined) was the insistence that sentimentalism was bad.

It was logical mistake, as we have just shown: all poetry (since Socrates knocked off Homer) is sentimental, not factual; Modernism’s childish, fake-science, tantrum against the sentimental was a gambit against religion, which was already collapsing before the advent of science.

Modernism did not embody scientific glory—unless skyscrapers as architecture belong to science.

The 20th century engineers and physicists (far closer to Leonardo da Vinci than William Carlos Williams) were scientific; religion lived on in the lives of the poor, even as Nietzsche-inspired, 20th century professors said God was dead; and meanwhile the Modern poets dug themselves into a hole—rejecting religion, while proudly beating their chests (Modernism’s crackpot identity was male) before the idol of pseudo-science. Modern poetry fell into oblivion, where it still exists today—secular, unscientific, unsentimental, unmusical, without a public, or an identity.

Sentimental poetry did live on throughout the 20th century—poetry is sentimental, after all.  It continued to thrive, in popular music, but as poetry, it mostly thrived beneath the Modernist headlines.

To highlight this argument, Scarriet’s 2018 March Madness Tournament will feature great sentimental poetry.

Before we start, we’d like to define the issue in more detail.

We do not assert that mawkish, simplistic, hearts-and-flowers, unicorns-and-rainbows, poetry is good.

But tedious, pedantic, dry, prosaic poetry is not good, either.

We simply maintain that all poetry, and the very best poetry, is sentimental, rather than factual—despite what Modernist scholars might say.

It is necessary to point out that verse is not, and cannot, as verse, be somehow less than prose, for verse cannot be anything but prose—with the addition of music.

Verse, not prose, has the unique categorical identity which meets the scientific standard of a recognizable art, because verse is prose-plus-one.  Verse is prose and more.  Here is the simple, scientific fact of verse as an identifying category, which satisfies the minimal material requirements of the category, poetry.

The objection can be raised that the following two things exist

1. prose and

2. prose which has a poetic quality, but is not verse

and therefore, poetry can exist without verse.

But to say that prose can be poetic while still being prose, is really to say nothing at all; for if we put an example of prose next to prose-which-is-poetic, it only proves that some prose writing samples are more beautiful than other prose writing samples.

This still does not change this fact: Verse is prose-plus-one.  Prose can be enchanting for various reasons; it can have a greater interest, for example, if it touches on topics interesting to us—but the topic is interesting, not the prose; the content of prose can have all sorts of effects on us—secondly, and more important, prose can certainly appeal for all sorts of sensual reasons, in terms of painting and rhythm and sentiment, and this is why we enjoy short stories and novels. But again, verse is all of this and more; verse is, by definition, prose-plus-one.

To repeat: Verse is more than prose. Prose is not more than verse.

What do we mean, exactly, by sentimental?  Isn’t there excellent verse which is not sentimental at all?  No, not really, if we simply define sentimental as the opposite of factual.

We might be confused here, because a fact can be sentimental; a simple object, for instance, from our past, which has associations for us alone—there it is, a souvenir, a fact which can move us to tears.

Just as verse is prose-and-more, the sentimental is fact-and-more.  Poetry adds sentiment to the fact.

Here are two examples of good poems, and because they are poems, they are sentimental; they are not sentimental because they are good, or good because they are sentimental.  The sentimental is a given for the poem. And because facts come first, and sentiment is added, poems use facts, even though poems are not factual.

Think of Byron’s famous lyric, “We Shall Go No More A Roving.”  The sentiment is right there in the title. “No more!” Something we did together which was pleasantly thrilling will never happen again.  

If this Byron lyric not sentimental, nothing is.   But we can state its theme in prose.  The sentimentality can be glimpsed in the prose, in the preface, in the idea.  The verse completes what the prose has started.

Facts, and this should not be surprising, do a lot of the work in sentimental poetry.  One of the things which makes Byron’s gushing lyric gloriously sentimental, for instance, is the fact that it is not just I who shall “go no more a roving,” but we shall “go no more a roving.” This is a fact, and the fact contributes to the sentimentality; or, it might be argued, the sentimentality contributes to the fact.

Carl Sandburg, born in 1878, got his first break in 1914 when his poems were accepted by Poetry, the little Modernist magazine from Chicago—where Sandburg was raised. Sandburg was initially famous for his “hog butcher for the world” poem about Chicago, but the Modernists (including the academically influential New Critics) withdrew their support as Sandburg gained real fame as a populist, sentimental poet. Sandburg even became a folk singer; his poem “Cool Tombs” was published in 1918, and you can hear Sandburg reading this masterpiece of sentimentality on YouTube—and you can hear Sandburg singing folk songs on YouTube, as well.  What is sentimental about a “cool tomb,” exactly?  Is it the sound-echo of “cool” and “tomb?” The sentimental in poetry proves the sentimental is not always a simple formula.

Shelley’s “Ozymandias” might be preferred by Moderns, because on the face of it, this poem doesn’t seem very sentimental at all.  Shelley’s poem is factual: a traveler sees a ruin. Shelley describes the facts as they are—here’s what the traveler sees.  But upon reflection, one recognizes how powerful the sentiment of the poem is—a great thing existed, and is now gone.  And yet, what is gone was evil, and the poem mocks its loss, and the final image of the poem is simply and factually, “the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

However, and we don’t need to push this point more than necessary, the whole power of Shelley’s poem is sentimental.  The fact of the statue, half-sunken in the sands of a desert, is just that—a fact.  Were it only this, the fact would not be a poem—all poems, to be poems, must be sentimental; the sentiment is added to the fact.

The poet makes us feel the sentimental significance of the fact; this is what all poems do.

And now to the Tournament…

Our readers will recognize quite a few of the older poems—and why not?  The greatly sentimental is greatly popular.

Most will recognize these poems right up through “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot.

The half-dozen poems composed more recently, in the fourth and final bracket, will not be as familiar, since sentimental examples of verse no longer get the attention they deserve; we bravely furnish them forth to stand with the great sentimental poems of old.

“Sentimental” by Albert Goldbarth is not actually sentimental; the poem is more of a commentary on sentimentality by a pedantic modern, in the middle of the modern, anti-sentimental era.

“A Dog’s Death” may be the most sentimental poem ever written, and it comes to us from a novelist; as respectable poets in the 20th century tended to avoid sentimentality.

The poems by Sushmita Gupta, Mary Angela Douglas, Stephen Cole, and Ben Mazer we have printed below.

The great poems familiar to most people are sentimental—at the dawn of the 20th century, sentimentality was unfortunately condemned.

Here are 64 gloriously sentimental poems.

Old Sentimental Poems—The Bible Bracket

1. Western Wind –Anonymous
2. The Lord Is My Shepherd –Old Testament
3. The Lie –Walter Raleigh
4. Since There’s No Help, Come Let Us Kiss and Part –Michael Drayton
5. The Passionate Shepherd to His Love –Christopher Marlowe
6. That Time Of Year Thou Mayst In My Behold –William Shakespeare
7. Full Fathom Five Thy Father Lies –William Shakespeare
8. Adieu, Farewell, Earth’s Bliss –Thomas Nashe
9. The Golden Vanity –Anonymous
10. Death, Be Not Proud –John Donne
11. Go and Catch A Falling Star –John Donne
12. Exequy on His Wife –Henry King
13. Love Bade Me Welcome –George Herbert
14. Ask Me No More Where Jove Bestows –Thomas Carew
15. Il Penseroso –John Milton
16. On His Blindness –John Milton

Newer Sentimental Poems—The Blake Bracket

1. Why So Pale and Wan Fond Lover? –John Suckling
2. To My Dear and Loving Husband –Anne Bradstreet
3. To Lucasta, Going to the Wars –Richard Lovelace
4. To His Coy Mistress –Andrew Marvel
5. Peace –Henry Vaughan
6. To the Memory of Mr. Oldham –John Dryden
7. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard –Thomas Gray
8. The Sick Rose –William Blake
9. The Little Black Boy –William Blake
10. A Red, Red Rose –Robert Burns
11. The World Is Too Much With Us –William Wordsworth
12. I Wandered Lonely As  A Cloud –William Wordsworth
13. Kubla Khan –Samuel Coleridge
14. I Strove With None –Walter Savage Landor
15. A Visit From St. Nicholas –Clement Clarke Moore
16. When We Two Parted –George Byron

Still Newer Sentimental Poems—The Tennyson Bracket

1. England in 1819 –Percy Shelley
2. To ___ –Percy Shelley
3. Adonais–Percy Shelley
4. I Am –John Clare
5. Thanatopsis –William Cullen Bryant
6. To Autumn –John Keats
7. La Belle Dame sans Merci –John Keats
8. Ode to A Nightingale –John Keats
9. How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways –Elizabeth Barrett
10. Paul Revere’s Ride –Henry Longfellow
11. Annabel Lee –Edgar Poe
12. Break Break Break  –Alfred Tennyson
13. Mariana –Alfred Tennyson
14. The Charge of the Light Brigade –Alfred Tennyson
15. My Last Duchess  –Robert Browning
16. The Owl and the Pussy Cat –Edward Lear

Even Newer Sentimental Poems—The Sushmita Bracket

1. O Captain My Captain –Walt Whitman
2. Because I Could Not Stop For Death  –Emily Dickinson
3. The Garden Of Proserpine –Charles Swinburne
4. The Man He Killed –Thomas Hardy
5. When I Was One and Twenty  –A.E. Housman
6. Cynara –Ernest Dowson
7. Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock  –T.S. Eliot
8. Not Waving But Drowning  –Stevie Smith
9. Nights Without Sleep –Sara Teasdale
10. What Lips My Lips Have Kissed –Edna Millay
11. Sentimental –Albert Goldbarth
12. Dog’s Death –John Updike
13. Utterly In Love –Sushmita Gupta
14. I Wrote On A Page Of Light –Mary Angela Douglas
15. Waiting –Stephen Cole
16. Number 5 (December Poems) –Ben Mazer

Utterly in Love –Sushmita Gupta

Of all the remarkable,
Things and feelings,
In my life,
You are one.
And I guard you,
And your identity,
In the deepest,
Quietest corner,
Of my heart,
With a passion,
That some show,
For religion,
And if not religion,
Then they show it,
For revolution.
But me,
I am a mere mortal.
I only know,
To love you,
And love you secretly.
I melt in a pool,
By your thoughts.
I wish,
That you would,
Mould the molten me,
And give me,
A shape,
A form,
And eyes,
That twinkle,
Like far away stars.
And me,
With twinkling eyes,
And fragrant body,
From loving you,
Shall love you,
Even more.

I Wrote On A Page Of Light –Mary Angela Douglas

I wrote on a page of light;
it vanished.
then there was night.

then there was night and
I heard the lullabies
and then there were dreams.

and when you woke
there were roses, lilies
things so rare a someone so silvery spoke,

or was spoken into the silvery air that

you couldn’t learn words for them
fast enough.
and then,

you wrote on a page of light.

Waiting –Stephen Cole

I believe if She were here
She would tell me
The cold winds are departing.

The message delivered
If only I was listening.

Comfort to the discomfort
With her warming words.
The void filled,
For what it lost,
It could not be filled.

For Her,
The rules are absent by rules.
She always knows what to say
As only for the proper need,
She construes,
According to sidereal secrets
Of the long, long day.

Number 5 (December Poems) –Ben Mazer

I was at the Nuremberg Rallies pleading with my wife,
I love you, I love you, more than anything in the world!
As she looked off to see the dramatic spectators,
she turned to me and said, you hate my guts.
I wept, I pleaded, no, it wasn’t true!
I only married you because I love you!
There is no force to plead with that can change her course,
now everything is quite its opposite,
and yet she said, “I wish that it were true,”
and would not answer “Do you love me?”
or contest “You do! You love me!”
What are we then? Man and wife
hopelessly lost and separated in strife
and worser grief than was known to despair
at using words like markers, no means yes,
when Jesus Mary Magdalene won’t you bless
the two true lovers, their heads to your thighs,
and let this nonsense out in bursts of tears and sighs.


You don’t understand. A broken heart

Is not a metaphor. The person

With a broken heart

Cannot love anymore.

A broken heart lies hidden away.

Love’s invisible. Love cannot be seen

By a doctor’s chart.

Love could be polite, or want to play

In the occurrences of every day.

Love might keep one up at night,

Because fear and hope are love.

Blue is blue and green is green.

A broken hand is a broken hand.

But a broken heart cannot be seen.

This is important to understand:

The person with a broken heart

Sleeps. And cannot love anymore.

The broken heart becomes a rapist,

The broken heart becomes a whore.

The broken heart is real,

But can’t be measured. What we feel

Is more important than what we think.

Love cannot be felt

By the broken heart. When you knelt

And prayed in the vestibule

She laughed behind your back.

He’s a rapist. None can measure

The rapacity of the whore,

The horror of the heart which cannot love anymore.

It’s hard to see who doesn’t love anymore.

This is what the rapist seeks, not innocence,

Not love. The rapist seeks the whore.

The rapist does not seek the fool

Praying in the vestibule.

Rape is bold, because the broken heart,

Deeply hidden, which loves no more,

Is what the rapist searches for.

The word is “searches,” not “pleasure.” The modesty

Of the heart which has not been broken

Cannot be detected by what is spoken,

Cannot be seen by what you wear.

The broken heart isn’t here or there

Except in the secret behavior of the whore

Who appears normal, but can’t love anymore.

The urgency of the rapist is to find the whore

And ravish her once, and then no more.

The rapist seeks the broken heart

Which lies. And lies away from every chart.

A broken heart is not a broken hand.

A broken heart is worse.

Subtle. And not. Do you understand?





Image result for shadows holding hands

What do I say to you now?
There is too much to say.
Everything says too much.
So I’ll put this poem away.

What happened to us
Was a misunderstanding, then.
But now—should there be—
A misunderstanding again?

Remember the day
When I reached for your hand?
You were angry with me, then.
Love had a different plan.


Image result for fires on plains

I want a man with no desires.
This might be difficult to explain.
In my valley, there are fires,
And fires along my plain,
Fires are burning in my breast,
Fires are trembling in my brain.
If a man has desires,
The burning, lustful kind,
He will not appeal to my heart,
He will not get in my mind.
But if he is cold, and has no desires,
I will give him my love. He can have my fires.



This life appeals to the poet in me.

Maybe I made it this way unconsciously.

Did I make sure, after many years,

There’s nothing left of the greatest relationship, but tears?

And this city by the sea, with just enough street lights to obscure the stars,

A history, a museum, a few cafés and bars?

Civilization means a certain lack of people, and if you’re lucky, not too many cars.

I found a sea town somewhat isolated, where traffic is thin,

Because who wants that highway insanity or the bustling neighborhood din

Thronged with trash, people over-dressed, under-dressed, chatty, too fat, or too thin?

A poet needs beaten-down people, otherwise they’ll be in his face.

Don’t shout good news. Slink by. Give me writing space.

It’s nice to live walking distance to the commuter train.

I invent a poem as I amble with a coffee towards the station.

Once in a while, I’ll wait in the freezing rain,

But a new poem keeps going in my head as I step into the warm car.

That’s it. I take the train to work. It’s not far.






Image result for the islamic muse in painting

If she knows you are trying to manipulate her

To restrict her freedom,

She won’t take this lightly.

A self help video

Told me a great secret to know:

Add the phrase, “you are free to choose”

To everything you say.

Otherwise she’ll go.

Freedom will be defended to the death.

The one you love, even to lose love, will go away.

But you don’t need to convince me

Of this. I see it all for what it is.

Think outside the box, they say. Accumulate

Capital. Don’t work for someone else.

Be entrepreneurial. Don’t wait

For others to tell you what to do.

Build a skyscraper. Don’t feed on filth.

Don’t hide and breed like a rat.

Cooperation is key; only the best

Build the quiet dreams of the democratic West.

Yes! Freedom! But—I only listen to my Muse.

She’s calm. She doesn’t hate Jews,

Who cleverly build wealth—good for them.

They’ve been hated, they want freedom—good for them.

They don’t want the woman in a shawl.

Will Islam succumb to freedom. Will the veil, too, fall?

My Muse is not desperate. She smiles

And gets along with everyone: the slaves,

Those who don’t want to be slaves. She sees

Every motive in my mind, the lazy

Desires, or those slightly crazy.

Nothing escapes her. Is she free?

No one but my Muse is free.

She hurts me and cures me,

But I want to be cured.

She says whatever she wants to me,

And I, enraptured, listen.

She doesn’t pretend I am free.

I know I’m not. My slavery

Is love. And she knows that she

Will be loved, even if I’m on the bottom,

Her face looming, spitting at me from above

In the most reckless manner,

Crying, wailing, helpless, telling me,

Call this poem—The Slavery of Love.

I do.  With certainty, or doubt.

This is my pleasure. My only pleasure.

Until my lover who hates me finds out.





Image result for old song books in antique shop

Life is new. Life is new.

You have no idea how much this is true.

Do you know how much is forgotten and old?

Which laughed and burned, but today is cold?

You don’t believe how old the old is, do you?

It’s unbelievable how much is old; a few

Minutes ago is dead, and that’s not life. Life is new. 

The world, old and forgotten, is vast.

You sit on it, new—compared to the past.

Have you examined the shop which sells old things?

Beauties now forgotten? And unknown kings?

Dust and darkness fell upon the bold,

The world’s fame to ignorance was sold.

The songs—then—would be popular—now.

They are. Look. They will tell you how

Old things become new, then old, then new.

Some—who are dead—look exactly like you.

The night and the night’s bells don’t remember each other.

Nothing does. Don’t surrender.

And that moment in which she—

The one you loved! What did she do? The past is sketchy.

The past is troublesome. The past won’t do.

Your odd dreams are dead. Life is new.

The cover of an old book on Yeats. The dry river bank still thrills.

Dreaming closets. A painting takes your eyes into squiggly hills.

Here. Bring this picture into the light.

The color one. Look. Here you are in black and white.

Tears! Nostalgia! The blank and writhing world still loves you.

The world, seen, has nothing else to do,

So woven clouds move to this cloudy street where you

Duck out of the shop, in reverie. Life is new.




Related image

Every morning I am bombarded by riches.

The darkness told me not to get up,

But with focus, super-human, I picked out, and put on, my pants.

A poem is a minor thought,

My ordinary movement, a dance.

The sunlight in a puddle is Renaissance art,

The air in the train is warm, made slightly warmer by a fart.

Who farted? A question for the ages.

Who is guilty? Give them higher wages.

The most beautiful has some creepy and ugly, too.

This morning is exactly beautiful. And exactly true.

The exact is reality. Focus on that,

Not what someone says about the weather.  Don’t. Shut up. Take your hat.

The exact is what you always do.

So you are beautiful in this morning, and true.

But the exact enslaves you, too.

Love is exact. Just you.

Poetry is unfortunately exact. Isn’t that true?





When Mr. West wakes,

He checks his clock

To see how long the night has dreamt.

He checks his clock to see how long

His life into a dream was bent.

Did his dream invent a song?

Mr. West checks his clock.

How long did his dream keep his life from harm?

His dreams swim in dreams.

His life is a preface to a dangerous alarm.

He checks his clock to see if the clock dreamed.

It did not. But still he’s alarmed

To think his dream perhaps by his life was harmed.

He checks his clock. He dreamed

Longer than that, it seemed.


Image result for the bright dew in renaissance painting

Poems are never written. They ooze, they drop,

Like tears, from saddest members of tribes or nations.

Poems are not made by those on top;

Only by those in exile, looking for revenge.

Poems are never written by the witty,

Only by those reclusive, broken, or sad.

Don’t trust the lightning poems of the verbose

Dashed off by seducers in the city,

Voluble, punning, ironic, glad.

Equality is impossible, the gulf

Between death and easy songs too large.

Poetry is the dew that never vanishes,

Gleaming in sorrow beneath the stars;

Poetry is not a prize for the wealthy,

But the sorrowful glory that is ours.



Image result for percy shelley in cavern in painting

Who could have wed

Those images of fragile life to this poet, now dead?

The slender poet, who died at sea,

Who called you a midnight cloud?

Who, despairing of himself, courted natural scenery,

Sun, cloud, moon, mountain, sea?

Cavern, with stream in it, dark and loud?

All readers found

This poet’s death more than profound.

It almost makes me want to die,

Before I’ve crossed my last “t,”

And dotted my final eye.

Is love mutability, too?

Is all porn ephemera?

Is it all acting for the camera?

Or is this couple, panting and kissing, like you and I,

In love for all eternity,

Infinite and true?



Image result for linda ashok

Linda Ashok believes poetry is a way forward.

Linda Ashok is a poet from India with a deep and abiding interest in poetry being heard and felt around the world. English, fortunately for English speakers, is a window into Indian poetry (and India) which any lover of poetry (and humankind) would be wise to use.  She has been kind enough to send Poetry Mail our way, of which she is founder and president, and this number is organized around “read  7 Indian poets a month” (84 Indian poets, through January 2019).

We could not resist.

Curiosity will never be satisfied, but Criticism, its enemy, can produce, selfishly, moments of satiety and rest, as the Critic deludes himself into thinking perhaps poetry, in pieces, and as a whole, can be grasped and explained and understood in a somewhat satisfactory manner.

What follows is a brief Criticism of the February 2018 Poets—the First Seven, as chosen by Linda Ashok, and now altered, every so slightly, forever, by Scarriet

1. Aryanil Mukherjee
HarperCollins Indian Poetry in English (2011), Indian poetry issue of TLR, engineer, lives in Cincinnati.

A scientist, Mukherjee, writes scientific poems—what is a scientific poem?—alas, there is no such thing.

Mukherjee writes poems like a scientist—or, more accurately, writes poems for scientists who might think this is the way a scientist should, or would, write a poem.

Can poetry be brainy?

It can be. But poetry tends to rebuff smart. The smart will not be placated, however. If a poet is smart, why should they let mere poetry tell them what to do? They are much too smart for poetry. The whole modernist tendency, which impacts so many, is to eschew grammar and use simple juxtaposition of words to generate interest. This wields tremendous power—too much power, which is the problem, which is why there is so much tedious and obscure poetry by otherwise extremely smart people, and why this type of poetry is always best in small bites. We will quote a single stanza of a longer poem by Mukherjee. The phrase “blue liberty” is a poem in itself.  Note the lack of punctuation marks. It is all about putting “liberty” next to “blue.”

how much of yourself do you reflect in this wood
how many mirrors have you seen
the apple under sky was expected to be blue
wasn’t it?
is blue liberty? what does the atom say?

We don’t know what the atom says, but we will think about it for a very long time.

2. N Ravi Shanker
Lives in Palakkad, Kerala. His book, Architecture of Flesh, was published in 2015 by Poetrywala.

We love his strange poem, “Bullet Train,” which opens, “The Shinkensan Model accelerates to 217 miles per hour, cutting journey time to 3 hours from Ahmedabad to Mumbai,” and ends in the following haunting manner:

This train now will pass through
Under skin arteries and veins and nerves
Tunneling through bone marrow and muscles
Till it comes to rest on a magnificent spine bridge,
perched like a toy train in a full moon night
till the slightest breeze causes the compartments
to topple into a depth less soul, one by one.

3. Kazim Ali
MFA from NYU, born in UK to Muslim parents in 1971.

We quote the following short poem, “Autobiography,” in full—lack of grammar (sense) is the poet’s artful use of suggestion—the lack of direct meaning and grammar (including punctuation) is the poetry.  Indian poets writing in English have been swept up by Anglo-American Modernism as much as anyone else.  Poetry which tells nothing, and only suggests what it means, strives to satisfy the most important criterion of the New Criticism—poetry is that which cannot be paraphrased. Ali’s poem, “Autobiography,” more than meets this critical standard.

we didn’t really speak
my summer wants to answer
the architecture doesn’t matter
this is not my real life
when I am here I want to know
why do I believe what I was taught
a storm is on the way
close all the windows
begin at the earliest hour
is there a self
It is what Ali’s poem doesn’t say which makes the poem powerful.  How is it possible to speak about a poem which doesn’t say anything?  Is “Autobiography” the kind of poem which ends all Criticism, making the critic astonished, and mute?  Modernism was ushered in with Imagism, and the reticence of the image played a great role in moving on from the oratory of the 19th century. However, (up speaks the Critic) in this poem we notice that there’s very little imagery, but in fact a great deal of activity in terms of stage direction/speech/action: “speak,” “answer,” “believe,” “storm on the way,” “close all the windows,” and “begin.”  The Indian poets are not resigned. They don’t rest.  And yet, a modernist minimalism is still at work.

4. Binu Karunakaran
Online journalist from Kochi, India

To quote Karunakaran’s poem “The Railway Platform Weight and Fortune Telling Machine” reveals how much he fits into what we have been saying about the previous poets.  There is a marked fascination with everything artificial, presented as both comforting and strange—as if modernity were destined to be friend and enemy.  Is this kind of poetry sensible? Or schizophrenic?  I assume the latter, since no one really wants to read “sensible” poetry, do they?  Of course a smart person is usually sensible, and the Indian poets all seem particularly brainy. Is technology a horror, a toy, or a comfort?  We aren’t really sure.

looks like a casino sun
flowering in the night, full
of calibrated science, flashing
coloured lights and a Newton’s
disc that refuses to stop
spinning until the last pollen
of weight left by that moth
of a man before me is blown
away by the wind from the train
that passes. After a throated
clang it spat out a cut cookie-
coloured card on which is
written your lucky number
and a hooking line about fate
in proportion to your weight
in the world.

5. Nandini Dhar
Teaches at Florida International University and also lives in Kolkata.

“Map Pointing At Dawn,” by its very title, throws us immediately into the modern Indian theme: science bumping up against nature—it obviously consumes the modern, educated poets.  Here’s the first 8 lines.

When we tear the petals of polash with the edges of our fingernails,
we are claw-marking our ways into a history of rust, from which

the little girls are to be kept buttoned up. A night-storm is carving
the polash-petals; manipulating the effulgence of a bruised sun

to fashion its crimson. Ghost Uncle is a calligrapher who cannot hold
a pen between his fingers. This is just a sentence in this history of rust

we are trying to creep in. This history of crimson petals illustrated
with upturned nails, secret rooms at the back of a police station:  interrogation.

Dhar’s style is matter-of-fact; she does not choose to jettison grammar and punctuation, but the fragmentary syntax, the fragmentary meaning, is the same.  Social commentary replete with horror is indirectly stated; good poetry is indirect.

6. Sumana Roy
Lives in Siliguri, India and has published in Granta and Prairie Schooner.

Roy’s poem, “Root Vegetables” gathers together a theme and puts it on the table for you—all these poems so far have been tangible, material—not flighty, or airy; the Indian poets are smart, observant, grounded and serious; and this poem is no exception, though it is less fragmentary, and can be paraphrased.

Root vegetables are less beautiful and more profound than plants which grow above ground—“just so, that taste, the righteousness, of vegetables/that grow below the earth, hidden from light.”

Roy gives us a clever but blatant contrast with light: “The dew on green each morning is politically correct, being equalist, and only a gesture. For darkness drinks less water than light.”

The rather grandiose “pathetic fallacy” argument of the poem ends appropriately enough: “When, at last, they are forced out of the ground…they discover fire and utilitarianism,/And knowing both, realise that life is as ordinary as food.”

The Indian poets bend over backwards to appear rational, sane, and grounded in common sense.  The ‘standing about’ prose style of modernism adds to this grounded sensibility, such that it almost seems modernism was invented for what the modern Indian poets are trying to say. This is sometimes a good thing. It is not always a good thing. The facile is not always good for poetry.

7. Mihir Vatsa
Is from Hazaribagh, India. Winner of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize.

“My Mother Visits A Beauty Parlor” is another poem which combines the natural (mother) with the artificial (beauty parlor), the overwhelming theme of the new Indian poets.

The story of the poem—Vatsa’s poetry is more discursively intimate than most, which is good, since poetry, after all, is speech—does not end well.  The poet wants to go to a restaurant, but his mother insists on the beauty parlor, where the poet waits outside, “counting scooters.” The panorama of businesses catering to women’s vanity depresses him, and when his mother emerges from the parlor “with shorter hair and sharper eyebrows” he’s not pleased, and she does not speak to him “for the next two days.”  The poet, while waiting for his mother, reflects: “I remember the many TV commercials with smiling women speaking about freedom and other liberating nouns.”  This is a depressing description of freedom, a freedom cancelled by the most material limitation one could imagine—freedom is a noun.  The noun joke is clever, but terribly depressing, somehow.  Trapped in the thing-ism of a noun. This seems to sum up the modern Indian sensibility—stuck in a melancholy, materialistic modernist style, which walls itself up in a perfected type of Imagism (I’m thinking of the English World War One poet, T.E. Hulme) which the Indian poet knows too well, almost too well, so that it slows them down. I would not speak to this particular noun for two days, either.

—The Scarriet Editors



Image result for spanish lady in renaissance painting

Seductive simple phrases:  Are you free?

You learn the direct and the polite, which is how you’ve always dreamed the seductive is.

The rest is chatter. Or filling out forms.

Where do you live?

A new language seduces you.

With her pronouns.

She approaches you mysteriously.

In that dress. By the mango grove.

People really speak that language. They sing that language in songs.

Why is it all your lovers have been bilingual?

The second language is the mother of romance and song.

Why didn’t you see it before?

She loved the new language, not you.

We are the language. Not ourselves.

Learning a new language is blunt and polite and mysterious all at once.

The promise of a kiss is only the promise of a newer, simpler language.

Simplicity is the seduction. What we call fate sometimes.

Life is simple after all. The genius of ease is all.

That is that. Speech. Translation. Love. That is that.

You are that and new in this new language.

That. That is new.

But noche is something you knew.

Try pushing your tongue forward a little sooner.

Seduction is limited to a few simple phrases;

After that, you are completely on your own,

And it will become very uncomfortable.

Enjoy it while you can. It really is the same old thing.

That is new. This is not.

Are you busy? Will you walk the streets of dark poetry with me?

Lesson number two. Are these your hands?

Lesson number three. How old are you? Can you give me money?  Can you give me a home?

Lesson number fourteen. Here is the world. Here is heaven. They said we can do it.

Are you hungry?

No, my love. I am very, very tired.






If a critic came from outer space,

With criticisms of the human race,

Criticisms listing vanity or helplessness or sin,

Would be attentively heard—but criticism from within,

Would not be heard—the human race would not be free

To listen—they would nail the critic to a tree.

With rage against the critic spent,

The rage itself would not relent,

But live in the symbol of the tree:

“Do not dare to criticize me.

My only king is gravity.”

Gravity has no voice. Gravity has no face.

Newton’s gravity, invisible, odd,

Suffocates the scientist who dares believe in outer space,

Who dares believe in God.




Image result for toothache in renaissance painting

Only a dentist can fix your teeth.

Only a professional instrument

Can find the disease lurking beneath.

Only a bank knows the worth of your home.

Ask the movie star where your girlfriend went.

Only a famous poet can write a famous poem.

Beethoven is too sentimental.

The mass shooter is not.

LSD is good for mind control,

As Ovid and wine worked for Rome.

The best story is absent of moral and plot.

Only a famous poet can write a famous poem.



Image result for madman is renaissance painting

Are you saying I cannot say what I see?

What I’m seeing happened a long time before I began writing poetry.

I’m making this poem as obscure as I can;

I don’t want you to think this poem is the same as the man

Who wants you to see what the poet is telling you to see—

After all, if I tell you what I see,

You’ll confuse the telling with the poetry.

You might say you cannot see what I see.

There is none as beautiful as she,

And from all distances and angles,

But what do I praise, if I assume visibility?

You are right to condemn this poem,

For, of course, you cannot see

Her, and further, she happened a long time ago,

When I first dreamed how poetry

Would depict her in her individual actions—

When I first thought of poets, and their lives, and their factions.



Image result for abstract painting sunset

Here is the future,

For those who don’t like the past.

Days and nights which go too slow,

Days and nights which go too fast.

The sun climbed the sky deliberately,

And the direction and speed

Of the universe was a mystery;

But it was you, and your only need.

Life was nothing but, “how fast?”

So here it is, the future!

For those who don’t like the past.

And you, who loved the past?

Even its agony and fear?

Who love and cling to the past?

The future, too, is here.



Image result for abstract painting husband and wife

My wife offends.

The police and courts cannot help;

Her offense is too small.

But love is spied by all.

A drop of rain which falls on my head

Feeds the industry of bad weather.

The models in their rain gear

Are beautiful and pleased.

At first, my wife teased

Me about the arrival of rain,

And when I lost my umbrella, she teased me again.

The leaking ceiling will drive us mad,

But the courts do not consider this bad.

Who said her love was innocent?

She was happy, but known to complain;

Offensive humor, sadness, rhetoric, argument, and pain,

The symbol which clouds over reason,

The rain that drips down the face of the old,

Above the muddy pit. Shakespeare had dreams

Of this. The weak can breed sympathy;

Weakness can breed resentment, too. The drip, drip, drip

Of doubt does not kill. My life doesn’t break. It bends.

I need to tell someone. My wife offends.

Her insult was too small

To hurt love. But love is surrounded by all.




Image result for abstract painting black heart

Do you want love?

You already have love,

It’s yours—you cannot give it back.

Love is always yours. Love is a lack.

When you dare to hold another,

And dare to tell them you’ll be true,

That’s when love flies away;

That’s when love looks strangely at you.

“Who is this, with skin and hair,

With eyes and flaws? Who lives here?”

Desire is all you are.

You are a window with a morning star.

You are a hand unlocking a door

Patiently for centuries.

Be patient some more.



Image result for madman is renaissance painting

I want your love, or I will go mad;

First, missing your love; second, mad;

That’s doubly sad! Which is worse?

Love is precious, madness a terrible curse;

And you will never love me if I’m mad.

Yet this is why I’m mad,

Because you won’t love me; it’s sad

That love always turns into madness,

But love perhaps is mad from the start?

No. Love lives in the gentle heart,

And desires to kiss and bless

The sweet and dear beloved.

When I was first, by you, sweetly moved

To love, you sweetly changed me.

The madness is this. You cannot kiss a tree.

You cannot kiss a dog or cat.

I’m a man. I cannot love like that.

I need your lips, similar to mine.

I need love, kisses, a sprinkling of wine.

Without your love, I will go mad,

Kissing anything. Pathetic. Crazy. Sad.

Rejected only once, everything is bad.


No one is as smart, or as beautiful, as you think.

Smile at peace with yourself, with this knowledge.

After getting a degree, you stay, and end up working at the college;

What makes these things is safer than dancing with these things on the brink.

A brush with fame at the commencement ceremony,

A nice feeling stayed with you all summer,

Surprised at how good you felt from the second drink,

The nice things he confided made him seem like a fool,

But you let a tipsy compliment flatter,

Intrigued that he would soon be teaching at the school;

His foreign policy creds garish and suspect,

A family friend once owned a condo in Trump Tower,

Some talk of Syria. His handshake was nice when he had to go.

He claimed to know about Putin. On his phone was a joke about Brigitte Bardot.





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There are two kinds of errors:

Those we make in hate.

And those we make in love.

Every mistake looks different from afar.

Some fail, like an unnoticed star,

Pining alone up there in the black,

A faint blip of light which wants its girlfriend back.

Someone else uttered something cruel,

Forever a fool,

Thinking it was a joke.

A joke! A joke! God help me, it was only a joke!

That mistake looks like a distant swirl of gray smoke.

A life can be destroyed by a single piece of cake.

How lavish, how sweet, how delicious life sometimes is, how fake!

The jokes and the lies everyone is giving

Are too numerous to count. This is how we are living.

Mine was a mistake in love.

I was thinking about how much I loved you.

You remember? My action which seemed like hate?

It wasn’t hate at all.

Hate is the error itself.

Love is what explains the mistake of its making,

Which is how we slip through the wall.

When you walk to my mistake from the valley,

Going north along the river,

It still stands. The monument I carved

From the woods for you,

When the whole valley was ours,

And trees hoisted their branches in so many different directions!

In the valley, what I did looks like hate, but when you go by

In a plane, it looks like love from the sky.




Image result for apollo and love's eye

We fall in love so frequently,

We begin to think falling

In love is a random calling,

As common as looking at a face

In the market, a train, or anyplace.

I only admit secretly to my eye

How easy love is. Women say goodbye

To a roving eye. The insult is

Love’s a look. Unfortunately it is.

Women are touched by looks and story.

They love a little more sensibly,

But loving for them is easy, too.

To love is easy. All that mattered was being loved by you.



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As one who loves science and prose meaning,

I defend poetry in this way:

A poem doesn’t have anything to say

Except that it seems profound

Merely on account of its sound.

Poetry experimented long ago

With utterance as a way to know,

As sound which helps us know where to go,

As sound which is beautiful, and can see,

With sound, you hiding in silence,

Alone, unloved, and without science.

A poet is a piece of curiosity

Who asks, did God make a sound? Did you love me?




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During a warm evening,

The grass visible, somewhere behind tall buildings, the sun,

In the privacy of a park bench in a small park,

I sit in languid thought; I think sweetly upon

You, and everything associated with you,

Musing sweetly upon those things, too.

They are sweet, and all my poem brings

Is sweet because of you; you make sweet these things.

There are times when I don’t know what to write—

I prefer to sleep in the middle of the night,

But if you wake me, I snap on the light,

And take up my trembling pen

And write to you, as if our love were new, again.

I prefer to drowse in the middle of the day,

But if you come into my thoughts,

I say hello to you, as if you hadn’t gone away,

As if you were smiling there in all your beauty,

Listening to exactly what I had to say.

I prefer, in winter, the crystalline sleep,

When the frozen, and the freezing, find it difficult to weep,

But if, by the fire, in anguish, you cry

Dimly in my thoughts, in my thoughts I comply,

And by candlelight write a rhyme and then why.

But during warm evenings,

When I sit in the park,

Where we used to sit until it got dark,

Poems are easy; you arrange the things

As if you were writing the things for me,

In love and for love. The poem sings,

And sings with alacrity.

A rising moon brings poems and love.

There it is. Do you see it, love?



I can no longer praise you.

The whispering crowd is the enemy.

Love is only love in secrecy.

I died when I found out what they knew.

Damn my passivity, and when ambitious men

Make my passivity seem self-satisfied again.

You are wanted when men want you—

Men know I love you, so they love you, too.

Finding love, gangs repeat it,

And once known, fame

Kills the secret,

Removes love from love,

And stamps it with a name.

Why marriage? When I took your hand

Love knew love has no secret plan.

The law to love is a law to ban.

And I can’t prevent it. No one can.

From love’s dream, one of us, in hate, woke.

A thought, once spoken, cannot speak again.

The moment I spoke

You gave your life to other men.





Image result for naked under a mink coat marilyn monroe

I wish, like a coat, I could wear

The impressions my letter created,

When you read my love’s apology, alone,

And you ran to me, in grateful tears.

But when we express what we feel,

It plays along the nerves, and tickles along the love invisible—

The faintest light, which ends its dying flight in evening mist, is more visible,

And the same with my poetry.

You grew into a collection—resented, and lugged home

By students, lost in documents, who ridiculed,

“Here is the best knowledge kept in parchment for the young.”

Coldly my quiet poet’s name became known,

But this fall day, with new chills in the air,

The tickling chill tickling the hairs up and down my arm,

And you somewhere—would you appear?

The weather, the cafés, the people, the boulevard, about the same,

Or never, this was already—was it long ago?

And you, my feelings, and you, and you,

The jacket, or a coat? something you and the world might see,

Is it here, and what else to you might be pertaining to me?



Image result for flowers in renaissance painting

We keep on wanting this.

Even reality gives up after a while,

Unable to conform to our thoughts.

Reality, random thief, enters the home,

Never welcome in the poem.

Facts have no idea what they’re looking for.

And it’s hard to exit through another person’s door.

The art of conversation is dead.  We complain.

We say nothing.  We talk around the stain.

Nature gives up on us, too.

Nature gives sweet flowers to me to give to you,

But winter kills fast.

We want the poem of personality to last,

But it never will—

In every case, to keep talking means you’re an imbecile.

The song must have an end; they all end.

Did you notice this?

A pop song ends, perhaps slowly in a fade,

But it ends. No matter how wild or elaborate its parade.

A symphony ends. The timpani ends. The composer wants to get paid.

What do we want, then?  This or this?

Millions of rain drops quit, as well.

Heaven is great, but not if it lazes into hell.

The bottom grins from the bottom of the cup.

In my beautiful dream the most beautiful face

Was mine to endlessly kiss—

But my dream gave up.

There is only one thing we really want.

To keep on wanting this.





Image result for venus and mars in renaissance painting

We are what we are not.

The pleasure of kissing

Pursued. When?  How?  Why?  We forgot.

The warm chill you were feeling

When she wanted your face,

When hers hovered over yours,

Hidden, the time, the reason, the place;

You drank her in, it was drinking,

When you licked her on all fours;

Neither time, nor space,

Explains what you were,

When, in light, you were kissing her.

You were both what you were not

Because you kissed each other a lot.

The genius, to be a genius, must forget

Anxieties and troubles. He is loving you yet.

All pain he walls off

When he forgets to worry and forgets to cough,

When he forgets to see

You, he sees you in eternity.

You did hurt him. He did fall.

In the pleasure of the present’s idle wing

He forgets all

By remembering.







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I perfected myself when I was alone;

All that makes me worthy was secretly made.

Common things grow in the sun,

But winter hides genius in the deep, cold shade.

You didn’t see what I was—in my behavior,

My speech, or my designs.

All you saw was false.  Obviously,

You can’t ignore the obvious—

But you never saw what was going on in the mines.

You added things up, but couldn’t understand

How my pleasure was the largest sum.

You didn’t see how often I denied myself

Before I whispered to you, “of course, my darling, I will come.”








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The problem is this: the smarter a person is, the more aggressive and creepy they are.

You can’t have smart without creepy.

The smart, the talented, the perceptive—these are highly prized and necessary for the ingenuity and force which builds a comfortable society. But unfortunately, the smart, the talented, and the perceptive, are not, as a rule, nice.

The tales and sentiments of woodsmen, who reject society, and monk-like, tread the wilderness, appeal because this is one solution to the dilemma—raw nature cancels out the unnatural.

But in the cities, in the electronic boulevards of society, the unnatural breeds and flourishes, for the aggressive qualities of the talented have no outlet and exist in exaggerated ways, separated from the virtuous qualities which serve that very society. Forceful energy, on one hand, and rapidly efficient intelligence, on the other, which combine to burn with a lively, successful, flame, also go, when the work is done, in two different directions: As virtuous intelligence helps, and earns praise, its jealous brother, the necessary energy of pitiful desire, pursues avenues garishly lit.

War and love share qualities—and this sharing overthrows human happiness.

Efficiency and intelligence are synonymous. The efficient is the same as the smart within temporal/spatial existence. The efficiency of time-saving is the soul of every invention.

Love, by its very nature, doesn’t fight—war must fight for love, condemning both to exist, always.

Love and war, as a twin necessity, finds, as this unfortunate twin necessity, an unfortunate life in the hearts and minds of the intelligent—the efficient—as the same activity: love and war at the same time.

Love and war are practiced simultaneously by the intelligent, because of its efficiency, which is all the smart really know, and this is the reason why creepy and rapey are common in refined and respectable society, in the otherwise successful institutions and practices of civilized life. Women who are assaulted by the creepy are being assaulted by war and love at once, in the name of efficiency. Men are trained to fight, and they fight women in the name of love, just as they love men in the name of war (deceive men, by “loving” them, since deception is the most efficient weapon in war).

This is the number one problem facing society—how can we have intelligence without the creepy?

The intelligent, we would think, would be “intelligent enough” or “smart enough” to know not to be creepy.

But this is to confuse intelligence with refinement—they are not the same at all, and we confuse them at our peril. As explained above, the smart is efficient only, not virtuous or decorous.

So the sad truth is, that the man who, without ceremony, hits on women, is displaying intelligence, and the successful man will tend to be creepy in the same ratio as his intelligence.

But can’t refinement and virtue live with intelligence?


They are opposite qualities.

The refined, by deferring pleasure through art and manners, is highly inefficient.

Virtue, by deferring pleasure through self-sacrifice, is also highly inefficient.

This is why the religious, who put their faith in repetitious iconography and ceremony, are viewed as stupid by highly efficient and crafty intelligence—crafty intelligence which does whatever it takes to win.

This is why women, who traditionally guard against the immediate gratification of pleasure by aggressive males, for the sake of pleasure-deferring childbirth, and serve a higher purpose divorced from the smart, the intelligent, the efficient, and the crafty, are mocked by society as stupid.

We mentioned at the beginning of this essay the man of nature, living ingeniously outside of society, as one solution to the problem.  The “off-the-grid” sensibility is inefficient—like those who are religious, or fashionable, or poetic—and in the religious, the fashionable, and the poetic, we find the ignorant, who are holy and sweet and kind and nice.

The woman, who is condemned to be virtuous—as a counter to aggressive male intelligence practicing the efficiency of love and war at once—is protected by clumsy and artificial societal constraints—clumsy, because society further punishes the woman when it keeps her from the dangerous territories where intelligence/efficiency aggressively dwells; society condemning her further to her ignorant female existence, and also clumsy because in a “free society” women are victims of love/war creepiness and aggression.

All that a woman is—protected as the virtuous receptacle of pleasure-deferring childbirth; or somewhat protected, by law and rules of decorum; or not protected at all as a complete person free to integrate herself into love/war intelligence and cunning—makes no difference to society. Society does not give a fig for nature or woman qua woman, and never will; society will always be a walled fortress against nature, the very efficiency which nature cannot, and does not, understand.

Nature, out of necessity, forms woman as the central child-providing device.

Society, in a moment of ingenuity, will bring men together as lovers, who adopt, taking up into their care, in double fatherhood, unwanted babies—or any combination society efficiently desires.

Society is too clever and ingenious for the natural to withstand.

Society laughs at the cow-like stupidity of all that is natural, and this includes the “living-to-serve-mankind-as-a-mother” woman, who, in taking seriously this role, is inevitably religious—and the religious is always mocked by sophisticates and progressives as backwards and naive. Precisely. The virtuous, in society’s eyes, is always ignorant—which is the tragic state of things we are attempting to elucidate in this essay, as forcefully and as simply as we can, by pointing out that the smart is efficient and unkind, and this is always so. Intelligence and creepiness always co-exist.

The religious essentially imitates the time-honored precepts of nature—which is why it is mocked, victimized, and betrayed whenever society reaches a certain level of love-as-war and war-as-love sophistication.

In the same manner, aesthetes—whether in fashion or art—also imitate nature, as they reproduce natural qualities found in colors (flowers), order (perspective), romance (birdsong) and the sublime (mountains, oceans). As with the religious, in the artist we often find virtue and naïveté and all those sensitive qualities which at first may attract us, but which society finally mocks and condemns.

The virtuous poet and the virtuous woman fall in love: she is rich in maternal qualities, ablaze in physical and spiritual loveliness—he is docile and sensitive, with a sweetly unsophisticated freedom in his humble expression and shy desire—both belong to nature; he, in the worship of all that is orderly and beautiful; she, in the obedience to divine child-birth, and in her love for all that contributes to a happy family.

But this relationship cannot survive in society—an outburst of laughter, a single whispered word, destroys it forever.

Destroyed, it lives on in refined and outdated books, but not in the city—where knowledge reigns in a glance, and millions of men and women hurry anxiously to and fro.





You were resisted at every turn, learning

To understand not only you, but everyone is turning,

And the moon still is,

Serene in its mathematics,

And the chemistry of the sun, burning

Hasn’t changed either, but you

Are now losing the ability to renew,

And they didn’t teach you this,

Otherwise, you would have begat

Before you learned to kiss.

But fashion and technology exploded just like that

With everything contrary and different from what it seemed;

The big thing dreaming was just something a little dreamer dreamed.

Love is liking what you are not supposed to like.

Young in the shadows, youth crashed the bike.

Hate is not liking what you wish you could like.

Come on, let’s get out of here. Do you think we can?

I’m still working on this poem. Let’s see your plan.



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The justification of myself is complete.

I believe in myself, and this belief is sweet

Against my tongue, in my thoughts, tomorrow and today,

The whole world conspires to feed me and show me

I am the author, the actor, the audience, and the play.

If I don’t get it, the world—not me—is guilty of delay.

The forest exists, because I am the tree,

And the tree grew, and knew

To grow into a forest, flowering around you.

Can you point to some other tree

To prove that the whole forest is not me?

I am the whole forest; I am not a part

Of anything. Love, love me with every trick used by art,

Faking the real, exposing the fake—my whole heart

Is every single piece of the world, and more,

More faithful than the wife, more beautiful than the whore,

More open than the mind, which opens, closes, decorates, the door.

Here’s my taste, my sight, my judgment. Mozart, listen to me! I will soar

For the sake of you. The poem is the world.  This is what the world is for.


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