Image result for green swamp in painting

Since life is theater, and love is defined as actors expressing love,

I move in cautious secrecy for the sake of my love.

Since my humble love will be mocked as too serious,

And become food for the humorous,

Should my humility ever become known,

I walk in the shadows, humbly, secretly, and alone.

I have seen actors naked on screen and stage,

Marching to love’s music, aching and graphic,

Cleopatra, Romeo, or a shy porn star, dying in a cage,

Or free to walk among us, the healthy, the dying, the sick,

In schools and conferences, the professional setting,

The rich, the poor, lousy poets, having creepy affairs,

The touristy street, the apartment building missing lights,

Climbing, drunk, the seedy last bit of stairs.

Introvert! Don’t obsess on the extrovert’s laughing and forgetting.

I’ve been there; I’ve hurried to fly in the middle of the morning,

Flown all night, arrived in the next incomplete middle of the night, without warning.

Since you put our love in your poetry, I walked away,

So that I could wake up in the morning to a plain day

Dropping into the lake of nature; the tiny, vivid frogs

Calling back and forth a green comfort to me

In a quiet, final reminder of nature, no drama, or poetry,

Just green; green lakes, green streams flowing into green bogs.

All seek comfort: half-sacred, purely profane,

Love in various best sellers and guises, difficult, insane;

The more we write or talk about it, the worse it gets.

The public proclaims news, principles, God, the New York Mets.

I reject every advantage, comparison, thought, weight,

In my frail solitude. Call it loneliness, love, indifference, hate.

I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you, or let you know.

It’s my fault. I know this better than anyone. Please go.

I’m doing a little thinking. I’m thinking how

I can express how much I love you. I may.  But not now.











Image result for paintings raphael

Who seduced you? The lean wolf, who warned you the fat wolf

Would say to you, “Defy instruction, for pleasure is enough?”

Who seduced you? The philosopher? Did you call his bluff:

“Scholars say, read a poem for learning! But learning’s a curse.

The end of life is happiness, but scholars teach the reverse.”

Who seduced you? Was it wine, which poured over you: “Pleasure

Is here; thought stops, delays and toils for measure?

Why dig for a hundred days? A moment holds a treasure?”

Who seduced you? Your own beauty? Which quickly you used,

Cynically, in fake pleasure, to make someone else confused?

Who seduced you? The riot of the hungry world,

Which made you love the dull quiet of the world?

Who seduced you? The director of the actor in the film which made you cry?

The soldier, who never watches films, who said, “today, I die?”

Who seduced you?  Christ, who said, “The sweet, soft lamb

Will save you from the reasoning of a sly and tedious man?

Who seduced you? The sacred, sacred tradition of the sacred, sacred cow?

This poem?—Me?—Or your mother, who said, “eat your meat now?”



Image result for aphrodite in renaissance painting

Give me what I want. There is enough

For me. I want to simply love.

But all of us are puritans. We deny

The one who wants to simply love.

Is there such a pitiful supply

Of lovers? Who need love? Why?

And tell me, why did I

Love the unlettered Alpha,

And make the lettered Omega cry?

Omega loved, and wrote

Poems, weeping over a quickly written love note.

God! Every Alpha epistle was pissy,

In brief emails she rebuked me,

Meanly and selfishly.

Selfish Alpha was the world to me,

Because the world doesn’t give

To the world what the world wants. Wanting is how we live.

Alpha had it all: youth, beauty; she didn’t need

The love which those who want love need.

But that was OK. She gave me what I wanted.

Her body was a passive house I haunted

With my desire. Oh my desire

Had nothing to do but burn.

And her house never caught on fire.

But Alpha, as all eventually do,

Came to puritanism, too.

These old trees have seen it all.

Love in the spring, grief in the fall.

What is it the poets need to say?

What we want we can’t have right away.

Alpha turned proud and strove to write.

Her ink became my darkest night.

Give me what I want. And I will give to you

What Omega the poet wishes for too.







The man is the poet, the woman is the poem.

Men and women do not quite meet, like the earth and the moon.

The man is the telescope and the woman is the moon,

An orb circling, half-dark, and alone.

The woman wants the intangible, the man just wants sex.

The woman wants to run, the man wants his ex.

The man is never what the woman expects.

The man is the poet, the woman is the moon,

Who writes poems, too, to a different moon.

What can you say to the woman, or say to the man,

Which you cannot, but they already can,

In the outdoor restaurant, dusky blossoms for a mile,

In the shades of the earth, arguing for a while?

They cannot hear you, but if they could,

They would live in this poem. Which isn’t very good.





Image result for urban contemporary india in painting

This is the third installment of Scarriet’s crash course in contemporary Indian poetry in English—seven poets per month (Feb ’18 thru Jan ’19)—suggested by Linda Ashok in The Poetry Mail.

Sukrita P. Kumar writes poetry striving to be everything at once: wise, but wise with simple imagery, which nonetheless reveals wisdom in, and behind, that imagery.  What else can a poet do?

For wise imagery, it doesn’t get any better than this:

Flames are messengers
Carrying the known
To the unknown

Life to afterlife

So ends Sukrita Kumar’s “The Chinese Cemetery.”

One must remember that the history of poetry is actually brief—exciting stories of warriors and gods, religious and creation texts, romantic songs, witty satires, haiku-like imagery, or some combination thereof. Most contemporary poetry is a strict, disciplined journey in quasi-religious imagery; Sukrita Kumar is no exception.

The poem quoted above begins this way:

The smile in the photograph
Is no reflection of what lies
In the dark hollow of the tunnels
Behind cement squares in rows,
Each, one-by-one in size
Marked by dates, picture, name
Of a tiny flash
A dot of life in the universe

Now are things really this bad?  Or is this just extremely disciplined writing?  One almost longs for Dante and his Beatrice, Alexander Pope doing circus tricks, or Keats making voluptuous rhymes—after reading this. But this is what the poets are doing today. Patience on a monument.

Because yes, things are really this bad. For some.


Vinita Agrawal’s poem, “The Refugees Are Here,” is an unrelenting tragedy of families dying, forced to trek because of war.

“People and their earth are one,” the poem states at one point.

But everything in the poem contradicts this sentiment.

For instance, “How does then a father explain/to his child’s face showing clear pain/That when a homeland has been snatched/just a home is not enough…”  The child, who eventually perishes, cries out to the father, “I don’t want to go anywhere. You are my home!”

There’s no relief. The poem ends, “the refugees are here/only to keep alive the stories of their land/through chapped, charred lips/that dried up kissing loved ones goodbye.”


Mustansir Dalvi writes satiric poetry.

It can be interesting to observe humor philosophically; humor doesn’t usually live full-blown in poetry, and when it does, the critic scrambles to make sense of it. The critic will notice the genre of humor needs to constantly reference things outside of itself; beauty and sorrow are self-sufficient; sorrow can hide and still move us; humor has to know common things that everyone knows.  Funny poetry is harder to pull off, and when it fails, it fails like bad rhyme; we can see it fall.

We are not sure the two poems by Dalvi, found in the Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry, “why someone needed to kick the infant Kafka in the balls” and “Prayer can change your fate, too (found object)” succeed, or not.  Perhaps the critic missed a reference, or two; it was the critic’s fault we “didn’t get the joke.”  Perhaps the critic is wrong altogether, and humor is not the object at all.  Let’s quote the first poem in its entirety, to make sure we are not mad:

Every poet
Wants to wake
As Gregor Samsa
one morning.

Every poet wants
to drag his belly in the dirt,
to be exalted by coarse burns
forming welts around his navel.

Every poet would
willingly put himself in harm’s way
to be squished into concupiscent curd
by someone who doesn’t even notice.

When we get to the third stanza, and read how “every poet would willingly put himself in harm’s way,” we think we are reading pure satire.  Is poetry being ridiculed?  Kafka?  And then there’s the reference to the famous Wallace Stevens poem. The satirist looks outward, challenging assumptions, and we definitely feel challenged.  Is the poem making fun of us—if we don’t “get the joke” (is there a joke?) are we the one who don’t “even notice?”

Mustansir Dalvi has won, and the reader has lost.  Or has the poet lost?  Or has the poet and the reader won?  Or is it all a mystery?  And no one wins or loses. We are Gregor Samsa, the bug.  And we know nothing. Or a lot.


Arun Sagar was born in 1965. Reading three of his poems published in Coldnoon, International Journal of Travel Writing, we find pleasing poetry of intimate delicacy.

In “Liège,” we find ourselves enclosed by the poem, and admire the way the poet puts us in the poem; sometimes we think this is the best thing writing can do—put us in a pleasant place.  The phrase, “the bus station an anchored ship” is nice. “Each way out is worthy” also gives great joy, as the poet adds to the pleasurable effect of the immersion.  Granted, one might say this poetic ambition aims low; it concedes pleasant life is all—but skill, sensitivity, patience, and wisdom are required when we find a  poem has replaced our life.


Already I remember rain
on the windowpane,
the bus station an anchored ship,
soft disco music.
Already I remain onboard
with early morning baggage smells,
the driver’s quizzical smile.
This is the eternal
problématique: 5 am,
the impossibility of sleep
or tears, streetlights
through glass and rain.
Each way out
is worthy, each way leads
to clarity and mist,
and music.
And you, too,
are present here, the mere
knowledge of it
is enough; you too lean back
in your seat,
stretch your feet.
You look at me as if to speak.

Jennifer Robertson’s poem, “Come Undone,” published in The Missing Slate, is prefaced with a quote from Anais Nin, which is the theme of the poem which follows: “I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women are inside me.”

Madness is win-win in poetry.

The poet may not be mad, but the trope of madness always generates interest.

If the poet is mad, this will likely generate even more interest—unless it completely ruins the poetry.

If the poetry is good, we enjoy the madness whether the poet is writing about madness or is, in fact, mad.  It really doesn’t matter.

The poem isn’t sufficient to prove whether the poet is mad—any sort of hint that madness is in the neighborhood will help; “madness is win-win in poetry” naturally becomes its own prophecy.

And finally, the saving grace is that if we don’t like madness, madness is really not madness at all—in this case, having “many women” inside is healthy, and to be merely “quiet and consistent,” the implied problem.

Jennifer Robertson summons Adrianne Rich (“Diving Into the Wreck”) and Virginia Woolf (who reportedly “put stones in her pocket” when she committed suicide by sea) in her poem, which succeeds beautifully:

No more walls, she says.
No more coats. I’ll have none of that.
None of your hands
shadow-boxing a hermit crab.
No more repetitive shapes
or sharks to
set things right

ocean after ocean after ocean

I’ll speak of things, of names
too difficult to decipher.
And yes, no more changing into a flower,
a sea anemone, a jellyfish.
I’ll remember that all animals
are predatory
at the bottom of the sea.

And then I’ll speak of
hurricanes, mirrors,
and odd-numbered
of a brokenness you call
paltry, blonde.

You will not be able to see me change.
You will not see me drifting into the sea.
There will be nothing aquatic
about this shipwreck. You will not know
the colour blue.
When I put stones in my pocket
You’ll still be looking at a mermaid

and saying,
Look, how close
she is to the ship.



Arvind Krishna Mehrota is a professor, born in 1947.  He edited the Oxford India Anthology of Twelve Modern Indian Poets. One can access two brief poems of his, one published in Poetry in 1976 and the other in The New York Review of Books in 2011. He has done tireless work as a translator.

Enchanting how “Engraving of a Bison on Stone” (from Poetry) begins:

The land rests
Because it cannot be
Tempted or broken
In a chamber.

“Except That It Robs You Of Who You Are” is a wonderful title; the poem, however, berates “speech” in a somewhat predictable manner.

Except that it robs you of who you are,
What can you say about speech?
Inconceivable to live without
And impossible to live with,
Speech diminishes you.
Speak with a wise man, there’ll be
Much to learn; speak with a fool,
All you get is prattle.
Strike a half-empty pot, and it’ll make
A loud sound; strike one that is full,
Says Kabir, and hear the silence.

The “fool” will “prattle.” So maybe I should shut up.


Rochelle Potkar is an amazing find.  She writes with wit and insight.

“Disquiet” is a delight to read, and must be quoted in full:

My father was the quietest man;
his few words made no sense
in the world’s idiom.
Saddled into a marriage
astride a dead horse of tradition
he flogged it too many times
for two children.
He stayed away even when near.
He did not belong to anyone,
unaware of our favorite colors,
our school grades, or
the names of our boyfriends.
He lent money to ruffians at high interest rates
and recovered nothing.
Smoothening his hands over glossy brochures,
he invested in scams of impossible dreams.
He used to count his coins
like I now count my words
I too am falling out of the system.
I too belong to no one.
I fear he is growing inside me…
(Are we always pregnant with our parents?)
I fight to brew soup for my daughter
To know her grades
and look her in the eye
during her babbles.
I know her favorite toys, colors
the names of her friends.
I have hidden the broken mirrors of my growing disengagements.
I am killing the father inside me,
but he keeps rising.
My language is turning alien
in the world’s idiom.
I too have placed faith in scams
Of soul, body, and intellect.
The rule being: everyone is duped at least once.
I search for him in other faces
and turn mine away
when I find even one similar feature.
But can I run away from the one cell that is the whole Self?

The “one cell that is the whole Self” is stunning.  The whole poem is lyrical, yet epic in scope, intense, self-aware, and accessible. Poetry too often scrutinizes obscurely and complacently the eccentric, the trivial.  Not only is the poetry of Rochelle Potkar preferable, it far exceeds expectations, as it sagely thrills.


So ends the April edition. Looking forward to May. Thanks again, to Linda Ashok.


Image result for getting ready for a date in painting

I want to be with you, completely bored.
Bored is the only way to be with someone you love.

Activities exist for those not in love.
When you are not in love, you plan activities like mad,
You think of songs to play, and perfume to put on,
Hoping songs and perfume will make you fall in love.

You think of food and movies to make you fall in love,
You think of taking off your bra to make you fall in love.
You think of marrying to make you fall in love.
You are madly thinking of being in love because you are not in love.
You are terrified of loving someone you do not love
And smile because you think perhaps this terror will make you fall in love.

Because you try everything to fall in love, even terror and despair,
You do not fall in love.

To fall in love, you planned activities, and hated me
Because it was you, not me,
Who planned the activities.

You hated me because I was bored.
You hated me because I was the one
Who was in love
With one who could not fall in love.


Image result for ripe fields in painting

My life is finally safe from sorrow.

All my dreams are ripe,

The smoke pours from my philosophical pipe.

The fields will be less ripe tomorrow.

The roads of mud where the cannons were dragged,

To fire on the enemy from the hill

Are dry paths.

The landscape is still.

My debts. What are debts?

Someone else will pay.

Isn’t that what we always meant by one fine day?

I always had what it takes.

A little soil and sun,

Wheat. The grinder grinds and shakes.

My sons and daughters

Have read enough.

That creative stuff,

Despite what I said, has gone by.

My children are filled by other containers.

I gave. They are giving.

I died in them.

Now I’m living,

A small light fading in pastel skies,

Looking for stimulation and song.

Is it ripe? Is it ripe?

The paintings? The golden fields?

Everything is ripe. And still it is wrong.



Image result for lady of the lake in painting

People think the world is ghostly.

It is not ghostly in the least.

People think there are ghosts.

Physical is the beast.

The wealthiest man longs to be tall.

She twists her neck to parallel park.

You want to play, but you’re too small.

She cannot see in the dark.

Inspiration didn’t make her sing.

There is a physical reason for everything.

The physical is so strong

It writes, sings, and condemns the song.

A dress code is a dream of law.

The handsomest soldier you ever saw

Wore the blue and then the gray

After speeches, and dinner’s delay.

This poem will mock what you heard

Because it’s rhythmically absurd.

There isn’t a ghost

Who will not admit it loves me and air and touch and this poem the most.




Image result for kissing in renaissance painting


Still softer. Your kiss will kill me.

Don’t send me out into the murdering cold.

Still softer. Don’t let this love grow old,

Which now breathes too fast,

Which pursues pleasure too quickly,

So neither the walls, nor the air between, will last.

Wanting makes wanting end.

Your love burns me. Be my friend.

Still softer. Be deliberate with every kiss,

So every pause saddens what every pause will miss.

Thought turns back and repeats a thought from the past

When love is desperate. Love can have no now—

Unless we know how only a soft kiss knows how

One long kiss will never know

There are others. You’ve killed me. I must go.


Prevent my erotica. I want to think, instead,

Of the sweetest melody, sweetly falling dead.

The uncompromising shadow surrounds your head

And frames, as in high art, your cheekbones,

Leaving half the forehead and your eyes

Beautiful and sad; too sad for truth, and all truth implies,

The rest of you in darkness. You are not what this owns,

You are the faint scents and musical tones

Falling by your feet, unseen—half-sights, half-sounds, half-sighs;

From the whole mystery, a partial mystery you took;

Your eyes open, too sad for truth; and closed, too sad for lies.

Prevent my erotica. I look

For an hour into your face. Never read another book.

What if another sun burns the low, burning, skies,

A sundown wrapped in pink and fiery sighs,

And this alternate, hungry for grey?

Your sunny eyes.


This disgusts me:

Come trembling into my fuck.

I like to say the word, “fuck,”

Because fucking is what I like to do.

After I am tired from fucking her,

Can I say the word “fuck” to you?

I would rather this were out of the way.

To heaven. And let Leda in the arms of Zeus play,

As a swan; the myth of a glad white swan

Was the grey one trying the bright one on.

I will be cogent and fraught. I will sing of God.

I sinned, spoke, repented, felt better. Is that odd?

Is a carnation a religion?  Is a rose religion only a clod?


Moan against me, so that your smile

Will be more memorable after a while.

Or take your smile and put it away

While heavy erotica calls to us all day

In the groan of love and touch.

After I love you, in a way even love will say is too much,

Your smile can come out, please! after a brief time—

Love brief, compared to the sun,

Making its fiery, lengthy run—

The sun that feeds forever on sunny streams

Will place itself on furniture and climb.


I remember the direction of that religion

Telling me I was more,

Because I was humble and small—

To love, to fit in, is what I was for.

I remember that Greek religion.

I remember almost all.

I don’t remember the wishes,

The desires, the talk, so much.

I remember your body

And the sweet touch.

I went into the temple

And never came out.

All the scents of heaven?

When the heaven came about?

When the heaven, yellow,

Came next to me, with its eyes?

You dissolved, didn’t you?

Into the sweetest sighs.












Image result for streams in the sun

To those who take my poetry seriously,

Don’t.  Unity is the soul

Of poetry. Unity is just out of reach

Of life’s incomplete, enduring reality

Of accidents, memories and slurred speech—

A poem is a part, that for a moment,

Is greater than the whole,

And because it is a moment, dies In a beautiful way.

A life just cannot be neat and tidy that way.

Should I think, for a moment, that my poem is life,

And you must take it seriously, I fail

At everything—the two opposites, poetry and life,

Must live apart—the head never knows its tail,

The body never knows the soul;

You taking this seriously is a part

Which never knows the whole.

Poetry and life will always be at odds,

Life, the clamor of friends and foes

Who change places; life comes and goes.

Poetry is consistent behavior by lovely gods.

They splash, their limbs always near,

Bathing in summer streams moving not,

The very movement of the air—the silent parts of the intricate plot—

Is never moving.

Choose. A love poem. Or me. Who tried to be loving.              


Image result for winfield scott in mexico General Santa Ana faces off with General Winfield Scott—Diego Rivera

“I really entertain greater hopes, that America will not finally disappoint the expectations of her Friends” —Washington to Lafayette, letter, 1789


Of course when we discuss politics,

There’s no other way to do it

Than to seek compromise.

To point the finger of blame In a simplistic, across the board, manner,

Or in a scientific, true-or-false, manner, Is pointless.

Meeting in the middle IS politics.


When you hear people scream, “facts,”

It’s already hopeless.

Those howling for “facts”

Want politics to be a science.

But it’s not. It’s a matter of the heart.


Socialists think capitalism is evil,

And capitalists think socialism is evil,

In a factual, scientific, manner, on both sides.

The facts of the argument don’t matter;

There are too many of them.

Only the division matters.


Socialism v. Capitalism is a big diversion.

What matters is you love your country,

And don’t trust globalists, who have no country,

Who will take your country and rob your country

And bring thugs as saviors into your country.


It really comes down to this.

Behave as if there is a future heaven.

A future heaven is not a fact.

A future heaven is a lie, but it’s a great lie,

Because it makes people behave honorably and selflessly.


But you always have the people who whisper, “sucker!

There’s no future heaven!

Get pleasure while you can!

Get it now! Don’t be a sucker!”


The world is divided between good, hardworking people

Who are suckers, and smart criminals, who are not suckers,

And know how to make you feel like a sucker.

They know how to promote jealousy, and make you feel

You are missing out on pleasure, and the grass is greener somewhere.

Sometimes these criminals are

Left, and sometimes they are Right.

They wear whatever mask at a certain time which that time requires.


So the socialists say, “Leave the church and have some fun!”

The capitalists say, “Leave your labor and have some fun!”

“Don’t be a sucker!!”


Whoever has convinced themselves

There is a future heaven, is a good soul.

Whoever thinks the future is hell, is a suicidal soul,

And gives into the hateful politics of “Don’t be a sucker!”


Dissembling takes many forms, but it boils down to:

Either, “Don’t work hard. Come write poetry and have sex!”

Or, “Poets are crazy! Make money and have sex!”

And that, in a nutshell, is Left vs. Right, all over the world.

But there’s a third group—they don’t trust the poet or the businessman.

They don’t trust the siren call of the world.

They believe in a future heaven.

They’re not into immediate and momentary pleasure.


Politics is compromise between these three groups.

Rarely do these three groups get along.

It is heaven when they do.


They say when Winfield Scott invaded Mexico, he was kind.

She invaded Iraq. But we didn’t mind.


Image result for frogs in painting

Totally sexy is not love.

This is why your lover isn’t nice.

She has urges. She doesn’t want advice.

She doesn’t need excuses. She needs

Fat frog legs eaten whole in the weeds.

Love is just a word to her. She hates

Waiting. She’s not waiting. She waits

For three, two, one and she’s gone

And you running after her turns her on.

Now adore what she really hates.

Herself. And then she hates you, too.

Totally sexy has undressed and murdered you.

Hatred fed sex with its specialized needs.

Where is beautiful now? Oh somewhere in the weeds.




Image result for bee gees disco fever

We love these songs like a high from an addiction—they are fast, always fast and jittery, and  “adrenaline” is key, but the formula also requires “melancholy”—it is the nature of addictions to be sad because we know addictions doom us to fall further and further from pleasure, as pleasure, in its concentrated form, is supplied.

The tragedy of addiction doomed to finally deprive us of the very pleasure we seek is reified and strengthened in the sad and melancholy component of the addictive song—the pleasurable lift provided by the rush of the song is supplemented by an unspoken and profound irony—when Bruno Mars (and I doubt he thought of this when he wrote the song) sings “I’ve been locked out of heaven for too long” it means he will be happy when he reunites with his lady—but on another level it signifies that addictive hedonism, by its very nature, gradually locks you out of heaven and its true pleasures. You cannot be happy just by listening to these pleasurable songs all the time. You’ll get tired of them and wish for Debussy or Astrud Gilberto instead. Or silence.

The effect is purely physical, and as recording technology perfects itself, older, exciting songs, released 50, 40, 30, 20 years ago, are locked out—they no longer deliver the addictive punch that the new recordings provide. Old songs we love were written for the old studios and the old sounds— they exist in the sound technology of a former day.

A beautiful melody is a beautiful melody, but these exciting songs on our list exude physicality, and melody is moral.

And the lyric, like the melody, is moral, rather than physical.

Like melody, however, a lyric can contribute to the melancholy of the “song of melancholy adrenaline.” The lyric, “Stayin’Alive” is an example of inspirational moral content—it usually speaks of survival, sorrow, confusion, or desperate need.

Some old songs are so rhythmically catchy and many-layered, that as old recordings, they still, miraculously deliver melancholy adrenaline.

The physical rush of these songs is their chief feature—they make you feel you can rise out of yourself, that you are about to lift off the ground, that time itself has been replaced by the song. Without a decent set of stereo headphones I couldn’t compose this list.

The good songs appeal to us so that we don’t want the song to end. A truly great aesthetic experience delivers a great end.

When hits songs used to pour out of little AM transistor radios, now wasn’t that something?

But the monster, if not the actual addiction, has grown.

Here is the list:

1. What Is Love, Haddaway –You can listen to this catchy, layered, masterpiece on endless loop with Chris Kattan, Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell head pumping on YouTube.

2. Sympathy For the Devil, The Rolling Stones —working class, nerdy, English, blues students, whose grandparents lived during Brahms, experienced sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll massively, newly, before AIDS. Why 60s music was so amazing.

3. I Am The Walrus, The Beatles —A whole world began with this 1967 song.

4. Night Fever, Bee Gees —Disco as the fevered dance of death.

5. Mrs. Robinson, Simon & Garfunkel — Still a magical, poignant, guitar-jangling rush 50 years on.

6. Take On Me, a-ha — Who remembers a-ha?  But this hook. The euphoric, aria-like melody is the best part. Not exactly a memorable lyric.

7. Locked Out Of Heaven, Bruno Mars —it rips off the Police but the mad, percussive, guitar-twisted mix is great.

8. Viva La Vida, Coldplay —this is a catchy, forward-driving, elaborately mixed song, with nice lyrics.

9. Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana —Repairs the monotonous 80s drum sound with a melodic bass. When it comes to great songs like this never underestimate a heavy melodic bass carrying everything.

10. Smoke On The Water, Deep Purple —this song is really great, somehow.

11. Light My Fire, The Doors —where did that chord come from, that sultry death.

12. My Sweet Lord, George Harrison —the combination of rock and religious ecstasy should have been more popular, but somehow it wasn’t. True religion veers away from this kind of drug.

13. Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes –it’s rare when songs this rely on vocals and lyrics.

14. Billie Jean, Michael Jackson —His two best songs are probably Billy Jean and Beat It.

15. House of the Rising Sun, Animals —Great organ riff driving bluesy melody. Mathematically perfect.

16. She’s Not There, Zombies —1964 and the addictive formula is already mixed. It’s always a pleasure when one is conscious that interesting words of the song are joining in the high.

17. Heroes, Bowie  —A desperate frenzy. We can be happy, just for six minutes and 11 seconds.

18. 1979, Smashing Pumpkins —that controlled hysteria which pitches forward roller coaster like. That’s what we’re talking about.

19. How Soon Is Now? The Smiths  —Invokes desperate, adolescent, weeping with the vocals already past it.

20. Dancing Queen, ABBA —has all the elements, even though it lacks an edge of desperation. Pete Townsend said their “SOS” was the best pop song ever written.

21. I Melt With You, Modern English —classic song and lyric.

22. Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears  —It’s true.

23. Wild Side, Lou Reed —the lyrics might trigger today, but this song delivers in a subtle, understated way what so many of the flailing heavy hitters do not.

24. LA Woman, The Doors —yeah. Come on.

25. Dreams, The Cranberries —gently and moodily moving.

26. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? Culture Club —ravishes the formula deftly.

27. Have You Ever Seen The Rain? Creedance Clearwater Revival —bass, vocals, organ, guitar.

28. Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones —“Oh, a storm is threat’ning”

29. Walking On Sunshine, Katrina & The Waves —this song really does walk on sunshine. That’s the amazing thing.

30. Paint It Black, The Rolling Stones —the start and end of the 80s sound in a song from 1966.

31. Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This, Eurythmics  —dark and moody, with a beat, usually works.

32. Somebody To Love, Jefferson Airplanes —At their height, the greatest electric string band ever.

33. Green-Eyed Lady, Sugarloaf —Late at night, on FM radio, you hear this song. Most pop music appeals to adolescents. This song seems grown-up. It changes you forever.

34. Taking Care Of Business, Bachman Turner Overdrive —well?

35. Whole Lotta Love, Led Zeppelin —bass follows lead guitar into a deep tunnel.

36. Heart of Glass, Blondie —pretty, pretty, pretty.

37. Le Freak, Chic —the song responsible for AIDS.

38. Runaway Train, Soul Asylum —public service announcements sometimes make good songs.

39. Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie, Pine Top Smith —a guy with a piano, 1928. Don’t ever underestimate what a human can do.

40. Titanium, Sia  —grief and pride in a triumphant fog of laughing gas.

41. Happy, Pharrel Williams —no I feel the beat and I’m a little less sad.

42. That’s The Way I Like It, KC and the Sunshine Band —it is the way we like it.

43. Radar Love, Golden Earring —has a good theme and groove, but never becomes bigger than the sum of its parts.

44. Let’s Dance, Bowie —the genius just likes to dance.

45. Zombie, The Cranberries —meaningful lyrics and driving fuzz bass

46. Funky Town, Lipps, Inc –cool song, with lots going on.

47. Bang A Gong, T. Rex —Marc Bolan feels it.

48. Spirit In The Sky, Norman Greenbaum —did some guy named Norman Greenbaum make the greatest rock song ever?

49. Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival —great songs often tap many genres. This sounds vaguely gospel, folk, and rock n roll underneath the plain rock. It’s AM radio 2 minute length goes by fast.

50. The Last Time, The Rolling Stones —the first home run of this storied band. Riffs rule the world.

51. Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress), The Hollies  —not a remarkable song, exactly, but a remarkable recording—which is sometimes better.

52. What I’d Say, Ray Charles —this 50s piano grooves like mad.

53. Long Tall Sally, Little Richard —before musc got lecture-y, angry, and smug.

54. Counting Stars, OneRepublic —for some tunes fast is best.

55. Thunder, Imagine Dragons —it’s always about a cute little hook.

56. I Want You To Want Me, Cheap Trick —1979. It wasn’t the sucky 80s yet.

57. What I Like About You, The Romantics —the hooky bass and choruses lift it above.

58. Moves Like Jagger, Maroon 5 —dancing like Jagger is good.

59. Celebration, Kool & the Gang —this would be such a good song if they weren’t trying to celebrate.

60. 24K Magic, Bruno Mars —this  soul man knows his way around harmony and hooks.

61. Sunshine Superman, Donovan —a real fine groove.

62. Going Up The Country, Canned Heat —makes you want to lean your ear down and listen to the drums

63. Be My Baby, The Ronettes —Phil Spector had something in his soul.

64. I’ll Never Find Another You, The Seekers —the acoustic guitar just needed a speaker.

65. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes), Edison Lighthouse —yup. This song.

66. She’s A Lady, Tom Jones —when crossover songs were king.

67. Addicted To Love, Robert Palmer –it rocks and sways.

68. I’m A Believer, The Monkees —organ and tamborine.

69. Friday On My Mind, Easybeats —oh God yeah!

70. I Want You, Bob Dylan —when all is said and done, his best fast  song.

71. Walk Like An Egyptian, The Bangles —more up tempo than we remember.

72. The Twist, Chubby Checker —satisfies all the criteria.

73. Torn, Natalie Imbruglia —crank up the folk song.

74. I Love It, Icona Pop —pretty hysterical.

75. Joey, Concrete Blonde —one sometimes wonders how many minor keys should be major.

76. Kodachrome, Paul Simon —this 60s songwriting icon can rock.

77. I Can See For Miles, The Who  —great musicians who veered into program rock sometimes.

78. I Wanna Be Sedated, Ramones —purity?

79. A Horse With No Name, America —a nonchalance hides an urgency of sorts.

80. Burning Love, Elvis —70s Elvis found excitement with this one.

81. Thank you, Dido —thank you to the artist Sade.

82. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, U2 —righteous rocking.

83. The Ballroom Blitz, Sweet —it rocks, and one cannot take it seriously.

84. We Didn’t Start The Fire, Billy Joel —perhaps the template of annoying.

85. MMMBop, Hanson —Okay.

86. You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), Dead Or Alive —spinning around is good.

87. She Drives Me Crazy, Fine Young Cannibals —the 80s sound maybe became too dependent on the heavily miked, heavily foregrounded drum set.

88. Our Lips Are Sealed, The Go-Gos  —a great song from the girl group.

89. One More Time, Daft Punk —this band is good, if somewhat derivative.

90. Electric Avenue, Eddy Grant —great but who let the noodling instruments in?

91. She Bangs, Ricky Martin —this really sounds like a party.

92. I Want Your Love, Chic –nice, melancholy chorus.

93. Drops of Jupiter, Train —the symphony orchestra muscles in too much?

94. Where Is The Love, Black Eyed Peas —too much formulaic lecturing?

95. She’s A Maniac, Michael Sembello —who didn’t like Jennifer Beals?

96. Numb, Linkin Park —wall of sound sensitive.

97. Bad Romance, Lady Gaga —a bit cute.

98. We Found Love, Rhianna —this is for jumping.

99. Holiday, Madonna —girls just want to have fun.

100. Pump Up The Volume, Marrs —like driving fast.

101. Sweet Jane—Velvet Underground

102. Piano Concerto 20 D Minor —Mozart

103. Every Breath You Take —Police

104. Love Will Tear Us Apart —Joy Division

105. Waterloo Sunset —Kinks

106. Don’t Fear The Reaper —Blue Oyster Cult

107. Who’s That Lady? —The Isley Brothers







Image result for thomas hardy in a pub

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 I,
With twinkling eyes,
And fragrant body,
From loving you,
Shall love you,
Even more.


The Man He Killed  –Thomas  Hardy

“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have set us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

“I shot him dead because—
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe, of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like— just as I—
Was out of work— had sold his traps—
No other reason why.

“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”

These are two sentimental poems, the first by a poet from India, who writes in English, little known in the United States, and the second by Thomas Hardy, (1840–1928) well known in the English speaking world as a novelist and poet.

Why we should even wonder why poetry is “sentimental,” or why poetry is censored for being “too sentimental,” says more about us as a race, currently, than about poetry. Sentimentality is really nothing more than inscrutability, or having profound feelings in the face of inscrutability. And when we stop to think about it, this is how we spend about 100% of our days—having feelings, in the face of what, to us, is inscrutable. Sentimentality is not only the rule—it is really just about all there is.

The pride of our education wants to say otherwise; we, in our scientific pride, pretend we know a great deal—though we don’t know how we fall in love, we don’t know where we came from, what made the world, where we are going after we die, the thoughts of others, and there is a great deal more we don’t know—a tiny part of which we learn in a day, and then quickly forget.

All respectable poetry production—since the mid-20th century—has been swallowed by the university. Learning is embarrassed by inscrutability, for obvious reasons. It is a simple, unspoken, defensive reaction: modern, academic poetry hates sentimentality. Education is uncomfortable with the inscrutable. The inscrutable and the sentimental are nearly the same.

But since human beings have feelings, and since we actually know (if we are honest) very little, sentimental is what we are—and to suppress this in our poetry, by making poems dry repositories of unsentimental events and facts, is sure to ruin poetry. And it has.

“The Man He Killed” is a favorite, despite its sentimentality, of modern critics—the mid-20th century New Critics’ textbook, Understanding Poetry, spotlights the poem for praise.

The poem is sentimental, however; Hardy admits that its subject—war—is completely inscrutable; the exasperated utterance Hardy uses is [how] “quaint and curious war is!” Men enlist out of boredom, or chance, and kill each other, dying for no reason at all. This is the sentimental theme. The school master, if they are anti-war, will teach this poem for the sake of a good conscience. Conscience, rather than wisdom, now drives the Humanities departments in college. Hardy, then, gets a pass, by the progressive college professor.

A sentimental objection to war satisfies the new academic urge. This sentimentality is allowed.

If one were to point out that statistics show that more deaths result from collecting debts (half-a-crown, or more) or from drinking and fighting “where any bar is,” than in armed conflicts, throughout  history, Hardy’s sanctimonious poem falls apart. It is too self-satisfied with its anti-war argument. The poem’s “sentimentality” is not the problem. Its argument is. The poem assumes men are good and war is bad. But in fact men are bad, and the reason why men are bad is inscrutable—Hardy escapes this uncomfortable fact—and sentimentalizes a hatred of war, while simultaneously taking the sentimental position that men outside of war are always friendly and good.

Or Hardy assumes they could be.

And this is at the heart of the poem’s sentimentality. Blokes savoring drinks with each other in pubs. Generals tell us to kill each other in war. “I would rather take my chances in a bar,” announces Hardy, deeply awash in sentimentality—and alcohol, perhaps.

Just so that is out of the way, we can now look at Gupta’s sentimental poem about love.

“Utterly In Love” is a poem of far more complex sentiment than Hardy’s—which basically says “instead of drinking with this bloke, I’m shooting at him! How absurd!”

Gupta is not mounting an argument against war, or anything the reader is expected to perceive as bad. She is truly sentimental, which is in her favor. She is not mixing some piece of impure intellectuality into her poem, as Hardy, the know-it-all, did.

The love of “Utterly In Love” is “secret,” but does not belong to “religion” or “revolution”—the speaker of the poem admits she has nothing to do with heavenly grace or earthly progress—hers is the love of a “mere mortal.”

Immortality, either from God, or from improving the lot of the human race, is not what she seeks, at least not overtly.

A poem is public, yet poems speaks of secret things, secret loves. Yet what is the most sacred and divine thing we feel, if not secret love?

Immortality is public—God recognizes you, or the human race builds you a monument for your revolutionary deeds.

But placing herself besides these two—religion or revolution—as a “mere mortal” with a “secret” love, the poet describes herself has having no identity whatsoever, going in a thoroughly opposite direction from an accomplished public figure. She is a “pool,” without even a shape. She is receptive, in her complete lack of will. And does this not describe the ultimate, pure, state of the true beloved? She is in a state to be formed by the one she secretly adores. This is psychologically true, since a secret crush makes us formless and helpless, with a desire that melts us. Perhaps we have no will, but the good thing is, we have no ego, either. We are ready to be a poet. We are purely and truly sentimental.

The poet wishes to be created—well, not quite—formed, by the secret love, and here’s the irony; the poet is creating herself, since she writes the poem. The poet becomes God, but this is only implied, not stated. And here’s a further irony, and even more delightful: if the poet is God, the secret love is God, who is forming her—so the more divine she is, as poet, the more divine the secret love is—so we have mutual true love, and the truth of it is expressed at the end of the poem, “And I…From loving you, Shall love you Even more.” The love increases, and is immortal. The mutuality of the lovers exists in the strongest terms, and the secrecy of the secret beloved of the poem enables the other to possibly be God—who is responsible for forming the poet—as well as the poem itself. Which makes God, who is the beloved, and the lover, and the poet, and the poem not “secret” at all—even as the secrecy is the agency which makes it possible to create the poem as a public document.

The winner: Sushmita Gupta.

Image may contain: 5 people, including Sushmita Gupta, people smiling, people standing, tree, outdoor and nature







Never tell your lover she is stupid.

But don’t tell her she is smart.

Let her figure it out.

Don’t brag. Then she’ll nag.

Make your mind a vast, neutral, space she can fill with her heart.

If you want her to care,

When you go here, or there,

Don’t tell her where.

Let her decide who you are

By your calm, understated, demeanor. Let news come from afar

That you might tell her something soon

About a certain feeling you had, earlier, under the misty moon.

Always meet her at fifteen minutes to six, never at six on the dot.

Don’t allow her to love what you are—

She never will. Let her try and love what you could be tomorrow, but are not.

She is kind. She may fall in love with someone weaker than you,

Someone incapable of sex.

In this case, there is nothing you can do.

Love, when it turns kind, will always perplex.

Ah romance. This is the worst part;

When a loving mind is killed by a more loving heart.









Image result for dark forest in renaissance painting

Do not wonder why beauty eludes you,

Why beauty hides,

Why everyone is embarrassed by beauty,

And sweetest beauty even the poet derides.

Do not wonder why beauty

Cancels wonder. Beauty is an end

In itself, as you are;

Beauty is not involved with wonder.

The curious, in silence, walk by.

Philosophy can only stare at the beautiful and sigh.

This is why beauty eludes you,

This is why beauty hides,

This is why beauty threw herself

At someone else, and someone else decides.

Someone else is almost satisfied.

Someone else almost wonders not.

But you wonder. Because beauty eludes

You; colors, paintings, nudes.

You belong to a darker, different plot:

A forest at night, with thunder,

War raging, death and sorrow,

And revenge using science to be more savage tomorrow.

Poet! Painfully you wonder!

You write poems every day.

Long live the wonder—

The distant crash of thunder—

Which chases beauty away.



Image result for garden of proserpine

Algernon Swinburne was a decadent, mid-19th century, English aristocrat (Eton, Oxford), friends with the painter, and poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and art critic, John Ruskin. We are told he was diagnosed with a condition in which physical pain produced sexual pleasure.

Searching online, we find this: Swinburne’s book (Poems and Ballads) “included vehement atheism, sado-masochism, cannibalism, and lesbianism. In fact Swinburne may have been the first to use lesbian in its modern meaning, in the poem ‘Sapphics.’ The book was a huge success, but led to a charge of indecency placed against the book.”

In life, we care about the cause. We want to know the origins and secrets of a person, or a plan, or an idea.

In poetry, we care only for the effect.

Since a poet and a poem exist in the world, curiosity about cause may cause us to read for cause, but if this spoils our comprehension of the effect, it spoils our appreciation of the poetry. And yet does not comprehension belong to cause?

In what manner does a poem introduce us to the poet—the real person?  What is a real person?

How much does this matter to us?

Can the poem make this not matter?

Does the poem hide the world, and its poet, and all which pertains to cause, to produce a better effect?

Or does the cause, the poet, and the world, always shine through the poem?

Here is “The Garden of Proserpine” by Swinburne:

Here, where the world is quiet;
         Here, where all trouble seems
Dead winds’ and spent waves’ riot
         In doubtful dreams of dreams;
I watch the green field growing
For reaping folk and sowing,
For harvest-time and mowing,
         A sleepy world of streams.
I am tired of tears and laughter,
         And men that laugh and weep;
Of what may come hereafter
         For men that sow to reap:
I am weary of days and hours,
Blown buds of barren flowers,
Desires and dreams and powers
         And everything but sleep.
Here life has death for neighbour,
         And far from eye or ear
Wan waves and wet winds labour,
         Weak ships and spirits steer;
They drive adrift, and whither
They wot not who make thither;
But no such winds blow hither,
         And no such things grow here.
No growth of moor or coppice,
         No heather-flower or vine,
But bloomless buds of poppies,
         Green grapes of Proserpine,
Pale beds of blowing rushes
Where no leaf blooms or blushes
Save this whereout she crushes
         For dead men deadly wine.
Pale, without name or number,
         In fruitless fields of corn,
They bow themselves and slumber
         All night till light is born;
And like a soul belated,
In hell and heaven unmated,
By cloud and mist abated
         Comes out of darkness morn.
Though one were strong as seven,
         He too with death shall dwell,
Nor wake with wings in heaven,
         Nor weep for pains in hell;
Though one were fair as roses,
His beauty clouds and closes;
And well though love reposes,
         In the end it is not well.
Pale, beyond porch and portal,
         Crowned with calm leaves, she stands
Who gathers all things mortal
         With cold immortal hands;
Her languid lips are sweeter
Than love’s who fears to greet her
To men that mix and meet her
         From many times and lands.
She waits for each and other,
         She waits for all men born;
Forgets the earth her mother,
            The life of fruits and corn;
And spring and seed and swallow
Take wing for her and follow
Where summer song rings hollow
         And flowers are put to scorn.
There go the loves that wither,
         The old loves with wearier wings;
And all dead years draw thither,
         And all disastrous things;
Dead dreams of days forsaken,
Blind buds that snows have shaken,
Wild leaves that winds have taken,
         Red strays of ruined springs.
We are not sure of sorrow,
         And joy was never sure;
To-day will die to-morrow;
         Time stoops to no man’s lure;
And love, grown faint and fretful,
With lips but half regretful
Sighs, and with eyes forgetful
         Weeps that no loves endure.
From too much love of living,
         From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
         Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
         Winds somewhere safe to sea.
Then star nor sun shall waken,
         Nor any change of light:
Nor sound of waters shaken,
         Nor any sound or sight:
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
Nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal
         In an eternal night.
The first thing we notice is the dirge-like music, the calm, drugged delight which the verse produces. The second thing is the theme, which fits the calm, sad music—life is somewhere busy, but this place is sleepy. In this place (this poem with this kind of music) contemplation of sleep, and contemplation of death, makes us both satisfied and sad. The third, and final thing, is the monotony—there is no excitement, or climax, or glory—and again, this fits the theme—all is one enduring poetic sigh, without a real beginning or end.
The power of Swinburne’s poem is its three-part, self-reverential, aspect.
We detect no person, or personality in this poem—but a certain philosophy is expressed; its stanza-oriented verse, and more importantly, its verse-music matching its philosophy, is chiefly where its artistry lies.
Mary Angela Douglas is a living, Christian poet. Here is her poem, “I Wrote On A Page Of Light:”

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.

Unlike Swinburne’s poem, a transcendence is evinced in three interesting ways—the existence of the “page of light” itself, the movement of the poem from day to night, and back to day, and the writing on the page of light. Nowhere in the entirety of the Swinburne poem is there a trope like this.

Swinburne’s poem smells of rot, and the poem of Douglas does not.

“The Garden of Proserpine” almost has a definite smell.

“I Wrote On A Page Of Light” is on a different plane of consciousness and experience.

The poems could not be more different.

Swinburne’s poem is enchanting, but has a few passages where the verse is clumsy.

The poem by Mary Angela Douglas is far more modest, but is mystically perfect, in a crystalline sort of way.

The moral force of “I Wrote On A Page Of Light” is stronger.

“The Garden of Proserpine” depends on music for its effect, and if the message seems monotonous after a while, it is not because of the verse, which is often beautiful, but because of the defects in the verse, which occasionally mar the composition.

Folks, we have another upset in Scarriet March Madness!

Mary Angela Douglas wins!


Image result for the moon

She hates to wait.

She has never waited for anything.

When the train arrives,

There she is. Never early. Never late.

When I love her, she hasn’t waited for me.

There I am. Suddenly.

She welcomes me as sweetly

As a love which has waited for years.

When she finishes, there is a smile. No tears.

I tell her I have been watching her,

And falling in love, for weeks.

“How observant!” she says.

She smiles when she speaks.

One day, the train is late,

And she sees she will have to wait.

“It won’t be bad! You can wait with me!”

But without speaking, she returns through the gate,

And slowly walks away,

Disappearing like the moon, fading in the brightening day.




Image result for because i could not stop for death

Two sentimental giants—Emily Dickinson and Stephen Cole—face off in the Fourth Bracket in more first round action.


Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –

The soul of music (and poetry) is time.

Emily Dickinson’s famous poem, like most famous poems, has a temporal subject, which is best for poetry, the temporal art.

Dickinson, whose poetic instincts were extremely well-developed, despite the roughness, the awkwardness, and the melodrama inherent in her work, must have been thrilled when “Because I could not stop for death” fell into her brain.

The iambic rhythm marches forward and even this part is sublime: “Because I could not stop.”

This is what separates the masters from the scribblers.  Be CAUSE i COULD not STOP.

The phrase itself is a world—it signifies Emily Dickinson the prolific poet, who cannot stop writing, in terms of meaning, but also in terms of music—Be CAUSE i COULD not STOP.

And then the iambic gets one more foot—Be CAUSE i COULD not STOP for DEATH.  “DEATH” finishes the line (of course).  (But the poet will not stop for “DEATH.”)

And then, where most poets would give us a scary DEATH—“He suddenly stopped for me?” Dickinson writes, instead, “He kindly stopped for me.”  The “Civility” is the civility of poetry—which understands that “to stop” belongs to time, to music—the soul of ingenious verse.  Time (movement) continues to dominate the poem: “We passed the Setting Sun -”

Dickinson’s poem is its subject, quite literally.

There is a living poet, writing many poems today, Stephen Cole, who is a genius in the manner of Emily Dickinson—and we can only hope that one day Stephen Cole will be read as widely as she is.

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.

The genius of Cole’s poem, like “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” lives within the words of the poem itself, timeless and sublime.  It is not, like most poems, a poem “about something,” which forces an emotional recognition in the reader. To some degree, all poems boil down to a piece of life resonating in the reader’s experience.

Some poems, however, like “Waiting,” open up new vistas of sweet pondering.

Dickinson’s “Death” is, “She” in Cole’s poem.

Cole’s poem, “Waiting,” unfolds in our minds as a philosophical event—we are not just “hearing a story.”

As in Dickinson’s poem, a profound causality takes wing.

Instead of “because I could not stop…”  we get the pregnant phrase, “I believe if She were here”

And we feel “She” is right, because the sound “are” echoes in “departing” —“the cold winds are departing.”

They are.  And it is all the more forceful, because of the poet’s respect, focus, and humility: “I believe if she were here she would tell me”…with her “message delivered thoughtfully…if only I was listening.” (!)

She has given him hope. She is absent. He is crushed, humbled—all this conveyed forcefully in a few lines!

The theme continues as powerfully, and gracefully, as it began:

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

How wonderful: “The void filled, recognized, for what it lost”—a void recognized for what it lost (he losing her?) and then “Otherwise it could not be filled.” (!)

A philosopher and a poet, both, this Stephen Cole!  And a warm philosopher, not a cold one.

“The rules are absent by rules.”  This sums up what has gone before, as philosophy continues to tease out the poetry.

The end of the poem is fantastic.  “She” (and we would expect this) owns the “proper need.”

The “long, long day” is both generous and sad—and “sidereal secrets” swings the poem’s movement towards the stars, rather than the sun—“she” is “absent,” but her influence—due to absence (the far stars, invoked by “sidereal”)—is profound.

A simple poem. A humble poem. A remarkable poem.

Are these two poems sentimental?

Cole’s poem has great understated emotion: we feel an exquisite humility in the poem.  Humility always suppresses loud, showy, drum-beating emotion—even within a dramatic scene.

Dickinson’s poem does do a better job of presenting a visual scene—the “swelling of the ground” compared to a “house,” for instance.

Is Dickinson personifying death sentimental?  Some would say, yes, because it’s a distancing, fanciful, trope to stave off anxiety.

Viewing graves and counting the years is not sentimental, but turning Death into a gentleman, is.

The passage of time, however—death as the imposition of large time (“immortality, eternity”) upon a mortal, who is dead—carries (the carriage?) Dickinson’s poem—the final image is “the horses’ heads were toward eternity.”

Cole invokes the same feeling and idea—and even more mystery—with his “sidereal secrets.” A brilliant stroke.

“Because I Could Not Stop For Death” is accessible and picturesque, one of the most iconic poems ever written.

“Waiting” is a more subtle, brooding masterpiece.


Cole wins in an upset!



Image result for RENOIR

If you do the calculations,
The most successful movie ever claims but one percent of a nation’s day,
Then less, as time gradually intercedes.
If there is a living fame,
It has nothing to do with the living, or their needs.
Fame is a song fame presses, but doesn’t know how to play.
Mutable mother, when naming me, you didn’t think much about my name.
You thought about my hunger.
I haul my name through the living day,
Trying to be good, for the good of fame.
Unnoticed, finding no rest,
Composing what will be famous tomorrow, is best.
The music of the famous is always playing—or not—in someone’s ears,
Until the odd delivery happens, and the music disappears.
The sweetest light is light filtered through the trees.
Attempting to find love in what only a few liked,
Her intellectual torture grew from a simple need to tease.
There is nothing to fame, really.
We merely want pleasure, and to please.



Image result for diana in her bath

Maybe you’re like me

When it comes to sexuality,

Maybe you can look and laugh

At beautiful Diana in her bath,

Walk away, and not feel the need to touch,

Not really loving sex that much,

Seeing it as emotional and social

In a very complex way.

I saw a very beautiful woman today.

I was married to her in my mind

In a second. After five seconds, she turned unkind.

We were fighting before I even knew

She was gone. Or that I’m in love with you.



The end of a love is appalling to the mind.

It is like hell, the bind

Of loving still—and yet to her I seem unkind.

My love still sees, but now to me she’s blind.

Were I a different man

I would go to her again with the same plan,

To invent love to love her every day,

But all my inventions would, as fate decrees, frighten her away,

Because only love will be loved.

Wanting, yet fearing, love’s end, she saw me loving at love’s end, and shoved.

She was naked. She knew my smile and touch.

Too vulnerable. Only love will be loved too much.

Because only love knows love.

Each and every thing that’s nice makes sex seem bad.

She was the best the eyes which belonged to me had ever had,

But eyes are everywhere, and the eyes belonging to me are sad

Because only love will be loved,

And love, because it is love, doesn’t need

Love—especially the love focused in narrow motive and need,

Putting her on that narrow bed for an hour, to weep and feed.

Love is a child, Shakespeare said.

The day I discovered the child was dead,

I knew day would drink my blood and night would eat my bread.

The end of a love is appalling to the mind.

To find that every kindness only seems unkind.









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?


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