LIFE IS A LONG ROOM

Life is a long room

With something happening at the other end

Which has nothing to do with you,

But which you watch, unnoticed,

Sipping your coffee, settled back in your chair,

No one, you think, paying attention to you,

Some small event

You may end up remembering more than 

These casual participants will;

Often sad to think how little people remember,

Yet this is part of the glory of memory, finally,

Is it not? What you remember, so it makes you cry?

A small crowd has gathered,

An elderly lady in a yellow coat;

They are petting and admiring a dog,

One of those handsome hunting dogs,

Noble, quick, anxious to please;

The conversation is dictated by the visible, outdoor life,

Solid animals, old houses in suburban neighborhoods at the center

Of old power and influence.  Was there music playing?

You know how much is out of reach,

How much slips away, how empty

Is your heart that knows.

 

 

TOO SHY TO TALK , HE WRITES POEMS; TOO SHY TO LIVE, SHE TALKS

In the wasteland of the winter garden,
Words on a rock remain;
Dead vines fail to cover what the flowers did,
A sentimental poem carved in a rock
Announces what the garden hid
Spring and summer and fall—
What did the poem say: did she care at all?

But this was the poem’s theme:
She did not care.
But now she does, in winter’s dream,
Death forcing love to love the cold and bare.
She made her heart hard. She talked.
The poem was right. She did not care.

 

 

POETRY IS OLD

Poetry is old, and God is old, but older still
Than even God, is institutional will,
Is professionalism perched on the shepherd’s old hill.

The professional points to the paper,
Telling artist and lover what to do.
No love here. Yes, we mean you.

It has nice clothes and a nice demeanor
But beware—there is nothing meaner.
It will send millions of souls to slaughter
As it discourses on the properties of water.

Revenge is sweet,
But even sweeter
When mingled with kisses.
She went to meet her,
She called her in.
When did professionalism begin?
It tries to cover up—but becomes—sin.

Professionalism is sexless and more powerful than sex.
Whatever is sexy, the sexless wrecks.
Love is a pitiful, awkward dance.
Against professionalism it hasn’t a chance.

There was rock music,
But what came later?
Curatorial corporate music
In a glass elevator.

Professionalism killed Mozart
And Michelangelo, too.
Eliot wore a suit
While the bombs flew.

Professionalism is clever: It precisely creates
What publicly it hates.

The priests were evil,
But universal God was good.
Professionalism’s priests
Have no God;
Professionalism is God, understood?

Michelangelo, broken by the gulag,
Modernist, paints a soul with a rag.
Soviet? Yes! So what?
What kind of art do you do?
Manage investments. Professionalism is coming after you.

 

 

 

SWEET SIXTEEN IN BRACKETS THREE AND FOUR

The Scarriet March Madness Poetry competition brings out the good times in everyone.

Spoiler: Results precede list of contests below.

When we judge poems we know them better than when we merely read them.

When we judge, we come face to face with the sea of meaning and are forced to entertain the following truth: meaning exists or it does not; since meaning is vast and misty to the ordinary understanding, and there is a tendency to equate poetry with mist, we assume in error that it is not this simple: but it is this simple; the poet who attempts to slyly evade meaning (like the painter who colorfully adorns and is merely abstract in an attempt to be mysterious) fails.

We either understand the poem (or a part of the poem) or we do not.

This of course does not mean that when we understand the poem, it succeeds. We may understand and reject. But to the wise judge it is easy to see when the poet is deliberately trying not to be understood in order not to be rejected. These efforts are the worst failures of all, even though they are sometimes considered successes—so do so many fear rejection.

When musical poetry supports a banality, at least we have the music—this was the 19th century view, or so it seems to us moderns, who, instead, scorn the music which sells itself to banality, and would rather put faith in unadorned speech which says something, and, even if it doesn’t really ‘say something,’ we like it anyway if it does so without condescending to musicality, which is considered the highest insult, so long was the musical error indulged in previously.

We start with music and fit in ‘saying something’ or we start with ‘saying something’ and hope it rises to music; the former is considered the 19th century way and the latter the new way, or, the currently accepted way. Then of course there is the third way, accepted today in some circles, that this ‘fit’ and ‘rise’ itself is false. And further, this third way can be even more radical and call ‘saying something’ false as a rule—in poetry, or, perhaps, altogether. And as we travel the circle towards ultimate skepticism we may end up back at pure music and the stern post-post modern conceptualist is suddenly transformed into the lisping Romantic heartsick tuneful dandy.

These considerations go into:

Pope toys with Williams, Mazer rips Rilke, Chin punishes Gluck, Ransom downs Dante, Sassoon and Ashbery in OT, Shelley nips Parker, Byron hammers Harper, and Milton murders Bernstein. The dictum, ‘it means something or it does not’ requires a focus, a narrowing, a simplicity, perhaps more than anything else. In poetry as in life, to be unduly mysterious is the sign of the pompously creepy.

BRACKET THREE

Milton: Virtue could see to do what Virtue would By her own radiant light, though sun and moon Were in the flat sea sunk. But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts Benighted walks under the mid-day sun; Himself is his own dungeon.

v.

Bernstein: What do you mean by rashes of ash? Is industry systematic work, assiduous activity, or ownership of factories? Is ripple agitate lightly? Are we tossed in tune when we write poems? And what or who emboss with gloss insignias of air?

***

Byron: She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that’s best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes; Thus mellowed to that tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

v.

Harper: We reconstruct lives in the intensive care unit, pieced together in a buffet dinner: two widows with cancerous breasts in their balled hands; a 30-year-old man in a three-month coma from a Buick and a brick wall; a woman who bleeds off and on from her gullet; a prominent socialite, our own nurse, shrieking for twins, “her bump gone”; the gallery of veterans, succored, awake, without valves, some lungs gone.

***

Shelley: Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert, That from Heaven, or near it, Pourest thy full heart In profuse strains of unpremeditated art. We look before and after, And pine for what is not: Our sincerest laughter With some pain is fraught; Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

v.

Parker: My love runs by like a day in June, And he makes no friends of sorrows. He’ll tread his galloping rigadoon In the pathway of the morrows. He’ll live his days where the sunbeams start, Nor could storm or wind uproot him. My own dear love, he is all my heart,—And I wish somebody’d shoot him.

***

Ashbery: The time of day or the density of the light Adhering to the face keeps it Lively and intact in a recurring wave Of arrival. The soul establishes itself.

v.

Sassoon: I lived my days apart, Dreaming fair songs for God; By the glory in my heart Covered and crowned and shod.

BRACKET FOUR

Dante: There is a gentle thought that often springs to life in me, because it speaks of you. Its reasoning about love’s so sweet and true, the heart is conquered, and accepts these things.

v.

Ransom: For I could tell you a story which is true; I know a woman with a terrible tongue, Blear eyes fallen from blue, All her perfections tarnished — yet it is not long Since she was lovelier than any of you.

***

Chin: A flower and yet not a flower A dream and yet not a dream At midnight he comes to my bed At daylight he returns to the dead

v.

Gluck: Night covers the pond with its wing. Under the ringed moon I can make out your face swimming among minnows and the small echoing stars. In the night air the surface of the pond is metal.

***

Rilke: His gaze, from passing on the bars around him, has grown so weary, no more can it bear. It seems as if a thousand bars surround him. Beyond those thousand bars, there is nowhere.

v.

Mazer: I talked the universe out of my head, and you were my mirror. I was understood! The poetry we wrote was more than good, it was unreal and real. Now what we feel descends to that world which exists beyond the grave. Where no one sleeps, and language is our slave.

***

Williams: munching a plum on the street a paper bag of them in her hand They taste good to her They taste good to her They taste good to her

v.

Pope: But as the slightest Sketch, if justly trac’d, Is by ill Colouring but the more disgrac’d, So by false Learning is good Sense defac’d. Some are bewilder’d in the Maze of Schools, And some made Coxcombs Nature meant but Fools. In search of Wit these lose their common Sense, And then turn Criticks in their own Defense.

 

INSULTING LOVE

A stare is an insult,
Although it be filled with love,
For if the rain comes,
It has to come from above:
He has to say hello,
He has to state his case;
He can’t just make her wet
By looking into her face.

She might feel his love
And really want to play
But when you look with love,
There’s very little to say.

The body is excited,
The grass with the dew is wet.
The love shimmers.
Perhaps you’ll talk to her yet.

TEASDALE AND MICHELANGELO IN SWEET 16!

Michelangelo, the great Renaissance artist, does not belong to the English-speaking poetry canon.

Michelangelo’s success in this year’s Scarriet March Madness perhaps proves nothing—after all, this tournament features excerpted lines, not entire poems.

The experiment has nonetheless proved interesting. First, Michelangelo is an interesting discovery. His poetry is good. Even in the English translations available.

And secondly, with the assertion that “a long poem does not exist,” Edgar Poe, in the mid-19th century, ushered in a new criterion. It is really very simple, and Scarriet has followed Poe’s insight to its logical conclusion: poetry is poetry in as much as it pleases immediately, and in its smallest parts: prose can be unremarkable as it builds; poetry we define as that which is remarkable right away: it is poetry as much as it makes an impression right away—in one line, or a few.

Therefore, let’s be frank: the modern prose poem, which takes time to unfold and make its “poetic” impression on the reader, hasn’t got a chance in this tournament.

And let’s be even more frank: what is the advantage of writing poetry which is not poetry?

Or, to put it another way: is there anything wrong with the type of writing which makes a strong impression immediately?

We cannot think of any reason—touching on pleasure, usefulness, or pedagogy—why this type of writing does not deserve the highest acclaim, should not be considered an expression of the highest virtue.

And yet—who writes like this anymore:

Fate is a wind and red leaves fly before it Far apart, far away in the gusty time of year—Seldom we meet now, but when I hear you speaking, I know your secret, my dear, my dear.

Which poet today produces work like the above—to critical acclaim?

None.

And yet here is that type of writing which deserves notice—which moves, entertains, pleases on its own and also demonstrates what language itself can do.

And poetry—which is the very best at doing the most important human activity of all: expression—chooses another path, the same path which prose treads.

We find this whole state of affairs—and we love prose—just a little disconcerting.

So let us throw, a little sadly, rose petals at Sarah Teasdale, and congratulate her, with the rest.

Of course, Tennyson, won.  Is the following old, or good?  We say it may be old, but it is also very, very good—whatever else we call it.

My heart would hear her and beat, Were it earth in an earthy bed; my dust would hear her and beat, Had I lain for a century dead; Would start and tremble under her feet, And blossom in purple and red.

Tennyson probably asked for tea in the way any person would—and when writing poetry such as this, he was practicing to make poetry of the highest order—which it is.

It seems a little ridiculous to condemn verse such as this as “old-fashioned.”

This would be like calling the work which graces the Sistine Chapel “old-fashioned.”

The label “old-fashioned,” applied to Tennyson, and to great verse, should make a person of good taste wince, and cringe.

Here’s the Sweet Sixteen from Brackets one and two:

Michelangelo (d. Marlowe)

Teasdale (d. Dowson)

Eliot (d. Arnold)

Wordsworth (d. Merwin)

Coleridge (d. Wylie)

Poe (d. Frost)

Keats (d. Khayyam)

Tennyson (d. Marvell)

 

 

 

SECOND ROUND MARCH MADNESS ACTION!

BRACKET ONE

Marlowe: Was this the face that launched a thousand ships And burnt the topless towers of Ilium? Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss. Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again. Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips.

v.

Michelangelo: Thus thy sudden kindness shown to me Amid the gloom where only sad thoughts reign, With too much rapture bringing light again, Threatens my life more than that agony.

***

Dowson: I cried for madder music and for stronger wine, But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire, Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine; And I am desolate and sick of an old passion, Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire: I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.  

v.

Teasdale: Fate is a wind, and red leaves fly before it Far apart, far away in the gusty time of year—Seldom we meet now, but when I hear you speaking, I know your secret, my dear, my dear.

***

Eliot: With the other masquerades That time resumes, One thinks of all the hands That are raising dingy shades In a thousand furnished rooms.

v.

Arnold: The Sea of Faith Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating, to the breath Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear And naked shingles of the world.

***

Wordsworth: She dwelt among the untrodden ways Beside the springs of Dove, Maid whom there were none to praise And very few to love.

v.

Merwin: Naturally it is night. Under the overturned lute with its One string I am going my way Which has a strange sound

 

BRACKET TWO

Coleridge: Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,’Twas sad as sad could be; And we did speak only to break The silence of the sea!

v.

Wylie: Avoid the reeking herd, Shun the polluted flock, Live like that stoic bird, the eagle of the rock.

***

Poe: I was a child and she was a child, In this kingdom by the sea, But we loved with a love that more than love—I and my Annabel Lee—

v.

Frost: Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun

***

Khayyam: Come, fill the cup, and in the fire of Spring Your winter garment of repentance fling: The Bird of Time has but a little way To flutter—and the Bird is on the Wing.

v.

Keats: Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men Look’d at each other with a wild surmise Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

***

Marvell: Had we but world enough and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime. We would sit down, and think which way To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

v.

Tennyson: My heart would hear her and beat, Were it earth in an earthy bed; My dust would hear her and beat, Had I lain for a century dead; Would start and tremble under her feet, And blossom in purple and red.

 

 

CLIMB DOWN INTO THE CAVERNS OF SLEEP

Climb down into the caverns of sleep.
Kiss limbs you’ve never kissed.
Laugh at sorrow—at the comedic, weep.
Desire what you never desired,
Look for what you never missed.

What you cannot know
Creeps up on you at last.

Sleep is warm, maternal and slow,
That her children, the dreams, may be bright and fast.

When you climb down into the caverns of sleep,
Beware; this depth may be illusion
And your fate, which seems serious and profound,
Is only sleeping on the ground:
What you love is neither important nor deep.

 

A POEM BY V. MUTHU MANICKAM

End of the World by ahermin

Only One!

Only one who can abundantly give
Only one who can endlessly live

Only one who can love purely
Only one who can offer anything surely

Anything, only one who can, predict
Anyone, only one who can, protect

Only one who can protect anywhere
Only one who can cure everywhere

Only one is omniscient
Only one who can be omnipresent

Only one who can be ultimate
He is one! Of course, only one!!

—V. Muthu Manickam

MARCH MADNESS FIRST ROUND—PLENTY OF UPSETS!

image

The biggest upset?

Bracket Two: Elinor Wylie (b 1885) 16th seed, knocks off number one seed Shakespeare! “Let Me Not Admit Impediments…” fell to “I was being human, born alone; I am, being a woman, hard beset. I live by squeezing from a stone The little nourishment I get.” Good for you, Elinor. Women everywhere are now wearing Wylie T-shirts.

Another shocker in Bracket Four thrilled poetry fans: No. 1 Seed Homer (“Sing in me Muse”) was edged out by John Crowe Ransom’s “Practice your beauty, blue girls, before it fail. And I will cry with my loud lips and publish Beauty which all our power will never establish, it is so frail.”

Lines of a highly developed music are the successful ones so far.

Translations are at a disadvantage, generally. Michelangelo, however, advanced past Blake in another upset in Bracket One. Michelangelo is ignored as a poet, perhaps, simply because he was such a great artist.

Michael S. Harper pulled off the only upset in Bracket Three, where every higher seed advanced except Wilfred Owen, who lost to Harper’s

“Those four black girls blown up in that Alabama church remind me of five hundred middle passage blacks, in a net, under water in Charleston harbor so redcoats wouldn’t find them. Can’t find what you can’t see can you?”

A traditional sort of lyric beauty doesn’t always win.

But icons of yore did tend to prevail.

Milton, with his solemn music, for instance:

“The world was all before them, where to choose their Place of rest, and Providence their guide: They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow Through Eden took their solitary way.”

Did have trouble beating this by Patricia Lockwood:

“The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend. The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee. Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke.”

The Lockwood had a certain tragedy, strangeness, focus, and interest.

This by Byron, however:

“Though the night was made for loving, And the day returns too soon, Yet we’ll go no more a roving By the light of the moon.”

Had no trouble dispatching the following by Graham, which feels flat by comparison:

“On my way to bringing you the leotard you forgot to include in your overnight bag, the snow started coming down harder. I watched each gathering of leafy flakes melt round my footfall. I looked up into it—late afternoon but bright. Nothing true or false in itself.”

We will not reveal the precise score of the game, as we do not wish to embarrass Ms. Graham.

Joining Wylie in another upset victory for women, Gluck, 14th seeded in the Fourth Bracket, outlasted Pound.

Plath and Sexton did not advance, however, as Wordsworth’s “No motion has she now” proved too much for Plath’s “a man in black with a Meinkampf look” and Sexton’s “her kind” lost in what must be considered an upset to Ben Mazer’s “Harpo was also, know this, Paul Revere…”

The pure audaciousness and oddness of Mazer’s humor proved unique, and too much for Sexton to handle.

There is a certain lyric majesty and poignancy which sometimes can appear to take itself a little too seriously in a reader’s mind when it comes up against a certain clever type of opponent.

The momentary matchup means a great deal in terms of critical judgement.

And thus the thrill of Poetry March Madness.

Here are the 32 survivors after the first round of play:

Bracket One:

Marlowe (def. Auden), Michelangelo (def. Blake), Dowson (def. Von Duyn), Eliot (def. Swenson), Wordsworth (def. Plath), Merwin (def. Emerson), Arnold (def. Dunbar), Teasdale (def. Dickinson)

Bracket Two:

Wylie (def. Shakespeare), Coleridge (def. Stevens), Frost (def. Barrett), Keats (def. Raleigh), Poe (def. Whitman), Khayyam (def. Swinburne), Marvell (def. Seeger), Tennyson (def. Gray)

Bracket Three:

Milton (def. Lockwood), Byron (def. Graham), Shelley (def. Carson), Harper (def. Owen), Ashbery (def. Millay), Sassoon (def. Larkin), Parker (def. Rich), Bernstein (def. Reznikoff)

Bracket Four:

Ransom (def. Homer), Dante (def. Donne), Gluck (def. Pound), Chin (def. Longfellow), Mazer (def. Sexton), Pope (def. Pushkin), Rilke (def. Carroll), Williams (def. Ginsberg)

Congratulations to the winners!

 

 

 

VERSE BE NOT PROSE

Verse, be not prose, though some have called you
Jingly and silly, for, you are not so,
For, those whom you think, you overthrow
With inanity, no, this is not true.
From rhyme and love and every grace you own
Much pleasure flows—sing your song anew
And soon the best will appreciate your tone,
Will love and know that verse is ever true,
Whether it sing of fate, chance, kings, or desperate men,
Or with poison, war and vanity dwell,
For, as prose goes why cannot you tell as well?
Why should you be ashamed by comparison?
One brief rhyme can say as much, I think,
As a novel. You save not only souls, but ink.

 

 

 

CONCEPTUALISM AND THE ART OF OUTRAGE

Michael Brown: immortalized by Kenny Goldsmith?

Edgar Poe’s “effect”-as-the-basis-of-fiction is the seed of Conceptualism and the avant-garde as we know it.

That poetry should be beautiful was a necessary caveat in Poe’s mind: effect-science needs genres and reasons and exactitude as it moves literature towards self-consciousness and away from “This happened in my town yesterday. Let me tell you about it.”

The poetry world is currently befuddled and outraged because the Conceptual poet Kenny Goldsmith—who read (in a paisley suit) plain traffic reports as “poetry” at the White House (yea, where Barry lives) a couple of years ago—recently gave a “poetry reading” in academia in which the actual, detailed autopsy report of Ferguson’s Michael Brown was the sole text.

Poe would say, first: Goldsmith’s effort is the very opposite of the poem; the poet does not surrender to the news of the day (Ferguson, etc) but finds, first, a precise effect, and then works on bringing about that precise effect in the reader. Poe’s notion has nothing to do with suppressing discussion of “the news;” it merely says: give the news of the day to the news of the day and reserve poetry for poetry—both in practice and in theory.

To know what poetry is, we think, is very useful to the poet, who is doing something a bit more complex than going to the store and picking up an item:

“What did you want me to buy, again?” “I dunno.”

If we don’t know what to get at the store—and this destroys every reason for the visit, we imagine it might be slightly important to know what the poem is—as one sets about writing one.

Just an idea.

So we find an effect.

The artist thinks: First, what effect shall I pick? Second, how shall I bring about this effect in the audience?

Immediately we are aware of conflation, the type which occurs when avant-garde Conceptualism brings together as one, painting and poetry—the two disappear in the outrageous effect produced by the Duchamp jest. The art, all of it, dies into idea. Michael Brown’s autopsy becomes a pure thing subordinated to pure effect.

The conflation in Poe’s effect-method is artist/audience: to test the effect, the artist stands in for his audience: simple, even simpler than going to the store for an item; the item (effect) is had immediately, because the artist immediately becomes his own audience as the effect is tested.

Kenny Goldsmith does not have to visit the store to purchase a particular effect—any item at the Outrage Store will do.

We know of no one who has really thought through to the end what Poe meant when, in “The Philosophy of Composition,” Poe spoke of choosing some “effect” to use—Poe has been accused, in every quarter, of starting with the “The Raven” already written, and working backwards in a synthetic fashion; in other words, he cheated. And no one really writes that way, ever, say the sneering Poe-critics. Life and art are open and random; talk of “grand design” in this day is highly suspect (“what are you, a religious nut?”) even when talking of poetry.

But we know what Poe means, and we can easily demonstrate what he means.

Let’s say the effect chosen is: happiness—you choose to make the audience happy.

A good effect, but too general, so we narrow the definition to make it more effective. “Making the audience happy by removing the fear of death.” This is sufficiently unique, and this is precisely what John Donne did when he penned his famous “Death Be Not Proud.”

It matters not if death be not proud came into Donne’s thoughts “randomly,” (many poets will tell you a poem begins with a single phrase that just pops into their head) and it matters not that Donne wrote the sonnet without any fussing over “which effect shall I choose?” The fact remains that “I am Soothed by Learning Death is not as Fearful as Supposed” is the design “Death Be Not Proud” has on us: it has this effect on any lay person who reads it; it has an argument, one that can be paraphrased (yes, the New Critics were wrong) and all of Donne’s sonnet’s parts line up behind its effect.

Donne went to the store (even if subconsciously) looking for a specific, singular, item (effect and execution) and, to our pleasure, found it.

Goldsmith’s success (notoriety, attention) arose from the same process:

What shall I do to my audience?

Outrage them.

How shall I do so?

I shall pick a contemporary news item which already bespeaks outrage, and I shall choose some manifestation of this outrage and present it as my “poem.”

Now do we see who “cheats?”

It is not the author of “The Philosophy of Composition.”

It is the avant-garde “poet,” Kenny Goldsmith.

***

In other news:

John Crowe Ransom advanced past Elizabeth Bishop 61-60 in the Wild Card Round. Ransom’s “it is so frail” was finally too much for Bishop’s “the art of losing is hard to master” in the final minutes of the extremely close contest: both teams were brilliant, but the edge went to Ransom’s tender and emotional plea, which seemed finally less conscious, if that nuance can be at all understood.  It is very hard to say goodbye to the Bishop, as Ransom moves on.

Bishop’s loss put the VIDA count for Scarriet’s 2015 March Madness at 25%—which we think is pretty high, considering the tournament reflects the canon throughout history.

 

SCARRIET 2015 MARCH MADNESS—THE GREATEST LINES IN POETRY COMPETE

BRACKET ONE

1. Come live with me, and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove That hills and valleys, dales and field, And all the craggy mountains yield. (Marlowe)

2. Every Night and every Morn Some to Misery are born. Every Morn and every Night Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night.  (Blake)

3. Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine; And I was desolate and sick of an old passion, Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head: I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. (Dowson)

4. April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. (Eliot)

5. No motion has she now, no force; She neither hears nor sees; Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course, With rocks, and stones and trees. (Wordsworth)

6. If the red slayer think he slays, Or if the slain think he is slain, They know not well the subtle ways I keep, and pass, and turn again. (Emerson)

7. The sea is calm tonight, The tide is full, the moon lies fair Upon the straits;—on the French coast the light Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay. (Arnold)

8. When I am dead and over me bright April Shakes out her rain-drenched hair, Though you should lean above me broken-hearted, I shall not care. (Teasdale)

9. The soul selects her own society, Then shuts the door; On her divine majority Obtrude no more. (Dickinson)

10. We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile. (Dunbar)

11. This is the waking landscape Dream after dream walking away through it Invisible invisible invisible (Merwin)

12. I made a model of you, A man in black with a Meinkampf look And a love of the rack and the screw, And I said I do, I do. (Plath)

13. It is easy to be young. (Everybody is, at first.) It is not easy to be old. It takes time. Youth is given; age is achieved. (May Swenson)

14. There is no disorder but the heart’s. But if love goes leaking outward, if shrubs take up its monstrous stalking, all greenery is spurred, the snapping lips are overgrown, and over oaks red hearts hang like the sun. (Mona Von Duyn)

15. Long life our two resemblances devise, And for a thousand years when we have gone Posterity will find my woe, your beauty Matched, and know my loving you was wise. (Michelangelo)

16. Caesar’s double-bed is warm As an unimportant clerk Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK On a pink official form. (Auden)

BRACKET TWO

1. Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds Or bends with the remover to remove. (Shakespeare)

2. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. (Coleridge)

3. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. (Barrett)

4. Say to the Court, it glows And shines like rotten wood; Say to the Church, it shows What’s good, and doth no good: If Church and Court reply, Then give them both the lie. (Raleigh)

5. Helen, thy beauty is to me Like those Nicaean barks of yore, That gently o’er a perfumed sea, The weary, wayworn wanderer bore To his own native shore. (Poe)

6. Some for the Glories of This World; and some Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come; Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go, Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum! (Omar Khayyam)

7. Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other worlds and other seas; Annihilating all that’s made To a green thought in a green shade. (Marvell)

8. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea, The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me. (Gray)

9. O hark, O hear! how thin and clear, And thinner, clearer, farther going! O, sweet and far from cliff and scar The horns of Elfland faintly blowing! Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying, Blow bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying. (Tennyson)

10. I have a rendezvous with Death, At some disputed barricade, When Spring comes back with rustling shade And apple-blossoms fill the air. (Seeger)

11. I have put my days and dreams out of mind, Days that are over, dreams that are done. Though we seek life through, we shall surely find There is none of them clear to us now, not one. (Swinburne)

12. When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d, And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night, I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring. (Whitman)

13. O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, Alone and palely loitering? The sedge has withered from the lake, And no birds sing. (Keats)

14. Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village, though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow. (Frost)

15. If her horny feet protrude, they come To show how cold she is, and dumb. Let the lamp affix its beam. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. (Stevens)

16. I was, being human, born alone; I am, being a woman, hard beset; I live by squeezing from a stone The little nourishment I get. (Wylie)

BRACKET THREE

1. The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and Providence their guide: They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow Through Eden took their solitary way. (Milton)

2. Though the night was made for loving, And the day returns too soon, Yet we’ll go no more a roving By the light of the moon. (Byron)

3. I arise from dreams of thee In the first sweet sleep of night, When the winds are breathing low, And the stars are shining bright. (Shelley)

4. What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns. Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons. (Owen)

5. We have heard the music, tasted the drinks, and looked at colored houses. What more is there to do, except to stay? And that we cannot do. And as a last breeze freshens the top of the weathered old tower, I turn my gaze Back to the instruction manual which has made me dream of Guadalajara. (Ashbery)

6. Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives. Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives. (Sassoon)

7. Why is it no one ever sent me yet One perfect limousine, do you suppose? Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get One perfect rose. (Parker)

8. The shopgirls leave their work quietly. Machines are still, tables and chairs darken. The silent rounds of mice and roaches begin. (Reznikoff)

9. It’s not my business to describe anything. The only report is the discharge of words called to account for their slurs. A seance of sorts—or transport into that nether that refuses measure. (Bernstein)

10. I came to explore the wreck. The words are purposes. The words are maps. I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail. I stroke the beam of my lamp slowly along the flank of something more permanent than fish or weed. (Rich)

11. When I see a couple of kids And guess he’s fucking her and she’s Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm, I know this is paradise Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives (Larkin)

12. I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind: Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned with lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned. (Millay)

13. Those four black girls blown up in that Alabama church remind me of five hundred middle passage blacks in a net, under water in Charlestown harbor so redcoats wouldn’t find them. Can’t find what you can’t see can you? (Harper)

14. It’s good to be neuter. I want to have meaningless legs. There are things unbearable. One can evade them a long time. Then you die. (Carson).

15. On my way to bringing you the leotard you forgot to include in your overnight bag, the snow started coming down harder. I watched each gathering of leafy flakes melt round my footfall. I looked up into it—late afternoon but bright. Nothing true or false in itself. (Graham)

16. The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend. The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee. Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. (Lockwood)

BRACKET FOUR

1. Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy. (Homer)

2. And following its path, we took no care To rest, but climbed, he first, then I—so far, through a round aperture I saw appear Some of the beautiful things that heaven bears, Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars. (Dante)

3. With usura, sin against nature, is thy bread ever more of stale rags is thy bread dry as paper, with no mountain wheat, no strong flour with usura the line grows thick with usura is no clear demarcation and no man can find site for his dwelling. Stonecutter is kept from his stone weaver is kept from his loom WITH USURA (Pound)

4. I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin. Oh, how I love the resoluteness of that first person singular followed by that stalwart indicative of “be,” without the uncertain i-n-g of “becoming.” Of course, the name had been changed somewhere between Angel Island and the sea. (Chin)

5.  Dreaming evil, I have done my hitch over the plain houses, light by light: lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind. A woman like that is not a woman, quite. I have been her kind. (Sexton)

6. I loved you; and the hopelessness I knew, The jealousy, the shyness—though in vain—Made up a love so tender and so true As God may grant you to be loved again. (Pushkin)

7. We cannot know his legendary head And yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside, like a lamp, in which his gaze is turned down low, burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life. (Rilke)

8. So much depends on the red wheel barrow glazed with rain water besides the white chickens. (Williams)

9. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night. (Ginsberg)

10. The Walrus and the Carpenter Walked on a mile or so, And then they rested on a rock Conveniently low: And all the little Oysters stood And waited in a row. (Carroll)

11. What dire offense from amorous causes springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things; Slight is the subject, but not so the praise, If she inspire, and he approve my lays. (Pope)

12. Harpo was also, know this, Paul Revere. And Frankenstein, and Dracula, and Jane. Or would you say that I have gone insane? What would you do, then, to even the score? (Mazer)

13. Come, read to me a poem, Some simple and heartfelt lay, That shall soothe this restless feeling, And banish the thoughts of day. (Longfellow)

14. So Penelope took the hand of Odysseus, not to hold him back but to impress this peace on his memory: from this point on, the silence through which you move is my voice pursuing you. (Gluck)

15. Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so: From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow. (Donne)

16. I lost two cities, lovely ones. And vaster, Some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster. The art of losing isn’t hard to master. (Bishop)

17. Practice your beauty, blue girls, before it fail; And I will cry with my loud lips and publish Beauty which all our power will never establish, It is so frail. (Ransom)

 

 

 

FIFTY SHADES OF GAY: THE SCIENCE OF EXCLUSION

Is the exclusionary ever a good thing?

In a democracy, not really.

The exclusionary is always a bad thing.

Philosophers champion “freedom” to make the choice to be exclusionary an important value, a good thing. But if the result is exclusionary, it is always bad, because the exclusionary result is always bad in a free, and open, and friendly society.  We want to give people “choices,” the freedom to be exclusionary—but in vain.  And here lies the crux of all political disagreement, and war, and tyranny.  In a just society, the exclusionary must be excluded.

Yet the exclusionary sentiment has been creeping into vital aspects of modern life since the modern as an aesthetic brand became synonymous with the progressive.

And the modern (in art) and the progressive (in politics)—in terms of every kind of intellectual validation—are, we are told, without question, good things and breed good people, who love, without reservation, democracy.  This is not to say the modern in art cannot be strange, but it is always strange in the inclusive, not the exclusive, sense.  The progressive makes war on the exclusionary.

When the anti-exclusionary virtues of the Modern and the Progressive are questioned—in works such as Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind, Dana Gioia’s Can Poetry Matter, or Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae, the antibodies move, the professors leap from their chairs, and the warrior ants swarm, to protect the Modern Progressive Queen.

We do not intend to champion, or condemn, the works just mentioned, and works like them: the reader will be mistaken if they think this is our intent; we merely note an intellectual phenomenon of contemporary life.  We are merely exploring a principle, the principle of exclusion.

The exclusionary is chiefly seen in how we exclude those who do not think as we do. The progressives see fit to exclude conservatives. And why? Because conservatives are exclusionary. Thus the irony.

Progressives say: we exclude only those who are exclusionary.

But everyone is exclusionary—aren’t we?—and so progressives exclude more than they at first realize.

Paradise is not so easily attained, even in our own calculations in our own bedrooms. Progressive inclusivity steers us, by a simple twist of fate, into this, our present time, our present day: an exclusionary, estranged, lonely, culturally crass, icily-techno, nightmare: an old, sick, aging population without poetry, without beauty, drowning in ugly commercialism, puritanical political correctness, and non-fat yogurt.

Progressives, who are the loudest, are also the most unhappy, tripped up by a logic they hardly understand.

Mozart-hating progressives cannot tolerate those who only love classical music—since ‘only loving classical music’ is an exclusionary position, and it doesn’t matter if it is a matter of taste—and taste cannot be judged. The anti-exclusionary trumps even in matters of taste.

For the smart, progressive, post-modern individual, there is but one evil: the exclusionary. Embrace everybody and every taste (except the exclusionary) or you are a scumbag. This is the implicit mantra of the cool person.

To criminalize is to exclude, and the progressive does not like to criminalize, does not like to judge, and will exclude only those who, it is deemed, themselves too sternly exclude.

Do not judge the traitor—the country, not the traitor, is wrong.

Do not judge the woman who has an abortion—the judgement, not the woman, is wrong.

Do not judge the thief—the circumstances, not the theft, is wrong.

Do not judge the moment—the future, tied to old-fashioned considerations, is wrong.

Do not judge the adulterer—the marriage, not the person, is wrong.

Judge only restrictive judgement—the only thing that is truly wrong.

If we are to properly and fairly judge, we will pronounce only against those who judge too strongly.

As one can see, the whole formula is simple, and it is intellectually easy to be included in this far-reaching and politically influential club—which ISIS, and every rightwing fanatic under the sun, will come after, and kill.

The mental ease of belonging to the non-exclusionary club is the secret to its popularity, and since judgement is dour, one is not only welcomed lovingly, but one assumes a happier visage automatically; and since morals exist for the happiness of all, happiness is properly combined with its moral, non-exclusionary agenda, as well.

So, all is good?

Yes!

The snake in the garden is simply the selfish one who opposes democracy, who opposes happiness for all:

The rich person who wants to keep others down, the priest who wants others to feel guilty, the cop who wants to stifle his fear by making others fear, the man who wants to boss a woman, the bully who bullies simply because they can do so, picking on animals, the weak, the planet.

How wonderful life would be, if not for those meanies who deceptively sweeten power and mean behavior!

Isn’t it obvious to all what is good?

Well, no—because of that deceptive sweetening.

But it is good, then, all this self-congratulatory non-judgement.

Good to know what the good is, and to know that you are good.

But you are not good. You just say you are.

The progressive’s dream is an idle dream.

Your “good” is a baseless fantasy.

You, the modern progressive, belong to your “group” only to belong.  You belong to ‘the glue’ and nothing else. You are—glue. You belong to the political faction as a political faction, and for no philosophical basis, or truth. Your mind has been captured and put in a dark room. As George Harrison put it in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps:”

I don’t know why nobody told you how to unfold your love.
I don’t know how someone controlled you, they bought and sold you.
I don’t know why you were diverted, you were perverted, too.
I don’t know how you were inverted, no one alerted you.

Those who oppose gay marriage are called exclusionary.

Why?

That’s easy. Because only marriage between a man and a woman count for them.

When it comes to marriage, what is exclusionary?

By the simplest rules of natural logic, the only non-exclusionary match is the following:

Man/Woman

This is easy. It excludes neither man, nor woman.

Black/White is always better than Black/Black or White/White.  Always.

Black/White is less exclusionary—and calls us into the progressive future.

As in the black/white example, all other marriage arrangements are exclusionary, and for immediately obvious reasons:

Man/Man

Excludes woman.

Woman/Woman

Excludes man.

In precisely the same way White/White and Black/Black excludes.

Woman/Woman/Woman/Woman/Man

This example might be more difficult to discern, but Woman/Woman/Woman/Man is highly exclusionary, as well.

Woman/Man/Woman/Man is also exclusionary, simply because any longer list allows for exclusionary combinations.

I guess we could call this fifty shades of gay.

The only combination which is not exclusionary is Man/Woman.

Now we might object vigorously in the following manner: A society which defines marriage as Man/Woman must be more exclusionary than a society which defines marriage as Man/Woman and Man/Man and Woman/Woman.  This may seem correct, but it is not, simply because the unit Man/Woman is not exclusionary, while the unit Man/Man is, and therefore any society which has more of the latter must be a more exclusionary society, since it contains more exclusionary units.

The freedom in which Man travels across space and time to link up with Woman or Man merely deceives us that the “choice” is a non-exclusionary counter to the exclusionary result of Man/Man. The result is what finally matters to progressives—not imaginary “freedoms.”   Freedom is the chimera of the right wing.

The logic here (as old-fashioned and exclusionary as it may appear) is inescapable.

Man/Woman is the only unit which does not exclude.

Except if we posit the notion that man excludes woman and woman excludes man, and therefore gender itself is wrong because it is exclusionary.

Is gender itself wrong?

Is nature wrong?

Some would go so far as to say to be human is to know nature as a wrong.

It is tricky to question nature, and our essay’s scope will not us allow to pursue this question.

We will only say that humans are tricky, and our place in and against nature measures everything that we are.

In our strict mathematical logic, then, the only way to embrace homosexuality in a non-exclusionary way, the only way to embrace exclusionary gender combinations, is if we posit that gender itself is exclusionary—which it is.

Yet we are trapped by this logic, since homosexuality is acutely aware of gender—it not only chooses based on gender, it exists because of gender.

Is homosexuality, then, democratic?  No, it is not.

Homosexuality is either exclusionary, or cancels itself out.

Yet the exclusionary may be the way human evolution is heading.

Freedom may be too much to resist.

MOURNING BEAUTY

Desperately, I prayed:
Ease the pain, but don’t let the memory of the sweetness fade.
Nothing sweetens like love:
Nothing hurts like love betrayed.

I used my poetry to seduce
And I was burned for playing—
Now my poetry’s words
Are only used for praying—
Black ink appropriate
For everything I’m saying.

I do not mention love,
Or beautiful eyes, or her, or me.
I pay homage to old buildings, old people,
A path leading to a river, a tree.

 

WINTER IS THE SEXIEST SEASON

Winter is the sexiest season—
When I get you by the fire, you won’t need a reason.
But let me list a few, as I am holding you.
The luxurious dark comes on with only a brief nap
And night, arriving early, allows us to unwrap
For bed: to remove the clothes from your secret shoulders
And put my toes upon your toes under the bedclothes.
The snowy wind hisses and blows against the window—
How many reasons? How many reasons are we missing?
Think of some, a reason will come, as we are kissing.
When the year is warm, we see too much.
When death’s around, I die for your touch.
In summer, too much is seen.
The sexual isn’t green,
It’s the color of your skin,
When you are out and I am in.

 

COPY CATS

The sincere look of an asshole.

There are some people who are such gossip hounds, they care more about the gossip surrounding a relationship they are in, than the relationship.

And this same pathetic, loser, gauche, “selfie,” assholery defines our age, an age defined by editors and producers, not creative artists, an age defined by raunch, not love.

Boomers, who experienced the renaissance of popular music in the 1960s, are no doubt applauding the 7.2 million dollar juror decision against Thicke, 38, and Pharrel Williams, 41, who stole Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up for their boring and derivative Blurred Lines, which used the ubiquitous formula of big production sexy video to create a “hit” among the “cool” lemmings.

We are not bitter; we find this all hilariously funny, and we are not saying there should be no cakes and ale, or that no good music is written today, or that assholes only cropped up recently.

Marvin Gaye was shot to death by his preacher father.  Life is a roller coaster of moral ambiguity and it always will be.  We understand.

All musicians and artists steal. The Beatles were derivative.

Sex sells. Not today, but always.

We know. We get it.

But perhaps one of the reasons the 1960s was a renaissance of popular music was that there was a small window of time in which the creative artist was the producer, and called the shots.

And this is a good time to reflect at how fortunate we are to be running a blog where we can write a poem for the ages and publish it. For free. In five minutes.

We are fortunate, because the art and artist and the production of that art—writing, editing, publishing—exits as one, and is never mucked up by middle men.  With Scarriet, product and producer and production exist together—in a God-like way—in one, condensed, hyper-creative, white-light impulse, with no distractions (unless one counts the comments of Diane Roberts Powell.)  It is a creative person’s paradise.  And comments—honest and astute ones—are finally great for the truly creative person, as well, and not distractions at all.  Comments are good, finally; they do not belong to ‘middle man hell.’

So let us leave love to the lovers, not the rumors.

Let us leave music to the musicians, not the big industry producers.

Let us leave writing to the writers, not the big industry editors.

Thank you.

 

THAT WOULD BE YOU

That would be you,

Thinking the thoughts and doing the things we all do.

Sitting by yourself looking down

At the pretty world with a pretty frown.

And you and that nose,

You think you’re very pretty, I suppose.

I said you were pretty.

And I would be one who knows.

SHE MAKES THEM BLUE

image

After casting about for a long time for a name for themselves, they came up with “Jefferson Airplane,” which meant absolutely nothing. –The New York Times

Public places for secret lovers are few,

But minds can go anywhere—

And they do.

The erotic is the only thing that’s true.

It is because of her

That I say hello to you.

O cruel hierarchy!

O feeble poetry.

The unmentionable is the only thing that’s true.

They have their wives and girlfriends—

But they think about her, too.

I’m thinking of her

As I say hello to you.

I wish I could describe her face.

But why? To further advertise my disgrace?

Do I need further proof so you

Might know why she makes me sigh—yea, me too?

Don’t start. We shouldn’t talk. What do you want me to do?

They play guitar far better than I.

But the best songs are poetry,

And album names, and names of bands, too.

She Makes Them Blue.

 

HISTORY IS A SEQUENCE, NOT MORALS

History is what happened after what happened.

Morality and love wait their turn in line

With slavery and murder. Your country

Is good or bad depending on what is president;

Who is considered good is dependent on who you are talking to:

The Christian inside-out, the unfaithful Jew,

The heart-sick Muslim, the movie-going American,

Who secretly has the hots for you.

The road map shows a road that winds around

Towards the sea,

Where a band of Salem merchants made history.

Good cooking is the secret to good marriage;

She was looking for salad ingredients

And he was looking for a rhyme, dreaming, distracted, by the salad bar.

There is a kind of ordinary life which defies the drama

Of TV crime shows, romance; I would like to inhabit that unpretentious life!

And cook for you in an ordinary marriage.

What can we do if Washington owned slaves?

Or not enough died for the cause? This is what happened

When I stood for a moment at the salad bar

And dreamed of history, and the soft underbelly of things.

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN A WOMAN TURNS INTO A MAN

image

When a woman turns into a man,

Can she do everything a man can?

When a man turns into a woman

Does he know more about the human?

Or is the sex the only thing we see?

A new type of sexuality?

Do we hunger for a new type of touch?

Do we sometimes touch ourselves too much?

Do we think about ourselves in the mirror,

Always wishing our loveliness were nearer?

Is this why we withdraw our hand,

Saying goodbye to love forever?

One day we will understand

The sea, the tropics, and the frozen land.

MAKIN’ COPIES: ART VERSUS LITERATURE

Hybrid, collage portrait. Which has less charm? Modern poetry or modern art?

SCARRIET HAS ELEVATED THE FOLLOWING SCARRIET COMMENT (ON “WHY POETRY SUCKS NOW”) FROM ONE OF OUR READERS (‘MIKE’) TO THIS ARTICLE (WITH OUR REPLY BELOW):

Hey y’all.

As an art school trained painter and a self inflicted poet, I find it interesting to observe the differences between visual art and literature; or more specifically, the difference between drawing and writing.

In visual art (drawing), one is challenged to “represent” what they “see” by way of marks on paper. Initial attempts are typically awful. Continued failure leads to frustration and abandonment, or else the determination to “learn” how do draw. Such learning requires one to engage in the reciprocal activity of practicing drawing “methods” while simultaneously understanding the nature of the visual forms those methods are meant to capture. It is only through this interplay of method and understanding that one can begin to draw what they see.

At which point one realizes the meta-lesson of drawing, which is that nobody draws what they see. You can only draw what you KNOW about what you see. That knowledge… visual knowledge… is not the same as vision. After all, most everyone has two eyes by which to see… but most people cannot draw beyond the primitive. And the reason is that their knowledge of visual forms and methods is (well)… primitive.

A further implication is that the drawing (as art object) is not equivalent to the visual perception of the subject matter of the drawing. In other words, a drawing of an apple is not an apple. The drawing is a representation only… a mental construct… a methodological translation of visual perception via the artistic form of a drawing.

All of this might seem terribly boring and inapplicable to the subject at hand. But if you indulge me for another minute… and lay your egos aside… then maybe I can make my point. Which is this. I have never gotten the impression that writers consider writing to be a “methodological translation” of (let’s say) interior thoughts and feelings, into the artistic form of the written word.

I think the reason for this is that we are all able to speak and write with some proficiency from an early age. I could also include the activity of contemplating ideas in our minds, and of subconscious processes… which we (kind-a) assume to be language based. These very powerful tools (thinking, reading, writing, speaking) allow us to think and imagine VERY GREAT things. Yet when we attempt to write it down… it’s not so easy. And this is no different from the artist… who might peer out into some beautiful landscape and be filled with desire to represent what he perceives and feels, yet be unable to do so. But whereas the artist is forced to reconcile his failures with the need to learn a method and to grasp the nature of visual form (as a translation between vision and representation)… I wonder if writers see their failure in these same terms.

Or does the writer simply “work harder”… or “write what they know”… or “keep plugging away”… or “writer’s write”… or “never give up”…. or a thousand other ways to say the same thing… admonishments to pound away at reality… that somehow representations will condense NOT out of understanding, but of somehow aligning the monkeys in our brains to coincidentally type out the works of Shakespeare. But just as a drawing is not the hand’s record of the light striking your retina… the written word is not a passive record of the mind’s ability to cogitate and speak out loud. But I wonder if writers know this? Or does the immediate accessibility of language mask the distinction?

Another aspect of this distinction is that in the visual arts, the impact of artistic theories are well understood, and are considered to be highly relevant. In fact, any good art school program is going to require a thorough grounding in the history of art from ancient times to the present day. This is an enormous investigation into cultural history. Artists are meant to take such things very very seriously, and are meant to understand that the nature of artistic method and form and meaning derive from such cultural moments as have occurred over time.

But I have to wonder if writers think of writing in the same way. For instance… do writers ever wonder about the writing skills of ancient Egyptians? Because artists are very aware of the art of ancient Egypt.

Visual artists are taught to understand that ancient architectural forms are rooted in archetypical associations that the human species has evolved from out of their prehistory. Are there any analogous ideas that writers possess about their own artistic heritage? Are writers schooled in the social and artistic shifts underlying the sea-change of the Late Gothic transition to the early Renaissance? Visual artists sure are. In fact, they make Pilgrimages to Rome and Florence and Venice just to lay their eyes on the art… to sit under the sun and absorb the aura of history, and thereby to connect with the meanings of these things. Do writers do such things? Or are words just words and everyone has them and all you need to do is pound away at a typewriter until it just pops out of you? Is writing like a piano… a music making machine that you only need whack at until a tune emerges? And when it does, you claim it as your own, and marvel at the mystery of your own origin… and try not to consider that it might all be happy accidents and the accommodating of the random.

I don’t mean to sound cruel, but I think that writers have no sense of these things, or of writing as an activity distinct from the basic language skills of talking and thinking and jotting stuff down. In truth, most visual artists don’t give a damn about the things I’ve waxed on about. The difference is this… that they are supposed to… whereas writers have no such presumption built into their activity.

And so it should come as no surprise that when poetry falls victim to the ravages of modernist or post- modernist theories of everything… that writers should twist in the wind and wonder what the hell is gone wrong. But such things are no surprise to visual artists, who only need look around and see all the crap contemporary art floating about the world. We see it everyday too. But at least we know what it is, and why it is. Because we are trained to know these things. Because art comes out of theories and methods… not out of the naive ability to speak words and have thoughts. Bad theories and absent methods lead to the destruction of art. The alternative isn’t to abandon ideas, but to understand that good ideas must be asserted. In the visual arts, such advocacy is mistakenly assumed to be a return to the art of the past… to neo-classical style paintings of nudes and heroic figures in togas. Which is ridiculous. But this is no different a mistake than when some poets try to defeat bad post-modern poetry by adopting the writing styles of Chaucer and Shakespeare.

The history of any art does not exist to be mindlessly rejected or mindlessly copied. What good can come out of mindlessness? It exists as a repository of ideas from which some meaningful “next thing” might emerge. Who knows what it is. I try to make this point to visual artists… but nobody seems to give a damn. So now I’m making it here in this poetry blog. And this is an uphill battle I suppose, because writers are not trained like visual artists, and they may not be aware of what they are really trying to do. So maybe writers should stop screaming about bad poems, and begin instead the difficult task of understanding the nature of the writer word at all.

SCARRIET RESPONDS

One of the Scarriet editors works at a large, urban, liberal arts university (once a teacher’s college), which recently acquired an art school; Scarriet covers not only the decline of poetry, but how art, poetry and philosophy mingle, so you can imagine our excitement at finding this learned and lengthy comment on our “Why Poetry Sucks Now” post, a delightful comment which Scarriet has elevated to a post of its own.

“Art comes out of theories and methods…not out of the naive ability to speak words and have thoughts.”

So says the “art school trained painter,” who reminds us that “nobody draws what they see…they only draw what they KNOW about what they see…visual knowledge is not the same as vision…” and “do the writers know this?” Further: artists know art is a “methodological translation” of reality, where writers, by comparison, seem to be mere “passive” (and random!) recording devices of what is universally accessible to all: language.

We agree entirely with the gist of this, and though we are a writer, not a painter, we feel no insult at all, and we are illuminated by the truth of what this painter has—written.

The truth of painting’s superiority to writing was put most forcefully by da Vinci, who said the experience of the eye is the beginning and proof of all science: discontinuous quantity (arithmetic), continuous quantity (geometry) and perspective the holy trinity of astronomy and all human knowledge—painting as the body, poetry merely its shadow. Body (substance and its measurement) trumps Blah Blah Blah. Absolutely.

However, there is a “writing method” tradition—embodied in full by Edgar Poe (unfortunately not taught in writing programs) who we never tire of quoting; the following, from the Master, reflects the thinking of our art school trained painter:

There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode of constructing a story. Either history affords a thesis—or one is suggested by an incident of the day—or, at best, the author sets himself to work in the combination of striking events to form merely the basis of his narrative—designing, generally, to fill in with description, dialogue, or authorial comment, whatever crevices of fact, or action, may, from page to page, render themselves apparent.

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. Keeping originality always in view—for he is false to himself who ventures to dispense with so obvious and so easily attainable source of interest—I say to myself, in the first place, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select? Having chosen a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it can best be wrought by incident or tone—whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and tone—afterward looking about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effect.

Poe rigorously asserts the secret of all composition—and all morals: in the beginning (the intention) we discover our end (the effect)—and the myriad details, of drawing or writing, fall into place, or should fall into place, in the execution. By this method, these are eliminated: The random, the details which overwhelm, and self-indulgence.

The point our painter makes in his comment—that we draw what we know about what we see, not what we see—is, we feel, a reiteration of Poe’s method, and here an important point about ‘knowing’ should be made.

The separation between knowing and seeing does not exist because seeing needs correcting or is insufficient—the natural seeing humans do reflects nature’s efficiency: perspective which makes distant objects small, for instance, is the perfect solution to the over-crowding of the visual field: and understanding perspective is an understanding which is not distinct from seeing, but is the same as seeing: the “knowing” the artist is engaged in is nothing more than a selecting, a framing, a focusing—and not something superior to seeing; it is the very same thing Poe refers to when he says, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions…which one shall I, on the present occasion, select?”

Here is the vital point: the distinction which our art school trained painter makes between vision and visual knowledge is different than we suppose: “visual knowledge” is not something which stands above and apart from “vision;” quite the opposite: vision is the whole, visual knowledge is the part, of the whole thing. Vision is natural and perfect, visual knowledge is imperfect and contingent. Visual knowledge is the narrow “effect,” of which vision is the cause, and the connection between visual knowledge and vision is seamless. All training, all knowledge, is nothing more than focus: both the artist and the writer do not see more; they see less than the layperson; all knowledge is knowledge of what to ignore: what not to see, what not to write, what not to draw.

Modern poetry errs in making poetry subordinate to prose-ideas; modern art errs in making painting subordinate to collage-ideas.

The answer is not simply, “less is more,” but how (to what end) does the artist make less more?

Plato (and who cares if he wore a toga?) is another thinker who tells us that vision (reality) trumps visual knowledge (art), since vision is the true knowledge of which visual knowledge (art) attempts to unfairly usurp—not because knowledge should not be trusted, but because knowledge is not what we think it is: the vision IS the knowledge, the vision (reality) contains far more perfectly and ultimately the knowledge, of which art-knowledge (and writing-knowledge) slyly hides—especially if the untrustworthy student falls in love with representation, illusion, and dream passionately spun by the sophist for all sorts of partially realized reasons dripping with bad taste.

The “methodological” in our art school painter’s “methodological translation” of reality contains two simple things: first, the focus, or selection, we just discussed above (the selective nature of reality informing the selective nature of human vision) and second, the good.  We finally want to do good, to produce good, to have a good effect, and here, of course, we refer to Plato’s ‘the good,’ which has other names: justice, happiness, beauty.

Things go haywire when the hubris of human knowledge thinking itself superior to natural seeing, sensing, and feeling takes precedence. “I’m not drawing what I see!” cries the sophisticated painter, “I’m working within  specialized knowledge!” Ah, so this is why your painting is bland, trivial, confusing, with lines and colors leading nowhere, a hybrid collage of no real purpose. And the poet who writes poetry which rambles incoherently, having no coherence or lasting interest, is mistakenly certain in that human knowledge which is entirely separate from the effect the poem is actually having. This error arises from the belief that “visual knowledge” is superior to “vision.”

But the objection might come: No! The ‘good’ resides in human knowledge, in human attempts at it, not in simple vision, not in haphazard, unadorned reality, not in nature, red in tooth and claw.  You wrongly assume that “this is the best of all possible worlds” and that to merely copy the beautiful and perfect world is enough, and no ideas are necessary; you say the real method is to simply frame part of (what is called by you) “reality.” No, sorry.

But this objection misses several important points: Vision, as it operates everywhere, is efficient and remarkable, and is not the same as “nature, red in tooth and claw.” This is to confuse reality with our special feelings about it. Reality is not “unadorned” or “simple,” and copying it is never simple. “Copying” reality is a highly complex endeavor—our art school trained artist puts it succinctly: “most everyone has two eyes to see, but most people cannot draw beyond the primitive.” Exactly. Human pride believes the complexity resides in the imposition of method, when true method copies nature with da Vinci’s open eyes.

The artist and the poet are finally united by the philosophy which begins with an effect—a design guided by the morality of justice/beauty in terms of what scientifically the senses, as senses, understand, measure, and know.

ROMANCE

Is Romance a dance

Born not to last?

So we find ourselves

Mourning romantic things in the past?

Is it doubt and forgetful death

Which lends charm

To love—a charm in every sighing breath

So charming we forget the alarm

That is sighing in company with love’s sigh

So love becomes indistinguishable with death?

And we don’t see the sorrow—beautiful sorrow!—in her eye

Which makes her eye beautiful

But is the very sorrow

Which will fall in love with sorrow

And say goodbye?

I’m afraid it is so.

One left me, even as love was at its height;

We had spent many a delirious night

In each other’s arms,

And when, in disbelief, I asked her,

In icy tones, she said: “I don’t know.”

Love melted into sorrow.

I fled to madly analyze the past.

She smiled calmly on tomorrow.

 

 

 

YOU CAN’T STAY HERE

Get out of the womb,
You can’t stay here.
The cozy nursery room?
You can’t stay here.
Did you think that death
Was the only thing to fear?
Goodbye, childhood,
Innocent childhood,
You can’t stay here.
A troubled child, sassy and wild,
Too brassy now to kiss away your tear,
Changing to a woman,
You can’t stay here.
Get out, get out!
You can’t stay here!
Did you think that death
Was the only thing to fear?

OFF THE VINE

 

Fruit off the vine
Is like a line
Of poetry.

You slowly grew
And so you knew
Of poetry.

Poetry is time.
Time, here’s a rhyme
Of poetry.

The fruit must drop.
The line must stop
For poetry.

What is the line
If not imagined
Pleasure to see?

And to hear—
If poetry’s fear
Made the poet lucky?

I feared poetry
In my younger days;
The music plays

To insult poetry sometimes
With its rhymes.
But speech will get its revenge
When amid the hullabaloo

You say, “Did you know I love you?”

Then music will seem kind,
Sweet food for the blind,
And you and poetry
Will be of one mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MENTOR/TEACHER CULT

We can think of nothing worse for poetry than the notion that obedience to a flawed personality can make, or inspire, a poet. The insidious nature of the Mentor/Teacher cult escapes detection for two obvious reasons:

Poets, artists and scholars need to teach, obviously, since this is pretty much the only way these types of creatures can make a living.

Second, poets and artists are invested in mentoring others in ways they themselves understand/write poetry/produce art/think about things, if only to create new audiences for their own work.

So when you are a student, remember: you are the hunted. You are prey.

You will, of course, have teachers who are incompetent, bored, have no philosophy, and couldn’t care less about you.

These may actually teach you something.

But the mentor? Beware.

The mentor, armed with their particular art-philosophy, and intent on the education of your soul? They will un-learn you. They will damage you and set you back, unless of course you wish to be a mere clone of them, teaching others similarly, in turn.

Most students know to avoid the teacher who is hostile to them (the student) because they have more talent than the teacher; and many students simply refuse to be mentored by an instructor’s personal bias. After all, the student usually has more than one teacher to choose from, and may already have some idea about what they want.

But this does not change the fact that mentor-relationships are common, and corrupt.

There is nothing wrong with the mentor or enthusiastic teacher, per se.

Mentors are a danger in poetry and the arts today because there is no verifiable excellence in the arts anymore. Crackpot-ism reigns and laziness has become the rule. Poets and artists are distracted by teaching and administrative duties, as well as the million trends of the whole trendy industry itself. The mentor is invariably a lazy crackpot with narrow, trendy views.

To understand the issue a little better, think of the student in a sport. As one gains competence through training in this area, anyone can witness the excellence gained in terms of verifiable quickness, speed, coordination, and so forth. Every coach can be a jerk. This does not change the fact that an aspiring player can either hit a 90 mile per hour fastball—or not.

In sport, excellence is publicly verifiable.

In the arts, today, it is not.

Does this fact make art more sophisticated and nuanced?

We should not assume so. Yet this assumption is nearly universal in the arts.

A moment’s thought will make it clear to anyone the dangerous ramifications of such an assumption.

Especially when we consider the wisdom of the Ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, who named art as that which is concerned with measurement. We err when we think of measurement as a straitjacket, for no piece of music in the world is possible without it, no great painting, or poem, either.

But we can leave Greek philosophy and the idea that measurement is necessary for true art aside for the time being, and simply contemplate what it means to have lazy, crackpot mentor-ism (brainwashing) driving arts and arts education.

To stand out as a ‘mentor,’ one has to be narrow in one’s views, since without any verifiable excellence, excellence can only be perceived in terms of narrow trendiness—which opposes universally verifiable excellence as a matter of course.

Insane mixtures and inane combinations are the rule: the sensibility of the collage, in which whatever strikes one’s fancy, is thrown into the mixing pot, is the number one method, and the more clumsy and jarring the superimposition the better, in the art world today, since the more self-conscious the mixing is, the better, since a unity which seeks excellence as a unity is the ‘old way’ and the enemy.

A picture, which excels by uniting elements, demands excellence in three ways: 1. the parts, 2. the way the parts fit together, and 3. the final result. If the parts ‘stick out’ in a way that ruins the unified effect, this ruins the excellence; as does any one part not being excellent; as does any lack of excellence in the final result, even when every part is excellent. The collage, by its very nature, is an intentional violation of this formula. It is a formula itself, and is a formula itself as much as it subverts the higher order formula which we have just outlined.

Excellence and universality are intentionally subverted in the arts today, since virtually every critically praised painting or sculpture produced today falls under the category of collage.

Simple photography escapes, within the unified choice-frame of its eye, the collage, and therefore we have the largely unspoken irony that photography/video is now the chief art form in the art world, in the same way song lyrics today are carrying the old load which poetry once carried, and comic books, old pictorial art.

Clumsy parts clumsily fitted together—the collage—is the default method which is destroying art and poetry.

A public immediately recognizes excellence—and does so when it is a public, and when it is a public, in rare times in history, excellence flourishes in what are called “renaissance” periods.

But unfortunately a public can be split and fractured into various museum-going and academic and book-buying and politically indoctrinated pieces, trained to respect the fiat of decision-makers at the top of various mercantile, and faux-art credentialing, food chains.

The true mentor—the Socrates—comes along once every thousand years. The student is urged to reject both the mentor and the trend,  and to study history, ancient and modern—and to learn the difference between a trend and a truth.

There is much important work to be done, and the beautiful soul, guided by a kind of fanatical honesty which resists trends, should find a good library, and do that work alone.

 

 

 

 

I WENT TO VIEW THE GALLERIES

image

I went to view the galleries

And I left with a woman on my arm

Who some painters used to see—

Will this do some harm

That she is now with me?

I don’t paint. I write poetry.

 

Now the painters talk.

I get to kiss her silently.

 

I view her eyes in various light

Of days’ moods dying into moody lights at night,

But her eyes have their own light

If day drowns us, or beautiful night.

Her eyes don’t need to look at me. But they might.

 

The length and shape of her produces delight.

The painters never get her beauty right,

Not understanding perspective or the light

Which drops in shadows on the long days

Of love’s torture, to sweeten our gaze,

Loving love in the umber haze.

 

 

 

 

 

THE INSCRUTABLE

Inscrutable the lake, inscrutable the trees,
Inscrutable the voice which sounded like a breeze
Intimate with love, and its mysteries,
Like a melody springing from melodies,
Or one memory living in a heart broken
By many memories,
Not one of them spoken.

The dinosaur crept in the lake and waited,
And when global warming’s ice age had abated
And we were allowed to be human again,
The fire built to please all men,
The lake, frozen, protecting all women,
With fish below, how far below,
Swimming stratas increasingly slow,
Descending in a beautiful ratio—
The dinosaur rose, looking pitifully human,
Naked outside, scientific within,
Surrounded by the lakes and trees
Inside the poem of melodies
Crashing against the side of a successful shadow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIDDLESTICKS

Sanity stands apart from poetry,
Viewing my pronouncements with disdain,
But if I should sing a little song,
Sanity may yet smile, and not think me wrong,
Not think poetry is entirely insane.

Yes, we wish we were inhabited by gods,
But the gods have left us alone
To ourselves, to ourselves,
To strive for a barren throne.

Sanity has something to do
In the parlor, at the store;
So this poem is over.
I won’t be singing to you anymore.

But later, in the evening,
When she is tired and needs to rest,
I will sing to sanity softly,
And she’ll love poetry the best.

 

LOVE MEANS KILLING YOUR RIVALS: THE DILEMMA OF EITHER/OR

image

Either/Or. The Shah or this guy. 

Scarriet is the best poetry site in the world for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that we are not enslaved by any political ideology, as most American poets and intellectuals are.

Be either/or, they say. Choose, choose! Be a Democrat, not a Republican! Be ‘one of us!’ Be loyal to our side!

But to pick a side is to fall into the either/or trap, which breeds fanaticism on either end.

To not choose is the true choice, the wise Socratic, choice which supports true science and democracy.

To say we avoid political ideology, and we do not choose sides, does not mean we ignore the ugly cultural, ideological, impact that the political has on poetry and love; we know love means killing all our rivals, we are more fanatical than any political fanatic in our understanding of love—this informs our deep understanding of poetry; we embrace aesthetics, but we don’t hide inside an aesthetic bubble. We approach politics—and everything—from a position of common sense. Sometimes we fight. Sometimes we escape into our bubble. But don’t ask us to choose between Khomeini and the Shah, or between Democrats and Republicans, please. It ain’t going to happen.

We come from a liberal background; we were not raised with guns in a redneck environment; we know the New York Times and the Washington Post; we are quite familiar with “All Things Considered,” we sound like Woody Allen at times, and we have taken lately to launching into a British accent, for a whole host of reasons, the least of which is to show a kind of hopeless allegiance to the great tradition of deft, daffy, self-effacing, humorous, and confident Anglo-Americanism. We don’t ‘go’ to church. We like Sarah Palin because she wants cheaper and more accessible oil—-not because she’s a Republican. We think it idiotic to worry about whether someone is “smart” in politics; engineers who build spaceships and buildings and oil rigs should be smart; politicians should be big-hearted and childlike and funny, and not afraid to say dumb things. Bring it on. Bring on dumb. Politicians should always be dumb in a curious, evolving sort of way, and the press, full of really dumb people, and the voters—talk about dumb—need to embrace dumb and not pretend to be too smart for it. There? See? If one must discuss politics, there is no reason to get all political about it. If Hillary Clinton (criminal and ogreish—does she come from Iran?) is smarter than Sarah Palin, can anyone name one smart thing Hillary Clinton has done or said? I’m waiting. Some of Clinton’s opinions correspond with yours?  Good. But that is no indication of smart, and you are really dumb if you think that. No, really, you are. “I can see Russia outside my window,” is delightful, and if it doesn’t pass muster in a game of Jeopardy, that doesn’t matter. Believing Jeopardy-smart is truly smart is really, really dumb. And Jeopardy is one of our favorite shows.

Science is never done asking questions, and the idea that the Global Warming Debate “is over” has to be one of the dumbest things ever—and yet all of those who insist the debate “is over” (we laugh every time we see this) don’t even know what CO2 is, and think that “carbon emissions” is the same thing as pollution. And then we have the indignant “debate is over” (ha ha ha) crowd changing their terminology from “global warming” to “climate change,” and we are expected to believe this crowd is “smart” and those who oppose them are greedy oil barons, not ordinary people challenging Big Environmentalism, asking for more affordable oil prices for the poor. A “smart” person does not count the number of “scientists” who “agree” with them, when that “agreement” is only boilerplate. A “smart” person never believes polls—which, by their very nature, even if the respondents are scientists, will never be scientific, because who is asking and to what exactly does the response pertain—cannot articulate the problem, never mind be the “answer” to the problem. What was the question, again? Oh, that’s right: Why don’t some people believe the “debate is over?” And what was “the debate,” again?  Oh never mind. The “smart” ones will figure it out. Those politicians and those journalists who are “smart.” Right.

The point here, of course, is not who is finally “really” right and who is finally “really” smart.

Democracy is not a “smart” contest or a “who’s right?” contest. The whole point of democracy is that it is not either of these things.  If you are not the kind of person who is good at crossword puzzles or Jeopardy, you still should vote. We encourage you to vote. And we also encourage you not to think Jeopardy-smart is smart.

The Big Dumb is Those Who Think They Are Smart—so “smart” that the “debate is over,” as they insist you need to choose their side. These are the truly dumb.

There are millions of people who think they are “smart” because they believe in “evolution,” or, at least they think they are smarter than “creationists.”

This is colossally stupid.

First of all, believing in “evolution,” in terms of practical science, in practical matters of every kind, is nearly meaningless. Second of all, believing in “evolution” means what, exactly? That you have read the “Origin of Species?” That you’ve read a little Darwin, a lot, or just know generally who he is? And, again, this “knowledge of evolution” is truly useful in what way? And do you seriously believe this makes you on any scale whatsoever, “smarter” than anybody else?

What also makes “evolutionists” remarkably stupid is they loudly congratulate themselves as they compare themselves favorably to “creationists.” First of all, the issues involved have nothing to do with each other, since Darwin says nothing about creation, that is, the origin of the universe. Nor does religious thought need to be scientifically verified on matters that science in general is at a loss to explain. Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka is the best scientific essay on the creation of the universe; few have read it, and therefore it is safe to say virtually everyone is ignorant of creation; so no one—not university professors, not scientists in laboratories, can say they are “smart” in this area at all, evolutionists or not. So the situation is, we have blockheads, politically motivated, referring to others as blockheads. Is that stupid? Yea, it is. So don’t brag about Darwin, okay, stupid?

How then, should we proceed? Democratically, of course. That is, always begin sympathetically with the person, not the opinions. Because if we start with the opinions, making all sorts of assumptions about what is right and what is wrong about those opinions, or who is smart or not, based on those opinions, we prejudice the person, who has a whole complex network of opinions based on how they decipher complex reality as a person—and a person, in a democratic society, no matter how much their views differ from yours, is inviolable.

By respecting the person and what they bring to the table—not any one opinion—will not only help create a freer and more democratic society, it will provide a better environment to examine opinions in a scientific and respectful atmosphere, and utilize those opinions that are best for society in the long run, in a flexible, adaptive and truly evolving manner.

By cutting off debate prematurely, democracy suffers.

Never give in to Either/or.  That’s the mark of a Third World Country.

American intellectuals, it is sad to see, are leading advocates of Either/or. Which only shows how corrupt American intellectual life has become since the American Revolution.

The common, contemporary, American, liberal or conservative intellectual belief is this: No opinion or value system should be treated with equal deference and respect in an intellectual setting. We cannot expect this, and we should not expect this.

But we should expect this. This common intellectual belief is wrong. This idea that not all value systems should be treated equally is wrong, even for an intellectual setting, as opposed to, let’s say, the voting booth.

On the contrary: Every opinion and value system should be treated with equal deference and respect, since these things only exist as they connect in a complex manner to a human being—who should always be treated with deference and respect. A creationist could be brilliant in all sorts of practical and scientific ways—for reasons not readily apparent. Not only because the creation of the universe is still a mystery, but because there are countless examples in history of great scientists (both practical and theoretical) who were deeply religious.

Science is too complex to bar anyone’s entrance into it, even if a particular opinion held by that person goes against our taste, or sense of right and wrong. If we do feel deeply that an opinion is wrong, we should examine it in the context of the person who holds that belief.

In a truly scientific atmosphere, those opinions that really are harmful and wrong will more quickly, under objective examination, fade away, than if we try to repress them.

Let us say we find abhorrent any objection to homosexuality, so that in the intellectual setting of psychology, we take every step to ban anyone who argues for homosexual rehabilitation.

But in the human sciences, human opinion of all kinds should be sacred; all humans should be treated equally, and let the opinions clash without prejudice, and see what comes of it. It is important to understand here that in this essay we are not defending any value system or opinion, but only asking for a true spirit of inquiry that in the long run will advance learning and practical good. If human beings, as human beings, object to homosexuality, this is valid—in the human sciences. If any opinion is not true or right or good, it is still a scientific opinion. This is the crucial point of this whole essay. Science means inquiry, not truth. If we allow the objections to homosexuality to get a full hearing, a full study, only then will change truly occur. Just to take a very narrow look at one aspect of behavioral context: Heterosexual males are often pathologically jealous of their female partners. Heterosexual males can feel threatened by the homosexual male who is able to befriend potential heterosexual female partners—precisely because that profound jealousy is absent. If real phenomena like this is part of the mix, and includes a truth heterosexual males may not normally admit when asserting a prejudice, this is surely part of the science of the whole topic, and should not be suppressed.

Why a person holds a belief is always more important than the belief itself.

If the issue is really heterosexual jealousy—or whatever perceptual threat homosexuality poses to the heterosexual—this does not mitigate in any way the importance of the issue in the form of scientific inquiry, whether it is prejudicial, or not.

The problem of rehabilitation is acute, since human science examines, but does not coerce. Prejudice is so entrenched in humans in so many ways, that human science finally fails as a science, as religion takes over.

Either/or is just as important to avoid in the realm of human science as it is in politics.

Defer, defer. Be wise, like Socrates.

A great deal of inquiry, especially in the humanities, does not depend on facts; indisputable facts, such as: ‘the American Civil War ended in 1865,’ are not the issue here. Humanist inquiry hinges on many divergent opinions held by many different kinds of people— and all opinions must be welcome.

Religion is the most seductive Either/or there is. This is why we don’t go to church.

But then we come at last to Holy Love, and here, finally we succumb, we must succumb, and only here, in love, do we surrender to Either/or. Only in love. Oh, God! We choose!

And when the bitter circumstances of love, infected by politics and science and religion, destroy us and break our heart in two, we have one more thing to turn to: divine poetry.

As poets, especially, we must be alive to people first, opinions second, and we really must favor what is, in fact, true inquiry over prickly political biases based on what is glibly considered intellectually “smart.”

And all of this is crucial not because politics is not important, but because, even to the poet, it is.

 

 

 

VALENTINE’S DAY POEM: WHEN WE SIGHED

The lovers are silent and in a hurry.
Words are from hurt, and worry.
Words are from sorrow and fear of death,
When limbs are weak and weak, the breath.

But when we sighed in those distant rooms
There was almost joy in those glooms.
When we courted with our words
And sang to each other like birds
Or were silent for hours, hoping with fear,
Love was actually here,
Hoping desperately deception
Was not hidden in love’s’ reception,
There was a joy in this,
That, in hope, was almost bliss.
When I was courting,
My poems did their best reporting;
Oh God! those hopeful sighs
Were almost paradise.
Now that selfish love is gone,
Beautiful thoughts still linger on,
Now words are our greatest friends,
Poems, of sweet beginnings, and even sweeter ends.
We say to ourselves, with a sigh,
“Eventually a word will happen by,
One, by this sweet occasion fit,
And it will be love when I am saying it.”
The thought is what carries us through the life,
Since thoughts are words and a word marries us to a wife.
Words comfort us out of the air
When nothing but heaviness is there.

THE DAY IS RED, THE DAY IS FADING

The day is red.
The day is fading.

I would have fought for you,
Though you had been my enemy,
Though you had been untrue—
For when I love, I love
And nothing else will do.

You kissed me slowly.
I wrote poems to you.

“Take me for your own,”
Was all you had to say:
I would have taken you

In the light of day
And carried you away.

But you were like those girls
Who don’t know what to say
When the loving one they love
Is standing in their way.

You thought about the others—
The others? Love which filled the years
Will pass. They will be puzzled by your tears.

 

 

 

 

 

WILL I BE WISER NOW?

 

You broke my heart. I was afraid
To lose you. I panicked. And I paid.
I see that you are dwelling in my shade.
What if I should hold you, again, somehow?
How much love can a broken heart allow?
Will I be wiser now?

Shall we be cowardly or brave?
Is there something in all of this to save?
Shall we be cowardly or brave?

If you still love me, let me know.
I still love you, if you think it doesn’t show.
I love you and I don’t think this love will ever go.
But how much love can a broken heart allow?
What if I ruin our love, again, somehow?
Will I be wiser now?

 

 

TO ______

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The one I love wants to talk—
I hope she wants to talk of love;
I hope she wants to talk of kissing
And the silent stars above.

The memory of her kisses
Cannot be wiped away
By love, by a conversation,
Or by a song I heard today

That tells of a broken heart
And the pain that comes from love—
Despite all the kissing
And the silent stars above.

AN ESSAY FOR VALENTINE’S DAY: THE CONSPIRACY OF THE LOVELESS

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Is it bad to objectify women?

No, it is not.

Physical love is not only a rich source of pleasure, it is the way we produce children. These are not minor things.

Friendly relations between human beings has nothing to do with humanity’s survival; friendship is perhaps the most overrated thing there is.

Intent on physical love, we are not friendly; we merely act in a friendly manner to get what we want. Friendly is an act in all cases, and always will be.  For friendly is not what we are—it is a means to an end. When we are being creative, when we joy at the appearance or the sensual rush of something, or whenever we are actually doing something worthwhile, we are never in that mood which would be termed friendly.

Yet some of us, either shamed by moral guidelines, or having no creative will at all, but often a manipulative one, aspire to the friendly as if it were the only thing that matters. If only everyone were as nice as I am, as conscientious and thoughtful as I am, they think, we wouldn’t need beauty, or thought, or the heroic, or inventions, or desire! No bloodshed! No objectifying women! No comparison and competition! Everyone working together nicely! We all know them; typically, they are upper middle management types who wear nice clothes and spend their public lives alternately sneering and fawning and their private lives cursing and weeping. The nice restaurant or the nice pair of shoes is everything to them; they regard an idea with horror.

So no, we are not being friendly when we objectify women. Granted, it is not a friendly thing to do.

To objectify is not a friendly pursuit, nor is it a superficial one—it belongs to creativity, to scientific observation, to the comedic/hurtful, and to love. It does not belong to the world of nice bureaucrats who wear nice shoes and pursue nice as the most important thing in the world.

The objection to objectifying another human being carries the implication that in general it is always good to let another person pursue happiness as a free, unfettered and independent being and always bad to bond or enslave another for your pleasure.  But of course this is totally ridiculous. The ‘friendly’ use high sounding rhetoric to muddy the waters of thinking—unable to think, nice becomes the default setting, and thus the nice nicely triumphs in a kind of paralysis of smiling and obedient dumb.

To clear away the sludge of the friendly, then, and look at the whole thing in a clear light:

To objectify is to look and to judge—which is what we all do all the time, anyway.

The more we love someone, the more we objectify them, the more we are concerned with their physical appearance. Judging by appearance is a highly efficient way to judge, for the simple reason that your physical appearance contains a tremendous amount of information about you and whoever is interested in you as more than a simple means to an end will not be interested in you as a miasma or a mist, a code or a symbol, but as an object with physical properties—even friends—even a dog recognizing their master—identify and cultivate an attachment based on objectification—on purely physical recognition.

It is the partiality which the friendly object to—a photograph of a comely woman on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, for instance, presents the most superficial information, such that we know nothing of the person, only how a moment’s camera angle feeds the great public beast of shallow objectification and lust.

But it isn’t like every man who looks at a photograph of a media-attractive woman gets a boner—we are really not talking about the healthy lust of physical love and child-making; what the friendly are truly objecting to in magazine-cover gazing is the comparative faculty which is invoked—to their detriment. This is the problem. Comparison, and complex comparison, in fact, which is at the heart of all rational and creative thought, is what the friendly hate.

It shouldn’t be necessary to point out—but we will: partial information is always at work—the comely woman on the magazine cover could be smart, as much as we can define the term—like appearance, intelligence is a complex quality which always lives in context and partiality and mystery; to object to any partial bit of information for reason of its partiality (shame on you, only judging by appearance!) is fruitless and silly.

Because the partial lives in the physical, or the beauty of the physical, this is no recommendation against it; in fact, partial belief elicited by rhetoric (which always traffics in the partial) is far more insidious, since the brain always recognizes a photograph as information which is essentially lacking in completeness. But a lecture, a speech, a piece of rhetoric, can win the gullible over completely— even though, it, too, is partial information, often driven by hidden motive—by its very nature as a piece of rhetoric. By comparison to a piece of rhetoric, a photograph of a beautiful woman is innocuous, harmless, and meaningless.

Except for the fact that a photograph of a beautiful woman could be important, beneficial, and profound.

This is because the drawback of partiality is solved in one instance: in the appearance of beauty—which manifests itself as beauty precisely because we experience it not partially, but as complete, as whole, as one. 

True beauty is that which escapes partiality, and pleases (often mysteriously) for that very reason. This is how love works—the appearance/existence of the beloved is complete in itself; it is not information leading to something else; it is utterly loved for what it is. To be in love is to wish to be in the presence of the beloved for no other reason than to be in their presence.  Here is the crucial distinction: appearance/existence versus mere appearance.

How can a picture of someone else, no matter how beautiful they appear in the picture, compete with the beloved’s physical manifestation?

It cannot. Being in love, we are acutely aware of a greater manifestation of love as physical presence; the very air around our beloved becomes a physical force when they come into our sight—mere pictures seem bereft to us: we look at a beautiful woman in a photo and merely think: this is a stranger, this is not our love.

In love, one object overshadows all the others. Pictures hurt us only if we are not in love. Pictures are made by, and for, the loveless.

The evil of objectifying women, then, is no evil at all. Objectifying is a complex process involving science and love.

We have yet to mention objectifying men—and the evil that women tend to be objectified, and men, not. But again, this is a mere distraction; equality of the sexes is not hindered by so-called objectifying at all; objectifying will only lead to more equality, since science and love, which both always objectify, point the way to equality.

Love and science are standards of truth. If equality of the sexes is a truth, then objectifying—which is what love and science do—will work towards equality.

Are men objectified? Of course they are! Constantly!

The chief ill in all of this is the fear of objectifying, and that fear is the fear that partial untruth will win the day, that the superficially beautiful will get all the lovers. As we have pointed out, however, this fear is unfounded, misguided, and blocks both love and scientific inquiry; this fear is the revenge of the loveless, the revenge of the merely friendly.

If you believe you are ugly and loveless, the answer is not to suppress or resent the spirit of objectifying beauty; the spirit of objectifying will one day, if it looks cunningly enough, rescue you.  And the knife cuts both ways; if you believe you are “beautiful” and “loved” for that reason, perhaps you are wrong. The god of love is more mischievous than we assume, and makes mischief by the most superficial and physical means.

The only cure for the objectifying gaze is an objectifying gaze that is even more intense and personal and matchless in the spirit of love. Only picturing beauty can transcend beauty merely pictured.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

MY LOVE NO LONGER BELONGS

My love no longer belongs to your life;
But your love to my life still belongs
For my happiness. For my happy songs.

You have given my love back.
But I still love you: I do not have that lack.

My love no longer belongs to you,
Your soul, or all your soul knows it must do.

Love made your life too precarious,
Too fateful and too serious.
Calmly, you move back to old, slow habits;
And you will grow old, and the years shall run like rabbits.

No need to run for that illicit train
Or present for love’s inspection your body and brain;
Now you can relax while you dream.

Now you can put on makeup for everyone, not me,
Who made paramount you, and your beauty.
Now you can just say anything, again,
And impress billions of men.

Who wants to be confined?
And to make matters worse, we pined.

Love really was a pain in the ass.
It had its moments, but let them pass.

What was it for, if not for children?
It only takes a moment to make a child
So then it happens you can never be wild.
You were getting old for them to have been,
So love fed amusement, flattery, and sin.
The pleasant illusion you had of me
(Of course) couldn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Women love jealousy, because they are turned on
By sparks of social comparison;
This jealousy the man has to rise above;
Indifference to the woman is the secret to success in love.
And its downfall, as well.
No wonder passionate love is a kind of hell.

I learned this too late
(I don’t know how I survived the first date)
Because I was focused entirely on you—
Or maybe not. Maybe I had some genius for indifference, too.

Who really knows?
Maybe you got sick of the shape of my nose.
Or maybe you had anxiety disorder
And you couldn’t handle me crossing your border.
I doubt it. It was the jealousy
That finally did in you and me.
I dug in. So you had to flee.

But your love in my life still remains:
For my songs, for which I take such pains.

 

 

 

I CARE WHAT BEAUTY LIKES

I care what beauty likes,
And what beauty likes is hate,
For when beauty finally loves
Liking is too late.

Beauty noticed long ago:
The standards of beauty are severe.
I kiss her, I kneel before her;
But beauty loves distantly; she doesn’t love what’s here.

Beauty made me jealous;
I was blinded by my fire,
A flame she loved too much:
Shame overtook desire.

Now what can she say
To family and friends:
Here is my life
And here is where it ends?

Our love was not heroic.
It’s easy to be distracted:
This is why she erred,
And why I reacted.

THIS POEM IS NOT FOR YOU

 

 

I’m sorry you have to read this.
It is not for you. What you are reading
Is me writing to somebody else
Who has a mouth I want to kiss.

There is nothing for you here
And not in the sense of false, or true.
You have no context for what she and I do.
In every sense this poem is not for you.

If you saw my love in a picture
You still wouldn’t know.
There is just something about her…

Am I wise to let this go?
Should I have more faith in language?
But that’s precisely it—I do.
I am using language to make an important point:
The impossibility of this poem being able to say anything to you.
It is her mouth I want to kiss.
You will have to be satisfied with this.

 

 

 

 

REMEMBERING ROD MCKUEN: POPULAR POET, SONGWRITER

Rod McKuen, with Frank Sinatra. McKuen sold 100 million records and 60 million books.

Scarriet owes a great debt to the cross-over genre of Poetry As Song/Song As Poetry.

Our most popular and oft-visited post is The Top One Hundred Popular Song Lyrics That Work As Poetry, published a year and a half ago, which gets thousands of hits a week.

Scarriet embraces the accessible in poetry and believes Pound and Williams killed the art.  We love Romantic poetry and believe Shakespeare, Keats and Poe represent the pinnacle of modern achievement, and that since then there has been a great falling off.

So we ought to acknowledge the passing of Rod McKuen (April 29 1933—January 29 2015) who was a popular American poet and songwriter in the French chanson tradition.

Not that we love McKuen’s poetry; it is wretched, for the most part. But the songwriting aspect of his popularity, and the way poetry and songwriting in popular culture mysteriously intertwine ought to be addressed, and we will address it here very briefly.

A popular song works its magic in a moment-to-moment fashion and will not stand still for profound contemplation; as much as poetry is like popular song, that poetry repels, by its very nature, the profound, or the deep.

But we can go even further: whatever is monumental (think of Michelangelo’s David) makes its impact on us immediately; any art product achieves true, popular, success quickly and superficially.

This partially answers the question pertaining to Rod McKuen.

How can something be bad and also good?

This question best sums up the aesthetic phenomenon in philosophical terms.

To put it as simply as possible:

To be popular, one must be bad, for to triumph in the eyes of the many is to court that which is low and unlearned.

And yet to stand apart from rivals by achieving popular success is good.

To court the low, however, even in a successful manner, is, in the final analysis, bad.

And thus the critic Julia Keller called McKuen “gooey schmaltz that wouldn’t pass muster in a freshman creative-writing class” which “the masses ate up with a spoon, while highbrow literary critics roasted him on a spit.”

The complexity enters when we reflect that “the masses” are—to call them bad or good, or unlearned or learned, is to impose an artificial idealism upon nature—which, by its very existence, transcends all man-made judgements, no matter how “highbrow.” If “the masses” want “schmaltz,” it would be stupid not to give it to them, and whether it “passes muster in a creative-writing class” is beside the point.

Just as human painting fails miserably when compared to reality, all that is literarily highbrow also fails in the same way.  To court nature, by appealing to “the masses” directly, with “schmaltzy” poetry, is a strategy which not only courts success, but bests the “highbrow” at its own game, since the “schmaltzy,” by definition, is precisely an expression of weakness and failure characterized by the tremendous gap between attempts by the most supreme highbrow formulations of art to capture reality and magnificent, infinite reality itself—which dwarfs all human aspirations to artistically render that reality.

The spark that sets aflame any given artist’s popularity is always a complex crossroads of effort, luck, timing, and so forth, as complex as any highbrow artwork itself. Rod McKuen’s life and fame, then, deserves as much study as any other artist’s life and fame: Ezra Pound, or James Joyce, for instance.

Schmaltz is timeless, and if Pound avoided it in poetry more unique than McKuen’s, this only means Pound succeeds (in relative terms) in the lower order of humanity’s vain efforts to compete with nature and reality, whereas McKuen succeeds (in relative terms) in the higher order of reality itself, in which human schmaltz is a million times more prevalent than any quality we might extract from the work of Pound.

We find ourselves unable—and we challenge anyone else to—say one thing which makes Pound more important than McKuen, that would not immediately draw suspicion of merely saying that which sounds highbrow but has no real meaning at all.

For what is human expression which we term ‘art,’ but expression by people and for people, and for that purpose alone?

Science is another thing, and all agree schmaltz has no place there.

But to judge poetry and song by standards which have nothing to do with them is to founder on the mercantilism of creative-writing and the wind-blown delusions of highbrow criticism, and to ultimately descend to even lower depths of pretense and folly.

 

 

 

JUST A WORD

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I examine the picture with horror,

A photograph of one I loved,

A photograph marking a place and memories

With others, all having little to do with me.

Yet, because of the intimacy we achieved

It has everything to do with me.

The more we try and make sense of sex

The more it seems absurd.

My eye caught fire from her body and face.

Only poetry saves. Please, just a word

Of kindness for her before I die in disgrace.

She is not smiling in the photograph,

Nor does the picture capture the beauty

She had all those times when she was kissing me.

She and I hate being photographed, not because we are ugly—

No, she’s an exquisite beauty, but smiling naturally isn’t easy;

She’s sad, even miserable, and when she laughs, she laughs bitterly.

Almost religiously, I hate images, but the cruel smile

Of Cover Girl femme fatale is what my poetry uses.

When I ask her to smile for my poem, of course she refuses.

 

 

 

FRIENDSHIP, BOOZE AND POETRY

We sometimes settle into a train ride and enjoy it for its own sake, forgetting where we are going; the train becomes its own world, even as it moves with purpose; if the train became stuck, we would get annoyed, so the purpose is never forgotten; the train is our servant, taking us from one place to another—and yet the train also allows us to forget the reason and enjoy the experience.

Where is the train going? To another train. The purpose is to have no purpose.

Expression is like this, too. We talk for a reason, and yet we also just enjoy the talking.

What are we to say?  We can’t enjoy talking if we have no reason to talk; why is it that some people can talk endlessly and others, those others, are so quiet?

Poetry is reticent expressiveness; it combines the enjoyable and the purposeful aspects of the train ride.

Reticence is a virtue; think how much rudeness and chaos would exist without it.

Yet reticence is also a tomb.

Reticence is the torture of not being able to say what you want to say—or worse, not having anything to say at all.

Reticence, then, has its use, as a stay against rudeness and confusion, but its flip side is burial and death.

That which overcomes reticence, expression, is the train moving, information conveyed; we understand what expression is for, also.

People drink to put themselves at ease, to loosen up their tongues; it can produce the same happy result as friendship, where after a certain time, we trust another to tell them things; we can be at ease with a friend and express ourselves.

Booze and friendship move us from austere reticence, where the train chugs along without comment, to a train of feeling and comfort and light.

Poetry rides the same train as booze and friendship; it is doing exactly the same thing.

If intoxication and affection don’t turn you into a poet, there is something wrong.

Poetry allows one to retain that reticence even as one expresses oneself.

Alcohol turns one into a clown, or a bitter gasbag. It causes many train delays, and even train accidents.

Friendship can turn one into a fool, as well, as gossip replaces poetry.

Friendly gossip feeds on the fools and the clowns, the bad poets, the drunks, and soon friendly chat becomes as sour as what it feeds on. Soon you find yourself talking about people (those who are not your friends) and expressiveness becomes pointed and unfriendly, and the spirit of friendship is killed in an atmosphere of judgment and rebuke. There is always a danger when reticence is escaped and expression reigns supreme: the train goes too fast and plunges off a cliff.

Friendship is based on something very divisive: this person is my friend and this person is not.

A poet, if they are good, appeals to all readers, not just friends.

Dante, in his Vita Nuova, was aware of the fact that, as he was writing poems for his secret crush, Beatrice, he was running headlong into the reality that other ladies were curious and interested in his poetry.  If love is a kind of ultimate friendship (what else is it really?).  The Vita Nuova (a short work of poems and prose which pre-dated the Commedia) is such a wonderful book because it shows the poet thinking about how he will write poems to express his life, and how the expression itself then impacts his thinking and his life. Dante muses at one point that he will write his poem only for those “ladies who are sweet and gentle,” so here is a caveat to what we said above: poets have a wide appeal, although they may not write for all readers.  Yet Dante still writes to ladies in the plural, and nothing upsets a “friend” quite as much as when they see that you have an appeal that travels far beyond their friendship.

Poetry has the potential to soberly soar above friendship.

And this is why, like everything else under the sun, poetry is both loved and hated.

 

 

WHEN A WOMAN HATES

 

 

 

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When a woman hates,

There is nothing worse for a man,

For there is no creature on earth who can hate

Like a woman can.

When a woman gives love

From her soft breast,

Unsentimental imagination soars.

Inspired, the poet finds no rest

In love’s poetic task

Making obscurity so bright

The critic doesn’t need to ask.

Darkness and obscurity

Loom when the woman doesn’t love.

Light shines in every crevice

When she does.

 

 

 

BRADY’S BALLS

Brady and Belichick: The Actress and Richard Nixon

According to Sports Illustrated, no one (with the exception of some Pat fans) believes Tom Brady’s denial of Deflategate:

Before games, like most quarterbacks, [Brady] makes sure the footballs meet his precise specifications. He likes them to have 12.5 pounds of pressure per square inch. Presumably, he also likes them worked in so they are not too shiny, too slippery, too waxy, or covered in maple syrup. Then—he made this point multiple times Thursday—he doesn’t want anybody touching them. They’re perfect the way they are.

And yet, during the first half of the Patriots’ AFC Championship win over the Colts, Brady was playing with balls that were well under his preferred 12.5 pounds of PSI. At least 11 of the 12 were under-inflated.

But guess what? He didn’t notice. He had nothing to do with it. He has no idea how it happened. Maybe a manager did it on his own, maybe there was a porcupine in the ball bag. But Brady—Tom Brady, the same extremely competitive, detail-oriented man who helped lobby the league to allow quarterbacks to supply their own footballs—didn’t notice they were under-inflated.

–Michael Rosenberg

Saturday Night Live joined the fun on Saturday, one week before Super Bowl Eve, with an astute take, revealing that football fans are everywhere and they’re not as stupid as one might think. The SNL skit, which opened the show, deftly presented the four key characters of the unfolding drama:

1. The coach, Bill Belichick, fined the maximum penalty of $500,000 by the NFL in 2007 for stealing opponent’s play signals from 2002 through 2007: grumpy, with nothing to say.

2. The player, Tom Brady, infamous for a game-ending playoff fumble reversed by an inscrutable on-field referee ruling, known as the Tuck Rule: joyously stupid, with nothing to say.

3. The equipment manager: an affable nobody, suddenly important and on the defensive. Since the NFL is a private organization, they cannot force their employees to testify—the Pats are tight-lipped because it’s their right. The U.S. Congress was looking into 2007’s Spygate; the NFL has no incentive to call attention to cheating in games: if one ref, or one coach, or one player violates NFL rules to alter the outcome of a game and no one knows, that’s good for the NFL—if fans, however, learn of violations, that’s bad for the NFL. Players are protected by a powerful Player Union. Not so, equipment managers.

4. The reporters: Not buying Brady and Belichick’s denials. They just want to know who deflated the footballs the Pats were using in the rainy conditions to give their quarterback a clear advantage, in violation of the game’s rules.

Richard Sherman, the Seahawks talkative defensive back, had to remind everyone yesterday that there are two other players in the drama:

5. The owner: Bob Kraft, probably the most influential owner in the NFL, whose aim is to make his Pats look as clean as possible.

6. The NFL commissioner: Roger Goodell, whose aim is to make the NFL look as clean as possible.

As Sherman pointed out: Kraft and Goodell are pals.

Belichick’s press conference on Thursday was the grumpy man’s attempt to “scientifically” deflect and distract from the fact that the balls used by the Patriots in the AFC championship game were under-inflated, a clear violation of NFL rules, as measured at half-time, while the balls used by the Colts, also measured, were not.

But the overall truth is this: the NFL will always err on the side of “There was no cheating.” Even if cheating happens all the time.

That Belichick (whose dad scouted other teams for Navy) was caught and penalized for cheating in 2007 is an extraordinary fact in itself.  That he was still allowed to coach is perhaps even more revealing.

Obviously it’s very important for Belichick that he not be seen as personally guilty in this latest cheating scandal—which is why Belichick (days prior to his hastily called press conference) threw Brady under the bus last week. He knows about the balls. Ask him. 

The eternally stone-faced Belichick slipping up to protect himself by shining a light on his star quarterback was an epic mistake—not even close to a calculated move by a criminal genius. Brady, in private, must have been fuming.

Belichick’s press conference gambit: “texture” matters more than “pressure” was his attempt to save his quarterback’s ass.

But this only puts Brady’s balls in more hot water, because Belichick’s denial of any involvement in Deflategate is based on the fact that he, as head coach, had nothing to do with handling the footballs—that’s Brady’s realm of expertise. So how did Belichick suddenly, out of the blue, become an authority on “texture” versus “pressure?”  Not knowing or caring about that shit was the basis of Belichick’s “innocence.” Now, in front of the world, he’s a lecturing, indignant expert on the subject.

This is the spin Pats defenders have settled on.

This morning,the Boston Globe featured a headline story with local science professors who agree with Belichick’s “scientific” defense.

The “science” is: 50 degree weather deflates Pats’ balls—but not Colts’ balls.

And Boston’s major newspaper is going with this “science.”

Pats fans don’t get it (as Pats fans, they don’t want to get it) when they insist the Pats beat the Colts by 5 touchdowns.

The final score of the game, as the press has been saying, is irrelevant.

Breaking a rule is breaking a rule. Fair play is not sort of important—it’s the most important thing.  A “level playing field” is the first premise of sport. Even war has rules, even though we don’t need “rules” to define “war.” A game, however, by definition, consists of “rules” and these “rules” must be the same for each side, or it’s not a game, or a sport, at all. What it probably is, then, is entertainment (like WWE wrestling) or a gambling operation.

The NFL, as a private company, may very well be a gambling or entertainment industry—it would be in their monetary interest, to be so, and legally, there is more than enough gray area—combined with the monetary incentive—for the NFL to easily be so, in fact.

Hey, the first NFL teams were funded by gambling winnings. (A little history for you)

It has been written that the NFL rewards franchises who re-locate; Super Bowls have been won—within a season or two!—by teams who moved (the 1999 Rams from LA to St. Louis, the 2000 Ravens from Cleveland to Baltimore, the 1983 Raiders from Oakland to LA).

How could this happen? How can the NFL allow a team to win? Every football fan knows how. An NFL referee can make “penalty” calls, or not make “penalty” calls, or reverse “penalty” calls at his discretion, with no possibility of these calls being overturned. They are final, and one call, or even one non-call, can easily determine the outcome of a game, even make the outcome of a game lop-sided. It’s just the way football works.  Or how any sport works.  Think of a World Series contest.  One team is down 2-0 and if they win, it’s 2-1, but one bad hop grounder and they lose and suddenly they are down 3-0 and it looks like they are being slaughtered—but not really. So the score of the Colts-Pats game is completely irrelevant and not the point at all.

Football is a contact sport—in the most extreme sense, and every single contact is a potential penalty. Unlike chess, in which the two players control their separate destinies by moving one chess piece at a time towards a clearly determined checkmate, any play on a football field is open to the subjective judgment of a referee, no matter how perfectly a ball is thrown or how skillfully and remarkably a defensive play is executed. In football, a pawn—on the other side of the board, which has nothing to do with the knight’s move to check the king—can be “flagged” for some tenuous “illegal contact,” canceling out the knight’s move forever. A long gain for a score or a first down—the sort of play which is so important it holds the key to victory—becomes loss of down and loss of yardage—due to a purely subjective and irreversible decision made on the basis of a lightning-fast and ambiguous “touch” between two players, deemed a “penalty” that “officially” changes the game result.

Any pro quarterback will play like the greatest quarterback to ever play the game if they have an extra second to throw the ball; a defensive player, if allowed, or not allowed, to use his hands in a certain way, will either be ineffective, or the greatest defensive player ever, and this is determined by how the referee in any given contest chooses to interpret rules which, by their very nature, are entirely ambiguous. No expert can tell whether a large “grey area” of contact between an offensive and a defensive player on any given play, in the middle of the action, or far away on the other side of the field, constitutes, in retrospect, a “penalty” by either the offensive player, or the defensive player, and yet such determinations “set the tone” for “proper” play during the entire contest, and specific calls bring tremendous momentum-building and material advantage to whichever team happens to be favored.

Was that a great “block,” or was that an “offensive holding penalty?” It doesn’t matter how many witnesses there are. No one really knows.

Referees can fix games in broad daylight, in front of millions, without anyone “knowing.”  Simply because the ambiguity of the rules bars knowing itself.

The referee’s non-call of “holding” results in the quarterback having precious extra time to pass the ball with an inevitable completion, or, if the referee does call “holding,” a cancellation of that completion with an additional loss of yardage.  Poor versus great quarterback performances are almost entirely determined by quarterback “protection”—this every football expert does know.

“Pawns” on the other side of the board who “fight” long after a play is over, can also arbitrarily result in a 15 yard penalty against one team—winning scores in football are often determined by swings of 10 or 20 yards one way or the other, and so irreversible referee penalty calls of the most trivial and subjective nature (having absolutely nothing to do with the game played on the field) can determine game outcomes.

Sports has famously been overrun in the last 30 years by number-crunching geeks who analyze every statistical aspect imaginable to quantify the game and seek advantage. But NFL referee decisions remain the ghost in the machine: this crucial part of the game is invisible and unrecorded; sure, they total “penalty yards,” but what escapes detection is the game-changing fact of when a penalty is called, and also the yardage earned which penalties erase, and also the intimidation factor: if a referee punishes a defensive back with an unwarranted “pass interference” call, this has a ripple effect on the entire defense and the entire game.

The Pats no doubt gained tremendous advantage by stealing plays, but the Pats could easily look like the greatest team on earth simply by how selected referees of the NFL manipulate the “chess pieces.”  The Pats had their miraculous 18-0 “perfect season” run in the wake of the embarrassing Spygate accusations, accusations which called into question the legitimacy of not only the Patriots, but the NFL itself.  Once caught, the only possible way for the NFL to escape the embarrassment of previous Super Bowl wins (three of them!) awarded to cheaters was to make it look like the Pats were such an awesome team they did not need to cheat. Only after the U.S. Congress threatened to look into Spygate more deeply—just prior to the Super Bowl that season—did the Pats all at once look like a perfectly ordinary team, losing to a wild card 10-6 Giants team in the 2007 Super Bowl, despite the Pats being heavy favorites.

In the contest prior to their blow-out victory over the Colts last week, the Pats were lucky to escape with a win over the Ravens, and the Pats did so with referee help–and an interception thrown by the Ravens quarterback at the end of the game—a lob into the arms of the Pats’ safety which looked suspiciously intentional; perhaps it was thought best by the currently scandal-hit League not to let the Ray Rice-scandalized Ravens in the Super Bowl this year.

In the second half of that close game, the Ravens were penalized 15 yards when the Ravens’ coach ventured onto the field before a play to get the officials’ attention. The Pats were using a formation in which legitimate receivers were not designated—the rules say defenses must be given time before the ball is snapped to ascertain which offensive players on any give play are eligible to catch a pass, but the Pats were running players on the field and then snapping the ball right away. The Pats were stretching the rules with trickery—and the refs penalized the Ravens.

The Pats were supposed to have a great defense this season and were heavy favorites over a Ravens team depleted by injuries in the secondary; the Ravens—named after the Poe poem—snuck into the playoffs as a wild card team. Yet the Ravens moved the ball at will, and their quarterback threw four touchdowns against what was thought to be one of the best Pat defenses of all time—five touchdowns if you count the fact that on throwing the ball on fourth down to the Pats’ goal line, the receiver who made the great catch spun the ball on the ground after the play—and was flagged for a fifteen yard “taunting” penalty. “Taunting” penalties produced more yardage for the Pats than their running game.

We hear that in celebrating a pass reception, for a ball to spin nicely on the ground, it should be properly inflated.

THE WORLD WAKES UP

The world wakes up,
Still dark and cold,
The sound of cars in the distance;
Normally, I would be awake,
Pinned to the bed
By gossipy insistence.
Today I don’t wake up.
The world wakes up.
“Shall I marry him
Or kick him out?”
She thinks wearily.
The world holds together
Because of this doubt.

It’s winter. I don’t like
The winter weather,
But I like the seasons.
There are millions of reasons
To do this, or not do this,
So we make ourselves
Stupid and decide.
“You should have seen
How much fun I had
On the ride.”
Groan. The world wakes up.

I would be awake
Feeling the light.
Today something’s not right.
My bed is lumpy.
The body is lumpy.
I cannot face demands,
And offices, and you.
I feel the light
Today as not quite true.

The world wakes up.
I do not wake up.
Today my fear
Will be tested.
How will it be
Alone in the ground
Without a sound
As the world wakes up?

A LITTLE WINE AND YOU THINK OF ME

A little wine and you think of me,
A little more and you want to be
In the back seat kissing me.

Virginity is sobriety.
My older years have come to be
Passionate, but bad for me.
You needed wine to be
Desperately in love with me.
Drunk, you loved me desperately,
Your beauty loved me desperately.

Sober, your beauty
Was cruel to me.
Was the wine true?
Or the sober you?
We never knew.

It’s the worst
When love is a thirst:
When sweetness flies
And there is only wine—and lies.

GOD IS THE MOST CONVENIENT OF LOVES

God is the most convenient of loves
Because God is always there,
To love you in sorrow,
To love you—when everything is unfair.

I loved a woman who had another mind
Even when she loved me, and was unkind
In that way one is when one belongs to the world.
I looked for her but never knew what I was going to find.

I tried to see her! I tried to see the windings of her mind!
I kissed dust. There was a song like a flower with petals curled.
It was a pleasure to be with her but there were too many ways
For her to be gone, so now I must forget those days.

Where is the temple? The book?  The sacrifice?
She loved me, but what trouble! even on a good day she wasn’t nice.
There are no gods now! There are none!
There is only this convenience. This one.

 

 

THE MORAL SMUT PARADOX

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Poetry, once beautiful, has become merely eccentric; more troubling, currently, is the vast indifference, and even revulsion by the public for the art, despite valiant efforts at subsidy, chiefly the commerce and spread of university MFAs.

Some say we have a glut of poets—the MFA, a pyramid scheme when all pay for a small number who teach—poets read poets in a purely careerist context, even as real poetry hides in cracks and crevices—but “too many poets” and MFA criticism seems a small concern beside the tremendous indifference of the general public.

Why can’t poetry live outside of school (and Slam bars) and thrive in the public square, with cooking and napping and sports?

Because poetry is either

1) too easy or

2) too difficult:

1) Rhymes for imbeciles

2) Footnotes for specialists in which the content and syntax of a Newsweek essay stirs up in the reader a puzzle: why is this called poetry?

Surely there is a middle ground—between the banal pop lyric and the mangled prosy essay, between “We will, we will, rock you” and William Carlos Williams’ stupid plums, between Victorian pillow talk and academic vertigo—a middle ground of highly skilled, original poetry which pleases poet and non-poet alike—

A middle ground accessible to non-poets while alerting the poets that obscurity is over: Shelley, Keats, Byron and Dickinson are back.

This will do 3 things:

1. Make poetry better.

2. Make the pictorial and musical arts better as poetry inspires them once again

3. Revive public interest in poetry—even as the narrow creds-mongers howl in protest

The chief objection to a modern Romanticism revival (desperately needed since the pretensions of Pound and Williams mowed over the beauty of Millay) will come from the Institutional Art Theorists, who say the history of art (no matter how driven by actual folly) is more important than art, that poetry requires a “learned” context of historical change and development—as phase trumps the thing itself.

Old models—think of Greek Tragedy, cave paintings, Emerson’s doggerel, will be improved upon, yes, certainly, but the improvement comes from the original poet, not the impotent university scholar/historian who learnedly and belatedly cheers on change. The cheering in universities needs to stop and beautiful originality needs to begin.

The university historian says Keats is dead—because history is more important to them than art.

But there is an even deeper issue we need to address:

The poet, if he is worthy the name, avoids what chiefly cripples all moral expression: smutty morals, or moral smut, the heart and soul of most middle class literature.

We speak of best-selling literature in which morals are highly overt, and in order to be overt, makes smut overt as well, thus inflating even more the overt moral content, feeding and encouraging low-brow taste in the process, and dragging down in a mania of good intentions all literature into that “realism” of bad taste in which readers slum free of guilt.

The alternative: the “fantasy” genre, fares no better and is similarly in thrall, as it exploits moral smut even more overtly, using racy bad taste increasingly as its “ideal” weapon.

This earnest and vastly popular state of affairs not only makes for bad literature, it reduces the middle class population which consumes it into a species of reader entirely ill-equipped to appreciate beautiful good taste, which is the Eldorado of the Poet.

This is not to say that a certain amount of raciness and bad taste and excitement cannot drive certain types of popular literature—we are not saying there cannot be cakes and ale. Let there be cakes and ale. But when ale becomes excessive, infecting even so-called highbrow literature, and when good taste for its own sake is no longer cultivated, we reach that threshold in which the elevated feelings no longer stir, real moral beauty no longer excites, and the poor body drags along without a soul.

We also understand that lovely flowers grow in dirt, etc.  That contrast is required between low and high. Shakespeare was great at this, but his greatness—what other word is there for it?—kept the low in its place. Low is low—unless we are suckered after long exposure into admiring it.  Addicted, we continue to feed on what makes us ill; judgment atrophies, taste becomes bloated with sentimentalism, discernment wastes away, obscurity becomes robust in a pretentious miasma, and the best that’s left are sneering sophisticates with steely hearts.

The great poet resists overt morals—and the smutty bad taste which invariably feeds on it.

The prose novel, with its earthiness and scope, will sometimes benefit from this phenomenon.

But poetry is far more susceptible to the disease of which we speak.

The paradox of Moral Smut insidiously sweetens, destroying the healthy vigor of poetry, and its art, and Taste, in general.

 

 

 

THE LAMB THAT’S LOST

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Is all we see or seem but a dream within a dream? --Edgar Poe

We love the lamb that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here---
That's why nothing---nothing---is clear---
We love the lamb's that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here.

That's why when you speak
I always disagree---
Because the thing you love
I cannot hear or see.

Lost! Lost! Lost!
What we love is lost,
The valley in our mind
That we have never crossed.

I can't explain the lost to you---
The explanation is lost, too...

That's why you're a mystery,
Smiling and near---
We love the lamb that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here.



POEMS ABOUT POETRY

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Poems about poetry are the best poems there are.

The best light is the light which illustrates a star.

The best love is love which focuses on love,

Not those who wear love’s hat and love’s glove,

If the haberdashery is not too far.

We notice in faces, traces

Of a life busy and sad,

But we don’t like these faces.

Poems that are bad

Tell of other things,

When all we want from poetry

Is a poem inside of poetry—

A specter in a cloud that sings.

 

 

 

 

ONLY ONE PICTURE

 

 

Only one picture captures who I am
And does not let me run away,
A picture you saw of me
When the morning sun’s first ray
Penetrated, like the world’s first camera,
The black darkness of a heart
Comforted by its darkness, tra la.
When you have time, throw that picture away.
The forest majestically throws shadows,
A hushed, dappled memory which consumes my heart.
By the brook, where the twigs are broken,
Where we spoke? There I’ll die by a new dart.

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