AFTER THAT LONG PAUSE

After that long pause,

It felt like we had nothing more to say;

Acutely, I felt the separation,

As if now you and I each belonged to a different day:

I said something, and suddenly you didn’t want to say

What was on your mind,

And I felt you were making me seem unkind

Because you were unkind;

I wanted to like you, but now I saw there was something in your mind

That didn’t want to talk to me, that was unkind.

These pauses kill relationships every day.

That pause. That one long pause.

And now I don’t care what you have to say.

 

 

NOW IS THE SAD DECLINE

Now is the sad decline
Of everything that’s mine:
The frozen ground that was my hope,
You, who I held onto, and the rope
Swing that sang over the valley,
Its green more green than green,
A vista that is ours, but never enough seen,
Or that evening when, smiling, you called me into the alley
And suddenly kissed me,
The bright, sumptuous apartments
One could glimpse into,
The boulevards fading; you almost saw them, too;
The bricks haphazardly leading into the park
Where we laughed before dark,
And then, when dark, as we did often,
Hidden, the kisses came more often;
And weren’t you surprised by the fame
Of the day? The day was always the same,
I knew, the same this time:
Not quite the same, a forest of pine,
Rain, desolation, sunlight, and then, decline.

 

 

THE ELECTION IS ALWAYS

image

The election is always between the living and the dead.

Bill Clinton or Vince Foster? I vote for one in my head.

I love conspiracy videos. Human nature is really dark.

The nice ones end it all in a Civil War memorial park.

The bad ones succeed, but finally, who can blame

Those who see death and save themselves? You would do the same.

Whistle blowers always have that frightened, nerdy look.

Success is sex. The sexy steps the cruel and sexy took.

Vote for the voting record when you cast your vote

In democracy’s dark booth. Forget the song in the long coat.

Don’t listen to conspiracy videos, no matter what they say.

Let the dead and the lonely go. Look the other way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMY IS NOT ENOUGH

Amy is not enough; I also want Sue,

Stella, Laura, Beatrice—because I can’t have you.

Stoop down, read the whole list, and if you’re not there,

Stooping has not been in vain—not listed belongs to the list of care.

What stays only is what stays with me.

O Look about you, if there is no sign of me,

Read! I am secretly signaling you in my poetry.

Read carefully the whole list

Of muses—whom poets pretended to have kissed.

The fact that you don’t see your name

Pleases me: your absent love is how I will build my fame,

And your knowledge that you don’t exist

Is how everything that lives loves—by being missed.

No! Not Amy am I missing.

The world doesn’t know you’re the one I’m kissing,

If only in my mind—

Where poetry lives—for you—who was unkind.

 

 

 

 

NOW IT’S DONE

You’ve read Cosmopolitan, the tips on sex,
The clothes and lubricants are yours;
You’ve purchased the right perfumes,
You’ve wandered through the hotels and the hotel rooms,
Rejected the handsome (they were bores),
Quickly dispatched the guy who’s now your ex,
And settled on me.
You’ve read the books, seen the movies. Now you’re free.
You present yourself in silks, casually.
Now what am I thinking? What do I see?
This is the component of love which troubles you.
You cannot read the mind of the one you love.
You may ask me, or tell me, or guide me on what to do,
But what about careless thoughts in the mind?
A conversation which proceeds carelessly?
I’m face down. I murmur something French and sing-songy.
I want to tell you something, but it comes out uncomfortably.
I’ll be a poet. Now what am I thinking? What do I see?
What is your inclination now? Right now what do you think of me?
What is the heart of this? Is it liquid? And what is poetry?

YOU’RE FREE AT LAST, YOU’RE FREE AT LAST, GOD ALMIGHTY, YOU’RE FREE AT LAST

image

You’re free at last. Get away from my face.

You’re free, and all attachments of every kind are gone,

No more, no more, the slavish pleadings of my gender and my race.

Get out. Take yourself from my sloping lawn.

No more will I kiss you, or take you in my arms

In the international context of warnings and alarms.

The sheets are washed.  Our souls free of wet disgrace.

Free is free. Gatherings not measured. Platitudes are gone.

You wanted to be free. You are free. Leave me.

Stop thinking I will come after you.

The world is large. She told me what to do.

 

 

 

I WILL TELL YOU OF THE BLUE BELL

We all copy, for words
Are less than actual birds.
We make a mark
And there is Shelley’s lark.

O joyous marks! What joy they are bringing.
The alphabet is singing.

I am flesh, and compared to words my flesh is real.
Yet my body is a copy which dies.
I do not own. I am nothing. So I steal.
Stealing is copying. Copying is the only thing that’s real.

We all love
Symbols, like olive branch and dove.
We learn to be accurate; we learn to spell.
We learn to love. And now I love too well.

We are lonely.
We know our loneliness well.
I love myself; I love my own light,
But hell is dark because my own light will not light hell.
My eyes are beautiful and they tell
Stories, but my eyes do not light even a small hell.

I will tell you of the blue bell,
An intricate flower
That tolls the hour
In a dark, imaginary, garden of sighs,
Which waits, like all of us,
For the sun to rise.

 

 

WE BEGAN IN SPACE

We began in space, but it was time

That made us joy—and grieve.

You wanted theirs to be your rhyme

And I wrote to you so you would believe

In poetry, as well as me. Now that you have read

This, which one do you think is dead?

Poetry is ever hopeful someone will read

A poet’s highest need—

Will do more than read

The now of its ending

After its middle—which was then,

But think of its beginning.

And fall in love again.

 

 

 

 

 

THE CHE GUEVARA OF IRAN, KHOSROW GOLSORKHI: “EQUALITY” —TRANS. SHERRY LAICI—FIRST TIME IN ENGLISH!!!

1 = 1

Khosrow Golsorkhi, an Iranian journalist, poet and activist, was accused of plotting to kidnap the Shah of Iran’s son and arrested at the age of 29. In televised court proceedings he defended his Marxist beliefs and compared himself to Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad. He was executed on February 18, 1974, at the age of 30.

EQUALITY

The teacher was shouting at the board.

He flushed angrily

and his hands were covered with chalk dust.

The students in the last row of seats were eating fruits and making noises;

on the other side of the class a student was flipping through a magazine.

None of the students were paying attention

because the teacher was shouting and pointing to the algebraic equations.

The teacher wrote on the blackboard, which reminded us of darkness and cruelty,

1=1

one is equal to one.

One of the students rose

(always one must rise)

and said softly,

“The equation is a blunder.”

The teacher was shocked

and the student asked,

“If one human being was one unit

Does one equal one, still?”

It was a difficult question and the students were silent.

The teacher shouted,

“Yes, it is equal!”

The student laughed,

“If one human being was one unit,

the one who had power and money would be greater than the poor one

who had nothing but a kind heart.

If one human being was one unit,

the one who was white would be greater than the one who was black.

If one human being was one unit,

equality would be ruined.

If one were equal to one

how would it be possible for the rich to get richer?

Or who would build China’s wall?

If one were equal to one,

who would die of poverty?

or who would die of lashing?

If one were equal to one,

who would imprison the liberals?

The teacher cried:

“Please write in your notebooks

one is not equal to one.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEN MAZER: POEM FROM HIS FORTHCOMING BOOK

BEN IN ROMANIA

Greatest poet of his generation? Ben Mazer in Romania last month. Photo, Scarriet

THE GREATEST JOY KNOWN TO MORTAL MAN

The greatest joy known to mortal man,
shall live beyond us, in eternity.
Catching you ice skating in mid-motion,
cheeks flush, winter pristine in our hearts,
ineffable, permanent, nothing can abolish,
when the deep forest, buried in snow’s white
holds the soul’s eternal solitude,
when, melting coming in, each particular
that stirs the senses, is the flight of man
to unspoken urgencies, garrulous desire
continually fulfilled, the captured stances
that drift like music in the light-laced night,
shared words in murmurs soft as downy sky,
the stars observe with their immortal eye.
Furious, presto-forte homecoming
races into the eyes and fingertips,
confirming and commemorating bells
resounding with our vulnerable desire
in momentary triumph that’s eternal.
Life passes on to life the raging stars,
resonances of undying light.
All years are pressed together in their light.

Ben Mazer was educated at Harvard University, where he studied with Seamus Heaney, and at the Editorial Institute, Boston University, where he studied under Christopher Ricks and Archie Burnett. His poem which appears here is from his sixth poetry collection, February Poems, which will be published by the Grolier Poetry Press in the fall of this year. Mazer’s most recent collections are The Glass Piano (MadHat Press, 2015) and December Poems (Pen & Anvil Press, 2016). He is also the editor of The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (Boston: Un-Gyve Press, 2015). He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the Editor of The Battersea Review.

THE FACE

The face grows old so fast.

We can’t look down and see our face

The way we can our hand.

We need an event to see our face,

We approach the mirror and there’s our face

Like a performance in a play.

There’s our face, thinking. Now what will it say today?

 

When I look down and see my hand,

I don’t care if it looks the way it does.

It’s my hand. It has unique curves and lines

But it’s a hand. Not my face.

 

What if we carried our heads at the end of our arms

And there they would be, plainly observable,

And we could study at leisure our heads, just as we do our hands?

Wouldn’t that be horrible? After all, faces are not hands.

Faces, when we suddenly glimpse them, make us sick.

A face fears, and that fear barely understands.

 

 

 

SEA OF LOVE

I didn’t know what music was, not yet,

Not until I heard how the two of them met

In a large lagoon under the moon

And the poems in their books got wet.

There’s been many sleepless nights because of things I didn’t get,

Sleepless nights, because of things I didn’t understand, or couldn’t understand yet.

But I remember when highbrow made lowbrow her pet.

It was the strings in You Don’t Own Me which drowned her voice

And then I no longer knew. I no longer had a choice.

It might have been one chord

When I found the Lord.

 

 

 

 

WHAT SITS BEHIND THE EYES

What sits behind the eyes?

More eyes. They watch the insects of the rain flitting.

O wash of colors and recriminations

Which sat once, with you and I—and are still sitting.

What sits behind the eyes?

An object looked at in a garden

Which now gives you a withering look.

As the line in the poem approaches.

As the metaphor waits.

We decide it goes in your book.

What sits behind the eyes?

The unkindness of the mind,

Which filters and laughs and hates,

To preserve itself—and a small chance to be kind.

 

 

 

TO BE UNMOVED

The world is a sea anemone reacting to stimulation.

We react to stimulation. Our reaction creates stimulation.

This is both reality and virtual reality, plain and simple.

This is why the addict of the video game

Is no different than the conversationalist, the lover, the mountain climber;

They are all the same.

A poet has never offered one opinion of interest, but his poems hold

An apparent secret and everyone believes he—the unmoved—is profound and bold.

In the poet’s stupefying love,

As passive as a wall: the heavens roll in your heart like planets and stars above.

Oh, new friend, should I have been sad, today? Thinking how simple life is?

All it is, is this. The sun kisses us. We kiss.

 

YOU CAN INSULT ME

You can insult my country.
I am not my country.
But not my poetry.

You can insult my gender.
I am not my gender.
But not my metaphor.

You can insult my race.
I am not my race.
But not my book case.

You can insult my vocation.
I am not my vocation.
But not my radio station.

You can insult me, sweet and mild.
But not my Oscar Wilde.

 

 

 

IRAN: POETRY IN TRANSLATION

Forrough!

THREE POEMS BY FOROUGH FARROKHZAD (1935-1967)

Forough is the Sylvia Plath of Iran.  She is one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. Her work is passionate, controversial, and was banned for ten years after Iran’s 1979 Revolution. She died in a car accident at the age of 32.

Sherry

TRANSLATED BY SHERRY LAICI  (SHOHREH)

Sherry, born in Tehran in 1986, represents the Iran few Americans know: interested in social taboos and women’s issues, she is a performance artist, a translator, a video artist, and a scholar of literature and languages.

 

*************************************************************************************************

I WAS DYING OF YOU…

I was dying of you, but you were my life.

You were going with me.
You were reading inside me.
You were going with me,
While I was walking the streets with no destination.
You were going with me.
You were reading inside me.

You were inviting the sparrows in love to the
bright windows, among the elms

When the night had been repeated,
when the night had not yet ended.

You were inviting…
You were coming to our alley with your lights,
You were coming with your lights
When the children were going,
And the clusters of acacia slept,
And I was alone in the mirror.
You were coming with your lights…

You were giving me your hands,
You were giving me your eyes,
You were giving me your love
While I was hungry,
You were giving me your life,
You were generous as light.

You were picking the tulips
And covering my hair.
You were picking the tulips
While my hair throbbed from nudity.

You were rubbing your cheeks
against the anxiety of my breasts,
while I had nothing to tell.

You were rubbing your cheek
Against the anxiety of my breasts and
you listened
to my blood going while it moaned,
and you were listening
to my love dying while it cried…

You were listening but
you were not able to see me.

 

THE CLOCKWORK DOLL

Oh, yeah, even more…
You can stay silent, even more…

For a long time
With a fixed, lifeless eyes
You can gaze at the smoke of a cigarette…
At a cup’s form,
At the colorless flower of the rug,
At the fictitious line on the wall.
With numb fingers
You can draw back the curtains and see
It’s heavily raining in the alley,
A child with his colored kite
Taking shelter beneath a canopy,
The old cart is fleeing the deserted square in haste…
You can stay next to the curtains,
But blind, deaf.

You can cry out
With utterly false voice, utterly alien,
“I Love!”
You can be a gorgeous and healthy female
In the powerful arms of a man

With shiny skin,
With two firm and full breasts.
You can ruin the value of love by debauchery.

You can belittle craftily
Every perplexing riddle,
You can only do crosswords.
You can only be happy to find out the absurd answer,
The absurd answer, yeah, five or six letters.

You can kneel down for a lifetime,
Head bowed, before the cold shrine.
You can see God in an anonymous grave.
You can find your faith by a few pennies.
You can decay like the old prayer
Inside a mosque’s chambers.
You can be like a zero,
Yielding nothing,
Whether added or subtracted or multiplied.
You can think your eyes are like the buttons from an old shoe,
Caught in a web of anger.
You can dry up like water from one’s own pit.

You can hide inside the closet,
One moment with shame,
Like a ridiculous black and white instant photo.
You can play the role of sentenced, or beaten, or crucified,
Inside the empty frame of a day.
You can cover the hole of the wall by smiling.
You can get involved with absurd roles.

You can be like the clockwork dolls.
Look out at the world through two glassy eyes.
You can sleep years inside a felt box.
Your body
Full of straw,
Wrapped in layers of confetti and lace,
With every licentious squeeze of someone’s hand.
You can cry out, for no reason:
“Ah…How happy I am…”

 

ANOTHER BIRTH

The whole of my existence is a dark verse
that will take you away in its repetition
to the dawn of eternal budding and blooming.
In this verse, I sighed at the thought of you …Ah,
In this verse, I tied you
to the tree and water and fire.

Perhaps life is a long street that a woman crosses with her basket every day.
Perhaps life is a rope a man hangs himself with from a branch.
Perhaps life is a child who returns from school.
Perhaps life is the lighting a cigarette, in the languorous memory of love making.

Or perhaps life is coming across…a passer-by who
tips his hat to another with a meaningless smile
and says, “Good morning.”
Perhaps life is that blocked moment
when my gaze ruins itself in the pupils of your eyes
and there is a feeling
that I will blend with the moon’s perception and the reception of darkness.

In a room that is the size of loneliness, my heart
that is the size of a love
gazes at the simple pretext of its happiness,
the beautiful decay of the flowers in the vase,
the sapling you have planted in our garden,
and the singing of canaries that is the size of a window

Ah…
This is my share, this is my share,
this is my share,
the sky which is stolen from me by covering a curtain.

This is my share,
descending an abandoned stair
to a place destructive, alienated.

This is my share,
the sorrowful walk in the garden of memories,
dying in a sorrowful voice which says to me:
“I love your hands”

I plant my hands in the garden,
I will become green, I know, I know, I know
and the swallows will lay their eggs in the hollow of my inky fingers

I will wear earrings which are made from a twined red cherry
and dress my fingernails with dahlia petals.
There is an alley where
the boys, who were in love with me,
with shaggy hair and narrow necks and skinny legs
still thinking about that innocent girl’s smile,
the girl the wind blew away one night.

There is an alley that my heart
stole from my childhood’s neighborhood.

The journey of a form through,
inseminating the dry line of time,
the conscious image
that returns from a mirror’s party,
and this is how
someone dies
and someone lives.
No hunter will ever catch a pearl in a stream that flows into a pit.

I know a sad sprite who inhabits an ocean,
and she plays her heart through a wooden harmonica
softly, softly

The sad sprite
who dies of a kiss at night
and will be born of a kiss at dawn.

 

 

 

I CAUSE LOVE

t brady

I cause love,
Though I, myself, am not loving.
I give no roses.
I am not love,
I am what love exposes:
The mind, uncomfortable; a vain thought; a sigh;
Or the look on your face when you see my face and smile before you cry.

I am the fog which dreams, the fog the silent harbor encloses
On a summer evening when the water is strangely bright
And the scene and the boats illuminated as the night
Gets ready to fall, prepares for tranquility and beauty
To die, and you love what the beauty discloses.
You don’t remember me.
You remember all the poses.

 

 

THE ONE MUSE I KNOW

The one muse I know
Makes my inspiration come and go
In forms of various shadows and light.
Ah, the one muse is my highest delight.
When you see me talking to you
It is only because I see her too.

The other women walking nearby
Were surprised when I turned to them with a cry
And a greeting, with excitement in my voice.
But no, you weren’t the one, you weren’t my choice;
She was in the shadows and saw
All the shadows I spoke to:
She saw the two of us speaking: myself and you.
She, my highest delight, my muse, was quietly nearby
When I greeted you with a smile and a cry.

THE PROLIFIC POET

The prolific poet is never trusted,
Like a beautiful woman—isn’t she too beautiful to give her beauty to one?
(Yes I know that beautiful women are truer than most
But we can’t help but see a beautiful woman as a ghost
With ghostly desires bursting from the brains of everyone.)
The prolific poet is never trusted.
Many beautiful poems coming out of you so quickly
Indicates a treasure that is not yours,
And you are, in fact, less than a man,
Not because you can’t do something—or skillfully and carefully, you can.
You are giving birth as passively as pain that roars.
All these poems! You are dreaming a desirable birth
To everyone’s everything. And so to everyone who is not everything you have no worth.
Just wait. One day your great poems will be taken out and dusted.
Until then, you are nothing. For everything is nothing—if it can’t be trusted.

REFINE THE BRUTE

When I’m asked for an opinion on modern American poetry, I want to do more than list poems and poets I like, though this is probably the only adequate response. Anything else will be sure to confuse as much as it enlightens.

But I cannot resist the injunctions, so fraught with discipline is my soul, even though it inhabits a bestial body.

Before poems are offered up, however, I have a desire to show my thoughts on what poetry is, and what it does, and what it is supposed to do, if it is worthy to be called, poetry, of which “modern” and “American” are even more hopelessly vague.

Surely poetry has a certain pedagogical use.

Verses and rhyme help us significantly in two ways: verse helps us to learn a language and helps us to learn to love a language.

Poetry can most simply be defined as language at play.

How can one love a language which is complex and unmusical?

Unless one is hopelessly misanthropic and affected?

Language can confuse more easily than anything else—because a chaos of meaning is more chaotic than chaos itself.

Language should never confuse—if it is worthy to be called language.

How can the most complex thing on earth do us good as a cheerful and loving guide?

This is the whole question, and poetry, in its beautiful robes, is always near, emerging elegantly from the shadows, with the answer.

Poetry, to cast away all pretense and confusion, then, is for the learning-book, the school lesson; poetry is the teacher of language.

Poetry is language for the child.

The child, who lisps wants and thoughts in the world of his mother, all at once enters the next phase—and grows slowly into a speaking and feeling citizen—with the help of poetry. 

At the end of this phase, perhaps harsh and complex and unmusical language awaits; but this middle path should be guided by simple and playful and happy versification, which fills the senses and the muscles of learning—with confidence and joy.

The student of poetry is the student of poetry for students.

For teaching is what poetry does.

Student, to some, is an unfriendly word; it implies anything but joy. We would prefer the poet as someone who learns from nature, outside the school’s walls.  Student implies shallow breathing and pitiless annoyance.

Student may have unfortunate institutional associations, but the athlete trains, the baby animal learns, the lover knows the beloved, and poetry casts knowing lovingly over all creatures who speak.

Poetry is a stream for all the speaking tribes.

Poetry is wisdom that is more than wisdom.

A student of poetry is the best thing to be—for once the adolescent has imbibed poetry’s waters, something divine will stay in him forever.

Poetry does not exist for itself, or to convey “truths” among sophisticated grownups—who need “news that stays news;” poetry is only very indirectly connected to the fussy things necessary to move among the trials and griefs of mature life. Poetry’s influence is wide and strong enough to trick sophisticates into thinking that poetry is a sophisticated enterprise. But the true poets know better.

Poetry can belong to “truths;” it can belong to, and be, anything; it is, for many, the speech of strangeness, the speech of estrangement, the speech of enormity, the speech of iconoclasm, the speech of vain maturity shot through with terrifying irony, and yes, speech which can dare to say anything.

Yes. The stream is the sea.

However, before it is any of these things, poetry is food for the student eternal.

Poetry should turn language into a beautiful instrument, both for exterior expression, and for inner thoughts of the highest enterprise and pleasure.

To be great, poetry must know where it belongs.

Poetry serves language.

Language does not serve poetry.

Poetry exists as a lover of language—not to “know things” or to express “knowledge,” though what it expresses can, obviously, relate to knowledge and knowing.  Knowing isn’t what it is—just as a stove is not heat.

A child will have plenty of opportunity to grasp things about the sordid, factual world.

Language—which poetry serves—is how we navigate the world. Language—which poetry serves—is not merely a repository of facts.

For the doubting adolescent, language, beautiful language, is the way to swim through the intellectual sea. The intellectual sea shouldn’t be poured into the novice’s mouth.

Since poetry is language, poetry makes both the mind and its objects beautiful—language which belongs to poetry appeals to both the sense and the senses. Language which belongs to poetry revels in fluency, revels in delight and a practiced ease, with which to contemplate and think.

As an example, we offer a recent poem of our own composition, which demonstrates how poetry belongs in language—not just in the macro-sense (to which we typically think poetry belongs, making sublime, insightful, emotional, grandiose observations and pronouncements, etc)—but in the micro-sense: poetry is, more than anything else, speech which punctures pretense, speech which spreads harmony, grace and civilization.

YOU SAW MY COMMA, YOU SAW WHAT I SAID WAS NICE

You saw my comma, you saw what I said was nice;

The shouting world that you see has nothing to do with me,

But I, at least, can prove to you, with the way I write,

That I am kind, nice to kiss, and safe—even sweet to be with at night.

It really is true that we have nothing to do with the world,

Although we are in it. The unseeing world

Has been manipulated against its will,

Or not: maybe the whole world meant to do it this way,

And the world is exactly as it should be, every day;

Though we don’t believe this, and I don’t believe this,

And please just kiss me—and do me a favor: don’t believe a single thing I say.

****

But to really be convincing, we offer an example of one of the greatest poetic speeches:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:/Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer…or to take arms…

Great old poetry from our mother tongue obviously throws its influence over contemporary American poets, though some, to be “more contemporary” push away the old—though every poet knows this is impossible. But if we look at this famous verse, immediately we see it appeals to the child: One or Zero. Either/Or. Binary language lies beneath computer language and a great deal more—difficulty, however, is not Shakespeare’s aim: child-like clarity and truth, rather. “The pangs of disprized love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office” is not the speech of long, tortured disquisition; it is the truth spoken quickly; now the mathematical simplicity of one or nothing is further complicated, but simply: the added issue is this: nothing is not really nothing—“but that dread of something after death…” But in the end, it still comes down to one or zero, because uncertainty is still zero.

And this is a truth which gives the lie to the “Difficult School,” and every kind of inadequacy and pretence which kills poetry in our day and makes it so unappealing to the public: “uncertainty is still zero.”

This is why William Blake’s lovely, child-like ballads to “Innocence and Experience,” mark the return of Shakespearian genius in the poets which came to be called “the Romantics” by critics who had no other word, just as “Modern” is no word at all to describe anything literary. Perhaps if we mean to say “stupid,” like that plum poem (Christ!) by Carlos Williams.

There is only good poetry.

There are no eras.

There is no liking poetry which is “about” something you like.

You’re not liking poetry, then.

There is no scholarship—especially the kind that exists to prove that Ezra Pound is more important than Edna Millay. Most people don’t care. A small percentage care, but most of that small percentage doesn’t get it. Poor poetry.

Intellectuals in the West chiefly care about “equality,” which translates into going backwards from their superior intellects into something worse—for the sake of that very “equality” they love.

The poor hate “equality,” which is why popular music, for instance, the entertainment of the poor, is so unequal: The “hit” songs get played over and over again. And for a simple reason, which no doubt goes over the intellectuals’ heads—on account of the intellectuals being so intellectual: Good songs are good because they sound good, and even better, with more listens.

So everything popular is not equal. Prose make all poems equal. That’s why prose-as-poetry appeals to intellctuals. This alone is the point. It isn’t that the intellectuals hate verse, or that the Pope hates naked women. Equality is solemnly the aim.

So to quickly review American poetry: ballads sung by the poor, evince a great deal of poetic genius, and this informs the great shadow poetry of America: popular music, which our Mother Country joyfully “invaded” in the 1960s, with phenomenal numbers like “House of the Rising Sun.”

Edna Millay is a great genius of American poetry (see her sonnets, etc).

Then there is the great counter-tradition, began in the 1930s at Iowa, in which American poetry lives entirely in the university—and two crucial things happen in the Creative Writing frenzy of the Writing Program Era: 1. Intellectuals take the “popular” element out of poetry in the name of what is largely pretentious “scholarship” and 2. Poetry is taken hostage by a business model which replaces disinterested learning of poetry with shameless ‘Be a Writer!’ institutional profit-share scheming.

The New Critics, the counter-tradition, institutional champions of mid-20th Century American poetry, awarded Iowa’s Paul Engle his early 30s Yale Younger Prize. A New Critic (Fugitive) was Robert Lowell’s psychiatrist when Lowell left Harvard to study with New Critics Ransom and Alan Tate and room with Randall Jarrell.

What about the Beats? The street-wise response to Lowell? The problem with the Beats is that they produced one famous poem, “Howl,” which no one reads to the end, and Robert Lowell, who was a Writing Program teacher at Iowa, and a Frankenstein monster of the tweedy New Critics, actually has more loony, real-person, “confessionalist” interest than the Beats do. Ginsberg’s “Supermarket In California” is easily his best poem, and it is probably no accident that this poem is an homage to Whitman—the canonized creation of Emerson (the prose of the Sage of Concord was stolen by Whitman and turned into poetry) and Emerson was 1. the godfather of William James (inventor of stream of consciousness and Gertrude Stein’s professor) and 2. friends with T.S. Eliot’s grandfather—and here are the roots of every leaf of American modern experimental poetry.

When I went to Romania this last month, I met David Berman, student of the late James Tate. Berman, an underground indie rock star (Silver Jews) and estranged from his millionaire right wing lawyer father—is a truly delightful person, as funny and smart a man as you will ever meet. James Tate won his Yale Younger in the 40s and has a Creative Writing degree from Iowa.

America poetry is Iowa. Quirky, intelligent, funny. Very, very conveniently in prose. This is the kind of poem you read once, are vastly impressed, but with each successive reading, all interest dissolves—because the intelligence has striven with billions of stars and trillions of grains of sand—and lost.

This is poetry that is really stand-up comedy.

John Ashbery, and his friend Frank O’hara, are also funny.

Ashbery, who was awarded the Yale Younger by W.H. Auden (talented Brit anointed by T.S. Eliot) in the 1950s, makes no sense, and so he is considered slightly better of the two (Ashbery, O’Hara) by intellectuals, since before Ashbery’s poetry everyone is equal (equally befuddled).  To think there was a time, not that long ago, when Byron complained he couldn’t understand Wordsworth.

Billy Collins, the best-selling American poet today, belongs to the James Tate/humorous/Iowa School. But since he is clear, although he is clever, and writes in prose, like every critically acclaimed poet in America, Collins is not appreciated by the intellectuals. His clarity bugs the intellectuals—who invariably confuse obscurity of expression with obscurity of subject, favoring the former, against all good sense.

I traveled to Romania with Ben Mazer, who is struggling to break the mold, who is perhaps the only American poet today seriously attempting to write verse in which verse writes the poetry.

Slinging words around in a half-comical or half-fortune cookie wisdom fashion, and avoiding all the excellences which the Romantics evinced, is the norm today—and one never bucks the norm, if one knows what is good for one. Unfortunately, avoidance of the past is bad. It prevents one from traveling to the future.

Then there is political poetry, which invariably falls into the category of poetry which is “about” something which the reader is already prepared to identify with, the political poet carefully avoiding any thing which might be called poetry to get in the way of what the “poem” is preciously and importantly “about.” This kind of poetry will always be written since poetry left poetry roughy 100 years ago, a time when, unfortunately, in America, the literary word “modern” began to be taken seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU SAW MY COMMA, YOU SAW WHAT I SAID WAS NICE

Commuter Portrait

You saw my comma, you saw what I said was nice;

The shouting world that you see has nothing to do with me,

But I, at least, can prove to you, with the way I write,

That I am kind, nice to kiss, and safe—even sweet to be with at night.

It really is true that we have nothing to do with the world,

Although we are in it. The unseeing world

Has been manipulated against its will,

Or not: maybe the whole world meant to do it this way,

And the world is exactly as it should be, every day;

Though we don’t believe this, and I don’t believe this,

And please just kiss me—and do me a favor: don’t believe a single thing I say.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

For Ben

What do you do in the twilight, when there won’t be any sun?
When every bird is darkness, and the birds, to their dark mother, run?
When every song is darkness, and all that was dear, and holy, and still,
Remains so forever, covering all you perceived, when you gazed, at valleys, with hope, high on the hill?
When every silence is eternal, adding silence to the silent flaw
Which demands more silence, because they fall down there, with each silence, each silence, the law?
You hear the crumbs and pebbles fall to ever lower levels in the dark
Until you cannot hear them. The pages are gone.  The book is gone.  And the lark.
When the earth is your parade—but she is the one
To make the shadows come up from further shadows,
Interspersed with light—remember a day’s summer in the park?
And she loved you? And brought her hand
Into your hand…?

You are dying. I understand.
I’ve been to that darkness, too.
The same shadow that covered me covers you.

 

THE LOVER WHO REJECTS YOU IS THE CRUELEST GOD

The lover who rejects you is the cruelest god.
This cruelty you expected all along:
When you walked with her, when the two of you listened to a song,
It hid under everything you two felt and said,
In a love that made you warm—just as now you wish you were dead.

The lover who rejected you practiced long hours
To reject your eyes and reject your flowers
And to be cruel so much to the point
Where you knew it wasn’t you loving,
Because confusion presented a scene:
Knowing love made mad a love that was green.

You look at him loving her who is loving you.
Love is too loving. Love doesn’t know what to do.
Love is here, and there, and you are no longer true.

You cannot control desire, leaping into many,
And more, and cannot stop seeing, thinking and feeling.
You push the blankets away and you writhe and you look at the ceiling.

But the orgy ends.
And cloudiness is a love. And a sunset cloud a sunset sends.

And then, a calmness pervades.
The madness ends. The grass swallows up the shades.

And now you ride a leafy stream onto a silent lake
And see only her. Only her. You live—only for her sake.

Or at least, that’s what you think.
The ground is soft.  She knows you will sink.

And then, a calmness pervades.
This kind of madness always ends. The grass now has the writhing shades.

MY POETRY

My poetry, there’s no help for you
Now that she—my love!—tells me what to do.
I had a good idea for a poem yesterday;
A good poem!—she looked at me and it flew away.

My poetry, we need to talk.
In the sunlight, by the sea, we’ll walk.
Lately I’ve given up your lying
To think of her; you’ve heard me sighing.

My poetry, you haven’t got a prayer
Against her; she is Iranian. And rare.
She has a full head of dark brown hair.

My poetry, I am happy. Please don’t despair
If you are not good.  I will always care.

My poetry, there’s no hope for you,
Except when I repeat what she has to say—
And when she stops looking at me I may.

 

 

LOVE NOTHING

Do you feel nothing for me? Can this be true?

Is this why you run from me when I come into view?

I’m a philosopher. I philosophize about you.

I don’t think we love a person—we only love what they do.

This is why love is a paradox—we think love unites

Two persons—but love kills the person, even as love delights

In doing so—the dog who loves is the dog who bites.

The fact of what the other person allows you to do—

Sex—is all one can ever love. Yes. I’m sorry, but I never loved you.

I only loved that you gave me sex. And this is always true

For everyone. Love is nothing but this.

We never love the lover. We only love the kiss.

This is why you adored me, and suddenly saw me as a lout.

You don’t hate me—you hate love.  You found out

The terrible secret: great love contains great doubt—

And when all doubt finally disappears

The truth makes us cry the bitterest tears—

Love gives nothing. Love is nothing. All we can do is fake it.

I have nothing for you. Here. Take it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SLOWLY, LOVE LOVED

Slowly, love loved.
Quick had been my desperate desire—
But slowly love loved.
I stood by a dying fire.

Slowly, she decided,
With limitations, to be mine.
She loved me a morning,
Or an evening, after wine.

She came to me slowly,
Covered, in public streets.
This is how love hides desire,
How secretly love meets.

She made me wait for days,
Then came in a covered car,
Watched by no one,
Under a yearning star.

WHEN SHE AND I SAT

image

When she and I sat in the park,

More silent than talking,

Famished past dinner time,

Sacrifices to forbidden love

Companion to the kisses

In the breezy dark,

We loved and had love.

When others finished walking

Past, we kissed again

And made a game of it,

Or love did—we were never sure

Where love ended and we began.

Tonight I came back, feeling the years

Melt. The small park we knew the same.

Then I saw him, a familiar stranger,

A silent part of the scene

I had forgotten. He never made a sound.

He never looked around, the stooped old man,

Who came with a plastic jug of water

And watered the plants. Who was he?

Until then memory had not harmed me.

Now, seeing him, I fled, and burst into tears,

Running from her. Our love. The years.

 

HIT SONG

band

THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP

Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby I’m gonna leave you

I did not have sex with that woman

Baby, baby, baby, I’m gonna leave you

I did not have sex with that woman

Baby, baby, baby I’m gonna leave you

Leave you in the summer time

Babe, babe, babe, babe

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP

I’m so emotional right now

Or if the fetus isn’t loved

Those are the real criminals

Those are the real criminals

Those are the real criminals

Babe, babe, babe, I’m gonna leave you

Leave you in the summertime

With a dead sound on the final stroke

With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine

Number nine

Number nine

Number nine

Meer Meer Meer

How do you like it

She was always putting things out of the way.  She was putting things off.

Dying all the time

Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind

You can’t always get what you want

You can’t

Atrocity no one sees

I’m coming down fast but I’m miles above you

THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP

Baby you got me down on my knees

And now the news

Come on baby light my fire

Light my fire, light my fire, light my fire

Do you want me to love you

O the shark has pretty teeth dear

Dear dear dear dear

Babe, babe, babe, babe, babe, babe

How can you mend a broken heart

The harmful rays of the sun

Ahhh

Ahh

Ah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CREEP FACTOR

Good comes out of evil and evil comes out of good.

The American people are faced with the following—we see it coming and cannot avoid it:

Either Donald Trump or Bill Clinton will live in the White House by early next year.

The creep factor has never been so high, or so visible, in the American republic.

And yet, if good does come out of evil, the 2016 presidential election will give us all a powerful, unavoidable lesson—things associated with ambition and leadership have a very high creep factor.

This useful understanding will hit us hard: those who live and work in a modest, humble, manner for themselves and their loved ones are the true owners of themselves.

A great, unspoken backlash against creepiness will occur.  Millions of Americans who quietly view the horrid spectacle unfolding in front of them will feel that the greatest virtue and the greatest happiness is honesty, hard work, good taste, intelligence, modesty, ingenuity, and kindness.

This is not to say that one cannot feel a certain pride—for whatever reason—for a particular candidate: this is not a lecture against whomever you might favor; this is not the point of this essay, and as much as democracy always seems troubling, this is okay—what we are merely trying to point out is that the general feeling of creepiness and revulsion and disgust Americans feel right now, in the summer of this election year, in reaching a fever pitch of mass recognition, will trigger a healthy purging, a new and radical appreciation among the American populus of real virtue—and this virtue will naturally and quietly grow tremendously in value.

The creep factor is a safety measure which protects us against wrong; it cannot be intellectualized away; we know it the way we know the smell of sour milk.

The creepy does not have to rise to the level of crime to be noticed—and this is what makes it such an important warning device, and also why it belongs so powerfully to both social relations and aesthetics; it is not ignored, because it can’t be, even though it is often pushed under the rug of public discourse.

Now, the creep factor does interact with libel and slander, and, if there is a question of facts—and we are falsely suspecting creepiness based on hearsay—this obviously is an issue.

But this is something which cannot be denied by the individual who feels it.  It doesn’t have to smell (alluding to our earlier “sour milk” analogy)—it can be known without a doubt even as “the creep” in question denies it, has supporters in high places, has respectability, is liked by many, and even has certain admirable qualities.  The creep factor is something we feel in our bones, even as it flies under legal or public detection.  It can be sensed, even if there is no “smell” at all.  The “creep” can play victim; “the creep” can play all sorts of games, and these games, even when they gain “the creep” public support, only increase the creep factor in our eyes.

It is safe to say that because of the choice we have for president this year, one does not have to get into the pros and cons of either one of the candidates to simply and factually state that, in total, the creep factor of public life in America has never been so high.  We can bemoan this fact, or we can see the good in it: it will lead to a healthy backlash against creepiness in nearly every corner of America.

Some will argue that when creepiness reaches a tipping point in our leaders, a tipping point in public, followers and private individuals will feel the urge to be more creepy, as well.

This may be true up to a point, but the creep factor, thanks to the current election, is so pervasive now, and is felt so significantly in the body politic, that shame and disgust will set in to such an extent that great numbers of citizens, without thinking, will turn in the other direction.

And, as we said, the creep factor affects us—who are not making judgments in a court of criminal law—rather in a social or aesthetic manner; this is the luxury we have as citizens free of the creep factor ourselves: we judge with our more gentle feelings (acute—but gentle) and not in full-blown rage, or malice.  Creepiness is not the same as crime—as when, for instance, a tyrant murders citizens in full view of all and the cowed citizenry’s inaction becomes a license for more terror.

The real and harmful violence of nations (including those of the United States) is certainly a factor that may overlap with a leader’s or a country’s creep factor—but it’s the very nature of the creep factor to belong to the aesthetic realm, occupying that crucial area between warning and harm; the greatest pain and ultimate doom has not yet occurred, and there is still hope.  Without the creep factor as a warning, the human race may have been wiped out long ago.

The creep factor is not conscience or morality; it works at a far more sensitive level, the place where flowers cast forth their delicate perfumes; the place where very small children shyly cling to the necks of their mothers and hide their faces; the place where a secret heart beats loudly, almost in spite itself, for the deepest, sweetest, and purest love, in the throes of the kindest and sweetest ecstasy; and in the place where the superior edge of the musical or poetic genius is felt, and understood, and known.

The creep factor can manifest itself in countless situations, and those who desperately cry, “Creep!” may very well be full of creepiness themselves.

Just as we are not “taking sides” on the election, neither are we “taking sides” when it comes to men versus women—or any of those other divides which divide.

The creep factor can go either way.

The creep factor moves, as delicately as any poem, in the invisible air.

 

 

NEVER THIS

 

Looking deludes you, and those emotions, too.

Women’s magazines present faces

In a way that acknowledges those faces

Free of blemishes are vital images,

So that, for society, the illusionary is true.

A pretty face is like a flower, which is

Banal, not interesting, and hardly new.

Poetry uses metaphor—one object is placed beside another:

Do you want them doing that to you?

Hamlet has to be described exactly,

Or he won’t be emotionally true;

He won’t be able to speak in the word-sea

To the sea of the audience. That cannot be.

But there is one thing that doesn’t delude you—

Except for echo bouncing off sky and ground—

And what I’m talking about, of course, is sound.

Sometimes you don’t know where it’s coming from,

But it’s the most actual thing, when found.

There’s many illusionary empires: empires of kiss,

Empires of intimacy. Silent empires. But never this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S FUNNY: TRAGICALLY, THERE ISN’T MUCH TO SAY

penny

Stupidity is measured in only two ways:

Not doing enough.

Doing too much.

Since all literature is concerned with dramatic human activity, and all dramatic human activity (as opposed to engineering, etc) involves stupidity, what we are about to say is absolutely true for all literature.

Our radical thesis is blandly true, yet radical: Stupidity is understood in literature only in terms of the ancient tropes, comedy and tragedy, and perceptually, popularly, in no other way. 

Comedy (Stupidity’s victory) is ‘too little being enough.’

For instance: A blind fool succeeds.

Tragedy (Stupidity’s defeat) is about ‘too little not being enough.’

For instance: O! Had we only done more to save him/her/them!

‘Too much not being enough’ is the sub-tragedy within Comedy and the sub-comedy within Tragedy.

The variable term is ‘enough,’ and the overarching constant is Stupidity.

On either side of ‘enough’ is comedy and tragedy.

Comedy is so easy to explain that it’s funny. In Comedy, in all forms of humor, “enough” is reached very quickly. This is what we mean by a “quick wit.”

In Tragedy, the audience sees the “enough” beyond the reach of the tragic (overly complex) participants.

A  melancholy disposition is akin to tragedy because it has a certain duration: like tragedy, and unlike comedy, melancholy is slow; it has a lastingness. One can never be melancholy for a moment; only humor is momentary.

Tragedy develops.

Comedy does not—or only in those representations which formally mimic tragedy for a comic end (happy resolution).

The denoument of tragedy belongs to the quick, but this quickness is only a “catching-up” from the prior slow development of the tragedy itself, in which “too much” vainly seeks to be “enough.”

Tragedy, which belongs to slow reflective menace, ends suddenly with a sudden death.  Enough is “found” at last in death.

Comedy, which belongs to quick wit, never staying to reflect, ends with marriage, which takes long preparation. Enough is “lost” in open ended, happily-ever-after, revelry.

Detective fiction, the most popular type of fiction in existence, explains a tragedy with a prose patience. Detective fiction is simply where the “critic,” not the “poet,” is the hero. In detective fiction, poetry (tragedy) is explained. Instead of ending with a tragic death after the unfolding tragedy, detective fiction begins with the tragic death and works backwards to reveal the hidden aspects of the crime.

This is why criticism which praises betrays literature and is boring. It is for the simple reason that criticism is like the detective story and a detective story involves folly, stupidity or folly covered up—a crime, a wrong.

This is why cheerleading for literature never works.

Literature requires the wrong (or stupidity) of either comedy or tragedy.

Prose reveals plainly.

Poetry hides beautifully.

Prose is the detective. Poetry is the crime, the tragedy, the ‘too much’ which is not enough, the beauty which is pleasure and would continue forever, precisely because it is pleasurable and beautiful.

The criminal is simply the one who, not obeying society, inappropriately seeks an “Eden,” a paradise of ‘not-having-to-work.’  This lazy and real desire, this attempt creates tragedy, poetry, and the need for detectives and critics.

And now we return to “enough,” for work deals with enough—we have now worked enough, we have now done enough—but not working, paradise (similar, we notice, to parasites) is ideally never-ending, for pleasure is never “enough.”

There is always enough sorrow (stupidity).

There is never enough happiness or pleasure.

Comedy—which is, and which is not, happiness—quickly finds “enough” happiness (superficially) again and again.

Tragedy—which has not, but which seeks, happiness—presents profoundly the profound desire and elusiveness of never-ending happiness.

Enough—perceived superficially is comedy.

Enough—perceived elusively is tragedy.

Enough, in its more substantial form, simply because of its elusiveness, which takes time to find, belongs more to poetry/tragedy. This is the chief reason tragedy gets more respect than comedy.

Above, we wrote, “Poetry hides beautifully.” Poetry/tragedy is a beautiful hiding.

The “hiding” activity of the poet/criminal (which the prose critic/detective/reader is called on to reveal) requires a formalist, material definition, since we need precise measurement to hide X inside of Y. This is the chief reason why great literature is formalist to a remarkable degree: it has to do with the precise hiding principle.

Comedy is when something isn’t hidden, or hidden badly.

Tragedy is when something is hidden well.

Comedy is when low stupidity understands.

Tragedy is when high intelligence does not.

When it comes to popular entertainment, today’s audiences choose what they want to watch by those ancient labels: comedy and tragedy (or murder mystery, the major genre Poe added).

Contemporary literature—literary fiction and contemporary poetry—abandon, out of sophistication, these “labels” for something vaguely realistic or ethical.

We might call this a scientific, experimental maneuver based on wisdom and intelligence.

But here’s the rub.

The realistic and the ethical have no sense of “enough,” precisely because they seek (unconsciously) to be unmoored from the “labels,” comedy and tragedy.

Explanatory science (sans “labels”) has no limit—has no “enough.”  No tragedy, or comedy, or stupidity.

Poets and writers of literary fiction today are more than a little exasperated and puzzled by a public they’ve come to despise, a public which devours popular brands of shallow literature and entertainment, but turns its back on the insight, subtlety and beauty of literary fiction and contemporary poetry.

It would be one thing if the public didn’t read anything; but it is more insulting to contemporary poetry and literary fiction authors that the public spends a great deal of time reading popular, formulaic works.

Stupid people—they read too much (genre) and gain nothing (remain stupid), or don’t read at all, and remain stupid.

But what if comedy and tragedy are not mere “labels?”

What if comedy and tragedy contain a truth more fundamental to reality (the stupidity of enough) than moral or newsy or journalistic or “realistic” nuance literature?

What if the whole notion of what is “enough”—in terms of the duration of a work, what a work is going for, and audience expectation, depends on whether a work is “enough” based on “stupidity?”

Because, really, what is contemporary poetry? (No names, no fame, no cluster of readers, no true influence.)

Isn’t contemporary poetry something not defined as “comedy”or “tragedy?”

And therefore, isn’t it essentially something not really defined at all?

If stupidity is defined by “enough,” and no sense of “enough” exists where contemporary poetry is concerned—on any level whatsoever—how can it even exist in the public’s mind?

No wonder it doesn’t sell.

Comedy and tragedy (as genres) both participate not in reality perhaps—but stupidity, and by that very participation are usefully connected to the whole notion of “enough,” a definition which contemporary poetry completely lacks.

If one wishes to convey the realistic, the overtly ethical, the journalistic, there is, of course, a wide field for that.

It’s called non-fiction.

When Poe invented the new genre of detective fiction, he temporarily dipped into realism; he described an actual crime in New York. (“Marie Roget”)

Of course “real life” informs comedy and tragedy. But these literary genres are what informs, for better or for worse, literature itself, not—flying in the face of common sense—real life.

This is the shocking truth, which is obviously difficult for the sophisticated to understand, and which we now in this essay boldly and sadly declaim.

Tragedy, comedy, and detective fiction—which is really nothing more than tragedy done backwards—are immersed in “real depictions.”  Yes. But Realism versus Idealism is not the issue at all; it’s a false trail.

All fiction and poetry (dramatic human activity of the stupid) belong to the idealism of what is “enough.”

In the non-fiction field, stupidity, too, is a major consideration.

Stupidity is at the core of human society. All feel this more acutely as we mature.

All feelings, from and about stupidity, must be either comic or tragic.

Oscar Wilde was basically correct, then, when he said there is no such thing as a moral or immoral book—a book is either badly or well-written.  But what does it mean to say a book is “well-written?”

The comic and the tragic are not labels.

They have an intrinsic reality deeper than “reality” itself, in terms of all artful expression.

They are simply what literature (to any accessible, popular degree) is.

If your poetry is not aimed at the stupid, it will never have a public. And this is not because the public is stupid! (To assume this would be a grave error.) But for the reasons we have outline above.

In as much as your poetry is not defined immediately in people’s minds as either clearly comic, or clearly tragic, it will never have a public—but the reasons for this must be understood; it is not just a case of “my poetry is happy, or my poetry is sad.” The “enough” factor must be used and understood.

Sophisticates, beware!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I PUSH MYSELF TO THE LONELY EXTREME

image

I push myself to the lonely extreme,

Where you—and you—and you—are a dream,

Where every councilor and flying cousin are known

By my poetry alone.

Where every drink and dream contains a pill

Of my extremist will.

Where I go down to the pit of hell—

But one more cigarette will make me well.

They say I shouldn’t rhyme so much; it’s not sincere.

But music kisses plain speech; if trumpet rhymed with fear,

You would find some interest eventually.

Define poetry? A purity of wait-and-see.

Hope is despair that’s free,

Freedom: despair that hopes.

You’re an idiot if you assume others are dopes.

Everyone has imagination. Once, a poem said “kill”

And one died for the rest of the day

Not certain if it was real or play,

And the authorities granted she was frightened to death

By a word whispered by a poet’s breath.

How easily poetry can fill

The vanities with vanity.

Modernity is Dante on the window sill.

Did you read my poem at all?

Did you read my poem and fall?

That’s not what I meant at all.

Not life. Not agony. Not at all.

Breathing life into the whole street

I walk and look and obey my fate.

I focus my mind like a laser beam.

I watch sports for a minute. For the rest of the day I dream.

Comparison, the better and the worse,

Is what human life is made of, of course.

Every second, you compare top-shelf.

My smile wasn’t perfect. So I hid myself.

 

 

 

MY REASONS

My reasons for hating you are in tatters.
All that mattered, no longer matters;
Love has taught a lesson well,
Reason can reason you into hell.
Return is the only reason for seasons;
Love has worth
Only in rebirth;
My reasonable love wants no reasons.
Give me your hand again.

It is true we are nothing; the station,
The travelers, the train.
Life rumbles on without love, without you,
And no one knows, and only the heavy train is true.
Crumbling stone, mute distraction
Is all there is,
A hopeful kiss
Is imagined when we take no action.
Can you give me your hand again?

We float, invisible, through it all,
And the same birds to the same birds call,
And no knowledge of you and I.
A film is a film that matters.  Pictures for pictures cry.
We are invisible by mountains and streams.
When I glimpsed you,
You glimpsed me, too,
But we are silent as dreams.
Will you give me your hand again?

No, it is true, I am not the same.
Our unhappy story is full of shame,
And maybe death must come, after all,
Leaving no memories on the wall,
A wall cluttered, and slippery with dust,
And you go past,
And I leave, because nothing can last,
And we go, indifferently, as we must.
Oh God! Give me your hand again!

 

LET ME BE HONEST AND TRUE

Let me be honest and true.

I am alone, and still madly in love with you.

No one can define poetry,

But I think it is love and honesty,

And from that, follows a truth, which can be said—

—The truest that lives in any head—

Where all the secrets lie

In a vast, ghostly landscape,

Who come out to play in dreams

And so poetry only seems

To be about seeming,

But really it is about truth that is dreaming

About what honesty can do.

I am alone, and still madly in love with you.

 

LOVE IS HORRIBLE WHEN IT ENDS

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Love has no way of knowing what it is,

Because it is so many things:

Lips, songs, the words to songs,

And the soul that listens when it sings.

 

Go—desperate lover, lost, thinking over

The endless disorder and discord of grief—

Into life which assails you: tears, tears,

Misunderstanding, tears drowning your intimate belief.

 

Love has no way of knowing if it comes or goes,

Or whether it loses or wins—

Love is horrible when it ends.

As it begins, begins, begins.

 

WHEN YOU REALIZED POETRY WAS CREEPY

When you realized poetry was creepy,

You were punched in the face by a lie.

You realized what makes you love

Is that which makes you die.

The poem—for you—will be read by friends,

And some of them are beautiful,

With beauty that never ends,

With beauty that makes more beauty in a way

That makes you hate that summer day

When he gave you a poem about fall.

Though of course the poem he gave you could have been about anything at all.

 

 

POETRY IS THE BEST EXCUSE

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Poetry is the best excuse

Not to be serious about anything,

Not to be anything. When poetry asks,

It importunes nothing, it doesn’t care

If you come, or if you come and don’t dance.

When you arrive, and sit in the corner,

You find poetry watching you,

And you are thrilled to know

Poetry wants your secrets; if not now, later,

Or immediately, or you already did

Spill them, even as your lover, poetry, hid.

 

Is it possible that poetry who shames you

By loving you—as she blames you—

Hates you, with a wink—as you feel great—

Can hate you with such love?

Can love you with such hate?

Yes, my secret police of poetry,

You already know your lonely need to talk

Destroys poetry.

Your mind has no authority.

Beautiful evening. Will you take a walk?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROMANIA JUNE 11 2016 A POEM

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The rain after the reading

Cooled the air, and wouldn’t stop.

It invaded us with its sound.

The heart had to hear the rain drop.

 

The heart had to hear the poem

In the reading that we gave,

But sensitivity doesn’t help,

Because sensitivity isn’t brave.

 

The bravery of the brave

Is cowardice in reverse:

Retreating decides to advance.

Rhetoric becomes terse.

 

The hotel clerk comes outside

To ask, “Has the rain stopped yet?”

The poets, after reading, write

Under the awning—so nothing gets wet.

 

 

 

 

ROMANIAN DREAM: SCARRIET EDITOR READS

 

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Here’s some poems read by the fellow in the upper right hand corner:

I HAD A CONVERSATION WITH YOUR FACE

I had a conversation with your face—in my mind—

It is the face, not the conversation, that is kind.

Conversation can laugh, but it has to use tears.

I would rather talk with your face. All the years

That took to make it! Slaughtered armies, forsaken,

Fell in green valleys generations and generations

Before, when your ancient ancestors, startled in peace,

Made confident in building, soothed in war,

Came away sorrowful, by the inspiring spring

Where one drowned once—the waters raged

In love—the god loved those waters more

In the darkness, and the dark hair and eyes,

Practiced to be beautiful among sad cries.

Today, when I glimpse your face which talks

To me instantly, fed by the historical years

Of a story and humor and its grotesques,

Seeking the escape from facts and oozing tears,

My soul cries out inside where I recognize

The something of your face and the everything of your eyes.

It is a waste to explain how your sweetest face,

Dark hair, dark eyes, is a catastrophe for me, a place.

 

YOU CANNOT TELL WHOSE BREATH IS IN THE OBOE

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You cannot tell whose breath is in the oboe

Or whose hand is on the lyre,

You don’t know which smile wrote the music,

Music escaping the fire,

Murmuring from flower to flower,

Now, in this musical hour.

The windy lyre is tall

Because the notes need a long way to fall.

The black clarinet

Hasnt started playing yet.

What soil makes the music grow?

Atheist! You must admit you do not know.

The unknown bee will never tire

Of collecting honey from your soul,

A lonely soul too lonely to love—

A flat, A minor, a roaring etude of pride.

A fantasy in C finds the only honey you hide

But tomorrow C will not find it.

Your child is a rude child and no one wants to mind it.

A melody in D floats over you like sparks from a dying fire,

Whose breath is in the oboe?

Who plays F and G repeating on the silky sighing lyre?

Which bee hums for you now?

You cannot tell, can you? and you do not want to know

Which string strikes which string in the ancient sighs below.

 

 

 

ASA CRED

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I can’t see over my language,

I can’t see over my speech,

I can’t see over what I’m saying,

Poetry is out of reach.

Let me love you, poetry,

Let me love you, word,

Let me love you, can you

Believe this is not absurd?

Who are you? What do you think of me?

I know this can never be answered,

Not by you, or by poetry.

Who’s got the answer for me?

Will poetry let me see over the wall?

Over the wall, I’m going over the wall!

This is the mystery, over the wall.

I’m going to take a walk. Don’t call.

And may I tell you, I am not it, and you are not it, at all?

 

 

 

 

SCARRIET GOES TO ROMANIA

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Sometimes it pays to be a poet.

Your friendly editor, Thomas (Brady) Graves, is thrilled to announce his invitation to a Romanian literary conference as Scarriet seeks to enlarge its international reputation.

The title of the conference is intriguing, isn’t it?

DISCUTIA SECRETA

Because of my curious nature, I cannot help but indulge my fancy on the nature of a secret.

The first observation which came to me was this:

There are secret things which do not want to be secret.

The poet wishes his poems were read.

And things which are not secret, but which do desire secrecy.

A look on one’s face, which to one’s horror, gives it all away.

Further, there are those things which demand secrecy—but which are not secretive things.

We consider it rude to peek at whatever one is writing or reading on their phone—even though what is on their phone is banal and of no import. (Though if we don’t see it, how will we know?)

One wishes to be secretive about what one is texting—despite the fact it is of no consequence.

Or, we might wish to be secretive because it is of no consequence—one always wants to assume one is owed secrecy—and one is polite if we grant them this secrecy, even if it is unnecessary.

Secrecy is powerful, and usually exciting.

Social interaction, then, is not just about communication.

It is about, in a very real sense, manufacturing the necessity of secrecy.

We believe secrecy is good-–and we show this publicly. Secrecy is a virtue, and the polite respect this virtue.

To communicate, we share—and why do we share? To combat secrecy.

The great paradox at the center of all communication: secrecy is continually both our friend and our enemy, changing from one moment to the next.

It is almost like breathing: each instant of our lives, secrecy good, secrecy bad, secrecy good, secrecy bad.

Perhaps this is why they say a secret will always come out.

It will also always go in.

And this ‘breathing’ is further complicated by the fact that secrecy can be superficial and trivial, or it can protect our very being.

They say, “the truth will set you free.” We typically think of knowledge, of information, of revelation, of telling as that which can save us.

And then one thinks of “Prufrock,” and the lines, “I shall tell you all” and the famous rejection: “That is not what I meant at all.”  The refusal to accept the telling of all is the ‘civilized’ voice in Eliot’s poem.

As a society: We want there to be secrecy.  We want not to know.

And yet—you, you alone who read this—burn to know everything.

 

ATTRACTION IS NEVER ATTRACTIVE: A DISCUSSION OF LOVE

The great dilemma love faces:

Attractiveness is admired more than anything—yet attraction is condemned.

The leer, or stare, is never attractive to anyone, no matter how attractive the person giving the hungry look.

We are not sure why this is, since attention to attractiveness must be of use to the attractive, and attraction must be the natural outcome of attractiveness.

Why should attractiveness and attraction be completely at odds?

Some would say they are not at odds, and the paradox I am conveying does not exist—it is only that attractive persons wish to attract the right person, and so it is not that attraction is condemned; it is just that attraction is highly selective.

I object to this objection:

First. Attractiveness is nothing if not universal; the more truly attractive, the wider and greater its effect. Narrow and selective use inhibits and counters its whole excellence.

Second. Let us take the example of a hungry look displayed by a very attractive person—certainly, in many cases, this sign of attraction would not be condemned; it would be welcomed.

In most cases it would not be welcomed, simply because public displays of attraction signal two things: desperation and rudeness; it implies that in some hidden manner the attractive one is not attractive—for the attractive, if truly attractive, attracts attention; they do not give it.

But further, even if the hungry look is treated positively and not with disdain, because let’s say the hungry look is presented tactfully by a person of overwhelming beauty, it is not the attraction which is welcomed. It is really the attractiveness—or, more accurately, the idea that possessing this attractiveness might be possible in the future, which is welcomed. For once the attractive is possessed, attraction vanishes. This situation, then—an attractive person giving us the eye—thrills us because it gives us hope that irksome, painful, hungry, hopeless, embarrassing attraction will  hound us no more, and we will be rid of this vain and sad aspect of existence forever.

But how can I be saying this? The attractive is real; real persons who are attractive really do exist, and we are attracted to them; how can I possibly say that yes, the attractive exists, and we derive great pleasure from looking at, and contemplating, the attractive, and yet somehow the attraction of this attractiveness is paradoxically rejected? How can the attractive be separated from attraction? We cannot take pleasure in the attractive if we don’t take pleasure in the attraction to the attractive, right?

Apparently it is the attraction which makes us unhappy, however. Why? Because attraction means we do not have something. We think attraction is pleasurable, but this is only an illusion involving the attractive; attraction is really the painful, lacking, sad aspect of the attractive. Attraction only exists when the attractive exists, and therefore this painful and unhappy state insinuates itself into the beauty of attraction itself. We are attracted to attraction itself—or believe we are; for it is only the attractive which truly gives us pleasure.

Think of it this way. We can see the attractive in a picture. But are we satisfied with a picture if we can’t have the real person? The attractive is seen in a picture. We are attracted to the picture, and yet we realize that by looking at a picture, attraction is at an end, for the attractiveness of the picture is utterly possessed by our greedy eyes. Or is it? Life forces us to look elsewhere. The picture remains an object of attraction, not merely an object of attractiveness. Further, we know there is more to what is depicted in the picture—somewhere the “real” exists and we are attracted to that. If attraction and attractiveness were simply two pleasant aspects of the same thing, we would all be happy with pictures, and love would die.

I find the picture attractive—and yes—yawn—by the way, I’m also attracted to it—but so what? Of course one is attracted to the attractive! They are two sides of the same pretty coin.

No. For this doesn’t explain why pictures are never enough, even as they are enough. Attraction is precisely that which makes a picture more than a picture—attraction is the three dimensional reality of flat attractiveness. Attraction is perspective, which requires space, which requires distance, which requires absence, which requires longing, which is sadness—so attraction ends up being the very opposite of the attractive picture.

We do not know whether it is the unfolding dimensionality which lives inside attraction, or whether attraction lives inside unfolding dimensionality—the idea is co-adaptive.

Now finally here we see that even though attraction is the very opposite of attractiveness—we don’t even know what the attractive is until the mechanism of three dimensional longing and movement begins to assert itself—and here is where the two, sad attraction and happy attractiveness, really co-exist: within moving perspective. The attractive exists only as a step in attraction’s journey. The desire for what is absent becomes the first and last sign of love, love which is always desire itself, love which is always at a loss before the merely attractive—since it is unable to show its attraction for it in a socially acceptable manner. The paradox we are contemplating in this essay is not only real, it is the key to everything.

We recently read a first-hand account in a quasi-public forum, of a wife and mother in India—a country where all the women seem gloriously feminine and all the males gloriously geeky—who confessed an affair to her husband, an affair which, apparently exists first, as an act of courageous free will on her part, and, second, as an affair distant and poetic and romantic—although the “other man” possesses ideal male attributes. Her husband, upset at first, has accepted the affair, and the two men have become friends.

What this means is that attraction requires distance, and with the advocate of the Internet, it is more and more possible for distantly chaste affairs to occur, conducted by those who are otherwise good and moral, who otherwise serve husbands and wives and children, affairs which use, more than anything else, the language of poetry. It is poetry’s new function to serve this new love of highly chaste and refined longing: passion as poetry meant passion to be.

Romanticism is not yet dead.

T.S. Eliot and the poetry of learned obscurity has run its course. For now.

Also dying out, for some reason, is the Brooklyn poetry of open mic rape and pussy frankness in front of brick walls.

The poetry which is now exploding is the poetry of Shelley and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

At least half the world consists of polite people in relationships without passion. Good people who sacrifice passion for stability. Common sense people who avoid the disappointing pitfalls of fantasy.

It is the desire of these people who will give the poetry of the future its dimensionality.

 

 

 

 

 

POETRY IS WHAT MY POETRY IS SEEKING

Poetry is what my poetry is seeking,

Not the throbbing of love that takes it all away,

Not difficult ideas difficult to say,

Not the clever being clever for an hour,

Not even the red dress, nor the laughter, nor the desert flower

Bravely wearing its yellow yellow under the yellow sun.

It is how they look away from her when she is speaking.

Poetry is what my poetry is seeking.

 

Poetry is what my poetry is seeking,

Not declarations that you are the only one,

You and I hidden, camping out in the tower,

The park below, great shadows spreading by the hour,

Not tears and tears raining from a head of clay,

Not shouts and certainties which make it run away.

It is how they look away from her when she is speaking.

Poetry is what my poetry is seeking.

 

 

I SAW HER TALKING TO ANOTHER

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I saw her talking to another

Who was only a friend.

That’s when I knew our love would end.

If she gets that much delight

In conversing with a friend,

Passion which leaps in the night

Seems small and shameful,

The rudeness of a selfish animal.

I would rather have her smile

And talk like that with me for awhile.

 

 

 

FOR ME

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Suicide is suicide.

I’ve contemplated suicide for weeks.

But suicide is suicide.

Poetry is what my poetry seeks.

Clean is clean.

Ignorance is not only ignorance, it reeks.

Socrates is Socrates.

Poetry is what my poetry seeks.

The unsayable is unsayable.

So says the silence, but it leaks.

I will say something now.

Poetry is what my poetry seeks.

 

NEVER LET NATURE TELL YOU WHAT TO DO

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Never let nature tell you what to do.

Nature takes one and turns it into two.

Nature hates the single mind

Unless it is a poet’s—who is blind.

Nature loves the many and hates the few.

Cruelty, cruelty. Nature is the worst.

There’s something hates one, but loves the two,

Oh but you better ask your partner first.

She is tall and beautiful and mild.

She was a child, and now, is the mother of a child.

In the tranquility of the morning I detect a single star.

“You are my sex; I can’t have a child with you,

As lovely as you are.

Never let nature tell you what to do.

I appreciate how you infiltrate my mind,

But impossible for another to be the two of us combined.

You will beat in vain upon my beautiful wall

My beautiful sculpture must be your all.

The world will go forward without us, I’m afraid.

But you and I can lie here safely in the shade.

There is no chance that anything will be new.”

You didn’t let nature tell you what to do.

At the graduation I saw you alone in your seat,

Miserable, seeing me seeing you; that was sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

THESE GROVES

These groves are quiet

Where my lover in a purple cloud lies down.

Unhappy shadows riot.

Her hair is black, her skin, Bengali brown.

Religious crowds have not been fed,

Religious colors are a bright, bright red.

Those who roll by the river could drown.

 

Flowers in the groves rebel

In a tangerine-yellow yell.

The crimson noises

Kiss red against red

When our kissing pauses.

Aquamarines have secrets to tell.

 

Gray eyes of poem’s roses

Sleep where the persian poppy dozes.

The springy orchard and the oozing well

Release a pungent indigo smell.

No shadow is afraid.

The weed has an adamantine need

In the darkening shade.

Blue silken bell.

 

I came across the roof to see

What her religion means to me.

I dropped down from my height

In a cloud of white,

Startled by the odors of this

Delicious kiss.

 

Buzzing flies

Are husky in their thighs.

The one color which bled in my heart

Was green—which made the landscape start.

The million kisses I had in mind

Crept into hers. The groves are blind

To the lighter hues,

To drops of rain, to dusty magentas and blues.

 

A religious crowd is pressing in.

A glassy, ebony breathing skin

Breathes the world I am breathing in.

Now the night is almost white.

In dark groves my Bengali dies.

Who drinks the maroon noon

Belonging to her cryptic sighs?

 

 

 

 

SOME CRITICAL OBSERVATIONS

We have nothing against line breaks. But line breaks do not substitute for punctuation. And lack of punctuation is not poetic.

Criticism is not about brainwashing or bullying. That’s brainwashing and bullying, not criticism. A poet who is highly defensive about their own work can be a brainwashing bully. Brainwashing and bullying can be done by anyone and has nothing to do with Criticism, per se.

Criticism is a guide, that’s all. It’s the brain of the eyes. Good criticism lays out examples, shares work from many ages and writers, and presents it. End of story. Nothing wrong with that. If you are a nature poet, and there’s a million examples of nature poetry out there, you should count criticism which knows something about nature poetry as your friend—that is, if you yourself, as the poet, are not a brainwashing bully.

Writing workshops = a modern money-making scheme. We can objectively read our own work. It is brainwashing to say otherwise. If you can’t edit your work, solo, you are no writer. Criticism belongs to the newspaper, the public square, the lecture hall, not the private, writing workshop, classroom—and so the latter should not exist. The writing workshop can only exist as “invite-only” mischief, as behind-the-scenes reputation making, as institutional thievery of what should remain private in the writer’s house. Good professional criticism has been killed by the Writing Program era.

Any piece of writing can be ridiculed. The question in every particular case is always: should it be? This ‘should’ applies on many subtle levels so that a literary critic is truly the most important member of any modern society. But Criticism has been taken from society and imprisoned in a textbook. Socrates was the first really good one. Critics don’t belong in the classroom—it is a perverse waste of talent for troublesome, cynical ends.

Reading. That’s really all literary education is. Throw in purely material considerations of metrics, a few mechanical prose issues. Anything else is dubious, and perhaps damaging.

As Alexander Pope said, the spirit is more important than the letter. Don’t nitpick. On the other hand, grammar is 50% of writing. Poets who can’t punctuate kill themselves. Poe was a fierce critic, but only to rebuff really bad writing. A Poe critic belongs in a newspaper, not workshops. The old English major is better for writing because reading is better for writing. Workshops are pathological and unnecessary. If teaching writing is your gig, we are sorry. Of course it’s not your fault—it’s the landscape today.  Just pretend you are a literature teacher. And for God’s sake, make them read Plato. Be confident they will get enough empty modern certainty on their own.

E. E. Cummings used punctuation a lot. Semicolons abound in many of his poems. He went to Harvard. He used stanza, rhyme, repetition, parenthetical marks, and least of all, the line break, for poetical emphasis. He was a meticulously formalist Romantic poet who belonged to the modernist, 1920s, Dial clique of Moore, Williams, Pound, and Eliot, eloped with money-bags Scofield Thayer’s wife, won an annual Dial award just like the rest of them (with a substantial cash award) and went on to outsell them all.

Cummings fooled everyone into thinking he was modern. Clever guy.

A good writer fools others.

But not you.

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