Lyn Hejinian: Was she in the crowd?

A lot of movie-goers are coming out of cinematic phenomenon Avatar, singing the praises of a new and unique experience in film, saying they were totally immersed in the world they were watching.

Another phenomenon is occurring as well.  Poets are beginning to create poems which allow readers to inhabit a world of sensuality and pleasure.  At a recent reading of this new kind of poetry, several audience members had to be carried out on stretchers.

One prominent LANGUAGE poet was alternately moaning and shouting at the top of her lungs: “Rhyme!  Oh God!  His poem rhymed!”

She had to be restrained from hurting herself by security officers, who had to step over several MFA students writhing upon the floor in what appeared to be Dionysian fits.

Leonard Tennyson, wearing leather pants, intoned:

…………..And ever when the moon was low,
…………..And the shrill winds were up and away,
…………..In the white curtain, to and fro,
…………..She saw the gusty shadows sway.
…………..But when the moon was very low,
…………..And wild winds bound within their cell,
…………..the shadow of the poplar fell
…………..Upon her bed, across her brow.
…………..She only said, ‘The night is dreary,
…………..He cometh not,’ she said;
…………..She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
…………..I would that I were dead!’

The crowd was moved to yelp and scream, especially the women, many of whom, being quite young, and students of LANGUAGE poetry, had never been immersed in this sort of poetry before.

Leonard Tennyson barely escaped with his life.   Shocked by the reception, in the escape-van he was overheard contemplating charging tickets for his poetry readings.  “How much do movie tickets for Avatar cost?”


  1. Bob Tonucci said,

    April 16, 2010 at 9:48 am

    mehitabel was once cleopatra

    by Don Marquis

    boss i am disappointed in
    some of your readers they
    are always asking how does
    archy work the shift so as to get a
    new line or how does archy do
    this or do that they
    are always interested in technical
    details when the main question is
    whether the stuff is
    literature or not
    i wish you would leave
    that book of george moores on
    the floor
    mehitabel the cat and i want to
    read it i have discovered that
    mehitabel s soul formerly inhabited a
    human also at least that
    is what mehitabel is claiming these
    days it may be she got jealous of
    my prestige anyhow she and
    i have been talking it over in a
    friendly way who were you
    mehitabel i asked her i was
    cleopatra once she said well i said i
    suppose you lived in a palace you bet
    she said and what lovely fish dinners
    we used to have and licked her chops

    mehitabel would sell her soul for
    a plate of fish any day i told her i thought
    you were going to say you were
    the favorite wife of the emperor
    valerian he was some cat nip eh
    mehitabel but she did not get me


  2. Bob Tonucci said,

    May 4, 2010 at 11:29 am

    from “Epitaphs of the War”

    by Rudyard Kipling

    Body and spirit I surrendered whole
    To harsh instructors—and received a soul . . .
    If mortal man could change me through and through
    From all I was—what may the God not do?

    This man in his own country prayed we know not to what powers.
    We pray them to reward him for his bravery in ours.

    I could not look on death, which being known,
    Men led me to him, blindfold and alone.

    My name, my speech, my self I had forgot.
    My wife and children came—I knew them not.
    I died. My mother followed. At her call
    And on her bosom I remembered all.

  3. The Noochie-Coochie Man said,

    August 4, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    From a John Cheever story “The Golden Age,” about Seton, a television writer who wishes he were a poet and has brought his family to a seaside village in Italy—“because he wants to lead a more illustrious life”:

    “He dives, and swims through a school of transparent fish, and farther down, where the water is dark and cold, he sees a large octopus eye him wickedly, gather up its members, and slip into a cave paved with white flowers. There, at the edge of the cave he sees a Greek vase, an amphora. He dives for it, feels the rough clay on his fingers, and goes up for air. He dives again and again, and finally brings the vase triumphantly into the light. It is a plump form with a narrow neck and two small handles. The neck is looped with a scarf of darker clay. It is broken nearly in two. Such vases, and vases much finer, are often found along that coast, and if they are of no value they stand on the shelves of the café, the bakery, and the barbershop, but the value of this one to Seton is inestimable—as if the fact that a television writer could reach into the Mediterranean and bring up a Greek vase were a hopeful cultural omen, proof of his own worthiness.”

  4. Noochness said,

    December 5, 2010 at 11:41 am

    We Bumped off Your Friend the Poet
    Based on a review by Cyril Connolly, Death in Granada, on the last days of Garcia Lorca, The Sunday Times (London), May 20, 1973

    We bumped off your friend the poet
    with the big fat head this morning

    We left him in a ditch

    I fired 2 bullets into his ass
    for being queer

    I was one of the people
    who went to get Lorca
    and that’s what I said to Rosales

    My name is Ruiz Alonzo
    Right-wing deputy
    alive and kicking
    Falangist to the end

    Nobody bothers me
    I got protection
    The Guardia Civil are my friends

    Because he was a poet
    was he better than anyone else?

    He was a goddam fag
    and we were sick and tired
    of fags in Granada

    The black assassination squads
    kept busy
    liquidating professors
    doctors lawyers students
    like the good old days of the Inquisition!

    General Queipo de Llano
    had a favorite phrase,
    “Give him coffee, give him plenty of coffee!”

    When Lorca was arrested
    we asked the General what to do
    “Give him coffee, give him plenty of coffee!”

    So we took him out in the hills and shot him
    I’d like to know what’s wrong with that
    He was queer with Leftist leanings

    Didn’t he say
    I don’t believe in political frontiers?

    Didn’t he say
    The capture of Granada in 1492
    by Ferdinand and Isabella
    was a disastrous event?

    Didn’t he call Granada a wasteland
    peopled by the worst bourgeoisie in Spain?

    a queer Communist poet!

    General Franco owes me a medal
    for putting 2 bullets up his ass

    — Harold Norse

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm

      John Simon has a healthy, populist appreciation of poetry.

      “I confess I’d rather reread a Millay sonnet than an Eliot “Quartet.”

      Thanks, John. This is the honesty poetry needs.

      I love this anecdote from commenter Joe Carlson:

      No way I step on John Simon’s toes when the subject’s poetry. But is Ezra Pound still getting his ticket punched to Mount Parnassus? I say ticket because today’s mountain is known for skiing rather than Muses. Has to be a poem in that fact somewhere. Always thought of Pound as a poseur, and that was on his good days, on his bad days Saul Bellow’s blast of a letter to William Faulkner (January 7, 1956)) closes the case: “Pound is not in prison but in an insane asylum. If sane he should be tried again as a traitor; if insane he ought not to be released merely because he is a poet…In France, Pound would have been shot. Free him because he is a poet? Why, better poets than he were exterminated, perhaps. Shall we say nothing on their behalf?” Imagine Faulkner’s jaw dropping as he reaches for the bourbon.

      I would disagree with John: Pudney’s “Johnny-head-in-air” is not a major poem and James Wright is certainly not “underrated.”


      • Noochness said,

        February 11, 2011 at 12:34 pm

        For Johnny

        Do not despair
        For Johnny-head-in-air;
        He sleeps as sound
        As Johnny underground.

        Fetch out no shroud
        For Johnny-in the-cloud;
        And keep your tears
        For him in after years.

        Better by far
        For Johnny-the-bright-star
        To keep your head,
        And see his children fed.

        John Pudney

  5. Noochness said,

    February 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    On Having My Pocket Picked in Rome

    These hands are desperate for me to stay alive. They do not want to lose me to the crowd. They know the slightest nudge on the wrong bone will cause me to look around and cry aloud. Therefore the hands grow cool and touch me lightly, lightly and accurately as a gypsy moth laying her larvae down in that foregone place where the tree is naked. It is only when the hands are gone, I will step out of this crowd and walk down the street, dimly aware of the dark infant strangers I carry in my own body. They spin their nests and live on me in their sleep.

    James Wright

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 11, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      James Wright just laid eggs in my brain…


      James Wright: worst poet ever?

      • Noochness said,

        February 11, 2011 at 9:27 pm

        This is no poke at him;
        It reminds me of Dickey (Jim).

      • noochinator said,

        June 29, 2014 at 12:25 am

        Have a shot or two of Glenlivet and Wright’ll read much better….

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