March Madness has been a study as much as it has been an intoxication; the New Critics erred in thinking the emotive and the cognitive could not be combined; of course they can, by any astute critic (Poe is a shining example, who the New Critics, from Pound to Eliot to Warren to Winters to Brooks to Wimsatt carefully ignored or played down.). The New Critics made no satisfactory criticism; they merely introduced mumbo-jumbo, mere terms, such as paradox, ambiguity, irony and symbol and nothing about it was original or coherent, it was finally nothing but mumbo-jumbo for the self-elected priesthood.

The professional priest will lord it over the mere amateur, but such religious hierarchies do not belong in poetry, not artificially, anyway; Letters is not science, but finally morality for the many, and this is the ugly, primitive secret which the sophisticated modernist Oxford erudite fop dare not face.

……………………………………………………………..………….Thomas Brady


………..The Lord in His wisdom made the fly
………..And then forgot to tell us why.

……………                        ………                      …………Ogden Nash


The paradox here lies not in the fly or in the Lord’s wisdom but in what a poem can say that ordinary language can’t. You don’t need Pound, Eliot, Warren or Winters, or anyone from Oxford for that matter, to help you out with that, or even a High School diploma. Indeed, “The Night Before Christmas” is loaded with paradox, as is Pooh’s poetry, the Beatles, nursery rhymes, limericks and gospel. You can laugh or cry as much as you like, but still you can’t say what it  is without saying what it isn’t.

The ambiguity in this poem lies in the absurdity that gets to the very heart of what bothers human beings about life, the complexities of it – how a creature so indispensable to the health of the planet should be so small, for example, yet so insistent, fickle, and in your face, so disgusting yet impossible to swat.

The irony lies in the fact that the Lord in His wisdom forgot to tell us just about everything, and even when the scientist has done his or her very best to remedy that, and even shown us photos of the fly’s eyes and cultivated its filth in a petri dish so we could actually see the link between flies and disease, and then gone on to save lives by cleansing wounds with maggots, we still can’t decide who we are. And then along comes poetry, of all crazy stuff, and tells us!

Love hurts. Grief heals. The meek inherit the earth.

As to symbols, there are none in this poem in the usual sense. Indeed, symbols are rare in poetry worth reading because the whole idea of poetry is to rewrite the comfortable shorthands, cultural icons and codes we depend on. Indeed, when poetry is most effective even the symbols come off the rails, so to speak, and wreck our understanding of everything. For a moment we just have to stop — my God, my God, what is it?

Take the Rose in William Blake’s poem, “O Rose Thou Art Sick,” for example, or the Tiger in “Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright.” Only beginners talk about either as “symbols,” because the moment you think you know what they mean you’re lost. You lose the thread, you lose the argument, you lose your soul to the facts already stuck in your head. And you can’t move on.

Symbols are for simpletons, not for Ogden Nashes!

Had Ogden Nash written a whole series of poems about flies, as Yeats did about towers, for example, then we might want to consider “why” in a broader sense, and “the fly” might even be considered a symbol in the little poem above. And hey, why not? Life’s too complex not to accept what little help we can get from the way we human beings use language!

But we don’t need a Professional Priesthood for that, though sometimes we get one, boo hoo. Then abuses do follow, and yes, we do get Reformers, Counter-reformers, New Critics, Anti-new-critics, Pound-profs or Poe-profs or Flat-earthers, you name it.

Fortunately,  most of us move on with the baby still in our arms and not lying there blue on the floor with the bathwater.

Most of us also examine our lives in privacy too, I might add, even if we also love frisbee and beer. And the best poetry, of course, remains private in public.

Christopher Woodman



  1. thomasbrady said,

    April 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    John Lennon said, probably paraphrasing someone else, “There’s no problems, only solutions.”

    Leonardo looked at life this way: Here’s a problem, how can I fix it? Let me look at life right in the face, know it, make a drawing of it, solve it, invent ways to make life better, etc. The scientist as artist, the artist as scientist.

    Let’s see if we can divert this river. Obstacles abound to diverting the river, but these obstacles are not God’s will or paradox or ambiguity or irony—they are simply obstacles.

    Poe said, I’m going to write a poem with critical and popular merit, and he did, and then he explained how he did it.

    The scientist as artist.

    But the cuuning priests on the sidelines in their robes of sorrow, the cunning priests cry out, “Science is evil! Poetry must be full of ambiguity and irony and difficulty! Every time Man solves a problem, he creates a million more! Man and his Science destroy and control and hate! Poe is a mere jingle man! ETC ETC

    This is more than simply an argument between an optimist and a pessimist. The optimism of the genius is scorned by the pessimism of the priest. Once it was the priest who was the optimist, but that was when science was in its infancy, and life was brutal and short. The only optimism possible came from the priest.

    Now that science has made great strides, now that science is the voice of optimism, it is the priest who is the pessimist.

    The Renaissance saw science become optimistic and during the Renaissance the artist left the priest and joined the scientist. Leonardo is the shining example. The Age of Leonardo continued for roughly 400 years and ended around the mid-19th century with the death of Poe. The optimistic artist/scientist fell into retreat after that, and a new religious pessimism arose and the modern poets left science and joined this new religious pessimism. Today ‘science’ for the poets implies not the work of an artist like Leonardo, but the quirks and quibbles of avant garde crackpots. The pessimistic priest will still invoke “science” and pretend to be “scientific” (one of the tricks of the cunning New Critics) but it’s merely a smokescreen.

  2. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 3, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    The difference between us is that I take poetry seriously, and read it to find a relationship that will sustain me, inspire me and help me to live. You expect nothing but fleeting entertainment from poetry, and read it to judge it at a distance, your criteria based on the fading pin-ups in a lonely man’s room. Like men in a bar you look for poems that are a perfect 10, and if your fantasy isn’t gratified you dismiss them as unworthy, over-dressed, poorly made-up, sagging, too fat or too thin, too womanly or even more often as unfeminine — sentimentality being the safest emotion.

    How could a living poem ever hold your hand when you have no living hand to offer in return?

    Just criteria — and occasionally an old ballad or song.

  3. thomasbrady said,

    April 3, 2010 at 8:12 pm


    How can you expect to be taken seriously when you begin: “The difference between us is that I take poetry seriously…?”

    You might as well say that I am superficial and you are deep and be done with it. You win. I concede your victory.

    What is my punishment?


    • Christopher Woodman said,

      April 4, 2010 at 2:36 am

      Of course it’s an inflammatory statement, and I didn’t sleep well last night thinking about it. The metaphor is so stark — lonely men judging women in the light of the pin up, men living with fantasies because they’ve never been able to love flesh and blood.

      Rough — and I do apologize if you thought I was referring to anything else about you beside your relationship with poetry. I know you have loved as much as anyone, that indeed you wear your heart on your sleeve, and are a great admirer of women in the very best sense.

      But I do think you have a problem with poetry all the same. To say you don’t “take it seriously” means you don’t take it seriously in your personal life. It’s an intellectual topic of the greatest interest to you, indeed consumes most of your life, but it never has anything new to tell you. It never picks you up by the scruff of your neck and shakes you!

      It doesn’t fuck with your head.

      Songs do move you, and me too — but that’s more sentimental. A song accompanies your life, dances beside you and strews roses in your path. It doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks, trip you up and when you’re down on the ground stamp on your head ’til you cry uncle. It doesn’t take the place of religion.

      And I know what I’m saying — and how red the cape is I’m swirling before you.

      So serious about the function of poetry in human life, that’s what I’m talking about — and why I find March Madness intolerable.

      The worst “poetry” experience I’ve ever been through in my life, and why I’m still furious. Indeed, I’m not sure I will ever get over it as I will always be worried I might have to go through it all over again!

      On the other hand, if Scarriet’s worth it it’s got to be able to integrate my outrage as well. We ALL have to listen, to everyone.


    • Christopher Woodman said,

      April 4, 2010 at 5:29 am

      You’re much better than I am when it comes to prosody and structure. For example, your analysis of Billy Collins’ poem, “Lines Composed Three Thousand Miles from Tintern Abbey,” is as cogent an analysis of the stanza as I’ve ever read in my life, and even Billy Collins came in on Scarriet to thank you for it. But from an emotional or affective perspective, your comment entirely lacks content — there is not one word in it that would suggest the poem had moved you, or meant anything to you at all. And the irony of that omission is that it also undermines your understanding of the special quality of the poem as a whole — and that is that there is nothing ‘poetic’ in it except for the stanzas. And that’s Billy Collins’ trade-mark, his uniqueness and, I would say personally, his genius.

      I’ve heard you condemn Billy Collins to perdition lots of times, and deny that he’s even a poet. But when you latch on to “stanza” you like him!

      In fact it’s that anomaly, no poetry, which allows Billy Collins to say a great deal that Wordsworth’s poetry couldn’t. And what is that? What does Billy Collins say exactly that Wordsworth didn’t or, as I’m suggesting, “couldn’t?” I mean, what does Billy Collins say to you, Tom?

      Just “stanza?”

      Questions like that don’t interest you, nor do you pause to test yourself out vis-a-vis any poem, or give any poet a chance to reach out and reach into you.

      And that’s a pity — and that limits you.


      As it did very badly in your analysis of both Margaret Atwood’s “Bored” and Franz Wright’s “A Happy Thought.” We argued that out on the March Madness thread that joined them in mortal combat on the basketball court — the lowest point for me by far in my whole seven months on Scarriet!

      In your reading of both the Atwood and the Wright, you stopped at the obvious, the literal. “Bored” was about boredom, you concluded because that’s what it said in the title, and so you chose a bored face as well. As it turned out, the face that you chose was so filled with the rawest, most pitiful, most private of hurts I couldn’t even look at it. And you just didn’t see the difference!

      Ditto the Franz Wright poem. You read the last image, “bright, so bright,” as “a happy thought,” quite literally, and even had the effrontery to illustrate the poem with a railway tunnel — whereas “bright, so bright” is equally the horror of being born and finding yourself naked, exposed and about to be tortured in a light that never goes off!

      Notice “equally” in that construction, then go back to the title of this article!


      • Christopher Woodman said,

        April 4, 2010 at 6:43 am

        I just received an e-mail from an important poetry personality who knows you too, quite well, and he scolded me for treating you like shit — those were his actual words, and he meant it. But what I am doing, and you are doing too, equally, is wrestling with the issue of Poetry v.s. The Poem, and we both know that’s right where it’s at.

        You call me a “modernist Oxford erudite fop” at the end of the quote at the beginning of this article, and what you’re suggesting is that I’m just another tweedy “professional priest” who wants to foist close reading on amateurs. Needless to say, I don’t identify with that description of myself at all, and also would defend John Crowe Ransom, Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren against it as well. They didn’t mean that any more than I do — it’s what happened later that got American poetry side-tracked.

        So that’s the divide between us, and what’s important for us both is to get right to the heart of the matter.

        Does the poem matter, or is it just superficial, a delight? And even more contentious for both of us — does deep reading matter?


        You are extremely well read, Tom — a formidable archivist with most of Modern Poetry immediately accessible in your head, word for word. But my argument would be that you don’t have much feeling for The Poem, and don’t really want to spend much time on it either. It bores you, The Poem — it contradicts what you believe as a philsopher.

        Yes, a huge divide between us, and a bone worth disputing to the death in this merciless pit.


        Of course I can see the abuses that the New Criticism has spawned, and I’m as put off by the Po Biz bedazzlement as you are, otherwise I wouldn’t be here on Scarriet. But I’m so lucky to have the equipment to read The Poem as I do, and the personal freedom as well, and I won’t let go of this perfidious Proteus until he has uttered the one word that matters, the one word that is the greatest of all words but only the most duplicitous, the Poet, can utter, and then just for that moment — the inutterable Logos.

        See my red cape whirl, see it flutter as merrily as yours in the quote that kicks off this article!


        I’d say we’re both wrestling with the bathtub, you with your hands on one side of it and me with my hands on the other. What matters is the baby, of course — we’re in complete agreement about what to do with the bath water but the baby remains seriously at risk!



  4. thomasbrady said,

    April 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Farewell To All That’s Wrong

    Did you think poetry was vanity and pride?
    I assure you it is a different kind of ride.
    You shall see the Fool King exposed
    And you, fool, must remove your elaborate robe.

    You, with your ink, would travel into night,
    And then reap the prizes when everything is bright?
    You would the one high muse with your metaphors please?
    One low image is already up to your knees.

    The song of the birds in a low, far-off wood
    Reminds you at your window your sleeping has been good
    And if you distinguish song from its trilling mate,
    The lover from the beloved, be grateful I let you wait.

    Poet, in this wood which is your life, what do you seek?
    Know how merely vain to me it is that you speak?
    Listen to the birds, shut the book!
    You cannot move me more than this one last look.
    Listen to yourself. Do you think I am profound?
    I move myself not with this love or with this sound.

  5. thomasbrady said,

    April 4, 2010 at 1:11 pm


    Don’t you think it’s hyperbolic to say:

    “But I do think you have a problem with poetry all the same. To say you don’t “take it seriously” means you don’t take it seriously in your personal life. It’s an intellectual topic of the greatest interest to you, indeed consumes most of your life, but it never has anything new to tell you. It never picks you up by the scruff of your neck and shakes you!

    It doesn’t fuck with your head.

    Songs do move you, and me too — but that’s more sentimental. A song accompanies your life, dances beside you and strews roses in your path. It doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks, trip you up and when you’re down on the ground stamp on your head ’til you cry uncle. It doesn’t take the place of religion.

    My question to you is: Why should poetry “stamp on your head ’til you cry uncle?” You concede poetry means a great deal to me, but what am I to make of this one-upmanship rhetoric? ‘Poetry stamps me on the head, but you take only an intellectual interest in it.’ How am I supposed to respond to this? How can I prove that poetry matters to me? The critic attacked for bad faith because they dare to find fault is a tired, old trope; it’s defensive hysteria, and yet it gets so much play. That’s where I start to get “furious.” This anti-intellectual apostasy makes my blood boil. You cannot separate the head from the heart when it comes to poetry. Poetry is not some mumbo-jumbo exercise in which we adore a mysterious something beyond all ratiocination, and no hyperbolic rhetoric will convince me otherwise. I feel like Cordelia defending herself to her father. I will not make great speeches to convince you how important poetry is to me. If the evidence is not clear already, there is nothing more I can say. I’ve always respected your passion for poetry and would never question it. By the way, “Oxford fop” did not refer to you; the New Critics, including their friend Paul Engle, studied at Oxford on Rhodes Scholarships. Oxford, my studies lead me to believe, was the poison spring, in the same sort of way Emerson and William James and Harvard became a corrupt stream in American Letters, diverting influential intellectuals away from healthy Poe science and towards creeping avant manifesto-ism.

    Matthew Arnold recommended comparing and ranking poems as critically useful. Poe—before Arnold—recommended the same thing; instead of pontificating at length about the shortcomings of this or that poem, simply place it next to what you consider a superior poem and let the reader see what you are saying. This is all the odious March Madness was doing; it was merely a glimpse of contemporary poetry through Arnoldian eyes, framed by a few harmless sports metaphors. Why this offended you so much is still a mystery to me.

    Finally, as I wrote previously, “Bored” is, and I think I got this, more than just bored, and I grant that Wright’s “bright” may also signify pain, but, in my opinion, this is over-reading the poem, and even if you are right by Wright, my reading, as a reading, is still valid.


  6. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 4, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Cordelia’s poem to her father:

    The Red Wheelbarrow

    so much depends

    a red wheel

    glazed with rain

    beside the white

    …………………………………..William Carlos Williams (1923)

  7. thomasbrady said,

    April 4, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Is it raining?


    What self-respecting poet would use a hackneyed word like glazed?

    So much depends upon eating a whole chocolate bunny for breakfast, solid not hollow. So much depends upon knowing Ezra Pound and that entire Dial Magazine clique in the 1920s. So much depends on plugging into the 1905 Japanese art rage where every rich lady had to have a Japanese vase, fan and book of haiku. Such much depends on your Fugitive friends calling you a genius in their school textbook, ‘Understanding Poetry.’ So much depends….

  8. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 5, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Her father replies, somewhat testily:



  9. wfkammann said,

    April 5, 2010 at 2:21 am

    In the Amish Bakery

    I don’t know why what comes to mind
    when I imagine my wife and daughters,
    off on a separate vacation
    in the family car,
    crashing–no survivors–
    in one of those Godless snowstorms
    of Northern Illinois,
    is that Amish bakery
    in Sauk County, Wisconsin, where
    on Saturday mornings in summer,
    we used to go–
    all powdered sugar and honey in
    the glazed caramel air. And O
    the browned loaves rising,
    the donuts, buns, and pies, the ripe
    strawberry stain of an oven burn
    on the cheek of one of the wives.
    And outside in the yard
    that goddamned trampoline
    where we’d imagine them–
    the whole blessed family in
    their black topcoats and frocks,
    their severe hair and beards,
    their foolish half-baked grins,
    so much flour dust and leaven–
    leaping all together on
    their stiff sweet legs toward heaven.

    ………………………………..Ronald Wallace

    • Christopher Woodman said,

      April 5, 2010 at 5:21 am

      Such a curious poem, such banal yet at the same time extraordinary images. And delicious!

      “I don’t know why what comes to mind” is indeed a riddle which belongs to the same trope as why “so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens.”

      And “the glazed caramel air” might even suggest that one of these poems was written, at least partially, with the other in mind. I personally could buy that.


      One of my favorite painters is Stanley Spencer who also combines the quotidian with ascensions without the least bit of mystification. How he would have rejoiced in this poem, as I do this Easter in Thailand so far away from a church or a bakery, religion, stiff legs or tweed:

      so much flour dust and leaven–
      leaping all together on
      their stiff sweet legs toward heaven.

      I love the way the whole poem leads to that final rhyme, so much so that you have to go back and check it out. Was the whole poem rhymed perhaps, and I just didn’t notice? And then the rhymes and half-rhymes and quarter rhymes begin to assert themselves and rejoice, and you realize the whole poem is an anthem — for Easter!

      Thanks, Bill.

      (Little known but one of my Stanley Spencer favorites. Parents resurrecting (1933).)

  10. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 5, 2010 at 2:21 am

    I think you’re badly missing the point, Tom — and the last exchange between us about “The Red Wheelbarrow” shows that. You write:

    Poetry is not some mumbo-jumbo exercise in which we adore a mysterious something beyond all ratiocination, and no hyperbolic rhetoric will convince me otherwise. I feel like Cordelia defending herself to her father. I will not make great speeches to convince you how important poetry is to me. If the evidence is not clear already, there is nothing more I can say.

    I used the example of the little Ogden Nash poem in the article to show the absurdity of your dismissing an interest in paradox, ambiguity, irony and symbol in poetry as “mumbo jumbo.” Far from adoring “a mysterious something beyond all ratiocination,” a sensitive use of these tools in close criticism can make a poem more available, just as thoughtful exegesis can open up a profound and complicated legal, philosophical or theological text.

    It’s as if you want all complex texts to be jettisoned. You want everything to be simple and straightforward and to rhyme.


    The irony is that you NEVER sound like Cordelia defending herself to her father. Because just look at you, the number of words you use, the qualifications and the references? I give you the simplest possible little poem, unadorned, unassuming, unpretentious, unpoetic, and you bombard me with theory, authority and literary-historical facts. And that response misses the point of the poem completely — which is a very simple one but nevertheless requires words like “paradox,” “ambiguity,” and “irony” if you want to talk about it. You don’t have to talk about it, of course you don’t, but if you want to you can — and goodness gracious a lot of very grateful readers have.

    One of my favorite activities is to go to a great museum with a friend I love, and to talk about paintings I know like the back of my hand. Because of course, I don’t know the back of my hand very well at all, but in talk with a friend I may suddenly notice it. And I wake up, and the world is infinitely richer.

    Indeed, so much depends upon the back of your hand!


    “Glazed” is a fine word, I’d say — makes the poem. Because as I’ve said to you a number of times before, this poem has acquired a certain patine over the years like an icon in a Russian Orthodox shrine, and the word “glazed” evokes that as well. Of course William Carlos Williams didn’t know all the hoopla was coming, but I feel sure he did mean for the images in the poem, the red wheelbarrow and the white chickens, to take on a numinous quality, for want of a better word. And the word “glazed” is delicately perfect.

    It says it’s rainwater, but I’d always seen that wheelbarrow in the way I used to see wheelbarrows and other garden equipment in Scotland every morning in the 60s, the sun just shining through the mist so that all the smooth surfaces were glorious.

    I spent my first years on a farm in Somerset County, New Jersey, in the 40s and saw things glazed there too. And Paterson wasn’t too distant — the Gladstone Line of the Lackawanna Railway to Hoboken passed through it.


    I think it would be too far to say ablution, but you might. You could.


  11. omino23 said,

    April 5, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Don’t forget in addition to symbols, paradox, word play, and images the often playful component to poetry: Rhythm.

    “Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
    Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
    Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!

    Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! My darling!
    Light goes the weather-wind and the feathered starling.
    Down along under Hill, shining in the sunlight,
    Waiting on the doorstep for the cold starlight,
    There my pretty lady is, River-woman’s daughter,
    Slender as the willow-wand, clearer than the water.
    Old Tom Bombadil water-lilies bringing
    Comes hopping home again. Can you hear him singing?
    Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! and merry-o,
    Goldberry, Goldberry, merry yellow berry-o!
    Poor old Willow-man, you tuck your roots away!
    Tom’s in a hurry now. Evening will follow day.
    Tom’s going home again water-lilies bringing.
    Hey! Come derry dol! Can you hear me singing? ”
    – JRR Tolkien

    Now tell me who is Tom Bombadil really?

    “Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo!
    By water, wood and hill, by the reed and willow,
    By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us!
    Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!

    Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow,
    Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
    None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master:
    His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.”

  12. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 5, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Thanks for that, Omino23, and of course rhythm is extremely important to poetry, and is present in all poems even when it’s conspicuously absent. At least I would say that.

    Thomas Brady is very good on that as well, and I’ve already mentioned the skill with which he dealt with the use of the stanza in Billy Collins’ poem, “Lines Composed over Three Thousand Miles from Tintern Abbey”. As far as the present discussion is concerned, Tom doesn’t include prosody or metrical analysis in his condemnation of what he calls the “mumbo jumbo” of modern criticism, so I didn’t include it either. The comic verse of Ogden Nash has extraordinary metrical innovations, of course, and much of the success of the little poem I quoted depends on it. But that wasn’t the focus.

    So what would you say about the rhythm of “In the Amish Bakery” just above? What, if anything, does it contribute to the success of the poem?


  13. thomasbrady said,

    April 5, 2010 at 10:49 am

    So much depends

    my uncle phil


    still pond
    frog jump in

    the battle of hastings
    toilet paper 2-ply
    extra soft

  14. thomasbrady said,

    April 5, 2010 at 10:54 am

    all powdered sugar and honey in
    the glazed caramel air. And O
    the browned loaves rising,

    I detest poetry like this.

    Are we really supposed to be enthralled by powdered sugar?

    Is the bakery’s air really “glazed caramel?”

    “O the browned loaves rising”

    O hell.

  15. thomasbrady said,

    April 5, 2010 at 10:58 am

    see what ass wc williams started?

    we’re supposed to believe poem-things are realer than real things and we turn into asses as a result. O the browned loaves rising. O wc williams you ass.

  16. thomasbrady said,

    April 5, 2010 at 11:00 am

    kammann translates heine like an angel but due to wc pedantry-williaamass he is enthralled by O the browned loaves rising. O risable!

    • Wfkammann said,

      April 5, 2010 at 11:16 pm

      Risable, yes, Let us break bread together…

      Glazed is not often found in poetry; you call it hackneyed. Do you know what words mean or do you simply spew them? So, Arnold Wallace used glazed in a poem about imagined death and an Amish bakery. Why does he make the association?

      • Christopher Woodman said,

        April 6, 2010 at 1:54 am

        Such an interesting word, and I suspect a very old one in that glazing technology was such an early discovery, and such a technological break-through. Because however hard you bake clay it’s still remains porous without a glaze — the glaze not only adds beauty and color but health and taste to whatever comes into contact with it.

        Temples and shrines of all religions all over the world have used glazes to great effect. The glaze makes clay permanent — what a metaphor! The glaze lifts and shines and transports the earth, so in itself it’s a kind of icon.

        In the Russsian Orthodox tradition the mirror is the highest expression of the Blessed Icon of all — glaze without predication.

        In “The Red Wheelbarrow,” the glaze of the rain water makes the humble object not only radiant but permanent.


      • Christopher Woodman said,

        April 6, 2010 at 2:14 am

        I think it was the word “caramel” that made me think of that particular Stanley Spencer painting, “Parents ressurecting.” I love the burnt-sugar color of the tweed suits — they’re pre-dry-cleaning, of course, and never got washed. Even gardeners wore them, and they got a kind of sheen on them like caramel, also from all that tobacco.

        My father used to dress just like that, and so did I to start with. Until I lost all my clothes in the up-rising (“risable” indeed!)

        Wonderful that that word is also “risible” — because the poem is so incongruous and funny. It’s absurd, idiotic, rank folly. And as you laugh at it’s wonderfully ill-suited parallels and analogies you begin to rise yourself, leavened on that goddamned trampoline! (There’s rhythm for you, Omino23 — WAY beyond spondee, and just like what children like best to do on the bed!)

        Arnold Wallace described the poem as his “best effort to depict heaven. The image of the staid Amish family jumping on their trampoline is what stays with me here, the various incongruities in the poem evoking the kind of surprise and whimsy and humor that would have to be present in any heaven I’d want to spend the afterlife in.”

        Me too.


      • thomasbrady said,

        April 6, 2010 at 11:01 am

        I suspect with that ‘glaze’ you could glorify—everything.

        I bet with a little spit we could not only turn William Carlos Willliams into Shakespeare, but hell into heaven.

        The red wheel barrow of Michelangelo has struck us blind…

  17. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    “Is the bakery’s air really “glazed caramel?” you ask.

    Yes, it can be in poetry, and solid flesh can melt and even resolve itself into a dew. All these things can happen in poetry, and in the best poetry almost anything can transform itself

    into our flesh our
    deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
    living in the orchard and being

    hungry, and plucking
    the fruit.

  18. thomasbrady said,

    April 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Thou shalt not write poetry about bakeries or wheel barrows…

  19. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 5, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Oh Tom, I understand so well what you mean, you can’t imagine.

    Thou shalt not grow up, thou shalt not hide the truth from me, ever, thou shalt not fall in love and tell someone things you’ve never told me. Thou shalt not lose hope, thou shalt not break faith, thou shalt not compromise, thou shalt not be less than yourself, thou shalt not lack courage, thou shalt not fib or confabulate or suck up. Thou shalt be more than me. Thou shalt be everything I never was. Thou shalt prove that human beings can do this, that it’s not beyond our powers, that we can rise above ourselves and never even think about wheelbarrows and bakeries.

    Thou shalt be what has never been before, and we shall all be perfect and simple and happy.

    Meanwhile we pretend — and that’s more than we could possibly imagine!

    And then the priest in you becomes a poet, or vise-versa.

  20. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 7, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I’m not surprised you didn’t want to respond to that one, Tom, but it’s really the same question you are asking in your new article, POETRY’S NEXT BIG THING: THE BRAIN. Here’s what Deepak Chopra says in the actual article following the illustration you chose for your own:

    Science says, first there is matter, then there is energy and then there is information.

    What is information? Information is a sea of possibilities waiting to be asked questions. That’s what information is. Is the universe wave-like? Is the universe particle-like? Well, it depends on your question. If you do an experiment that is wave-like then it’s wave-like. If you do an experiment that is particle-like then it’s particle-like, and it’s never both simultaneously. That’s the essence of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

    Whether it is particle-like or wave-like depends on the question. Before you ask the question – what is it like, particle-like or wave-like? – it exists as both potentially.

    It is your question that compels the universe to make a choice. Before you ask the question the universe hasn’t made a choice. As soon as you make the choice the universe is compelled to respond. So at the most fundamental levels of nature, the universe is a sea of infinite possibilities that are compelled to make choices for space-time events once you ask the question. The universe is a big question mark before it becomes actual.


    So much depends on what you posit as out there in the first place, and your senses as well as your brain are all complicit. But that’s all you’ve got and, here’s the shocker, even science says that’s all you need!

    “Thou shalt not write poetry about bakeries or wheel barrows,” says your Holy of Holies.

    Fair enough, let’s go and make that visit.

  21. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 11, 2010 at 10:27 am

    If you get here and wonder what has happened, I met Thomas Brady at the door only to realize he was a traveling salesman with the thick skin of a Jehovah’s Witness and the resources of a Jesuit.

    I have huge admiration for the Jesuits, but they certainly do know how to control an argument better than anybody else, and certainly when it’s counter-productive how not to go on with it. They know their priorities, like Tom, and the priority is The Church — and that means, in Tom’s case, the whole Anti-Modernist Edifice he has constructed and worships.

    A Jesuit also knows when to play ball, of course he does — that baseball is another sort of cathedral. On the other hand, he knows one from the other, and would never offer you the Bread of God as popcorn in the bleechers.

    “As if,” yes, the Jesuit can do that, or maybe as a metaphor, but one of Tom Brady’s Tenets of Faith is that metaphor is part of the New Critical conspiracy to wrest poetry from the people. So he’s always literal, and when he says “play ball,” he tosses poems out there, willy-nilly, and couldn’t care less for their feelings what is more if he drops them.

    If you’re interested in the Ball Park as Cathedral, see what William Carlos Williams says about it here. https://scarriet.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/the-adoration-of-anything-you-think-you-own-is-fire/


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