GINSBERG SOLE TOP SEED SURVIVOR, NO.2 SEEDS BEGIN PLAY

East-  James Wright v. William Matthews
North- Philip Larkin v. Joseph Duemer
South- Robert Penn Warren v. Jack Hirschman
West- Donald Hall v. Douglas Crase

Poems by Wright and Matthews both rueful and poignant; Wright’s has more concentrated power, but Matthews is less self-pitying and finally has more interest.

Sleep, the most cunning weapon?  Both opponents seem to think so.

Wright’s “And Yet I Know” ends thusly:

Beside the tomb in the shade of a head of a man, a living man is lying down under a pine shrub dead drunk. It
is exactly two minutes after one o’clock in the afternoon.
Then I found later that monument is the
Funeral Kiosk of the Antinore, and beside
it the tomb of the poet Lovato de’ Lorati.
I have never read Lorati’s poems.  His name is so lovely.
I have been drunk and asleep beneath a pine shrub myself.
I wonder who the sleeper is.

And Matthews‘ “Good Company” ends like this:

The conversation luffs.  The last
bottle of wine was probably too much
but God we’re happy here.
“My husband stopped the papers
and flea-bathed the dog
before he left.” One of us has a friend
whose analyst died in mid-session,
non-directive to the end.
Now we’re drifting off to our nine lives,
and more. Melodramatic wind,
bright moon, dishes to do, a last
little puddle of brandy or not,
and the cars amble home:
the door, the stairs, the sheets
aglow with reticence and moonlight,
and the bed full to its blank brim
with the violent poise of dreams.

Matthews 68, Wright 64

In North play, Larkin and Duemer both doubt the soul lives after death: Larkin, with rhyme, his own, Duemer, with prose, another time’s.

from the beginning of Larkin’s “Aubade”:

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
— The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused — nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

The end of Duemer’s: “Theory of Tragedy”

Tonight, odor of skunk hanging like a philosopher’s soul
in the air, I sit beneath a xerox copy of a photograph—one of those
Greek vases called a lekythos, this one showing a daughter of Memory,

loosely draped, feet bare, sexy, her right hand indicating
a songbird on a branch sketched near her knees.
Without a definition of tragedy, we cannot understand
the dance our words and grammar pattern intersecting
the facts of the palpable world–a maple tree’s black
branches against the amber/blue stripes of sunset,

perfume of skunk and wood smoke hanging in the air.
The old man always said his wisdom was nothing but ignorance,
and at the end of his life he couldn’t prove the soul
survives the body. Perhaps it was nothing but a feeling,
like tragedy, which is only the awkward singing
of a small bird on a flimsy branch pointing toward memory.

Larkin scores at will and it’s lights out for Duemer.

Larkin  98, Duemer 84

Over in the South, Robert Penn Warren looms under the moon, as the poet observes his son walking in the moonlight.  Warren’s opponent, Jack Hirschman, asserts that in the name of working people it’s OK to censor art—especially the art of corporate museum curators.   Warren’s “Night Walking” takes on Hirshman’s “The Painting.”

Hirshman is impressive in his bold thesis but Warren’s art finally prevails.

Warren 78, Hirschman 71

In the West, Donald Hall’s hysterical “To A Waterfowl” has no trouble with Douglas Crase’s more sober rumination, “There Is No Real Peace In the World.”

Hall 66, Crase 49

Three No. 2 Seeds advance, with one upset, as James Wright falls to 15th seed William Matthews.

13 Comments

  1. Noochness said,

    March 4, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    The world wags on,
    Man sins and repents—
    I feel O.B.E.
    (Overtaken By Events)

  2. Noochinator said,

    March 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Defiant
    For the Capobianco Gallery

    Not just elsewhere
    but right here
    in North Beach
    the power of painting
    to provoke and endure

    has called out
    the old hatreds:
    death-threats, spittle,
    a physical attack on
    a gallery owner by

    detestable worms
    from the fascist can of abuse
    that’s been thrown wide-open.
    Enough! When the people
    gather, what’s been terrifying

    turns to dust.
    And brushstrokes turn into
    the proverbial thumbs
    in the eyes of
    the censoring war thugs,

    because the freedom
    to create a work of art
    is of the deepest affirmation
    of the human heart
    and its very deathlessness

    is why no violence can
    ever long prevent the beauty
    of its truth of liberty from being
    triumphant in its struggle
    against the lies of the living dead.

    Jack Hirschman

  3. Noochinator said,

    March 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    The Painting

    So there it is:
    a painting of the late black heroic
    mayor of Chicago
    in woman’s underwear
    in the name of artistic iconoclasm
    and free expression
    and constitutional liberty
    and individual civil rights.

    And there they are at last,
    the city aldermen
    taking it off the walls
    removing it from the exhibition
    in the name of the working masses
    whose constitutional liberties
    and free expression
    and civil rights

    have been smothered, censored,
    bribed, shunted, overlooked;
    and now whose heroes
    are made into kitsch,
    pornogrified, transvesticized
    to reflect the most cheapshot
    degrading and racially humiliating
    business-as-usual nation on earth.

    Well, what do you say?
    Were they wrong to remove the painting
    of the progressive mayor
    who’d led the working people
    toward the destruction
    of a rotting fascist machine
    that wants to re-assert
    its disgusting oppression
    now that Harold Washington is dead?

    Bubbubbubbut removing a painting!
    Bubbubbubbut the artist’s individual…
    the artist’s individu
    the artist’s individ
    the artist’s indiv
    the artist’s in
    Whawhawhawhat about the artist?

    What about the class?

    Provoprovoprovoprovocation is the essence of art!

    Provocation for what, Mr. Curator?
    Mr. Institutional Curator,
    Mr. Corporate-Funded Institutional Curator,
    Mr. Elite Corporate-Funded Institutional Curator,
    Mr. Deathshead Elite Corporate-Funded Institutional Curator,
    Provocation for what?

    Bubbubbubbut what about the empty wallspace, the violation
    of the artist, the damage to culture…!

    You are the empty wallspace, Mr. Curator,
    you are the violation of the artist
    and the damage to culture.
    David Nelson painted Mirth & Girth
    out of the hundred twisted fantasies
    of the sleaze of politics and the politics of sleaze,
    of the terror of the sex of blackness
    and the blackness of sex—
    fantasies used by capitalism
    secretly through racist aesthetics
    or openly through markets of porn
    to displace imagination with a price,
    to keep artists and workers alike
    filthy in their purity,
    paralyzed in dirty-minded liberty,
    fugitives from human dignity
    and political struggle,
    stupefied when confronting collective life
    or revolutionary action.

    We are partisan, Mr. Make-It Curator,
    and you, Mr. Make-It-New Artist,
    we’re at war
    with art as privilege,
    with the kitsching up of soul,
    with the gooning of the truth
    about those who help working people see
    how beautiful the reality
    of their imagination as a class
    in motion actually is.

    Do we acclaim the removal of the painting?
    Emphatically, provocatively
    Yes.

  4. Noochinator said,

    March 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Night Walking

    Bear my first thought, as waking, I hear
    First bear off the mountain ripping apples
    From trees near my window—but no,
    It’s the creak of the door of the shop my son stays in,
    Who booted and breeched but bare
    From waist, now stands
    Motionless, silent, face up
    To the moon, tonight full, now late zenithward high
    Over forests as black as old blood and the crags bone-white.
    My levis now on, and boots, I wait.
    For what? As I creep behind a parked car and guiltily crouch.

    Face brown, but now talc-white in moonlight,
    Lifts moonward, and I think how once,
    Footloose in Greece, in the mountains, alone, asleep,
    At a distant howl he had waked and
    Stood up in a land where all was true.

    I crouch as he slowly walks up the track
    Where from blackness of spruces great birches
    Stand white and monitory—
    Moving on upward, face upward as though
    By stars in an old sea he steered.

    In silence and shadow, in my
    Undefinable inpulse to steal what knowledge I, in love, may,
    With laggard cunning I trail to the first ridge-crest.
    He stops. His gaze
    Turns slow, and slower,
    From quarter to quarter, over
    The light-laved land, over all
    Thence visible, river and mowings,
    Ruined orchards, ledges and rock-slides,
    The clambering forest that would claim all:
    Last, the next range to westward.
    High there the moon rides calm.
    He lifts up his light-bleached arms.
    He stands.

    He goes on.

    I do not guess
    How far he will go, but in my
    Mixture of shame, guilt, and joy, do know
    All else is his, and alone. In shadow
    I huddle till, in solitude, I
    Can start back to bed and the proper darkness of night.

    But alone now in moonlight, I stop
    As one paralyzed at a sudden black brink opened up,
    For a recollection, sudden, has come from long back—
    Moon-walking on sea-cliffs, I
    Had once dreamed to a wisdom I could not name.
    I heard no voice in the heart, just the hum of the wires.

    But that is my luck. Not yours.

    At any rate, you must swear never,
    Not even in secret, the utmost, to be ashamed
    To have lifted arms up to that icy
    Blaze and transforming light of the world.

    Robert Penn Warren

  5. Noochinator said,

    March 13, 2011 at 11:54 am

    To a Waterfowl

    Women with hats like the rear ends of pink ducks
    applauded you, my poems.
    These are the women whose husbands I meet on airplanes,
    who close their briefcases and ask, “What are you in?”
    I look in their eyes, I tell them I am in poetry,

    and their eyes fill with anxiety, and with little tears.
    “Oh, yeah?” they say, developing an interest in clouds.
    “My wife, she likes that sort of thing? Hah-hah?
    I guess maybe I’d better watch my grammar, huh?”
    I leave them in airports, watching their grammar,

    and take a limousine to the Women’s Goodness Club
    where I drink Harvey’s Bristol Cream with their wives,
    and eat chicken salad with capers, with little tomato wedges,
    and I read them “The Erotic Crocodile,” and “Eating You.”
    Ah, when I have concluded the disbursement of sonorities,

    crooning, “High on thy thigh I cry, Hi!” — and so forth —
    they spank their wide hands, they smile like Jell-O,
    and they say, “Hah-hah? My goodness, Mr. Hall,
    but you certainly do have an imagination, huh?”
    “Thank you, indeed,” I say; “it brings in the bacon.”

    But now, my poems, now I have returned to the motel,
    returned to l’eternel retour of the Holiday Inn,
    naked, lying on the bed, watching Godzilla Sucks Mt. Fuji,
    addressing my poems, feeling superior, and drinking bourbon
    from a flask disguised to look like a transistor radio.

    Ah, my poems, it is true,
    that with the deepest gratitude and most serene pleasure,
    and with hints that I am a sexual Thomas Alva Edison,
    and not without collecting an exorbitant fee,
    I have accepted the approbation of feathers.

    And what about you? You, laughing? You, in the bluejeans,
    laughing at your mother who wears hats, and at your father
    who rides airplanes with a briefcase watching his grammar?
    Will you ever be old and dumb, like your creepy parents?
    Not you, not you, not you, not you, not you, not you.

    Donald Hall

  6. Noochinator said,

    March 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    There Is No Real Peace in the World

    The fact of life is it’s no life-or-death matter,
    Which is supposed to make it easier to choose. People die,
    For sure, and that’s a personal apocalypse for them
    And a revision of heaven and earth for those “left
    To follow after” (as your great-grandfather’s obituary would say)
    So that a few are always being rearranged on maps
    Redrawn by family accident or folly, like separate Europes
    After their awful wars. War isn’t the easiest metaphor
    To go by though, nor, here’s the point, is it reliable
    Since all the individual hells added up remain exactly
    Individual, and whether they blaze like Berlin or not
    Are kept in those unassailable bunkers, Born and Died,
    Passed in and out of this world, the whole world minus one,
    Which never felt the flames nor ever knew. No,
    No sooner has one perished than the rest survive,
    Which ought to be proof that yes-or-no options aren’t final
    As they seem to be, except for the problem that the survivor
    In our time includes memories out of all proportion to
    The experience ahead of him and is intent on living up to them,
    On Germany where there’s only Idaho. It’s inescapable
    How history has targeted the tiniest, safest life
    With the knowledge that chance and power, unmitigated,
    Are always impending out of the godless distance toward it
    The way there is always a comet impending toward the earth
    And it’s only a question now of how close and when,
    A recombinant message which has breached the world
    And altered the code so thoroughly that issues graceful once
    As travel or turning the calendar beget features of flight,
    Contortion and alarm instead. If it’s in the inheritance
    It’s in the life, and why should it be disregarded
    Because the evidence, the rock-hard impact,
    Is still to occur? But then it would be too late
    For the genius of worry is to duck the Gotterdammerungs
    That might establish its validity, to live close enough
    To the border to get away and know where to do it
    (Minnesota, Montana, never Niagara Falls), to have
    Plenty of birth certificates on hand, a respectable lawyer
    And a self-sufficient farm tucked into an unknown corner
    Of that same Idaho. But the truth is, as I said, to date
    It’s only Idaho, a kind of demilitarized zone at most
    Where life is interchangeable with the regrets expressed
    When it is over, nothing to touch off the silos for.
    There’s grain in the hopper and wives sweet with biphenyls
    Under the skin, or else fatigue—who knows for sure? The cows
    Are freshening off schedule again. There is nothing to fear.

    Douglas Crase

  7. Noochinator said,

    March 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Aubade

    I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
    Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
    In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
    Till then I see what’s really always there:
    Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
    Making all thought impossible but how
    And where and when I shall myself die.
    Arid interrogation: yet the dread
    Of dying, and being dead,
    Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

    The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
    —The good not done, the love not given, time
    Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
    An only life can take so long to climb
    Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
    But at the total emptiness for ever,
    The sure extinction that we travel to
    And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
    Not to be anywhere,
    And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

    This is a special way of being afraid
    No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
    That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
    Created to pretend we never die,
    And specious stuff that says No rational being
    Can fear a thing it will not feel,
    not seeing
    That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
    No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
    Nothing to love or link with,
    The anaesthetic from which none come round.

    And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
    A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
    That slows each impulse down to indecision.
    Most things may never happen: this one will,
    And realisation of it rages out
    In furnace-fear when we are caught without
    People or drink. Courage is no good:
    It means not scaring others. Being brave
    Lets no one off the grave.
    Death is no different whined at than withstood.

    Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
    It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
    Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
    Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
    Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
    In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
    Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
    The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
    Work has to be done.
    Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

    Philip Larkin

  8. Noochinator said,

    March 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    From Keith Richards’ Life, page 200:

    “Allen Ginsberg was staying at Mick’s place in London once, and I spent an evening listening to the old gasbag pontificating on everything. It was the period when Ginsberg sat around playing a concertina badly and making ommm sounds, pretending he was oblivious to his socialite surroundings.”

  9. Noochinator said,

    March 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Theory of Tragedy

    How can we believe in anything again?
    — ECHECRATES, IN THE PHAEDO

    Why didn’t the first philosopher want to go on living
    among the sun-warmed stones of his native city?
    Wasn’t the music, microtonal as sunlight on paving stones,
    worthy of him? Didn’t he have friends
    whose particular talk he loved more than the cool beauty
    of ideas? There was as yet no definition of tragedy.

    His students say the old man believed deeply
    In the clarifying power of disputation, urging them
    that argument leads always toward truth, though
    it never arrive There. He loved to form definitions, believing
    them like music, for which, apparently, he had no ear.
    There was as yet no definition of tragedy,

    though everyone knew what he or she meant by the word—
    a certain feeling in the bowel
    as you filed from the theater after something by Sophocles,
    a bristling of hairs on the small of the neck, evidence
    of poison working out toward the skin,
    the body politic purging itself of doubt, bending

    its confident demotic beneath the weight of music
    and dance. But out in the streets Socrates heard the passion
    of speech slide into Rhetoric, which was invented, some say,
    in order to contain the passions roused
    in the populace by the music of speech.
    There was, as yet, no definition of tragedy.

    Was Socrates so sold on himself he couldn’t imagine
    (the whisper of god in his hairy old ear)
    the fine words of those citizens talking among themselves
    on the marble steps of the King Archon’s palace?
    He thought they were dangerous, tugged this way and that
    like a tide destroying the wall of the city.

    The rationalist philosopher Sherlock Holmes loved
    to play music when not testing blood
    stains on a carpet—scratching away like crazy at his violin—
    a fine old instrument better than his skill—making music
    the more terrible for its awful Victorian sentiment.
    The problem of tragedy is how close it always must come

    to sentiment. Both these philosophers hated democracy—
    the dirty feet of the mob, the bumbling stupidity
    of the man in the street, who loves the fat that sticks to his own bones
    and therefore is no fit audience for tragedy. Tonight
    as I read, the faint odor of skunk drifts through the window.
    I imagine the dogs of Athens raising their noses

    into an ancient breeze off the Aegean carrying the sour smell
    of the philosopher’s corpse after it accepted poison
    from the jury of citizens. Would the private eye, so adept
    at uncovering what others called tragedy, have been able to determine
    the cause of death by examining the famous scene in the prison?
    And had the first detective sniffed out the hemlock,

    would he have deduced the fibers of the soul floating loose
    in the damp air of the cell? What would he have thought
    of the crooked smile on the round gray face?
    And what analysis could have made the tears smearing the faces
    of those wealthy and self-sufficient men gathered there
    in the prison yield useful knowledge?

    The outer stones of the prison, already warmed
    by morning sun, and the city’s air vibrant with music rising
    from its streets, the shopkeepers sold fish, copper, fresh bread,
    and red figure pottery common to that place and time, often
    depicting Clytemnestra’s bloody betrayal of Agamemnon
    or famous episodes in Odysseus’s long journey back

    to his wife—both impossible fictions! The dogs might have
    made some music with these old bones, even lacking
    a theory of tragedy, which is really a theory of knowledge.
    Tonight, odor of skunk hanging like a philosopher’s soul
    in the air, I sit beneath a xerox copy of a photograph—one of those
    Greek vases called a lekythos, this one showing a daughter of Memory,

    loosely draped, feet bare, sexy, her right hand indicating
    a songbird on a branch sketched near her knees.
    Without a definition of tragedy, we cannot understand
    the dance our words and grammar pattern intersecting
    the facts of the palpable world—a maple tree’s black
    branches against the amber/blue stripes of sunset,

    perfume of skunk and wood smoke hanging in the air.
    The old man always said his wisdom was nothing but ignorance,
    and at the end of his life he couldn’t prove the soul
    survives the body. Perhaps it was nothing but a feeling,
    like tragedy, which is only the awkward singing
    of a small bird on a flimsy branch pointing toward memory.

    Joseph Duemer


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: