DONALD JUSTICE V. EDWARD FIELD

field

Field: an affair with O’Hara,  but does he have a chance against Donald Justice?

MARLA MUSE: I love Don Justice!

Donald Justice (b. 1925) is Elizabeth Bishop’s (b. 1911) melancholy son, the same modest devotion to the rueful, observant, semi-musical lyric,  proud, mild; desperation politely, cunningly submerged. He’s not really an APR poet. He’s not really a magazine poet; Justice is one of those poets whose many anthology pieces deliver, and whose books contain a great deal of poems which are a pleasure to read. He wasn’t one of the crazies. His poems are instantly likable.

MARLA MUSE: I inspired him many times.

Edward Field is an APR poet. Justice is a scene in a lake, a lyric postcard. Field is a chatty essay, a late night talkshow gabbing up somewhere near the moon reflected in the TV. Justice is a flower hung with snow. Field is a sooty neon sign. Justice is the gin after the coffee. Field is the coffee after the gin.

MARLA MUSE: So who’s going to win?

Let’s find out. Justice is the no. 4 seed:

In Memory of My Friend the Bassoonist John Lenox

One winter he was the best
Contrabassoonist south
Of Washington D.C.—
The only one. Lonely

In eminence he sat,
Like some lost island king,
High on a second-story porch
Overlooking the bay—

His blue front lawn his kingdom—
And presided over the Shakesperean
Feuds and passions of the eave-pigeons.
Who, during the missle crisis,

Had stocked his boat with booze,
Charts, and the silver flute
He taught himself to play,
Casually, one evening;

And taught himself to see,
Sailing thick glasses out blindly
Over a lilly-choked canal—
O autodidact supreme!

John, where you are now can you see?
Do the pigeons there bicker like ours?
Does the deep bassoon not moan
Or the flute sigh ever?

No one could think it was you
Slumped there on the sofa, despairing,
The hideous green sofa.
No, you are off somewhere,

Off with Gaugin and Christian
Amid hibiscus’d isles,
Red-mustached, pink-bearded
Again, as in early manhood.

It is well. Shark waters
Never did faze you half so much
As the terrible radios
And booboiseries of the neighbors.

Here, if you care, the bay
Is printed, with many boats now,
Thick as trash; that high porch is gone,
Gone up in the smoke of money, money;

The barbarians…But enough.
You are missed. Across the way,
Someone is practicing sonatas.
And the sea air smells again of good gin.

And Edward Field, the no. 13 seed:

Whatever Became Of: Freud?

Has the age of psychology really passed?
Aren’t people interested anymore
in how their toilet training shaped them?
Nowadays, nobody talks of their “analysis,” or even
the less respectable therapies that came into fashion
about the time we gave up on the couch—
encounter groups, group gropes, group games, and finally
just lying on the floor, screaming out the pain.
Or even, on the lowest level
(which we all descended to in desperation),
self-help books: How to overcome depression,
get more confidence, be popular

But usually, we were safely in the hands of Freud,
whose theories, a whole generation beyond Marx swore,
would rescue mankind from its lot,
and even, in the views of Reich, end war
when we liberated our sexuality
by working through the body’s armouring
to release our soft and loving primal selves—
war and love supposedly being incompatible—
also by sitting for hours in the orgone box to absorb
the sexual energy of the universe.

Those were the years when we were all convinced
we were “neurotic,” discussed our neuroses passionately,
analyzed our dreams with friends over coffee
and endless cigarettes—we were fiendish smokers—
talked of breakthroughs, insights, and sometimes with awe
of “graduation,”when the “neurosis”
would finally be “cured,” which meant
you had worked through your blocks, your inhibitions,
and you were no longer Acting Out Negative,
but had found your niche in society—
meaning, marriage, a career, and forgiving your parents.
We argued whether this meant the end of “creativity.”

The air is clearer since “phallic symbol”
has gone the way of “penis envy” and “Freudian slip.”
Nobody nowadays blames their failures on their neuroses,
and if you say “transferences,” everyone assumes
you’re not talking about your bank accounts.
It’s no longer news the discovery
(and Freud deserved the Nobel Prize for it)
that people’s minds are always on sex.

But with the same obsession we had with Freud,
and the same narcissism (how we beat each other
with that faded cry), people nowadays are able to simply
turn away from “problems” and wallow in their pleasures,
making a cult of health, and devote themselves
just to working on their bodies. Did I say “just”?
Even Freud was always looking for the roots
of neurosis in the body. And as Claudette Colbert said
on observing Marilyn Monroe’s buns,
“I would have had to start at thirteen.”

Sadly, true. For us old devotees of the therapies,
the cornerstone of our faith, Talk
and you can change your history,
proved to be bad Freud, and even worse, a fraud—
far more expensive than the gym and stylish joggers.
Years of talking, and nothing got solved.
Except the language of it
seemed to define the losses of a generation,
and for all its radiant promises, that was all.

MARLA MUSE: Is that even a poem?

Since when was prose not poetry?

MARLA MUSE: Huh?

Just enjoy the game, Marla…

MARLA MUSE: OK

Field…talking…talking some more!

…Justice…trimeter…!

Field…defining an era…! talking…defining an historical era…discussing an era’s social values…talking…defining…!

Field! talking some more!

Justice…goes for the personal!…a strict four line stanza!

Field…past tense…the ‘we’ address…!

Justice…picturesque!…Justice…the winsome detail!…Justice…getting playful! …lyrical…!

Field…touching on cultural artifacts in a clear manner…!

Field…assembling the paragraph…!

Now Justice shifts from third person to second…!

Field brings his self-reflexive thesis to a conclusion…!  Talk as failure…!

Talk! Talk! Talk!  Justice trying to establish the image…!  Talk! Talk! Talk!  The memory of his friend…!  taste…! smell…! listening to music…!  the ocean…!

Justice appealing to all the senses!  Feigns an iambic line!

Field…has something to say…!

Talk! Talk! Talk!  Field!  Field! Justice! Justice! Field! Justice! Field!

Field Wins 61-60!  Another Upset!

4 Comments

  1. edward field said,

    March 19, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    hey, i’m writing much better poems now!

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 19, 2011 at 11:30 pm

      Mr. Field,

      Thanks for visiting! We’re thrilled. It’s an honor.

      Please send anything of yours to my email and we’ll be glad to do a feature.

      Tom

  2. Noochness said,

    March 19, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Whatever Became Of: Freud?

    Has the age of psychology really passed?
    Aren’t people interested anymore
    in how their toilet training shaped them?
    Nowadays, nobody talks of their “analysis,” or even
    the less respectable therapies that came into fashion
    about the time we gave up on the couch—
    encounter groups, group gropes, group games, and finally
    just lying on the floor, screaming out the pain.
    Or even, on the lowest level
    (which we all descended to in desperation),
    self-help books: How to overcome depression,
    get more confidence, be popular

    But usually, we were safely in the hands of Freud,
    whose theories, a whole generation beyond Marx swore,
    would rescue mankind from its lot,
    and even, in the views of Reich, end war
    when we liberated our sexuality
    by working through the body’s armouring
    to release our soft and loving primal selves—
    war and love supposedly being incompatible—
    also by sitting for hours in the orgone box to absorb
    the sexual energy of the universe.

    Those were the years when we were all convinced
    we were “neurotic,” discussed our neuroses passionately,
    analyzed our dreams with friends over coffee
    and endless cigarettes—we were fiendish smokers—
    talked of breakthroughs, insights, and sometimes with awe
    of “graduation,” when the “neurosis”
    would finally be “cured,” which meant
    you had worked through your blocks, your inhibitions,
    and you were no longer Acting Out Negative,
    but had found your niche in society—
    meaning, marriage, a career, and forgiving your parents.
    We argued whether this meant the end of “creativity.”

    The air is clearer since “phallic symbol”
    has gone the way of “penis envy” and “Freudian slip.”
    Nobody nowadays blames their failures on their neuroses,
    and if you say “transferences,” everyone assumes
    you’re not talking about your bank accounts.
    It’s no longer news the discovery
    (and Freud deserved the Nobel Prize for it)
    that people’s minds are always on sex.

    But with the same obsession we had with Freud,
    and the same narcissism (how we beat each other
    with that faded cry), people nowadays are able to simply
    turn away from “problems” and wallow in their pleasures,
    making a cult of health, and devote themselves
    just to working on their bodies. Did I say “just”?
    Even Freud was always looking for the roots
    of neurosis in the body. And as Claudette Colbert said
    on observing Marilyn Monroe’s buns,
    “I would have had to start at thirteen.”

    Sadly, true. For us old devotees of the therapies,
    the cornerstone of our faith, Talk
    and you can change your history,
    proved to be bad Freud, and even worse, a fraud—
    far more expensive than the gym and stylish joggers.
    Years of talking, and nothing got solved.
    Except the language of it
    seemed to define the losses of a generation,
    and for all its radiant promises, that was all.

    Edward Field

  3. Noochness said,

    March 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    In Memory of My Friend the Bassoonist John Lenox

    1

    One winter he was the best
    Contrabassoonist south
    Of Washington, D.C.—
    The only one. Lonely

    In eminence he sat,
    Like some lost island king,
    High on a second-story porch
    Overlooking the bay—

    His blue front lawn, his kingdom—
    And presided over the Shakespearean
    Feuds and passions of the eave-pigeons.
    Who, during the missile crisis,

    Had stocked his boat with booze,
    Charts, and the silver flute
    He taught himself to play,
    Casually, one evening;

    And taught himself to see,
    Sailing thick glasses out blindly
    Over a lily-choked canal—
    O autodidact supreme!

    2

    John, where you are now can you see?
    Do the pigeons there bicker like ours?
    Does the deep bassoon not moan
    Or the flute sigh ever?

    No one could think it was you
    Slumped there on the sofa, despairing,
    The hideous green sofa.
    No, you are off somewhere,

    Off with Gaugin and Christian
    Amid hibiscus’d isles,
    Red-mustached, pink-bearded
    Again, as in early manhood.

    It is well. Shark waters
    Never did faze you half so much
    As the terrible radios
    And booboiseries of the neighbors.

    Here, if you care, the bay
    Is printed with many boats now,
    Thick as trash; that high porch is gone,
    Gone up in the smoke of money, money;

    The barbarians… But enough.
    You are missed. Across the way,
    Someone is practicing sonatas,
    And the sea air smells again of good gin.

    Donald Justice


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