Scarriet 2011 March Madness. North Bracket, round Two. “Aubade” by Larkin v. “The Experts” by Jack Myers.

Reading Larkin’s “Aubade” is not like flying in an airplane. Larkin didn’t like to travel. Reading “Aubade” is to be crushed by the large rock of ‘we’re going to die’ and the art of it is: the emotion expressed in the poem fully belongs to ‘I’m going to die.’

Ironically, there would be something morbidly pedantic about Larkin’s poem if it were not about death; if it were about any other subject, its manner would offend with its certainty, but here it thrills. With the simplicity of a child reaching for a sweet, or a fly buzzing onto poo, Larkin chooses a topic that makes his rhetoric inescapable—and he triumphs. The inevitablilty of Larkin’s skillful rhymes pack the reader in ice and cart him on greased wheels away. The length of the poem is perfect, too; it presses down on us long enough so that we are dead. Had it been shorter, we would have been able to escape.

Because Larkin’s “Aubade” is not a typical loose APR poem—no grime, no spittle, no grandiosity, no hyperbole, no obscurity, no doubts, no pieces of the puzzle left lying about—its formalism gleams, a white towering wonder, a singing cloud above a chattering wood. In American company, even in the company of American poets, Larkin’s fierce,  fanatical atheism wounds with its Englishy swift directness, recalling Shakespeare and Shelley with its emotional blade, true because ruthless in the way it manages to perfect subjectivity with a philosophical picture framed by god-like sound. Larkin’s faithlessness is so pure that only divinity could have made it. Larkin pushes us to God just as the priest sometimes pushes us away.

Meanwhile Jack Myers operates on a more human level up in his plane with the indifferent, and later, on the ground with a waitress. It’s not sentimental; it’s good stuff Myers has going on here, but what happens is by making real life poetry and poetry real life, as Myers attempts to do, both disappear. There’s poetry in good hardboiled detective fiction, in landscapes, in ordinary things, but one can’t say, ‘look! here is the poetry.’ For poetry to be poetry it has to remain elusive. One cannot will poetry, although there’s will involved and it seems that of that kind of will there’s never enough.

If you chase two rabbits, you lose both. You cannot be poetic and real. Further, to make things even more difficult, there are objects which are poetic and objects which are not. Americans since 1945 don’t accept that there are some objects which are poetic and some objects which are not. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Americans did not feel the need to constantly and consciously prove this truism to be an error. If we still believed it, but just didn’t think about it so much, it wouldn’t be a problem. But we’ve got to the point where we”ve become defensive about it, like Myers in the airplane.

Larkin defeats Myers, 97-85.


  1. Poem support said,

    April 16, 2011 at 6:21 pm


    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

    • Poem support said,

      April 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm


      It came to me the other day:
      Were I to die, no one would say,
      “Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
      Of promise — depths unplumbable!”

      Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
      Will greet my overdue demise;
      The wide response will be, I know,
      “I thought he died a while ago.”

      For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
      And death is real, and dark, and huge.
      The shock of it will register
      Nowhere but where it will occur.

      John Updike

    • Poem support said,

      April 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm


      After three days of steady, inconsolable rain,
      I walk through the rooms of the house
      wondering which would be best to die in.

      The study is an obvious choice
      with its thick carpet and soothing paint,
      its overstuffed chair preferable
      to a doll-like tumble down the basement stairs.

      And the kitchen has a certain appeal—
      it seems he was boiling water for tea,
      the inspector will offer, holding up the melted kettle.

      Then there is the dining room,
      just the place to end up facedown
      at one end of its long table in a half-written letter

      or the bedroom with its mix of sex and sleep,
      upright against the headboard,
      a book having slipped to the floor—
      make it Mrs. Dalloway, which I have yet to read.

      Dead on the carpet, dead on the tiles,
      dead on the stone cold floor—

      it’s starting to sound like a ballad
      sung in a pub by a man with a coal red face.

      It’s all the fault of the freezing rain
      which is flicking against the windows,
      but when it finally lets up
      and gives way to broken clouds and a warm breeze,
      when the trees stand dripping in the light,

      I will quit these dark, angular rooms
      and drive along a country road
      into the larger rooms of the world,
      so vast and speckled, so full of ink and sorrow—

      a road that cuts through bare woods
      and tangles of red and yellow bittersweet
      these late November days.

      And maybe under the fallen wayside leaves
      there is hidden a nest of mice,
      each one no bigger than a thumb,
      a thumb with closed eyes,
      a thumb with whiskers and a tail,
      each one contemplating the sweetness of grass
      and startling brevity of life.

      Billy Collins

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm

        Death In Leamington —John Betjeman

        She died in the upstairs bedroom
        By the light of the ev’ning star
        That shone through the plate glass window
        From over Leamington Spa.

        Beside her the lonely crochet
        Lay patiently and unstirred,
        But the fingers that would have work’d it
        Were dead as the spoken word.

        And Nurse came in with the tea-things
        Breast high ‘mid the stands and chairs-
        But Nurse was alone with her own little soul,
        And the things were alone with theirs.

        She bolted the big round window,
        She let the blinds unroll,
        She set a match to the mantle,
        She covered the fire with coal.

        And “Tea!” she said in a tiny voice
        “Wake up! It’s nearly five”
        Oh! Chintzy, chintzy cheeriness,
        Half dead and half alive!

        Do you know that the stucco is peeling?
        Do you know that the heart will stop?
        From those yellow Italianate arches
        Do you hear the plaster drop?

        Nurse looked at the silent bedstead,
        At the gray, decaying face,
        As the calm of a Leamington ev’ning
        Drifted into the place.

        She moved the table of bottles
        Away from the bed to the wall;
        And tiptoeing gently over the stairs
        Turned down the gas in the hall.

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm

      • Video support said,

        April 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm

  2. April 17, 2011 at 3:24 am

    Tom writes [he really does!]:

    If you chase two rabbits, you lose both. You cannot be poetic and real. [my italics] Further, to make things even more difficult, there are objects which are poetic and objects which are not. Americans since 1945 don’t accept that there are some objects which are poetic and some objects which are not. [my italics] This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Americans did not feel the need to constantly and consciously prove this truism to be an error. If we still believed it, but just didn’t think about it so much, it wouldn’t be a problem. But we’ve got to the point where we”ve become defensive about it, like Myers in the airplane. [my italics]

    Then, to illustrate what he means, Tom throws up the poem by Jack Myers — quite literally throws it up as he’s on a basketball court, but of course. as I said just recently, he might also be sitting casually reading on the Mt. Parnassus toilet.

    The Expert

    When the man in the window seat

    flying next to me

    asks me who I am

    and I tell him I’m a poet,

    he turns embarrassed toward the sun.

    The woman on the other side of me

    pipes up she’s 4’10″ and is going to sue

    whoever made these seats.

    And so it is I’m reminded how I wish I were

    one of the aesthetes

    floating down double-lit canals

    of quiet listening, the ones

    who come to know something as

    mysterious and useless

    as when a tree has decided to sleep.

    You would think for them

    pain lights up the edges of everything,

    burns right through the center of every leaf,

    but I’ve seen them strolling around,

    their faces glistening with the sort of peace

    only sleep can polish babies with.

    And so when a waitress in San Antonio

    asks me what I do, and I think

    how the one small thing I’ve learned

    seems more complex the more I think of it,

    how the joys of it have overpowered me

    long after I don’t understand,

    I tell her “Corned beef on rye, a side of salad,

    hold the pickle, I’m a poet,” and she stops to talk

    about her little son who, she says, can hurt himself

    even when he’s sitting still. I tell her

    there’s a poem in that, and she repeats

    “Hold the pickle, I’m a poet,”
then looks at me and says, “I know.”

    ……………………………………Jack Myers

    And here I make a plea to any Scarriet visitor, regular or even editor, indeed to anybody out there at all who reads poetry on either side of the Atlantic, does anybody believe what Tom says about what is suitable material for poetry, indeed, does anybody feel his two rabbits analogy is in any way apt, or helpful?

    I also feel sorry for Jack Myers’ reputation, a poet who I know devoted much of his life to poetry and changed many lives with it by making real images come alive — even useless trees as above. Are you prepared to have Tom dismiss Jack Myers’ art with such cheap, facile, over-simplified and self-serving waffle?

    And can you forgive Tom for making Jack Myers’ delicate little poem, “The Expert” do battle with Larkin’s Ur-poem, “Aubade,” in the first place, the two of them hardly being from the same warren or species — or planet? It’s perverse to make such comparisons as well as humiliating — I’d wring Tom’s neck if he did it to one of my poems, and I don’t want to even think what Gary B. Fitzgerald might do! More like Abelard!

    As if more evidence were needed to prove that the March Madness encounters are stupid, perverse and demeaning, here’s the poem the “The Expert” beat in order to make the cut and get the chance to take on “Aubade!”

    An Iron Spike

    So like a harrow-pin

    I hear harness-creaks and the click

    of stones in a ploughed-up field.

    But it was the age of steam

    at Eagle Pond, New Hampshire,

    when this rusted spike I found there

    was aimed and driven in

    to fix a cog on the line.

    It flakes like dead maple leaves

    in the track of the old railway,

    eaten at and weathered

    like birch stumps dressed by beavers.

    What guarantees things keeping

    if a railway can be lifted

    like a long briar out of ditch-growth?

    I felt I had come on myself

    in its still, grassed-over path

    where I drew the iron like a thorn

    or a dialect word of my own

    warm from a stranger’s mouth.

    And the sledge-head that drove it

    with a last opaque report

    deep into the creosoted

    sleeper, where is that?

    And its sweat-cured, polished haft?

    Ask those ones on the buggy;

    inaudible and upright

    and sped along without shadows.

    …………………………..Seamus Heaney


  3. Mark said,

    April 17, 2011 at 7:41 am


    Tom’s post here is more than just vague, poorly-conceived, badly-written and moronic – it’s anti-romantic.

    When he says: “there are objects which are poetic and objects which are not” – he’s really just giving himself an out. It’s an excuse for him to be able to criticize poems he has not read nor attempted to understand (and he has so many excuses already).

    If I thought Tom had the balls to stand behind what he writes here on Scarriet I would say that it’s going to be fun watching him back-pedal trying to explain why Heaney’s poem is poetic but the poems he doesn’t like aren’t… but we all know that Tom refuses to say why when he doesn’t like something because that would require actually having read the work he’s commenting on.

    At least Tom’s arbitrary and nonsensical justifications of his biases are usually good for a laugh… so that’s something.

  4. Poem support said,

    April 17, 2011 at 10:28 am

    The Instinct

    A man feels humiliated
    when his wife turns over her private
    landscape over and leaves him
    falling through black space.

    There is a horse kicking
    in the mind that must be let out.
    Men see it in each other’s eyes
    and hold onto their women.

    Young girls who have ridden
    this horse in their dreams
    cross their legs, still burning,
    and concentrate on small talk.

    Once in a while a stray woman
    who can get over anything
    opens her blouse and teases
    the horse into following her home.
    As she unlocks the door it occurs to her
    how huge he will seem in the house.

    Sometimes a man will punish his wife
    with abstinence. The horse shrinks
    into a small dog who rolls over
    the edge of sleep while his master
    wanders the house eating leftovers
    and shouting to himself.

    The woman who hears this
    decorates her house and makes breakfast
    like a wife in the old days.
    She averts her eyes and serves him
    a future that is possible,
    now that he has let her out.

    Jack Myers

  5. Poem support said,

    April 17, 2011 at 10:31 am


    An adviser to the young king explained suhradi,
    the attitude of people who pick out a dirty spot
    and then sit in it, where they feel great comfort
    in criticizing others and gossiping about this one’s faults
    and that one’s failures, in casting insults and disgracing others,
    and how such a pleasure grows to become a burden until,
    the adviser complained, these people make blindness an art.

    The young king, in his wisdom and purity of vision, seemed
    interested, and asked his learned adviser to explain it again.

    Jack Myers

  6. April 17, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Going back to the original SEAMUS HEANEY BATTLES JACK MYERS in March 2010, Tom wrote:




    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .




    So the two rabbits you have to choose between this time are no longer the poetic (Larkin) on the one hand and the real (Myers) on the other, but now the warm, chummy sentimentality of Myers against the cold, aesthetic bullshit of Heaney.


    So naturally Myers ‘wins’ over Heaney, 80-77 — and lest the irony escape you, Tom adds this little jingle in a light moment with Nooch:

    If Heaney thought No.1 seed meant a free pass,

    He just got schooled by Mr. Myers from Lynn, Mass!


    “Arbitrary and nonsensical justifications of his biases” for certain, Mark — “good for a laugh” I’m not sure.


    It’s your position that Tom doesn’t even read the poems he sets to battle, and I’d point to two assertions in this last match up that make me think you’re probably right.


    This is gobbledy-gook, as well as ad hominem and ugly. Honestly, Tom, in these two poems, do you find the plane “live” and the train-track “dead?” I can’t find any description of the “plane” in the Jack Myers poem at all except the small woman’s seat, though there’s plenty alive in his timeless, miraculous images of a quite other nature outside.

    And are the technological details in Seamus Heaney’s railway line really so “dead?” Do you find the imagery in “An Iron Spike” really so “cold” and “sharp?” Or do you just assume iron is cold and a spike makes you dead, never having been willing to get your mind around irony.

    What guarantees things keeping

    if a railway can be lifted

    like a long briar out of ditch-growth?

    I felt I had come on myself

    in its still, grassed-over path

    where I drew the iron like a thorn

    or a dialect word of my own

    warm from a stranger’s mouth.

    “ODD PHRASE!” is all you can say about this extraordinary, indeed radiant passage. What poem were you reading then? Indeed, this one instance alone proves to me you either can’t read the poem, or won’t!

    But where you really give yourself away is in your ad hominem dismissal of Seamus Heaney himself in what you do with the phrase, “COMING ON HIMSELF” [sic]. This image actually reads “I felt I had come on myself/in its still, grassed-over path,”
 and is the key to the poem. You make it a schoolboy’s dirty little smudgey riddle.

    Of course you’ll deny you meant it like that, but anyone who’s been around you will know you will take any chance you get to put down poets who put their lives on the line and take chances.

    That’s precisely what you did in December 2009 right here, and I got very annoyed with you at the time. “Slathering on the metaphors,” you called what this great poet does with words.



    So what so bothers you about metaphor, Tom? You’re like a policeman on traffic duty that can’t distinguish between green and red.



    • thomasbrady said,

      April 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm


      Thanks for linking ‘Bard or Lard?’ in your comment. I think it’s one of my best pieces. It’s honest and I stand by it. It’s not anti-Heaney. It’s pro-Heaney and it’s pro-Irish. It doesn’t flatter, but truth never does.


  7. thomasbrady said,

    April 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Mark & Christopher,

    I appreciate your feedback, but I’m not concerned with your personal likes and dislikes. March Madness is a sacred process. Poems are sorted by the highest standards possible, in order to discover the truly greatest poems of all time—this must be done, because life is short and there are many poems. I hope you understand this.


  8. April 18, 2011 at 1:15 am

    I wish you’d answered my question about your aversion to metaphor directly and not just answered me with an extended one based on the history of the Curia. The only part of the message I don’t understand is the part about life being short, unless you mean we’ve got to repent quickly as we don’t have much time left.

    I’ll work on that. Also a bit more on what you say about the Larkin so I’ll understand our position here on Earth that much better.

  9. April 18, 2011 at 1:39 am


    Breezy Night

    Chimes blend evening breeze with song.
    Up late tonight past bedtime. Troubled.
    The sleepy wind blends me with scent
    of Jasmine.
    I finally begin to relax, to smile.
    I can hear the music now.
    I look back on my day, a long one.
    Well, I managed to get by again,
    managed to survive.
    Now out here in the night
    with the dark and the flowers,
    I listen to the chimes and consider
    the wrongs I’ve done to stay alive.

    Anyone with no regrets
    must be senile.

    Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD-77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

  10. April 18, 2011 at 3:37 am

    You like “Aubade,” and you’re good with it. On the other hand, you have trouble negotiating the intricacies of Jack Myers’ poem, your mind being so literal that when the poem begins with a man sitting next to someone on a plane you think the poem’s got to be “about flying in an airplane.” Whereas it’s about being hung up in a birdcage!


    Oh dear, Tom — you do have trouble with metaphors, don’t you. You just can’t manage the “double-lit canals of quiet listening” which Jack Myers says some poets live beside, and won’t even give the time of day to a remarkable image like the “something as/mysterious and useless/as when a tree has decided to sleep.” And the “faces glistening with the sort of peace/only sleep can polish babies with?” You step right over that one completely — or is it on it?

    In actual fact it’s a gold-leaf poem, Tom, as I suspect you’d agree — also that it’s right up there in the imperial birdcage with “Sailing to Byzantium.” Yet you dismiss “The Expert” with the put down, “You cannot be poetic and real.” But hey, isn’t that precisely what’s different about “The Expert” from “Sailing to Byzantium,” what the poem is about? “Hold the pickle, I’m a poet?”

    And weren’t you shocked at first — and then delighted when the waitress came back with it and offered it to him? (My take is that she then went out with him, lucky guy.)


    Tom — if you don’t take the figurative parts of a poem seriously, or even worse, if you just dump on them, then you can’t speak about what a poem does overall, or comment on its value.

    In your analysis of most poetry you’re out of it because you don’t carry a full tool-box. Jack Myers, on the other hand, is truly an “expert” — extremely well-trained and equipped. That’s what makes him trustworthy, why he’s a friend on the job.


    We’ll move on to the Larkin next, but first I want to say that you’re much better with “Aubade” because the tools that you’re missing aren’t so crucial on this job — though observing that they’re not, being aware of that on some level, might be helpful.

    Got it?

    Back to you.


  11. April 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm


    1.) Which of the following are NOT metaphors?

    a.) “That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade;”

    b.) “The anaesthetic from which none come round;”

    e.) “Postmen like doctors go from house to house.”

    2.) Why?

    3.) What’s a metaphor?

    4.) Are there a lot of metaphors in this poem? Why?

    5.) Thomas Brady uses figures of speech in his discussion of “Aubade” too – amazing. “With the simplicity of a child reaching for a sweet, or a fly buzzing onto poo, Larkin chooses a topic that makes his rhetoric inescapable—and he triumphs.”

    What are the figures of speech here? Are they helpful? Are they mean?

    6.) Then this: “The inevitability of Larkin’s skillful rhymes pack the reader in ice and cart him on greased wheels away.” Did the rhymes make you feel this way? Did you like it?

    Any metaphors here? Why?

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 19, 2011 at 12:46 am


      A metaphor is simply a way of describing an object or an idea by connecting it to something else—a metaphor alone does not make a good poem. Metaphors can be wretched and stupid, or they can illustrate an idea nicely. Metaphors need to be used approriately to be effective: it would be the greatest stupidity to say metaphors are always good, or ‘the more metaphors the better!’

      A good poet, in fact, should never think about metaphor or think about what a metaphor is, or consciously use metaphor in a poem. They should just write the poem.

      Since many splendid poems use no metaphor at all—Gary’s poem “Breezy Night,” for instance, is a nice work that uses no metaphors—and since a great many poems are ruined by bad metaphors, I almost think it best not to have a discussion about metaphors at all.

      If Larkin centered his poem around a comparison of religion to ‘that vast, moth-eaten, musical brocade, it would be a failure; it is merely a passing analogy which says more about the state of mind of the poet than anything else—it’s an emotional flourish, as is the comparison of death to “anaesthetic from whic none come round” which is really just a wry observation–again, if this ‘metaphor’ had some central importance to the poem, it would be a wretched poem; instead it is submerged in the litany of the poem’s argument, and therefore it works. Postmen going like doctors from house to house is a more complex metaphorical idea, it has a little bit more meat to it, and thus Larkin closes his poem with it. The ‘brocade’ metaphor is opinion, (oh, is that what you think religion is?) the ‘anaesthetic’ metaphor is a bit too obvious and thus is almost humorous—‘what’s the strongest anaesthetic? death.’ But ‘postmen going like doctors from house to house’ is the strongest of the three because 1) you can’t argue with it: for there they go, on their rounds, those postmen and 2) it’s not that obvious…’house to house’ places it in an interesting realm, it just has more going on…it has movement, it has matter-of-fact, it compares routine human activity to the routine existence of death in a kind of terrifying way…it mingles ‘doctors trying to save lives’ with ‘delivering bad news’ and is just an interesting metaphor on a number of levels. But again, it’s part of an cumulative effect; if the ‘postmen’ metaphor tried to hold up the poem by itself, it would fail. Since the way metaphors are used in a poem is as important as the metaphors themselves, and since a poem does not need metaphors to succeed at all, I think any pedantic discussion of metaphor would be ruinous for the poet.


  12. April 19, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Good points about metaphor — I would agree with you on most of it.

    Gary B. Fitzgerald almost never uses metaphors in his poetry, that’s true, and you don’t either. You’re both good poets, and control your slight material with admirable finesse, making sure nothing ever goes out on a limb or boils over. That’s good. The flip-side is that such poetry tends to be flat — without metaphor poems rarely make a reader weep, dance, scratch their heads in astonishment, or go back and reread it a year later.

    “Aubade” is a most wonderful exception.


    My point about metaphor in “Aubade” is that for all intents and purposes there isn’t any — the two I mentioned is it, unless you want to include the telephones that crouch at the end which I don’t. I find it interesting that you’re willing to include “the postmen like doctors go[ing] from house to house,” the most powerful single image in the poem. I am too, but one could equally make the case that the image is literal. Whatever, the image [better word –I hate the word metaphor!] gets us close to what this bare and negative poem so wildly and brilliantly accomplishes — creates a vacuum into which something has to rush in!

    The little word “like” is genius between the postmen and the doctors — and so typical of the mastery Larkin always demonstrates in his word choice. Would he have considered “and?” Not on your life, as he’s in the last line of an aubade, don’t forget, and even though the Beloved, Lady Hope, never does appear at dawn there’s always the chance that there might be something in the mail: love, or the tonic of ‘good’ news, or a distraction anyway, an assignation, a refund or an ad for a cure.


    I agree with you completely on what you say about religion. There’s none of it in the poem, at least if you mean the “musical brocade” side of religion — which you usually do. Formal religion, the church, the vows, the life after death stuff is just a tiny fraction of man’s religious life. It’s the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, the rest waiting silently and alone in the cold depths where everything on the surface, up, and down, for example, and even time, don’t matter. And it’s there in all of us, even in the most rational atheist, alive down there in the 90% underwater.

    And I don’t mean the “unconscious,” either, Tom, or what you call “nitrous oxide” — both of which are just metaphors.


    Metaphor pettaphor — this poem’s a better poem without it, I say. “The Expert’s” something else, on the other hand, a poem that gets high on metaphor (ha ha), and you didn’t even notice.

    So why did you bother? Why did you do this?

    And why will you almost certainly do it yet again tomorrow?


  13. April 19, 2011 at 3:20 am

    This is what you wrote in the article above (and what a contrast to what you just wrote in your recent comment!):

    Because Larkin’s “Aubade” is not a typical loose APR poem—no grime, no spittle, no grandiosity, no hyperbole, no obscurity, no doubts, no pieces of the puzzle left lying about—its formalism gleams, a white towering wonder, a singing cloud above a chattering wood. In American company, even in the company of American poets, Larkin’s fierce, fanatical atheism wounds with its Englishy swift directness, recalling Shakespeare and Shelley with its emotional blade, true because ruthless in the way it manages to perfect subjectivity with a philosophical picture framed by god-like sound. Larkin’s faithlessness is so pure that only divinity could have made it. Larkin pushes us to God just as the priest sometimes pushes us away.

    1.) “No grime, no spittle, no grandiosity, no hyperbole, no obscurity, no doubts, no pieces of the puzzle left lying about,” you say. But the poem has all these things right there in the very first line, which is famous for what it’s not – it’s not beautiful! Despite the crystalline iambs, which so excite you, the line is sordid, ugly, brutish, self-destructive, and short – “I work all day, and get half drunk at night.”

    2.) O.K, I agree, it’s not “a typical loose Apr poem” – that’s obvious But is it a “white towering wonder, a singing cloud above a chattering wood?” Certainly not – you just have to read it to see that it’s not even pretty what is more, in your old-fashioned sense, high art. It’s the knotted despair of an intelligent man in the street in our times – which is precisely what makes it so great. It’s a contemporary hair shirt, an existential God-is-dead emetic. To say otherwise is the simplistic delusion of a conspiracy theorist convinced that Emerson and his secret agents went to work in the 19th century to create Ezra Pound et al who would carry out an Anti-poetry Plot and deliberately screw up the whole of the next two centuries.

    Which is what you would have us believe, isn’t it, Tom?

    3.) “Larkin’s fierce, fanatical atheism wounds with its Englishy swift directness.” There’s nothing fanatic whatsoever about Philip Larkin’s anxiety, Tom, nor is his despair in any way conventional “atheism.” On the contrary, Larkin is consumed by the sense of meaning he has lost, and passionate about his lousy predicament. That’s why he’s so important as a poet, because he says it as it is, and like we all know it. He says it like we feel it, not as a deliberate, considered, superior, Oxbridge philosophical don or Scarriet pedant. He says it like it feels in each one of us. Which is, combined with his extraordinary yet easy prosody, the key to his greatness. But one without the other wouldn’t have done it.

    And that “Englishy swift directness?” You’ve been watching too much Masterpiece Theatre, Tom – you’re drowning in your American Oxbridge fantasy. The genius of the English is never to be direct about anything, and to say whatever’s important in a thoroughly round-about, fussy way — from the bathroom to being half-drunk to kicking the bucket.

    4.) Larkin’s faithlessness is so pure that only divinity could have made it. Larkin pushes us to God just as the priest sometimes pushes us away. A curious word to use, “pure,” when Philip Larkin obviously feels so small, tired and dirty in this tacky “Aubade”— a Provençal farewell to a lover in a cold, northern, coal-choked dawn! But otherwise you’re spot on here — for the first time in the whole article, in fact. And for that reason I won’t try to rephrase it either, or to discuss it. I find it difficult to believe you really mean these words, but if you do I’d say there’s still hope.

    Check it out and tell me what you really mean, Tom, including about your own faith and how you’ve managed to come to God without it. Otherwise I’ll just leave it for the rest of us to thank you for at last saying something that really works.


  14. April 19, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Christopher Woodman said:

    “Gary B. Fitzgerald almost never uses metaphors in his poetry, that’s true,”

    How dare you? I have over 460 published poems in print which you have never even seen and I make extensive use of metaphors, yet you publicly make a broad-brush statement like: “Gary B. Fitzgerald almost never uses metaphors in his poetry…” You can’t be serious! Are you an idiot? Tom was recently accused of making judgments about poetry he had never even read. This may or may not be true, but based on the obscenely ridiculous comment you made above, you are obviously guilty of the same thing.

    You also said:

    “As to Gary, he’s his own man for sure. Nothing that I say or do could ever make him trust or like me.”

    So, do you understand why, now? How could anyone ever trust you? You are and always have been a shameless prevaricator. I clearly remember accusing you of this very thing back on the Harriet blog years ago. I guess a leopard will never change his spots. Your statement is not only false, but confirms once and for all that you are basically no more than a pitiful bullshit artist.


    • Mark said,

      April 19, 2011 at 5:51 am

      “You are and always have been a shameless prevaricator”

      I’m not here to defend or condemn anyone and I don’t know the history you guys have but are you sure you want to go with “prevaricator” here, Gary?

      You’re posting on Scarriet where the EIC outright refuses to answer topical questions about his statements, ignores burden of proof and has spent the last 3+ weeks trying to pretend that when he speaks on behalf of Ron Silliman the outcome is a “fact.”

      That’s a prevaricator. I don’t know Christopher and he may or may not be a “bullshit artist” but he’s nowhere near as evasive as your friend Tom.

      I know I shouldn’t get involved here and I hope I’m not being a dick or stepping on anyone’s toes by doing so – this is just my perspective.


  15. April 19, 2011 at 6:01 am

    I am a misanthrope. I hate humans. I have no Goddamned friends.

  16. April 19, 2011 at 6:05 am

    Excepting my animals, of course.

    I posted this on several sites today:

    Based on the last five (six) winners of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry: Natasha Trethewey, Robert Hass/Phillip Schultz, W.S. Merwin, Rae Armantrout and, now, Kay Ryan, it seems obvious, to me at least, that this is no more than an academic popularity contest and devoid of any true critical measure of the value of the actual poetry submitted.

    I am aware that in 2005 there were over 200 entries in the contest, probably many more today, yet one never hears of a winner previously unrecognized or unknown. It would be interesting if Columbia made public the entire list of entries so all could draw their own conclusions.

    • Mark said,

      April 19, 2011 at 6:12 am

      I hate humans (and love animals!) too, Gary, but that post is hardly misanthropic – it sounds more like level-headed common sense to me.

      Maybe I’m imagining this but hasn’t the Pulitzer always sort of been a sham? Has a relative unknown ever won over a big-name poet?


    • April 19, 2011 at 6:22 am

      To say that you rarely use metaphors is just a factual observation based on the 40 to 50 poems of yours I’ve read on the internet. Indeed, I think I’ve read more of your poems than of any other living American poet.

      I’ve also made this comment to you before and you haven’t taken exception to it. But why should you? Or why should Tom, who studiously cultivates a style that avoids figures of speech, on principle?

      So what’s wrong with that? It’s the way you write, Gary, and you should be proud that your directness and lack of flourishes is refreshingly different. You’re Gary B. Fitzgerald, not Gerard Manley Hopkins or Dylan Thomas!

      I certainly didn’t mean to insult you, and it was Tom who brought your poetry into the discussion in the first place, not me.


      • thomasbrady said,

        April 19, 2011 at 7:28 pm

        “Kinder the enemy who must malign us
        Than the smug friend who will define us”

        –Anna Wickham

  17. April 19, 2011 at 6:55 am

    A) @ Mark: This is J.J. Gallaher’s response to my post:

    “John Gallaher said…

    The pulitzer prize is a lot like the Academy Awards.

    Just sayin’.”

    4/18/2011 6:11 PM

    “Gary B. Fitzgerald said…

    An astute observation, and the list of the neglected, actors and directors alike, is extensive. Movies, however, with or without accolade, are still seen by the public. Whether Indie or Studio, recognized by the Academy, Sundance, the Golden Globes or not at all, word gets around.

    Unfortunately, without the Pulitzer to bring attention to it, most poetry still remains invisible, and, regrettably, the choices the Committee generally makes ensures that any poetry that might be popular will always remain invisible.”

    B) @ Mark: I have been accused, despite my claim of being a misanthrope, of being the most human of writers. Well, duh! Why else would I write poetry?

    C) @ Christopher. I love you, man. Stop such being a dick!

    • Mark said,

      April 20, 2011 at 1:11 am


      Re: the Pulitzer

      You make a good point but I think the divide between people who care about poetry (people like us who know the Pulitzer is a crock) and people who don’t care is getting wider.

      This is just my impression but it seems like the casual reader of poetry – the person to whom the Pulitzer would matter – is a dying breed. That they’ve been swallowed up by TV, fancy-but-affordable cable packages, PVRs, Netflix, Video on Demand, DVD, Youtube, Internet etc.

      Like I said it’s just my impression and I may be way off, but I think you’d be harder and harder pressed to find a casual reader of poetry and maybe unable to find a casual reader of poetry who was under the age of 30.

      Poetry is strictly for the hardcores now and this may be the case for the forseeable future… but maybe that frees up the poets to do what they’ve always secretly wanted to do and to dance like no one’s watching… I dunno.


      • thomasbrady said,

        April 20, 2011 at 1:45 am

        are you referencing that WCW poem where he dances by himself in front of a mirror…the dreck produced by WCW shouldn’t be called poetry…it should be called woetry. Yes, that’s better. The Woetry of William Carlos Williams.

      • Mark said,

        April 20, 2011 at 1:58 am

        I’ve never read that poem, Tom.

        I’m not the biggest WCW fan, really.

  18. April 19, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Well, I think I meant to say:

    @ Christopher. I love you, man. Stop being such a dick!

    But, hell, it ain’t easy to type this late at night when you’re this drunk. And even better, that kind of ridiculous syntax could even win you a Pulitzer these days.

  19. April 19, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Just to counter Woodman’s contention about my poetry re: metaphors, following is a poem that someone once described as “the first extended metaphor in a poem I ever saw that actually works”.

    I wrote this after my only brother died.

    Thin Ice

    Such thin ice and fragile,
    brittle on the pond. I’m afraid
    to even speak lest I crack it,
    afraid a single drifting leaf
    or tumbling berry, one lost feather
    of suggestion might fall to fracture
    and in breaking reveal the colder
    darkness underneath.

    This ice, though thin, protects.
    The cheerful white reflects a happy
    blue of sky, keeps me from
    black water and the beasts that
    hide beneath, the fear and loss,
    the confusion swimming just below
    this frosted, easily broken pane.

    Such thin ice and fragile,
    crystallized by this barren cold
    suspended between the opposing
    empty poles of my sorrow
    and its frozen anger.

    Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD-77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald


    • April 19, 2011 at 10:11 am

      Thanks, Gary. That’s a truly moving poem that I, for one, could live beside forever. Because “Thin Ice” is never going to stay still, it’s so charged. The “empty poles” are so full of potency and energy they’ll continue to tell us more however old we get, or much we know.

      The last stanza is a masterpiece even you can bow down before, Gary, as for certain it can tell even the author things he never thought he knew.


  20. April 19, 2011 at 7:50 am

    “my only brother”, that is. Jeez, I hate typos.

    Tpyos reayll scuk.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 19, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      fixed it Gary. Thanks for your poem.

  21. April 19, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Yes, I’m a dick, Gary.

    You can check out my measurements here

    The irony is that I didn’t realize how effective this little weeny was until it got selected.


  22. Martin Earl said,

    April 19, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Didn’t read the thread…at any rate, I’ve got a post up (“What’s Missing”) at Harriet about the same poem.
    Martin Earl

    • Nooch & Link support said,

      April 19, 2011 at 6:37 pm

      Harriet and Scarriet! Feel the détente,
      With much more (let’s hope) to follow—
      It’s like way back in 1975,
      When Soyuz linked up with Apollo.

    • Link Validation said,

      April 20, 2011 at 5:05 am

      So are we expected to believe Martin Earl lives in the Poetry Foundation Archives? Whoever posted this comment, purportedly by him, thinks he does — click on his name and you’ll see.

      So like so many “big name” visits to Scarriet, this one’s just puff.

      At least the author of the comment could have had some respect for Martin Earl’s integrity — Martin Earl would never visit a site just to puff himself up in the first place, and even if he did he’d never insult the site by saying he hadn’t read it!

  23. thomasbrady said,

    April 19, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Hi Martin,

    Harriet’s new look makes it harder to find past posts, but I found yours.

    You group Auden, Stevens, and Larkin together as dead white males who didn’t teach (except Auden briefly, at Michigan, right?) and contrast them with today’s poets posting this month on Harriet who do mostly teach and are more interested in machinations surrounding poetry, from identity politics to publishing issues.

    In what might be considered a dangerously conservative nostalgic fit, you say “Aubade’s” a great poem with no contemporary political concerns—which will surely make you an outsider among those young bloggers on Harriet—though Amber Tamblyn in her recent post shows her anti-feminist side in agreeing with Tina Fey in her book: it’s quality that counts, not whether that quality is produced by this many men or that many women.

    Anyway, this idea of teaching v. not teaching: I don’t think it’s that important, because every strong poet is pedagogical, whether they teach or not; Wallace Stevens didn’t teach, but he was writing lectures in his poems all the time, and poets who do teach merely extend that pedagogy (which all poets have, if they have ideas) into the classroom. One shouldn’t bang ideas over people’s heads either in one’s poems, or to one’s students in the classroom (if one is a good teacher). So whenever I hear talk of how Stevens, for instance, was an insurance executive and thus a more ‘pure’ poet because his work was distinct from his poetry, I just don’t think such a thing is really important. Stevens was trained at Harvad by Santayana—he was made in the academy, even if he didn’t finally teach there.


    • Mark said,

      April 19, 2011 at 9:52 pm

      “Amber Tamblyn in her recent post shows her anti-feminist side in agreeing with Tina Fey in her book: it’s quality that counts, not whether that quality is produced by this many men or that many women.”

      I know that for Scarriet’s sake you work hard to keep your total ignorance of the last 100 years intact but feminism is kind of a big idea. You should probably make an effort to know what it is.

      This sentiment is not anti-feminist at all.

      However, you learning about the true meaning of feminism is going to have to wait, Charlie Brown. We were going to have a debate over on the About Scarriet thread, weren’t we?

      Let’s go do it to it!

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 20, 2011 at 1:33 am

        “feminism is kind of a big idea..”

        Too big for you, apparently.

      • Mark said,

        April 20, 2011 at 1:34 am

        How so?

  24. Poem support said,

    April 20, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Vers de Société

    ‘My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps
    To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps
    You’d care to join us?’ In a pig’s arse, friend.
    Day comes to an end.
    The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed.
    And so ‘Dear Warlock-Williams: I’m afraid’ —

    Funny how hard it is to be alone.
    I could spend half my evenings, if I wanted,
    Holding a glass of washing sherry, canted
    Over to catch the drivel of some bitch
    Who’s read nothing but ‘Which’;
    Just think of all the spare time that has flown

    Straight into nothingness by being filled
    With forks and faces, rather than repaid
    Under a lamp, hearing the noise of wind,
    And looking out to see the moon thinned
    To an air-sharpened blade.
    A life, and yet how sternly it’s instilled

    ‘All solitude is selfish’. No one now
    Believes the hermit with his gown and dish
    Talking to God (who’s gone too); the big wish
    Is to have people nice to you, which means
    Doing it back somehow.
    ‘Virtue is social’. Are, then, these routines

    Playing at goodness, like going to church?
    Something that bores us, something we don’t do well
    (Asking that ass about his fool research)
    But try to feel, because, however crudely,
    It shows us what should be?
    Too subtle, that. Too decent, too. Oh hell,

    Only the young can be alone freely.
    The time is shorter now for company,
    And sitting by a lamp more often brings
    Not peace, but other things.
    Beyond the light stand failure and remorse
    Whispering ‘Dear Warlock-Williams: Why, of course’ —

    Philip Larkin

  25. April 21, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Dear Bob,
    It still seems to me pointless to interject a new poem into a detailed discussion about other poems unless the poem that is interjected is so obviously connected to the discussion that no further explanation is needed. I could probably come up with something based on “Vers de Société,” it being by the same author at least, but as there are still so many parts of the existing discussion hanging in the air, and the issues are still so hot, too, and unanswered, I’d rather not. And I wish you could respect that.

    It’s hard enough to follow an intense discussion in a blog format without extraneous material thrown in, like trying to follow a soccer game when balloons get tossed on the pitch.

    This actually happened not so long ago in a famous game between Sheffield United and Manchester City, the latter losing the match as a result of what appeared to be a real extra ball. I remember being amused at the time when a cynical Manchester City fan wrote in: “How else do you expect to make soccer actually fun to watch? Without the balloons, flaming s**t, deaths, toilet paper, streamers, the odd flare, and other garbage why would anyone watch it other than to get some sleep?” Perhaps you feel the same way, Bob, but many of us don’t — and I’m certainly not the only one who has asked you to stop.


    I agree with Link Validation that it is very unlikely to have been Martin Earl who posted the comment above — he would never have been rude or pushy like that, I feel sure. Also his concerns in his fine article at the Poetry Foundation are totally different from the discussion on Scarriet.

    As many visitors have taken the time to read the Harriet article, there’s one thing Martin Earl says that might be helpful to us here. “The poem itself, even though it is scrupulously formal, doesn’t seem to know it is a poem at all,” he writes, perceptively. Tom says the contrary above, that “Aubade’s” “formalism gleams, a white towering wonder, a singing cloud above a chattering wood” — which is hyperbole and bullshit together, and obviously just spoken to put Jack Myers’ poem in its place. The irony is that Tom’s encomium suits the imagery in “The Expert” much better than the lack of imagery in “Aubade!” But then Tom just reads what he’s got in his head and not what’s on the paper.

    “How emotion and intellect combine is one of the marvels of the poem,” Martin Earl also writes. “A variation on the English Ode, at once meditative but propelled forward by a strong sense of dread, it reads like well-honed Keats.”

    That would certainly be difficult to fit into the Brady “the Modernists-hate-the-Romantics” pigeon-hole, wouldn’t it?

    Good stuff — wish we had more of it here.


    • Nooch said,

      April 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm

      I will fight no more forever—
      I can no longer carry it—
      It’s distracting me from glorifying
      Poems and poets at Scarriet.

  26. April 21, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Church Going

    Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
    I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
    Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
    And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
    For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
    Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
    And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
    Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
    My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,

    Move forward, run my hand around the font.
    From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
    Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.
    Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
    Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
    ‘Here endeth’ much more loudly than I’d meant.
    The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
    I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
    Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

    Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
    And always end much at a loss like this,
    Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
    When churches fall completely out of use
    What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
    A few cathedrals chronically on show,
    Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
    And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
    Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

    Or, after dark, will dubious women come
    To make their children touch a particular stone;
    Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
    Advised night see walking a dead one?
    Power of some sort or other will go on
    In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
    But superstition, like belief, must die,
    And what remains when disbelief has gone?
    Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

    A shape less recognizable each week,
    A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
    Will be the last, the very last, to seek
    This place for what it was; one of the crew
    That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
    Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
    Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
    Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
    Or will he be my representative,

    Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
    Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
    Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
    So long and equably what since is found
    Only in separation – marriage, and birth,
    And death, and thoughts of these – for whom was built
    This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea
    What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
    It pleases me to stand in silence here;

    A serious house on serious earth it is,
    In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
    Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
    And that much never can be obsolete,
    Since someone will forever be surprising
    A hunger in himself to be more serious,
    And gravitating with it to this ground,
    Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
    If only that so many dead lie round.

    ……………………………………Philip Larkin



    If I were called in
    To construct a religion
    I should make use of water.

    Going to church
    Would entail a fording
    To dry, different clothes;

    My litany would employ
    Images of sousing,
    A furious devout drench,

    And I should raise in the east
    A glass of water
    Where any-angled light
    Would congregate endlessly.

    ……………………………………Philip Larkin



    What are days for?
    Days are where we live.
    They come, they wake us
    Time and time over.
    They are to be happy in:
    Where can we live but days?

    Ah, solving that question
    Brings the priest and the doctor
    In their long coats
    Running over the fields.

    ……………………………………Philip Larkin

  27. April 23, 2011 at 5:48 am

    Did that help you to get a feel for the way Poem Support could be used, to add poems that contribute specifically to a discussion?

    Extraneous poems, however “glorious,” are graffiti when they crash the context — or worse. I once called it “running illegal interference” in one of Tom’s sports, which was charitable. On the other hand, suggesting that QB Tom has the ref in his pocket is much worse, as it compromises your own integrity.

    I do believe you’re sincere, Bob, and like everybody else on the site enjoy your wit a lot. I just worry about your critical faculties, because saying you were just following instructions, or you didn’t know what was going on, or didn’t notice — or worst of all, didn’t care is a totally inadmissible defence in a massacre in any civilized community.

    If you love poetry so much you should be appalled by what Tom is doing to the it.


  28. Poem support said,

    April 23, 2011 at 8:37 am

    What’s Left

    Today I’m going into town to give away what’s left.
    I drag my memory down like a black wool suit,
    let the dead air disrobe from the last sad occasion,
    yawn, and inhale the house. It held me as my woman
    held me, while the shadows fell and filled my shape.

    In the market they will ask did I ever face my life?
    Yes I say, I sat inside it. Only backwards. I watched
    the beginning being crushed by landscapes rushing toward it.
    Now I toss that in for free, a black dot impossible to lift.

    I see the few small things I’ve gathered in the wagon
    make a quiet music. Moored on the warm river in the wood
    they nod in the mild wind like grown men settling down,
    then they change back into things I can’t tell from myself.

    At my age I should have one last child and face him
    like a mountain. Blind and deaf. Tell him it’s easy
    to learn when there’s nothing left. All this I hitch up
    to a strong dumb horse. He will pull it twitching into town,
    bearing high his faceful of flies like a torch.

    Jack Myers

  29. April 23, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Thanks for posting that, Bob, a poem that’s spot on for the thread. On the other hand, of course, it’s one which your partner will “hate” — unless of course Tom has some other “pedantic” axe to grind today, or point to “prove,” or “score” to settle.

    And here’s another — and then back to Tom Brady: “Larkin’s faithlessness is so pure that only divinity could have made it. Larkin pushes us to God just as the priest sometimes pushes us away,” he says, brilliantly, in the article.

    In the sentence before he had just said:

    In American company, even in the company of American poets, Larkin’s fierce, fanatical atheism wounds with its Englishy swift directness, recalling Shakespeare and Shelley with its emotional blade, true because ruthless [sic] in the way it manages to perfect subjectivity with a philosophical picture framed by god-like sound.

    Do you feel “Aubade” is NOT a religious poem after all, then, Tom — or vise versa? And the others?

    (Depends, of course, on the score — and there goes the bell!)


    Five Flights Up

    Still dark.
    The unknown bird sits on his usual branch.
    The little dog next door barks in his sleep
    inquiringly, just once.
    Perhaps in his sleep, too, the bird inquires
    once or twice, quavering.
    Questions—if that is what they are—
    answered directly, simply,
    by day itself.

    Enormous morning, ponderous, meticulous;
    gray light streaking each bare branch,
    each single twig, along one side,
    making another tree, of glassy veins…
    The bird still sits there. Now he seems to yawn.

    The little black dog runs in his yard.
    His owner’s voice arises, stern,
    “You ought to be ashamed!”
    What has he done?
    He bounces cheerfully up and down;
    he rushes in circles in the fallen leaves.

    Obviously, he has no sense of shame.
    He and the bird know everything is answered,
    all taken care of,
    no need to ask again.
    —Yesterday brought to today so lightly!
    (A yesterday I find almost impossible to lift.)

    …………………………………….Elizabeth Bishop


  30. thomasbrady said,

    April 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    “Five Flights Up” and “Aubade” both appear to be homages to “The Raven.”

    Larkin’s staring at his window in the darkness and musing on “what’s really there” must have been influenced by Poe’s poem. Also, Poe writes in “The Philosophy of Composition” that the frame of a definite space, a chamber, or room, is a strong approach.

    Bishop’s “the bird still sits there” requires no further comment.

    Not that I want to talk about Poe all day…

    • Mark said,

      April 23, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      I wouldn’t imagine you would want to talk about Poe all day…

      You’re not even interested enough to read the books that get published about EAP.

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm

        Perhaps we should discuss the essays in “The American Face of Edgar Poe,” (1995) because that seems to have launched the little Poe Renaissance that McGann mentioned. It can be read on-line, features authors McGann cites, and an extra bonus, it has an essay by Stanley Cavell who is Bernstein’s mentor…

      • Mark said,

        April 23, 2011 at 8:14 pm

        Why would I discuss something with someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about?… especially when that person (you, Tom) feels he can comment on things without having read them…

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm


      • Mark said,

        April 23, 2011 at 8:42 pm


  31. wfkammann said,

    April 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    “I had gone so far as the conception of a Raven—the bird of ill omen—monotonously repeating the one word, “Nevermore,” at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone, and in length about one hundred lines. Now, never losing sight of the object supremeness, or perfection, at all points, I asked myself—”Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?” Death—was the obvious reply. “And when,” I said, is the most melancholy of topics most poetical?” From what I have already explained at some length, the answer, here also, is obvious—”When it most closely allies itself to beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world—and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such a topic are those of a bereaved lover.

    “. . . I determined to produce continuously novel effects, by the variation of the application to the refrain—the refrain itself remaining, for the most part, unvaried.”

    From “The Philosophy of Composition,” which was first published in Graham’s Magazine, April, 1846.

    If you were a beautiful woman, Thom. If you were to die. If there could ever be a bereaved lover. Then you too might merit this piece of late romantic slop which seems to inspire you. “The silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain thrilled me.”

    Just Wagner in silk underwear without the leitmotifs.

    • Mark said,

      April 23, 2011 at 11:19 pm


      Poe is lucky he was such a good poet because if this is representative of his prose, then his prose is fucking terrible. This is really just wretched.

      I’ve never read any of his essays. I guess I’d be smart to stick with the poems.


  32. April 27, 2011 at 2:20 am

    thomasbrady said,
    April 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    “Five Flights Up” and “Aubade” both appear to be homages to “The Raven.”

    Larkin’s staring at his window in the darkness and musing on “what’s really there” must have been influenced by Poe’s poem. Also, Poe writes in “The Philosophy of Composition” that the frame of a definite space, a chamber, or room, is a strong approach.

    Bishop’s “the bird still sits there” requires no further comment.

    Not that I want to talk about Poe all day…

    Observe here a favorite Brady trick, and one that simply can’t be replied to without slipping on the silk underwear too.

    Tom knows full well that these two poems are not homages to the other poem at all, and that the citation lending the trope respectability is off the wall. But he hopes you will fall for it, flail about histrionically, get angry, and perhaps even leave — all of which makes him feel like Puppet Master #1. For him it’s not the argument but the control over the flailing of others that matters.

    He’s all red cape, and any bull will do.

    Perhaps Bill Carpenter would like to address where that sort of talent might get him.


    • Mark said,

      April 27, 2011 at 7:32 am

      I think this is why my not turning to histrionics has him so scared, Christopher.

      I pointed this out in the “About Scarriet” thread, but Tom said:
      “I said Olson’s Gloucester poem was influenced by ‘Our Town’ and you reacted as I knew you would, rejecting the comparison”

      I was able to prove that I didn’t reject the comparison. Tom, in saying this, pretty much admits that he was only making that connection to get a reaction out of me. When he didn’t get the reaction he had to lie.

      I don’t think Tom knows how to have a conversation with someone who isn’t a pedantic ideologue like him. This is why I’ve had to be so patient and this is why Tom is floundering about so pathetically now.


  33. Cliff Notes Support said,

    April 28, 2011 at 10:49 am

    thomasbrady said about “Five Flights Up,”
    April 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Bishop’s “the bird still sits there” requires no further comment.

    Yes, we agree with you on that, Thomas Brady. The bird like the dog have no sense of shame, the poem clearly tells us that. The bird and the dog both know everything is answered, all taken care of, no need to ask again.

    Which takes care of the bird and the dog.

    On the other hand, we feel that’s probably not the most important perspective in the poem, and that your focussing on it could be dismissed as a “straw man” argument set up to divert a reader from the weakness of your essay.

    We feel you should be careful about that.

  34. thomasbrady said,

    April 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
    `’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
    Only this, and nothing more.’

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
    And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
    For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore –
    Nameless here for evermore.

    And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
    Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    `’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
    Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; –
    This it is, and nothing more,’

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
    `Sir,’ said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
    That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the door; –
    Darkness there, and nothing more.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
    Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
    But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!’
    This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!’
    Merely this and nothing more.

    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
    Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
    `Surely,’ said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
    Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
    Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
    ‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’

    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
    In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door –
    Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door –
    Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

    Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
    By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
    `Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, `art sure no craven.
    Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore –
    Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

    Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
    Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
    Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door –
    Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
    With such name as `Nevermore.’

    But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
    That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
    Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
    Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before –
    On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’
    Then the bird said, `Nevermore.’

    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
    `Doubtless,’ said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
    Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
    Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore –
    Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
    Of “Never-nevermore.”‘

    But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
    Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
    What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
    Meant in croaking `Nevermore.’

    This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
    To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
    This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
    On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
    But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
    She shall press, ah, nevermore!

    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
    Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
    `Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee
    Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
    Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!’
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

    `Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! –
    Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
    Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
    On this home by horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
    Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!’
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

    `Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!
    By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore –
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore –
    Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?’
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

    `Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked upstarting –
    `Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
    Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!
    Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

    And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
    On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
    And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
    Shall be lifted – nevermore!

  35. Bill said,

    April 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    There’s a great recording of Basil Rathbone reading it.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm

      I have a wonderful recording of Vincent Price reading Shelley…

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