TWO FIFTHS SHEER FUDGE

There comes Poe, with his Raven, like Barnaby Rudge,
Three fifths of him genius and two fifths sheer fudge,
Who talks like a book of iambs and pentameters,
In a way to make people of common sense damn metres,
Who has written some things quite the best of their kind,
But the heart somehow seems all squeezed out by the mind.

James Russell Lowell is known for only this—perhaps because he used up all his genius on this one piece of writing.

This is perhaps the best damn with faint praise remark of all time, and it’s quoted again and again against Poe.

It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Scarriet thought it might be fun to turn this device on others.

W.H. Auden: 3/5 Smelly, 2/5 Wrinkled.

Charles Bernstein: 3/5 Karl, 2/5 Groucho

Harold Bloom: 3/5 Fudge, 2/5 Fudge

Helen Vendler: 3/5 Wallace, 2/5 Stevens

John Ashbery: 3/5 Non Sequitur, 2/5 What?

Marjorie Perloff: 3/5 Ezra Pound, 2/5 Nice Jewish Girl

Wallace Stevens: 3/5 Wittgenstein, 2/5 Dr. Suess

T.S. Eliot: 3/5 Henry James, 2/5 Rudyard Kipling

Ezra Pound: 3/5 On the make, 2/5 Make it new

Eileen Myles: 3/5 Boston Working-class Catholic  2/5 Lesbian

Allen Ginsberg: 3/5 Hairy, 2/5 Bald

William Kulik: 3/5 Max Jacob, 2/5 Buster Keaton

Sharon Olds: 3/5 Shere Hite, 2/5 Erica Jong

Janet Bowdan:  3/5 Anna Akhmatova, 2/5 Cynthia Ozick

Cynthia Ozick: 3/5 Hebrew mystic, 2/5 New Yawka

Nooch: 3/5 Dorothy Parker, 2/5 Mad Magazine

Christopher Woodman: 3/5 Michel Foucault, 2/5 Mr. Chips

Billy Collins: 3/5 Robert Frost, 2/5 Andy Rooney

Charles Olson: 3/5 Pound, 2/5 Thornton Wilder

Camille Paglia: 3/5 New Critic, 2/5 Pole Dancer

Margaret Atwood: 3/5 Robertson Davies, 2/5 Vanessa Redgrave

Walt Whitman: 3/5 Waldo Emerson, 2/5 Florence Nightingale

Ralph Waldo Emerson: 3/5 Seneca, 2/5 Nietzsche

Dante: 3/5 Lover, 2/5 Hanging Judge

Hart Crane: 3/5 Bombast, 2/5 Fish

John Berryman: 3/5 Whiskey, 2/5 Bored

Robert Lowell: 3/5 Amy Lowell, 2/5 Allen Tate

Anne Sexton: 3/5 Elinor Wylie, 2/5 Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath: 3/5 Anne Sexton, 2/5 Sophie Tucker

Rufus Griswold: 3/5 Anthologist, 2/5 Mobster

Frank O’Hara: 3/5 Let’s Do Lunch, 2/5 Let’s Do Poem

William Carlos Williams: 3/5 Haiku, 2/5 New Jersey

Jorie Graham: 3/5 Winner, 2/5 Judge

Mark Strand: 3/5 Surreal, 2/5 Stud

Bin Ramke: 3/5 Stain, 2/5 Smudge

Jeff Levine: 3/5 Tupelo, 2/5 Dupe, yo

Hilton Kramer: 3/5 Conservative, 2/5 Modernist

F.O. Matthiessen: 3/5 Whitman, 2/5 Harvard

Paul Engle: 3/5 Creative Writing, 2/5 Industry

Ted Genoways: 3/5 Fiendish, 2/5 Grudge

Aldous Huxley: 3/5 Tea, 2/5 LSD

Melville: 3/5 Moby Dick, 2/5 Pym

Dostoevsky: 3/5 Notes from the Underground, 2/5 Tell-Tale Heart

Robert Pinsky: 3/5 Trumpet Blast, 2/5 Lisp

Matthew Dickman: 3/5 Michael Dickman, 2/5 Billy Collins

Michael Dickman: 3/5 Matthew Dickman, 2/5 Michael Dickman

Jack Spicer: 3/5 Alien Radio Broadcast, 2/5 Alcohol

Thomas Transtromer: 3/5 Swedish, 2/5 Sludge

Tony Hoagland: 3/5 Billy Collins, 2/5 Talk Radio

Philip Larkin: 3/5 Song, 2/5 Smut

Byron: 3/5 Beat, 2/5 Sinatra

Shelley: 3/5 Atheist, 2/5 God

Keats: 3/5 Garden, 2/5 Sweet shop

Edna Millay: 3/5 Shakespeare, 2/5 Socialist

Alan Cordle: 3/5 Librarian, 2/5 Dark Knight

Ron Silliman: 3/5 Video Support, 2/5 Text Support

Ford Madox Ford: 3/5 Yellow Book, 2/5 War Crook

William Logan: 3/5 Critic, 1/500 Poet

Samuel Johnson: 3/5 Tory, 2/5 Boring

John Crowe Ransom: 3/5 Suit, 2/5 Flute

Travis Nichols: 3/5 Who? 2/5 Oh.

James Tate: 3/5 Wink, 2/5 Nudge

Rupert Brooke: 3/5 English, 2/5 Trudge

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102 Comments

  1. Marcus Bales said,

    April 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Thomas Graves: 3/5 Sophomoric, 2/5 rapier

  2. April 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Boy, I’d hate to figure in a list like this.

    Lists? Gossip? What’s the difference?

    It’s articles like this make me want to throw up.

    Scoring poets? Like “scoring” in love relationships. Or what base you got to, when her privacy was just an obstacle, her body just a playing field to demonstrate your prowess. And then talk about it.

    Narcissistic. Predatory.

    • Mark said,

      April 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm

      I read the first couple… the Bernstein line was sort of clever but it pretty quickly devolved into the same old tired Scarriet axe-grinding so I gave up.

      Tom only has maybe three points to make – he’s just been making them over and over for the last five years. No wonder people run away from this place in droves.

      Here we have more of Graves argument #2, which can be summarized as such:

      Tom: “Some scholars 50-100 years ago didn’t like Edgar Allan Poe… And I, Thomas Graves, am going to bitch and moan about it even though there is a minor Poe renaissance that’s been going on for the last 20 years being supported by the most famous “Language Poet” on the planet… but I, Thomas Graves, obviously have no part in it because I’m not smart enough and I’m so lazy that I don’t even bother to read the books that are coming out. Waaa waaa waaaa”

      (You have to imagine that bit in quotations being said as if by a petulent child pouting… since that’s what Tom is, anyway)

  3. Further entries support said,

    April 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    James Dickey: 3/5 New Southerner, 2/5 Burt Reynolds

    Rosemary Daniell: 3/5 Steel Magnolia, 2/5 Cher

  4. thomasbrady said,

    April 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Paul: 3/5 John, 2/5 Ringo

    • Marcus Bales said,

      April 24, 2011 at 9:34 pm

      Too generous. Paul: 3/5 Ringo, 2/5 John

      • Mark said,

        April 24, 2011 at 10:43 pm

        Too generous by far. Paul: 4/5 Ringo, 1/5 Brian Wilson

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 25, 2011 at 1:46 am

        For No One, Lady Madonna, Get Back, Let It Be, Long & Winding Road, Michelle, Eleanor Rigby, Penny Lane, Here, There, & Everywhere, Things We Said Today, All My Loving, Hey Jude, Blackbird, Back in the USSR, Magical Mystery Tour, Lovely Rita, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Yesterday, etc are much closer to John than Ringo…

  5. Bill said,

    April 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Tom, I can’t believe you keep pouring out this entertaining poetry journalism for this apparently tiny audience. Mark complains that you don’t talk about what he wants to talk about the way he wants to talk about it, but if there is more entertaining poetry journalism anywhere, I would like to hear about it. I fear your talents are being wasted here–shouldn’t you be doing stand-up comedy at readings and poetry conferences? How about cutting some recordings for public radio? Mark, you’re no doubt a deep and talented gentleman, but don’t you know from talk radio that the caller whose dialog does not fit the format never gets what he wants? Still it is a major contribution the way you keep provoking and badgering the host. Good work, all.

    • Nooch said,

      April 24, 2011 at 10:20 pm

      Bill, I’ve been saying lately,
      While going through Kleenex,
      That Brady should do a “Poetry Beat”
      Column for “The Boston Phoenix.”

    • Mark said,

      April 24, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      I don’t dislike the format, Bill (though I can’t stand talk radio!). I was actually enjoying March Madness when I got here – for all the corny jokes it’s a nice excuse to read a bunch of poems I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise. Plus, I’m no academic and I have no special love for LangPo et al – I really enjoy seeing the piss taken out of poetry. Tom has tried to paint me as some sort of oppositional ideologue but I’ve never stood behind Modernism or its variants during my time here. Despite what Tom accuses me of – without any grounds to do so – I’m actually into the classics and like my poetry accessible and funny (Chaucer is my main literary squeeze at the moment).

      Poetry has gotten too serious in the last 30 years . Tom is actually right – too much Karl not enough Groucho.

      I dislike liars, though. Tom can talk about whatever he wants but if he wants to tell lies then I’m going to have a problem. Simple as that.

      My most recent post on the About Scarriet thread outlines five of Tom’s most recent lies – you’re welcome to check it out.

      • Mark said,

        April 24, 2011 at 10:42 pm

        Remember:

        My initial complaints were minor – a poorly constructed argument is not the end of the world. I think Tom likes the drama of this though. I think that’s why it’s all spiralled out over the last month.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 25, 2011 at 1:36 am

      Thanks, Bill

      I should go hi-tech and make Thomas Brady audios & videos…

      But for now, this ‘old-fashioned’ format will have to do…

  6. Wfkammann said,

    April 24, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Tom Brady 3/5 ignoramus, 4/5 village idiot

  7. April 25, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Dylan Thomas: 3 fifths

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 25, 2011 at 1:32 am

      nice one, gary

  8. Kevin said,

    April 25, 2011 at 7:16 am

    • noochinator said,

      July 8, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      Hey Kevin — I got the Soundcloud link to work — only took a bit over four years….

  9. Kevin said,

    April 25, 2011 at 7:32 am

    The site doesn’t seem to allow embedded Soundcloud files. I recorded Lowell’s Fable for Critics, the ode to Emerson section, last year, after picking up a book of American poetry during a freestyle recording session at Ingus the Latvian’s basement/bedroom studio. It’s here on my Soundcloud account, Poem of the Week.

    What you hear is me reading it for the very first time, and I was very much struck by it’s poetic power. It was the week I recorded Emerson’s Snow poem, and though Tom likes to rant and rave about these two being fake intellectuals who cunningly fooled everyone but him with there writings designed to mask, with a veneer of intellectualism, their basic suckiness and shitty thought processes, especially Emerson; I think it is safe to say that, though Tom’s journalistic satirical writings on contemporary poetry, may become part of an official canon someplace in gaga land that aint existent as of yet, what Grave’s has written thus far in his career as a blogger, whilst some may find superior in poetic grace and elan to Emerson and Lowell, I am willing to wager, will live only in the memory of a hard-drive in his offspring’s attic.

  10. Kevin said,

    April 25, 2011 at 7:47 am

    As for the ratings rise, I think we can put that down, failry and squarely, to the appearance of Mark, who is really me, in disguise rehearsing a voice I have been developing for the last while. (Only joking Mark) So, let’s not get carried away here, Tom, it’s been a very embarrasing month for you. You finally met a person with the patience and goodwill to expose your posturing for what it is: a desire to be famous under the vague rubric of ‘poetry’, that Mark unmasked as being exactly that.

    1 – You refused to answer his questions, and eventually succeeded in dragging it out so that any new readers now, who haven’t read the early stages of your exchange, will only see you both arguing over something they will not be clear about.

    2 – In the process you made it abundently clear that this gaffe is merely a vehicle for yourself and others, including myself, to perform a freewheeling Punch and Judy routine in which the primary protaganists get to bash each other over the head, our poetic of the pantomime alive and well, entertaining the people here, much as traffic accidents do rubberneckers bored with their gated and incredibly controlled ‘conversation’ on contemporary poetries served up in anodyne chat-gaffes elsewhere online.

    3 – Why is it that Soundcloud cannot embedd, when only a short while ago it could? Is it because you, fearing spoken word being brought directly to your lair, and ‘rival’ colleagues, as you see it, using your space as their own stage; you pettily disabled this option in the Adminstration Pane, thereby proving how insecure you really are?

    • Mark said,

      April 25, 2011 at 7:55 am

      Probably less patience and goodwill than it is me being paid to stay in bed while I have this cast on my leg…

      Just sayin’

      If I had anything better to do, I’d do it (and when I do, I will).

      Cheers,
      Ke…
      I mean “Mark”

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 25, 2011 at 7:03 pm

      Kevin,

      Rest assured, I’m not blocking any Soundcloud. I’m not sure why it’s not working—are you posting it in the same manner? Sorry about that.

      “You refused to answer any questions.” (Sigh) So you’re joining the inquisition, too?

      Mark’s m.o. is to decontextualize actual discussions by posting remarks after the fact, such as ‘you haven’t answered my questions!’ I don’t expect anyone to read back over myriads of comments to find who said what when—nor does Mark, so he levels charges of “lies” and so forth, and leaves them hanging there, without any support or proof, except perhaps some highly edited extracts—and with enough persistence, hopes to convince readers that I’m a fraud. Of course this won’t work, and I don’t know why Mark is wasting his energy. Mark could post anything he wants, but he wastes his energy on this nonsense, instead. Readers can see for themselves what’s up; they don’t need Mark saying “You stink!” to help them.

      I don’t expect you to go back and read every comment, but I have answered questions and replied to Mark. He spends more ink bashing than I do; but please don’t be fooled.

      Tom

  11. Mark said,

    April 25, 2011 at 7:50 am

    There comes Tom, lies exposed, and still he won’t budge,
    Three fifths of an inch for his penis and his writing’s pure sludge,
    Who talks about books with which he’s not acquainted
    In a way to make poesy itself become tainted,
    Who has written some poems that are really quite dreadful
    & resorts quick to lies (of which he’s got a head full).

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm

      That’s actually quite good.

      Bravo!

      • Mark said,

        April 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm

        After the fact I realize it probably should have been “sheer sludge”
        but nevertheless…

        *curtsey*

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm

        No, you were right: ‘pure sludge’ rolls off the tongue much better than ‘sheer sludge.’

  12. Bill said,

    April 25, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Thanks for your replies. To give further credit where due, Marcus Bales’ Gilbert and Sullivan reply to postmodernism, posted on Scarriet, was the greatest. I hope he’ll post more here. Mark, you say Tom likes the drama. Exactly, he is a performance artist, he has a real gift for it beyond and beside his entertaining content. At some point he will feel he has run through his anti-modernist material and leave it behind, along with his advocacy for Poe and Shelley. Kevin mocks Tom for letting himself get beaten up in public, but as Ishmael sort of says, there’s substance who someone who let’s himself be laughed at. The Woodman Challenge post was inspired, suggesting there is a whole vein of Dostoyevskyan self-abasement waiting for Tom to mine.

    It must be a chore for one person to have to generate enough material. Some blogs wither just because the blogger can’t post often enough, and other blogs thrive based on a small team of productive contributors. Some bloggers take total control of the comments to generate content, which can be a good way to both prevent the blog from being dragged down by nasty idiocy and fill the columns.

    Mark, you can’t do better than Chaucer. No “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” in Chaucer, which is tantamount to “the old God is dead, I am prepared to rule the world.” But don’t you mean poetry has taken itself too seriously for the last 200 years? Doesn’t Shelley exemplify that? But you can forgive him because it is really the significance of the content he exalted, not the contentless role of the poet, which seems to be what Tom objects to in Modernists and contemporary “po-biz.” I found the spirit of Chaucer fully present in Masefiled’s Reynard the Fox, which I am reading because the editor of John Masefield’s Great War called it his war epic. Haven’t figured that out, but it is great Chaucer in totally competent and inventive iambic tetrameter couplets.

    I look forward to seeing Tom continue to unfold his performance art.

  13. Bill said,

    April 25, 2011 at 10:57 am

    PS. I note that no one has pointed me to any other source of entertaining poetry journalism. As Bertie Wooster would say, “Brady, you stand alone.”

  14. Mark said,

    April 25, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Bill

    I suspect you’re right about the lot of this. Tom does indeed have a gift for the dramatic. I’m also sure that his “love” of Poe and Shelley has no real substance to it and is just a part of his schtick.

    I’ll just say that, to my mind, the difference between a good comedian and a bad one is that in good comedy there is a reason for the jokes to exist.

    Bad comedy can be funny and entertaining but good comedy is so much more satisfying. MAD magazine, for all the silliness, had a point to make. When I first arrived at Scarriet I thought that the same could be said… I now think otherwise.

    Foetry.com had a reason to exist. Does Scarriet?

    You’re probably right about 200 years of serious poetry being far too long without a good laugh. There have always been funny poets (Bernstein, when he isn’t writing lists of random words that make my eyes glaze over, can be really really funny) but some sacred cows definitely still need to be ground up and bbq’ed.

    A good lampooning is always necessary but what’s being lampooned on Scarriet? 100 year old beliefs that were abandoned 50 years ago? Tom needs more recent material. He’s been making the same three jokes for literally years. If all my campaign achieves is getting Tom to freshen up his act and stop trotting out these old Borscht Belt chestnuts I’ll consider myself a success.

    and I don’t want to sound hopelessly old-fashioned here, but don’t Poe and Shelley deserve better than Tom’s treatment of them? Obviously there’s a lot of material with these guys – Shelley’s atheism alone! – but I wonder when having fun with them becomes USING them in a crass way.

    We’ve got to tread carefully and question things as they come up. Shelley’s work was a total revelation for me as a young college student – I’m happy to poke fun and have a laugh at his expense but when he becomes the butt of the joke (or worse a pawn being used to advance some hackneyed polemic) then I’m out.

    I feel that if he once tread this line – Tom has been left unchecked long enough that he has crossed it.

    Mark

    PS – I’ll look into that Masefield work you mentioned but, as Gary will happily condescend to tell you, my “literary education” is in an “unfortunate” state because I didn’t immediately get his reference to a book I haven’t read since I was 11. Maybe we can convince Professor Fitzgerald to put Masefield on the syllabus… hopefully without bumping any of the (yawn) important works about Taoism. 🙂

  15. Bill said,

    April 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Mark, speaking of eleven, that was when we read Masefield’s “Sea Fever” in school. I liked it at the time, but haven’t looked at Masefield again for decades, until recently. I won’t say “Sea Fever” is a bad poem, but every other poem in his 1100-page collection is better, including all the other early sea poems, some of which read like Melville’s sea poems. Does the anthologist-educator deserve blame for summarizing Masefield with his lowest-ranking poem, or praise for at least planting his name in the furrows of young brains?

    • Mark said,

      April 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      Bill,

      I won’t speak on behalf of your 5th grade teacher (and mine was a real bastard) but I think a lot of uninteresting poetry gets passed on to youngish readers because it’s seen as “accessible” – when something a little more difficult might be a lot more interesting and therefore have a greater capacity to capture the attention/imagination (despite the extra work). Maybe that’s the case with Masefield

      There was an interesting bit about this on JJ Gallagher’s “Nothing to Say & Saying It” blog recently – something gets screwy when I try to link to stuff here but it was April 19th. He talks about how to introduce students to poetry (I’m simplifying of course). The question can be asked more generally though. If no one is reading poetry then what effect does that have on poets and their art? Should they try and ease people back in with accessible poems or should they appeal to the sort of reader who would revel in something a little more difficult?

      I’m as opposed to the academic radicals (have I just coined a new oxymoron?) of LangPo as I am to the gentle, tedious, Best American Poetry bathroom reading for old-people school of poetry so it’s hard for me to say. I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse here.

      If those are my only options for current poetry I’ll stay back in the 14th Century, thanks.

      Mark

  16. April 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Dear Bill and Mark,
    What a pleasure — Scarriet again on it’s own!

    Welcome, Bill — how I wish I could offer you refreshments but I too am just a lucky visitor.

    But maybe these will do — and do tell me which you find more delicious at Easter.

    THE FIRST EASTER

    Dead they left Him in the tomb
    And the impenetrable gloom,
    Rolled the great stone to the door,
    Dead, they thought, forevermore.

    Then came Mary Magdalene
    Weeping to that bitter scene,
    And she found, to her dismay,
    That the stone was rolled away.

    Cometh Peter then and John,
    Him they’d loved to look upon,
    And they found His linen there
    Left within the sepulcher.

    “They have taken Him away!”
    Mary cried that Easter Day.
    Low, she heard a voice behind:
    “Whom is it you seek to find?”

    “Tell me where He is!” she cried,
    “Him they scourged and crucified.
    Here we left Him with the dead!”
    “Mary! Mary!” Jesus said.

    So by Mary Magdalene
    First the risen Christ was seen,
    And from every heart that day
    Doubt’s great stone was rolled away.

    ………………………………………Edgar Guest

    .

    LOVE

    Love bade me welome; yet my soul drew back,
    ……Guilty of dust and sin.
    But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
    ……From my first entrance in,
    Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
    ……If I lack’d anything.

    “A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here:”
    ……Love said, “you shall be he.”
    “I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
    ……I cannot look on Thee.”
    Love took me by my hand and smiling did reply,
    ……“Who made the eyes but I?”

    “Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
    ……Go where it doth deserve.”
    “And know you not,” says Love, “Who bore the blame?”
    ……“My dear, then I will serve.”
    “You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
    ……So I did sit and eat.

    ………………………………………George Herbert

    .
    And to make the point even more topically viv a vis the old Scarriet, you might want to check out how we used to be able to deal with such original “troubled creativity” HERE .

    Christopher

    • Mark said,

      April 25, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      Not because Edgar Guest has been made into a boogyman here lately but I don’t care for Guest’s poem. Even beyond the somewhat schlocky Christianity of it, it’s kind of clunky.

      I expect a bit more music in that type of poem… or any type of poem, really.

      Christopher,

      I followed your link and enjoyed your article but (unsurprisingly) found Tom’s comments unbearable. Those sorts of outbursts put Bill’s suspicion that Scarriet is some sort of meta-joke very much into question. Tom’s insistence that “there is only surface” is sort of funny (and telling!) but his objection to Station of the Metro is a scream!

      Mark

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 25, 2011 at 9:59 pm

        I agree the Guest Easter poem is clunky. though it has its moments….

        How could one possibly equate Edgar Guest with Billy Collins???

        I mean, really.

  17. Bill Carpenter said,

    April 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Christopher, thanks for the fine poems (I prefer the Herbert but don’t despise the Guest) and the link to interesting past discussions. Mark, just because it’s difficult to spread poetry to the uninitiated doesn’t mean YOU have to stay in the 14th c. Just as Tom Brady is a tireless advocate for Shelley and Poe, I’m a tireless advocate for Frank Stanford (the battlefield where the moon says I love you, 1979) and Frederick Turner (Genesis, 1987).

    • Mark said,

      April 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      I was being a bit over-the-top, there Bill.
      I’m suspicious of movements in poetry but I love a lot of individual poets past AND present.

      I’m afraid I don’t know Frederick Turner… but wikipedia calls Genesis a “science fiction epic poem.”

      I’m honestly not sure what I make of that.

      Mark

  18. April 25, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Mark said:

    PS – I’ll look into that Masefield work you mentioned but, as Gary will happily condescend to tell you, my “literary education” is in an “unfortunate” state because I didn’t immediately get his reference to a book I haven’t read since I was 11. Maybe we can convince Professor Fitzgerald to put Masefield on the syllabus… hopefully without bumping any of the (yawn) important works about Taoism.”

    Hee hee. I’m starting to like you more and more, Mark. Touched a nerve, did I?

    P.S. I doubt if anyone ever read ‘Don Quixote’ or ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ at age eleven or, if they did, comprehended them.

    • Mark said,

      April 25, 2011 at 8:28 pm

      Nah,

      We’re all good Gary. I was serious when I said you seem like a good dude and that your posts are usually really good. I do wonder why you feel the need to get involved but I’m hoping you’re going to post about that over in the About Scarriet thread.

      I’ve never read Quixote but I did read Gulliver’s when I was a lad.

      I went through a period of just devouring anything that said Classic on the cover – anything I’d heard referenced on Tiny Toons or Animaniacs, I suppose. Obviously the satire went over my head but I enjoyed the hell out of it nonetheless.

      One day I’ll make a return trip to Liliput and Brobdingnag…

      Mark

  19. Bill said,

    April 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Mark,
    Since you are kind enough to ask, Genesis is a blank verse epic poem that recounts the terraforming of Mars and the civil war between earth and the Martian colonists that results. It takes place in the mid-21st century, I believe. Earth at that time is ruled by the United Nations, which is ruled by the Eco-theist church. The Eco-theists hate the Martian colonists for destroying Mars’s natural state to create a new world. It is a phenomenal poem. The monologue of the Sybill in the last chapters is a high point of religious/philosophical poetry.

    Turner also wrote a wonderful novel (A Double Shadow) about life on Mars that takes place much later, say seven hundred years from now.

    His The New World (1985?) is an epic poem that takes place in the former “Uess” of the 24th century, when the country has broken up into warring counties. I believe it is in a loose hexameter.

    Turner’s collection of poems The Garden (1979?) is an essay in mythopoeia, a Blakean enterprize in formulating a workable mythology.

    Bill

  20. April 25, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    “Since you are kind enough to ask, Genesis is a blank verse epic poem that recounts the terraforming of Mars and the civil war between earth and the Martian colonists that results…

    The monologue of the Sybill in the last chapters is a high point of religious/philosophical poetry.”

    Ha ha ha, ha, ha, hee hee, ho ho ho, ha hah ha hah ha ha ha ha ho ho!

    Do you hear that? Can you hear that noise? Is it a tornado, a whirlwind?

    No…just the sound of a hundred poets spinning in their graves!

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

  21. Mark said,

    April 25, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    I’m also a bit skeptical, Bill, but I’m not about to shit all over something I haven’t read like Gary is (that’s a real Graves-esque move, Fitzy). The last book you mention sounds appealing – mythopoeia can be a wonderful thing.

    That said, I’m not really a sci-fi guy so, like I said, I’m not sure how I feel.

    Mark

  22. April 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Did you see that? Blake’s corpse just spun right up out of the dirt! Dante’s monument has broken in half. The bell is ringing in the church where Donne is buried! Hopkins just went airborne.

    Science fiction “a high point of religious/philosophical poetry.”

    CBS just now reported that Joseph Campbell has resurrected from the dead.

    I don’t grok this.

  23. Mark said,

    April 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I’m definitely not about to defend a poem I haven’t read – and Bill doesn’t exactly sell it in the most convincing way – but I do think that the sci-fi genre has produced some truly great novels in the 20th century.

    I wonder if a hundred novelists spun in their graves when Jules Verne or Philip K Dick picked up the pen.

    Somehow I doubt it.

    Mark

    PS – Oh, but fuck Stranger in a Strange Land… Heinlein blows.

    • Mark said,

      April 25, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      … not that Jules Verne wrote in the 20th century…

      I just dug him when I was a kid. That’s all.

  24. Bill said,

    April 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Gary, if you have read all this Turner and hated it, you are entitled to your opinion, but if you’re just going on pure prejudice you are making a mistake.

    I’m not a sci-fi guy either, but Genesis is a great epic poem! Show me a better one from the 20th century!

  25. April 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Hey, I’m as open-minded as the next guy. Maybe Bill could post a few lines from Turner that represent “a high point of religious/philosophical poetry.”

    If deserving, I will gladly acknowledge its merit. And, if so, maybe we can put Blake back in the grave again.

    (oh, and, for Mark, Lao tzu (yawn) as well (as if you had a clue).

    • Mark said,

      April 25, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      What an exceptionally “open-minded” response this was then, Gary:

      “Ha ha ha, ha, ha, hee hee, ho ho ho, ha hah ha hah ha ha ha ha ho ho!”

      You’re “as open-minded as the next guy”…
      if the next guy happens to be Tom! 🙂

      Mark

  26. April 25, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    To all:

    I don’t know what your financial situation is, but if you need a little extra cash I have been advised that the American Academy of Sciences is offering $50.00 to anyone willing to provide a little blood for a research study attempting to verify and identify a ‘humor gene’ in humans. It is well known that some humans have no sense of humor, but what is unknown is if this is a result of their upbringing or genetic make-up.

    You should pursue this opportunity. I have learned that some who have actually contributed to this experiment have been confirmed to have no sense of humor at all..

    • Mark said,

      April 25, 2011 at 11:23 pm

      Oh! I get it!

      You laughing at someone because they mentioned a book you haven’t read is a joke!

      Good one! You should write for Leno!

  27. April 25, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Well, where are the lines from Bill that would refute my contention?

    Here’s a good competition for Brady’s ‘March Madness’…Turner (“a high point of religious/philosophical poetry.”) vs. Blake, Dante, Donne, Hopkins…even Fitzgerald. Hello?

  28. April 25, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Mark…isn’t it time for your meds? Get some rest, dude.

  29. Mark said,

    April 25, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    O Open-Minded One,

    You were being serious? You were making a “contention” when you laughed in Bill’s face because he mentioned a book that you, by your own admission, haven’t read?

    But I thought you were kidding!
    What with all that stuff about people needing to have a sense of humour? Why would we need to have a sense of humour if you weren’t joking?

    Laughing at someone isn’t the sort of joke I’m inclined to laugh at but calling it a contention is fucking pathetic. Bill can post some of the poem if he wants – and maybe he will and it will suck – but you’ve already made up your mind, Gary.

    Lao Tzu would be so disappointed in you, son.

  30. April 26, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Your arrogance is downright humorous, SON.

    Like I said: “It is well known that some humans have no sense of humor, but what is unknown is if this is a result of their upbringing or genetic make-up”

    • Mark said,

      April 26, 2011 at 2:35 am

      Probably my upbringing – I’m actually a lab experiment gone horribly awry. That’s why I have no last name.

      “Gary B. Fitzgerald said,
      April 26, 2011 at 12:23 am

      Your arrogance is downright humorous, SON.”

      ~

      I aim to please! 🙂

      My only point is/was that even if you HAD read the book (which you hadn’t) and HATED it (which you didn’t): to make a big drama-queeny show of laughing at Bill is sort of a douchey manoeuvre. I think it was a far more arrogant display than anything I’ve said to you.

      You can call my sense of humour into question if you’d like – I’m not opposed to jokes and I’m not even necessarily opposed to a joke at someone’s expense as long as it’s funny. Your reaction was lame and condescending.

      You can call it a “contention”, you can call it an extension of your “sense of humor” – I call it being sort of a dick and that’s exactly what I said.

      Sorry Fitzy. That’s the way I see it. Don’t like it? Tough.
      I’m not here to coddle anyone.

  31. Wfkammann said,

    April 26, 2011 at 3:46 am

    Oh, but I AM. Poor Fitzy tried that holier than Thou act on me once here. In those days he spoke German and wasn’t just the hole with the spokes all round. The loquacious Taoist with the cat-o-nine-tails. 6/5 Daoist!

  32. Bill said,

    April 26, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Gary,
    Nooch posted the whole of Genesis some time in the last two weeks. When I get to work I will find an excerpt for you.

  33. Bill said,

    April 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Genesis, Act V, Scene v
    The Roses

    But then the story would renew itself,
    As time does always, as after a sleep
    The healthy body yawns, looks round, begins
    To think about a bite for breakfast; as
    The love’s ardor at a nape or ankle
    Will, after trance, suffuse the world once more
    With warm and lovely colors, delicate.
    But we must strike out at an angle from
    The self-renewing flow of mortal things
    That for a moment we may see their meaning
    And set an end to this one course of time;
    For endings are the pruning of the branch
    That makes it bud, that makes the mystic flower.

    “How do we know the truth,” the Sibyl said,
    “Between two explanations, or a thousand,
    Each with an equal claim to evidence,
    Each with an equal logical coherence?
    It is the beauty of that one which marks it
    So that the scientist-philosopher
    Is in no doubt where our allegiance lies.
    And if we would extract the seed, the essence
    Of the truth, we must know the ways of beauty.
    For beauty is the oneness of the tree
    Of life with and within the tree of knowledge,
    Its oversapience that makes it spring
    To further budding as it mates itself;
    And if that branchingness is all that is,
    Then beauty is the secret name of being.
    Consider how the plants and animals
    Blaze to their loveliest expressiveness,
    The flower, the paroxysm of their song,
    The ritual dance, the flash of scale or feather,
    Just at the moment when they pass their being
    Over to the following generation;
    Thus beauty is continuance of time.
    But sex does not produce a printed copy;
    The being that is reproduced is neither
    Copy nor monster, and the space between
    Is what we mean by beauty, beautiful.
    Survival thus is nothing but transcendence.

    “How may we know the good? Old Socrates
    Who was my friend when I was Diotima,
    Took his last drink because he asked a question:
    Is an act good because the gods have willed it
    Or do the gods will it because it’s good?
    If good is but the power of the gods
    We need no word for it and no concern
    To find it out; it is what we can do
    Because we’re not restrained from doing it.
    How then do the good gods know what’s good?
    What was that light elusive Gautama
    Preached of, behind the netveil of the eye?
    That gentlest of friends, whose feet I bathed
    With tears and myrrh, said that the good was Love,
    And he in turn bathed his disciples’ feet.
    What is it that we love, what draws our love?
    Why do they paint my Krishna’s body blue?
    The heart and inner seed of love is beauty.
    When all commandments have been laid away,
    Being but parables to clothe the soul
    Into her thalamus, her marriage-chamber;
    When every strict accounting of her acts
    Be rendered, stricken from the reckoning;
    When every ‘why’ is answered;—there is left
    But the one law, to love the beautiful.

    “So truth and goodness are the first two leaves
    That branch from the archaic stem of beauty;
    Or better yet, the father and the mother
    Are truth and goodness, but the heavenly child,
    That makes them what they are, and why they are,
    Is the divine fruitfulness of beauty.
    The two great revelations of the Earth
    Were truth and goodness; now we hold the third,
    The comerstone rejected by the builders,
    The thing we need another world to know,
    The loveliness that is the seed of love.
    As being is the outer form of truth,
    And loving is the outer form of goodness,
    Creating is the outer form of beauty.

    “Those who would be disposed to set it light
    Say beauty’s in the eye of the beholder.
    But all the universe is eyes, and ‘I’s,
    And all that is is what those eyes behold.
    Sensation is the densest form of being,
    Perception is the concretest sensation,
    Esthesis is the sharpest of perception.
    The stone records the presence of a tree
    By mass and by electromagnetism:
    That is the tree’s whole being for the stone.
    The deer can know the tree by shape and color—
    What to the stone would be ghosts invisible.
    The boy who sees the tree as beautiful
    Knows it so much more clearly than the deer
    As does the deer more clearly than the stone.
    The power his species wields to make such judgments,
    Ratified by its mastery of Mars,
    Enfranchises the vision of the boy.
    Ten billion years the universe has labored
    To see itself through our confirming eyes;
    That gaze must sum its being as beautiful.

    “And what the mystics felt was nothing less
    Than that totality, that radiance
    Which is the god herself awakening
    To dream herself to being in ourselves.
    Whatever is the whole, the eye that sees it
    Is ecstatic, and must find its proper place
    Outside the boundary of all it sees;
    And in its step back from the living edge
    Of all that is, it grows another limb
    Upon the many-branched frontier of being.
    The dendrites of the great tree of the brain,
    Whose cortex is that single milkwhite rose,
    The living metaphor of the whole world,
    Glow into music as the vision stirs,
    And their soft nodes distil a heady fragrance
    That bells the skull a lanternful of light;
    And the sweet bees of the cell vesicles
    Carry the pollen to the pistilled axon;
    And molecules of pattem never known
    Record the pregnant kiss of mothering.
    The liquor of that consummation drenches
    The forked and blossomed panicles of nerves,
    And forms a mighty image in the eyes
    And words of the illuminated seers,
    The holy shamans and the inflamed saints.
    That image is the trace or touch of God:
    When they would represent it, it appears
    As a mandala or the beating waves
    Of a repeated chant; each circle is
    The new boundary of included time,
    The new high water mark of consciousness.
    Sometimes they sing it as an inner light;
    For as the brute time-beater of the brain
    Is mastered by the sun, an inner sun
    Governs this new testament of time.

    “I have taught how the world is acted through,
    Performed by fiat of its symbiotes.
    What brings them to their vote, their congregation?
    What is the medium of their Amen,
    Affirmed participation in the game?
    What could it be but beauty—harmony
    Promising further, darker melodies,
    Promising struggles to resolve the chord?
    What is it but the ache of a suspense,

    Before the covenanted union comes,
    The drawing out of time from the bent bow,
    That makes a doorframe for Arcadia?—
    Beauty is thus the knitting-in of time,
    That weaves a pattern from the wayward threads.

    “Beauty’s the meaning of the divine dream,
    Its principle, the personality
    And mood of the great dreamer of the world.
    If you would know her mind, then study beauty.
    When we have gone out to the edge of things,
    Questioned the very axioms of being,
    Taken the world itself as that computer
    Which stores all knowledge and predicts the future,
    And asked the fatal question of the sphinx
    Whose answer is the answerer itself—
    What are you? What is your own end and future?—
    Then we have entered in the house of beauty.
    This can’t be proved. But here the world must crack,
    Must grow another layer of itself,
    Even to contemplate the question’s meaning.
    Beauty is what we can affirm outside
    All axioms, all rules of yes and no.
    It is itself the leap of self-inclusion,
    The dark glow of an affirmation deeper
    Than any mandated by axiom;
    The urge itself of axiomization
    To make a pattern that can grow a mind.
    Beauty is the beginning of the worlds,
    The evolution of the life of being,
    The melt that crystallizes into meaning.

    “That crystal is the hierarchy of being,
    Whose meaning is its very history.
    But as a perfect scale must still be broken
    To make a melody and spin a time,
    As spring must take the frozen forms and melt them,
    And laughter must succeed to tragedy,
    So every harmony and every structure
    Are but the raw materials of beauty.
    Although no message can be sent or taken
    Without a medium whose shape is clear,

    A perfect carrier-wave conveys no message,
    And time without a difference must cease.
    That which was once the union of the meaning
    With its embodiment in act and form
    Becomes the medium itself of a new gospel:
    Hierarchy broken for a richer hierarchy.
    That fierce subsumption, as a fire or feast,
    That transubstantiation of the old,
    Is beautiful, and is the tragedy
    And the metabolism of the world.
    When that which is, is that which ought to be,
    The mountains of the world are beaten flat,
    And nothing moves, having no place to go.
    This is a true paradox, that that which is
    Ought not indeed be that which ought to be.

    “Then ought we simply to accept the flow,
    Make no demand for a consistency
    That must be shattered by the rush of time?
    This is the last temptation, to be quiet,
    Be wise, seek not to know the whole;
    To play the little games time offers us,
    A life just of sensations, not of thoughts.
    But then there should be nothing great to die,
    We should deprive the world of tragedy,
    And everybody would be tourists, passing
    Through countrysides whose villages are empty,
    Void of committed dwellers in this life;
    The gamblers would have cashed in all their chips,
    Put on their hats and headed for the exits,
    Gods with no mortals to play the game of Troy.
    Time grows by means of the attempts to halt it,
    And freedom is the crash of an achieved will
    Into the fulfilment of its denial.
    Beauty is violence, incipience,
    And transience, the lovelier for what
    Is sacrificed in that rich wastcfulness.
    Beauty is breathtaking and cruel,
    And would be evil were it not worth all
    We sacrifice so that we might endure it.
    There is no afterlifc; eternity
    Is an intenser form of time that strikes

    Out at right-angles from an entire life,
    And knows as many tenses more, and moods,
    As we do than the immemorial beasts.
    Time must be dammed to make this current flow;
    Light blazes from the point of the resistance.

    “Chance my great-grandfather hurled all his being
    Against the tendency of history;
    My father Tripitaka, in the faith
    That time could be denied, did murder him;
    He in his own time slew himself that we
    Should get a life he served but could not share;
    Great-grandmother Gaea lived a life that I
    Declare as excellent, as sacrificed
    To freedom as our own conquistadors.
    Charlie would kill a world to give it birth;
    Ganesh could tickle dead things into life.
    Wolf and Irene never found their love,
    Yet were transformed by loss to singing birds;
    Beatrice made a garden from the death
    Of her own inner garden with its seeds.
    My brother Chance might have been president
    Of this republic; he served me instead.
    All knew that life is hungry as a flame:
    Even that man who lately sought my life
    Was faithful to a thing that defied time.

    “The world-dream of the god is history,
    Whose inner meaning is the joy of dying,
    The flash of light on wheat, on clouds, on eye,
    That dies the moment that it has its being.
    Why should we in our fear of tragedy
    Reserve our gift to beauty lest it die?
    The grief of suffering is the melody
    The goddess sought to be enfranchised by.
    The holiest unworldliness is this:
    To love the world and die upon its kiss.
    Truth is a dab of scent a girl put on
    You catch upon a lit spring afternoon.
    Truth is a ripple on piano keys,
    Wind in the leaves, moonlight on fruit trees.
    Our cunning sells our birthright for a song—

    Eternity so brief and life so long.
    Give all you have to history, because
    All paradise is here and always was.”

    And this would be the ending of the story
    Had I disposed material more fitly
    To the first chosen and constraining form:
    So law may force on us unchosen freedoms.
    To tell the truth, I had run out of things
    To say; as the task neared its conclusion
    (Which was to be a summons to my world
    To take up once again the glory road)
    I fell into despair, which was the deeper
    The more I praised the destiny of Mars.
    What was there left for my own ruined planet?
    I could compose no more, and the long weeks
    Of sodden fall went by, and I was dazed
    And sleepy like a sickly child, and dreamed
    Profuselv. stran~e wearv meanin~less dreams.

    The last weekend of Fall it was my turn
    To get the writers’ co-op car to drive.
    I was in luck. It was a lovely day,
    Almost like spring, smelling of earth and sea.
    I drove up the Taconic to the lakes:
    Some of the suburbs are inhabited,
    And the old black folk had put on a display
    Of Christmas decorations, shiny red
    And green, and angels and a plaster creche.
    Though in the broad daylight it was tawdry,
    It moved me; in a kind of aching joy
    I drove on into the deep countryside
    And stopped beside a tangled entryway
    Where a thick wild scent had attracted me.
    So picking briers from my hair and clothes
    I walked along what must have been a drive,
    And the cold fragrance grew as I limped on.
    It was a great old mansion—built, perhaps,
    To be the homestead of a stockbroker—
    And it was heaped and overgrown with roses,
    Sprays, drifts, mountains of crimson blossoms,
    Bursting through windows and half-opened doors,
    Climbing the chimneys and the buckled eaves.

    Some hardy strain, most likely, with its roots
    Deep in a septic tank, southern exposure.
    The savage perfume almost knocked me out;
    But what was strangest was to know these flowers
    As if they never had been cultivated,
    As if they never bore the name of roses,
    As if they were the most natural of plants,
    As if their scent were like the bark or mould
    Of any woodland passing into winter.
    How lovely was the wild scent of this flower!
    Were not all human things as natural,
    Was not all history as sweet as this?

    When I returned I read the Sibyl’s words
    And saw at once another meaning in them.
    She had been thinking of us after all,
    Even the lost ones in our land of shadows:
    There was a path that such as we might follow.
    I had believed I must be miserable
    In my ill health, and clogged with enemies,
    Discouraged by the State so very gently
    The hero juices never learned to flow:
    I have no testament to make of prison camps,
    Gaunt intellectuals with fiery eyes,
    Or deaths beneath the clubs of the police,
    So that resistance to this kindly pressure
    Seems the ungratefulness of a spoiled child.
    (When it is less important I will tell
    The game of cat and mouse and quiet betrayal:
    But paranoia, even justified,
    Is not as interesting to the reader
    As to the author—and quite rightly so:
    It is a sickness the authorities
    Use to contain the struggles of the prey.)

    But now I saw I always had been happy.
    I had my task, my manuscript; so what
    Could they do to me that they had not done,
    Stealing the copies, making sure my friends
    Did not get their promotions or their raises,
    Letting me always know I was observed?
    What was dispiriting was being so near

    The end of all those labors, and the moment
    When I must think upon my death in this
    To me so foreign and so false a land.
    And all the time, the Sibyl seemed to say,
    As I transcribed but did not hear her words,
    I had been serving history; I was
    The worn stone in its stream that turns its course,
    That multiplied by many, makes the mountain
    That causes it to flow at all. Freedom
    And freedom’s soul, the all-creating beauty,
    Attended me, and made my labors rich.
    If modest talents and a faulty ear
    So flawed the work that it would never stand
    Beside the giants of the Earth’s wild past,
    Yet this might be the best, because the only
    Epic of protest in our darkening glide;
    And so the opportunity of hope
    Never is absent while time yet endures.

    But what was I to do now it was over?
    Polish, revise of course. There have been those
    Who’ve worn away a mighty oeuvre that way,
    And should be quite content to start again.
    But that would surely be, considering
    The heroes of my tale, who never let
    Revision dally in the way of action,
    A counter-imitative kind of fallacy,
    Hypocrisy before the gates of being.

    No. For the roses, their solstitial blood
    Casting a haze of incense on the thickets
    Naked of all but a few rattling leaves,
    Trailing their veil, fragrant, invisible,
    Across the hillsides, now reminded me
    Of that bright cave distant by so much space,
    By such an unimaginable cold,
    Where a girl—Sibyl, pretty in her curls,
    Preached how the universe was yet so young,
    How all this was a prologue to the play.
    This manuscript will perish when I die
    Or when the earnest guardians of our good
    Find it and give it to the cleansing flames;

    But there may be another poet, perhaps
    No better gifted than myself, who will,
    By that communication poets know,
    Speak it again in quite another form.
    Perhaps he has already, or she has—
    For why should not the conversation pass
    Both ways across the anterooms of time?—
    Perhaps the time I live in fades so fast
    Because its sap has gone to feed a future
    Turned by the least new budding to a way
    I cannot dream. Is there a kind of music
    In the long story of these men and women
    Whose ending may transfigure its beginning,
    Bury the teller in the telling? Listen.

    • Nooch said,

      April 26, 2011 at 3:43 pm

      Now THAT is some bona fide poem support
      (world without end, never mind the morte).

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm

      I changed loveis to love’s in the first stanza—I hope that’s correct.

      Very beautiful platonic philosophy expressed…

      There is a truth here—even if it doesn’t strike me as rigorous poetry…there seemed a hint of blank verse at first, but I lost the rhythm…

      As for truth rendered in poetry, Poe wrote,

      “Truth is, in its own essence, sub-lime — but her loftiest sublimity, as derived from man’s clouded and erratic reason, is valueless — is pulseless — is utterly ineffective when brought into comparison with the unerring sense of which we speak; yet grant this truth to be all which its seekers and worshipers pretend — they forget that it is not truth, per se, which is made their thesis, but an argumentation, often maudlin and pedantic, always shallow and unsatisfactory (as from the mere inadaptation of the vehicle it must be) by which this truth, in casual and indeterminate glimpses, is or is not — rendered manifest.”

      Here is Poe’s whole review of the epic poem, “Orion,” by Horne:

      http://www.eapoe.org/works/criticsm/gm44hr01.htm

      • Bill said,

        April 28, 2011 at 9:24 pm

        Thanks for looking at this Tom. I think “lover’s” is the correction we need. I will check the hard copy. Looks like a scanning error.

        I look at long poems as offering opportunities for presenting themes and variations not available in shorter forms. We enjoy virtuosity in showing the same imagery from many different angles or playing the same notes in many different contexts. I think you’ll agree that the Raven has that quality of virtuosity in its display of variations, though perhaps it is more of a bolero.

      • Bill said,

        April 29, 2011 at 4:31 pm

        Tom, “lover’s” is the correct correction to the Turner excerpt.

        Glad you liked Gary’s poem. A more apt comparison to Genesis, however, would be Merrill’s Changing Light at Sandover. Bill

  34. April 26, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Jeez, Louise!

  35. April 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Mark and WF: I am surprised by and regret your animosity towards me. I guess some of us don’t take blogs as seriously as others, but there really is no need to descend to ad hominem attack and personal insult.

    I want to point out, though, that I was not responding to the poem itself but to a comment made about it. Given the last 500+ years of poetry, a statement like: “a high point of religious/philosophical poetry.” is a little extreme, don’t you think? Maybe “a high point of the religious/philosophical poetry I have read” or “In my opinion a high point of religious/philosophical poetry”. But, really!

    Anyway, thanks for the poem, Bill. I’m going to read it now.

    GBF

    • Mark said,

      April 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm

      Gary

      I really hope you didn’t take what I said too personally. I said you sounded like a dick but I sincerely don’t think you are one. Surely we can both see the difference between: “that’s ‘a little extreme, don’t you think?'” and “Ha ha ha, ha, ha, hee hee, ho ho ho, ha hah ha hah ha ha ha ha ho ho!”

      I agree that it sounds like hyperbole to say “a high point of religious/philosophical poetry” and I agree that ““a high point of the religious/philosophical poetry I have read” or “In my opinion a high point of religious/philosophical poetry”” would have been better.

      My point was simply that if someone had told me there was a great book about a bunch of midgets going to fight a dragon and I just laughed at him I might have missed out on reading The Hobbit… and that would be a goddamn shame.

      FWIW, Bill and Gary, I started reading this excerpt and didn’t find it quite to my liking. I’m a bit sleepy though so I’ll try it again in a bit.

      Cheers,
      Mark

  36. thomasbrady said,

    April 26, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Did Woody see this one?

    Christopher Woodman: 3/5 Michel Foucault, 2/5 Mr. Chips

    Nooch supplied it, and I think it’s one of the best.

    • Nooch said,

      April 26, 2011 at 10:29 pm

      ‘Twas a whim, a fancy,
      A suggestion at most—
      Did Woodward out Felt
      In the pages of the Post?

    • Nooch said,

      April 26, 2011 at 11:11 pm

      I wouldn’t mind jousting with CW
      Daily or now and then,
      But we continually kept rehashing
      The same arg’ments over again.

      So why not leave Scar’yet then,
      If such torture it begs?
      As Woody said in Annie Hall,
      “I would, but I need the eggs.”

      • Mark said,

        April 27, 2011 at 7:27 am

        We all need the eggs, Nooch…

        But remember it took me almost a month to get Tom to admit that “facts” and “speculations” mean different things… and remember that once he admitted it, he suddenly stopped the conversation in its tracks because he knew he couldn’t keep up with me… not unlike the little kid who flips the Monopoly board.

        This is why Tom moves so glacially slow. It’s a rope-a-dope to avoid having to answer for the things he says.

        Maybe this isn’t an argument rehashed maybe it’s the same argument that Tom’s been avoiding all this time.

        Mark

  37. April 27, 2011 at 12:54 am

    “Consider how the plants and animals
    Blaze to their loveliest expressiveness,
    The flower, the paroxysm of their song,
    The ritual dance, the flash of scale or feather,
    Just at the moment when they pass their being
    Over to the following generation;
    Thus beauty is continuance of time.”

    – Frederick Turner – ‘Genesis’ (1988)

    Such insidious mendacity
    this mitochondrial conspiracy,
    leading so to consciousness and
    therefore our ability
    to see the spectrum’s light reflecting
    on a feather in the grass.

    Such deceit defies reality,
    this deoxyribo affinity
    for granting first the gift
    of our awareness
    of fruiting trees and teeming seas,
    all the colored glory and abundance
    in our lives, then the knowledge
    that this beauty which so pleases us
    will also blow away across the grass.

    Copyright 2008 – Softwood-Seventy-eight Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 28, 2011 at 8:50 pm

      Very beautiful, Gary.

      Turner is working at a disadvantage in writing such a long poem, but yours has more poetic expressiveness and the final image of yours is remarkable.

      Tom

  38. April 27, 2011 at 4:50 am

    Thanks for that response, Gary — how your own poem written 20 years later pulls all that ambiguity up into one, single, radiant image at the end.

    “Such deceit defies reality,” you write —

    “……………………..the knowledge
    that this beauty which so pleases us
    will also blow away across the grass.”

    Beautiful, and NOT depressing at all despite the classic ubi sunt — and that’s because of the twist. “Grass” is the usual image for transience, like flesh is grass, but here it’s beauty that blows across the grass and leaves the grass still there almost permanent.

    What an extraordinary image.

    ~

    I had never heard of Frederic Turner either — and I do think Genesis is an astonishing poem, that it could really be as extraordinary as Bill says it is.

    But I think it’s hard to start reading Genesis just as the Sybil begins to speak at the end. The Sybil obviously has, and almost certainly needs, an otherworldly, crystalline, hypostatic voice, and this may put a reader off who hasn’t already passed through all the books and books before it. I found the ideas very interesting, and that kept me going even when the poetry didn’t. On the other hand, I’m sure that’s not a fair criticism of Turner’s whole poem.

    But still, it’s an interesting observation about poetry. Like this, for example:

    Beauty is violence, incipience,
    And transience, the lovelier for what
    Is sacrificed in that rich wastcfulness.
    Beauty is breathtaking and cruel,
    And would be evil were it not worth all
    We sacrifice so that we might endure it.

    And then this (take a deep breath, a quick turn around your chair, another breath — and then continue on in the same passage):

    There is no afterlife; eternity
    Is an intenser form of time that strikes
    Out at right-angles from an entire life,
    And knows as many tenses more, and moods,
    As we do than the immemorial beasts.
    Time must be dammed to make this current flow;
    Light blazes from the point of the resistance.

    WONDERFUL IDEAS — but much more exciting ideas than poetry, I’m afraid. On the other hand, if this huge epic poem, and Genesis it’s called, after all, has done it’s job in the earlier sections the reader may well be ready for the Sybil’s bare, down-to-earth revelation (what an oxymoron!) — the ideas alone may be such a rich fulfillment that more gracious, pliable poetry would get in the way!

    On the other hand, it may just be the nature of the beast, that High Revelations at the end are always less interesting than the pain and struggle to achieve them — why the Inferno is so much more powerful as poetry than the Paradiso. Unless, of course, you’re ready, like high already on poetry or other such chemicals, or taking your vows, or dying…

    Just recently I was so disappointed to read Book III of Philip Pullman’s superb trilogy, His Dark Materials. I had put off reading the last volume for years I was so excited, and I liked it, too — but it still didn’t get me into the High Mystery it promised any more than “Ode to Psyche” does, or the high moments in Doris Lessing’s wonderful science fiction either — except perhaps for A Briefing for a Descent into Hell, but then that’s backwards!

    ~

    Just have to throw this in at the end — a short passage not in the voice of the Sybil:

    When that which is, is that which ought to be,
    The mountains of the world are beaten flat,
    And nothing moves, having no place to go.
    This is a true paradox, that that which is
    Ought not indeed be that which ought to be.

    By my way of thinking, poetry should never say what it means, because if it can say what it means it means it has very little to say. What poetry says is what can’t be said at all, or certainly not in any other way.

    I’ll just throw that out as Mr Chipps masquerading as Foucault.

    Christopher

  39. Mark said,

    April 27, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Christopher said:
    “By my way of thinking, poetry should never say what it means, because if it can say what it means it means it has very little to say.”

    I was talking about poetry with my younger sister (who is about 3/4ths philistine) a while back and explaining some of the ideas behind the poems and she said “well, why don’t they just write out the ideas? Why do they bother making them into poems?” I said that if they just wrote their ideas out they’d be essayists or philosophers or (god forbid *shudder*) bloggers.

    I’m inclined to agree with Christopher here.

    Myths are more than just stories: they say things – primordial things – which can’t be said any other way.

    The best poetry still does this and must continue to do so.

    “Degas: Voila, I’ve got this great idea for a poem!
    Mallarme: Alors, mon ami, poems are made out of words, not ideas.”

  40. April 27, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Take the 3/5-2/5 formula, for example, that antique support for wobbling stand-up comics.

    What makes the 3/5-2/5 pattern successful is the shock encounter of dissimilarities like hydrogen and oxygen that combined make something as unlikely, simple and mysterious as water. Irony, paradox, ambiguity, hyperbole, oxymoron, synecdoche, and their endless variations are at the heart of poetry — which is why if a poem seems to be trying to tell us something that could be conveyed just as well in some clearer, less round-about way it sounds naive and/or pretentious.

    Of course once the pattern’s been established, 3/5 Karl and 2/5 Groucho, for example, which is really telling, you can vary it with odd and/or gross similarities instead that become mean and dismissive, like 3/5 Smelly – 2/5 wrinkled, or 3/5 hairy – 2/5 bald. Which may or may not be funny depending upon your feelings about the victim, or just your feelings.

    One of the things that happened in modern poetry is that as science gradually explained more and more of the physical world, imagery grew more and more poetic on the one hand, art for art’s sake, for example, aesthetic, pure and beautiful, and on the other so simple and unadorned you had to change yourself to see it.

    That was really new, that poetry could be that important. And of course the risk of failure was that much greater.

    The Red Wheelbarrow

    so much depends
    upon

    a red wheel
    barrow

    glazed with rain
    water

    beside the white
    chickens.

    …………………………………..William Carlos Williams

    At the same time the pendulum began to swing back toward the figurative again, so refreshed by “so much depends” (not the poem but the sentiment, a huge topical shift in consciousness in other words), and we can get a poem like this:

    Water

    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

    Exciting times to live in for poets, not new but refreshed. The new that for the awakened is never out of date.

    Christopher

  41. Bill said,

    April 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Christopher and Gary,
    Thanks for your responses to the Turner post. You are correct, it is not necessarily appropriate to start reading the book at the end, after the very eventful plot has led up to the final state of things, but Gary challenged my characterization of it as a high point in religious and philosophical poetry, not my characterization of it as an epic. I would recommend reading it from the beginning. Some readers don’t like long poems, period, so I appreciate your giving this a chance. Best wishes, Bill

  42. Bill said,

    April 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks for posting your poem or excerpt, Gary. Always glad to learn of poets writing about interesting subjects! Poetry is not limited to lyric, dramatic, and narrative forms. It does have to hold its own as poetry.

  43. April 27, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Following is a comment I made on Don Share’s blog ‘Squandermania’. I have left the first comment for reference. Don Share is the senior Editor of Poetry Magazine. Jordan Davis is poetry Editor at The Nation.

    The specific post responded to is:

    http://donshare.blogspot.com/2011/04/from-times-literary-supplement-april-15.html

    Jordan said…

    JC’s Law: Whatever everybody says will happen, will not happen.
    JD’s Law: Poets exist mainly to keep other poets from writing.

    Gary B. Fitzgerald said…

    GBF’s Law: Poetry should focus on the existential and spiritual mysteries we all share. Any further use, e.g., to comment on contemporary political or social issues, is equivalent to opening your finest bottle of Bordeaux to serve with the hot dogs you just grilled up in the backyard. A truly good poem will always transcend the temporary and address the significant social and political issues of any given time. Otherwise, don’t waste your time… just write an essay.

  44. April 27, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    P.S. I forgot to mention that my post above was in response to Mark’s younger sister’s comment:

    “I was talking about poetry with my younger sister (who is about 3/4ths philistine) a while back and explaining some of the ideas behind the poems and she said “well, why don’t they just write out the ideas? Why do they bother making them into poems?” I said that if they just wrote their ideas out they’d be essayists or philosophers…”

  45. Bill said,

    April 27, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Agreed, Gary. Regarding Genesis, it does focus on existential and spiritual mysteries, and looks at an imaginary future in their light. I don’t think you are saying there is no place for philosophical poetry, which Mark seems to be saying. However, if a philosophical poem leads an intelligent and sensitive reader to say, He should have just written an essay, the poet has failed.

    I don’t think there is any danger that anyone who has read Genesis (James Merrill’s praise of which is quoted in the cover) would say that. Reading it from the beginning will vindicate Christopher’s suspicion that the sessions with the Sybil are prepared by the previous 4 and 4/5ths acts. Even taking Act V, sc. v out of context, though, anyone interested in blank verse would agree that Turner’s is strong and interesting, and free of the monotony that the inferior practitioner produces.

    The book is being re-issued, so everyone should buy it, though Nooch found a link to it at Prof. Turner’s website:

    http://frederickturnerpoet.com/?page_id=166

    • Mark said,

      April 28, 2011 at 12:27 am

      “I don’t think you are saying there is no place for philosophical poetry, which Mark seems to be saying.”

      What I said, i said a bit clumsily so let me try again:

      My point to my L’il Sis was that there is a difference between a poem and an essay with line breaks in it – this is probably something we’ve all encountered reading poetry from the last 100 years. That poetry expresses something hidden in a way straight philosophy can’t and in a way that is mysterious sometimes even to the poet him/herself.

      Poetry should always engage mystery which makes it always “philosophical” if we’re talking about philosophy in broad strokes. When a poem becomes a polemic or a treatise THEN it ceases to be valuable (to me, at least).

      In other words: “if a philosophical poem leads an intelligent and sensitive reader to say, He should have just written an essay, the poet has failed.”

      We’re on the same page here, Bill.

      Mark

  46. April 28, 2011 at 4:30 am

    Bill said,
    April 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Poetry is not limited to lyric, dramatic, and narrative forms. It does have to hold its own as poetry.

    Mark said,
    April 28, 2011 at 12:27 am

    … Poetry expresses something hidden in a way straight philosophy can’t and in a way that is mysterious sometimes even to the poet him/herself.

    … Poetry should always engage mystery which makes it always “philosophical” if we’re talking about philosophy in broad strokes.

    You’re so cautious, Mark and Bill — your steps are so baby! I was talking about something a whole lot freakier than poetry holding its own as poetry, as you put it, Bill, or “hidden” or “mysterious” in Mark’s terms. Of course I know what you mean, and of course what I’m going to say now is precisely what you meant, but I’m going to sing it, not say it, I’m going to proclaim it with trumpets and then deliver it to earth in naked golden chariots!

    Poetry today is a Large Hadron Collider capable of giving us concrete evidence at last that even if God is dead the God Particle of our fondest, most urgent, most human necessity exists!

    That was the trumpets. Now for the naked golden chariots, or a tiny peak at them, at least, and needless to say just for those who a.) have eyes and b.) are willing to go down on their knees before them.
    .

    The Red Wheelbarrow

    so much depends
    upon

    a red wheel
    barrow

    glazed with rain
    water

    beside the white
    chickens.

    …………………………………..William Carlos Williams

    .

    Water

    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

    “Exciting times to live in for poets, not new but refreshed,” I said when I first put up these two very famous modern poems (1923 and 1954) yesterday. “The new that for the awakened is never out of date.”

    So let’s look at them.

    From a 19th century perspective, these two poems couldn’t have been seen anywhere by anyone as poems. Indeed, even if you had grasped the implications of Charles Darwin’s work, for example, which many did, and even if you’d lost your faith in life after death long before that, which is the crunch moment, after all, and one which many secretly entertained long before God was actually dead — even if you had come to terms with all this in yourself, you still knew what was Poetry, that it was beautiful and it sang, or it was beautiful but clever enough to be satirical and perhaps even bleat. One or the other, and in a few geniuses, most often crazy like Christopher Smart, somewhere in between — but beautiful, and song.

    For the whole of humanity, including in India, Africa and the Amazon, the god that created you was in the world, and when you celebrated the meaning of things you sang the god’s song. So Poetry was by definition divine song, and beautiful — and that’s what the world meant.

    Even when it hurt too, like on the cross, an experience which created some of the most beautiful and deepest poetry ever written, and of course high art and music.

    So what happened when a poem like “The Red Wheelbarrow” got quietly and unpretentiously written only to find itself covered in gold leaf by subsequent readers? Because there was nothing poetic about this little poem initially, no figures, no meter, not even any words to speak of? So how did a poem like this first fly — and why does it still?

    Because there were readers who were ready for the first little words, “so much depends/ upon” — indeed, because there were readers who had never entertained this thought before, and suddenly not only got it but saw it — the poem as a small doorway that flicked open revealing a whole new, fresh world out there as well as within — a Revelation!

    Of course the poem has done damage in the subsequent development of modern poetry, because when such a poem is imitated over and over again far from the door opening it may be slammed in your face so that you can’t bear any such poetry anymore. And I don’t want to give this type of poetry a name either, a school or movement, because what I’m saying is not about cliques, or text books, or the GI Bill, or Iowa, or any of that, it’s about a moment of realization that many modern people, not just poets, have had in our time. It’s a moment of awakening, and if you can remember the actual moment yourself it may come down to this actual poem, or near it — i.e. another event like that.

    “The Red Wheelbarrow” doesn’t actually “hold its own as poetry,” as Bill says a poem must do — only as an event that almost all poets today have participated in in one way or another. And it’s only “mysterious,” which is Mark’s word, if the reader is developed enough to bring the mystery to it. Because mystery doesn’t actually show unless it’s a “mystery” like a detective story, or a mystery that’s studied by anthropologists like at Delphi, a ritual or myth. The sort of mystery that the best modern poetry explores is still waiting to be discovered, and can’t be experienced without the reader’s personal engagement. Yes, the mysteries of “The Wasteland,” for example, have been annotated to death, but still the moment a reader turns on to it for her or himself, becomes changed by it, I mean, “The Wasteland” delivers its message. It says “April” in a way that has never been said before, for example, and can never be said better, pacé Chaucer, — and that goes for many, many modern readers, including myself.

    And then we take a step farther and we come face to face with a poem like Philip Larkin’s “Aubade” — and then, a bit closer to “The Red Wheelbarrow,” his “Water.”

    And hey, is that metaphor?

    What is this?

    Christopher

  47. Wfkammann said,

    April 28, 2011 at 5:35 am

    Yes, this sort of honest analysis is what you cannot find amid the March Madness. You have to be able to read with meaning and let the poem resonate in parts of you that Mr. Brady either doesn’t possess or has yet to bring to awareness. You would think with the smarties here now this level of discussion could be maintained and expanded upon.

  48. April 28, 2011 at 10:09 am

    The trouble is that if you discuss it nicely like that you may miss out on some of the dirt — like this:

    Beauty is breathtaking and cruel,
    And would be evil were it not worth all
    We sacrifice so that we might endure it.

    You might also get confused about the time, for example, and miss a slick move like this:

    There is no afterlife; eternity
    Is an intenser form of time that strikes
    Out at right-angles from an entire life…

    or the refreshments, hypothetical:

    A glass of water
    Where any-angled light
    Would congregate endlessly.

    Honestly, Bill, sometimes it’s better not to talk about such things, and I’m ashamed of myself for trying.

    Christopher Woodman: 3/5 Dandelion, 2/5 Clove

  49. Bill said,

    April 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you, Christopher! That was in no way unworthy of the subject but if you feel it was by all means keep trying!

  50. April 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks for that, Bill — I did this partly in response to what you contributed, including both the Frederic Turner and the respectful and sensitive way you dealt with Gary’s challenge (which you handled well too, by the way, Gary, including your acceptance at last of the praise I bestowed on your poetry…).

    Good for us all.

    I just wish I had expressed this better (Comment #48):

    Because there were readers who were ready for the first little words, “so much depends/upon” — indeed, because there were readers who had never entertained this thought before, and suddenly not only got it but saw it — the poem as a small doorway that flicked open revealing a whole new, fresh world out there as well as within — a Revelation!

    In keeping with the revelations of Quantum Physics, Werner Heisenberg and other modern poets, including Frederic Turner, it could have read at the end:

    — the poem as a small doorway that flicked open revealing a whole new, fresh world out there that lived because it lived equally within — a Revelation in the soul as much as in the firmament!

    Forgive me, that’s not really better, but I think you’ll know what I mean.

    Got a poem?

    Christopher

  51. Bill said,

    April 28, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Thanks, Christopher. No poem comes to mind, but what does come to mind is that this revelation is not likely to be new. Living in a Buddhist land, you are probably surrounded by a discourse of enlightenment, and Western culture has its own discourse of enlightment, and I don’t mean Voltaire. I agree that The Red Wheelbarrow can be seen as a poem that takes the bucket of poetry back to that well in cunning or inspired ways. Inferences from modern science can also be used to go back to that source or fountain of knowledge. I think your real point here is that modernism at its best really was about much more than spitting on the graves of the Victorians.

    If you can get hold of it, you might find much interest in Eric Gans’s “Originary Thinking,” which includes an outline of aesthetic historical periodization that attempts to describe a modernist aethetics-anthropology-epistemology that is distinct from Late Romantic, Romantic, Neoclassical, and Classical, and from Post-Modernist. To understand it you would have to be willing to take in the tenets of Gans’s Generative Anthropology, but that is well worthwhile (see the Anthropoetics website and the Chronicles of Love and Resentment, online). Bill

  52. April 29, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Two points about living in a so-called “Buddhist land.”

    Wherever Buddhism went it grafted itself on whatever religions and religious customs were already established. In Thailand that meant Hinduism and Animism, both of which are hugely important here. 75% of the imagery in my local Wat is Hindu, with an emphasis on Shiva and Ganesha. It’s also a snake Wat with some really scary snake shrines, always outside the Ubosot, of course, the main building where the Buddhas are housed — the snakes wouldn’t be allowed in there! There’s also a lot of Kwan Ims outside, garish, flamboyant like money — being in the North there’s a lot of Chinese influence.

    Secondly, the discourse in most Buddhist countries is not about enlightenment, which is simply too remote and difficult to excite the majority of the inhabitants. It’s mainly about what I can do right now to improve my lot just a little – and that mainly involves doing the right thing at the right moment, offering a few sticks of incense or lighting a candle on holy days, and of course giving money to the monks even if it’s just a 20 baht note, 75¢, waved like a flag on a stick.

    Most of the religious life of the people where I live is spent on magic and placating spirits which, needless to say, doesn’t take place in the Wat either. There’s a lot of shamanism and black magic — I’m influenced a lot by all that in my poetry even if nobody knows it.

    In so far as there is a “discourse of enlightenment” among the very small segment of the population that is educated, it’s mainly about rules of conduct just as it is among Christians — not only doing the right thing but being seen to be doing the right thing in the right place on the right occasion dressed in white, clean clothes and beaming.

    Buddhism like any other religion has to be reinvented by the individual over and over again to be realized, and when the sap begins to rise it’s always new and improbable — like the very first spring!

    ~

    I wouldn’t say “The Red Wheelbarrow” takes anything back to anywhere, or is in any way referential. It just says rainwater and white chickens, that’s all — that’s why it is so simple. It’s written so that great ideas and philosophy and science can’t get in the way — or, of course, great rhetoric, great tropes, or great artistic sentiments. It doesn’t even sing!

    I tried to get around Thomas Brady’s horror of the word “new,” which I share with him on many levels, actually — that’s how I came up with my variation on Pound’s news that’s never out of date.

    “Exciting times to live in for poets, not new but refreshed. The new that for the awakened is never out of date.”

    Christopher

  53. Bill said,

    April 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for this enlightening reply. Tim Steele or Robert Shaw have pointed out that The Red Wheelbarrow is really in iambic pentameter. So it does sing in that fashion. It perfects the modernist gesture of simply pointing to the thing of significance and demonstrating that the frame of significance–in GA terms, the scene of representation–is the locus and source of meaning. Think of Duchamps’ urinal, cleansed of its satirical implications. The spacing invites to sense the “mere being” of words in conjunction with the “mere being” of humble objects in an agricultural setting that combines art and nature, like Van Gogh’s boots. I gather that the goal of displaying “being” comes to us from scholastic philosophy, though possibly there are many mediating stages (e.g., Hegel through Bosanquet? Joyce’s epiphanies don’t come from nowhere.). So as for presenting the thing with no philosophical content, I qualify it thus. Bill

  54. Anonymous said,

    April 30, 2011 at 2:40 am

    Introduction to Poetry

    I ask them to take a poem
    and hold it up to the light
    like a color slide

    or press an ear against its hive.

    I say drop a mouse into a poem
    and watch him probe his way out,

    or walk inside the poem’s room
    and feel the walls for a light switch…

    to be continued

    .

    Water

    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

    .

    Introduction to Poetry [continued>]

    I want them to waterski
    across the surface of a poem
    waving at the author’s name on the shore.

    But all they want to do
    is tie the poem to a chair with rope
    and torture a confession out of it.

    They begin beating it with a hose
    to find out what it really means.

    — Billy Collins

  55. April 30, 2011 at 3:11 am

    On a Certain Religious Argument

    Argue it pro and con as you will,
    And flout each other with words,
    But the rose will bloom and the summer still
    Will bring us the song of birds.

    How was He born who came to earth,
    With the Godlight in His eyes?
    Wrangle and quarrel about His birth,
    And yet you shall not be wise.

    And what does it matter? The clover blows
    And the rose blooms on the tree,
    And only the God in heaven knows
    How these things come to be.

    You take the flower though you cannot say
    Why this is red or white,
    You accept the warmth of the sun by day
    And the light of the stars by night.

    You joy in a thousand mysteries
    Which your wisdom can’t explain,
    The green of the grass and the rolling seas
    And the gold of the harvest grain.

    So why do you bother your heads at all?
    And why does your faith grow dim?
    You take the flower on the garden wall,
    So why will you not take Him?

    ……………………………………Edgar Guest

  56. thomasbrady said,

    April 30, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Before there was WC Williams, there was Edgar Guest.

  57. Anonymous said,

    April 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    The Divine Image

    To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
    All pray in their distress;
    And to these virtues of delight
    Return their thankfulness.

    For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
    Is God, our father dear,
    And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
    Is Man, his child and care.

    For Mercy has a human heart,
    Pity a human face,
    And Love, the human form divine,
    And Peace, the human dress.

    Then every man, of every clime,
    That prays in his distress,
    Prays to the human form divine,
    Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

    And all must love the human form,
    In heathen, turk, or jew;
    Where Mercy, Love, & Pity dwell
    There God is dwelling too.

    — William Blake

  58. Anonymous said,

    April 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    An Invite, To Eternity

    Wilt thou go with me, sweet maid,
    Say, maiden, wilt thou go with me
    Through the valley-depths of shade,
    Of night and dark obscurity;
    Where the path has lost its way,
    Where the sun forgets the day,
    Where there’s nor life nor light to see,
    Sweet maiden, wilt thou go with me!

    Where stones will turn to flooding streams,
    Where plains will rise like ocean waves,
    Where life will fade like visioned dreams
    And mountains darken into caves,
    Say, maiden, wilt thou go with me
    Through this sad non-identity,
    Where parents live and are forgot,
    And sisters live and know us not!

    Say, maiden; wilt thou go with me
    In this strange death of life to be,
    To live in death and be the same,
    Without this life or home or name,
    At once to be and not to be –
    That was and is not -yet to see
    Things pass like shadows, and the sky
    Above, below, around us lie?

    John Clare

  59. April 30, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    <strong<A Litany

    You are the bread and the knife,
    The crystal goblet and the wine…
    ………………………………Jacques Crickillon

    You are the bread and the knife,
    the crystal goblet and the wine.
    You are the dew on the morning grass
    and the burning wheel of the sun.
    You are the white apron of the baker,
    and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

    However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
    the plums on the counter,
    or the house of cards.
    And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
    There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

    It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
    maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
    but you are not even close
    to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

    And a quick look in the mirror will show
    that you are neither the boots in the corner
    nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

    It might interest you to know,
    speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
    that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

    I also happen to be the shooting star,
    the evening paper blowing down an alley
    and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

    I am also the moon in the trees
    and the blind woman’s tea cup.
    But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
    You are still the bread and the knife.
    You will always be the bread and the knife,
    not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

    …………………………………….Billy Collins

    Thank you,
    Christopher

  60. wfkammann said,

    May 1, 2011 at 12:08 am

    YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE
    From the show “Hold Everything” (1929)
    (B.G. DeSylva / Lew Brown / Ray Henderson)

    You’re the cream in my coffee,
    You’re the salt in my stew;
    You will always be my necessity–
    I’d be lost without you.

    You’re the starch in my collar,
    You’re the lace in my shoe;
    You will always be my necessity–
    I’d be lost without you.

    Most men tell love tails,
    And each phrase dovetails.
    You’ve heard each known way,
    This way is my own way.

    You’re the sail of my love boat,
    You’re the captain and crew;
    You will always be my necessity–
    I’d be lost without you.

    You give life savor,
    Bring out its flavor;
    So this is clear, dear,
    You’re my worcestershire, dear.

    You’re the sail of my love boat,
    You’re the captain and crew;
    You will always be my necessity–
    I’d be lost without you.

    • wfkammann said,

      May 1, 2011 at 12:21 am

      Here’s Dietrich, couldn’t find Monk.

  61. May 1, 2011 at 4:25 am

    Raisen Pie

    There’s a heap of pent-up goodness
    in the yellow bantam corn,
    And I sort o’ like to linger
    round a berry patch at morn;
    Oh, the Lord has set our table
    with a stock o’ things to eat
    An’ there’s just enough o’ bitter
    in the blend to cut the sweet,
    But I run the whole list over,
    an’ it seems somehow that I
    Find the keenest sort o’ pleasure
    in a chunk o’ raisin pie.

    There are pies that start the water
    circulatin’ in the mouth;
    There are pies that wear the flavor of
    the warm an’ sunny south;
    Some with oriental spices spur
    the drowsy appetite
    An’ just fill a fellow’s being
    with a thrill o’ real delight;
    But for downright solid goodness
    that comes drippin’ from the sky
    There is nothing quite the equal of
    a chunk o’ raisin pie.

    I’m admittin’ tastes are diff’runt,
    I’m not settin’ up myself
    As the judge an’ final critic of
    the good things on the shelf.
    I’m sort o’ payin’ tribute
    to a simple joy on earth,
    Sort o’ feebly testifyin’ to its
    lasting charm an’ worth,
    An’ I’ll hold to this conclusion
    till it comes my time to die,
    That there’s no dessert that’s finer
    than a chunk o’ raisin pie.

    ………………………………….3/5 Edgar Guest, 2/5 Billy Collins

  62. thomasbrady said,

    May 1, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks for those comments, guys.

    I love the way Billy Collins lovingly and playfully pays homage to a popular trope.

    Collins takes the modern position: he mocks, or sends up an old trope; however, unlike so much of modernist or post-modernist sentiment, which takes a bitter or superior outlook, his genius lovingly assimilates, using the best of the old to enhance the new.

    Collins is as self-conscious as any modern, but without the bitterness or superiority. That’s his secret.

    Only someone unable to handle nuances would simply equate Collins with Edgar Guest.

  63. May 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    You live here — so you can close the door and lock it.

    The only question was, in fact, whether “popularity” was the only point in common between Billy Collins and Edgar Guest. Mark exposed the fallacy of the specious and self-serving argument that, because popularity was the only constant you could see between the two of them, Ron Silliman must therefore be jealous.

    Only someone unable to handle nuances would equate Collins with Edgar Guest simply on the basis of popularity, or assume from that that a critic of Ron Silliman’s sensitivity and stature must be jealous.

    ~

    And did you ever think that somebody else in the discussion beside you might like Billy Collins? Well, you have a short memory, Tom. Only very recently it was you who was dismissing Billy Collins as a hack and it was I who was defending him. I love all those poems of his I posted, that’s why I chose them — and I like the poems I chose of Edgar Guest as well. Some of them a lot.

    Perhaps on another occasion, like in another life, I’ll feel it worthwhile to try to show you the host of things the two poets have in common, qualities that Ron Silliman might also have had in mind.

    But it’s not worth it in your present frame of mind, and I’m out of here.

    Christopher

    Christopher

    • Mark said,

      May 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      I agree with this. When I posted a bit of Edgar Guest it wasn’t to make fun of him or to attack Billy Collins (though, for the record, I’ve not been blown away by either poet). Tom could only see the similar theme in the work but that wasn’t my point.

      When I made a blanket dismissal of Billy Collins I was quick to retract it because the fact is that I haven’t really read that much of Billy Collins – just like Tom hasn’t really read that much of the poets he attacks here on Scarriet.

      When I asked Tom to post some Billy Collins that might change my mind I was being serious and was willing to keep an open-mind. Tom never did.

      Tom can’t even understand the difference between “equating” two poets and finding a lineage between them. If I said: “Before there was Shakespeare there was Ovid” I wouldn’t be “equating” them. There would be no suggestion that the two were the same. Tom has to twist Ron Silliman’s words just like he twists mine.

      A lineage becomes an equating. A disagreement becomes a fight. One who makes a counter-argument on a point about Modernism becomes an apologist for it. It’s all so pathetic.

      Mark

  64. Orphee said,

    February 16, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    There is a whiny Canadian http://didiodatoc.blogspot.com/ who is always rapping about poetry, and he could use some readers, as well as a good kick in the poetic arse.
    Love what you are doing here .


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