O YOU SWEET DIRTY RAT! KIPP V. OLDS

Has the story always been about the dog?

Karen Kipp’s “The Rat,” about a punk and his rat (or a rat and his punk) is a glorious poem: putting together animal and human is the trope of modern popular and sentimental literature—Moby Dick, The Raven, or Dorothy’s adventure which begins when Toto is threatened with extinction by Mrs. Gulch (the Wicked Witch of the West). When Mrs. Gulch arrives with her legal document, Dorothy threatens to bite Mrs. Gulch there in the family living room—and we laugh nervously at this intimation of animal over human law.

As  God fades, dog takes its place. Not just us.  Toto, too.  Man used to slay dragons; now the dragon is cute and cuddly in every Disney film since Bambi.  It’s Man versus Nature—and now we root for the latter.

Contemporary poetry, however, is where all popular tropes go to die, where sentimental wishes are tossed to the fishes, where distorted, freaky sensibility is the rule, where the game is never played—only analyzed.

Still, there are contemporary poems that could be popular, that could be classics—if only given the chance. The problem is that po-biz hasn’t a clue which of its children are glorious and which are not.  Po-biz is bereft of executive wisdom.  Po-biz, when not publishing poems,  is a maggot-bucket of egos, unable to sort gems from dross—given its philosophical penchant for intellectually hating the popular.

We don’t know if “The Rat” by Karen Kipp is a poem deserving the palm, but it has elements of radical popularity.

Karen Kipp defeated Robert Lowell in Round One—it was a very close contest, but had that icon been born Robert Jones, it is a certainty none had ever heard of him.  Karen Kipp is not a name to strike fear in the hearts of anyone—but her poem, “The Rat,” should.

Sharon Olds is something of a po-biz icon.  Her popular appeal, however, is not based on animals, but rather on the helpless and vulnerable animal aspect of Man.  Olds finds our animal-in-the-human and exploits it like an MGM producer.  The human body as animal is Olds‘ forte’.  But in the battle between Man and Nature, Olds doesn’t simply root for the latter, like in a Disney movie.  I doubt she’s conscious of doing this, but finding the human is what her poetry does so well.   The  poem “The Request” depicts the last moments of a human life communicating and connecting.  Her poem ends:

She came over to him,
touched him, spoke to him, and he closed his
eyes and he passed out and never
came up again, now he could move
steadily down.

The family dog isn’t anywhere in sight.

Theme is not everything, of course.  There’s the body of the poem, and not since Poe has any real attention been paid to the physical attributes of the poem with method rather than pedantry.

The Olds poem has a better dramatic arc.  It has a better body.

Olds wins 78-69.

The concludes Round Two play in the South.  One bracket left: the West, and then we’ll have our Sweet Sixteen!

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51 Comments

  1. Mark said,

    April 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    “putting together animal and human is the trope of modern popular and sentimental literature—Moby Dick, The Raven”

    This is a joke.

    Moby-Dick is not sentimental literature and is, in every respect, the polar opposite of The Raven.

    You can’t possibly have read Moby-Dick, Tom. There’s no way even you could miss the point of the book so dramatically.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 26, 2011 at 3:57 pm

      Thanks, Mawk. Moby Dick is not popular, and has no animals in it. Whatever you say…

      It’s fashionable these days to say ‘the author’ has no real existence, but we err a great deal in the opposite direction re: the text. We see this with pugnacious fellows like Mawk always claiming someone ‘hasn’t read the book’ but ‘the book’ is something which has no existence, either, in our minds, since NO ONE can recall the entirety of a book. Mawk disputes a simple point re: Moby Dick because he (Mawk) KNOWS the whole text of Moby Dick and I obviously DO NOT. This is silly and stupid—which is nothing less than what we have come to expect from Mawk.

      • Mark said,

        April 26, 2011 at 4:14 pm

        “Thanks, Mawk. Moby Dick is not popular, and has no animals in it. Whatever you say…”

        Where did I say this? I didn’t.
        I was joking before about how every time I respond to one of your posts I have to reprimand you for putting words in my mouth but it’s becoming more and more the case.

        To your second non-argument wherein you philosophize badly like a stoned undergrad. Books have points. What you said sounds like you missed the point. No one is asking you to have the book memorized – again, a strawman argument from Gravesy – nor am I suggesting that I do.

        That’s one strawman per paragraph. You’ve tied your personal best!

        Moby-Dick is not “sentimental literature” and it is the opposite of the Raven both in construction and design. Mentioning then together as examples of the same thing makes you sound silly. My point is clear yet your attempts to make things convoluted continue.

        Mawk

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 26, 2011 at 6:09 pm

        Mawk,

        You seem to have trouble with the concept ‘category.’ My point—which went over your head, apparently—was not a discussion of the differences between Dick & Raven.

        Secondly, the reception of Dick is largely sentimental. As you know, Melville mostly failed to sell during his lifetime, acheiving posthumous fame based on one book. When I call Dick ‘popular’ or ‘sentimental’ I am speaking of its reception.

        Tom

      • Mark said,

        April 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm

        “putting together animal and human is the trope of modern popular and sentimental literature—Moby Dick, The Raven, or Dorothy’s adventure which begins when Toto is threatened with extinction by Mrs. Gulch (the Wicked Witch of the West).”

        Tom

        I don’t want to get into a big thing here. You clearly weren’t talking about the reception of Moby-Dick. That’s one of your more pathetic dodges. You refer to it as “sentimental literature.” That’s not what it is.

        As to categorization: if the “category” was books with animals then sure – Moby-Dick and the Raven – it’s clumsy but I get it.

        That’s not what you said though. Moby-Dick and the Raven are polar opposites. Categorizing them together as “sentimental literature” makes you sound stupid.

        Mark

      • Mark said,

        April 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

        Oh and I posted something in the “About Scarriet” thread today that I was hoping you’d comment on.

        Have you had a chance to read it yet?

      • Mark said,

        April 26, 2011 at 6:31 pm

        Oh and not to pick your words apart too much but the works you list aren’t “modern” works and “putting together animal and human” isn’t “the trope” of modern literature (did you mean “a trope”?) – writers have been doing it for a long time (like 1000’s of years) and continue to do so.

        What I’m trying to say is that you’ve managed to write a sentence that is completely devoid of meaning. Literally everything is wrong with it. The points you follow it up with are equally bad and predicated on the same poor logic.

        Did someone give you decaf by mistake this morning?

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 26, 2011 at 7:10 pm

        Mock,

        It all depends on how we define ‘sentimental.’ To some hardened types, ALL poetry, ALL fiction, is sentimental. Obviously, I was not making a close analysis of Dick, Raven, Oz, etc, merely pointing out the popularity of animals in modern works. Men whaling on the high seas can be sentimental; wars and adventures appeal to boys. Henry James sneeringly called Poe boyish and sentimental because of the ‘adventures’ and ‘puzzles’ in his work; Mark Twain was turned into a Young Adult author, all sorts of issues come into play in terms of reception, and this was an implicit idea in my piece: popularity naturally involves reception and perception. Moby Dick is popular not because it’s a ‘difficult, literary masterpiece,’ which it may, or may not be.

        Tom

  2. Poem support said,

    April 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    THE RAT

    It used to be that the rat was a cynic. It used to be that the rat had trouble believing things. The other rats were ugly, especially his own young, who were pied and pink and whom he wanted to eat, if only his bitch-rat wife would have let him…Then a day came when it was different. A pudgy hand reached into his tank and stuffed the rat into its overcoat. The rat had been shoplifted. Soon he was riding the streets on the shoulder of a two-hundred and fifty pound punk with a sad-looking mohawk. Sometimes, in a dark bar, surrounded by other humans, the punk would stick the rat’s head into the beery cave of his craw. The rat thought he was supposed to be hearing something, but he never did. Eventually the rat had another idea—perhaps it was supposed to be the other way around…The rat put his pointy snout to the punk’s pierced ear. “Turn right, turn right,” whispered the rat, and the punk did. Then, “we’re out of cheese, we need to go to the Quickstop.” Sometimes the rat wanted to be with the humans. The more humans the better. “The Deadwood,” the rat would say, “let’s duck in for a beer.” In the smoky darkness, overlooking the warm mugs and the crowded ashtrays, the rat would say, “see that girl over there, you need to fuck her.” The rat was not a cynic. The rat could believe things. He had discovered his affinity for the other animals, and God, was the world glorious.

    Karen Kipp

  3. April 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    “The problem is that po-biz hasn’t a clue which of its children are glorious and which are not. Po-biz is bereft of executive wisdom. Po-biz, when not publishing poems, is a maggot-bucket of egos, unable to sort gems from dross—given its philosophical penchant for intellectually hating the popular.”

    “In” Crowd

    “I’m in with the “in” crowd
    I go where the “in” crowd goes
    I’m in with the “in” crowd
    And I know what the “in” crowd knows

    Any time of the year don’t you hear (gotta have fun)
    Dressin’ fine makin’ time
    We breeze up and down the streets
    We get respect from the people we meet

    They make way day or night
    They know the “in” crowd is outta sight!
    I’m in with the “in” crowd
    I know every latest dance

    When you’re in with the “in” crowd
    It’s easy to find romance
    At a spot where the beat’s really hot (there we’ll go)
    If it’s square we ain’t there

    We make every minute count, yeah
    Our share is always the biggest amount
    Other guys imitate us
    But the original’s still the greatest

    Got our own way of walkin’ yeah
    And our own way of talkin’ yeah
    Anytime of the year don’t you hear (gotta have fun)
    Spendin’ cash and talkin’ trash

    Girl I’ll show you a real good time yeah
    Come on with me and leave your troubles behind
    I don’t care where you’ve been
    You ain’t been nowhere ’til you been in
    With the “in” crowd oh yeah
    With the “in” crowd

    Got our own way of walkin’
    And our own way of talkin’ yeah
    Walkin’ with the “in” crowd
    Talkin’ ’bout the “in” crowd
    mmmmmmm
    …and I go where the “in” crowd goes
    mmmmmmm
    …and I know what the “in” crowd knows”

    – Marshall Crenshaw

    Just check out the current blogger line-up on Harriet. Any poets or writers of note? Nope. Just the ‘In’ crowd.

  4. thomasbrady said,

    April 27, 2011 at 12:31 am

    That’s actually a cool song.

    LOL

  5. Mark said,

    April 27, 2011 at 7:10 am

    I was hoping someone would comment on how stupid this is, too:

    Tom says:
    “Still, there are contemporary poems that could be popular, that could be classics—if only given the chance. The problem is that po-biz hasn’t a clue which of its children are glorious and which are not. Po-biz is bereft of executive wisdom. Po-biz, when not publishing poems, is a maggot-bucket of egos, unable to sort gems from dross—given its philosophical penchant for intellectually hating the popular.”

    ~

    It’s comments like this that show you to be a hack, Tom. It’s comments like this that cement you as a joke chuckled about by the people of “po-biz” (which I think is perhaps the dumbest sounding combination of syllables of ever encountered). Scarriet is full of this sort of empty sentiment. It’s just not good enough.

    Tom,

    All you do is bitch and moan like a little girl but I’ve never once seen you suggest an actionable solution to the problems you imagine to exist.

    Your bitching and moaning is like saying “the government should do something about unemployment” – it’s so vague as to be completely meaningless. Who specifically should do something? What specifically should be done?

    We’re all aware of the problems. You speak of poetry like it’s run by some shadowy cabal. “Po-biz” is even less of an entity than “the government.” If you have a problem with “po-biz” then define “po-biz”. Who is it made up of? Who is being left out? What are the limits of its power and how is that power being abused? Is “Po-biz” the publishers? Is it just the big publishers or are the people who make chapbooks to blame? If so, how much blame should be put on them? Is it the people who finance poetry contests? Is it the poets themselves? Is it the academy? Is it Travis Nichols? If it’s all of the above then how much blame goes to each party and what are their roles in the entity of “po-biz”?

    Saying “Po-biz [sigh] is bereft of executive wisdom” is less than worthless. Define “executive wisdom.” Who should be the executives and what specifically should they be doing? Who should be doing the sorting “gems from dross”? It’s a nice idea but how does it work in practice?

    Are you advocating a carefully selected canon of modern literature picked by an elite group of authorities?

    The people of today can read something, call it dross and see that it goes unpublished… but if we relied on these sorts of judgements Moby-Dick would have gone unpublished and we’d all be sitting around reading Typee (which isn’t nearly as good but was a big hit for Melville).

    ~

    The fact is that it’s the reader’s job to do the sorting just like it always fucking has been. The good-to-bad ratio is the same as it ever was. There are just more poets and more publications. What this means is that it’s a lot of work and when you complain about it, it means you’re very lazy.

    We need you to do more than bitch and moan. We need you to name names. It’s easy to imagine a simple entity and complain about a simple problem but the actual problems are complex, the actual entity is even more complex. This means the actual discussion requires nuance, Tom.

    Why do you insist upon reducing things to meaninglessness?

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 27, 2011 at 1:31 pm

      Mock,

      You’re boring.

      “It’s comments like that which show you to be a hack…”

      No…it’s comments like that which express what everyone is thinking but no one is saying.

      I’m spinning gold here, Mock. You’re tossing mud balls.

      “A shadowy cabal.” ooh. A shadowy cabal. Boo!

      Why don’t you ever say anything of substance, Mock? Scarriet is telling the history of Modernism. You have nothing to contribute: I read a book by Duncan on H.D. and…and…and I like Chaucer…and I found a reference to a Romantic poet in a graduate thesis by Pound!

      Mock on! I’m lovin’ it.

      Tom

  6. Poem support said,

    April 27, 2011 at 8:59 am

    The Request

    He lay like someone fallen from a high
    place, only his eyes could swivel,
    he cried out, we could hardly hear him,
    we bent low, over him, his
    wife and I, inches from his face,
    trying to drink sip up breathe in
    the sounds from his mouth. He lay with unseeing
    open eyes, the fluid stood
    in the back of his throat, and the voice was from there,
    guttural, through unmoving lips, we could
    not understand one word, he was down so
    deep inside himself, we went closer, as if
    leaning over the side of a well
    and putting our heads down inside it.
    Once—his wife was across the room, at the
    sink—he started to garble some of those
    physical unintelligible words,
    Raas-ih-AA, rass-ih-AA, I
    hovered even lower, over his open
    mouth, Rassi baaa, I sank almost
    into that body where my life half-began,
    Frass-ih-BAA—”Frances back!”
    I said, and he closed his eyes in his last
    yes of exhausted acquiescence, I
    said, She’s here. She came over to him,
    touched him, spoke to him, and he closed his
    eyes and he passed out and never
    came up again, now he could move
    steadily down.

    Sharon Olds

  7. Poem support said,

    April 27, 2011 at 9:07 am

    The Wellspring

    It is the deep spring of my life, this love for men,
    I don’t know if it is a sickness or a gift.
    To reach around both sides of a man,
    one palm to one buttock,
    the other palm to the other, the way we are split,
    to grasp that band of muscle like a handle on the
    male haunch, and drive the stiff
    giant nerve down my throat till it
    stoppers the whole of the stomach that is always hungry,
    then I feel complete. And the little
    hard-hats of their nipples, the male breast
    so hard, there are no chambers in it, it is
    lifting-muscle. Ah, to be lifted
    onto a man, set tight as a lock-slot down
    onto a bolt, you are looking into each
    other’s eyes as if the matter of the iris were the
    membranes deep in the body dissolving now—
    it is all I want, to meet men
    fully, as a twin, unborn, half-gelled,
    frontal in the dark, nothing between us but our
    bodies, naked, and when those melt
    nothing between us—as if I want to die with them.
    To be the glass of oily gold my
    father lifted to his mouth. Ah, I am in him,
    I slide all the way down to the beginning, the
    curved chamber of the balls. I see my
    brothers and sisters swimming by the silver
    millions, I say to them Stay here—for the
    children of this father it is the better life;
    but they cannot hear me. Blind, deaf,
    armless, brainless, they plunge forward,
    driven, desperate to enter the other, to
    die in her and wake. For a moment,
    after we wake, sometimes we are without desire—
    five, ten, twenty seconds of
    pure calm, as if each one of us is whole.

    Sharon Olds

  8. Mark said,

    April 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Tom said:
    “It’s comments like that which show you to be a hack…”

    No…it’s comments like that which express what everyone is thinking but no one is saying.”

    I agree that there are problems with modern poetry – this is clear and everyone IS thinking this – but making some boogyman to blame the problems on doesn’t help things. No one is saying what you are saying because you’re spouting is paranoid drivel.

    There is no body that runs poetry. There are no executives employ “executive wisdom.” You seem to want people to tell you what to read and to separate the good from the bad for you.

    That’s not how things work. Nor how things have EVER worked. Stop being so fucking lazy.

    I repeat:

    “Are you advocating a carefully selected canon of modern literature picked by an elite group of authorities?”

    “Who specifically should do something? What specifically should be done?”

    “You speak of poetry like it’s run by some shadowy cabal. “Po-biz” is even less of an entity than “the government.” If you have a problem with “po-biz” then define “po-biz”.”

    • Mark said,

      April 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

      I’m bumping this post again in hopes of getting an answer from Tom…

      He can answer to the post that comes afterwards if he likes but this is the important one.

  9. Mark said,

    April 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Oh and to this point:
    “Why don’t you ever say anything of substance, Mock?”

    We’re still trying to show you how a simple argument is formed, Tom. You’re not ready for “substance” yet. You have to learn how to add and subtract before you start doing algebra. You’re still on your times tables, Tom.

    Basically, you’re a conspiracy theorist – you actually think there are a group of people who run poetry! If someone comes up to me and tells me to put on a tinfoil hat because the government is reading my mind through the radio, what constitutes a “substantial” response?

    You don’t try and “respond” to the person with the tinfoil hat – you try and get them to seek help. This is why I’m trying to help you learn how to formulate an argument.

    That’s just the first step though, Graves.

    I’m asking questions so that you can see how deeply flawed your theories are. How unrelated to reality your “histories” are. This is, ultimately, why you won’t answer any of them.

    Scarriet has survived too long without intellectual rigour. I’m here to help.

    Mark

  10. Bill said,

    April 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Mark, give Tom a little credit. March Madness is a better seminar in contemprary poetry, I wager, than you could find anywhere. So the bell rings just when you feel he is getting to something. So office hours are crowded or he doesn’t always show up. It’s not worth spending too much time complaining when you clearly have something substantive to say. Though as I remarked your persistence has provoked some good posts by oure worthie hoste. Bill

  11. April 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Devil’s Advocate I presume, Bill — or perhaps you haven’t actually been reading it.

    Did you read the article in which Philip Larkin “defeated” Jack Myers here , or in which Jack Myers “defeated” Seamus Heaney here — or worst of all, bringing me to my knees and eventually out of Scarriet, the battle between Margaret Attwood’s “Bored” and Franz Wright’s “A Happy Thought” here ?

    Cheap, shoddy, mean, and sensationalistic, I’d say. Read them, including the commentary where Tom stonewalls his positions, and then tell me this is good for poetry — or for anything.

    Wow — you’ve lost me there, Bill. Hope you’ll have a look and get back to me.

    Christopher

  12. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    This burns me up, Tom — for the 11th time my
    last comment (just above) didn’t get included in the Recent Comments list.

    DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

    CHRISTOPHER

  13. Christopher Woodman said,

    April 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Worse than that, my last Comment has now disappeared altogether — I saw it in place, and now it’s gone.

    Here it is again:

    Devil’s Advocate I presume, Bill — or perhaps you haven’t actually been reading it.

    Did you read the article in which Philip Larkin “defeated” Jack Myers here , or in which Jack Myers “defeated” Seamus Heaney here — or worst of all, bringing me to my knees and eventually out of Scarriet, the battle between Margaret Attwood’s “Bored” and Franz Wright’s “A Happy Thought” here ?

    Cheap, shoddy, mean, and sensationalistic, I’d say. Read them, including the commentary where Tom stonewalls his positions, and then tell me this is good for poetry — or for anything.

    Wow — you’ve lost me there, Bill. Hope you’ll have a look and get back to me.

    Christopher

  14. Bill said,

    April 28, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Christopher,
    Thanks for your interest in my views. I looked at the last of the columns you linked and found this response by Tom Brady to one of his interlocutors:

    “Either you take the march madness competition seriously—which you shouldn’t—or, you do not take it seriously, and therefore you can see that it’s merely a platform to discuss and promote poetry.”

    Including your contributions, the referenced column was full of intelligent discussion and it promoted poetry. You apparently think Brady is quite an inferior critic of poetry, but he introduces poem after poem that I would never run into anywhere else, says amusing and interesting things about them, and attracts amusing and interesting comments from his readers, including yourself. Your complaints are therefore somewhat like Mark’s, repeatedly asking him to do something completely different from what he likes to do and wants to do. It reminds me of times when a workshop participant wishes a poet had written something completely different from what he actually wrote and gives strongly worded reasons why the poet should have written something completely different. I think Brady is a gifted poetry journalist, and when this football thing finally runs down he’ll still be able to hold his head up as a contributing member of society. I don’t have to agree with anything he says to enjoy his columns, and I don’t have to think he has done justice to the poems he presents. He still delights and instructs. Ideally, perhaps, I would not have a job and I would do nothing all day every day but read every poetry journal publishing in English when it came out and develop my own anthology of the best poems, but wouldn’t that be a hideous existence? Better to take in what you can by selecting various filters, following various leads, recommendations, etc. Brady and crew provide a steady supply of high-class poems I do not encounter on my usual limited rounds and I appreciate that, in addition to his entertaining performances.

    I’m sure I disagree with Brady on all kinds of things, like his overvaluation of Shelley, his praise for the feminine man, and his dislike of Churchill, for example, and I can say nice things about Faces in the Metro and The Red Wheelbarrow, but is there anyone else producing funny and interesting poetry journalism on a steady basis? Marcus Bales no doubt could, but he doesn’t. It is certainly not allowed at Harriet. No one has pointed me to any competitor of Brady’s in this niche. I would certainly be interested.

    You are clearly a deeply caring, very sensitive, respectful, well informed reader that any writer would be grateful to please. You want this to be a different blog. One without Brady’s puppet shows. One that did not descend to cheap laughs. One devoted to religious awe before the revelation of Being. This isn’t that blog, and I don’t see the point in trying to argue Brady out of his shtick or into producing the blog you want this to be.

    The blog you like might be better and more successful than Scarriet, but someone has to write it. How about you? Or perhaps you could pay Brady to write it? But there is no reason for him not to do what he likes, if he’s working for free.

    I don’t mean to be rude and shallow. You are clearly trying to appeal to our better angels. You are saying Brady should want to do so, too. You’re right. And so should I. But I am content with what Brady is doing because he is exercising a talent he apparently has, and I don’t have any information that tells me he could write the blog you want him to write. So he should do what he is good at, and follow that road where it goes.

    Your discussion is of the highest quality. I just don’t see why it has to include complaints about Brady, who obviously goes to a lot of trouble to keep this show on the road.

    Best wishes, Bill

    PS. Please don’t take it personally if I don’t respond at any length or at all to further entries. I read Scarriet for (free!) entertainment, not as an unpaid vocation. However, if Brady (or anyone else) is interested in paying me to write a panegyric for him, I will certainly consider the engagement.

    • Mark said,

      April 29, 2011 at 1:48 am

      Bill:
      “Your complaints are therefore somewhat like Mark’s, repeatedly asking him to do something completely different from what he likes to do and wants to do.”

      I’m not asking him to do this “Bill”. I’m asking him to be more honest in “what he likes to do and wants to do.”

      I’m Tom’s biggest fan and am not opposed to March Madness in the least – I’ve never asked him to stop doing it – that’s why it pains me to see him resort to such cheap tactics.

      Mark

      • Mark said,

        April 29, 2011 at 2:39 am

        To this I’ll just add that Tom is trying to paint me as an oppositional figure when I’m really not.

        I think anyone would be hard-pressed to find a quote where I’m asking Tom to do anything but be more honest in his analyses.

        Mark

  15. Mark said,

    April 29, 2011 at 1:59 am

    I was going to bump my point asking Tom to rectify his imaginary version of “po-biz” with the real one, again…

    I’ve raised a similar concern in the “About Scarriet” thread – maybe you’d rather talk about it there, Tom?

    Mark

  16. April 29, 2011 at 3:39 am

    Dear Bill,
    Good points, all of them — I haven’t heard a voice as clear and fair as that since I was on Poets.org, and of course I’m referring to Colin Ward. A very fair critic, and a very well-trained one too, and the young people working with him on their poetry in the AoAP Workshop are certainly lucky. And I believe him entirely when he says he does all that for free too — indeed, how could anyone suspect otherwise, he’s so fair, well-trained, straight-forward and dedicated.

    On the other hand, I have seen with my own eyes while teaching on three continents what I also saw in Colin Ward’s teaching at Poets.org, that when it comes to understanding the human condition, and improving it, alleviating the suffering and developing compassion, clarity and fairness are never enough. They’re good for faith-based clubs and happy families, but they fall far short when it comes to real life.

    And yes, of course there must be humor too, and lots of it, a time to roll around on the floor pulling out rabbits, handkerchiefs and thorns, indeed pulling out all the stops, the anger and the hair as well as the laughter.

    In all human institutions that remain healthy there’s a constant bubbling and bumping going on, obviously — under the pasture there’s a volcano, under the volcano ashes, under the ashes a phoenix, under the phoenix a cuckoo, under the cuckoo a squashed chick, under the squashed chick both an empty nest and a new space for hope.

    So of course we need Tom’s irreverence, and I worked very closely with it for a long, long time, don’t forget. On the other hand, his irreverence and wit were leavened by my age and enthusiasm, just as I was lifted and needled by his carelessness and his itching. Indeed, that’s what made Scarriet so compelling.

    Yes, Scarriet was funny, purple, rich and diverse, and after a slow start in the first four months began to attract more and more visitors of quality — and I don’t mean by that what Tom calls “big names,” those “published poets,” in other words, who may or may not have deposited a few bon mots somewhere during the first March Madness contest. I mean “quality” as in their contribution to the discourse, which grew wilder and funnier and more interesting all the time. Yes, these visitors stayed like you’re staying, Bill, and participated in an active and evolving discourse just as you are.

    Then Scarriet went off the rails, that would be my discourse, or switched to a different track, which might be Tom’s. How the switch got thrown, who pulled the lever, no longer matters. The point is that now Scarriet is a site that in normal times has no participating visitors — check back before Mark came in and see if there was any commentary to speak of. For the moment it feels like the old Scarriet with the exception of the articles — Tom writes them all now, of course, and Tom has no partner to wrestle with so he’s grown crass and solipsistic.

    I’m not part of Scarriet anymore, needless to say — I’m just hanging around until Mark’s doctor lets him out of bed and my arm heals, and then we’ll be off, all of us I suspect. If anyone still stays we’ll see.

    Oh, I’ll look in from time to time to see if you’re there, Bill — if you are I might come back in with a few words too if you inspire me. Like with more Genesis, or praise!

    So thanks. And I’m sure it must be a great relief for Tom that someone commenting on Scarriet finds his activities interesting and helpful.

    My own sense of it is that there will be a Dostoyevsky moment eventually, partly because I’d love to see Tom become the poet I think he is, or at least somebody who feels confident enough to live openly for poetry. I don’t think the present Wizard is going to be content to stay hidden in the Brady closet forever.

    Indeed, I think that’s where all the anger is coming from, you see, and the jealousy. And yes, Tom, I have no right to say that, I know, or reason, and Mark should come down hard on me too. I just can’t see how you could dump so much shit on so many poets without feeling a bit shitty too.

    Christopher: 3/5 kii wua, 2/5 kii nou

    Notes:
    1.) kii = “shit” in Thai. As babies don’t wear diapers in Thailand, or anything, people don’t get toilet trained. So shit’s pretty common. When you go drinking you eat kii maew, for example, “drinking shit” — delicious!

    2.) wua = a cow or a bull.

    3.) nou = “mouse”

    4.) kii nou = the smallest of the chillies in the kitchen, just the size of the you-know-what of a mouse. They’re by far the hottest, the most distinctive, fearsome and delicious!

  17. Bill said,

    April 29, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Sounds good. We all need a gadfly now and then. But between you and Christopher, Brady will be stung within an inch of hos life. Let the show go on! Bill

  18. April 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Don’t quite get this, Bill. Who are you addressing? Mark? If so was the reply also addressed to me? To what I just said?

    And what’s the gadfly in the context?

    C.

  19. Bill said,

    April 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Christopher,
    We must have cross-posted. That was addressed to Mark. Thanks for your kind reply. I didn’t see it until after I posted the reply to Mark. Fascinating account of Thai Buddhism. And other things Thai. The gadflies are you and Mark stinging Mr. Brady out of his favored paths. Didn’t Socrates call himself a gadfly?

    I won’t comment on your comments about Mr. Brady, based on a history I know nothing about. Best wishes to him and you! Bill

    • Mark said,

      April 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      well, if his favored paths are laziness and strawman arguments…

      Remember Bill, I think “Tom the Comedian” is fine – it’s only when he tries to be a poetry critic that he fails so spectacularly. If the comedy is what people like then Tom should probably focus on that and leave the poetry to the people who have read the poems.

      Mark

  20. thomasbrady said,

    April 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    “Then Scarriet Christopher Woodman went off the rails…”

    fixed

    • Mark said,

      April 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      Says the guy who’s too cowardly to stand behind his words.

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

        No, I’m too busy showing up yours.

        2-0, Mark. Eliot and Pound to me.

        Wanna do another writer?

      • Mark said,

        April 29, 2011 at 3:19 pm

        LOL

  21. April 29, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Thomas Brady wrote:

    “Then Christopher Woodman went off the rails…”

    Christopher Woodman had said:

    “Then Scarriet went off the rails, that would be my discourse, or switched to a different track, which might be Tom’s. How the switch got thrown, who pulled the lever, no longer matters.”

    I didn’t like that either, Tom — I left out the train wreck.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      I know…the little red wheel barrow doesn’t like train wrecks.

  22. Mark said,

    April 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    I re-repeat:

    “Are you advocating a carefully selected canon of modern literature picked by an elite group of authorities?”

    “Who specifically should do something? What specifically should be done?”

    “You speak of poetry like it’s run by some shadowy cabal. “Po-biz” is even less of an entity than “the government.” If you have a problem with “po-biz” then define “po-biz”.”

  23. April 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    That’s here , Tom. Bill’s the speaker so you’ll have support.

    “The Red Wheelbarrow,” remember?

    Come on over — let’s talk about it.

    Christopher: 3/5 Walks Like an Egyptian, 2/5 Walks Like an Election

  24. Mark said,

    April 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Now this one’s fallen off the recent comments as well…

    Mark said,
    April 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    “I re-repeat:

    “Are you advocating a carefully selected canon of modern literature picked by an elite group of authorities?”

    “Who specifically should do something? What specifically should be done?”

    “You speak of poetry like it’s run by some shadowy cabal. “Po-biz” is even less of an entity than “the government.” If you have a problem with “po-biz” then define “po-biz”.””

  25. Mark said,

    April 30, 2011 at 7:58 am

    So in the About Scarriet thread Tom said:

    “As far as “Po-biz being bereft of executive wisdom…” no, not a cabal. You’re taking this remark way too seriously. It’s true, though.”

    If it’s true then prove it. It’s pretty easy to prove something when you’ve got truth on your side.

    Am I taking the remark too seriously? I don’t think so. Tom’s insistence on a carefully selected canon of poems chosen by an elite few is one of his go-to arguments. But is that what we all really want? A few weeks ago Tom said: “we should, at the very least, dump trash and keep the valuable”

    I asked him who “we” referred to and how this “dumping” should take place. He (are you sensing a pattern here?) refused to answer.

    Specifics aren’t Tom’s strong suit.

    Tom is lazy and just wants someone to tell him what to read and what to like. He is too much of a hack to bother to make an informed decision for himself. This is why Scarriet is a joke.

    Mark

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      Mock,

      You always demand a pound of examples but aren’t able to show you can handle a penny of an idea. You want me to do all the work for you. Why? Because you’re an idiot? Because you have no ideas yourself? Where’s your counter-thesis? You never have one. You are like an infant in the cradle who keeps crying for more milk. Your mockery isn’t even mockery—it’s wailing.

      Tom

      • Mark said,

        April 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm

        LOL @ “counter-thesis”

        You’re arguing a point and you refuse to argue it. Your “ideas” are paranoid delusions. I’m not asking for examples I’m asking you to defend your arguments.

        “Mark said,
        April 30, 2011 at 7:58 am

        So in the About Scarriet thread Tom said:

        “As far as “Po-biz being bereft of executive wisdom…” no, not a cabal. You’re taking this remark way too seriously. It’s true, though.”

        If it’s true then prove it. It’s pretty easy to prove something when you’ve got truth on your side.

        Am I taking the remark too seriously? I don’t think so. Tom’s insistence on a carefully selected canon of poems chosen by an elite few is one of his go-to arguments. But is that what we all really want? A few weeks ago Tom said: “we should, at the very least, dump trash and keep the valuable”

        I asked him who “we” referred to and how this “dumping” should take place. He (are you sensing a pattern here?) refused to answer.

        Specifics aren’t Tom’s strong suit.

        Tom is lazy and just wants someone to tell him what to read and what to like. He is too much of a hack to bother to make an informed decision for himself. This is why Scarriet is a joke.

        Mark”

      • thomasbrady said,

        April 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm

        This is your new mode of debate?

        Quoting your own inanities, prefaced with a ‘LOL?’

        LOL!!!!

        Yea, counter-thesis: I thought you’d choke on that word. LOL

  26. Mark said,

    April 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    What specifically is so inane about asking how you realistically see your ideas being enacted?

    What is a reasonable counter-thesis to the thesis of the guy in the tin-foil hat?

    When you don’t prove your hypothesis no “counter-thesis” (LOL) is necessary.

    Mark

  27. thomasbrady said,

    April 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Dear Mr. tin-foil hat,

    No, there’s no cabal.

    Now go prove to me there’s lots of grains of sand on the beach. And if you don’t, I win.

    LOL

    Tom

    • Mark said,

      April 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      If there is no “cabal” then how do you propose we “sort gems from dross” – SOMEONE would have to do it.

      When you say: “we should, at the very least, dump trash and keep the valuable”

      I want to know who WE refers to and what the dumping process entails.

      “Mark said,
      April 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      I agree that there are problems with modern poetry – this is clear and everyone IS thinking this – but making some boogyman to blame the problems on doesn’t help things. No one is saying what you are saying because you’re spouting is paranoid drivel.

      There is no body that runs poetry. There are no executives employ “executive wisdom.” You seem to want people to tell you what to read and to separate the good from the bad for you.

      That’s not how things work. Nor how things have EVER worked. Stop being so fucking lazy.

      I repeat:

      “Are you advocating a carefully selected canon of modern literature picked by an elite group of authorities?”

      “Who specifically should do something? What specifically should be done?”

      “You speak of poetry like it’s run by some shadowy cabal. “Po-biz” is even less of an entity than “the government.” If you have a problem with “po-biz” then define “po-biz”.”

  28. Mark said,

    April 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    “Now go prove to me there’s lots of grains of sand on the beach. And if you don’t, I win.”

    Remember, I’m not trying to argue that there are or are not grains of sand on the beach. There is no burden of proof on me to do so. I will happily prove any of the points I’ve brought up during my time at Scarriet. That’s how a debate works. This sort of reductio ad absurdum is laughably transparent.

    When you say “we should do x,” it’s perfectly reasonable for me to say: “yeah, doing x would be nice but I’m not sure that it’s realistic – how do you propose we do it?”

    When you have to turn it around on me and answer questions with questions, what you’re saying is that you don’t have an answer because you’re a whiner and a complainer with nothing of worth to give.

    When you title your article “HOW THE MODERNS MADE SENTIMENTAL A BAD THING” am I crazy for expecting you to say HOW THE MODERNS MADE SENTIMENTAL A BAD THING? When you don’t am I a dick for pointing it out?

    You try and pretend that my questions are demands, you try and pretend that I’m an ideologue who is blindly defending something but the truth is that you just aren’t able to stand behind what you say, Tom.

    It’s clear to everyone reading these articles. Your responses make me think it’s clear to you too.

    Mark

  29. Nooch & Poem support said,

    May 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I’m sorry to see
    Karen Kipp go home—
    In homage to “The Rat”
    I here insert this poem:

    My Exterminator

    When I’m howlin’ and I’m screamin’
    Cause the rats all squeak and snap,
    Who’s there to teach me patience,
    And how to shut my trap?
    My exterminator.
    Though a man of fire at mouse’s hole,
    A hating, killing whiz;
    Still a humble, loving, trustful soul
    My exterminator is.
    When the Master Mouser calls him
    To that Big House up Above,
    He’ll bring along his Kit of Kindness
    And spray the whole wide world with Love.
    My exterminator.

    — from “Humbug” magazine, Feb. 1958 issue


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