Is it good when a woman kicks a man’s ass?

Some say poetry comes down to one thing: novel juxtaposition. What is metaphor if not this? Aristotle put Metaphor at the center, and the rest of ancient theories are concerned with proper and coherent imitation of life when humans jump up on stage. Modernity has not added anything new—only a few quirks and quibbles. The important modern critics like Poe (rigorously, classically) and Eliot (bizarrely, haphazardly) recall ancient standards. The rest is vanity.  Auden puts his finger on things in a letter to Frank O’Hara in 1955: “I think you (and John [Ashbery], too, for that matter) must watch what is always the great danger with any ‘surrealistic’ style, namely of confusing authentic non-logical relations which arouse wonder with accidental ones which arouse mere surprise and in the end fatigue.”

But to return to novel juxtaposition and proper and coherent imitation: Carol Muske’s poem, “A Former Love, A Lover of Form,” has it all: vivid elements which combine in surprising ways, actual life exemplified, concision, a leisurely observation of things which finally blossoms into a forceful, epigrammatic close.

James Schuyler, in “Red Brick and Brown Stone,” is anxious to present life vividly and concisely, even if it’s a lonely, boring one of stifling routine.

There is more distress in Muske’s poem, a greater novelty of juxtaposition, and hers finally has more intellectual interest.

Muske wins easily, 82-64.

Before we say goodbye to Schuyler, we should say a word about him, because his story is a typical one in modern American poetry: just as Pound was a secretary to an iconic Brit, Yeats,  Schuyler was a secretary to Auden. Later Schuyler became associated with O’Hara, Ashbery and the Modern Art culture in New York City (The New York School)—Schuyler’s roommate from 1961 to 1973 was the painter Fairfield Porter, trained at Harvard and the Art Student’s League, a post-WW II haven for Abstract and Pop artists. Schuyler rejected Auden’s formalism.

Welcome to the Sweet Sixteen, Carol Muske!


  1. Mark said,

    April 27, 2011 at 2:46 pm


    Is that what James Schuyler looked like??? No wonder he was so depressed 🙂

    That quote from Auden is great, Tom. Hits the nail on the head. I’ve read a few assorted poems by Ol’ WH but never really found anything that resonated very strongly with me.

    Maybe I should check him out.


    PS – I’m still not sure why the word “modern” for you means 100-200 years ago. Your last two articles have referred to works from the 19th century as “modern” works

    We’re in the 21st century, son! Your modernity is older than my great-grandfather.

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 27, 2011 at 4:53 pm


      Poor James. Imagine being a young, upcoming, extremely well-connected member of the hottest art clique in New York City, with one shining shoe in poetry and the other in the glamorous world of Modern Art—with a face like that.

      Auden was basically a balladeer—a gentler Kipling. T.S. Eliot, (who had a not-so-secret crush on Kipling’s work) in the years between the wars, annointed Auden, 20 years his junior, as the next Eliot: Auden and Isherwood traveled to Berlin, China and Isherwood ended up inspiring ‘Cabaret’ and working in Hollywood, while Auden in America, as the Yale Younger Judge, annointed American poets in turn: Ashbery, Rich, Merwin, all still riding that wave.

      I do make a distinction between the self-appointed Modernists and Modern in the old sense of Ancients v. Moderns.


  2. Poem support said,

    May 1, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Red Brick and Brown Stone

    For Darragh Park

    He arises. Oriane
    the lurcher wants
    her walk. Out into
    the freeze. Oriane
    pees and shits. The
    shit is scooped up
    in a doggy bag, ac-
    cording to law: $100
    fine and is disposed
    of somewhere.
    The sun peers down
    and sees them. Ov-
    altine, a fag, WNCN:
    unspeakable Telemann.
    The dinner table is
    mahogany and silver
    gleams. A carriage
    clock chimes eight,
    sweetly. The front
    room north facing
    studio, its two long
    windows divided by
    a pier glass. Canvas,
    eight by six, cars
    charge down Ninth
    Avenue straight at
    you. Parked, a yellow
    cab. A bending tree.
    London Terrace, an
    eighteenth century
    house now a shop,
    work in progress.
    Brush in pigment:
    scrub stroke scour.
    Hours pass. Hunger
    strikes: Empire Diner
    silver metal art deco.
    A pork burger, salad,
    tea (iced). Home. Oriane
    wants out. So they do
    as before. Oriane goes
    home. Off by cab to
    Florentine palasso
    racquet club: naked,
    the pool, plunge, how
    many laps? Home. (Through
    out the day, numerous
    cigarettes. I forget
    which brand. Tareytons.)
    A pencil drawing of
    a vase of parrot tulips.
    Records: Richter:
    Scriabin: Tosca: “Mario!
    Mario! Mario!” “I
    lived for art, I
    lived for love.” Sup-
    per: a can of baked
    beans, a cup of raspberry
    yogurt. Perrier. Out?
    A flick? An A.A.
    meeting? Walk Oriane.
    Nine p.m. Bed. A
    book, V. Woolf’s let-
    ters. Lights out, sleep
    not quite right away.
    No valium. The night
    passes in black chiffon.

    James Schuyler

  3. Poem/Link support said,

    May 1, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    A Former Love, a Lover of Form

    When they kiss,
    she feels a certain revulsion,
    and as they continue to kiss

    she enters her own memory
    carrying a wicker basket
    of laundry. As the wind lifts,

    the clothes wrap themselves
    around her: damp sleeves
    around her neck, stockings

    in her hair. Gone her schoolgirl’s
    uniform, the pale braids and body
    that weren’t anywhere anonymously.

    Her glasses fall forward on her nose,
    her mouth opens: all around
    are objects that desire, suddenly, her.

    Not just clothes, but open doorways,
    love seats, Mother’s bright red
    espadrilles kicked off in the damp grass.

    If she puts on lipstick, she’ll lie
    forever. But she’s too nearsighted,
    you see, she doesn’t spot the wind

    approaching in a peach leisure suit—
    or the sheer black nightie swaying
    from a branch. Is she seducer or seduced?

    And which is worse,
    a dull lover’s kiss or the embrace
    of his terrible laundry?

    She’d rather have the book
    he wrote than him.

    Carol Muske-Dukes

  4. maximgiren said,

    June 10, 2011 at 5:34 am

    вакансии на дому швеей рб г минск вакансия специалист по спорту в москве работа в чебоксарах гл бухгалтер вакансии красноярска от прямых работодателей работа для 55 летних

  5. thomasbrady said,

    June 11, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Ich habe corn flakes.

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