WHY POETRY SUCKS NOW

Okay, first…poetry now does suck, so let’s stop pretending it doesn’t.

We shall demolish the simple argument most commonly used to defend today’s poetry: Every era has good and bad poetry.

Yes, every era has good and bad poetry, true.

However, today we have something completely different: bad poetry is celebrated.

To be faced with “good and bad poetry” is easy for the public, for it simply rejects the bad poetry and enjoys the good.

But today poetry has no public, and for a very simple reason.

It’s a no-brainer.

The public has a deep mistrust of the product—and why?

Not because the public is afraid of running into some bad poetry amid the good.

The problem goes much deeper than that.

The public has checked out because it doesn’t believe that good poetry is possible anymore.

The public believes that poetry-at-large, poetry-in-the-main, poetry written and published today, is not operating with any standard of good and bad at all.

This public perception is so overwhelmingly the fact, that it doesn’t matter that good poetry somewhere is being published—the public has no way of finding it.

None of this is speculation; it is the simple truth, and those in the poetry business know this better than anyone: poetry has no disinterested public: the only people reading poetry are poets, or people who wish to be called poets.

“Poet” used to be up there with chef, musician, baseball player, or architect.

Now “poet” refers to either 1) professor or 2) homeless person.

“Poet” doesn’t even refer  to “someone who writes poetry,” anymore.

“Poet” doesn’t even refer to “someone who writes bad poetry,” anymore.

Good—and thus bad—poetry simply doesn’t exist—for the simple reason that for at least two generations now, poets celebrated in academia—where poetry published and reviewed in the public sphere now resides—write what is felt by the public to be bad poetry.

That’s how bad it is, now.

Poet no longer means “someone who writes poetry.”

When it hears the word, “poet,” the public immediately thinks of homeless person or professor, with the common traits: self-centered, hard-to-understand, pretentious, boring.

Even if the public is caught off-guard and finds an interesting topic associated with a poem, it is never interesting because the interesting topic resides in a poem, but only because the interesting topic happens to be touched on by the poem—and this “fortunate” event only increases the public perception outlined above.

If poetry has no public, then poetry qua poetry must suck, because if poetry is good but has no public, how is that doing the public any good?  Poetry, like music, must have a public to exist, because poetry, and its sister art, music, exist for the public, not the other way around.

Even the most rabid Language Poet Avant-garde Crazy person would not assert that the public exists for poetry.

So let us say that poetry does not exist for the public, but exists for some other reason.

Let someone tell us what that reason is.

There is no reply.  There cannot be any reply.

The underlying reason why bad poetry is celebrated in academia is because of how poetry is produced.

Without a public, how can poetry have any material standards of excellence? The answer is, it does not.

How did poetry lose its public?  It lost it when the place it got made was removed from the public sphere and put in the university.

This is known as the Creative Writing industry.

Imagine a wine industry with no grapes, no wine-makers and no wine tasting.

Imagine a wine industry—made entirely of wine critics who do nothing but write about wine.

This, without any exaggeration, is where poetry—as an industry—is today.

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161 Comments

  1. May 17, 2013 at 2:21 am

    I don’t know if this will help, but my 12th grade English teacher said that what poetry had over all other forms of literature was its “economy” of expression, but that what it sometimes forfeited because of that “economy” was “clarity.” As an example she used the poetry of Emily Dickinson. She said it was among the greatest American poetry, but “Emily can be pretty difficult,…..” she said, with her voice just trailing off.

    • thomasbrady said,

      May 17, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Why did she think economy would hinder clarity…? That’s funny…

      One can just imagine these teachers everywhere who celebrate “difficult” poetry, which is this mysterious ‘black bag,’ and whatever the reader ‘finds’ is valid. One can see how quickly this turns into an ‘approved, validated’ process in which there is no there there.

  2. marcusbales said,

    May 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    “It seems to me that MFA programs have become a tool of indoctrination that has had an unprecedented homogenizing effect on artistic practices worldwide, an effect that is now being replicated with curatorial and critical writing programs.”

    http://www.e-flux.com/journal/art-without-market-art-without-education-political-economy-of-art/

  3. thomasbrady said,

    May 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    “I attended graduate school in the ‘90s. I did all of the coursework and the final exhibition, wrote the dissertation and submitted it. I thought I was all done, but then suddenly I found out that in order to get the degree itself, I needed to package my dissertation and photographs in a very specific type of a black plastic folder, which could only be purchased at one stationery store located in Manhattan near Canal Street. The secretary at the art department told me that the Chairman kept the folders in a closet in his office, and that the folders had to conform exactly to the dimensions of the closet’s irregular shelves. No other folders would be accepted. I was idealistic and thought that the Master of Fine Arts degree had something to do with the acquisition of knowledge … but it came down to a surreal formalism. I never got the folder or the degree!”

    This says a lot–from the article you linked, Marcus.

    The writer makes an important confession which describes the pedantry of the higher education professions in both art and writing. Pedantry is a nice word for it. It’s actually a soul-killing sickness.

  4. May 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Dear Tom, I’m sorry to get back to you so late on this question. I just finished a 4000+ word piece of prose that had taken most of my energy for a few months. But, now I’m ready to take a stab at the “economy vs.clarity” question. I don’t remember why Miss Davis, my teacher, said she thought economy meant sacrificing clarity, but could this be a possible explanation?….When a poet writes his material for just a small coterie of friends, maybe he can use “short hand” expressions that these friends will readily “get,” but will not be understandable to the public once he publishes for them? I think I’ve read that Emily Dickinson wrote mostly just for her own amusement at first. Yours, David Bittner

  5. thomasbrady said,

    May 25, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    David,

    Clarity and economy can have different ‘in-the-know’ contexts, and so that would have an impact, yes. In general, however, economy should never necessarily hinder clarity. I guess that’s all I’m saying. Clarity and economy are not the same thing, but when they work in concert, one would have to argue that it’s a good thing.

    As for Emily Dickinson, I think she wrote for ‘a public,’ even though she didn’t have one; if she wrote in secret code to herself, I don’t think she would have become famous. Since language is already a code, to write ‘in code’ in that code, when you are alone, seems very counter-productive, and what genius is going to be counter-productive?

    Tom

  6. harryowen said,

    October 22, 2013 at 11:18 am

    When did “the public” become an “it”? What happened to variety, to difference? There are far too many sweeping and unsubstantiated claims here.

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 22, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Harry,

      I’m glad you raised this issue because it’s crucial and I will be more than happy to explain where I’m coming from.

      First, what I mean by “the public” is that which is outside the expert-ism of the poetry insiders. Obviously there is great variety within this “public,” but it still has an identity as “the public” in its relation as “uniformed” consumers to whatever produces poetry. I think we need to be sympathetic to this public and not make it simply disappear in a welter of “variety,” which, of course, on other levels, it possesses.

      Secondly, “the public” more generally is an ideal, the heavenly oneness of humanity together comprehending and feeling and experiencing the good simultaneously. I think this is a worthy ideal, and on the other end of the spectrum, you have a million poets who each has an audience of one—themselves.

      Thanks for your feedback,

      Tom

  7. Anonymous said,

    October 31, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Bravo…my most rejected poems are those that the “general public” love the most!

  8. J said,

    March 20, 2014 at 3:35 am

    Free verse, blank verse…..scribble-dee-do prosey wish-wash coded crapolla, along with both academia and hacks killed poetry and its audience. No fancy words needed. in other words, idiots unable to write, nor recognize, nor publish, nor teach, nor those having any understanding of it did it. A poet is born, but they are busy working part-time and figuring who is sane enough to have his child.

    • Ashu अशु said,

      March 4, 2015 at 6:26 am

      Blank verse. Uh-huh. William Shakespeare, John Milton, and William Wordsworth are hereby informed that they are “idiots unable to write” who killed English poetry and its audience.

      • Alldough said,

        February 25, 2016 at 12:50 am

        Okay, first, I doubt Shakespeare even knew what Blank Verse even was. He was just writing. why does everything have to be labeled now? Jeez man, if a poet wants to write something, he doesn’t need to be validated with meaningless labeled “techniques”. that’s something that’s been pushed on us for way too long.

        second, maybe it’s because of these definitions we are taught in college on what makes “good poetry” that are actually ruining the mind of poets everywhere. “oh yes, blank verse is SO deep”, they think. “it illustrates the every day, brooo. the artistic and beautiful side of common life”. BULL. SHIT.

        this kind of crap is what killed poetry. exactly as stated above. prosey wish-wash and academia. William Shakespeare, William Wordworth, and John Milton knew what the fuck they were doing; they weren’t some brain washed, broke college kids who hated authority.

        now I could go on a rampage describing what good poetry actually is, but screw that. You can’t define it. Those people, like myself, who are poetry afficionados know what I’m talking about, and they will all tell you that great poetry transcends all these shitty academic paradigms. great poetry is not some mechanical, graspable concept that any person can expect to pick up and create… no. great poems leave a mark on the human soul.

        • thomasbrady said,

          February 25, 2016 at 1:17 pm

          Aldous,

          Well…Shakespeare did know what blank verse was…but I understand what you’re saying. The Beatles couldn’t read music. They were simply schooled in all kinds of popular music and brought their hearts and souls to making new music for the public. There has to be a public. A great artist LOVES mankind. Academia has killed poetry and art. I’m not saying throw out method. There is a method. The academics don’t know what it is. Academics are self-interested and lost. I’m going to produce a follow up essay to this one. Though it is hardly needed.

  9. April 1, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    […] found this nearly year-old blog post last week on the Scarriet blog which really struck a chord with me. In a nutshell, it asserts that […]

  10. Drew said,

    April 12, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Here’s to avant-cryptic stanzas
    Nihil-angst extravaganzas,
    Ghazal, Pantoum, endless Haiku…
    such may cause the Muse to strike you.
    Dada, Tanka, cinquains, Centos
    existential verse mementos –
    yes, they’re mildly amusing forms
    but finally fail to transcend norms
    of poetry-induced despair
    (a common modern-day affair)
    brought on by formless abstract lines
    of current verse. The warning signs:
    eye-rolling, growling, throwing books
    yelling at websites, dirty looks
    at writers with advanced degrees,
    a raging sense of vague unease
    with life and letters. Damn what’s new…
    one wonders what we’re coming to.

    When meaning is replaced by style
    and editors extol the vile
    you know that doom is on its way.
    The poets don’t know what to say
    but fool around, devoid of rhythm
    (that’s why no one wants to hear them
    let alone READ them). What a lark;
    like rain-soaked matches in the dark.
    Poetic dullness thus delays
    to kindle light or spark a blaze.
    Sad vocation: analyzing
    wordy scribbles. Agonizing
    over esoteric twaddle
    (makes one want to hit the bottle –
    or the poet). Was it ever
    this way? Will the next endeavor
    lift us toward the lyric splendor
    or return us back to sender…

    • Ashu अशु said,

      March 4, 2015 at 6:38 am

      You don’t seem to know exactly what you want to rail at. The ghazal, the pantoum, the haiku, and the tanka are strict forms. Don’t you fancy yourself a defender of poetic form against formlessness? Or… is your problem with these the fact that they have been imported into English from other languages and traditions (unlike the sonnet, terza rima, ottava rima, and blank verse, of course)? Are you not an enemy of formlessness, but of innovation in general, even formalist innovation? And how is experimentation with or abandonment of form essentially linked with self-expression, emotionality, and esotericism?

      • Andrew said,

        March 4, 2015 at 2:30 pm

        I am railing against Westerners who embrace such forms in a superficial way because they perceive them as exotic and more “spiritual”. One poet’s opinion. That’s all.

  11. J said,

    April 12, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    There was a prime of those in rhyme afloat the deepest seas
    And now a mime will croak in slime in oath to ego pleas

    And some will write in prose and sleight a poem’s seals and keys
    Or if they might enclose despite a form that frees and flees

    The libre’s fine to blow a line of snow and seize to knees
    A reader’s spine and so define their flow as sprees on skis

    The structure type will hold to snipe the soul in pleasing lees
    without a hype and show that ripe and old were years the cheese

    Then blankists try to mortify the whole of these and freeze
    The reasons why it’s sold and buy the cold-diseased and sneeze

    A school will hike to dole and strike a hole for three degrees
    in pockets like a poet’s tike is born for greedy fees

    The hacks are tied like dork and bride and told their pees and cees
    must coincide and hone the tried as overseen trainees

    But few alive are bold to thrive in poetry’s soirees
    And thus contrive in rows and jive the onus (s)he foresees

  12. thomasbrady said,

    April 13, 2014 at 1:16 am

    Of course rhyme can get out of control…

    • J said,

      April 15, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      …..and nobody knows what that means. The poem is a brilliancy or it’s not a poem. How much rhyme makes no sense–it’s not like baking a pizza.

  13. J said,

    April 13, 2014 at 2:57 am

    Drew, if you wrote that, I’d like to know who you are. That’s a great, great write and thanks for sharing.

  14. April 14, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    My comment is that the essay about poetry sucking is absolutely true. There’s a great deal of deception among the editors and “poets” scribbling today–they EXCUSE the product, when the product is INEXCUSABLE. William Childress, Wikipedia

    • J said,

      April 15, 2014 at 3:50 am

      By God, look at the recent winners of the Pulitzer Prize for “Poetry”.
      I couldn’t read the drivel if forced to–it’s like nails on a chalkboard. Not only do they excuse the product, but they do excuse bad grammar altogether.

  15. Mildred said,

    April 16, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Hi, after reading this amazing post i am as well cheerful to share my know-how here with friends.

  16. Ethan said,

    June 20, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks a million for your post. Yes indeed, modern “poetry” sucks, alright. Pretentious journal entries organized into stanzas and masquerading as literature. Horrible stuff. Vapid. And these writers have very lethargic cognitive skills. In their material, they apparently attempt to wrestle with dinosaurs, but as it turns out their musculature is more fit for dwarfs. Or–and even worse–they attempt to transform said dwarf into a dinosaur, and make a trivial affair more monumental than it actually is. False profundity. No, Mr. Modern Poet, I don’t believe there’s a connection between the way your Cheerios drift in you bowl of milk, and Man’s concept of the Logos. Sorry, that bird don’t fly. Mary Oliver, David Whyte and Robert Bly are three modern exceptions I can name. But that’s it.

    I write poems, too. Thought about sending some into to New letters, to compete in one of their annual competitions. But then I thought, “You know, I ought to have a look at their previous winners.” And so I did just that. What did I discover?

    Cretinous. Dreadful. Un-Homeric. Sacrilege. Stoning offences. Blasphemy. Works written by the Un-makers. (Didn’t C.S. Lewis warn us about this crowd?)

    The stuff was beyond terrible, it was unreadable. I then decided on the basis of the stuff they admire, that I was not only unfit for such a publication but was a better writer. And that’s not a conceit. I can do better and already have.

    There is one thing I’d like to comment on before I leave off here, and that is this fatuous notion that there’s no “good” or “bad” poems, because everybody’s spirit is different, and people express themselves in various ways. Also (so I read in numerous blogs on the Web), it’s not proper to judge modern poetry by who uses or does not use forms or rhyme.

    Forms have been successfully used by men from Homer, to Shelly, Keats, Byron–name it. Shakespeare’s sonnets would be nothing without the form he chose to express his intense cognition. The form is restrictive, yes. But in its limits the limitless finds expression far better than the apparently–and deceptively–vast space free verse offers. The form of a poem is an attempt at self-discipline and self-challenging. It is for muscular minds and spirits. They get muscular through exercise, and “playing tennis with the net down” doesn’t get that job done. I find I’m a much stronger and challenged writer when I discipline myself with a form. It works the mind and taxes the spirit, and broadens my vocabulary and conceptual powers. It’s labor…that key ingredient missing from most poetry today. Cirque du Soleil acrobats are excellent because they can accomplish much with little, and that includes space. Poets are the same. A form is a method of transmission also, and actually shapes not only the way a poet conceives and expresses their ideas, but will determine how successfully the reader receives them.

    Art has suffered much the same way poetry has with all this Modernist garbage and methodology. Form, technique, volume, tone, light and dark…most art teachers themselves–much less the students–know nothing of what the Masters of bygone days understood competently, and which they used all the time in composing their work. And that’s the key word: “composing.” I don’t consider John Cage a composer. A Poser, yes. But little else. Julian Schnabel? Bulls**t artist. There’s no work in his “work” either. Formless form doesn’t interest me, and I prefer to leave that quackery to New Agers who wish to tickle their own arses for amusement.

    Yep, this is a thorny post, but I think it will attract and inspire a few readers. I can’t be the only guy out there with sense.

    • thomasbrady said,

      June 20, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      Ethan,

      Thanks!

      Feel free to post a little of your poetry. We don’t mind.

      Tom

      • Ethan said,

        June 21, 2014 at 1:14 am

        Thanks for that invite.

        Okay, here’s Section XI from a poem on which I am still laboring, titled, “Against the Godbots.”

        After my very difficult de-conversion from Christianity, I decided to write a swan-song as a sort of closure to the whole experience, which lasted years. The poem is about what I see wrong with this religion, and how it casts a Spell upon the Faithful in all areas of their existence. It also deals with the nasty history of the Church, and also takes on the accusations made against Eve and Womankind, and how those charges are actually false to the core. As a poem, it’s complex. It’s near 30 pages already.

        This section tackles the issue of how indebted the Church is to Greco-Roman civilization, and what we’ve inherited from the Pagans. In the previous Section X, I documented the insanity of the beliefs Christians hold, and the effects of those dogmas upon them. Section XI picks it up from there. It’s long, but I promise it shall not bore you. Being a bore is unforgivable! Sorry if the content proves rough for anyone:

        SECTION XI:

        Yet the madness preached then is promoted today;
        The snakes are still slithering and the asses do bray
        In a tongue that’s both vulgar and out of its time,
        Yet couched in the mouths of preachers divine.
        And so with these dogmas they blight their good senses,
        And ‘gainst Ancient Wisdom they build up defenses.
        They route and they mock the ol’ Heathens to scorn;
        Yet from that Zeus-head their Athena was born.
        For whence their foundation? and whence their success?
        The Greeks and the Romans, their efforts, did bless.
        For when the good Christian was brought to the brink,
        ‘Twas the Pagan who cautioned and taught him to think.
        The Saint hates the fact that ol’ Constantine
        Gave Christians a vault on his own trampoline
        And over the wall into conquest they surged:
        Christian to crown by gymnastics, converged.
        And while Jesus to Satan’s offers diverged,
        Their vandals they armed and the Pagans they purged.
        So ‘pon Heathen platforms the Christians did build.
        With this stolen gold their Kingdom they’d guild:
        They gave him his tongue with which he could speak
        The lines of his Testament written in Greek.
        Poetry, love, and the Tragedy play
        Were performed in an age when the Heathen held sway.
        Philosophy, medicine, science, the Muses
        Are creations of Pagans the Churchman peruses.
        His trip to museums is a trip to their shrines,
        And though blessed by Divinity–he fails to divine.
        Mathematics and building; politics, war,
        Are purchased from shelves in the Infidel’s store.
        The musical theories of old Pythagoras
        Taught clerics the Spheres are engaged in a chorus.
        Augustin read Plato, and was so much the wiser,
        And Aquinas was schooled by a General’s adviser.
        Psychology, biology and games of athletics,
        Physics, geometry and schools of Aesthetics.
        Metaphysics, Democracy, the grandeur of Homer
        (To label these ‘Christian’ is quite a misnomer);
        And when Scriptures leave Doctors not little perplexed,
        Hermeneutics is key to unlocking the text.
        Herodotus, Thucydides, and old Xenophon
        The wisdom of History, their ledgers, did spawn.
        Euclidian Elements, rig’rously thought;
        Eratosthenes measure but one percent short.
        The lyrics of Sappho, Euripides’ plays,
        The great Archimedes and his infamous rays.
        Pericles making his Athens resplendent,
        And Phidian sculptures boldly transcendent.
        Aristotle the master of all who do know.
        Leonidas slaying Persians rank after row.
        Demosthenes tongue, ambrosial and golden,
        Socrates to Sophia, betrothed and beholden.
        Pindar’s odes and his lyrical verse,
        While Aesop his fables on morals converse.
        Hippocrates’ oath that lives on to this day,
        And Democracy’s bedrock Solon did array.
        But the world of The Seen is not solely bedecked.
        To the album Unseen let us gaze and reflect,
        And prism this light from Arcadian pages,
        Which makes of a Maker an heir of the Ages:
        Aeneas and Dido, marriage, desire,
        The shield of Athena, the god who stole fire.
        The Fates and the Furies, the Nymphs of old lore,
        Polyphemus whose eye apt Odysseus bore.
        A woman who turns the dread Kraken to stone.
        Brave Priam whose Hector he’s left to bemoan.
        Pegasus gives wings to Bellerophon’s quest,
        And Hippocrene’s well with afflatus is blessed.
        Talos the bronze-man parades around Crete,
        While Chiron the Centaur instructs the elite.
        Hekate’s torches and dark demon-hounds,
        And Zeus’s bright quiver with lightning abounds.
        The ankles of Hermes both winged like the birds
        As he bolts to a grotto with Helios’ herds.
        Symmetry, Harmony, Proportion are guides
        In whose hallowed frames the artist abides.
        The wedding of Peleus and the judgment of Paris,
        And an apple of gold tossed out “To the Fairest.”
        Heracles robed with the Nemean Lion.
        Merope avenged in the blinded Orion.
        The breath of the Aurae that gentles the air.
        The labors of Sisyphus doomed to despair.
        Tri-headed Cerberus of Hades renowned,
        And Antaeus is bested when heft from the ground.
        Should our contenders find fault with this suit,
        We with this last sample do render them mute:
        Your Milton and Tolkien and Lewis are debted
        To Pagans whose knowings their fictions abetted.
        For the brightest of Churchmen sat at the feet
        Of Heathen whose knowledge, their learning, completed.
        How strange this should be, these ‘aliens’ from God,
        That they whose conceptions of Him were so flawed,
        And yet of such mind are to His much the nearer,
        As face is to face when beheld in a mirror.
        The Pagan knows Nature but knows not the Lord.
        The Saint knows his god but has Nature, ignored.
        The Pagan examines the works of their god,
        But the Saint to their learning must list and give laud!
        That the Saints should be plebes without their instruction,
        And from Revelation suffer reduction!
        What farce is this Pagan and Christian collusion,
        When God is said not to have authored confusion.
        Now let us this menu of splendors, arrest;
        For the marvels remaining, if so we be pressed
        To give them their thunder as writ ‘pon this scroll,
        Would cross many acres in sonorous roll.
        But let us one final insight append
        That the Gods of the old days, however condemned
        As false, as devilish, or even perverse
        By those whose doctrines to Them are averse:
        They have never departed our times or our culture,
        No matter how Christians ‘pon them played the vulture;
        But in comics and terms and days of the week,
        And even in planets Their voices still speak.
        Let ever the Godbots their memory, defame.
        He’s moon to their sun, reflecting its flame;
        For most of his boasting is borrowed and taken,
        And from their fine orchards his fruit hath been shaken.
        [End]

        Hope you enjoyed it.
        Cheers.

        • Andrew said,

          January 26, 2015 at 1:05 pm

          How strange this should be, these ‘aliens’ from God,
          That they whose conceptions of Him were so flawed,
          And yet of such mind are to His much the nearer,
          As face is to face when beheld in a mirror.
          The Pagan knows Nature but knows not the Lord.
          The Saint knows his god but has Nature, ignored.
          The Pagan examines the works of their god,
          But the Saint to their learning must list and give laud!
          That the Saints should be plebes without their instruction,
          And from Revelation suffer reduction!
          What farce is this Pagan and Christian collusion,
          When God is said not to have authored confusion.]

          I did enjoy it and I love this part Ethan. Nice and didactic.
          It is a shame that this realization caused you to abandon Christianity. Lewis and Tolkien were able to keep it all in harmony…
          was it something specific that turned you off of the Gospel?
          (I guess I would need to read section X for that…)

          Do you have any of your poetry online?

          • Anonymous said,

            January 27, 2015 at 2:05 am

            No. I do not have any of my poems online. As to the Gospel: I still maintain an imaginative affection for the Christian faith. I retain a very strong affection for the Prophets; Jeremiah and Amos in particular. Regarding Christianity as a religion, I have rejected it due to is destructive results upon my life, and because I have discovered who actually founded it: Paul of Tarsus. This religion is not The Way of Yahshua at all, but a desecration of it. This is a controversial subject, but there are excellent websites to be read on the topic:
            1. http://www.QuestioningPaul.com
            2. http://www.JudaismVsChristianity.com
            3. http://www.ProblemsWithPaul.com
            4. http://www.false-apostle-paul-archive.blogspot.com
            5. http://www.JesusWordsOnly.com
            6. http://www.AnIntroductionToGod.com
            7. http://www.JustGiveMeTheTruth.com/apostle_paul2.htm (Bible Code results on Paul the ‘Apostle’. Scary).

            • Andrew said,

              January 27, 2015 at 8:44 pm

              I will check it out. I was in a borderline cult for about 9 months which believed something similar. They rejected Christianity but embraced Yahshua as Messiah. I left them and now, 25 years later I am a Calvinist. Go figure. Life is strange and theology is unstable.

          • Ethan said,

            January 27, 2015 at 2:19 am

            No. I do not have any of my poetry online. As for the Gospel: I still retain an affection for the Christian imagination; the Catholic especially, minus the S&M, ossuraries, bloody statues, and the like. I am especially fond of the Prophets, and of Abraham Heschel’s book on that subject. I favor Jeremiah and Amos. I departed the religion of Christianity, however, because of its destructive effects on my life. I also forsook it because I eventually discovered who founded that religion: Paul of Tarsus. It is a complicated subject, but there are excellent websites on the topic:
            1. http://www.QuestioningPaul.com
            2. http://www.JustGiveMeTheTruth.com
            3. http://www.JesusWordsOnly.com
            4. http://www.ProblemsWithPaul.com
            5. http://www.JudaisimVsChristianity.com
            6. http://www.www.false-apostle-paul-archive.blogspot.com
            7. http://www.AnIntroductionToGod.com
            8. http://www.TruthSeekers.co.za

            • Ethan said,

              January 27, 2015 at 2:26 am

              Website number 5 was misspelled. It should read http://www.JudaismVsChristianity.com. Lastly, I should note that The Way of Yahshua, and the religion and dogmatism of Christianity are rivals; they are not off-shoots of one another. I have no opposition to The Way, but rather to its desecrated Paulist form.

              • Paint Saul Saint Paul said,

                January 27, 2015 at 1:47 pm

                This is very interesting to me.
                Are you a believer in Yahshua or are you just pointing out the difference between His way and Paul’s role in establishing Christianity? Your poetry and writings above led me to believe that you had renounced faith in Christ but now I am not sure…

                Anyway I like your poetry.

                • Ethan said,

                  January 28, 2015 at 12:29 am

                  I wrote most of the poem not as a personal Catechism of belief, per se; neither was it intended to communicate to the Reader a declaration of unbelief. Rather its purpose was to convey the thoughts, doubts, conflicts, and affections one encounters on a trying and treacherous Journey; in this case an exodus from a Tradition. In other words, what does one think on such an errand, and how do one’s thoughts evolve in the interim? What monsters and maidens does one encounter on that path through the Dark Forest? What turns of Mind does the Sojourner experience as he vacillates and grapples from one state of Mind to another, from one adversary to another, from one conclusion to a doubt and back to another conclusion all over again? Therefore, this poem is both argument and diary. (Not surprisingly, I am at the moment thinking of Spencer’s The Faerie Queene).

                  My feelings about Christ (or, the Mashiach) are complex at this point. Complex and uncertain. I will say that I do admire Yahshua’s tenacity, integrity, and bravery. His scene with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), His Seven Woes against the Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-39), the healing of the Centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10), His meal with Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50), and His cleansing of the Temple are my five favorite Gospel stories. And I almost worship Zeffirelli’s television film, Jesus of Nazareth; perhaps the best cinematic version of His life ever filmed. But I do not at this junction in life retain a spiritual Faith in Him, ironic as that is. I have no objection, though, if that changes. However, were that to happen, it would have to be naturally, and without violence (misuse, that is) from intellect and argument. A heart forced, debated, or coerced into such decisions dishonors both God and Man, and leads to dead religion and self-deception. Thanks for your interest.

        • Ashu अशु said,

          March 4, 2015 at 7:03 am

          Although this stuff does reflect admirable hard work and an earnest mind, it needs to be said that it is terrible. Metred and rhymed poetry is not by its very nature beautiful and dignified, nor is writing on exalted and intellectually challenging themes by its very nature exalted and intelligent.

          • Cam said,

            December 27, 2015 at 8:24 am

            Did you even read his comments about postmodernism art or even the article posted on this page? You guys are funny.

          • Andrew said,

            December 27, 2015 at 8:42 pm

            Oh shut up, Ashu.

            Gesundheit to you.

  17. thomasbrady said,

    June 21, 2014 at 2:30 am

    Ethan,

    Nice job. Perhaps not Alexander Pope. But I’m impressed.

    Do you think Milton, Aquinas, Dante did well in reconciling pagan and christian? Hard to argue against the divine pagans.You seem less inclined to reconcile and more anxious to prove the pagans superior.

    Thanks! You may share more. I like it.

    Tom

    • Ethan said,

      June 21, 2014 at 3:31 am

      The other parts of the poem aren’t present here, so I understand why you think I find the Pagans superior. The rest of the poem would bestow more context and clarity on where I stand to that issue.

      The reason this section of the poem accomplishes what you’ve described is due to modern America’s idea that Western Civilization begins with Christianity. It doesn’t. Christianity carried it forward and made Its own unique contributions, yes. But the Pagans taught Christians what thinking was and provided them with something called infrastructure, so that they could survive well into the centuries to come after Rome’s collapse. The Church’s foundation is Greco-Roman, even as Abraham and Yahweh are both of Pagan origins likewise. Richard Carrier’s work on this subject is excellent, and a reliable place to begin reading.

      Many churchmen–to their chagrin–knew how critical reading the classics was to their development. And they were right. Augustine read the neo-Platonists and Aquinas studied Aristotle. Jerome, for instance, was notoriously troubled by his liking for those Heathen authors and their ideas. He even, it is told, had a dream about this appetite of his, where God apparently chastised him for liking those Pagans a bit too much! But the Pagans started it all, from Civilization to language to marriage to religion to astronomy to science. They got there first. And the propaganda of Christians in America today has triumphed against this fact.

      The short of it is that the imaginations and writing of both Dante and Milton were heavily and beautifully augmented by Pagan literature and imagery. The book, The Complete Poems and Major Prose of John Milton (edited by Merritt Y. Hughes) is an astonishing annotated edition of that genius’s work, and the notes make the case for Milton’s exhaustive knowledge of Pagan lore and characters. Without his use of such material Paradise Lost would have looked like a bombed town. It’s sinews would have been largely missing. Much of what he understood dramatically about his religion he channeled through his imagination. That annotated edition reveals this. And that imagination was heavily stocked and fortified and nourished with the Pagan’s.

      Here’s another poem of mine, a bit different, though:

      The Scholar-Warrior

      The mallet and cross both lay in state,
      And near a weathered bible rests.
      Their interment to his bag, await;
      This brave Apothecary’s freight.
      Yet without this tote–inviolate:
      The Knight within his breast.

      He by the mullioned panes, prepares;
      By lunar planks his face suffused.
      And ashed across his forehead, wears
      A shadow-cross whose cause he bears;
      And all the Tempter’s graft and snares
      His laureled heart refused.

      The water blessed, the missal closed,
      He consecrates his implements
      With dew his aspergill disposed.
      And in his prayer is his repose,
      Despite the Might that might foreclose,
      Upon his life, for ought he knows?
      So in his rosewood pyx he stows
      The Holy Sacrament.

      A whistle rents the midnight air.
      The doctor seizes both his bags.
      Conductor calls.
      He mounts the stair.
      When seated, brings his eyes to bear
      Upon a map that marks that Lair
      Beyond Carpathian crags.

      This poem is about Dr. Van Helsing preparing himself to face Dracula.

      Cheers.

      • Andrew said,

        January 26, 2015 at 1:14 pm

        This one is also great.
        Dr. Van H. seems very Catholic and superstitious to me.
        It will take more than consecrated hosts and holy water to face the vampire…

        “Carpathian crags” is a great image.
        Makes one think of Caspar David Friedrich:

        • Ethan said,

          January 28, 2015 at 12:37 am

          True, it will take more than Hosts and Holy Water. That’s why he has his mallet, stakes, spiritual power (the Word), and his upright character, which has been tested and refined through his battle with the Tempter (hence, his “laureled heart”). Dracula’s chief power is his spiritual demonism, coupled with physical enhancements received from that source. Therefore, Van Helsing’s choice instruments of destruction and protection must be backed up by spiritual power from On High. Thanks for your interest.

          • Andrew said,

            January 28, 2015 at 2:27 am

            White on white translucent black capes
            Back on the rack
            Bela Lugosi’s dead
            The bats have left the bell tower
            The victims have been bled
            Red velvet lines the black box
            Bela Lugosi’s dead…
            Undead, undead, undead

            The virginal brides file past his tomb
            Strewn with time’s dead flowers
            Bereft in deathly bloom
            Alone in a darkened room
            The Count –
            Bela Lugosi’s dead…
            Undead undead undead

            [Bauhaus 1982]

  18. noochinator said,

    September 5, 2014 at 9:09 am

    From The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray:

    Of the many pernicious aspects of today’s academic culture, I think the worst is its celebration of nonjudgmentalism. I assume you’ve heard it many times (I certainly have) when you think you’ve made an incisive argument: “You’re being judgmental.” It’s a glib, contemptible response. The ability to make judgments is what distinguishes Homo sapiens from every other living creature. But the ability to make judgments carries with it the obligation to do so. You don’t have a choice.

    …The negative connotations of judgmental—harsh, arbitrary, condemnatory moral judgments—have taken over so completely that I can’t recall the last time I heard judgmental used in a neutral sense. But historically (and still in some dictionaries), the first meaning of judgmental was simply “of, relating to, or involving judgment.” That’s the way I’m using it here.

    Let’s start with the distinction between personal taste and judgment, choosing a noninflammatory example to make the point. You and a friend are standing in front of two paintings. One is Titian’s Venus of Urbino (Google it if you aren’t familiar with it) and the other is a painting of a nude on black velvet. You ask your friend what painting he prefers. He says he prefers the one on black velvet. You have no basis for arguing with him. He likes it better, in the same way that he may like Dr. Pepper better than Coke. De gustibus non est disputandum.

    But suppose instead that you ask him which is the artistically superior painting, and he says, “You can’t say one painting is better than another. It’s just a matter of opinion.” He’s wrong. Now we’re not talking about taste alone, but about a body of knowledge regarding the aesthetics of representational art. It is true of all sorts of topics about which people have different tastes, but which also involve knowledge—painting, music, fiction, wine, gardens, architecture. People who know a lot about these subjects have reasons for comparing different examples and rendering judgments that one is a better realization of some underlying measures of excellence than another one is.

    This holds true independently of taste. If you know a lot about wine, for example, it may be that your own personal taste runs to big, fruit-driven wines. But that doesn’t prevent you judging that a delicate French Burgundy is a better realization of its type than another that “tastes better” according to your personal preferences. An element of expert judgment in these fields exists independently of personal preferences. Thus everyone who is an expert on representational art will unhesitatingly say that Venus of Urbino is superior to the nude on black velvet, and you will be powerless to argue with them. If you object to that assertion, go to YouTube, search on Venus of Urbino, and watch some of the videos. People who know a lot about art can look at Venus of Urbino for a long time and the looking alone can absorb their full attention. There’s a lot to see and talk about. Those knowledgeable people cannot be similarly absorbed by looking at the nude painted on black velvet. They can talk about its social context. They can talk about the meaning of the female nude in the construction of gender. But there’s not much to get out of the looking. Yes, they are being judgmental about the relative aesthetic merits of the two paintings. But that judgment is based on the power of the human mind to make meaningful discriminations.

    Now go back to the reaction of your companion: “You can’t say one painting is better than another. It’s just a matter of opinion.” He is not really being non-judgmental. If he refuses to accept that there are any objective differences, expressible as continua from positive to negative, between Venus of Urbino and the nude painted on black velvet, he is not standing above the fray. He has just made a judgment on a grand scale about the capacity of the human mind to assess information…

  19. Anonymous said,

    September 15, 2014 at 5:33 am

    Well, who is to say good or bad if not one who has lived?
    And then go on and define living?
    In the end perhaps we should just forget mankind ever
    existed and the question could be put to rest.

    Poetry is for the poets and nothing more.

    • Ethan said,

      October 30, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Should any one desire a deeper understanding about poetry and its value to living, I can do no better than recommend David Whyte. He’s a Yorkshireman living in the state of Washington. I also advise people to purchase his superb 6-disk set titled “Clear Mind, Wild Heart.” I’ve listened to that series over and over again and have never ceased to mine gold from it. It’s the gift to oneself that keeps on giving each time it is heard. He is brilliant at connecting poetry to life, and his wisdom on this topic is rich, and many-layered.

  20. Anonymous said,

    October 29, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    what is the main purpose for people writing poetry? to let out feelings. let me tell you, that just makes the pain worse. so what is a good reason to write poetry?

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 29, 2014 at 11:08 pm

      Socrates would agree. But poetry, like many forms of expression, can be an escape from emotion.

      • Ashu अशु said,

        March 4, 2015 at 7:13 am

        Yer thinkin’ of one of my favourite passages of Eliot:

        “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”

  21. SaintLo said,

    January 26, 2015 at 5:19 am

    In the mind of the modern liberal arts academic, poetry Is merely a means by which one can ascend to the lofty office of “activist”.

    • Ethan said,

      January 28, 2015 at 3:44 am

      I did not see Scorsese’s film. As to the Jesus Films, I am not surprised they remain as a blur in your mind. They have neither art nor earth in them, and their literal approach to dramatizing the Gospels renders their productions as flat as paint. There is nothing to recommend them to either the heart or the imagination. I recall watching some very literal treatments of English classics on BBC, such as Jane Eyre. These go back to the early ’80s. Horrible stuff. Actors and productions are as stiff as corpses. No fire. No spirit. Just bloodless. They remind me of Homer’s shades.

      Interesting thing about the Puritans and something which no preachers I know of understand about them: they believed in speaking to the whole man; not just his intellect. They believed (and rightly so) that the emotions should be stirred even as the Mind. They did not segregate the human Being into compartments the way so many Christians do today. It is no wonder, then, why so many in the Church are emotionally immature; always worried about this, and frightened about that. These Calvinist/Puritan-leaning preachers are responsible for this calamity, because of their disdain for humans in general (which they will not admit), and their unacknowledged callousness toward the human condition in particular. This, and their embarrassment with art, sexuality, the love of nature, and the deeper strata of human feeling and vulnerability. Against these and others they erect a Berlin Wall, and with their dogmas make a defense against it. Like Marley, they in their own weird way fashion their chain link by link and yard by yard, setting themselves free within the confines of a bizarre slavery. They are fettered throughout with thick, heavy tomes of Systematic Theology, lexicons, apologetic tomes, Hermeneutic texts, and cast-iron collection plates. As a consequence of all this, they have starved their own people. They have not feed the sheep. They are faithless to the humanity of their fold, and therefore by extension, to the very image of God Himself. They have abandoned the field, as it were, and left a vacuum which the Charismatics and Pentecostals hastened to fill; and these having done so, have amplified the emotional and imaginative deformity of the Saints even further; even to the point of subjecting their victims to the manipulation of evil spirits.

      These modern Calvinists are concept-obsessed men (MacArthur & Co.,), and argue incessantly over words and abstractions. I should know. I used to be one of them. They are conquered by their fear of worldliness, and their mania over sin has robbed them of Life itself. I’ve met some of these triage cases, and was left as one myself. It’s all very sad. Then, in an astonishing display of hypocrisy, these same men have the audacity to marvel at how people outside their coven do not take a liking to their self-murdered lives, dreams, and Selves! God does not desire martyrs, neither does He want a death from us. He wants a Life. But that Golden Calf of the mind (orthodoxy) continues to be worshipped. And lurking behind its dark altar…the shadow of the Pharisee and the Word Worshipper.

      Here’s Yeats on the subject:

      Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
      Old, learned, respectable bald heads
      Edit and annotate the lines
      That young men, tossing on their beds,
      Rhymed out in love’s despair
      To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.
      All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
      All wear the carpet with their shoes; (i.e., wear out)
      All think what other people think;
      All know the man their neighbor knows.
      Lord, what would they say
      Did their Catullus walk that way? (“Did,” or rather, “If”)

      In other words, if the famous men these scholars studied so ardently and built their careers on, lived as they lived, and thought and worked and wrote as their so-called admirers do, what would these scholars then think of their subjects?

      Cheers, and good luck on your Journeys.

      Supplemental:
      Zeffirelli’s film is linked here:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFUTEWi5EsY

      • Ashu अशु said,

        March 4, 2015 at 7:19 am

        [Lord, what would they say
        Did their Catullus walk that way? (“Did,” or rather, “If”)]

        Are you serious?

  22. Andrew said,

    January 28, 2015 at 2:14 am

    [A heart forced, debated, or coerced into such decisions dishonors both God and Man, and leads to dead religion and self-deception. ]

    So true – yes. Very well stated. Sadly, there is much hype and emotional manipulation in most Arminian/Charismatic-type churches. I share your disillusionment with such tactics. What did you think of Scorsese’s “Last Temptation of Christ” (based on the novel by Kazantzakis which is marvelously poetic in its own right) ? I think i saw the Zeffirelli film years ago… not sure. The Jesus films tend to blur together in my mind.

    I checked the link above and I am going to read the critique of Calvinism I found there.

  23. Andrew said,

    January 29, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Ethan have you heard of The Community out of Island Pond, VT?
    I was wondering if you have a past or present connection with them.

    http://twelvetribes.org/controversies/northeast-kingdom-community-church-island-pond-raising-people-yahshuas-return

    I am working my way through Scott Nelson’s harsh critique of Calvinism.

    In the mean time I want to invite you to check my poetry at ConnectHook:

    https://connecthook.wordpress.com/mine/

  24. Mike said,

    February 26, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Hey y’all.

    As an art school trained painter and a self inflicted poet, I find it interesting to observe the differences between visual art and literature; or more specifically, the difference between drawing and writing.

    In visual art (drawing), one is challenged to “represent” what they “see” by way of marks on paper. Initial attempts are typically awful. Continued failure leads to frustration and abandonment, or else the determination to “learn” how do draw. Such learning requires one to engage in the reciprocal activity of practicing drawing “methods” while simultaneously understanding the nature of the visual forms those methods are meant to capture. It is only through this interplay of method and understanding that one can begin to draw what they see.

    At which point one realizes the meta-lesson of drawing, which is that nobody draws what they see. You can only draw what you KNOW about what you see. That knowledge… visual knowledge… is not the same as vision. After all, most everyone has two eyes by which to see… but most people cannot draw beyond the primitive. And the reason is that their knowledge of visual forms and methods is (well)… primitive.

    A further implication is that the drawing (as art object) is not equivalent to the visual perception of the subject matter of the drawing. In other words, a drawing of an apple is not an apple. The drawing is a representation only… a mental construct… a methodological translation of visual perception via the artistic form of a drawing.

    All of this might seem terribly boring and inapplicable to the subject at hand. But if you indulge me for another minute… and lay your egos aside… then maybe I can make my point. Which is this. I have never gotten the impression that writers consider writing to be a “methodological translation” of (let’s say) interior thoughts and feelings, into the artistic form of the written word.

    I think the reason for this is that we are all able to speak and write with some proficiency from an early age. I could also include the activity of contemplating ideas in our minds, and of subconscious processes… which we (kind-a) assume to be language based. These very powerful tools (thinking, reading, writing, speaking) allow us to think and imagine VERY GREAT things. Yet when we attempt to write it down… it’s not so easy. And this is no different from the artist… who might peer out into some beautiful landscape and be filled with desire to represent what he perceives and feels, yet be unable to do so. But whereas the artist is forced to reconcile his failures with the need to learn a method and to grasp the nature of visual form (as a translation between vision and representation)… I wonder if writers see their failure in these same terms.

    Or does the writer simply “work harder”… or “write what they know”… or “keep plugging away”… or “writer’s write”… or “never give up”…. or a thousand other ways to say the same thing… admonishments to pound away at reality… that somehow representations will condense NOT out of understanding, but of somehow aligning the monkeys in our brains to coincidentally type out the works of Shakespeare. But just as a drawing is not the hand’s record of the light striking your retina… the written word is not a passive record of the minds ability to cogitate and speak out loud. But I wonder if writers know this? Or does the immediate accessibility of language mask the distinction?

    Another aspect of this distinction is that in the visual arts, the impact of artistic theories are well understood, and are considered to be highly relevant. In fact, any good art school program is going to require a thorough grounding in the history of art from ancient times to the present day. This is an enormous investigation into cultural history. Artists are meant to take such things very very seriously, and are meant to understand that the nature of artistic method and form and meaning derive from such cultural moments as have occurred over time.

    But I have to wonder if writers think of writing in the same way. For instance… do writers ever wonder about the writing skills of ancient Egyptians? Because artists are very aware of the art of ancient Egypt.
    Visual artists are taught to understand that ancient architectural forms are rooted in archetypical associations that the human species has evolved from out of their prehistory. Are there any analogous ideas that writers possess about their own artistic heritage? Are writers schooled in the social and artistic shifts underlying the sea-change of the Late Gothic transition to the early Renaissance? Visual artists sure are. In fact, they make Pilgrimages to Rome and Florence and Venice just to lay their eyes on the art… to sit under the sun and absorb the aura of history, and thereby to connect with the meanings of these things. Do writers do such things? Or are words just words and everyone has them and all you need to do is pound away at a typewriter until it just pops out of you? Is writing like a piano… a music making machine that you only need whack at until a tune emerges? And when it does, you claim it as your own, and marvel at the mystery of your own origin… and try not to consider that it might all be happy accidents and the accommodating of the random.

    I don’t mean to sound cruel, but I think that writers have no sense of these things, or of writing as an activity distinct from the basic language skills of talking and thinking and jotting stuff down. In truth, most visual artists don’t give a damn about the things I’ve waxed on about. The difference is this… that they are supposed to… whereas writers have no such presumption built into their activity.

    And so it should come as no surprise that when poetry falls victim to the ravages of modernist or post- modernist theories of everything… that writers should twist in the wind and wonder what the hell is gone wrong. But such things are no surprise to visual artists, who only need look around and see all the crap contemporary art floating about the world. We see it everyday too. But at least we know what it is, and why it is. Because we are trained to know these things. Because art comes out of theories and methods… not out of the naive ability to speak words and have thoughts. Bad theories and absent methods lead to the destruction of art. The alternative isn’t to abandon ideas, but to understand that good ideas must be asserted. In the visual arts, such advocacy is mistakenly assumed to be a return to the art of the past… to neo-classical style paintings of nudes and heroic figures in togas. Which is ridiculous. But this is no different a mistake than when some poets try to defeat bad post-modern poetry by adopting the writing styles of Chaucer and Shakespeare.

    The history of any art does not exist to be mindlessly rejected or mindlessly copied. What good can come out of mindlessness? It exists as a repository of ideas from which some meaningful “next thing” might emerge. Who knows what it is. I try to make this point to visual artists… but nobody seems to give a damn. So now I’m making it here in this poetry blog. And this is an uphill battle I suppose, because writers are not trained like visual artists, and they may not be aware of what they are really trying to do. So maybe writers should stop screaming about bad poems, and begin instead the difficult task of understanding the nature of the writer word at all.

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      Mike,

      Thank you. This is perhaps the best comment Scarriet has ever received. I’d like to elevate it to a post with my reply, if that’s okay. We can use your full name—or not. Perhaps call you M. I will address your points soon.

      Tom

    • Ashu अशु said,

      March 4, 2015 at 7:41 am

      [In the visual arts, such advocacy is mistakenly assumed to be a return to the art of the past… to neo-classical style paintings of nudes and heroic figures in togas. Which is ridiculous. But this is no different a mistake than when some poets try to defeat bad post-modern poetry by adopting the writing styles of Chaucer and Shakespeare.]

      Right ON. Too many ranters on this blog don’t understand this, particularly the author of that wretched theological doggerel-epic above.

  25. Dennis East said,

    March 3, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    Way to go Mike – This is my first time ever blog comment. I stumbled on this excellent thread when in frustration I searched “Why does poetry suck now” and here we are. I’m so delighted that I’m not the only one that feels this way. Being an old boy, I seemed to have leap frogged into this strange new world of “anything can be a poem” and I don’t like it.

    Moved by the experience I was forced to pen the following.

    Modern Poetry

    Have you read a poem lately; they’re all written in ‘free verse’.
    Like the murmurs of a hippy high on drugs or something worse,
    They’re a dangling meander through the tulips of their time,
    Where the last thing that they care about comes on the second line.
    Seems the weirder that you make them, the more you are adored;
    Proving anyone can write them, stringing words of scant accord.
    Like a drug-induced arrangement, spewing text because you can,
    And as I’ve yet to try and read them out‘s a clue – I’m not a fan.

    At first I thought it must be me; I’ve been so out of touch,
    So I searched for poems said to rhyme, and not found very much,
    Just a few odd bits of free stuff with a rhyming paragraph
    Bereft of lines to make you think or even make you laugh.
    Then next I read that publishers look down on rhyming bards,
    And say their work’s just fit for kids or lines in birthday cards.
    These leaders of the literary world are steering us to ruin;
    Poem’s fate is in their hands, and they don’t know what they’re doing.

    Try this: give new poems to a regular chap and bid him read to you,
    And he’ll be in ‘free verse free-fall’ before he’s half way through.
    I further bet he’ll raise his head and ask you, “What’s the plot?
    I can’t go on; this makes no sense – is this a joke or what?”
    Oh no, old son, you’re doing well; it’s from a leading poet.
    It’s top class stuff, renowned by all – but you wouldn’t frigging know it.
    I’ve written poems fifty years and never planned I’d cash them;
    Just my damn luck I go to try – and find they’re out of fashion.

    Keep up the good work – Dennis

    • Ashu अशु said,

      March 4, 2015 at 5:50 am

      [And as I’ve yet to try and read them out‘s a clue]

      Ow.

      Fifty years?

    • Poetic Sucker said,

      March 4, 2015 at 11:23 am

      I also type “modern poetry sucks” or “poetry is dull” into Google regularly – just to see what comes up.

      I like your versification ☺

    • Andrew said,

      September 28, 2015 at 12:53 am

      I like this one. What you read is what you get.

  26. Ashu अशु said,

    March 4, 2015 at 6:16 am

    [When it hears the word, “poet,” the public immediately thinks of homeless person or professor, with the common traits: self-centered, hard-to-understand, pretentious, boring.]

    The public thinks of a homeless person? And the public thinks that a homeless person is self-centred, hard to understand, pretentious, and boring? What on earth are you talking about? Whether I like it or not, I am in some sense a member of the public. And I was homeless for a long time. On the basis of that experience, I conclude that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    More precisely, you haven’t clearly enough defined your problem for yourself. Your categories are confused. Ironically, the homeless, generally speaking, are far more likely to conceive of poetry as rhymed and metred and straightforward in expression. Ask most housed middle-class people to write a poem, and what you’ll get is a dollop of pseudo-profound, pseudo-abstract pseudo-free verse.

    I think you’re also wrong about the history of the split you identify. The fact that mainstream literary poetry largely abandoned traditional forms in the twentieth century creates the historical illusion that earlier there was consensus across the class spectrum about what constituted poetry. I don’t think so. I don’t think a seventeenth-century farmer or businessman would have thought of Miltonic blank verse when he thought of poetry. (No rhyme! Hippies and eggheads!) And Roman soldiers’ drinking songs probably weren’t in unrhymed hexameters.

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 4, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Ashu,

      My intention wasn’t to offend homeless people and their poetic tastes. The public’s perception is what I was trying to get at. I realize the issue is more complex and not quite as sweeping. I stand on the mountaintop noting wide views.

  27. noochinator said,

    March 4, 2015 at 11:48 am

    When I hear the word “poet,” I immediately think of a comely, neurasthenic undergraduate with unresolvable Daddy issues, an image that destroys all others in its Plath.

    • Andrew said,

      March 7, 2015 at 11:49 pm

      I think of a Romantic fop, contemplating a black lily in front of windswept funereal cypresses and sepulchers under a brooding sky.

      [but he is such an esoteric Anglophile that he spells it “sepulchre”]

      I can’t come up with a good pun as you did though…

  28. thomasbrady said,

    March 8, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    When I think of a poet, I think of Jorie Graham, Harvard chair, feeding the homeless.

  29. Ashu अशु said,

    March 11, 2015 at 4:41 am

    [poetry has no disinterested public: the only people reading poetry are poets, or people who wish to be called poets.]

    I really don’t understand why you think this is a problem, and I again wonder if this is a new thing. I’ve written terrible, unpublishable Sanskrit poetry for years, a very strange enterprise for a non-Indian sanskritist, and I highly recommend it to other non-Indian sanskritists, not because any of us is every going to be able to produce anything worth sharing or remembering, but because actually writing Sanskrit poetry, however bad, enormously enriches your appreciation of the real thing, particularly of the metres. This is true of all poetry and all art. I don’t even see it as a problem if everyone tries to publish or even actually publishes their worthless poetry. Nobody can force anyone to read it, so what is the harm?

  30. May 1, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    The art is still alive, albeit in very few of us. Today’s prose, pseudo poetry, will fade like all subcultural trends.

    • thomasbrady said,

      May 2, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      It won’t fade. It’s found a profitable, creative writing, pyramid scheme niche. Criticism has to kill it.

  31. Josh said,

    August 6, 2015 at 10:37 am

    This page resounds with me strongly. I find also that there is so little good poetry because of the notion that it, like other art forms, is subject to the public’s perspectives and value. If the public is composed of mostly unimaginative, non-intellects then, yes the art of poetry will wane. What is worse is that it will be hard to recover from such an artistic recession, if the public ever decides to do so. But I am so grateful to find some caliber poets on here! I no longer feel so alone in these thoughts.

    Grateful

    The world of poetry, what our modern times produce
    Left me no hope, no urge to peruse
    What most deem as poems – really, a sad excuse..
    Something to be sentenced and hung by the noose..
    But in this hopeless world, I’m pleased to yet find
    The art of poetry, that so, so few have designed
    I’m refreshed once again, guess the lord is still kind.
    I’ve found that neural spark, found in words so refined
    Like those of the old poets! These kids today
    Write elongated sentences and in stanzas lay
    What they call art; I just read in dismay
    Spark-less, rhyme-less thoughts with no form or array.
    I’m grateful to you guys, you’re great, you truly are.
    I’m reminded once again and gladly found the bar
    Is set high as it should, the work of few and far
    Poets, who so rare, I hope to write on par.

    Cheers guys! Keep writing the good fight!

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 6, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      Thank you Josh!

      You are the reason we exist.

      • Andrew said,

        August 7, 2015 at 12:15 am

        And may this thread be spun, then woven into a seamless garment of shimmering poetic light – fit to be gambled for by those who stand guard at executions.

  32. abellon said,

    September 27, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    End rhyme is only one tool, and is often abused. It is not indispensible; not the sine qua non of a poem or a poet. It is easy to write a poem no one understands.

  33. thomasbrady said,

    September 27, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    “Jingling” end-rhymes the “invention of a barbarous age,” according to Milton. Yet what would Milton think of poetry today? What percentage of the population today can read Milton with pleasure? The same percentage, perhaps, that reads contemporary poetry with pleasure? And what is giving the “pleasure?” That which we can objectively identify as “poetry?” Doubtful.

  34. abellon said,

    September 28, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Louis Zukofsky said it well: “The test of poetry is the range of pleasure it affords as sight, sound, and intellection.” That would be form interacting with content, that would be a microcosmic sense of vowel and consonantal music, and that would be in my humble opinion..

    • thomasbrady said,

      September 29, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      I have a confession that the “sight” of a poem has never pleased me—though I guess people can make a fetish of anything. “Sound commingling with sense” sums it up. The mere repetition of sounds in a Brahms symphony can say so much—the poet is a fool who attempts to say more. Intellection needs to be killed by the poem in a fit of sound excess—the limit of the reader’s patience is always in terms of sound—this is the medium. The molecular is the word now used for “prosaic micro-pleasings” which is “poetry” too subtle for poetry’s stanzaic architecture. Residues or recombining of the old is all we have, really.

  35. abellon said,

    September 29, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Zukofsky refers to “sight” as the images and sequence of images a poem presents. By “intellection” he means the ideas and sequence of ideas a poem presents. Kill that and the poem dies a noisy death. I would reserve the word “molecular” for the bonding energy released when two or more words are combined in a new way. One can feel the molecular bond snap brilliant words together like atoms. We do not only have residues. We have new combinations that are newly discovered simultaneous equations of image and sound.

    • thomasbrady said,

      September 29, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      I suppose one could say a poem pleases us in every way imaginable and leave it at that.

      I will not deny that ‘images’ called up by language are certainly germane. However, I do think Pound and Williams’ emphasis on ‘the image’ coincided with poetry losing its music (see; Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, etc). Of course we are only talking about emphasis, not truth, but it’s still important. Poetry does not ‘do’ image as well as painting does. This may be a truism, but worthy of notice. Poetry is a temporal art, not a spatial one. And of course one doesn’t have to sacrifice picture to sound. Tennyson, as he dreamily murmurs the most beautiful kind of music, paints better than almost any poet around. The prosy modernist approach tends to diminish ALL the sensual aspects of poetry in a more molecular and intellectual kind of busyness—a leaving behind of Shelley’s “pure” poetry for something “expansive,” but which proves, in the end, to my taste, to be rather weak and meager.

      • abellon said,

        January 8, 2016 at 1:29 pm

        Sappho’s (Frag. 2, by some reckonings) ” the sound of a cold stream beyond the apple branches” has always had an incredible spatial effect on me. I am drawn into the poem’s beautiful space.

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          January 8, 2016 at 2:47 pm

          Having that kind of reaction to that image, you must be a poet. No matter what anyone else thinks of it one way or the other!

        • thomasbrady said,

          January 8, 2016 at 3:26 pm

          A fragment can be a peephole into a ‘space.’ I agree with you this Sappho fragment is marvelous for that.

          Interesting to think, however: if this were not a fragment, and there was more to it and we were drawn into the temporal as we continued to read, would the ‘space’ aspect dwindle and fade away?

          • maryangeladouglas said,

            January 8, 2016 at 4:27 pm

            maybe that depends on the reader of the poem.

  36. James said,

    October 30, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I am currently working on a book of poetry. A big part of that process has been reading other poets work. I do this mainly to force myself to step up my game to not be happy with good enough. At least that was the idea. Unfortunately most poetry does suck. Instead of feeling inspired to do better I usually end up feeling over confident about my own work. Or perhaps I am just another delusional talentless modern poet. Being a whore for feed back I will post one one poems. feel free to bash it all you wish.

    The Truth of the Matter
    By James Hatfield

    Our moments moving in my mind
    Like the drifting leaves of fall
    The remains of what once lived
    In the dying made more beautiful

    Two people brought together by what had come before
    Nothing more than an accident of circumstance
    A random act of lifetimes intersecting
    Somehow never actually touching:

    It is a very ancient formula
    A common and worn-out solution
    Used as a solve for those seemingly unsolvable,

    An elegant expression
    At once terrible and excellent,

    One desperate person plus one desperate person
    Between them equaling what is needed:

    That was us,
    Two of the same kind of hopeless thing
    Two playing the same kind of precarious game
    Each individually tying to twist this arithmetic
    To cause the equation to produce a greater sum
    In its resolution than its constitutions should
    Have any hope to gain:

    Our mutually given excuse for combining
    Was to briefly still the continual drum beat
    Of the lashes given by a bodily enslaver.
    Both of us vainly wanting the other not to notice
    The scars we each bore from the whips thrashings
    And from where we had been driven to
    In attempts to relive our suffering from the drive,

    However both of us were covertly questing
    For things far more crucially needed
    Both secretly wishing and praying
    Both beggarly entreating a chaotic cosmos
    To provide a remedy that would rectify
    Vastly more troublesome infirmities:

    As it happened,
    Our invocations for a boon
    were undeservingly granted,

    Bestowed to us by our shared vulgar master
    Our blessedly reckless indiscriminate shepherd
    The god that is known to all strays and scavengers
    The deity that blesses and curses the lonely
    Commended to each what each had need of:

    A hand to calm the storm inside the lady:

    Eyes to reflect that there was something left of me
    That still could shine:

    With his blessings our lord gave warning
    Not to abandon the ways of the wayward
    Or his favor would tragically transfigure:

    So there we found ourselves,
    Result of our selfishly seeking
    Never with a goal of building
    Or believing good was a possibility
    Two with one common cause
    Simply finding the right kind of bad
    That could get us though the day,

    That is how it was,
    Neither of us messiah
    The ending was our savior
    What was keeping us living
    Would have become a killer:

    in time our time will be a much smaller part of me
    In time those monuments will have no effect on me at all

    For now, for a while longer

    Tears fall at the feet of the ghost of what was then
    For a bit more the specter of it has power to haunt me
    It is not for either one of us that I am weeping
    I just get filled to breaking to see how memory
    Takes fragments of the past to create a mosaic of joy and pain
    That is so beautiful:

    • Cam said,

      December 27, 2015 at 9:05 am

      I’ll be honest with you, I’ve read it and I didn’t understand your first and second stanza so I stopped.

  37. maryangeladouglas said,

    October 30, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    I can see in this poem a striving to decode through poetry something that really happened to the person writing the poem; not for the sake of others’ opinions one way or the other but as a real need to figure out what happened, how what happened felt, how what happened continues to reverberate as all things lost do most particularly in autumn. You are writing for real reasons and not for your poetry (your LIFE) to become part of the gross national product and/or win the grand prizes. No one can or should be the judge or critic of this kind of poetry, least of all me, but I did feel to give this kind of feedback that what you are doing is real and to be respected. Whether anyone else gets it or not. You should write a book of poems, or books of poems if you feel to do so. I recommend self publishing on amazon or createspace or something, even wordpress or blogger because then you do not have to subject your poetry (which is your Life) to stupid, unfeeling, and eventually, clueless people; no matter how qualified they pretend to be, they are not qualified and can never be qualified to see how your own poem branches out from your own soul. Make your poems the way you want them to be and don’t worry one bit about feedback. Be your own feedback. Read the great poets (I can tell you already have by the way you write). Forget the b.s.ers. This is all just feedback from an amateur but an amateur who really does love poetry. Best Wishes.

    • James said,

      November 7, 2015 at 1:37 am

      Thank you Mary.

  38. Anonymous said,

    October 30, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    Sadly my old son you are a victim of system – It’s not your fault. By all means put “The Truth of The Matter” in your book and hopefully your great grandchildren will be able to get an idea of the things that made you tick – My betting is that he/she will probably wonder what you on in order to compile this peculiar story.

    Parting thought:

    Good luck with the book – You may only get to write one book, so think hard of who will read it in years to come

  39. maryangeladouglas said,

    October 30, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    You can write as many books as you want and many more people may read it than your grandchildren. I found a lot of beauty in this poem as it dealt seriously with complicated feelings toward God and toward a difficult relationship.

  40. thomasbrady said,

    October 30, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    James,

    Your first stanza is very good!

    But like so many poets, you eschew punctuation—which is actually more crucial to poetry than prose!!

    Our moments, moving in my mind,
    Like the drifting leaves of fall—
    The remains of what once lived—
    In the dying, made more beautiful.

    This is exquisitely beautiful, and this stanza alone puts you near the top of the heap of all poets writing today.

    But without the punctuation, the beauty is hidden.

    I think the poem goes on too long—but that first stanza! Wow.

    That’s my lesson for today.

    Tom

    • Andrew said,

      October 31, 2015 at 12:01 am

      Thank you, Thomas, for your fearless advocacy on behalf of Punctuation.

    • James said,

      November 7, 2015 at 1:36 am

      Thank you Tom that is the kind of feed back I crave.
      I will spend some time looking over my “finished” work with your advice in mind.

  41. Ricky Moore said,

    October 30, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    The public are witless tools, and so are the useless cunt-like priest-bureaucrats of Academia. That being said, poetry is not for ‘the public’, who are devoid of taste and sense. In fact, anything aimed at ‘the public’ is usaully witless garbage, because the public are stupid human trash.

    Read something like Wyndham or Pound – the Artist is the enemy of society. His ‘audience’ is not any faggot who’s had literacy crammed down his neck by the Experts Officials running the propaganda-prisons they call ‘schools’. It is for the person who can understand that misanthropy is a virtue. If you can not, that is because you are the sort of person we hate.

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 30, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      Ricky: misanthropy itself can never be a virtue, for it is the lack of virtue perceived in the masses which makes one a misanthrope—thus the contradiction. Fascism breeds misanthropy. Shelley’s “Adonais” should cure anyone of misanthropy. Don’t go to misanthropy. That way lies madness.

  42. Andrew said,

    October 31, 2015 at 12:00 am

    Impassioned, brilliant – preach on my brother…

    (but – um, who the hell is “Wyndham” ?)

  43. maryangeladouglas said,

    October 31, 2015 at 12:57 am

    The English poet Percy Wyndham Lewis (18 November 1882 – 7 March 1957) ?

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 31, 2015 at 2:23 am

      Yes, that’s right. Worked with Pound on Blast. Important Avant-Garde Modernist. John Quinn, attorney for Eliot and Pound, was his patron, modern art collector behind the Armory Show which brought modern art to America. Lewis wrote positive bio of Hitler. Oh those Modernists.

  44. maryangeladouglas said,

    October 31, 2015 at 2:44 am

    Thank you for clearing it up. I just a moment ago read the bio on Wikipedia which said he later felt bad about the book on Hitler and wrote another book called The Cult of Hitler after he changed his mind. I wonder if people believed him the second time; that would be a hard thing to correct. It seems he was known for wonderful portraits and paintings as well and wrote many novels but according to wik., only one book of poems. Which still certainly qualifies him as being a poet. Seems to have been a philosopher and critic as well.

    On another subject I think maybe I was (and have been generally wrong) in kind of poking fun at people entering contests, getting grants, and even selling their poetry. If the great poets of the past hadn’t sold their poems how would I read them now? I guess everyone should do what they feel to do regarding their own poetry but it just seems like such a prefabricated and almost industrial process now the prize winning, M.F.A. chapbook process and seems so dreary to me, not to mention the fees you have to pay in many cases just to have the honor of entering the contest.

    And the weirdest thing to me is that it seems like people get loaded down with prizes who have already won prizes and what are the poets in the shadows supposed to do: stand there munching their crackerjacks and contenting themselves with the prize at the bottom of the box? Actually, that sounds more fun! But if you are pouring your heart and soul out in your poetry and really making it the best you can somehow you have a responsibility to do your best in every direction to make your work known.

    I was looking at the website for the Poetry Society of America recently and they have their annual contests going on, I think about 10 of them and will not accept previously published work except in two of the contests but the strange thing is that even though almost all of academia pokes fun at internet poetry blogs, if you have only published your poems on your own blog this is considered previously published work and won;’t be accepted as subissions to their contests! This seems extremely odd and exclusive, even ghettoizing in a sense. It seems to be a widespread thing in literary journals also (not acceting poems you have published yourself online on your own blog. This is bizarre to me and I wonder why they do this very much.

  45. maryangeladouglas said,

    October 31, 2015 at 2:47 am

    oops new word invention unintended: subissions. I meant submissions. wonder what subissions would mean if it were a real word. fissures in a sub?

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      October 31, 2015 at 2:51 am

      oh good frief. accepting, not acceting. maybe Elvish was created this way. At times I think I was created to make people laugh. (due to bloopers and tripping on invisible things on the staircases)

  46. thomasbrady said,

    October 31, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Hi Mary,

    Typos are odd things, aren’t they? Wrong but inventive. Humiliating, inhuman, yet…human. Young, fresh, but also old.
    Often not noticed, but a horror when found. “If you can’t spell one word exactly right, everything you have wisely said can be mocked as ignorant!” We at Scarriet have a soft spot for typos. They are children! Bambinos!

  47. thomasbrady said,

    October 31, 2015 at 11:16 am

    As for the business of getting known and published, I have little to add. Recently one of the poets on the latest Scarriet Poetry Hot 100 List (in which you are 100, Mary) shared on FB, and we got many, many visits to that article. You are famous, Mary. Rest assured, fame is mysterious and not what we think it is. Ironically, Scarriet was born out of Foetry.com, a consumer report on crooked contests. Scarriet is different and does not belabor that issue. Like you, Mary, we have come to be more forgiving. But the truth is the truth. (At least most of the time!) We will not shy from the truth. Better to be dishonest and truthful about it, than merely dishonest. The former is poetic, the latter…not.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      October 31, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      It is not so much or really at all a wish for fame that concerns me and it is of course not only for myself except as it is a responsibility to share your work with others to the fullest extent possible but I know it is true, as you point out so cogently, that fame is not what is generally thought and may even be a hindrance to good work and worse, artistic freedom.

      The whole question is something that bothers me a lot not only for myself but for Poetry itself and for the history of Poetry itself, especially in our country. I deeply appreciate Scarriet’s shedding light on the nefarious side of all this business and for the very strong encouragement I have received on Scarriet.

      Even beyond art I guess every human being struggles, artist or not, with the question of: will anything remain of what I thought and felt on earth after I’m gone from here.

      To some extent I believe this question of poetic pernamence is answered by God, time, and cultural history. But then there is the example of poets such as the Russian poets under Stalin and beyond who went through hell to preserve their poetic spirit and their poetry and who for decades risked their lives through samizdat and in clandestine efforts to get their poetry read and publshed in the West (even on the off chance) because they whole heartedly believed in the value of their work even to the point of death.

      In this context what is my own responsibility in a free country, crooked though the process may be? I don’t intend to be crooked but I still have the same responsibility to share my work irregardless of the context and how many poets have we lost or never heard from at all ironically even in a free country who were not sent to “gulag” or persecuted at every bend of their road – but simply: locked out of the process and ignored. Posting on the internet is only a partial answer to the question I think.

  48. maryangeladouglas said,

    October 31, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    P.S. Illuminating the landscape as you do is a worthy thing, Thomas Graves and I am glad for it, also for the reference to typos as bambinos. I wonder if Keats made any “typos” or ink blotted ones before he made all the “fair copies” of his poems. Does the Muse breathe through typos, coming up for air from our subconscious, then bubbling back again into the depths. Poor Muse.

    Here’s a poem I wrote for All Hallows Eve…

    All Souls Stood In The Wicklight

    all souls stood in the wicklight of no candles burning down
    and you just wanted to be the
    Princess with the sun on her sleeve

    oh now I only feel the sheer sleeve’s shadow
    its refingered gold on old sheet music
    blowing along the ground

    in the whirlwind standing still as Whitsun’s Eve…

    not yet= I will- and could have been the wind
    through ancient trees and should have been the
    Princess with the moon on her sleeve;

    the small stars in your sleep
    and yet, was not.
    was not nor will be

    cried my angels in the dark
    without prophesying.
    you will carry your heart

    like an ivory charm
    and bruise your hands.
    look out of the window when

    the diamond stars come down
    and gather them in,
    the songs that you have found

    and the half sleeves of the swans

    as they surround with
    the gold threaded dower of your dreaming;
    free as all souls in the wicklight

    of this gloaming hour
    choosing Christ, can be

    mary angela douglas 30 october 2015

    • Anonymous said,

      December 6, 2015 at 4:22 am

      Amazing, love it. It has that subtle godliness Dylan Thomas made me love.

      • Beforeme said,

        December 6, 2015 at 4:24 am

        Agreed, love it.

  49. maryangeladouglas said,

    October 31, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Pernamence. eek.

  50. Andrew said,

    November 1, 2015 at 1:06 am

    Choose Christ in this gloaming hour.
    Happy All Hallows Eve.

    (Tomorrow is All Saints Day…)

  51. maryangeladouglas said,

    November 1, 2015 at 1:29 am

    The same to you Andrew, in the best sense of the word(s). God Bless.

  52. Beforeme said,

    December 6, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Hope it’s not too late to post here.
    As a wannabe poet and a deep poetry lover and a teenager this discussion is really an eye-opener, at once revelatory as it is devastating. Of course I knew that poetry’s place right now and in the future is as confused as a dazed adolescent, not knowing where to turn or who he is exactly or who he should become. But after reading the responses here, especially Mike’s who talked about poetry’s ever-hardening task: dancing with theory and method as old as Homer but as faceless and timeless as space, while at once trying so hard to avoid mimicking what came before that your admiration imprinted in your subconscious-coming out whenever your amazon-bought quill touches a paper-giving up and drowning is more attractive than ever. Where’s poetry and art’s place if we’re accepting the portrayal of a brainless populous or a tragic academia? How do we innovate when innovation is as old as sand? I don’t know, I don’t know. Confused, confused, holding up a book of stanzas both irrelevant to time and other’s eyes, but most tragically of all, irrelevant to ourselves…I didn’t want to say it, but it’s hard fabricating self-motivation for stanzas deeply-thought and richly-crafted when there’s no more luster in ’em, sure we can add it, but it’s hard being a misanthropist and creating art, since art was never all for the self. But I think that that immortal and unexplainable orgasm the writer gets from creating a piece satisfactory to em and this very post would disapprove any thoughts of any type of art becoming irrelevant to the self.
    The origin of this problem is not our fault, it’s those who came before. In every age a standard of “good art” is followed which is actually good, which the springing artist can recline on: every great writer ever. However, it is only in this age where’s there no near foundation of the “good” standard that is actually “good” in itself and not just other’s eyes that the artist can build on. Thus the confusion, thus the tragic turning back to poetry written before this loss of value whose date is yet unknown, since it was a mutual social action. This is only recognized by those who have realized this difference either through a feeling or an an analyzing. But again, scepticism and modern psychology makes me feel that this could be all a delusion.
    So lost, so confused, the task is harder now than ever, looking at how beautiful “new art” is in a videogame I start crying, in the jealousy an obsolete man has, at the phrase “no matter how old, everything will die eventually.” Poetry, you were my first and last love, my androgynous mistress. Maybe I’m just a dumbass, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
    Excuse my over-sentimental romanticistic sighs, oh dear critic, I couldn’t help it.

  53. thomasbrady said,

    December 6, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Beforeme,

    I suggest reading poetry criticism: start with Plato. Also Loacoon by Lessing. If you read other Scarriet articles and poems, you will see things are not all that bad. Come at the problem from different places: ask yourself: what is a poem? What is its use? Lyric poetry, that is, not the epic. Dante said it was a love letter, Petrarch, too. Shakespeare’s Sonnets explored the love letter theme with a twist. Poe is very useful. Why you want to read Lessing, for instance, is instead of comparing poetry and prose, he compares poetry and painting—ask yourself how they are the same, how they are different? Look at things from the reader’s perspective. Ask yourself what poetry qua poetry does better than any other expression. How is it worthwhile? Before writing poetry, think about what it is, or should be, very intensely, and spend about a year reading every reputable poem you can get your hands on, asking yourself, what is good about this poem?

    • Beforeme said,

      December 6, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Thank you Brady, good suggestions. I should read more poetry criticism as I am confused most in poetry about “what it should be”, especially in this age, mentioning the vagueness you talked about. I never looked at poetry from that perspective before. To be honest I think I should expand my poetry reading range too. I’ve always confined my willing focus to dead poets for some reason. Catriona O’Reilley and W.S Merwin aren’t looking so bad.

  54. thomasbrady said,

    December 6, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Merwin recently became a FB friend of mine. If he reads me, good for him. I was able to write “my muse will call your muse,” and it was liked by one of his friends; he had initiated a general FB thread: For all requests of a professional nature, please call my agent, etc. Ha ha. He’s probably new to FB and grumpily thinking WTF? about the FB experience. I don’t know O’Reilley. I’ll get on google…

  55. Andrew said,

    December 27, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Imagine hymns in church without rhythm & rhyme. Imagine pop music hits without rhythm & rhyme. Imagine life without rhythm & rhyme.

    OK — go scrawl some disjointed existential musings now (yawn).

  56. MyBookJacket said,

    February 6, 2016 at 7:10 am

    Thank you! I was wondering why I dislike modern poems. I used to love poetry. Adore it but then for the last few years I’ve given it up. I thought something was wrong with me because it just felt like the poets were being lazy. It didn’t feel like love. It felt like a random sentence or sentences just split at weird places. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 6, 2016 at 11:07 am

      This post of mine has struck a chord with readers. Three years later, it still gets read. A society’s poetic expression is important and now it is almost like a mass psychosis of bad poetry-making exists. It impacts songwriting, love and civility in general. It is a pretty bad problem, a large problem, but so large, it is hard to discuss. I hope I have made a difference with this piece, and started a discussion and given some relief to people like you, who see all this bad poetry produced by the learned and think, “is it me?” No, it isn’t you. It really is them.

      What is really interesting is that one can trace back the Creative Writing industry and modernism to a few white males in the beginning of the 20th century who supported the horror that was WW I. That war is over, but it led to WW II, etc. Wars and bad poetry and the wacky ideas of modern poetry and art keep on giving. Sound crazy? Ford Madox Ford, WW I propaganda minister and author met Pound off the boat in England and then came to the US, met the highly influential modernist New Critics, and started Writing programs. Pound, Eliot, Madox Ford, the New Critics, and their WW I era friends are responsible for the whole earnest distinguished theoretical claptrap: poetry given over to teachers teaching teachers the “new” writing in the universities. Liberal arts in universities is now a joke and is part of the whole stream: the great pyramid scheme of zombie students and zombie administrators and working class parents going into debt and millions of “poets” no one reads. Maybe this illness is caused by bigger issues tied to the economy and psychology, sure: but the whole thing is a mutual influence: people, prices, poetry—the bad feeding the bad. But there is still humor and goodness and hope. I’m hopeful.

      Thanks for your feedback.

      • MyBookJacket said,

        February 6, 2016 at 11:13 am

        It really did help. I used to write poetry but I stopped because people kept saying my poems are too rhythmic and that words why me and that modern poetry is free from all these “chains”. I stopped for four years and I miss it terribly. But refrained from writing because I thought I was doing it all wrong. Even stopped reading because each poem make me want to scream.
        You ought to write a non fiction book on this topic. T might make a change in the world. “bad poems start wars” or something.
        Thank you for letting me know that it is the afterall.

        • thomasbrady said,

          February 6, 2016 at 2:03 pm

          “too rhythmic” that’s great. Yea only disco can be rhythmic. True, it is difficult to write good rhythmic poetry. Because poetry is an art. It takes 10,000 hours to reach proficiency, or whatever that number of hours is they talk about now, I guess. Sorry you lost four years! Thanks for the book suggestion. The Death of Poetry. The Amazing Story Which Began With World War One.

          • MyBookJacket said,

            February 6, 2016 at 3:58 pm

            Please write it. It’s be a bestseller and maybe people will start writing good poetry again.

  57. Ric Couchman said,

    March 25, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Thomas Brady, thanks much for sharing your thoughts above. They certainly gave me something to think about.

  58. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 25, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Check out Ric Couchman’s essay on getting a chocolate chip cookie (something he wasn’t all that thrilled about) in New York. A wonderfully constructed essay, page turning (though it was one page) to read. Great style. website appears if you click on his name in the comment.

  59. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 25, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    I have been reading a lot of essays lately, Ric, especially Christopher Morley just delightful olde curiosity shop kind of essays and when I came across your essay it seemed like in its own unique way an update on that so I was delighted and it gave me such a wonderful feeling of being in a neighborhood and how you notice little things but then when you stop and go into them in a bit more depth you get extraordinary surprises. So the surprise of the essay was equally, perfectly balanced with the actual feeling of walking along a New York, familiar block and finding something you did not expect only now I can’t stop thinking about chocolate chip cookies. Very well done. Also thought your photos (“The Least Among Us”) conveyed great feeling. You have such an interesting assortment of things on your website like a candy sampler though of course with some areas more serious than others but all in all a feeling of welcome for the visitor which is quite rare. I realize you write poetry but I especially want to emphasize in terms of essay you have a fresh and unpretentious, conversational style which is a delight and I think you could write about anything and it would be fun for the reader to read.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 25, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      If you haven’t yet, read Christopher Morley’s short novel The Haunted Bookshop. I have a feeling you would like it very much. It’s old fashioned but uniquely Morley and somebody somewhere should write a screenplay for it. It would make a sparkling kind of film.

  60. Ric Couchman said,

    March 25, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    Mary, I am glad that you were able to find “a little something” for yourself on my website, and I am truly flattered at that you saw a hint of Christopher Morley therein. I do not believe that I have read any of his works before, but I immediately got a hold of The Haunted Bookshop and plan on starting it tonight. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 6, 2016 at 11:12 pm

      Ric, I know this is a little late but once I realized your books are on amazon and it really sunk in I realized I could easily write a review for you there. I was thinking you meant in a professional sense and I am just not qualified to be or recognized anywhere as a professional reviewer. I won’t be able to get your books until sometime this summer but I will and I will write reviews of both your books. I know sight unseen your poetry must be good because your essays are so fresh and delightful. Very sorry for the delay but I am poor as a church mouse as the old saying goes; not that I mind it. It gives me more freedom to be that way now. Have a great day.

      • Ric Couchman said,

        April 7, 2016 at 12:11 am

        😊 Mary, thanks for the clarification. When I enquired whether you would be willing to review the book, I had no intention of having you purchase it. I had in mind sending a free review copy to you. I would be more than happy to send you a copy of the new book. You can send me your forwarding address and I will have it sent to you. I work at the Robert Louis Stevenson school on 74th Street in Manhattan. The school’s website is http://www.stevenson-school.org I was the Dean there for the past 25 years but gave up the position for a more truncated schedule this year in anticipation of my leaving at the end of the school year. I just need to take a break from teaching and from being Dean 😊 The school also has a Facebook page; you will find a recent promotion of my book there. Let me know if you require any other information about me.

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          April 7, 2016 at 1:31 am

          Thank you Ric. Congratulations on your long career in education and at a school named for dear old RLS, no less. I’m sure the people there, students and colleagues alike will be sorry to see you go but I wish you well in your new life and in all your writing endeavors. That is a big shift to make, I know, after 25 years and especially being involved in such a deep way as Dean. My address is: Mary Angela Douglas/625 W. 6th St./Apt. 5-A/Winston Salem, NC 27101. Thank you very much in advance for sending me your book. That is wonderful.

          • Ric Couchman said,

            April 7, 2016 at 3:32 am

            Mary, you should receive A Famine of Tears in about 7-10 days. My email address is riccouchman@gmail.com Thank you.

            • maryangeladouglas said,

              April 7, 2016 at 4:22 am

              Thank you very much, Ric. I look forward very much to reading your worthy book.

  61. Andrew said,

    April 19, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    It’s not even “Now” anymore and poetry STILL sucks.
    Thank God for Thomas and Mary and Gary and Nooch and Scarriet ☺
    (Death to Modernism !)

  62. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 19, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Have a great day Andrew. “Seek you the Lord while He may be found’. Remember that beautiful, exhorting verse? I thank God for Scarriet too. Thank God Thomas Graves didn’t give up and kept it going even when his cofounding friends slipped one by one away as they felt the need.
    I wish they would come back. I’m sure he must miss their company and repartee. Haha I know I spelled that one wrong. Awful at French.

  63. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    ROSES, ROSES, ROSES

    these things could border the mind, if you let them:
    roses, eglantine, a few stray stars from old report cards
    the glitter and the glue the

    perfume of our new shoes bought just in
    time for school

    the feeling of new things unwrapped in a
    never before seen day our shadows
    melting on a childhood lawn, we pray,

    along with the strawberry summer cones.
    or being left alone all day to read
    inside the playhouse

    the accounts of all that June brides wore
    on a previous Sunday: the alencon lace
    the orange blossom grace, the satin-

    and the sequined veil, the seed pearls
    oh to such avail my sister and I imbibed
    each word in the paper and drunk on bridal finery

    played with our dolls, wondering:
    what is stephanotis and why don’t
    they just carry

    roses, roses, roses
    in all the colours

    mary angela douglas 19 april 2016

  64. July 21, 2016 at 10:55 am

    I have been contacting establishment literary journals to try to understand why and how they keep new writers and new ideas out. It is obvious that they maintain the status quo and their own influence. The usual line is “It is not a good fit for us, which shows the rigid adherence to the orthodox ideology and modernist principles. The most prejudiced are Times Literay Supplement. Granta and The Poetry Stuff who refuse even to advertise David Hamilton’s books. This email from professor Michael Schmidt gives an insight into the attitude:

    Dear D…,

    Thank you for writing. I wonder if you are familiar with PN Review? It is a specialised poetry magazine with new poetry, essays, reviews and features. It has been publishing poetry for 47 years. We do not review self-published books. We think that good writing will generally be identified by editors and included in journals and books. Our own record of publishing new writers at PN Review (and also at Carcanet, the book publishing side of our business) is a good one. You might like to look at New Poetries VI, one of our regular anthologies of new writing, with over twenty new voices in it.

    I would suggest that our whole enterprise is about individual writers. It is also about committed poetry readers, which most good writers, in our experience, tend to be.

    Sincerely

    Michael Schmidt OBE FRSL

    http://www.amazon.com/David-Hamilton/e/B00PFU1SPQ

    • thomasbrady said,

      July 21, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      David, the question is, why do you want to be published in PN Review?

      I just looked at the poems in the latest issue of PN Review. It’s forgettable prose randomly lineated. It’s bad. It’s worse than bad. I guarantee you no one reads the “poetry” in the PN Review except the “poets” who are “published” in the PN Review and the “editors” who first read it and judge it “good.”

      There is no reason why any decent poet in the world would ever want to be included in the PN Review. And to be rejected by the PN Review would be an honor, save for the fact that submitting to the PN Review is a complete waste of time.

      • powersjq said,

        July 22, 2016 at 7:46 pm

        “It’s forgettable prose randomly lineated.”

        I thought maybe you were going too hard on them, Tom. You’re going too easy. The prose isn’t just forgettable—it’s coy, turgid, and self-important. As prose it’s not just forgettable, it’s actively horrid. And since it has no meter, rhythm, or other redeeming sonic qualities, there’s no argument for it being poetry.

        It’s almost bad enough that the question, “What is it?” is less interesting than repulsive. I’m not sure I care to pursue the inquiry.

        • July 22, 2016 at 8:52 pm

          These third-rate journals only exist because of the public money taken from people who go to work to fund them. The state is actively opposed to a healthy, flourishing culture and uses tax payers money to hold it back. The visual arts are the clearest example with the worthless rubbish promoted by the Tate etc; and who ever took the silly Booker Prize seriously?

  65. July 22, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Well put, Thomas! To be honest its to gather examples of how the literary establishment excludes anything new and different. Granta and London Review of Books say “Its not a good fit for us” which means its not like all the others. The Times Literary Supplement and The Poetry Stuff just ignore me altogether and that is just for adverts!

    Anyone else get this prejudiced treatment from the literary establishment?

  66. thomasbrady said,

    July 22, 2016 at 10:30 am

    We specialize in a certain kind of bad poetry. Please read our magazine carefully before submitting your work.

  67. August 12, 2016 at 10:47 am

    This typifies what I dislike about modern verse – clever, word games and surface obscurity.
    http://poetrysociety.org.uk/publications-section/the-poetry-review/behind-the-poem/carol-rumens-on-joan-margarit-and-the-glosas-embrace/

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 12, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks for that link, David. Yea, the poem is about passionate and illicit love but there’s no urgency or desperation whatsoever. The poet’s not feeling it. So we don’t feel it. Nice words, nice images, not a bad job. But something’s missing. There’s no I’m-Dying-To-Tell-You-This. No perspective which unites poet and reader and subject so that it feels like a genuine experience with another human being—like an old, old friend writing you a confessional letter.

      The poem has plenty of imagery, but the thing about images and symbols is that they constantly draw the mind to what the image is meant to mean and this weakens the overall effect. Poetry is speech. Not painting. Imagery is great, but over-reliance on it produces the same effect as eating over-ripe fruit.

      • August 31, 2016 at 3:01 pm

        Excellent point. One of my favourite books of literary criticism is The Problem of style by John Middleton Murray. He criticised poetry as painting because of over use of images.

        • thomasbrady said,

          August 31, 2016 at 7:47 pm

          Thanks, David, I will have to check out Problem of Style.

          The classic work which tackles the idea of painting versus poetry is G. Lessing’s Laocoon.

  68. John Horvath Jr said,

    August 29, 2016 at 1:49 am

    The most critical among you here should become editors to forefront what you think is good, to encourage more of the good, even to teach young poets how to make good poetry. Complaint without DOING something about the situation seems academic and wasteful.

    • noochinator said,

      August 29, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      Scarriet has long-championed the work of living poets such as William Kulik, Reb Livingston, Lewis Buzbee, Valerie Macon, and Maura Stanton…. Tommy, who’d I fergit?

      • thomasbrady said,

        August 29, 2016 at 2:13 pm

        John, thanks for your feedback.

        As Nooch points out, Scarriet does champion and praise, but not in a groveling way, we hope. Ben Mazer. Forough Farrokhzad.

        I like to think that Scarriet as a whole presents that which you seek—countless examples of what we deem worthy are here.

        But we also need to keep in mind that critical thinking, judgment, criticism, is ultimately just important as the poetry. And this is on display here as well.

        Scarriet (we hope) is the example.

        Tom

  69. August 31, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Is Sharon Olds a great poet? Or just fashionable with the establishment?

    http://www.poemhunter.com/sharon-olds/biography/

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 31, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      David,

      I think Olds has written some good poems. The establishment is actually not that fond of her. Helen Vendler dismissed her as “self-indulgent” and “pornographic,” and Stephen Burt, in his new critical study of many contemporary poets, leaves her out. She hasn’t always received critical praise.

      She’s not what might be termed intellectual or abstract, and often her work does feel like elaborate and keenly written diary entries.

      She raises the question: when does heart-felt subject matter simply eclipse the “poetry?” Is this fair to say?

      If a good prose description of a loved one dying of cancer is poetry, what kind of “poetry” is it?

      She is anxious to show you family photos, and in her “poems” we can “look” at family photos which are not something you would ever see in a polite collection of family photos. That’s what her poetry chiefly does, I think: it lets down a line into depths of where ‘family photos’ cannot go. And so if her “poetry” is doing this, and defining for herself and us, that this is something “poetry” can do, who is to begrudge her?

      If poetry is finally ’emotional speech,’ she is quite good at it. She is descriptive in a manner which does not over-use metaphor, her tone is almost always deadly serious and these always seem in synch, so you trust her. In her best work there’s a rhythm and a frankness which work together in a manner that’s impossible to describe. Can one describe how a great metrical poem works well? Some of her “prose” poems work well, as if they had a secret metrical self.

      She almost reminds me of Shelley; as if she were Shelley the 20th century female prose poet.

      I can see how some would see her as “all diary and no art.” But I think she’s one of the best living poets. Someone needs to put together a good critical edition of her Selected Poems. I don’t think the critics know what to do with her. Somebody needs to weed her her garden and see what we’ve got.

  70. January 5, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    I just bought the last issue of Agenda and was very interested in their essays on how to write poetry and creative writing courses which seem to inculcate a formula in beginning poets. Does anyone here know what it is they teach as important poetic qualities?
    Incidentally, my friend David Hamilton has had adverts rejected by 5 major literary magazines and censored by one for stating that the literary establishment oppresses new writers with new ideas or are original.

    A recent critic was over critical of the use of symbolism, allegory and similes and wanted to standardise it to the personal talk style and advocated the trendy idea that poems are metaphors and simple realistic description which are just devices in a poem. I assume this is the formula required by magazine editors to publish and is inculcated by creative writing teachers.

  71. January 5, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    This is Agenda Poetry:
    http://www.agendapoetry.co.uk/

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 7, 2017 at 11:53 am

      Yes, Agenda looks like one of these learned enterprises which bow to the modern dogma that everything is measured by the difficulty of the free and easy way we do things now. An idea is never an idea. It’s either traditional and old, and therefore bad, or new and somewhat empty, and therefore good, though good doesn’t exist because that’s a very old notion don’t you know?

      • Desdi said,

        January 7, 2017 at 1:30 pm

        I took a look at the publication and I completely agree.
        Such verse makes ordinary people despise poetry.
        Give me free and easy. Like Cole Porter or Poe.
        The great and terrible me has spoken.

      • noochinator said,

        January 7, 2017 at 2:29 pm

        I’ll go to the Scarriet po-biz one hunnert—
        Non-agenda poetry—my cup overrunnert.

      • January 9, 2017 at 8:33 am

        Is that why all modern poetry is the same? I was thinking the establishment require a formula to publish or reject. Perhaps the formula is learnt from creative writing courses? I also note that all the poets I read have one a prize out of the masses now awarded by establishment poets to each other.

        • thomasbrady said,

          January 9, 2017 at 11:25 pm

          David, it’s the same in the way chaos is the same. The bits of chaos are very different, but the overall effect is the same. The old poetry of form has been rejected as too narrow. But the irony is that chaos (freedom) is far more “narrow” than form ever was.

          • January 10, 2017 at 2:38 am

            One day, in April of 1842, a man who loved poetry, loved Petrarch and Shakespeare and Blake, read a new poem in his morning paper.
            “What…” he exclaimed “…is all this about some stupid raven? Why does poetry suck now?”

  72. noochinator said,

    January 6, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Another reason “Why Poetry Sucks Now”: not enough Yiddishisms!

    SCHLEMIEL, SCHLEMAZEL—YIDDISH WORDS IN AMERICAN CULTURE

    One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight
    Schlemiel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated
    We’re gonna do it!
    Give us any chance, we’ll take it
    Give us any rule, we’ll break it
    We’re gonna make our dreams come true….

    And so goes the Laverne and Shirley theme song, written by Norman Gimbel.

    Many of you will recall the show, a spinoff from Happy Days which documents the antics of Fonzie’s friends, Laverne DiFazio and Shirley Feeney who played roommates in Milwaukee. They may have been a lot of things, but they were certainly not Jewish.

    The English language is so rich because, unlike French, it welcomes foreign words into the language. Many non-Jewish Americans find themselves using now English words borrowed from Yiddish and other languages without even realizing it. Certain thoughts can be better expressed with one well-placed word to replace a whole explanation in English. This is how new words come into the language. Many Jewish entertainers and script writers over the past 100 years have sprinkled their acts with Yiddish words so that now such words have come into common use. They used their shtick (comic theme or gimmick) to bring those words into the English language and American culture.

    The Yiddish language is quite similar to German. The words are usually pronounced similarly but spelled differently, perhaps because Yiddish was traditionally written using Hebrew characters. Also, keep in mind that the connotations of certain words are different in Yiddish than in English. For example, the word chutzpah in English means gall, audacity or nerve, but in a positive way to describe an aggressive or successful person. In Yiddish, however, the example given by popular writer Leo Rosten is that chutzpah describes a young man who kills his parents and asks for mercy because he is an orphan!

    Yiddish works well for describing the inconveniences or disagreeable people you encounter in life. A schlemiel is a clumsy, inept person, a klutz. On the other hand, a schlimazel is a chronically unlucky person. He’s probably a poor schnook also, a gullible person who is easily cheated or taken advantage of. For example, the schlemiel often spills his soup—in the schlimazel’s lap. Maybe he’s a schmo also, a stupid person.

    Stay away from a schmuck, or a putz which are insulting terms describing a foolish person, or a jerk. Both words refer to the penis. In the movie Grumpy Old Men, Walter Matthau frequently calls Jack Lemmon a putz. A friend you try to avoid is the schnorrer, or beggar, because he hits you up for money. But if he steals it, he’s also a gonif (thief or scoundrel), a word often used to describe politicians. These aforementioned words usually describe men, but we have colorful words to describe women also.

    Many think of a yenta as a matchmaker like the character in Fiddler on the Roof. The real meaning of the word is a talkative women or a gossip who gets in other people’s business. So in Fiddler, a schmaltzy (excessively sentimental) movie, the Yenta character really was a yenta. If a woman is plump or voluptuous, like your bubbe (grandmother), she is zaftig. Men often lament that their wives and kids kvetch (complain) too much and they must be told to stop hakn a tchynik (breaking a china teapot) which also means nagging or bothering incessantly. The women counter that their men kibitz (offer unwanted advice) too much rather than schmooze (make small talk). In a poker game, a kibitzer is a spectator offering advice but won’t put up his own money to play. This self described expert is sarcastically called a maven, which is best described as a know-it-all.

    We all aspire to become a macher, a big shot or important person. Las Vegas became Las Vegas because of gonifs from Chicago or Cleveland who moved there and became machers. In Vegas, they no longer had to schmeer (bribe) the authorities because gambling was legal. Thus, a gangster could go straight, organize charities, and become a mensch, an honorable man who does the right thing.

    Many immigrants of 100 years ago went into the rag trade, selling schmattas from pushcarts on the Lower East Side of New York or Chicago’s Maxwell Street. A schmatta is a rag, but more in the sense of low quality clothing like the schlock that you would buy at a rummage sale—or from a street peddler. Hard goods might be tchotchkes (toys), which I’ll get into later. In any event, schlock refers to any type of cheap or inferior merchandise, like souvenirs you’d buy at tourist traps. The more vulgar word for that would be dreck (crap or sh*t), as in “you want ten dollars for this dreck!” Then you have to schlep the stuff home. To schlep is to drag or haul a large or heavy object at great inconvenience, like in “why is this schmuck making us schlep these schmattas and heavy clothes to Florida? He must be meshuga (crazy).”

    We often use Yiddishisms to express mild obscenities where the English word might be inappropriate. For example tuchis or tush is a person’s buttocks or rear end where you don’t say “ass” in polite company. The word shtup, which literally means to fill, push or poke can be used in the sense “you keep shtuping the grandkids with candy to keep them quiet.” But the word can also mean “intercourse”. So the traveling salesman gives his spiel (sales pitch intended to persuade). If he uses it on a blonde tchotchke for a quick shtup, he’ll have tsuris (trouble) when his wife finds out. If the salesman is much older, he’s an alte kaker (old fart). But don’t tell that to Hugh Hefner.

    As we said earlier dreck is any kind of worthless material, but substitutes for “crap”. The word bupkes literally means “animal droppings” but in English means “nothing”. For example, “I’ve been working on the deal for months and received bupkes. Then they give the deal to a little pisher (greenhorn or young, inexperienced person).” The term pisher actually refers to the penis of a young boy. Don’t get me started on the mohel who performs the bris (circumcision) of the young boy.

    With the popularity of delicatessens, some of the foods we eat are Yiddish words. Kosher means conforming to Jewish dietary laws, but in English, it means “legitimate” or “appropriate”. If you hear of a shady or suspicious scheme, it probably doesn’t sound kosher. Most of us are familiar with foods like bagels, blintzes, lox (smoked salmon), latkes or kishke that you would nosh (snack) on.

    Oy vey, an unexpected Yiddish word is glitch, a minor malfunction, as in a computer.

    The bottom line here is that the English language borrows liberally from many languages but, as one can see, many of the most “colorful” words are those borrowed from Yiddish.

    KENNETH SUSKIN

    http://kennethsuskin.blogspot.com/2011/01/schlemiel-schlemazel-yiddish-words-in.html

  73. February 16, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    God’s an Artist who paints his place
    with poetic words without disgrace
    his lines all rhyme – not intended so
    simply because that’s the way they go;

    how can “poets” of the Demon compare
    ’tis the end of Godly word-a-fare
    the beginings of corrupted art
    turning “hot-air” into “ph-art”

    A Real Poet will soon agree
    who pushes pen – it is not he
    or keyboard clicks the modern way
    Producing Gold from this poor clay
    or Caviar from Lowly Hay

    Adam Eye of Light


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