POETIC IN ALL ITS PARTS

Do we care if a lapwing is killed in a poem?

We made the assertion in a previous Scarriet post that poetry, unlike prose, has, or should have, an immediate pay-off for the reader.

Poetry should show itself as poetry right away.

The moderns, who have turned poetry into prose for those many advantages prose possesses, have, most noticeably in the last 50 years, lost poetry’s public—not because the public is stupid, or has a short attention span—for otherwise the public would not ‘stick it out’ and read so many lengthy and miserable novels even as they have stopped reading poems—but for obvious reasons not apparent to the moderns.

We will agree the moderns are not stupid people who are bad poets if others will agree the public is not stupid for not being able to read modern poetry.

The public instinctively understands that prose does have advantages, but the glories of prose can take time (or many pages) to please us.

Poetry, the public instinctively understands, is different; we do not expect to be patient with poetry, for poetry is, by its very nature, both linguistically denser than prose, and less given to lengthy explanations of itself.

When a poet acts like a fiction writer, the reader naturally asks, “Why are you trying my patience as a poet when you know I have none to give you?”

The vast majority of readers, by some trick of intuition, understand that enjoying prose requires a certain amount of patience, and then there is this other more lyrical thing—we’ll call it poetry—that, by its very nature, should require no patience at all.

We think we have hit it.  This is why the public no longer reads poetry.  This is why every poetry reading in America is a poet reading to poets, or a teacher reading to students, and not a poet reading to a public.

But is it possible, you may ask, for poetry to be recognized in just one line?

Are there single lines of poetry which announce themselves as such?

Yes, but not in contemporary poetry, where the prose-poets are after something different.

To prove our point, let’s look at 14 first lines from 14 random poems by 14 poets in the latest issue of Poetry:

Your first thought when the light snaps on and the black wings

There are many opportunities here for unrequited friendship

Two spiky-haired Russian cats hit kick flips

Shouldn’t it ache, this slit

It is not that you want

Mama said

praise the Hennessy, the brown

A lapwing somersaults spring

Most people would rather not

In the morning that comes up behind the roof, in the shelter of the bridge, in the corner

Where is your father whose eye you were the apple of?

hearing all bells at

My throat is full of sparklers

A husband puts an afghan over the dead goat’s

There is nothing wrong with these lines.

But are they poetic?

A pedant will quickly point out that “Your first thought when the light snaps on and the black wings” has poetic rhythm, and they would be correct, but this still sounds like a good opening for a hard boiled detective novel, not a poem.

“A lapwing somersaults spring” has an internal rhyme, but we are looking for what strikes us immediately as poetic, not merely from a technical standpoint, but in its entirety.  

This line perhaps comes the closest, but only superficially; the problem we have with it is that 1) we don’t know what it means and 2) we cannot picture it: spring is being somersaulted by a lapwing.  Bad poets—assuming fogginess is automatically a hard-won, well-earned honor—fatally assume that to confuse the reader is a plus.  It is not.

On the ‘poetry immediately’ scale, Poetry is 0 for 14.

Again, these are not bad lines or fragments, per se, but nearly all would agree: it is not surprising that contemporary poems fail the ‘poetry-in-a-single-line’ test, just as most novels would.

But are we looking for the impossible?

We are looking for the truly poetic—in a single line!

But such a thing is possible.

Let us demonstrate with some actual examples.

They are old, but not famous.

There are 14 of them, and compare them, as you read, to the 14 you just saw:

Green dells that into silence stretch away

Owning no care between his wings

When all the air in moonlight swims

Follow far on the directing of her floating dove-like hand

In its bright stillness present though afar

Where the tides moan for sleep that never comes.

On valleys of lilies and mountains of roses

Made rich by harmonies of hidden strings

Pondering on incommunicable themes

As jewel sparkling up through dark sea

Now by the crags—then by each pendant bough

A voice fell like a falling star

Ruins and wrecks and nameless sepulchers

Over sleepless seas of grass whose waves are flowers

There.  We believe we have proven our case, and we have done so without using Milton or Shakespeare or Dickinson or Keats.  Our point has been made, and we did not have to drag out, “Music, when soft voices die…”

Nor did we rely on couplets, such as,

The violets lifting up their azure eyes
Like timid virgins when Love’s steps surprise

And all is hushed—so still—so silent there
That one might hear an angel wing the air

Here to her chosen all her works she shows
Prose swelled to verse, verse loitering into prose

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams

Or such examples as this from the neglected Elizabeth Barrett:

Like a fountain falling round me
Which with silver waters thin,
Holds a little marble Naiad sitting smilingly within.

We have demonstrated, with single lines, a simple, palpable, ignored truth:

Poetry should be poetic in all its parts.

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21 Comments

  1. powersjq said,

    October 2, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    This notion of the immediacy of poetic meaning is an amazingly incisive way to point to the specific character of poetry. Thank you for sharing this important idea. Maybe I can push it a little further.

    If we take at all seriously the recent philosophizing that points its finger at poetry as the _source_ of meaning in language, then the _only_ way that poetry can have its proper effect is immediately. It is possible, with difficulty, to use language to point at the sources of its efficacy. But as it is meaningless to use a ruler to measure itself, so it is impossible to use language to analyze the meaning that a poem creates. It either works or it doesn’t.

    The difference between a poem and its meaning is like the difference between a joke and its funniness. Knowing how a joke is supposed to work does not make it funny. Indeed, knowing the mechanics of how it works and finding it funny are almost opposites. While it is certainly possible to explain how a poem is supposed to work–its images, its figures, its rhythms, and so on–its _meaning_ cannot be explained. As I think about it, the mechanical metaphor is especially apt, since knowing how the parts of a machine interact with one another is not at all the same thing as groking what the machine is actually doing. Being able to explain how the internal combustion engine works is not the same as knowing how to drive. And knowing the history of how the internal combustion engine came to be invented does not make one either an engineer or a mechanic.

    The artistry of the novel has to do with plot and not with language per se. Novels may, and often do, contain poetic language, but they need not. Novels aim to create artistic meaning through plot. Plots unfold. You have to wait to see how the story turns out. The artistry of poetry does have to do with language per se, and since language and its meaning are obviously coextensive, poetic meaning either happens or doesn’t in the moment of its articulation.

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 2, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      Powers,

      Brilliant!

      1. “The difference between a poem and its meaning is like the difference between a joke and its funniness. Knowing how a joke is supposed to work does not make it funny. Indeed, knowing the mechanics of how it works and finding it funny are almost opposites.”

      Modern pedants and scholars all “know how a poem is supposed to work” but none of them get that ‘knowing the mechanics’ and ‘finding it poetical’ are ‘almost opposites.’

      2. “Knowing the history of how the internal combustion engine came to be invented does not make one either an engineer or a mechanic.”

      I anticipate objections to the old poetic examples: “but that’s ‘antiquated’ language!”

      I don’t see anything ‘antiquated’ in the language of “green dells that into silence stretch away,” but I do not doubt that objections will arise along the lines of ‘poetry is just not composed like that anymore.’

      Such objections are like someone pointing to a book on the history of the internal combustion engine as “green dells that into silence stretch away” flies by at 100 miles per hour.

      3. “it is meaningless to use a ruler to measure itself, so it is impossible to use language to analyze the meaning that a poem creates.”

      Can one successfully argue towards or away from different kinds of poetry? The “ruler attempting to measure itself” is what creates the argumentation in which ‘different types of poetry’ are endlessly invoked. By constantly moving the target, pseudo-argumentation and pseudo-analysis rules the day. Perhaps the truth is closer to: something is poetic, or it is not.

      If there is one (incommunicable) poetry standard, language can operate in obedience towards that standard in discussing various poems.

      I’d hate to say that we can’t criticize poems!

      I am assuming that what you are saying is that the successful poem’s meaning qua meaning cannot be analyzed…

      Tom

      • powersjq said,

        October 3, 2013 at 2:21 pm

        “I am assuming that what you are saying is that the successful poem’s meaning qua meaning cannot be analyzed…”

        Yes, that’s pretty much it. We can certainly analyze the intrinsically interesting question of how the poem functions as a cog in the machine of literature. I’m an academic kind of guy, so I like nerdy analysis and criticism, and I personally find that it often enhances my enjoyment of a poem. But I would emphasize that it _enhances_ something more primordial, which is the “immediate” meaning that I understand Tom to be talking about. If a poem doesn’t communicate immediately, it fails.

        Of course, poems work at the personal as well as the cultural level. Any poem that you find meaningful, works in some way. Indeed, I take this to be the main point of the distinction that has been previous drawn on this blog between poems and poetry. Individual persons encounter poems. A culture at large–usually instantiated by institutions–has poetry. Poems succeed or fail. Poetry is good or bad. Poems are linguistic artifacts. Criticisms is a literary artifact. And language, it seems obvious to me, is more fundamental than literature. (Maybe this distinction between language and literature is more useful than I thought it would be?)

        I’m thinking that calling a poem good or bad entails a distinction between personal and cultural tastes. Most people I know have no trouble distinguishing between what he or she personally enjoys and what has been well made. Just because something is _worthy_ of our liking it doesn’t mean that we will. I’ve hardly thought this through, but I would venture we have analogous responsibilities to both personal taste and communal taste. We have an ethical obligation to develop and refine both, though this requires different sorts of actions. Vis-à-vis personal tastes, we have an obligation to _try_ to like universally admired poems. Vis-à-vis communal taste, we have an obligation to try to articulate _why_ we like what we like (in my experience, this is very hard to do).

        Literary criticism of poetry has important things to say about which poems we should use to teach a language, about which poems should be recommended to the public at large, about which poems best serve this or that social purpose. But poetry criticism that thinks its derivative, dilatory, analytic explanations are some kind of substitute for the primal, immediate, integral meaning that individual poems conjure has become profoundly confused. That primal stuff, as our tradition (and cognitive science!) teaches us, is generally best served by universal themes, well-turned phrases, assertive rhythms, memorable tropes, and transparent plot. Mystification and obscure reference are anathema to any poem that aims at broad success.

        • thomasbrady said,

          October 3, 2013 at 4:58 pm

          “Poems succeed or fail. Poetry is good or bad.”

          True.

          And this distinction forces the eclectic Modern to either confront the fact that modern poetry is not popular, or eliminate “poetry” from their vocabulary and exist on the same level as the Hallmark customer who likes or does not like, “poems.”

          Poe, the critic, annoyed so many because he dared to highlight the middle, overlapping area between “poems” and “poetry.” And I do think it’s the critic’s job to do this.

          Otherwise one is either impotently and abstractly theorizing on “poetry” on one hand and merely liking or disliking “poems” on the other, and never the two shall meet. If they don’t meet, the Critic is irrelevant.

  2. Diane Roberts Powell said,

    October 3, 2013 at 12:02 am

    Well, I’m feeling optimistic about Don Share as the new editor of Poetry. He’s a little older than Wiman, and hence, I’m hoping he’s a little more mature. One thing, that I’ve noticed about both of them, is that, even though they are both from the South, they rarely publish Southern poets. Since Share is Jewish, maybe he considered that to be more a more important part of his identity. Although he did write a poem once about being in New York and being embarrassed by his accent. Wiman has written poems about living in the South, but maybe he’s embarrassed too. Who knows?

  3. anonymous said,

    October 3, 2013 at 2:27 am

    my opinion of Poetry Magazine selections follows.

  4. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    October 3, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Point
    (advice to budding poets)

    Make one. Then disguise it.
    Make them all try
    to figure it out.
    Be witty and clever
    and erudite.
    Make sure they get
    too frustrated
    in the searching
    to really get it.

    Many references, too.
    Some obscure, so they appear
    to reflect a cultured mind.
    Be scholarly and ever
    more unclear.
    Offer a gift but hide it,
    something they will never find.
    Tie it much too tight
    to unwrap. Lock it,
    without a key,
    behind a door.

    To the sad word-bound
    this will be a joy…
    another literary puzzle
    to struggle with and pass empty
    time, but to the rest of us
    such a bore.

    Copyright 2010 – Tall Grass & High Waves, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    • powersjq said,

      October 3, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Wonderful! Thank you!

  5. Diane Roberts Powell said,

    October 3, 2013 at 6:11 am

    One thing that I am more than a little sick of hearing about, mostly from the Poetry magazine corner, is all of this mess about young poets. When Wiman became editor, everyone chimed in about how young he was. The same thing as far as Robbins and Mlinko go. Welcome, my friends, to middle age. I guess some people are just in denial. When I was 36, I began experiencing hot flashes. I went to my obgyn, and asked if I was too young to have hot flashes. He just laughed and said no. Do some poets feel this way because there are getting to be so many elderly poets in this country? I mean, they keep claiming that they are looking for young poets. Most of the people published in Poetry are elderly. Almost all the rest are middle aged. After all, it takes time to become a professional poet these days. There’s the BA, MA, MFA, PhD, post doc, post-post doc, and the unending struggle towards an elusive tenure track position. Because God only knows, there’s no way in hell you will get published in Poetry magazine, even if you do have a PhD, if you teach at a community college. But, anyway, all of this takes time. A lot of time.

    Poets used to write decent work in their late teens and early twenties. Life was so much harder when Keats wrote. He watched his brother die of TB, after they had already lost their parents. Does this kind of suffering contribute to a poetic sensibility? I think so because watching loved ones suffering inclines one to be more empathetic. And a poet without empathy is no real poet. This is why Pound completely fails as a poet.

  6. thomasbrady said,

    October 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I like what you’ve all said:

    Powers made the necessary point that ‘getting and enjoying’ a joke is the opposite of ‘knowing how a joke works and making a joke based on that knowledge.’

    We ‘get’ a joke right away.

    A poem is like a joke in the sense that we ‘get’ it right away, but we ‘get’ a poem even quicker, because a joke always requires a prelude and then a punchline, whereas a poem should immediately strike us as poetic.

    This is what Gary, risking coming off as a rube, is saying with “Point.”

    I have little hope for Share—who, like all Moderns—is scared to death of coming off as a rube; Share unfortunately believes in difficulty for its own sake. Scarriet took down Wiman several months ago, though to give Wiman credit, he did make the magazine better, and Poetry allows many voices to speak, and it’s one of the few poetry publications I enjoy.

    Diane, yes, I’ve been to readings where it seems half the audience is over 70.

    The whole idea is interesting: age and poetry. To think how Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was what…18? And Keats, of course, and Poe wrote exquisite poems as a teenager, etc etc Now poetry and old age is the thing… The rare genius who combines knowing with passion…poetic passion requires something more than the passion we feel when we watch CBS news…it’s a different kind of passion, one that is wise beyond years…

    Tom

  7. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    October 4, 2013 at 1:26 am

    That’s an interesting comment, Tom. The one about young writers, I mean. My first (of six) published books of poetry was called ‘Evolving: Poems 1965-2005’. It is a collection of my poems from age 13 to age 53. I think you would probably like my earlier poems more than my later ‘evolved’ poems. Of course,Tom’s a cheap bastard and won’t spring for the cost of the book so he’ll never know. 🙂

    Here is the Author’s Note from my first book:

    .Author’s Note

    Most writers and poets, naturally, want only their best work presented to the world. That was my original plan, as well. After making the decision to publish a selection of my poems I started reviewing my collection, most of which hadn’t been looked at in twenty or thirty years. This turned into quite an adventure as I relived my life through poetry, from the awkward musings of a nine year-old to verses I had written just last year in my fifties.
    I realized that before me I had the entire evolutionary history of a poet, a fossil record, so to speak. It occurred to me that something like this might be of interest to some. At the very least it would make an unusual and, hopefully, fun and insightful read. Few poets, to my knowledge, have actually shared their humblest beginnings.
    As you embark upon this voyage through poetic time, early influences by Edgar Allan Poe, E. E. Cummings and others will be obvious. Various experiments in style and structure can be tracked as the poet grows, not unlike the evolution of a species as traced by Paleontologists from its most primitive forms. Creative ontogeny recapitulates cultural phylogeny. Thus, the title.
    It was very tempting to revise some of the earliest poems. They are often clumsy and immature, but that, of course, would defeat the whole purpose of including them. It was almost torture to see flaws standing out like wounds which could be so easily stitched with a simple word or two, but I refrained. I did take the liberty of deleting redundant or unnecessary stanzas and adding some punctuation, but other than that they are verbatim. This collection chronicles not only the growth of a mind and a life, but reflects the history of the times in which that life was lived. I hope you enjoy the journey.

    Gary B. Fitzgerald

  8. thomasbrady said,

    October 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Gary,

    My relationship to your work is sort of how the poet Henry Chorley put it, “In its bright stillness present though afar”

    Your poetry is always in my heart.

    That’s what I like about Scarriet. I don’t have to beg. I simply put the best poetry blog in the world out there and if the world comes to it, good, and if they don’t, then they don’t deserve it, and too bad. I don’t give a damn. Everything is serendipitous. I worry about nothing.

    You get shit for posting your poems on other sites, but you can always do so here.

    Even fragments—which we know immediately as poetry—are welcome.

    Do you have any as good as this by Longfellow?

    A feeling of sadness and longing
    That is not akin to pain,
    But resembles sorrow only
    As the mist resembles the rain.

    Or

    O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear
    What man has borne before!
    Thou layest thy finger on the lips of care,
    And they complain no more.

    Or these from James Russell Lowell:

    Her spirit wandered by itself and won
    A golden edge from some unsetting sun

    Not the first violet on a woodlawn lea
    Seemed a more visible gift of spring than she

    Hope skims over life as we may sometimes see
    A butterfly, whose home is in the flowers,
    Blown outward far over the moaning sea,
    Remembering in vain its odorous bowers.

    Tom

  9. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    October 5, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Here are a few:

    Hardwood

    I rise each day and find these trees
    stand exactly where they did the day before,
    stood unafraid in a darkened wood
    through the cold and empty hours
    to welcome in a new day’s pearly light.
    But each day, it seems, I also find another
    who has ventured past that unseen door,
    has left us, we can only pray,
    for something good and something more
    and something less than standing through the night.

    Proud these trees stood still when we returned
    from the solemn procession and burial,
    on a day of tears and a last goodbye, of dying flowers,
    the lifting of a polished hardwood casket.
    And though weary when returning from the funeral,
    I take time tonight to walk beside the wood
    and of these hardwood trees and life I ask it:
    where stand and how grow until the day it’s I
    who, dressed in hardwood, awaits a morning bright?

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

    Bewildered

    How reconcile this paradox,
    this Creator who loves creation,
    with the brutality and blood
    that makes it turn,
    the endless flow of life,
    forms granted their existence
    by the eating of each other,
    the bewildered, starving young
    still awaiting their dead mother?

    How resolve this lack of compassion,
    this cruelly designed summation
    by the One who loves us all,
    those lost to fire and fang and flood
    or blown from nests in storms?

    We will reason, for we are human,
    and create our fine Religions
    which our reason then deforms.

    Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns: New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    For You Not Yet

    As I write, right now, your mother
    is the size of a pea.
    She will grow and be born
    and not hear of me.
    You at this time
    do not even exist and only
    by luck and grace will you be
    if your mother survives
    and gets married.
    But I write not for your mother
    or even right now.
    Now knows nothing of me.
    Now knows not what I do.
    I write for tomorrow, for they
    not yet here.
    I have written for you.

    Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns: New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

  10. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    October 5, 2013 at 5:33 am

    And here are three for the sea!

    Unlike the Po-biz crowd, I am neither arrogant or self-centered. I need no external approval. I am irrelevant. My poetry speaks for itself and, therefore, for me.

    High Waves

    The wind tore the mainsail and the rope broke,
    swung the boom and tipped us. I lost the helm!
    We floundered, so I’m sorry.
    Then, lifted by the swell, I grabbed the wheel again,
    made her steady and got her back on course.

    The sea clutched the keel and swung her ‘round,
    crossways to the current. We lost the jib but
    were righted by the well, again corrected.
    So I’m sorry, but you must trust me with my ship.
    I have no control over this ocean, you see,
    nor the flotsam and storms spread upon it.

    But I know her pitch and roll, can name her every line.
    You haven’t sailed the seas I have, don’t know my charts
    so don’t pretend to read the compass.
    The tack she sails is mine. I know her every rope
    and the cargo that she carries is my own life’s hope.

    Copyright 2008 – Tall Grass & High Waves, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    Ropes

    We’re a ship in the stream
    whose cargo has shifted.
    The sea floods the gunwales,
    the timbers shiver and shudder.
    We run unbalanced and listing.

    We roll hard on the beam,
    by the wild ocean lifted.
    On the deck the sea funnels,
    we fervently trim sail and turn rudder,
    fight storm waves rising, resisting,
    but to starboard still lean.

    Until the ballast in the hold
    is made steady, we shall fail.
    We shall never be ready
    and go down in the cold.
    Call ye the Captain and ring ye the bell.
    Drop the sails, boys,
    and move the damn cargo
    or plan to be drinking in hell.

    The ropes become ever more many,
    the sails taller and wider and mean,
    yet our sailors ever less seaworthy.
    So we toss in the lurch and swing
    in the swell, flounder in the lee,
    and will never be right ‘til we’re listening.

    Copyright 2012 – Mortal Remains, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    An Old Friend

    Visited a dear old friend today,
    been a long time since I’ve seen her.
    It was good to see her again. I missed her.
    I think she was glad to see me too.
    She gave me a little wave and we embraced.
    She’s been a friend of the family, I’m sure,
    for many, many years,
    since I was a child at least,
    and our affection was never misplaced.

    As lives change and fortunes drift
    it’s good to have a friend who’s always there,
    someone constant and wise who offers
    no rejection and never changes,
    to fill your cup with a helping hand.

    It was good to see her again…always the same
    in her wrinkled old blue and white shift.
    But though welcoming and willing to listen,
    somewhat nervous, never still, ever tending
    her garden, feeding her birds or, with delicate care,
    her seaside souvenirs she continuously rearranges,
    always fussing over and smoothing the sand.

    Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns: New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    • thomasbrady said,

      October 23, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      Gary,

      Your first poem, “Hardwood,” opens brilliantly. It is worthy of Frost:

      I rise each day and find these trees
      stand exactly where they did the day before,
      stood unafraid in a darkened wood
      through the cold and empty hours
      to welcome in a new day’s pearly light.
      But each day, it seems, I also find another
      who has ventured past that unseen door

      But unfortunately, the rest of the poem is taken up with the over-elaboration of the funeral/hardwood casket/ poet asking those questions at the end…the solemn, mystical atmosphere of the trees and the uncanny idea of one of the trees “venturing past that unseen door” is interrupted by a too self-evident train of egotistical human inquiry, burdened with the heavy-handed ‘hardwood’ metaphor…(tree v. buried man in hardwood casket) and the whole beauty of the poem is lost. You really need to understand Poe’s censure of the “didactic” and the virtue of an undercurrent of meaning—you spoil too many of your poems with surface prattle and lessons and ‘wisdom.’

      Tom

  11. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    October 27, 2013 at 4:41 am

    One of the greatest ironies in Letters is how we remember the names of all of the great poets: Poe, Blake, Keats, Shelley, Pope, Whitman, Tennyson. . .yet not one soul remembers the name of any of their critics.

    Why is that, Tom? Could it be that their critics were not great poets?

    GBF

  12. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    October 27, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Here is a comment I made some time back on another blog about critics:

    It has been my experience that really good critics are terrible poets and that really good poets are terrible critics.

    Here are a couple of poems that express my opinion on the matter. As I recall, Joan Houlihan liked the first one which I posted on the Harriet blog back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

    Dinner with Critics

    One night a man had a fine dinner,
    prime rib and lobster,
    music and laughter, hors d’oeuvres;
    fine red wine.
    Later that night, after his murder,
    the coroner sliced open a pink
    and blue sack of stomach,
    emptied it of leftover lobster
    and prime rib. A faint sour smell
    of red wine.

    Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns: New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    The Pedant

    So many verses read, references compiled,
    so many titles quoted and remembered;
    a wealth of prosodic structure understood.
    You have studied every poet from Petrarch
    to Poe to Plath and none of it
    has done you any good.

    You have never quite experienced exactly
    what the poet’s count and meter said you should,
    done that of which all these poems speak.
    Vicariously you lived, your chips untendered,
    your connection weak and for all intents and purposes
    now almost dead and past your peak.

    You have traded all your living, the edge and energy,
    the colors of the life that set you on this path
    for the lives of all the others that you’ve studied,
    dissected and dismembered, and never found
    that truth of which you seek, the epiphany
    you always thought you would, that now,
    you finally realize, you never really could.

    Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns: New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    Poets & Critics

    A pandemonium of shoots and seeds and tendrils,
    new growth and life and creeping vines,
    many colored flowers, great oaks and pines,
    gentle bamboo and bees and beasts…
    a forest growing beautiful and natural
    and wild.

    Others come here, collect these leaves and petals,
    take them home, identify and classify and file,
    press them in books,
    then compare these specimens to
    one another.

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

    • noochinator said,

      October 27, 2013 at 11:05 am

      Critics should be heeded re the things that they love,
      And maybe re the things they disdain from above.

  13. thomasbrady said,

    October 27, 2013 at 11:33 am

    In his “Letter to B___,” Poe says the great poet is the great critic. And of course this is true. Criticism attends the poet’s creative self: composition and criticism are two sides of the same coin. The childish, naive belief that Criticism means “saying something bad about someone” hurts poetry and Letters in so many ways. The true poet is just as aware of missing the glory as the critic. Both poet and critic fall short, Gary. By implying the poet does not you only betray your poet’s pride, which is unfortunately on display all the time. As to your question, why are poets, not critics, famous, you refer to famous poems which are remembered and critics wrote those poems: Shelley, Poe, Eliot, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Pope, Sidney, Keats. Do you ever read poets’ letters and essays and criticism, Gary? You should. Many poets’ conversations are lost to us forever, as well as their thoughts. You think poets are never critical? Including yourself? You haven’t looked into your heart, Poet.

  14. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    October 28, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Poetry

    I never read poetry; can’t stand the stuff
    and who could blame me?
    The bad ones make me gnash my teeth
    and the good ones only shame me.

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


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