FRIENDSHIP, BOOZE AND POETRY

We sometimes settle into a train ride and enjoy it for its own sake, forgetting where we are going; the train becomes its own world, even as it moves with purpose; if the train became stuck, we would get annoyed, so the purpose is never forgotten; the train is our servant, taking us from one place to another—and yet the train also allows us to forget the reason and enjoy the experience.

Where is the train going? To another train. The purpose is to have no purpose.

Expression is like this, too. We talk for a reason, and yet we also just enjoy the talking.

What are we to say?  We can’t enjoy talking if we have no reason to talk; why is it that some people can talk endlessly and others, those others, are so quiet?

Poetry is reticent expressiveness; it combines the enjoyable and the purposeful aspects of the train ride.

Reticence is a virtue; think how much rudeness and chaos would exist without it.

Yet reticence is also a tomb.

Reticence is the torture of not being able to say what you want to say—or worse, not having anything to say at all.

Reticence, then, has its use, as a stay against rudeness and confusion, but its flip side is burial and death.

That which overcomes reticence, expression, is the train moving, information conveyed; we understand what expression is for, also.

People drink to put themselves at ease, to loosen up their tongues; it can produce the same happy result as friendship, where after a certain time, we trust another to tell them things; we can be at ease with a friend and express ourselves.

Booze and friendship move us from austere reticence, where the train chugs along without comment, to a train of feeling and comfort and light.

Poetry rides the same train as booze and friendship; it is doing exactly the same thing.

If intoxication and affection don’t turn you into a poet, there is something wrong.

Poetry allows one to retain that reticence even as one expresses oneself.

Alcohol turns one into a clown, or a bitter gasbag. It causes many train delays, and even train accidents.

Friendship can turn one into a fool, as well, as gossip replaces poetry.

Friendly gossip feeds on the fools and the clowns, the bad poets, the drunks, and soon friendly chat becomes as sour as what it feeds on. Soon you find yourself talking about people (those who are not your friends) and expressiveness becomes pointed and unfriendly, and the spirit of friendship is killed in an atmosphere of judgment and rebuke. There is always a danger when reticence is escaped and expression reigns supreme: the train goes too fast and plunges off a cliff.

Friendship is based on something very divisive: this person is my friend and this person is not.

A poet, if they are good, appeals to all readers, not just friends.

Dante, in his Vita Nuova, was aware of the fact that, as he was writing poems for his secret crush, Beatrice, he was running headlong into the reality that other ladies were curious and interested in his poetry.  If love is a kind of ultimate friendship (what else is it really?).  The Vita Nuova (a short work of poems and prose which pre-dated the Commedia) is such a wonderful book because it shows the poet thinking about how he will write poems to express his life, and how the expression itself then impacts his thinking and his life. Dante muses at one point that he will write his poem only for those “ladies who are sweet and gentle,” so here is a caveat to what we said above: poets have a wide appeal, although they may not write for all readers.  Yet Dante still writes to ladies in the plural, and nothing upsets a “friend” quite as much as when they see that you have an appeal that travels far beyond their friendship.

Poetry has the potential to soberly soar above friendship.

And this is why, like everything else under the sun, poetry is both loved and hated.

WHEN A WOMAN HATES

 

 

 

image

When a woman hates,

There is nothing worse for a man,

For there is no creature on earth who can hate

Like a woman can.

When a woman gives love

From her soft breast,

Unsentimental imagination soars.

Inspired, the poet finds no rest

In love’s poetic task

Making obscurity so bright

The critic doesn’t need to ask.

Darkness and obscurity

Loom when the woman doesn’t love.

Light shines in every crevice

When she does.

 

 

 

BRADY’S BALLS

Brady and Belichick: The Actress and Richard Nixon

According to Sports Illustrated, no one (with the exception of some Pat fans) believes Tom Brady’s denial of Deflategate:

Before games, like most quarterbacks, [Brady] makes sure the footballs meet his precise specifications. He likes them to have 12.5 pounds of pressure per square inch. Presumably, he also likes them worked in so they are not too shiny, too slippery, too waxy, or covered in maple syrup. Then—he made this point multiple times Thursday—he doesn’t want anybody touching them. They’re perfect the way they are.

And yet, during the first half of the Patriots’ AFC Championship win over the Colts, Brady was playing with balls that were well under his preferred 12.5 pounds of PSI. At least 11 of the 12 were under-inflated.

But guess what? He didn’t notice. He had nothing to do with it. He has no idea how it happened. Maybe a manager did it on his own, maybe there was a porcupine in the ball bag. But Brady—Tom Brady, the same extremely competitive, detail-oriented man who helped lobby the league to allow quarterbacks to supply their own footballs—didn’t notice they were under-inflated.

–Michael Rosenberg

Saturday Night Live joined the fun on Saturday, one week before Super Bowl Eve, with an astute take, revealing that football fans are everywhere and they’re not as stupid as one might think. The SNL skit, which opened the show, deftly presented the four key characters of the unfolding drama:

1. The coach, Bill Belichick, fined the maximum penalty of $500,000 by the NFL in 2007 for stealing opponent’s play signals from 2002 through 2007: grumpy, with nothing to say.

2. The player, Tom Brady, infamous for a game-ending playoff fumble reversed by an inscrutable on-field referee ruling, known as the Tuck Rule: joyously stupid, with nothing to say.

3. The equipment manager: an affable nobody, suddenly important and on the defensive. Since the NFL is a private organization, they cannot force their employees to testify—the Pats are tight-lipped because it’s their right. The U.S. Congress was looking into 2007’s Spygate; the NFL has no incentive to call attention to cheating in games: if one ref, or one coach, or one player violates NFL rules to alter the outcome of a game and no one knows, that’s good for the NFL—if fans, however, learn of violations, that’s bad for the NFL. Players are protected by a powerful Player Union. Not so, equipment managers.

4. The reporters: Not buying Brady and Belichick’s denials. They just want to know who deflated the footballs the Pats were using in the rainy conditions to give their quarterback a clear advantage, in violation of the game’s rules.

Richard Sherman, the Seahawks talkative defensive back, had to remind everyone yesterday that there are two other players in the drama:

5. The owner: Bob Kraft, probably the most influential owner in the NFL, whose aim is to make his Pats look as clean as possible.

6. The NFL commissioner: Roger Goodell, whose aim is to make the NFL look as clean as possible.

As Sherman pointed out: Kraft and Goodell are pals.

Belichick’s press conference on Thursday was the grumpy man’s attempt to “scientifically” deflect and distract from the fact that the balls used by the Patriots in the AFC championship game were under-inflated, a clear violation of NFL rules, as measured at half-time, while the balls used by the Colts, also measured, were not.

But the overall truth is this: the NFL will always err on the side of “There was no cheating.” Even if cheating happens all the time.

That Belichick (whose dad scouted other teams for Navy) was caught and penalized for cheating in 2007 is an extraordinary fact in itself.  That he was still allowed to coach is perhaps even more revealing.

Obviously it’s very important for Belichick that he not be seen as personally guilty in this latest cheating scandal—which is why Belichick (days prior to his hastily called press conference) threw Brady under the bus last week. He knows about the balls. Ask him. 

The eternally stone-faced Belichick slipping up to protect himself by shining a light on his star quarterback was an epic mistake—not even close to a calculated move by a criminal genius. Brady, in private, must have been fuming.

Belichick’s press conference gambit: “texture” matters more than “pressure” was his attempt to save his quarterback’s ass.

But this only puts Brady’s balls in more hot water, because Belichick’s denial of any involvement in Deflategate is based on the fact that he, as head coach, had nothing to do with handling the footballs—that’s Brady’s realm of expertise. So how did Belichick suddenly, out of the blue, become an authority on “texture” versus “pressure?”  Not knowing or caring about that shit was the basis of Belichick’s “innocence.” Now, in front of the world, he’s a lecturing, indignant expert on the subject.

This is the spin Pats defenders have settled on.

This morning,the Boston Globe featured a headline story with local science professors who agree with Belichick’s “scientific” defense.

The “science” is: 50 degree weather deflates Pats’ balls—but not Colts’ balls.

And Boston’s major newspaper is going with this “science.”

Pats fans don’t get it (as Pats fans, they don’t want to get it) when they insist the Pats beat the Colts by 5 touchdowns.

The final score of the game, as the press has been saying, is irrelevant.

Breaking a rule is breaking a rule. Fair play is not sort of important—it’s the most important thing.  A “level playing field” is the first premise of sport. Even war has rules, even though we don’t need “rules” to define “war.” A game, however, by definition, consists of “rules” and these “rules” must be the same for each side, or it’s not a game, or a sport, at all. What it probably is, then, is entertainment (like WWE wrestling) or a gambling operation.

The NFL, as a private company, may very well be a gambling or entertainment industry—it would be in their monetary interest, to be so, and legally, there is more than enough gray area—combined with the monetary incentive—for the NFL to easily be so, in fact.

Hey, the first NFL teams were funded by gambling winnings. (A little history for you)

It has been written that the NFL rewards franchises who re-locate; Super Bowls have been won—within a season or two!—by teams who moved (the 1999 Rams from LA to St. Louis, the 2000 Ravens from Cleveland to Baltimore, the 1983 Raiders from Oakland to LA).

How could this happen? How can the NFL allow a team to win? Every football fan knows how. An NFL referee can make “penalty” calls, or not make “penalty” calls, or reverse “penalty” calls at his discretion, with no possibility of these calls being overturned. They are final, and one call, or even one non-call, can easily determine the outcome of a game, even make the outcome of a game lop-sided. It’s just the way football works.  Or how any sport works.  Think of a World Series contest.  One team is down 2-0 and if they win, it’s 2-1, but one bad hop grounder and they lose and suddenly they are down 3-0 and it looks like they are being slaughtered—but not really. So the score of the Colts-Pats game is completely irrelevant and not the point at all.

Football is a contact sport—in the most extreme sense, and every single contact is a potential penalty. Unlike chess, in which the two players control their separate destinies by moving one chess piece at a time towards a clearly determined checkmate, any play on a football field is open to the subjective judgment of a referee, no matter how perfectly a ball is thrown or how skillfully and remarkably a defensive play is executed. In football, a pawn—on the other side of the board, which has nothing to do with the knight’s move to check the king—can be “flagged” for some tenuous “illegal contact,” canceling out the knight’s move forever. A long gain for a score or a first down—the sort of play which is so important it holds the key to victory—becomes loss of down and loss of yardage—due to a purely subjective and irreversible decision made on the basis of a lightning-fast and ambiguous “touch” between two players, deemed a “penalty” that “officially” changes the game result.

Any pro quarterback will play like the greatest quarterback to ever play the game if they have an extra second to throw the ball; a defensive player, if allowed, or not allowed, to use his hands in a certain way, will either be ineffective, or the greatest defensive player ever, and this is determined by how the referee in any given contest chooses to interpret rules which, by their very nature, are entirely ambiguous. No expert can tell whether a large “grey area” of contact between an offensive and a defensive player on any given play, in the middle of the action, or far away on the other side of the field, constitutes, in retrospect, a “penalty” by either the offensive player, or the defensive player, and yet such determinations “set the tone” for “proper” play during the entire contest, and specific calls bring tremendous momentum-building and material advantage to whichever team happens to be favored.

Was that a great “block,” or was that an “offensive holding penalty?” It doesn’t matter how many witnesses there are. No one really knows.

Referees can fix games in broad daylight, in front of millions, without anyone “knowing.”  Simply because the ambiguity of the rules bars knowing itself.

The referee’s non-call of “holding” results in the quarterback having precious extra time to pass the ball with an inevitable completion, or, if the referee does call “holding,” a cancellation of that completion with an additional loss of yardage.  Poor versus great quarterback performances are almost entirely determined by quarterback “protection”—this every football expert does know.

“Pawns” on the other side of the board who “fight” long after a play is over, can also arbitrarily result in a 15 yard penalty against one team—winning scores in football are often determined by swings of 10 or 20 yards one way or the other, and so irreversible referee penalty calls of the most trivial and subjective nature (having absolutely nothing to do with the game played on the field) can determine game outcomes.

Sports has famously been overrun in the last 30 years by number-crunching geeks who analyze every statistical aspect imaginable to quantify the game and seek advantage. But NFL referee decisions remain the ghost in the machine: this crucial part of the game is invisible and unrecorded; sure, they total “penalty yards,” but what escapes detection is the game-changing fact of when a penalty is called, and also the yardage earned which penalties erase, and also the intimidation factor: if a referee punishes a defensive back with an unwarranted “pass interference” call, this has a ripple effect on the entire defense and the entire game.

The Pats no doubt gained tremendous advantage by stealing plays, but the Pats could easily look like the greatest team on earth simply by how selected referees of the NFL manipulate the “chess pieces.”  The Pats had their miraculous 18-0 “perfect season” run in the wake of the embarrassing Spygate accusations, accusations which called into question the legitimacy of not only the Patriots, but the NFL itself.  Once caught, the only possible way for the NFL to escape the embarrassment of previous Super Bowl wins (three of them!) awarded to cheaters was to make it look like the Pats were such an awesome team they did not need to cheat. Only after the U.S. Congress threatened to look into Spygate more deeply—just prior to the Super Bowl that season—did the Pats all at once look like a perfectly ordinary team, losing to a wild card 10-6 Giants team in the 2007 Super Bowl, despite the Pats being heavy favorites.

In the contest prior to their blow-out victory over the Colts last week, the Pats were lucky to escape with a win over the Ravens, and the Pats did so with referee help–and an interception thrown by the Ravens quarterback at the end of the game—a lob into the arms of the Pats’ safety which looked suspiciously intentional; perhaps it was thought best by the currently scandal-hit League not to let the Ray Rice-scandalized Ravens in the Super Bowl this year.

In the second half of that close game, the Ravens were penalized 15 yards when the Ravens’ coach ventured onto the field before a play to get the officials’ attention. The Pats were using a formation in which legitimate receivers were not designated—the rules say defenses must be given time before the ball is snapped to ascertain which offensive players on any give play are eligible to catch a pass, but the Pats were running players on the field and then snapping the ball right away. The Pats were stretching the rules with trickery—and the refs penalized the Ravens.

The Pats were supposed to have a great defense this season and were heavy favorites over a Ravens team depleted by injuries in the secondary; the Ravens—named after the Poe poem—snuck into the playoffs as a wild card team. Yet the Ravens moved the ball at will, and their quarterback threw four touchdowns against what was thought to be one of the best Pat defenses of all time—five touchdowns if you count the fact that on throwing the ball on fourth down to the Pats’ goal line, the receiver who made the great catch spun the ball on the ground after the play—and was flagged for a fifteen yard “taunting” penalty. “Taunting” penalties produced more yardage for the Pats than their running game.

We hear that in celebrating a pass reception, for a ball to spin nicely on the ground, it should be properly inflated.

THE WORLD WAKES UP

The world wakes up,
Still dark and cold,
The sound of cars in the distance;
Normally, I would be awake,
Pinned to the bed
By gossipy insistence.
Today I don’t wake up.
The world wakes up.
“Shall I marry him
Or kick him out?”
She thinks wearily.
The world holds together
Because of this doubt.

It’s winter. I don’t like
The winter weather,
But I like the seasons.
There are millions of reasons
To do this, or not do this,
So we make ourselves
Stupid and decide.
“You should have seen
How much fun I had
On the ride.”
Groan. The world wakes up.

I would be awake
Feeling the light.
Today something’s not right.
My bed is lumpy.
The body is lumpy.
I cannot face demands,
And offices, and you.
I feel the light
Today as not quite true.

The world wakes up.
I do not wake up.
Today my fear
Will be tested.
How will it be
Alone in the ground
Without a sound
As the world wakes up?

A LITTLE WINE AND YOU THINK OF ME

A little wine and you think of me,
A little more and you want to be
In the back seat kissing me.

Virginity is sobriety.
My older years have come to be
Passionate, but bad for me.
You needed wine to be
Desperately in love with me.
Drunk, you loved me desperately,
Your beauty loved me desperately.

Sober, your beauty
Was cruel to me.
Was the wine true?
Or the sober you?
We never knew.

It’s the worst
When love is a thirst:
When sweetness flies
And there is only wine—and lies.

GOD IS THE MOST CONVENIENT OF LOVES

God is the most convenient of loves
Because God is always there,
To love you in sorrow,
To love you—when everything is unfair.

I loved a woman who had another mind
Even when she loved me, and was unkind
In that way one is when one belongs to the world.
I looked for her but never knew what I was going to find.

I tried to see her! I tried to see the windings of her mind!
I kissed dust. There was a song like a flower with petals curled.
It was a pleasure to be with her but there were too many ways
For her to be gone, so now I must forget those days.

Where is the temple? The book?  The sacrifice?
She loved me, but what trouble! even on a good day she wasn’t nice.
There are no gods now! There are none!
There is only this convenience. This one.

 

 

THE MORAL SMUT PARADOX

image

Poetry, once beautiful, has become merely eccentric; more troubling, currently, is the vast indifference, and even revulsion by the public for the art, despite valiant efforts at subsidy, chiefly the commerce and spread of university MFAs.

Some say we have a glut of poets—the MFA, a pyramid scheme when all pay for a small number who teach—poets read poets in a purely careerist context, even as real poetry hides in cracks and crevices—but “too many poets” and MFA criticism seems a small concern beside the tremendous indifference of the general public.

Why can’t poetry live outside of school (and Slam bars) and thrive in the public square, with cooking and napping and sports?

Because poetry is either

1) too easy or

2) too difficult:

1) Rhymes for imbeciles

2) Footnotes for specialists in which the content and syntax of a Newsweek essay stirs up in the reader a puzzle: why is this called poetry?

Surely there is a middle ground—between the banal pop lyric and the mangled prosy essay, between “We will, we will, rock you” and William Carlos Williams’ stupid plums, between Victorian pillow talk and academic vertigo—a middle ground of highly skilled, original poetry which pleases poet and non-poet alike—

A middle ground accessible to non-poets while alerting the poets that obscurity is over: Shelley, Keats, Byron and Dickinson are back.

This will do 3 things:

1. Make poetry better.

2. Make the pictorial and musical arts better as poetry inspires them once again

3. Revive public interest in poetry—even as the narrow creds-mongers howl in protest

The chief objection to a modern Romanticism revival (desperately needed since the pretensions of Pound and Williams mowed over the beauty of Millay) will come from the Institutional Art Theorists, who say the history of art (no matter how driven by actual folly) is more important than art, that poetry requires a “learned” context of historical change and development—as phase trumps the thing itself.

Old models—think of Greek Tragedy, cave paintings, Emerson’s doggerel, will be improved upon, yes, certainly, but the improvement comes from the original poet, not the impotent university scholar/historian who learnedly and belatedly cheers on change. The cheering in universities needs to stop and beautiful originality needs to begin.

The university historian says Keats is dead—because history is more important to them than art.

But there is an even deeper issue we need to address:

The poet, if he is worthy the name, avoids what chiefly cripples all moral expression: smutty morals, or moral smut, the heart and soul of most middle class literature.

We speak of best-selling literature in which morals are highly overt, and in order to be overt, makes smut overt as well, thus inflating even more the overt moral content, feeding and encouraging low-brow taste in the process, and dragging down in a mania of good intentions all literature into that “realism” of bad taste in which readers slum free of guilt.

The alternative: the “fantasy” genre, fares no better and is similarly in thrall, as it exploits moral smut even more overtly, using racy bad taste increasingly as its “ideal” weapon.

This earnest and vastly popular state of affairs not only makes for bad literature, it reduces the middle class population which consumes it into a species of reader entirely ill-equipped to appreciate beautiful good taste, which is the Eldorado of the Poet.

This is not to say that a certain amount of raciness and bad taste and excitement cannot drive certain types of popular literature—we are not saying there cannot be cakes and ale. Let there be cakes and ale. But when ale becomes excessive, infecting even so-called highbrow literature, and when good taste for its own sake is no longer cultivated, we reach that threshold in which the elevated feelings no longer stir, real moral beauty no longer excites, and the poor body drags along without a soul.

We also understand that lovely flowers grow in dirt, etc.  That contrast is required between low and high. Shakespeare was great at this, but his greatness—what other word is there for it?—kept the low in its place. Low is low—unless we are suckered after long exposure into admiring it.  Addicted, we continue to feed on what makes us ill; judgment atrophies, taste becomes bloated with sentimentalism, discernment wastes away, obscurity becomes robust in a pretentious miasma, and the best that’s left are sneering sophisticates with steely hearts.

The great poet resists overt morals—and the smutty bad taste which invariably feeds on it.

The prose novel, with its earthiness and scope, will sometimes benefit from this phenomenon.

But poetry is far more susceptible to the disease of which we speak.

The paradox of Moral Smut insidiously sweetens, destroying the healthy vigor of poetry, and its art, and Taste, in general.

 

 

 

THE LAMB THAT’S LOST

image 

Is all we see or seem but a dream within a dream? --Edgar Poe

We love the lamb that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here---
That's why nothing---nothing---is clear---
We love the lamb's that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here.

That's why when you speak
I always disagree---
Because the thing you love
I cannot hear or see.

Lost! Lost! Lost!
What we love is lost,
The valley in our mind
That we have never crossed.

I can't explain the lost to you---
The explanation is lost, too...

That's why you're a mystery,
Smiling and near---
We love the lamb that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here.



POEMS ABOUT POETRY

image

Poems about poetry are the best poems there are.

The best light is the light which illustrates a star.

The best love is love which focuses on love,

Not those who wear love’s hat and love’s glove,

If the haberdashery is not too far.

We notice in faces, traces

Of a life busy and sad,

But we don’t like these faces.

Poems that are bad

Tell of other things,

When all we want from poetry

Is a poem inside of poetry—

A specter in a cloud that sings.

 

 

 

 

ONLY ONE PICTURE

 

 

Only one picture captures who I am
And does not let me run away,
A picture you saw of me
When the morning sun’s first ray
Penetrated, like the world’s first camera,
The black darkness of a heart
Comforted by its darkness, tra la.
When you have time, throw that picture away.
The forest majestically throws shadows,
A hushed, dappled memory which consumes my heart.
By the brook, where the twigs are broken,
Where we spoke? There I’ll die by a new dart.

DO WE WANT EQUALITY?

“Married with my uncle…but no more like my father than I to Hercules”  —Shakespeare, Hamlet

Equality. Do we want it?

Equality is, for both the peon and the pundit alike, the political aspiration of modernity.

But what if this honored term—equality—veils something terrible which undermines all that equality is?

What if there is an iron law of psychology that says equals will always be rivals?

In every practical aspect of life, subordination exists, often without us even thinking about it. We who count ourselves fortunate (and enlightened) that we no longer obey royalty, find supervisors, bosses, sub-bosses, managers, assistants to the assistant manager, everywhere we look, never thinking how we are more enslaved than ever by iron laws of inequality.

We have less equality than ever, even as modernity itself is defined by this very idea.

In contemporary parlance: WTF?

Shakespeare’s most important point in his History Plays: Being a king sucks.

Even if you are a peon, don’t envy the king.

This is the core belief of conservatism: social progress is an illusion—because equality is an illusion.

Here is the two-part conservative wisdom:

1. Bad news for the peons: there will always be kings.

2. Good news for the peons: being a king sucks.

This is far better than radical wisdom:

1. Bad news for the peons: there will always be kings.

2. Bad news for the peons: you must kill the kings.

Being a king, being responsible, being public, being wealthy, running things? It’s no fun.  You don’t want to do it.

Be glad you don’t have to do it. Better to tinker (write, paint, invent, frolic, laugh, love) under the radar.

Today we can dress better and have more girlfriends than our boss—and no one cares; not even the boss.

And why?

Because he’s our boss.

If he were our equal, then the two of us would be rivals. And then it could get nasty fast, as the ‘girlfriend count’ would become a matter of high importance. And the company would suffer, because equality would foster a rivalry that petty office hierarchy prevents.

We often notice, to our chagrin, how quickly marriages fall apart—witness the divorce rate among modern Westerners who freely and voluntarily partner with rationally and carefully chosen equals.

Not that unequal relationships survive, either—but why do equal matches fall apart just as often?

Because of the equality.

Of course it’s not equality itself that’s to blame, but equality is inevitably something else: a rivalry.

And here’s the dilemma.

Equality, that modern ideal, runs smack up against something natural and ancient and pernicious.

Nobody wants to be equal to somebody else.

And we often talk about “equal opportunity:” summed up by: ‘we know everyone is not going to be equal, but at least give everyone an equal chance to succeed.’

But this distinction is empty, since equal opportunity is a bigger illusion than mere equality; the millions of ways to be unequal are rolled into so-called “opportunities” in such a way that the whole noble “equal opportunity” ideal is never, and will never be true.  There is no blank tablet, no starting from scratch; the race never begins at the beginning.

Equality and equal opportunity are merely the formulations of polite words.

The truth is, in the reality of our hearts, equality, when it does happen to exist, or is perceived to exist, is a license to fight.

“Let’s settle this now, and determine who is better at this and that, and who will make the decisions on this and that!”

Calculation (which can detect equality) is tied up with war.

The very idea of equality is like blood in the water to the sharks of real life.

As soon as calculation is able to discover equality, equality is doomed.

It is doomed to be torn apart in a fight, and equality cannot survive love, either, especially when love bends to contracts and agreements and calculations.

And the truth of love is the truth of rivalry: behind every lover stands a multitude of rivals.

Equality is not even a dream.

It’s a lie.

FIRST YOU HAVE TO FALL IN LOVE

First you have to fall in love
And be a victim of the god
Who died yesterday in the flowers
But lives today in your beating heart
Which makes you lie awake by the moon for hours.

Then you make that grand correction
Where the one becomes part of the many again.
The numerous stars overwhelm the sun.
It was happiness to be weak
And feel yourself a sigh among the sighs,
Your life belonging to one set of eyes,
The one you have the one you seek.

But the true One, which is the many,
Reasserts itself against the Two—
And you fall into disunion
Which is perfect; which is perfectly you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF YOU

image

I need to get to the bottom of you.

I’ve had some superficial loves; now only the deep will do.

Love makes cowards of us all:

We choose the rich, the beautiful, the tall,

And then because we’re cowards, love makes us sad.

The only way to love is to be completely mad.

So come, let us go

And find what love can know.

We stare at a Rembrandt for hours,

We listen to Mozart for a day.

We peek behind the curtain

Of a Shakespeare play.

Someone speaks to us openly

Of things we consider in bad taste.

We write the letter quickly

And sign it, “Yours, in haste.”

Now we plunge towards stone even as cold winds blow

Around the never yielding, the never beautiful, below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JE SUIS SACRED

There are matters of which no jest can be made –Edgar Poe

My reputation, my reputation! I’ve lost my reputation, the longest living and truest part of myself! Everything else in me is just animal-like –Shakespeare

_______________________________________________________

Sophisticated, freedom-loving, Westerners, waving their flag of David Letterman Grin to the sound of sitcom sexual humor laugh-track laughter, are as sensitive as any to the pain of inappropriate lampooning—even if it is only teasing; even if it is only humor.

What happened in Paris on January 7th has elicited the usual rhetoric of hand-wringing, caution, outrage, sympathy and platitude from the pundits.

Here’s a typical sample from The New Yorker:

A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.

These thoughts don’t offer a guide to mitigating the astonishing surge in Islamist killing around the world. Rage and condemnation don’t do the job, nor is it helpful to alienate the millions of Muslims who dislike what’s being done in the name of their religion. Many of them immediately condemned the attack on Charlie Hebdo, in tones of anguish particular to those whose deepest beliefs have been tainted. The answer always has to be careful, thoughtful, and tailored to particular circumstances. In France, it will need to include a renewed debate about how the republic can prevent more of its young Muslim citizens from giving up their minds to a murderous ideology—how more of them might come to consider Mustapha Ourrad, a Charlie Hebdo copy editor of Algerian descent who was among the victims, a hero. In other places, the responses have to be different, with higher levels of counter-violence.

But the murders in Paris were so specific and so brazen as to make their meaning quite clear. The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society. So we must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day.

Here—from New Yorker staff writer George Packer—is a string of careful, factual, sentences earnestly saying “the right thing” about the tragedy.  This is not the argument of a mind trying to understand the tragedy.

When one puts together a string of sentences like this, one sentence, one passage, invariably contradicts the next: Mr. Packer says we must not “alienate the millions of Muslims,” but at the same time points out that “only Muslims (not “Jews and Christians”) responded with threats and acts of terrorism.” The implication is that Christians and Jews have never killed to send a message.

Mr. Packer also says “the killers” are “against everything decent” and “against the right to offend.”

We must be decent and offend?

No, say Packer’s defenders—it’s more complicated! 

Of course it is. 

It is too complicated to understand.

You “get it” or you don’t.

The words of Mr. Packer finally don’t matter.

Mr. Packer has made the right gestures.  He feels his platitudes-full-of-contradictions.  And we, who are sincere, feel them, too.

Mr. Packer has given the signs that he is 1) sufficiently aware of the complexity and that  2) he is sincere.

Now we can go on with our lives.

Understanding, however, is very different.

Will no mind in the West try to understand?

Simply because to truly understand will be seen as “support for terrorism?”

Supporting the terrorists would be a horrific, unconscionable, thing to do.

In public, we wear platitudes for all to see.

To be safe.

Let us attempt, however, just as an experiment, to understand the matter.

All of us know humor as two things:

1) a gift, a joy, a release, a comfort, a witty surprise, a sparkling insight.

2) a weapon which can demoralize, hurt, and dismantle reputations.

How can the same thing have these two opposing attributes?

What are we doing exactly, when we lampoon?

And what exactly, do we mean, by the sacred?

Is the sacred truly something we (an individual, a tribe, a nation) can point to and identify?

Or by the sacred can we say generally: whatever it is that cannot, or should not, be lampooned?

Does lampooning have a limit?

Is there ever a reason not to lampoon?

What is that reason?

How far are we willing to pursue the idea that “nothing is sacred?”

Why should we reasonably lampoon something?  Just because we can?

Or, for another more—relevant—reason: to hurt or injure what we are lampooning—for a purpose? Are we allowed to reasonably ask this: why are we attempting to injure, pain, or hurt?  “Freedom” is great, but “freedom” always implies “freedom to do…what? And why?  Should we ever do something—just to be “free?”

Now arises the great principle: in a free society, I don’t have to respect what you respect, and if what you respect disrespects me, I have a right to disrespect what you respect, in turn.  Not only in individual cases, but on principle.  And so we have the shootings in Paris.  Disrespect in the abstract (cartoons) gave way to disrespect concretely. (violence)

Disrespect in the abstract = Good.

Disrespect in the concrete = Bad.

Hurt my Respect = Okay.

Hurt my Body = Not okay.

Is this all we’re talking about, finally?  Is this the distinction that we either ‘get’ or do not?

Love a movie star in the abstract = okay

Meet the movie star and somehow get them to fall in love with you = okay

Stalk the movie star = not okay

If we remove all the religious and social and political aspects, is this all it really is?

Or, even more simply: Use your words

So, if we are “merely” dealing with the simple and the dangerous (like fire), prevention should be the first priority.

There will always be those who are not good with words, but are good with weapons.  They will always exist.

With this in mind, does it make sense for the educated to lampoon the uneducated?

If the whole matter is really something which is 1) beyond words and is all about 2) preventing wordless danger, shouldn’t caution rather than freedom, be the watchword?

We can yell Liberte’! from the rooftops of Paris all we want, but shouldn’t a calmer judgment prevail in assessing what happened in Paris several days ago?

The hot-headed Mark Steyn fears that “a lot of people will retreat even further into self-censorship,” but what does this even mean?  Should we now offend Muslims even more?  Will that make things better?  Should we start killing more Muslims?  Is that the answer?  Give offense.  The offense is taken. Now give more offense.  Somehow we think this is not going to help. Somehow we think this is not civilized.

Is self-censorship working out the truth for ourselves in secret?  Or does it mean not thinking about the issue at all?

Common sense says we ought to punish a wrong.  But who exactly should be punished?  All Muslims?

There are plans to publish more of the offending material.  Is this what Mark Steyn means when he talks of a “retreat even further into self-censorship?”

The trouble with spreading offensive material in the name of “freedom,” is that the true target will only be offended, not enlightened; and those already enlightened will not need the offensive material to be enlightened. So what, exactly, is the point?  To breed more zealots?

The emotion attending the whole issue is such that we really are in a situation beyond words.

Here’s the danger.

As a driver, have you ever accidentally cut someone off  and tried to apologize with sign language alone to the offended driver in the other car? You can’t do it.  It’s impossible.  How easy it is to give someone the finger, shake your fist, to express anger without words.  There are universal signs to express anger, hatred, rage, disgust.  We need no words to express the worst of human emotions.  But you cannot quickly tell someone in a clear manner, without using words, “I’m sorry I cut you off; I didn’t mean to cut you off! I’m so sorry!” There is no universal sign for this.  You can smile or shake your head or shrug, but they will not understand: What?? Are you making light of what you just did to me???  

Whenever we enter a realm in which the debate becomes a series of gestures, pro and con, where arguments of words are no longer effective, even though we are still using them, mere brutality prevails, and the repair of a wrong becomes impossible, no matter how sincerely it is desired.

To offend with a broad brush is not freedom.

It is lack of reason.

THE POET MARY ANGELA DOUGLAS: THREE FRAGMENTS AND THREE POEMS

Who could imagine the pause
between song and song
could alter us so

*

Is it always raining
at the back of every poem
and just for you
with your antique pen brand new

*

may I scoop from the frozen honey of your tears
white velvet on my slightest wings

__________________________________________

Cracking The Mold They Made For You

for Judy Garland

cracking the mold they made for you
and the little box of stars-
a voice made of everything living

spends all its diamonds
in one song
and still has more:

carved from a nightingale quarry-
outdistancing by many rubies
anyone else’s rainbow;

we’re opening now, a box of sky-

cloudy and bright
reconstituting everything submerged and
packed in lies you’re

pealing out your perfect time in time
above all those
who couldn’t repair

the sheen beyond blue
of the bluebird soul
savaged by idiots…

but she’s in scarlet or in gold
and it’s all holiday astonishment again-
and building the ship around her as she sings

breath by breath till breathless in the end—
notwithstanding—
shout Hallelujah! for the

rose-bright flare of song illuminating
more than was contracted for-
I am sure:

unique as a sunset thumbprint rainbow-ridged
perpetual as dreaming could ever be made to
be in sepia or techni-colored.

you’re all apart—
rebuilding a burnt-out nest
on every stage

till it shone
like a gold never seen
in the land of let’s pretend:

a metasong sailing into space
becoming only you -–- yourself—

where is the place for us
and all our encores
broken from the stem

like the home you made for music
all along?

the seam in the earthquake shifts
and is never the same

____________________________________

 

THE POETS WAR AGAINST POETRY WHILE THE AMATEURS ARE COMFORTED

to Valerie Macon, poet laureate of North Carolina for just six days who resigned on July 17, 2014 because other, former poet laureates and many others in the literary community ganged up on her because she was only a “self-published” poet (at least, it seemed that way to me and to many others)

and who said in her resignation letter to everyone. don’t forget to love poetry even if you haven’t collected accolades…

and, we won’t. As for those whose scorn for the self-published seems unbounded, if you want to drive the Muse from your own door, attacking a fellow poet, (no matter how lacking in credentials you think they are) like a pack of wild dogs – in broad daylight – should suffice.

who will He send, the angels of saffron?
this time, the ones of sheer starlight small children
see straight through?

the ones of green linen
soothing the wounds. the wounded.
once again on earth, cried the violet

shadows, poets fight poetry with their inverted shields
their plumes upside down backwards on their horses
running down the unqualified.

plaintive on a lute in a far away time someone strummed
a few notes under the moonlight. thank God no one heard.
or just a few friends. and song flowed under the doors, through

the chinks of the windows and was welcomed.
sit down at the table, here is dark bread, our last slice
and spring-cooled butter. jam of the summer strawberries we kept

just for you and you recited for no money at all
the beauty of the day gone by and how the angels tread
on clouds of rose and gold above our worst hour and children folded up their

tiny griefs and grasped with both hands the moonlight appearing at the door that never wanted to leave again.
and neither, neither did we.

___________________________________

The Childhood of Marcel Proust

your teacup brims with starry light, rich
traceries of time – translucent as
fresh raspberries bought

on a day by M. Swann
heaped on fairytale plates that chime
when the scenes shine through

somewhat berry-stained.
bright doves float through your
stained glass hands through

opaline rosaries of the rain and
turned to a strange cessation
in a dream we almost see

the glint of (home):
taking the madeline
dipped in snow

and a nectared universe…
your linden angels pause, mid-air
cognizant of a pale green rustling

but no one’s there
just once to say:
Good night, dream’s child,

you’ll sleep the steeple
out of the sky’s
late roses at Combray

and wonder how
it all turned into
stalactite colors overnight

dripping down winter walls
sweet candle-wax and pure
resurgences of rain.

but the 13th guest arrives
mid-scene to no
gold place setting

set with rubies
and who can still the lime-leafed – unrestrained—
lamentation of the rain…

your hawthorn branches
in the dusk

its storied snowy paths more dear
to lead you out of houses here—
this suddenly – no longer home.

but you’re still writing when the angels come
the rose-torn chanson of the rain
scratched out, then blooming once again;

they wait for you to finish up
fanning themselves with their crystal haloes
distracted by your clouds of sheer Limoges…

mixing the pink or is it blue
tinctures of remaining skies
you turn to ask them

just to stall:
the peacock or mimosa?

but God turns down the flaring wick
color by color almost
regretfully.

the angels turn:
fiery medallions on their sleeves
like Christmas refractions

most intensely felt,
a silken step…
and mama comes

with a bunch of heliotrope
a fugitive smile then
“Marcel!”

blue violet banks off creamy distances.
prevail in Heaven now
when childhood fears are hushed

and the holy candles lit forever
from hawthorn petals in your hands
you clutched at the last moment

afraid to let go.

how would you ever leave them here—
all your white orchards,
where Beauty’s often not revered

along the via dolorosa
and breaks the thin importunate glaze
on a lake of half-way frozen
lies.

and lost and lost
where mirrors on the
other side

can’t give the key-light back
of cherished nacre
anymore.

but the phrase in rainbow clarity appears
through veils and veils of summer rain
and this gardenia darkness knows that

every time the music’s played.
it rushes on…

 

 

SCARRIET ROCKED 2014!

image

Thomas Brady: the simpleton who writes it all

In the 365 days of 2014, Scarriet brought you half that many original items: poems of lyric poignancy, articles on the popular culture, essays of Literary Criticism, the occasional humor piece, and the Literary Philosophy March Madness Tournament—in which Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Freud, Baudelaire, Woolf, De Beauvoir, Marx, Maimonides, Wilde, Poe, Emerson, Wordsworth, Pope, Wollstonecraft, Butler, Rich, Frye, Mallarme, Adorno, and 44 others sought immortality against one another in an orgy of wit and game.

Without further ado, here (with publication dates) are the most notable of the past year:

1. The One Hundred Greatest Hippie Songs 2/13.  This wins based on numbers. Over 15,000 views for this post alone in 2014, and it is averaging 120 views per day for the last 3 months, with views increasing, nearly a year after its publication. It’s always nice when an article has legs like this. We’re not sure what ‘search engine magic’ has made 100 Greatest Hippie Songs so popular. Prophetically, in the piece, we wrote, “All American music is hippie music.”

2. This Novel Has More Information Than You Need 9/18.  An essay provocative and charming at once.

3. No Boobs! 11/27. Hilarious (part two) satiric commentary on the December issue of Vanity Fair

4. The Problem With Rhetoric 5/1. Pushing the intellectual envelope is perhaps what we do best. In this essay we argue that reason does not exist.

5. Integration of Poetry and Life 11/3.  Another nice essay of essential Scarrietesque provocation smoothly rendered.

6. Marjorie Perloff, Adam Kirsch & Philip Nikolayev at the Grolier 9/15. Wearing a journalist’s hat, we meet Perloff, debate her, win her over, and demolish Concrete Poetry for our readers, as well.

7. Poe and the Big Bang: “The Body and the Soul Walk Hand in Hand” 3/10. Poe does most of the lifting here; a crucial addition to Scarriet’s campaign to lift the slander-fog hiding the world’s greatest mind.

8. Badass, Funny, But Alas Not Critic-Proof 6/27.  Tough love for the poet/professor David Kirby. And for those who fret Scarriet is too rancorous, relax; ‘The Kirb’ is still a FB friend. We don’t flatter—that’s the secret.

9. Is Gay Smarter Than Straight? 2/3. Only Scarriet would dare to ask—and really answer this question.

10. Rape Joke II 6/14.  We delivered a true poem; it offended one of our loyal readers for not being feminist enough; even though our poem was true, it was somehow supposed as an insult against Lockwood. We stand by our poem which is true, if imitative. We value originality, but since when was art that imitates a bad thing? We also admit we wrote the poem to become well-known. We played it up on twitter. So what? Scarriet believes everyone deserves to be famous.

11. Poe v. Wordsworth 8/18. March Madness contests are always excuses for brilliant essays. We made use of a wonderful book: Michael Kubovy’s The Psychology of Perspective in Renaissance Art.

12. “I Still Do” 10/13 Nice poem.

13. Chin & Weaver at the Grolier 7/21. Meeting up with California-based Marilyn Chin at a reading becomes an excuse to write an essay on the laws of poetic fame.

14. Painters & Artists Need to Shut Up 6/23.  Usually we pick on the poets.

15. Rage In America 7/7.  A political corrective to Jim Sleeper’s Fourth of July essay.

16. Poetry Hot 100 10/8.  Scarriet releases these now-famous lists several times a year. Valerie Macon topped this one.

17. What Does The History of Poetry Look Like 12/2. We often bash T.S. Eliot and the Modernists; here we lay down a genuinely insightful appreciation of Eliot’s Tradition.

18. Valerie Macon! 10/6. The credentialing complex destroyed Macon. We did a radical thing. We looked at her poetry, after she graciously sent samples.  Memo to the arrogant: her poetry is good.

19. 100 Greatest Folk Songs 11/17.  Not just a list: an assessment aimed at revival. Don’t just reflect the world. Change it.

20. The Avant-Garde Is Looking For A New (Black) Boyfriend 11/8.  A popular zeitgeist post inspired by Cathy Hong, which got po-biz stirred up for a few days.

21. Religion Is More Scientific Than Science 12/15.  An interesting discussion of free-will. Yes, we take comments.

22. Poetry, Meta-Modernism, & Leonardo Da Vinci 1/6.  Da Vinci compares poetry and painting in fascinating ways.

23. De Beauvoir v. Rich 4/22.  Scarriet’s March Madness contest yields essay on Behaviorism and Feminism.

24. Sex, Sex, Sex! 10/19. An interesting essay (obviously) in typical Scarriet (Are you serious?? We are.) mode.

25. Philip Nikolayev 11/15.  An excuse to try out ideas while praising a poet and friend.

26. “Poetry Without Beauty Is Vanity” 10/17.  A lyric poem which ‘gets’ rap.

27. Harold Bloom v. Edmund Wilson 8/13. Wilson was a real force in March Madness and so is this essay.

28. Fame: Is It Really Hollow? 7/2.  An exciting essay using Scarriet standbys The Beatles and Poe.

29. 100 Greatest Rock Songs Of All Time 5/9. The definitive list. Another constantly visited post.

30. 100 Essential Books of Poetry 5/21. People love lists. We get it now.

31. “Not Everyone Is Beautiful” 6/5.  A lovely little poem.

32. All Fiction Is Non-Fiction 5/19.  Scarriet makes the counter-intuitive simple.

33. The Good Economy 12/30.  We nail a simple but brain-teasing truth which rules us all.

34. Fag Hags, Cock Teases, and Richard Wagner 11/11. A bitter essay on a complex topic.

35. 100 Greatest Jazz Vocal Standards 10/14. And the Scarriet hits just keep on coming.

36. Hey Lao Tzu 10/27.  Scarriet takes down the wisest of the wise.

37. Ben Mazer At The Grolier 10/20.  The Neo-Romantic genius gets the Scarriet treatment.

38. “A Holiday Poem” 12/14.  An offensive poem written from a persona; it’s not our opinion.

39. Misanthrope’s Delight 6/11. An amusing list which makes light of misanthropy.

40. “What Could Be More Wrong Than A Poem Stolen From A Song?” A lyric gem.

And that’s our Scarriet top 40 for 2014!!

Be sure to read these if you missed them!

Scarriet thanks all our readers!

And especially the great comments! You know who you are! Always welcome and encouraged!

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

HELP MY POOR HEART

image

Help my poor heart

Which loves what it should not love.

Hearts are made of earth—

What is the earth worth

To light and movement divine

In divine realms above?

A biological trick

Cures the animal, who is sick,

But there is no cure for the human mind

That you and I designed

When conversation brought us here

To share things gone —

Sorrow?  the heart has won,

Joy, love, doubts

Doubt all that’s going on.

 

 

 

THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS? NO. THE BRITISH WITCH TRIALS

image

Governor Phips: historically obscure, but the British knight ran the Witch Trials in his colonial territory.

Once again, Blog Scarriet, this time with almost the ease of a yawn, sets the whole world straight on something of much notoriety and importance.

The Salem witch trials do not properly belong to Salem, Massachusetts at all.

We do not refer to the quibble that hearings took place in other Massachusetts towns, that hangings took place in nearby Danvers, that judges were from Boston, or some other minor factual matter.

No, the issue is far more prominent: the Salem Witch Trials, as they are known, do not properly belong to American history; they belong to British history.

The famous trials which put 20 people, mostly women, to death, in 1692, were conducted by British officials in a British Colony run by the British.

The Trials, in the popular imagination, are inevitably used as an example of American religious extremism, which eclipsed due process in an orgy of superstitious mayhem, and yes, it is true, ‘seeing ghosts’ was the primary evidence against the accused.

The facts are these:

The trials could not commence until the British Crown created a new charter for their Massachusetts colony: this finally happened, after a lapse of many years due to religious strife in England, in 1692—the year in which all the trials and deaths occurred.

The man who put the trials together, whose authority made them happen, was William Phips, famous in London for recovering, as a British treasure hunter, a large treasure from a Spanish galleon. His successful treasure hunt earned him three things: wealth, a knighthood from the British Crown, and appointment to the 1st Governor of Massachusetts Bay.

Phips, a British knight, was the chief magistrate of the witch trials. Without his authority as British colonialist, the “Salem Witch Trials” simply don’t happen. Phips, neither refined nor educated, will die in London, on trial himself, for assault. If you don’t recognize his name, it’s because focus on Governor Phips gives an entirely different historical slant to the trials.

Was the witchcraft charge against Phips’ wife the reason the whole ugly charade was shut down months after it began?

It’s really not that difficult to be an historian.

We suggest Hollywood do a film on Phips: a colorful character; the so-called Salem Witch Trials would be just a backdrop, one episode, in his amazing life.

And also, it wouldn’t be a fail when they cast a British actor for an American role.

Salem was a great, early American maritime, city; with its ad hoc, privateer navy, Salem merchants, by themselves, captured 450 British vessels during the Revolution—a crucial way to fund a rebellion.

If this doesn’t happen, we probably don’t win the Revolution, and America doesn’t exist.

And yet Salem is known—for witches.

It makes you wonder who is writing our history.

The treasonous Thomas Jefferson’s embargo, as U.S. President, destroyed Salem as a maritime power; it is probably why the writings of the young Hawthorne, growing up in depressed Salem in the beginning of the 19th century, were so dark.

Here is the true darkness of Salem.

Not the Witch Trials.

They belong to an English knight.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: