POETRY AND LIFE

Educated poetry and ignorant life
Can never touch:
Poetry is learned in the schools;
Life is an embarrassing love reserved for fools.

Husband and wife cannot love each other too much:
The child must come first:
Before life does its worst,
Put the child in school.

Brats all in a row;
Give their passionate minds a tool,
A computer: to fight the foe,
Ignorance—another name for wandering life.

I write poems in a school on a computer for my co-worker wife.

Advertisements

MY MISTAKES FIXED

When I loved, I erred severely,
When I loved, I made a terrible mistake,
But surely every sickness can be cured
If all it is, is an ache?

When I loved, I traveled to an unknown heart,
When I fell, I tumbled to a veiled mind.
When I loved, I fell in love with a land,
A valley no historian can find.

When I loved, I loved other mountains,
I loved other rivers—a past—a tribe:
And when they came into that valley,
They settled and would not climb.

When she loved, she loved me, unknown,
She loved me, a mysterious rhyme.
No one knew why, or how, we loved.
We settled and would not climb.

Water came into the valley,
Sweeping fantastically; a flood filled
Two hearts, floating on a sea;
We swam, and did not touch, to not get killed.

It felt like fate, not love,
It felt we were swept by a higher power;
I lie back, free from my mistakes!
Love feels more like God every hour.

SHARE AND LIKE

 

In a happy marriage, the sex can just happen,

But with lovers it has to be endlessly negotiated and arranged;

I’m over that. If you want to know the truth,

I slept with you because I wanted to find out if a poet was more than just a penis,

And I found out that a poet is just a penis; so, goodbye.

I don’t care now much poetry you write, you’re just a penis.

Go write your heart-broken poems so you can be a famous penis; I really don’t care.

Sometimes it’s annoying how simple the answers are.

A discord needs resolving, a cat needs to drink,

The weather is kind in a sunny, naive way,

And, wondering how much human speech my cat understands,

I think: how happy to live on that sub-linguistic level

Where all that matters is you are satiate after you drink.

I’m sick of all these thirsty woody allens.

And don’t get me started on cunts!

Go work on a construction site if you fancy that, or sprinkle rose water

On your cunt or something. But just leave me alone!

I’m going to try monogamy; monogamy, monogamy, so uncool,

But isn’t that what everybody secretly wants (and hardly ever gets)?

First, God, the law-giver, second, the husband (who you sleep with) and third, your friends.

What’s wrong with that?  Do you think I want to make laws?

Everything got turned upside down.  I thought I was God

Because I slept with my friends.

And that confused me a bit, you know, when I believed I was God.

I felt like God. You should have seen how they behaved when I walked by.

Take my hand, jealous, tortured, shit-faced, husband.

Tomorrow, maybe, it will just happen in the dark

And then I will get up and feed the cat, as usual.

Oh, won’t I be happy?

I won’t worship anybody but God,

Who makes the sunny, simple afternoons,

Who makes the darkness (good on God for that!)

And lets me satiate myself, naively.

What else?

 

 

 

 

 

THE TRAGICALLY BEAUTIFUL

The tragically beautiful—called by the fearful: femme fatale,
Lives in the eye of love’s storm, calm, away from the strife
She causes, possessing the inner peace of the cruelly beautiful,
Bred to be a mistress, not a friend or a wife.
She may say she is not, but everyone can tell
Beauty made in heaven from beauty made in hell.

The tragically beautiful—loved by the passionate, one and all,
Checks the passion that lives in her soul,
She, the beautiful, immune to the cruelly beautiful,
Is cold, while the fire of her lover’s desire rages out of control.
She may say she is not, but everyone can tell
Beauty made in heaven from beauty made in hell.

She’s tabula rasa; does not write, but is written,
Has no need for depiction, analysis, or signs,
She is their perfection: her thoughts bite; she is never bitten.
She belongs to the sensual: flowers, animals, oceans, wines;
When she moves among the sensual, she is diminished for a spell;
She becomes a landscape: moonlight undulating on the ocean’s swell.

She will pet the small animals; she will seem gentle.
She will emit animal charm exceedingly well;
But do not be fooled, for everyone can tell
Beauty made in heaven from beauty made in hell.

The poet strives for beauty more beautiful than her own,
And he may have lips that she loves to kiss,
But the poet—tragic poet!—cannot make her continually moan
For him. She does not want him all the time. And all he wants is this.

 

LET’S TALK ABOUT RACE FOR A MINUTE

Vanessa Place: Art School Cool Forever?

Which of the following four individuals are racist, everything else being equal:

1). A white man who reviles black men and sleeps with black women.

2). A black man who reviles white men and sleeps with white women.

3). A white lesbian who writes on Facebook that we need to carefully listen to people of color and not let our white background get in the way of understanding what people of color experience every day.

4). A black lesbian who writes on Facebook that white people need to listen carefully to people of color and not let their white background get in the way of understanding what people of color experience every day.

The answer is obvious.  You know the answer, don’t you?

The issue of race is complicated—but not.

Poetry is complicated—until a good poet comes along.

The bad is complicated.

The good is not complicated.

Academics have been talking a lot about race lately—and making it sound extremely complicated—even as they try to make it sound extremely simple: white privilege.

A couple of conceptualist poets—Kenneth Goldsmith and Vanessa Place—used racist material for “art” and the “art” remained stubbornly invisible in the Conceptualist manner, leaving the Conceptualist Poets themselves looking a bit—oops!—racist.

Since every revolution has its purists, looking “a bit” racist can get you in a heap of trouble, and now Vanessa Place and Kenneth Goldsmith, once museum-curator-poet cool, are verging on not being cool.

Conceptualism messed with Ferguson and Gone With The Wind and learned the lesson of the dyer’s hand: like Lady Macbeth, Vanessa Place wishes her hand clean again.

Avant-garde poets sympathetic to Conceptualism, like Ron Silliman, have suddenly been reduced to apologetic whimpering re: the once proud 20th century poetry avant-garde which he and his friends represent (male and white…shhhh).

We at Scarriet have been Silliman’s gentle scold and conscience for quite some time.

Now it’s official:

Quietism 1 Conceptualism 0.

Remember Rita Dove versus Marjorie Perloff?  That seems like a minor dust-up in comparison to what’s occurring now. Or was it? Perhaps it is only possible for the scandalous and the wrong to exist this minute?

The cool-kids-trying-to-be-cool-again are fighting back, of course.

Vanessa Place, who was thrown off a committee because of her insensitivity to racism, may be a beloved martyr tomorrow: who knows?

Her defenders will say: Her hand is not clean, but no one’s is.  Nothing is clean.

We said the complicated is bad, and the simple is good, so here’s the whole Place controversy as simply as we can put it:

Those attacking Place are anti-Racists.

Place is anti-Pro-Racist.

This is like the early stages of the French Revolution: in the ‘race atmosphere’ which exists now, everyone is potentially a saint or a sinner in the blink of an eye.

The possibilities are endless.

Listening to everyone—especially academic poets—discussing race is amazing: talk about twisting oneself in knots.  “Am I good, or am I being too patronizing?”  “Am I being too honest?” “Shall I speak up? And what shall I say?”

Some just want to talk about art. Art, the concept, is the only umbrella that protects. Conceptualism thinks art is a useless concept, which is why the conceptualists feel unprotected and uncomfortable now.

The wheel is turning.

In Silliman’s latest, “Je Sui Vanessa,” Silliman cracks from the pressure of watching his beloved avant-garde  peeps, Goldsmith and Place, become totally uncool.

Silliman equates those attacking Place with hate crime murderers.

When morals are questioned, discomfort results. When cool is questioned, all hell breaks loose.

This is one of those points in history where you feel yourself moving, even as you are standing still.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNFLINCHING

The famous fine arts painter Lucien Freud died in 2011 at the age of 88, bringing tears to the eyes of Sue Tilley, the model for one of his most famous paintings, “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping.”

We quote the Telegraph:

Sue Tilley, who sat for the nude Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, said today she has had ”fantastic experiences” as a result of posing for the unflattering portrait.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said: ”I found out last night on Twitter, bizarrely, and I did start crying. I haven’t seen him for a long time and he’s not really a close friend now but it’s a part of my life that’s kind of gone.”

Ms. Tilley has etchings that Freud gave to her, which are potentially worth thousands of pounds, but says that money is not an issue.

”Money’s not really important. Don’t you think in life sometimes experience is more important than financial gain? Because of this painting I’ve had fantastic experiences.”

The portrait is characteristic of Freud’s unflinching style, but Ms. Tilley said she watched the work being painted and so became acclimatised to it.

”I saw it all the time because it’s so huge, you would see it while he was painting it. He’s not behind it, so it’s in front of you the whole time, so I got very much used to it.”

“Unflinching.” This does sum up Lucien Freud’s “style,” doesn’t it?

Another term might be “High Realism,” or “Unflattering Realism,” and this raises an interesting question on how we view art—and poetry (since this is Scarriet’s milieu) in our time.

“Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” (1995) sold for 33 million dollars at auction in 2008, a record amount for a living artist.

We might say that Lucien Freud’s work is the very opposite of Abstract Art. No one would ever call Abstract Painting “unflinching.” On the spectrum of artistic expression, “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” is closer to Romantic Art than Modern Art—or does it lie between the two?

In Modern Art, the person disappears, human-oriented expression vanishes, the artist slyly hides as Design-Abyss stares back.

The “abyss of design,” a term we coin at this very moment to describe the rather inhuman, abstraction mania destroying all beautiful and intelligent art in an orgy of Ad-logo, unreflective doodling, might be occasionally called “unflinching,” but “unflinching” only and purely in regard to what is, unfortunately, in most cases, bad taste.

Go to any modern art museum, or any art school, and gaze with as much love and empathy possible at the so-called “art” on display there. What strikes us, after the initial and simple embarrassment of how purely ugly most of it is, is the awareness of an urgently crafted “design” of no design: art that says nothing, art that presents no context for what it is trying to say, and as a result, though there may be some interesting bare bones of  “design” present, some half-formed idea struggling to emerge from the foam of applied chemicals, some interesting pieces of material or texture present, nothing is finally realized or finished, to any moderately intelligent person’s satisfaction. It is Design so proud of itself (a pride typically fashioned from a philosophy that believes no audience can escape from the world which is brutal and meaningless) it has completely forgotten that it (design) exists for something else.

It doesn’t help that people in the art world often lack any real understanding of Letters.  The art world is full of brilliance—which unfortunately can barely read and write, and with an understanding of history skewed towards the haphazard and the new. Resenting those who can read and write, “artists” continue to commit suicide every day.

Animation/cartooning/illustration is the new wonder of the art schools, and has by far the most chance for something pedagogically useful, since the work on Cartoon Network is wonderful—precisely because it is forced to entertain coherent human ideas—to be, in a somewhat realized manner, happily and joyfully human, escaping the Prison Camp of Bad Taste “history” and “painting” and “design,” currently destroying thought in various near-illiterate institutions.

What do we think of Lucien Freud’s “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping?” Does a work like this make abstract artists and designers, artists who produce things without true realism or context: 3-dimensional bodies and faces which float in unreal spaces; bad jokes of collage, cut-and-paste, two-dimensionality, cowards? Does Lucien Freud, with his unflinching view of humans in a completely human context, make cowards of them all?

Well, almost. Design, after all, has its place. Take a look at the mass of humanity: all those T-shirts, baseball caps, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, bangles, tattoos.

The art of “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” does make other “artists” look like mere designers. Advertisers. Art School Officials. T-Shirt Logo Makers.

And yes, “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” does look back to the art era known as Romanticism—which was the renaissance of the Renaissance: Keats, Shelly, and Byron extending Shakespeare—to the sounds of Mozart and Beethoven who were extending Bach—as painters like Copley and Goya made Truth and Painting synonymous.

Perhaps Romanticism, like the great Renaissance era which inspired it, which was itself inspired by Plato, could not last—but it will never go away, (although, God knows, the “art” schools have tried).

The era of Romanticism ended—with Corot, landscape, and then Impressionism prettifying and domesticating what had been great—for purely political reasons: the great rivalry of Britain and France dissolved like a dream in the mid-19th Century, and Britain and France became a Joint Empire dedicated to crushing the Spirit of Goya and the United States—a marvelous Romantic experiment which gradually went from David-to-the-British-Empire’s-Goliath to surrogate British Empire. Ugly, anti-human, modern art was intentionally spawned by Paris and London, and then in the World War One era, imported to New York, as the Modernist sickness, allied with the building and fashion trades, took over, eventually becoming its own self-fulfilling prophecy in “democratic” academia.

“Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,” a success today, (superficially, at least,) flying in the face of contemporary Abstract Painting “success,” reminds us of another unflinching, Hyper-Realism painting.

We think you will guess the painting we mean, when informed it emerged from a late Romantic artist in the very era we are discussing—the middle 19th century crossroads which saw the revolutionary greatness (if that be not too hyperbolic a term) of Romanticism still living but dying, as Britain/France, that dreaded, imperial, Modernist Monster, was born—: “L’Origine du monde” by Gustave Courbet.

This scandalous Courbet painting, a great Romantic painting, but veering towards what might be characterized as “unflinching” bad taste, is a symbol of Romanticism dying: a descent, perhaps?

We have hopes, then, that the late Lucien Freud’s “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” in our era, might represent a renewed ascent of human-based Romanticism come to rescue us from our cheap, Modernist “Art School Design” Nightmare.

Freud’s “unflinching” view of woman—and we believe the woman is superior to the man—may offend.  What do you think?  Does it offend you?

We ourselves, here on Scarriet, have offended our own dear mother, with the occasional poem on the human frailties of women—whether it be vanity, or getting old, or lacking inspiration—and this “unflinching” look is not meant to offend any one person, but to show the type, and not even to blame the type, but to look unflinchingly on how the type, in general, can be trapped and oppressed.  We are vindicated by our conviction that pity and truth in art is better than flattery and lies.

The Romantic loves, but loves honestly, without flattery.

Scarriet is producing essays and poems in the great Romantic spirit—never to demean, but to save the world from significant aesthetic and philosophical lapses.

Genius—in the crisis period in 1866, when Courbet revealed his painting to the world—and in the crisis period of today in 2015—has no choice, in the Romantic spirit, hard beset and distorted by many forces, but to risk the “unflinching” view, even if it offends various institutions, the men who run them, but, God forbid and forgive us now!—never, the holiest being in the universe: woman.

WOMEN AND COMPETITION

As way of introduction, we will quickly reference two other articles on women and competition.

First, in “Where Women Are More Competitive Than Men,” the authors conducted an experiment with men and women to find out which gender was more competitive. They found women were just as competitive—it simply depended on whether the test subjects belonged to a patrilineal or a matrilineal society—one of these exists in a certain part of northeast India.

Second, in “Elite Professionals Hold Back Other Women,” we read the following:

It is, genuinely, a brave new world for women, but it is also a world that requires a completely new divide: between a cadre of educated, elite women at the top and the great female majority for whom things have barely changed except that now instead of cooking, cleaning or taking care of their own children in their own home, they’re performing such duties in restaurants, office buildings, and ironically, the homes of the successful female professionals.

Powerful women have no problem pushing other women down—administrative assistants are 97% women.

We need to face the truth at last: there certainly may be gender differences, but women are just as competitive as men. It wasn’t all that long ago that the vast majority of sports players and fans in the United States were men— and we see how that has changed.

But as the experiment in the the patrilineal and matrilineal societies showed, a great deal of social malleability exists.

There are three major areas of competition: sports, business, and—love.

Byron once wrote, “Man’s love is of man’s life a part; it is a woman’s whole existence.”

We’ve all heard the phrase, “love is a game,” and what people tend to mean by this is not that love is a mere toy, but that love is marked by intense competition—in love there are winners and losers, which has a profound impact on the emotional life of a person, and the stakes are not trivial; they are life-changing, extremely significant on many levels, and Darwinian.

It is said that men are “players;” they love and run; but the woman—traditionally shut out of sports and business—is the original Player when it comes to Love and Romance. She is the female spider who eats the male, beautiful, but nasty, like nature red in tooth and claw; male players “run” only because they don’t want to be caught and eaten.

Even advocates of love must admit love is a nasty business. It takes our worst traits: jealousy, anger, insecurity, doubt, lust, greed, and hooks us in.

When we “lose” in love, the “game is over,” and the “winner” wants no more to do with us: run along, little boy, you lost. So says the woman, who a short time before, wept and worried over us, covered us in kisses, told us we were all they cared about.

Women are more competitive in love because this is where they can be competitive.

If women are as competitive as men, then their competition needs somewhere to go. 

Men are freely competitive in sports and business—so they have no competition left for love. A man doesn’t want to fight in love; when a man is with a woman he likes, he is happy, and just wants to be happy with her. But for the women, it is far more complicated.

Kept from the competition of sports and business for so long, many women traditionally find reasons to be competitive in a place where the man is not—in romance.

Women choose a man, not based on how attractive he is, but on whether or not she thinks she has a chance to beat him in a good, well-played game. This may sound crazy, but we have a hunch it is true.

Love is a game for women, but not for men.

If men seem to be “game players” in love, it is out of fear, as we mentioned above, fear of being devoured by the female spider—or beaten soundly, trounced and humiliated, by the original “player,” the Female Player (femme fatale). It is the woman who truly relishes love as a game totally and completely.

This is not to say that men are not vaguely aware that love is a competition—they know love has winners and losers, and that in love gone wrong one can dump or be dumped; they know, of course, men compete, generally, at least, with other men for women.

It is this “competitive” aspect of love that makes it an arena for competition—and women, if they are competitive—and we think they are—find this the most convenient place to be competitive. And they get to compete (in the U.S.) against the most “competitive” creature on earth: the American male.

When we meet someone frustrated by love, single and no longer looking, we don’t say they are not “loving,” and we don’t cruelly assume they have given up because they are unloving; they are simply sick and weary of the “competition,” because that’s what love is.

Women, traditionally shut out of sports and business, have made it so.

Love either has a clear winner and loser (someone is dumped), or it is unclear who is winning, or the whole game is cancelled, or, and this happens fairly often, the man simply refuses to play the game, and while not “winning” with this strategy, can maintain a certain dull stability in a relationship.

How one plays the game of love depends on three things: 1) one’s personal history; 2) the kinds of gambits, strategies, and defenses one chooses; 3) how attractive, reckless, and heartless one happens to be.

The most common way to cancel the “game” is to have a child with someone. Therefore, those who don’t want to have children tend to be real players—be careful of them, no matter what they say.

Of course, one can have a child with someone and then be dumped by them—and so the dumped will be anxious to get in another game and win.

Having a lot of children with someone, however, is a pretty good way to get “love as competition” out of one’s system—but if a nasty dumping occurs, all bets are off. One may give up, or look for a win.

Those who have lost will often want to play again—so they can win. One should beware of them, obviously.

But there are some who may be addicted to “winning,” and so it is their “success” that makes them dangerous.

The addictive “winner” probably became that way because of a particularly heart-breaking “loss” which happened long ago.

Relationships that last for any length of time are those in which no clear winner is established.

One “wins” when a tipping point is reached on the issue of “trust;” for whatever reason, a threshold is reached in which jealousy belongs almost entirely to one person, and not the other—and that person, the one who is overly jealous or clingy—loses, and because they are too jealous, they are dumped. Interestingly, “evidence” and actual behavior mean little; both of you may be cheating, or one, or none, but if you don’t care and the other person does, you win.

One can dump, fearing one will get dumped, but the first one to dump does win. That is the iron rule of winning, and there are no exceptions—except if the one dumped doesn’t care. Not caring is the ultimate triumph.

If one dumps, but then undoes the dump, one is winning, but has not yet won.

When a woman chooses to start a relationship with a man, thinking she can win, she will find out pretty quickly if a man is very much a man: a simple, jealous creature, devoted and simple-minded when it comes to love, not effeminate and cunning in the least. He will be easy to vanquish.

The gay man is the natural antidote to the femme fatale—because he is gay, she cannot harm him; but if there are degrees of homosexuality, men may present different and exciting challenges to the woman hungry for a challenging win.

A fool can dump a genius.  Love is the great equalizer.

The unlearned beloved knows, the poet lover doesn’t.
The genius poet thought love was enough. It wasn’t.

One can dump, however, and think one has dumped successfully, when one really hasn’t.  It is possible for the “winning” fool to remain a fool.

If a couple dumps each other simultaneously, this can mean a variety of things, but it most likely means they both lose.

SINCE I FOUND LOVE

Since I found love
As a continuous dream continuing with thoughts of you,
I found the love we began grew
In new ways strangely and sweetly—
But not happily or completely.

I find that I love
The flowery paths we used to take,
When the sweet flowers by sweet winds would shake
Perfume of flowers into the air;
As I gradually lost the memory of your kissing,
As I breathed, on my own, the flowery air,
I found a deeper love, deeper than kissing,
A love for a beauty that doesn’t care
That I am walking there,
Or that I am pleasantly aware
Of those flowers we loved,
As this evening I breathe the flowery air.

When you were here,
There was too much care,
And when you were sweetly near,
I was always afraid—
Even when you kissed me in the scented shade—
That one day you would not be there:
A fear, proudly, but fearfully, I would not share.
Because we walked, like a dream, these paths together
It is almost too good to be true
To find a love I love that does not require you
To be here. Do you feel this, too?
Perhaps it is different for you.
I don’t know. Did I ever know you?
Could you walk these paths without feeling sad?
I was sure this would happen to me,
But without you, I feel—strangely, excitedly—glad,
As if I were loving all that time, and you
Were only the excuse to love this quiet beauty,
This loveliness of the world, and this pleasant view
Now makes me think of you,
But not with sorrow;
My love for you does not need you.
I am glad we loved, but now I look ahead to more lasting loves tomorrow.

GOD NEVER MENTIONED HER UNTIL SHE WAS ILL

God never mentioned her until she was ill.

No one discussed her until she died.

I was not allowed to be happy; I learned of her precisely as I cried.

My eyes were streaming as I found out

She had been; too late to know—all that I knew was in doubt—

Doubted the mountain had gold, doubted the river beyond was wide.


God made poetry from her life as her bones were lying there,

As storms raged, and every beast hid in its lair.

People huddled from the cold, complaining of the legendary weather,

And the world, I feared, would forget her altogether.

His poetry, I hoped, would keep her alive, but I wondered

Why His poetry was obscure—had the fates blundered?

Why did her cloudy illness and tears

Move God, the poet: what of her happier years?

Happiness? Everything is revealed in time:

Desire had been her illness. And oh my God she had been mine.

LIFE IS A LIE THAT TELLS THE TRUTH

They say the poem is a lie that tells the truth.
But life is a lie that tells the truth
For life is full of error, leading us to believe she doesn’t love us
When she does. Her actions were meant to deceive, for life deceives in love.

A poem is a truth that tells a lie. I write the truth: I love her.
But love is large, and she and I are small.
Hurrying to its conclusion, the poem makes sure we are not seen at all.

THE BEE GEES

I want to listen to Lana Del Ray all day

And the Bee Gees most of the night;

Or is it the other way around?

I never get music right.

I know the coolest music that no one else knows,

But that’s useless; what’s the point of an unknown rose?

You can’t win when it comes to unknown roses—

Or other people’s eyes, or other people’s noses;

Something about good taste and something about a bad smell

Interferes with sight, so we don’t see very well.

To protect ourselves, we close our eyes on the back of the bus,

But when we get there, we open them—and everyone’s laughing at us.

I walk downstage to the music of the Bee Gees,

Vanquished by trivia!  The aromas of teas…

WHAT IS POETRY?

A poem is an imaginative fiction, and though it may aim at a kind of truth, it is not real; it is not the truth.

The poet never necessarily endorses what he imagines in his poems.

A poet is essentially a playwright or a story-teller. Shakespeare is not himself guilty of mayhem, because he put mayhem in his plays.

The mind that imagines is not the hand that does. The author is never the persons imagined.

Countless authors have used their own experience to recount crimes in the first person. Of course this does not mean they are guilty of anything. A society would not be free if it prevented authors from making imaginative fictions.

Think of all the songs that sing of things not necessarily condoned by the singer or the songwriter. Poems, like songs, like stories, like plays, are finally not real; that’s why they belong to creative writing.

There are some, who have almost no imagination themselves, who would judge a poet harshly by that poet’s fictions—fictions meant to shine light on life by dint of imaginative thought, seeking to understand and cure the world’s ills, the very ones which most afflict those who have no imaginations, those who, ironically, imagine that a fiction is entirely real.

Unfortunately, poetry is increasingly taught in our schools as something which is not imaginative, but either a collection of facts or the real voice of a real person speaking. The imaginative virtue, in this case, is replaced by a different virtue, a virtue that is virtuous precisely because it has no imagination at all.  Either the poem makes no sense (without sense, there is no imagination) exhibits some political opinion found in any newspaper, or is a kind of memoir in which the poem’s speaker is precisely relating a real incident from real life. The imagination is nowhere to be found.

The virtue which is virtuous because it has no imagination is a necessary virtue, and there should be no objection to it: ‘virtue without imagination’ accompanies duty and loyalty and obedience of every kind, and society as we know it would be impossible without this kind of simple virtue.

But this kind of simple virtue has nothing to do with imaginative writing.

This does not mean that the imaginative cannot be moral and virtuous, in the final analysis, and in fact, it should be, but it is moral in a different manner; it arrives at the good in a more round-about way; as in Dante’s famous poem, hell may have to be visited before heaven is gained. In the imaginative fiction, “hell” is both real and not real.

Great poets have been exiled. Mixing real with unreal, the real they include may still offend. Imaginative writing, which comes close to the real, includes this risk. The ‘scary’ real mingles with the ‘scary’ fiction.

But in the end, it is fiction, and, if it is good fiction, it overcomes the scary, it does not support the scary, for the imagination is guided by the ultimate truth or good, if it is good. The imaginative writer, using the bad occasionally, strives to be good. Not because the writer is ‘honest,’ as in writing a truthful memoir, or because the writer expresses a desire to ‘save the whales,’ but because the fiction is a fiction which participates in a truth expressed in a highly imaginative manner, so that the expression itself is as important as the thing expressed, the power of the expression giving a kind of license to say what people may think but are afraid, or too embarrassed to say, the embarrassment existing not because of who the poet is, but because of the world’s shortcomings. The poet is not expressing his thoughts, but in the imaginative act of the fiction, the thoughts of everyone. This is the purpose of imagination: to go out of ourselves in a moral act and identify with the world, to identify with the intrigues and secrets and welfare of the world, for the sake of the world.

I have been influenced by the work of Dorothy Parker, one of the best poets of the 20th century. The last stanza of her poem, “Love Song,” goes like this:

My love runs by like a day in June
And he makes no friend of sorrows.
He’ll tread his galloping rigadoon
in the pathways of the morrows.
He’ll live his days where the sunbeams start,
Nor could storm or wind uproot him.
My own dear love, he is all my heart,—
And I wish somebody’d shoot him.

Parker is madly in love with a man who will not sit still long enough to love her, and the torture is such that she wishes somebody would kill him. We don’t know how real, in this particular case, this sentiment is, but we do know that this precise sentiment could be real, and this very sentiment could be Parker’s precise state of mind.

But since, as readers, we know it is a poem, we identify abstractly with its sentiment; we call it real and yet unreal, and don’t equate it with any actual behavior of Parker’s. As we live in a free society, we do not censor; we allow both Dorothy Parker and her poem complete freedom, with the democratic conviction that a society which suppresses fictional expressions of this kind will be a society which has less creativity and more violence.

Scarriet holds to this principle of free expression: we carefully and deliberately produce work that could be true, but which is not true; no person, place, or thing is ever identified so that a stranger might identify the truth of its content in any way; only its truth as an inspired fiction exists; a Scarriet love poem could be about any love; the universal sentiment is always the subject, never a particular individual in a particular circumstance. The imaginative poem is the only poem we allow to be published here.

Shelley said the secret of morals was love, for love makes us passionately identify with another person.

Romantic attraction, or love, used to be the staple of lyric poetry, but imagination is required to make love interesting, and the non-imaginative poetry of today is not up to the task.

First, since love has been written about so often, the challenge to be original is greater.

Second, romance has become problematic in modern times, just as romance.

Third, since poetry now exists most influentially in the college classroom, it behooves professors to make poetry a subject that feels more modern, and expresses the sort of social change college campuses are simmering with; thus love poetry is tacitly rejected as too simplistic and old-fashioned, too associated with popular music, and so essentially not serious.

Fourth, social media has created a firestorm of private-turned-public, take-no-prisoners, gossip which pries into slightly uncomfortable private feelings with a judgmental animus never before seen in history, and since original romance effusions are bound to entertain slightly, or even deeply, uncomfortable private feelings, the love poet may just throw in the towel altogether, and instead write poems on very simple subjects, like history, politics, and philosophy.

Imagine if the Beatles were told they couldn’t write love songs; the Beatles simply would not exist.

The result, today, is that poetry finds itself in a state of confusion, exiled from all song, or lyric, elements, and struggling, as “poetry” to make a prose more meaningful than—prose. Which, obviously, cannot be done.

Look at these lyrics from one of the Beatles’ best-known albums, Rubber Soul, released in 1965, the height of Beatlemania, in which the Beatles were also striving to be more sophisticated:

“Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man, you better keep your head, little girl, or I won’t know where I am.” —Lennon & McCartney

This is from the songwriters that would go on to produce “Imagine” and “Let It Be” and “Here Comes The Sun.” Imagine if a would-be John Lennon wrote a poem like that today, and it ended up on Facebook. “Run For Your Life” was influenced by an Elvis Presley song, and has been covered numerous times. What is the difference between a song and a poem? Should poets be held to the same standards as songwriters, recording artists, and other ‘creative writers,’ and what should those standards be? Should all creative writing, whether a movie script, a short story, a song, or a poem, be held to the same moral standard, whether or not it appears in a cinema watched by millions, or on some poor wretch’s blog?

If I make something up, which nonetheless has some resemblance to reality, in a poem, is this not the same as a major-release film depicting precisely the same thing, with the only difference that the latter costs millions of dollars to make, and employs thousands of people? It may just be that the film will be considered an elaborate fiction, no matter how horrific the content, but with the way poetry is increasingly read and judged these days, the poet, it will be assumed, is somehow responsible in his own person, as the filmmakers are not, for any offensive content that is part of the fiction.

Can censors say, “You may write about love, but you may not depict hateful things like jealousy?” No poems or songs like “Run For Your Life?” No ambiguity of desire allowed? Where do we draw the line, when it comes to imaginative fictions, in keeping a society creative and free? And can we ever justly assume something about an author’s personal character—think of our Shakespeare example—based on their imaginative fiction?

Look at what Plato demanded for his Republic: poems that only praise. (Plato, contrary to popular opinion, did not ban all kinds of poetry from his ideal society.) A song like “Run For Your Life” would be banned, because threatening to kill your girlfriend is not praising her.

It didn’t matter to Plato that Lennon wrote a song about an unnamed girl. What mattered was purely the bad emotions involved. Yet Aristotle would say these “emotions” are a vital part of art’s expressive good.

Was Plato right?

How imaginative/expressive/creative are we allowed to be?

We believe we have made it clear where Scarriet stands.

If Scarriet has ever strayed, in any way, from our rigorous standard,—we are human, after all, and poetry is a passionate and extremely difficult art—we apologize, without reservation.

I HAVE ONE MOTHER

image

I have one mother, who bore me long ago,

From her I came, and from her I still go

Into all that is not mother—into all that she

Hopes I will create, as she created me.

Creation is a burden, and creation is a woe,

For much happens by the flesh that we do not know,

And I went from my mother, hoping that she

Could let me go, and yet not forget me.

That is our sorrow! That is our fear:

That what made us then will not love us here.

O, let my thoughts be consistent and clear.

Let sounds that rebound make sense in my ear.

What began my life, please see it through,

No dream! but love that lives forever in you.

 

BEAUTY IS NOT FOR EVERYONE

Beauty is not for everyone.
First, how would ugly work get done?
Second, how would the ugly ever be loved?
Third, beauty must be found.
You will not see it just lying on the ground.
And who understands its cruelty?

Say beauty belongs to me
And beauty will always stay.
Lie to me, and kiss me
Extravagantly.
See? This is almost beauty.
Back there, when you felt something, what did you surmise?
Kiss me, again. But this time close your eyes.

 

 

 

THE POETRY THAT COMES TO ME

The poetry that comes to me

Is the love that comes to you.

But first comes the love,

The sweet, sweet love.

The line invented by my mind

Is the praise that comes to you.

But first comes the love,

The sweet, sweet love.

The eye that finds my eye

Is the look that comes from you.

A love, they say, can die.

But love is all I do.

Always in love, and always free,

Because the poetry comes to me.

WHAT YOU DO NOT SAY

What you do not say
Is the truth. Which is why
You do not say it.

The truth always remains unsaid.
This is what I know. And also what I’ve read.

Fictional characters can speak the truth,
But sigh. What’s the use?

Fiction satisfies some, to some degree.
But won’t you tell the truth to me?
The truth is never spoken. But in poetry
I sometimes ask.

What is a person but a speaking mask?

Lies are comforting, it’s true,
But when I fell in love with you,
I wanted to know everything.
Impossible. Impertinent for even love to ask.

Does the mask at least sing?
Can we pretend we’re in a play
So that our love fictionalizes everything?

We’ll lose the truth, it’s true.
But I would lose the truth for you.

MY LOVE IS DYING

The fiction writer, to acheive the dark comedy of life,
Does best in simple, transparent language to draw that life,
Careful not to intrude on that life
With fancy language or opinions, letting the facts of that life
Do most of the work, like a painter of still life.
No artist, using life, can compete with life.

Life contains endless material for the artist
Who does not find it necessary to invent or feel or think.
A million reporters for one poet: everybody’s a poet, wink, wink.

The Instagram photograph is the new art.
Snap it. Ten thousand pixels: each the perfect singing part.

The picture is laughing, the picture is crying.
Literature—lovely literature! is dying.

The death of a beautiful woman is the most poetical topic, said Poe.
And the best topic for fiction?  I believe I know:
The unhappy beautiful woman.

We are disgusted when an ugly woman has sex.

When a beautiful woman has sex, we are torn,
Since we are happy if we are having sex with her,
But if she is having sex with someone else, we wish she were never born.

If the beautiful woman is not having sex, the harsh division vanishes;
We are no longer torn; we are content to read the fiction
Detailing the unlikely: a beautiful woman’s chaste sadness.

Love produces so much unhappiness
That unhappiness is how we see—the shadows of sorrow covering life,
So love, in unreal ways, might be tolerated, and in very small ways—even for a moment!—loved.
Sex penetrates our consciousness, disguised, and understood, by other means;

Inscrutable chastity!
I read what you wrote, to find out what beauty means.

IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW

The hill has water running down its sides
Beneath the pansies and forsythia
Where the hyacinth bends, and the slender cunning
Of the iris no longer hides.
Spring is here. There is no more snow.
In case you didn’t know.

My mind has love running in and out of it
Where desperate thoughts of flowers
Vainly strive with thoughts that kiss my thoughts of you
Where the butterflies flit.
You’re in my mind. You will never go.
In case you didn’t know.

There was nothing reasonable about last fall
When the trees heaved down their leaves
And the wind blew cold upon the dying hill,
Which was not ours at all.
But spring is here. There is no more snow.
In case you didn’t know.

ANOTHER’S HAPPINESS MAKES YOU SAD

Another’s happiness makes you jealous.
And so you understand
Why sorrow comforts you,
And sorrow comforts the jazz band
You love to listen to.

You sigh. You know why
Sorrow in every song is the best thing
And when you clap your hands, you sadly sing
And sing of sadness more, and to cry
Is your highest happiness.

Everyone who knows us,
Knows no one should be jealous.
Jealousy is worse than sorrow.
Happiness leads to jealousy, and more jealousy tomorrow.

I have seen every genius fall,
Sighing, into a wish there were no happiness at all,
As jealousy (born in hell!) makes a heaven of sorrow.

POETRY AS POP CULTURE TRIVIA, OR ANOTHER BULLSHIT NIGHT IN SUCK CITY

image

I bet you think this poem is about you.

Three poets read at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival’s “Headline Event” in Salem on Friday night. By now, it is a truism that contemporary “headline” poets do not traffic in anything that resembles poetry: speech that aspires to music. Instead, we get speech aspiring to pop culture trivia. The poems themselves—clotted, reference-heavy—vainly strive to be interesting with all the things they talk about, but the befuddled audience greets ‘oh-is-that-the-poem? Is-it-over?’ effusions with deathly silence. Immediately, the poet begins to nervously joke with the audience and there is palpable relief in the crowd—in attendance for entertainment, or enlightenment, or social snobbery, perhaps—as the poet makes an off-the-cuff remark that elicits laughter (ah, we are being entertained!). “I should have told you that the poem [which I just read and no one could fathom] was about [fill in obscure pop reference].” (Laughter).

The evening was very much like this: unfathomable “poems” eliciting silence, with wheedling, used-car salesman joking in-between. Beethoven at the piano with hands in casts but joking up a storm. A wonderful evening of “music.”

The first poet did that annoying, stiff “poet-reading voice,” the sustained vocal tic in which prose is forced to sound like stilted prose in order to sound like poetry.

Reads a “poem.” No reaction. Poet: “I should have told you the whole book that poem is from is about me being poor and dreaming of being an astronaut.” Laughter.

And so the evening of “poetry” proceeded.

The death of poetry is kept from the audience and its friends because referential language is endlessly—referential. “I mention Peaches and Herb [70s soul group] in this poem,” the poet announces, to appreciative tittering. Peaches and Herb!

A poem, or series of poems, or something, on Jack Johnson, the early 20th century boxer, is full of information on the legendary figure: “poetry” meets Wikipedia. Peaches and Herb was only mentioned in passing in some poem that was trying to…? It sort of makes one feel sorry for Peaches and Herb. The first reader quotes Jack Johnson in his poem and then tells us of the theft in a sudden little-boy outburst, post-poem: “Decidedly dissatisfied by my presence.” It turns out the best line of the evening is by Jack Johnson, the boxer.

The second reader, a middle aged woman, Denise Duhamel, is more visibly ruffled than reader number one by audience non-response—she is bravely cheerful in a slightly heart-breaking manner and laughs nervously and obviously wants applause, and through sheer will, eventually gets a little, in  a spectacle of podium-groveling both touchingly noble and embarrassing at once. She has a romantic side—it fails in a mawkish poem about James Taylor and Carly Simon—but it saves her in what is the most satisfying portion of the evening—a piece in which a woman narrator and her husband witness another couple fighting, which elicits a lovers quarrel between them as they take sides. The other couple, overseen arguing on a beach, eventually make up, and the speaker ends with the observation: “no one was watching us.”

The “romantic” Duhamel was hit and miss, but at least she felt the romantic need to be heartbreaking, and the heartbreaking requires a certain coherence—and becomes naturally funny, by turns, if enough “heartbreaking” detail is provided.

The two men—Adrian Matejka and Nick Flynn—seemed intent on showing off, not communicating. I know this! (Good for you) the sole emotional content of the dudes’ poetry.

The third reader is best known for Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, a memoir about his homeless father which was made into a movie. Since poetry isn’t memoir or fiction, published poets seem to understand that one doesn’t get up in a front of an audience and make one personal tragedy or topic the centerpiece of the presentation—even though this is what an audience more easily digests. Poetry readings risk taxing the attention span very quickly, because there’s so many mental paths traveled over the course of even a few poems. And here’s why fiction and memoir sell better: it’s a simple matter of singular focus. Poetry’s “riches” defeat it.

Poets don’t help matters with musically-deaf poems chocked with facts and trivia. Lou Reed was the pop reference of importance for the third reader—the fact that his father died on the same day as the pop icon was well…a fact—like James Taylor and Carly Simon’s divorce, like black boxer Jack Johnson’s white mistresses—and facts were all equal here. The Poetry of Fact. The poems tended to remain on this level, the level of the fact: too much story and poems crystallize into fiction, too much emotional focus and poems harden into uncool sentimental poetry—so fact is where they stay, or, more accurately: move around in, in a molten fury, a super-intelligent flux; the more ambitious poems create a three ring circus of facts: the missing jetliner in the news, the painter Fra Angelico, the poet’s mother, and surely something is profound and enlightening in the mix—to the poet, but not, unfortunately, to the audience. It finally becomes an orgy of Wikipedia meets the personal, or worse, blah blah blah hell.

The charming and witty personality of the poet often hides the boring, badness of the poetry, in a live setting.  But in the long run, oh witty friends! we do not believe this is good for poetry.

WHEN MY HATE LOVES

When my hate loves, it is like love, in fact:
Love is the feeling, and sex, the desired act.

It is not like adding love to cause the hate to sleep
So one can make a show of politeness to a creep.

It is hate actually loving, and hate loves like love;
Hate is what it is, but love is what it does.

Love can be aroused by an identifying pity
Which makes us ache in a sweet melancholy—
We don’t love their perfection, but their faults;
We rejoice that love does not run, but halts.
Love halts right beside us.
The bus breaks down and we get on the bus.
But what notes faults insults.

So merciful, identifying love breeds hate—
The lover learns the hateful truth too late:
The one who kissed us is suddenly irate.
Sweet love is changed to injurious hate.

But since love was the original intent,
Hate loves, despite hate, despite resentment;
Love hates, driving the confused lover mad.
But hate loves, so the heavens are glad.

There’s no escape from a hateful love like this;
Love hates as love, teaching hate how to kiss.

It doesn’t matter what we feel, or what we do.
Hate tells hate to hate us if we hate you.

 

YOUR DIVERSITY IS CONFORMITY

The boy raised in a suburb, white,
Learns in school his heart is blacker than night,
Life is large animals eating small;
Not sin, but God’s City, the terrible loss, the terrible  fall,
He learns, he learns it all.
Vaginas have a great deal to say.
He listens to vaginas talk all day.
Vaginas are here. And they’re not going away.
Did you write a poem on a vagina today?
He learns he took something, and must give it back
To the world, his daddy, and his daddy’s daddy, the fault and the lack.
The old science and the old erection,
The old knowledge and the old protection,
Are dead, say the new Chairs, the new Head.
But nothing, when you look around, is changed at all:
Buildings and rockets and marriages and laws
Weigh heavy on the landscape, the economy,
Customs, play, manners, money, no pause
Of the world’s activities can be discerned. Everything is lovely.
And when the boy, now a man, receives his degree,
He assumes, with some debt, all the old knowledge,
And forgets what the vaginas had to say in college.

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: