STEPHEN STURGEON AND SUSAN TERRIS IN THE EAST

There is the sort of poetry which is shy and odd.  Here is no titanic novel, no Lord Byron of a thousand rhymes, no comedy, no tragedy, no autobiography, no song.

It is the sort of poetry that looks at you and says…yes?  Did you want something?  Were you looking for someone?

It is the poet who is so not cool, they are cool.  Or, so cool, they are not cool.  And so on.  And they secretly hate you—or love you.  You can’t tell.  They sit across from you for an evening and say nothing—with words, or otherwise.

Theirs is the sort of poetry that is a little bit funny without any effort at all, and for a moment they might have you thinking that to be a little bit funny with no effort at all is really the greatest thing it is possible to do.

In the 2016 March Madness East bracket, we have 12th seed Stephen Sturgeon, who is currently literature librarian at the University of Iowa, with this line:

City buses are crashing and I can’t hear Murray Perahia.

A line like this is unassailable.  One could never pronounce it bad or good.  Sturgeon’s line wears the magic coat of John Ashbery, protected forever from criticism.  It could mean something, or not, and because it baffles, it pleases sweetly and ephemerally, like a cigarette, or any trivial pleasure which pleases because of a certain sly, unhealthy, indefiniteness.  It is unhealthy to be indefinite all the time. And in our minds, small doses of the unhealthy will tend to feel like pleasure. One can be addicted to non-meaning, and actually find it to equal actual pleasure.  If they haven’t done a study of this, they should.

Boredom is separated from death by one thing: variety.  If differences ceased, boredom really would be death—to be bored with one thing endlessly is perhaps the one thing that is hell for the mind—the hell of pure boredom, without pain.

“City buses are crashing” is very high on the modern spectacle-of-interest scale and not being able to hear Murray Perahia makes perfect sense, and yet is so odd, especially if you are one of those people who say to yourself, Murray Perahia? I’ve heard that name, but who is he?  It is that tantalizing uncertainty: Buses crashing? Why? Are people dying?  Is the poet on the bus, or just witnessing the crash?  And so on.  It is all those questions, all those uncertainties, all those elements—which save us from the horror of boredom.   “Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.”  Said Berryman.  Yes and yes.

Susan Terris, who was published in the latest Best American Poetry, is the 5th seed in the East, and her line is:

Cut corners  fit in  marry someone

It is what we do.  It sums up life.  After the buses crash. After Murray Perahia finishes. It is funny how a few words can capture a life in such a way that, even though we know there is so much more to life, there is a part of us that relents, and says, Oh God. This is it. This is life.

It almost as if we like the way language can put us in a little box and there we remain.

Someone has to come out of this box and be the winner.  Will it be Stephen?  Or Susan?

From the box come indefinable sounds.

 

 

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29 Comments

  1. noochinator said,

    March 24, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Oprah’s magazine tries to piggyback on Scarriet’s March Madness success:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/bill-murrays-new-job-poetry-editor-20160324

  2. noochinator said,

    March 24, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Here’s the link to the complete poem by Stephen Sturgeon:

    http://toddswift.blogspot.com/2010/09/new-poem-by-stephen-sturgeon.html

  3. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 24, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    I think its a very original poem and style he has. I was struck by the forward motion of it, the city feeling and the reference to e.e. cummings early poems being folded away like funeral lilies or easter cards. Very astonishing. In the single line about Murray P. I heard the warm tones of that pianist suddenly dimmed by the bus crash but also as the essay notes could not locate the person no longer hearing Murray P. But this seemed natural to me as I no longer can tell from which direction sounds come. It was very wonderful to see the vividness of the entire poem.

    I like the line from Susan because it feels distinctly like a snipped off piece of an altered Singer sewing pattern (at least to me).

    Sorry for whoever’s in the box. Please let he, she, it out so they can stretch and get some ice cream. Thanks.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 24, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Speaking of dessert, here is a very sticky, sentimental rose laden cake of a poem I just made. You can say that it’s Chumki Sharma’s dear fault because she made me think of how I felt about poetry in the beginning especially around 15 or 16 or so.

      Here it is probably destined to become the reincarnation of that cake left out in the rain with the green frosting melting. (Green frosting? I even questioned the green frosting at the time MacArthur Park first came out. Really Richard Harris. GREEN FROSTING? I ask again still with no answer, wondering WHY.

      Forgive me kindly for being severely off topic but here it is anyway. Yum.

      YOU MAY NOT REMEMBER THE ROSE CLOUDED DAYS

      you may have forgotten the rose clouded days
      the autumn occlusions
      the hawthorn rich mays

      the song that you sang to yourself and the way
      the page that you turned taught bright
      music to stray

      through the quartz minted seconds
      that ticked in your rooms
      and the feeling it gave you

      when you saw the moon
      glide softly in clouds
      and then exit in tears

      when the rains came up suddenly
      showers so clear
      and you at your window

      the dead of the night
      felt the ocean of time lapping soft as delight
      and much left to learn

      and to dream and to be
      and now it’s so little you ask
      that the key

      is just to remember
      the roses were real
      and all that you gathered

      and all that you feel

      is recalled in the instant
      you still can believe
      that all that was given

      is still yours to keep
      whether you wake or
      whenever you sleep.

      mary angela douglas 24 march 2016

  4. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 24, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    I just found this jewel of a poem from Susan Terris I like very much and not only because my Grandfather used to wake up my sister and I for school with “Rise and Shine”. I couldn’t find the poem with the Scarriet quoted line.

    LEARN & LIVE (by Susan Terris)

    Rise & shine, the ghost/father says. Early bird gets.
    Stand & deliver. Divide & conquer. Hear the piano?

    The question is: how did the ghost revive the lily,
    And am I the lily? Surely not a shrinking violet.

    I learned that one. Nor do I walk or throw like a girl.
    Fire & ice cause trouble, I know, and don’t put

    Too many eggs in a basket. But he—impatient ghost— Leaves before I can find out about pain & loss,

    About how to capture a firefly that isn’t there,
    How to keep its small pulse of luminescence.

  5. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 24, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    A study of addiction to non-meaning in poetry or any of the arts as akin to a kind of aesthetic pleasure sounds like one of the most, tragicomic wastes of times I have ever heard of.

    It is also a prime example of the reason many people sadly HATE the arts. Except in children’s literature where it has a place as the whimsical as in Lewis Carroll in which case it has meaning in defining the way it feels to be fighting your way through the absurdity of dreams: waking or otherwise as when people drain all the life out of things all the joy and the wonder by sheer pretension and paint you as a fool for still believing in these things.

  6. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    March 25, 2016 at 1:30 am

    BRUSSELS PARIS ISIS TRUMP CRUZ

    The Second Coming

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

    William Butler Yeats

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 25, 2016 at 1:47 am

      I love all of Yeats including this poem. However, I do not feel the world is any more dire now than it ever has been. There have always been horrors and there has always been hope. It is an extraordinary poem though; thank you for sharing. I am distressed over Belgium as I have a very good friend there but he says that the Belgian people have learned through all history to be resilient and to love beauty and to not let go of life and I believe him.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 25, 2016 at 1:51 am

        And I say with a smile Americans have done, will do no less and who the President is does not determine the whole of your life. As scripture says (I mean the Bible) are you afraid of a man that will die?…and in other places,…Christ says, through St. Paul, neither life nor death shall separate us from the love of God [which is in Christ Jesus}…Be comforted. Be not afraid. Love is stronger than death and life does not end with the grave.

  7. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 25, 2016 at 1:57 am

    A POEM FOR EASTER 2016

    this time I will not rush the light
    I promised You and I knew You heard
    or fault your angels for appearing to slow

    the crystal unwindings of my snows;
    the fluttering of birds beneath
    the window where I live.

    I live but not in this instant not
    at a physical address the one
    you use on all the forms the one that

    lets you be pin pointed in the surveys
    on the grid where no one visits you.
    somewhere else I used to live

    where I played hide and seek with the sun
    when under the skies of robins egg
    blue I believed in all your Easters.

    and I can go there
    underneath all this
    in my olive carcoat

    counting the stars
    that I remember from
    those vanished skies

    those vivid yards

    and hearing music
    I heard then
    lodged in my heart

    against the bleak ravages
    of crows and so much else
    that life surprises us with

    in unwrapped packages
    we’d like to take back.
    I may not show

    from year to year
    the music that I really hear
    sweet childhood’s larks!

    and though they may not understand
    and think I’m in a foreign land
    whenever they see me

    if they see me

    dear God,
    I know where my home is still.
    and that keeps out the dark.

    mary angela douglas 23 march 2016

    Happy Easter everybody who’s reading this and even if you’re not.

  8. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    March 25, 2016 at 2:27 am

    Easter Sunday

    Late spring, still cold
    this dark, metallic day.
    The pond looks like quicksilver.
    We’ve been expecting robins and roses
    but still the light comes down solid
    like steel, down
    slow and hard from leaden gray.
    Rain since not quite dawn, no sun;
    not expected to soon return.
    A puddled lawn, more topsoil,
    even some driveway washed away.

    We stood shivering in the sharp spring rain.
    The cat watched us from the wood.
    Stark and wet, leafless trees impaled
    in earth like spikes of blackened iron.
    We gathered at the Paschal grave,
    the muddy soil easily turned
    as we buried the poor baby rabbit.

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

  9. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 25, 2016 at 2:36 am

    I am talking to the wind to be on this site. I can talk to the wind where I live and not feel like this. A depressing Easter poem is not an Easter poem. It is written beautifully though. Thank you for sharing. Bye to Scarriet. Im tired of saying and saying and no one almost no one ever answers back. Blessings anyway to one and all. Easter is about joy and it is not a lie. I will rejoice elsewhere and wish you all well. I don’t like not to be spoken to over and over.

  10. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    March 25, 2016 at 3:02 am

    Dear Mary:

    I was speaking to you. My poem was specifically speaking to you. About Easter!
    I am Taoist. Yin and Yang. Good and bad. Life and death.
    You Christians sound alot like the other intolerant ‘religious’ people out there, don’t you?

    One has to wonder how God feels about the way all of his faithful followers behave towards their fellow creatures (human and otherwise).

    Maybe time for another flood, you think?

  11. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 25, 2016 at 3:14 am

    What a rude unfeeling thing to say. You don’t even know me. I know how God feels about me. I know that He loves me. You are the one judging. I was not even talking to you. I WAS TALKING TO “SCARRIET” as a whole. I said that your poem was beautiful. I am not a “You Christian” I am Mary Angela Douglas a person who has lived for poetry my whole life and been kind in every way I possibly could and I HAVE A RIGHT TO SAY HOW I THINK AND FEEL ABOUT ANYTHING INCLUDING MY FAITH. I AM NOT ASHAMED OF MY FAITH OR MY FELLOW CHRISTIANS. IT IS CLEAR WHERE ABUSE IS COMING FROM IN THIS CASE. I SUPPORTED YOUR POETRY MANY TIMES ON THIS SITE WHEN NO ONE ELSE WAS EVEN TALKING TO YOU.

  12. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    March 25, 2016 at 3:40 am

    Bewildered

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

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

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

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

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 25, 2016 at 3:57 am

      I am sorry you take such a dim view of God. I don’t. It’s easy for me to see through my own life and human history that cruelty comes from the way people treat each other. God is not to blame for the mistakes of religion or religious people. God Is. God IS love. That IS the Easter message and that is why your poem about the dead baby rabbit being referred to as a Paschal (meaning by way of reference, the Lamb of God and all that implies) grave is deliberately insulting and cruel in and of itself. You have a right to your thoughts and feelings on the subject. But the message of Christianity is totally about love and there are many examples of Christians who are loving people, many, many times the first people all over the world on the scene to give comfort and aid to the distressed. It is trendy now to make fun of Christians; it is trendy to mock them as illiterate and backward and hypocritical. It’s a golden ticket into the cool club. You are a better person than that and a better poet.

      The message of Easter is hope, joy, love the victory of the love of God and Christ over cruelty and death. It is real. I will never be ashamed of it. He IS the Light of the world and a thousand rational posturings and positions cannot quench that.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 25, 2016 at 4:19 am

        I do understand what you mean about the contradictions in Nature and natural disasters. I feel bewildered by that too and you do make a good point of it in the poem. But Christianity does not explain everything nor does any religion. We don’t know everything. We dont understand everything and no matter how much we pray sometimes there are prayers that truly aren’t answered. This is kind of humiliating and humbling I admit. But there you have it. Still I feel inside of myself in the many situations I have been in alone facing alone throughout my life an invisible but very real kind and guiding presence. This I recognize as God and also Christ. And it is very clear to my reason as well as my heart that without this sustaining presence I would have been dead a long time ago because by myself I am just not that strong of a person. I do like to read about the Tao too and I see truth in it. But Chrstianity and the Personal God who called you by name from the beginning is what I choose to believe because it satisfies the requirements of my heart. I’m not trying to convert anyone. The only reason I brought Easter up in the first place was as a way to share joy and hope since after Belgium we have had such a devastatingly sad week. It is bewildering to me to be attacked when I just wanted to bring hope. I hope you will understand this and forgive any offense I surely did not mean to give. But I feel you really attacked me without cause and I don’t understand why you had to do that, Gary.

  13. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    March 25, 2016 at 4:25 am

    I love Nature. You love God.
    Is there really a difference?

    Mockingbird

    I see God’s hand in amber clouds
    with golden rays above blue seas,
    in black stripes on orange fur.
    I see His plan in flowering trees,
    in mockingbirds and honey bees,
    in every desperate cur.

    Call me crazy…well, they do,
    but I see His thoughts in cobras, too.
    I see His will in crocodiles.
    They see God in human beings
    and Satan in the wild,
    but I see the Devil in you and me
    and in every human child.
    The roots of Poison Ivy
    always grow new vines.

    I see that mockingbird on the fence over there
    just winked his eye at me.

    Copyright 2008 – Softwood:Seventy-eight Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 25, 2016 at 4:40 am

      There is a difference between God and Nature. Nature expresses God but when you want to talk to someone who knows you like no other you’re just not going to pray to Nature. People instinctively say in distress, Oh God please help me. Nobody says Oh Nature please help me. That’s how I see the difference. He’s a person I turn to. The main person. The creator not the created and I do believe evolution is compatible with the idea of the Creator and creation Not my business anyway. I wasn’t there when it happened. I know I didn’t make the stars.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 25, 2016 at 4:46 am

        i like the first part of your poem a lot. Love those mockingbirds. All over our backyard when I was growing up. Beautiful music, incredibly varied. And flowers. If I were rich I would visit all the gardens of the world. I love the internet for the fact that you can find so many more things about nature especially in terms of what things look like, for instance birds in the tropics, all the varieties. Yesterday I found a video online of the aurora borealis as seen from space (filmed by the guy that was up there a whole year on the space station). I can’t deal with thinking about Mr. Cobra or crocodile about whom I know only from the Disney song (Peter Pan) never smile at one and I wouldn’t live in Florida for love or money when they can splash into your pool on a lazy summer day without a moment’s warning. Yuck. A friend of mine is convinced that dinosaurs prove that God can make mistakes. Glad we don’t have to deal with them. Would like some blue jello though now come to think of it. (Jurasic Park) Just keep it steady in the bowl.

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          March 25, 2016 at 4:57 am

          TROMP. TROMP. Uh oh. Here they come. Don’t let them chomp your poems. SAVE THE POEMS! SAVE THE POEMS. HELP! SCARRIET! Brackets in danger from dinosaurs, get Spielberg on the phone. NO MORE SEQUELS.

  14. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    March 25, 2016 at 5:13 am

    Mary…I’m old and it’s very late here in Texas so I need to hit the proverbial sack.
    But, pursuant to your point above, let me leave you with another poem to contemplate.

    Evolution
    (Intelligent Design)

    Overwhelming diversity, constant multiplicity,
    extending still complexity, an existential mystery.
    Yet the polarizing entities are questioning reality:
    an accident of Being or a Being’s creativity?
    Inexplicable Cosmology, quantum relativity,
    omnipotent Holy monarchy or irrelevant necessity?

    A frog jumps and ripples ring the pond.
    A leaf floats up and down upon it.

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

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 25, 2016 at 5:18 am

      fascinating poem, love the serenity it closes with thank you.

  15. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 25, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    A flower poem from this morning that branched out of the conversation concerning the dream of visiting the gardens of the world…memories of childhood springs the feeling of that…

    WE WERE IN THE BLUE SHADE AND THE DEEPER SHADE, THE DELPHINIUM

    we were in the blue shade and the deeper shade, the delphinium
    and in the hour of lilacs quiet, filled with the misted greens
    oh April I have loved you beyond few things on earth

    were you a dream
    I pass the old warehouses
    sick of their rubbishy ghosts

    the brambles where the gardens grew
    with or without their silver bells
    cockle shells came the dream floating

    down again the chute of mays, remembering
    they were that pearled and I will seek
    lost orchards, the shades of lost orchards

    the girl that I was then

    sailing away from the dour precints
    where I was thought employable.
    and toward the museums of Light

    mary angela douglas 25 march 2016

  16. noochinator said,

    March 25, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Tomas, do you have that Susan Terris poem at hand? I can’t find it anywhere — in the meantime, here’s three of her “memo” poems:

    http://talkingwriting.com/susan-terris-three-memo-poems

  17. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 25, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Another Easter poem at least in atmosphere.

    THE ONES I REMEMBER THE MOST, THE DOVE DRENCHED DAYS

    the ones I remember the most, the dove drenched days
    and the pristine trees fountaining with flowers
    the gardenia evenings coming through the window

    the carport, the twilight mysteries
    nothing on tv
    just family feeling

    and all the lights on
    the new magazines
    the Bauhaus and the Debussy

    and the ivoried light keeps playing
    it over and fresh ironed dresses
    steamed for school

    the February gleam of
    the pink birthday parties
    the Prang prepared art

    and nightlights in the dark
    fireflies in the yard
    don’t try so hard or try

    a little harder to
    hold onto this
    the white clover starred

    the purple down the road
    and you will remember
    whispered kind angels,

    when you’re old…

    mary angela douglas 25 march 2016

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      March 26, 2016 at 12:45 am

      Easter candy, sort of. Or a children’s story in a big picture book…

      CHOCOLATE ON MARS!

      Chocolate On Mars! the newspapers blared
      and we all went out into the summer school streets and cheered.
      And NASA broke out the BLTS, the thermoses

      of cocoa.
      School let out and we headed over
      to Mrs. Filagrees Candy Treasures

      but she was all out
      so we drank coconut milk instead
      and traded old stories.

      how the first expeditions found butterscotch.
      better luck next time, the board games said
      on the little green cards

      no little green men.
      and then, the peppermint swirls appeared
      in plain vanilla ice cream overnight…

      Bradbury took his glasses off
      and whooped it up
      with chocolate covered malt balls

      exactly like

      the ones I got sick on
      after I sneaked the whole bag
      and the doctor said

      not knowing I was bad,
      here: try this chocolate coated medicine,
      two spoonfuls

      as I stared
      realizing it’s true:
      God is everywhere.

      mary angela douglas 25 march 2016

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        March 26, 2016 at 12:51 am

        The part about the stomach ache medicine being chocolate after I got sick from all the Whoopers no one knew yet I had pigged out on at 8 years old, is really true. I still remember thinking, looking at the kind old family doctor who made housecalls: only God knew I got sick on chocolate and now he’s punishing me with more. Poor Dr. Ogden. He thought he was doing a great kindness to give me chocolate flavored medicine. Truly I felt judged.

  18. maryangeladouglas said,

    March 26, 2016 at 1:54 am

    WHEN THE PAST ARRIVES AT THE STATION/EASTER MORNING

    when the past arrives at the station
    where the present breaks down
    then we will sing the song about the

    lemons, the oranges once more
    and all the bells in town ringing
    the dolllike brides and grooms

    coming out from the steepled snows
    and cheering the confetti all around.
    when the past is suddenly, inexplicably

    right now and the reindeer roofed
    bright as daylight will you recover
    your birthright, birthstone

    your lily of the month
    and be offered your choice
    of the candies from two

    different boxes, each with their separate ribbons
    and wear lilac socks and it is Spring
    to match the Sunday school dress.

    the one you love the best

    smoothing it down, your Grandmother
    searches your face
    no trace of tears young faith

    is shining there
    your hair pinned back as for a crown
    with tiny white and gold flowerets entwined

    it’s invisible you think

    the tiara from the Lord in the morning, morning
    but not to the birds my birds
    breaking into their glory

    bright singing the fission of Light
    accomplished where we stand quietly
    sequined in sunlight

    He is Risen

    mary angela douglas 25 march 2016


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