Here’s another Madness contest which splits our brains—the infinite gulf poets navigate—between imagery and speech, between showing and telling, between photograph and rhetoric, between gazing and sermonizing.

Sarah Howe, a youngster who just won the T.S. Eliot Prize, snaps, snaps, snaps with her camera:

the razory arms of a juniper rattling crazily at the edge of that endless reddening haze

And there the eye goes, to the juniper—with thought hurrying to catch up.

But since the eye can’t really “see” poetry, thought gains, and takes the lead, and universities are founded—where they teach Endless Reddening Haze 101.

Meanwhile, Emily Kendal Frey asks the eye to do nothing, appealing to the Muse in a completely different way:

How can you love people without them feeling accused?

This line goes to the heart of all social and romantic confusion.

And a juniper does not have to be mentioned.

Pictures unite us immediately, for every reader, whether they want to or not, see what the poet has seen, and language is precise enough that we all “see” the “razory arms of a juniper rattling crazily at the edge of that endless reddening haze.”

Showing is something which poetry can do.

If we watch a really good dancer, we might think to ourselves, boy they are good, without enjoying the dance itself.  We love what the dancer can do, but we don’t love the dance.  And yet, loving what the dancer can do, we will still stand around applauding with others, because of what the dancer is doing, and have a good time, united with the appreciative audience.

Telling is something poetry is.

Thought is less direct in the showing that poetry does, because first the poet has to say, I am going to show the reader this particular thing I see, in order to present a poem which…

Thought is more direct in the telling of poetry, because they are the same.  The following is a thought: How can you love people without them feeling accused?

The combination of “love” and “accuse” is what makes the thought startling and interesting.

It is a psychological truth that has a certain original force.

But does Frey’s line “unite” everyone immediately?

No, because some would say: this doesn’t make any sense. To love is not to accuse. Not in my world, anyway.

But the psychologically subtle, the psychologically astute, will understand the truth of this line—it is wise, for it contains a deep understanding of human psychology.

We apologize if all we have said so far is a truism, and nothing about poetry has really been said.

Or, perhaps poetry lives in those places where nothing about poetry can really be said.

The juniper rattles, accusing us, no matter which one of these poets wins.


  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 5, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    I’ve been in situations where ONLY the trees don’t accuse, as have others I think. Why I can look at the trees endlessly.

  2. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 5, 2016 at 2:29 pm


    how to read another poet’s poem:
    carefully, as if a world hung in the balance:
    sapphire, suspended.

    as if you were the wind
    turning the page.
    without rage, animosity

    the hidden sharpened knives.
    simply, as if you were a child
    learning letters one by one

    by blocks of the red and green
    in a land without clocks and
    in, if possible, impossible:

    the fairy tale’s gleam

    mary angela douglas 5 april 2016

  3. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 5, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    I love the word juniper. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a juniper tree. But for the juniper to be rattling it seems to me it must be dried up and withering away and I don’t want it to be. Sadly this causes me to reject the line. Also I think of a desert landscape with rattlesnakes nearby and the rattling coming from them. It is not fair to the poet but this is what arises in my mind when I read this poem and this is precisely the landscape I do NOT want to read about or live in so I have to, being short on time relatively speaking at my age, reject the line and whatever it is attached to because I have had enough of deserts in my life and I am looking for the greening land, the crystal spring, and the singing bird.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 5, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      Of course I am inferring the poem from the line and it could turn out the poem does have the colour green in it and birdsong, but somehow, I don’t think so. This is not a judgement on the poem or the poet who has a right to paint deserts her whole life if she chooses to. Georgia O Keefe did but her deserts never rattled.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        April 5, 2016 at 5:51 pm


        where is the compass of roses
        is it where the engravings remain unfinished
        on your little work table where the sun came in

        and oh, I hope, the perfumed lilacs
        blended at the margins of the Other World or

        where you left off singing.
        and tygers shyly bowed down to you
        in no wild land;

        gladness of springing
        the almond trees at hand
        the echoing greens and the children

        belong to them

        who recognized you at once.
        and Dante lingering there
        by the porticoes in a sunrise

        to which your eyes had not
        yet accustomed themselves.
        and Jesus the lamb

        who understood your verses
        all along.

        mary angela douglas 5 april 2016

  4. noochinator said,

    April 5, 2016 at 8:14 pm


    The last of the sheet I shuffle off an ankle —
    a sound like the spilling of sand
    from shovel and the night air blurs

    for a second with its footfall.
    Our entwined shape a word in the dark.
    On my forehead and cheek

    each flourishing
    charge of your breathing
    is a moment’s reprieve. Heat

    in this place goes deeper than sleep,
    wraps everything, increases sheen —
    the forearm weighing your flank

    as, dreaming, you turn from me,
    curlicues slick on the backs
    of thighs, my hand at your neck

    and eyes aware of several kinds of dark
    struggling to perfect themselves
    — the hidden chair, the bouquet of our clothes

    the razory arms of a juniper rattling crazily
    at the edge of that endless reddening haze —
    glad we move on to the city at dawn.

    Sarah Howe

  5. noochinator said,

    April 5, 2016 at 8:18 pm


    Is it harder for the bachelorette or her suitors?

    The brown oyster mushroom

    on her face is possibly the most perfect

    nose I have ever seen. I think people

    might actually win love. The funny guy always

    appeared safe but later you saw him

    in the dark green yard

    puking, a thin

    sweat on the back of his neck.

    I want the air I breathe

    to maintain my body’s

    mystery. I worry I’ll run into you at a party

    then I remember I don’t go to parties

    so I’m safe. I have no godly discipline.

    When someone yells I still huddle

    under a want for ice cream.

    How can you love people

    without them feeling accused?

    If I wanted to win

    I would draw harder lines

    and sit next to them, stay

    awake, rattle the box of bullets.

    When we touch my heart

    gets green

    and white, preppy, bordered,

    oh! she says and perks up.

    It hurts to not be everyone else. If love dies

    it was already dead.

    Emily Kendal Frey

  6. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 5, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Good to see the truth of what the whole poem(s) look like. No blue birds there.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 5, 2016 at 11:53 pm

      I wish with all my heart young ladies now would stop dressing up in Sylvia Plath’s clothes in their poetry. My poems are younger than these poems and that just seems sad to me. If you can’t find hope when you’re young if everything is dire and surreal already what the heck will you be writing in your sixties, or will you even be here. This is a sad and stupid trend that’s been going on too long. Read Sara Teasdale. What’s wrong with that?

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        April 5, 2016 at 11:56 pm

        I am not saying they are not poets, they seem good poets in terms of having the words and the images and all that. But their poems make me feel sick like I’m looking in carnival mirrors and riding the tilt a whirl after consuming a million hot dogs. This is a dangerous kind of posing that can cause illness and taken to extremes an untimely death. Is it really possible to look for beauty, grace and light for them? Or did they just have cruel teachers.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        April 6, 2016 at 12:42 am

        The day Sara Teasdale’s poems are cherished again is the day I will know or begin to know the Enemy of our happiness has been routed in the realm of Poetry at least. It is also a beautiful song.

        by Sara Teasdale

        Life has loveliness to sell,
        All beautiful and splendid things,
        Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
        Soaring fire that sways and sings,
        And children’s faces looking up
        Holding wonder like a cup.

        Life has loveliness to sell,
        Music like a curve of gold,
        Scent of pine trees in the rain,
        Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
        And for your spirit’s still delight,
        Holy thoughts that star the night.

        Spend all you have for loveliness,
        Buy it and never count the cost;
        For one white singing hour of peace
        Count many a year of strife well lost,
        And for a breath of ecstasy
        Give all you have been, or could be.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        April 6, 2016 at 10:51 pm

        O Won’t You Remember The Popsicle Days

        o won’t you remember the popsicle days
        the orange and cherry summer nights
        lemon, the lime beaded afternoons

        and the purple, the purple of the grape ice
        defying all definitions of chilled through loveliness.
        and then the triple decker in the cartoons of

        Tubby and Lulu chocolate vanilla strawerry
        stirring tri coloured flag of childhood; beloved brain freeze
        of the sidewalk jumping

        leapfrogging over the cracks not to
        break our mother’s backs so the rhyme flows and flows
        around our treasury of days well spent.

        oh for the same golden coins later on
        the chocolate ones wrapped and caged in a golden net
        and priced so reasonably really, ten cents.

        or fresh paperbacks come in the mail today today
        brown paper crisp and neat string wrapped
        and we will learn everything beautiful

        and float and kick in the aqua pool
        with the best of them
        and then it will be fall red and golden over all

        and we’ll still be happy singing along
        swinging along on the sidewalks
        until snows and Christmas

        catch up with us the holly laden
        lad and maiden when
        our shadows for a while will

        stop growing and our mothers
        stop letting out the hems.

        mary angela douglas 6 april 2016

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 6, 2016 at 4:01 am

      I love the title of Emily’s poem very much. It is kind of like turning time inside out. I guess what I really wish about both poets is that they would be somehow happy. There is a kind of sadness, a heavy core of sadness in both poems. It distresses me to think of them as sad even though I don’t know them. Why does there seem to be such a stigma for so long in American poetry attached to writing happy poems;sardonic doesn’t count;mildly amusing doesn’t count. HAPPY. Of course nothing is more depressing than forced happiness.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        April 6, 2016 at 5:35 am


        no one will feel the things that you feel
        stepping off cliffs under starlight,
        taking with you the pocket handkerchiefs

        embroidered with cherries.
        no one will catch your drift
        but the snow drifts sparkling adown.

        and the what ifs will turn into flowers slightly frosted.
        and the paper dragons will desist.
        these things aren’t numbered on a list one through ten.

        and they can’t be on the test
        that in your dreams you will confess
        to a love of colours

        though they urge black and white on you
        in the magazines.
        you with your fancy corsage of silk lilacs;

        the occasional tea rose. your plain collars.
        floating off clouds in a pink and blue sleep,
        reciting every prayer you have unlearned.

        you with poetry to burn
        that burns through the lack of innocence in the worlds;
        that swirls in the watercolours’ water in the glass

        and reflects from all the pearls.
        you with no past but Christmas.
        listen to me.

        it isn’t by accident you shine by
        the waters light.
        that an occasional star falls down

        to remind you of delight.

        listen. it takes a long time not to grieve
        that the scarlet leaves come down.
        that snow completely disappears

        every time you turn around

        and nod off into the deeps where music Is.
        and embroider all your sleep
        being just the friend of God.

        mary angela douglas 5 april 2016

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          April 6, 2016 at 5:49 am

          Sorry. should be: pink and blue “slumber” not “sleep”.

  7. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 5, 2016 at 8:55 pm


    cats do not trust me.
    they sense I can’t stop looking at them
    as if they were some kind of exotic dog.

    they know I secretly want to throw the ball
    for them and watch them scurry back with it.
    really, I am their worst nightmare as far

    as human beings go. well almost.
    only once did a cat try to communicate with me.
    a very plump and aged cat, a long suffering family

    cat, on the deck next door to mine,
    second floor. garden apartments.
    Glumpy, (we’ll call him that; it fits)

    lay helpless on his back
    oozing off of the side.

    near him kneeled an exuberant little kid
    a gleam in his eye
    waiting to push our Glumpy off the balcony’s end.

    green eyes flashed a message
    with which I empathized;cat telegram:
    “God no, not again.”

    mary angela douglas 5 april 2016

  8. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    April 6, 2016 at 3:23 am

    The Tyger

    Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
    In the forests of the night;
    What immortal hand or eye,
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    In what distant deeps or skies.
    Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
    On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand, dare seize the fire?

    And what shoulder, & what art,
    Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
    And when thy heart began to beat,
    What dread hand? & what dread feet?

    What the hammer? what the chain,
    In what furnace was thy brain?
    What the anvil? what dread grasp,
    Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

    When the stars threw down their spears
    And water’d heaven with their tears:
    Did he smile his work to see?
    Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

    Tyger Tyger burning bright,
    In the forests of the night:
    What immortal hand or eye,
    Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

    William Blake

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 6, 2016 at 3:52 am

      William Blake’s poem on the Tyger is one of the most astonishing poems in the English language. Thanks for posting it here. I liked your cat poem. I like cats a lot but they sadly know I will never understand them. Dogs are fantasticlly wonderful on the whole. Very good at cheering us up.

      • Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

        April 6, 2016 at 7:18 am

        Cats rule!
        Dogs drool!

        Actually, although I’ve had over twenty cats and four horses, we’ve also owned about ten dogs (Great Pyrenees, German Shepherd, Border Collie, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, mutts, mongrels, etc.

        I’ve never met a critter I didn’t like (with the possible exception of homonid primates).

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          April 6, 2016 at 8:25 am

          That’s a neat way to live with all those animals. When I was a very little kid and my sister was a baby our collie saved her from a snake when we were on a picnic by the river and the dog lost her life from snakebite. They really are amazing, dogs especially.

  9. Gary B. Fitzgerald said,

    April 6, 2016 at 3:33 am


    You know that I love you
    but you’re becoming a nuisance.
    You arrive every place that I am;
    come in the car window or
    jump on my lap, demand
    constant attention, constant
    stroking and cooing, needing
    to know, insisting, that you’re the only
    thing in the world that’s important.
    You know that I love you because
    you’re so much like me.

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

  10. Surazeus said,

    April 6, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    In this poem I play with both showing and telling so the poetic energy oscillates between both extremes.

    Our Human Dream
    2016 04 06

    I am not what you think I am at all
    because I painted my face on your wall
    before Death claimed my lost soul as First Prize,
    extracting memories of pain from my eyes.

    I built my house upon Rock of Salvation
    to stage new passion play of desolation
    since Dionysus now wears face of Christ
    and rules how American Pie is sliced.

    Material of our universe is flushed
    through regenerating seeds of black holes
    in process of rebirth that we can trust
    since everyone chooses their social roles.

    I sit in sunlight on flower-swirling knoll,
    eating apples I pluck from Tree of Life,
    and watch with simple joy my favorite foal
    play by cool stream while I sharpen my knife.

    My brain produces ancient memories
    that replay lives my ancestors designed
    which provide principles as urgent keys
    to open doors in my unconscious mind.

    Your magic spells fail to activate dreams
    that could illuminate secrets of truth,
    so I chant spells to reflect rhymes of streams
    that sparkle spirits in Fountain of Youth.

    I break free from egg of labyrinth eyes
    and dance on ancient shore of flowing stream
    where we first stretched our arms to flashing skies
    and began this tale of our human dream.

    I am what you think I am if you look
    beyond my face and read my singing book
    whose words trace, on map of our human dream,
    coded tales that support our social scheme.

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