It is what you do not say that matters most in poetry.

But how do you not say something?

If I could tell you I would let you know.

This happens to be one of W.H. Auden’s best lines.


But Auden is dead, so he’s not in this tournament.

Peter Gizzi is, and Gizzi has published haunted lyrical poems for some time now, and shows he understands the trope with this line:

No it isn’t amazing, no none of that.

Downplaying things is the modern way in poetry.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, though, was good at it, too:

Come, read to me some poem,
      Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
      And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
      Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
      Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
      Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
      And to-night I long for rest.

“Corridors of Time” is weak. Poe excoriated Longfellow on many occasions for things like this.

But “The Day Is Done” by Longfellow as a whole is still a magnificent poem. Longfellow doesn’t downplay rhythm in his poem. He wants to rest, but his poem doesn’t.  Longfellow was a professor at Harvard, had married into money, was very famous, and Poe was a little bit jealous.  Yet Poe tended to be correct in all his criticisms of Longfellow. Jealous does not mean wrong.

But some say, oh they do say, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Maura Stanton is Gizzi’s opponent, and her line—which is about everything because it is about nothing—is one of those lines we all wish we had written.

We didn’t, and because we didn’t, we weep that Maura Stanton did.

Who made me feel by feeling nothing.







  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 9, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    You’re still speaking about Longfellow and Poe. I can’t leave Scarriet because this is endlessly interesting. Even if they can’t be in the contest, somehow they’re still here. And not all shoved into the archives, lovely though the archives is, as at The Poetry Foundation.

    Besides. Where else can you go where there is boundless free speech regarding Poetry a true service of Scarriet unparalleled anywhere else I know of except in my own mind. It is certainly true in much of modern poetry that things are downplayed. Sometimes they are downplayed to the point of inarticulation.

    I think one of the things I like about the poetry of the editor of Scarriet, Thomas Graves, though this is not the subject of this essay, is the way the modern is juxtaposed quite often with past poetic principals and most of all, emotions. I don’t know how to say this really. But it shows, he shows it is possible to write poetry in a modern vein and in a Romantic vein AT THE SAME TIME. I think this is a genuine possibility for modern poets who may at least at times feel trapped and limited “modernism”.

    And that really would be free speech poetrywise.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 9, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      I meant principles not principals but it kind of works either way.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        April 9, 2016 at 2:04 pm

        I do love the line of Maura Stanton quoted here. And she has an amazingly blossoming face. Her line has depth and height and shines above the flatlands.

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 9, 2016 at 7:18 pm

      The archives are lovely. (not is) I do know archives is plural by definition but to my brain as it is this day and time archives is singular because it is a cyberspace or file room to go to so my mind is looking for the singular place. No one needs to know this but me. Sorry for using Scarriet for my own notebook but it helps me to think and Lord knows, I need to.

  2. maryangeladouglas said,

    April 9, 2016 at 11:35 pm


    I wrote on a page of light;
    it vanished.
    then there was night.

    then there was night and
    I heard the lullabies
    and then there were dreams.

    and when you woke
    there were roses, lilies
    things so rare a someone so silvery spoke,

    or was spoken into the silvery air that

    you couldn’t learn words for them
    fast enough.
    and then,

    you wrote on a page of light.

    mary angela douglas 9 april 2016

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      April 10, 2016 at 1:29 am


      [for the incomparable novelist, George Du Maurier
      who wrote a very strange, beautiful book that when you read it was more inscribed on the dreaming mind, than on the pages of the antique book you held in your hands…]

      Peter Ibbetson, for a long time
      have I gazed through the iron gates
      leading into the garden of the time

      your dream was dreamed a century or so
      before mine and yet
      the words written for you

      seem entwined with everything
      I thought about as a child seeing on TV
      the film with Gary Cooper etched in

      my soul beyond comprehension.

      and the thunder rolls outside the gates;
      the kingdom shifts
      and heaven seems lost to us.

      the prison of blind nights awaits
      and jailers with a bitter streak
      yet somehow there is a crack

      and a fissure in our grief
      we can’t explain
      through which the lilac light

      comes down again, surrounding you,
      Peter Ibetsson…

      there where the dust curls

      there, my bouquet of mignonette,
      small roses have I cast
      as into an equator broken and I know

      there is a country called dreaming true
      and I know I will be coming back to it, if
      not to you, then Peter Ibetsson to

      the gates of very God so jeweled with light;
      to the mist revealing what
      I always in my childishness, delight

      insisted even, bullied in school: oh, by all of you then o
      this, this love is true.

      mary angela douglas 9 april 2016

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        April 10, 2016 at 1:36 am

        Peter Ibbetson is spelled with two b’s and one s every time. It is my favorite book.

        • maryangeladouglas said,

          April 10, 2016 at 5:47 am


          wanted: any book with these attributes-
          a hidden wish to fly, to become invisible,
          never to lie;

          to turn to gold at a moment’s notice and
          then back again.
          easy to read at sunrise, sets with the sun,

          in complementary colours; doesn’t anger
          anyone, is good company when it rains
          or when it’s going to snow for so many

          days no one will ever be able to
          find your house
          and borrow a book again.

          seems like a friend; stays where you put it
          unless you have pets, is restful, too
          with plenty of pictures;

          sleeps while you eat your stew
          and causes reveries but not sneezes.
          has a cherry red tendency to

          make you feel it’s holidays at home
          when you were little and all tucked in
          with colourful covers all up to your chin

          and reading a story till long past the time
          and then giving in to the fairy tale chime
          and knowing tomorrow new chapters would gleam

          and this is the book that makes you dream…

          mary angela douglas 9 april 2016

  3. noochinator said,

    April 11, 2016 at 12:30 am

    Marla interviewed Ms. Stanton five years ago for the 2011 Scarriet March Madness festivities:

    • thomasbrady said,

      April 11, 2016 at 12:54 am

      The Veiled Lady is just a stunning poem.

      The interview is very clever. I believe Nooch himself helped Marla with the questions. Didn’t you, Nooch?

      • noochinator said,

        April 11, 2016 at 4:39 pm

        I’m not sure — all I remember is Marla saying, “This won’t hurt one bit,” and then, “Say ‘woof’ for me darling—would you? Nice and soft?” When I regained consciousness, the transcribed interview was right there on my computer screen, totally completed….

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