ATTRACTION IS NEVER ATTRACTIVE: A DISCUSSION OF LOVE

The great dilemma love faces:

Attractiveness is admired more than anything—yet attraction is condemned.

The leer, or stare, is never attractive to anyone, no matter how attractive the person giving the hungry look.

We are not sure why this is, since attention to attractiveness must be of use to the attractive, and attraction must be the natural outcome of attractiveness.

Why should attractiveness and attraction be completely at odds?

Some would say they are not at odds, and the paradox I am conveying does not exist—it is only that attractive persons wish to attract the right person, and so it is not that attraction is condemned; it is just that attraction is highly selective.

I object to this objection:

First. Attractiveness is nothing if not universal; the more truly attractive, the wider and greater its effect. Narrow and selective use inhibits and counters its whole excellence.

Second. Let us take the example of a hungry look displayed by a very attractive person—certainly, in many cases, this sign of attraction would not be condemned; it would be welcomed.

In most cases it would not be welcomed, simply because public displays of attraction signal two things: desperation and rudeness; it implies that in some hidden manner the attractive one is not attractive—for the attractive, if truly attractive, attracts attention; they do not give it.

But further, even if the hungry look is treated positively and not with disdain, because let’s say the hungry look is presented tactfully by a person of overwhelming beauty, it is not the attraction which is welcomed. It is really the attractiveness—or, more accurately, the idea that possessing this attractiveness might be possible in the future, which is welcomed. For once the attractive is possessed, attraction vanishes. This situation, then—an attractive person giving us the eye—thrills us because it gives us hope that irksome, painful, hungry, hopeless, embarrassing attraction will  hound us no more, and we will be rid of this vain and sad aspect of existence forever.

But how can I be saying this? The attractive is real; real persons who are attractive really do exist, and we are attracted to them; how can I possibly say that yes, the attractive exists, and we derive great pleasure from looking at, and contemplating, the attractive, and yet somehow the attraction of this attractiveness is paradoxically rejected? How can the attractive be separated from attraction? We cannot take pleasure in the attractive if we don’t take pleasure in the attraction to the attractive, right?

Apparently it is the attraction which makes us unhappy, however. Why? Because attraction means we do not have something. We think attraction is pleasurable, but this is only an illusion involving the attractive; attraction is really the painful, lacking, sad aspect of the attractive. Attraction only exists when the attractive exists, and therefore this painful and unhappy state insinuates itself into the beauty of attraction itself. We are attracted to attraction itself—or believe we are; for it is only the attractive which truly gives us pleasure.

Think of it this way. We can see the attractive in a picture. But are we satisfied with a picture if we can’t have the real person? The attractive is seen in a picture. We are attracted to the picture, and yet we realize that by looking at a picture, attraction is at an end, for the attractiveness of the picture is utterly possessed by our greedy eyes. Or is it? Life forces us to look elsewhere. The picture remains an object of attraction, not merely an object of attractiveness. Further, we know there is more to what is depicted in the picture—somewhere the “real” exists and we are attracted to that. If attraction and attractiveness were simply two pleasant aspects of the same thing, we would all be happy with pictures, and love would die.

I find the picture attractive—and yes—yawn—by the way, I’m also attracted to it—but so what? Of course one is attracted to the attractive! They are two sides of the same pretty coin.

No. For this doesn’t explain why pictures are never enough, even as they are enough. Attraction is precisely that which makes a picture more than a picture—attraction is the three dimensional reality of flat attractiveness. Attraction is perspective, which requires space, which requires distance, which requires absence, which requires longing, which is sadness—so attraction ends up being the very opposite of the attractive picture.

We do not know whether it is the unfolding dimensionality which lives inside attraction, or whether attraction lives inside unfolding dimensionality—the idea is co-adaptive.

Now finally here we see that even though attraction is the very opposite of attractiveness—we don’t even know what the attractive is until the mechanism of three dimensional longing and movement begins to assert itself—and here is where the two, sad attraction and happy attractiveness, really co-exist: within moving perspective. The attractive exists only as a step in attraction’s journey. The desire for what is absent becomes the first and last sign of love, love which is always desire itself, love which is always at a loss before the merely attractive—since it is unable to show its attraction for it in a socially acceptable manner. The paradox we are contemplating in this essay is not only real, it is the key to everything.

We recently read a first-hand account in a quasi-public forum, of a wife and mother in India—a country where all the women seem gloriously feminine and all the males gloriously geeky—who confessed an affair to her husband, an affair which, apparently exists first, as an act of courageous free will on her part, and, second, as an affair distant and poetic and romantic—although the “other man” possesses ideal male attributes. Her husband, upset at first, has accepted the affair, and the two men have become friends.

What this means is that attraction requires distance, and with the advocate of the Internet, it is more and more possible for distantly chaste affairs to occur, conducted by those who are otherwise good and moral, who otherwise serve husbands and wives and children, affairs which use, more than anything else, the language of poetry. It is poetry’s new function to serve this new love of highly chaste and refined longing: passion as poetry meant passion to be.

Romanticism is not yet dead.

T.S. Eliot and the poetry of learned obscurity has run its course. For now.

Also dying out, for some reason, is the Brooklyn poetry of open mic rape and pussy frankness in front of brick walls.

The poetry which is now exploding is the poetry of Shelley and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

At least half the world consists of polite people in relationships without passion. Good people who sacrifice passion for stability. Common sense people who avoid the disappointing pitfalls of fantasy.

It is the desire of these people who will give the poetry of the future its dimensionality.

 

 

 

 

 

POETRY IS WHAT MY POETRY IS SEEKING

Poetry is what my poetry is seeking,

Not the throbbing of love that takes it all away,

Not difficult ideas difficult to say,

Not the clever being clever for an hour,

Not even the red dress, nor the laughter, nor the desert flower

Bravely wearing its yellow yellow under the yellow sun.

It is how they look away from her when she is speaking.

Poetry is what my poetry is seeking.

 

Poetry is what my poetry is seeking,

Not declarations that you are the only one,

You and I hidden, camping out in the tower,

The park below, great shadows spreading by the hour,

Not tears and tears raining from a head of clay,

Not shouts and certainties which make it run away.

It is how they look away from her when she is speaking.

Poetry is what my poetry is seeking.

 

 

I SAW HER TALKING TO ANOTHER

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I saw her talking to another

Who was only a friend.

That’s when I knew our love would end.

If she gets that much delight

In conversing with a friend,

Passion which leaps in the night

Seems small and shameful,

The rudeness of a selfish animal.

I would rather have her smile

And talk like that with me for awhile.

 

 

 

FOR ME

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Suicide is suicide.

I’ve contemplated suicide for weeks.

But suicide is suicide.

Poetry is what my poetry seeks.

Clean is clean.

Ignorance is not only ignorance, it reeks.

Socrates is Socrates.

Poetry is what my poetry seeks.

The unsayable is unsayable.

So says the silence, but it leaks.

I will say something now.

Poetry is what my poetry seeks.

 

NEVER LET NATURE TELL YOU WHAT TO DO

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Never let nature tell you what to do.

Nature takes one and turns it into two.

Nature hates the single mind

Unless it is a poet’s—who is blind.

Nature loves the many and hates the few.

Cruelty, cruelty. Nature is the worst.

There’s something hates one, but loves the two,

Oh but you better ask your partner first.

She is tall and beautiful and mild.

She was a child, and now, is the mother of a child.

In the tranquility of the morning I detect a single star.

“You are my sex; I can’t have a child with you,

As lovely as you are.

Never let nature tell you what to do.

I appreciate how you infiltrate my mind,

But impossible for another to be the two of us combined.

You will beat in vain upon my beautiful wall

My beautiful sculpture must be your all.

The world will go forward without us, I’m afraid.

But you and I can lie here safely in the shade.

There is no chance that anything will be new.”

You didn’t let nature tell you what to do.

At the graduation I saw you alone in your seat,

Miserable, seeing me seeing you; that was sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

THESE GROVES

These groves are quiet

Where my lover in a purple cloud lies down.

Unhappy shadows riot.

Her hair is black, her skin, Bengali brown.

Religious crowds have not been fed,

Religious colors are a bright, bright red.

Those who roll by the river could drown.

 

Flowers in the groves rebel

In a tangerine-yellow yell.

The crimson noises

Kiss red against red

When our kissing pauses.

Aquamarines have secrets to tell.

 

Gray eyes of poem’s roses

Sleep where the persian poppy dozes.

The springy orchard and the oozing well

Release a pungent indigo smell.

No shadow is afraid.

The weed has an adamantine need

In the darkening shade.

Blue silken bell.

 

I came across the roof to see

What her religion means to me.

I dropped down from my height

In a cloud of white,

Startled by the odors of this

Delicious kiss.

 

Buzzing flies

Are husky in their thighs.

The one color which bled in my heart

Was green—which made the landscape start.

The million kisses I had in mind

Crept into hers. The groves are blind

To the lighter hues,

To drops of rain, to dusty magentas and blues.

 

A religious crowd is pressing in.

A glassy, ebony breathing skin

Breathes the world I am breathing in.

Now the night is almost white.

In dark groves my Bengali dies.

Who drinks the maroon noon

Belonging to her cryptic sighs?

 

 

 

 

SOME CRITICAL OBSERVATIONS

We have nothing against line breaks. But line breaks do not substitute for punctuation. And lack of punctuation is not poetic.

Criticism is not about brainwashing or bullying. That’s brainwashing and bullying, not criticism. A poet who is highly defensive about their own work can be a brainwashing bully. Brainwashing and bullying can be done by anyone and has nothing to do with Criticism, per se.

Criticism is a guide, that’s all. It’s the brain of the eyes. Good criticism lays out examples, shares work from many ages and writers, and presents it. End of story. Nothing wrong with that. If you are a nature poet, and there’s a million examples of nature poetry out there, you should count criticism which knows something about nature poetry as your friend—that is, if you yourself, as the poet, are not a brainwashing bully.

Writing workshops = a modern money-making scheme. We can objectively read our own work. It is brainwashing to say otherwise. If you can’t edit your work, solo, you are no writer. Criticism belongs to the newspaper, the public square, the lecture hall, not the private, writing workshop, classroom—and so the latter should not exist. The writing workshop can only exist as “invite-only” mischief, as behind-the-scenes reputation making, as institutional thievery of what should remain private in the writer’s house. Good professional criticism has been killed by the Writing Program era.

Any piece of writing can be ridiculed. The question in every particular case is always: should it be? This ‘should’ applies on many subtle levels so that a literary critic is truly the most important member of any modern society. But Criticism has been taken from society and imprisoned in a textbook. Socrates was the first really good one. Critics don’t belong in the classroom—it is a perverse waste of talent for troublesome, cynical ends.

Reading. That’s really all literary education is. Throw in purely material considerations of metrics, a few mechanical prose issues. Anything else is dubious, and perhaps damaging.

As Alexander Pope said, the spirit is more important than the letter. Don’t nitpick. On the other hand, grammar is 50% of writing. Poets who can’t punctuate kill themselves. Poe was a fierce critic, but only to rebuff really bad writing. A Poe critic belongs in a newspaper, not workshops. The old English major is better for writing because reading is better for writing. Workshops are pathological and unnecessary. If teaching writing is your gig, we are sorry. Of course it’s not your fault—it’s the landscape today.  Just pretend you are a literature teacher. And for God’s sake, make them read Plato. Be confident they will get enough empty modern certainty on their own.

E. E. Cummings used punctuation a lot. Semicolons abound in many of his poems. He went to Harvard. He used stanza, rhyme, repetition, parenthetical marks, and least of all, the line break, for poetical emphasis. He was a meticulously formalist Romantic poet who belonged to the modernist, 1920s, Dial clique of Moore, Williams, Pound, and Eliot, eloped with money-bags Scofield Thayer’s wife, won an annual Dial award just like the rest of them (with a substantial cash award) and went on to outsell them all.

Cummings fooled everyone into thinking he was modern. Clever guy.

A good writer fools others.

But not you.

A LOVE THAT LOVES IS THE LOVE THAT’S NOT AFRAID

She made such declarations when she was dying.

I found out how much she loved me in the crying,

In crying that wet her face with waters of torrential rain.

She loved me, dying, in pain.

She confessed in the shade.

A love that loves is the love that’s not afraid.

You were different. You loved me now and then.

You held back. You were proud. You knew many men

Could be yours. You greeted me when

You were in the mood, and you were afraid

I would be with another in the shade.

A love that loves is the love that’s not afraid.

She forgave me.

She was out of her mind

And I was out of mine.

We talked in the evening. There was no wine.

Hesitantly, we held each other in the shade.

O the love that loves is love that is afraid.

 

WHAT YOU LOVED FOR AN INSTANT

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What you loved for an instant

Was the slightly excited way her mouth opened when she smiled,

The symmetrical perfection of the features,

The healthy beauty of hair and skin, the intelligence

You noticed in demeanor and expression.

As she left, you saw his passive face,

Bored as he looked at her mutely as she followed him

Out of the crowded café,

And you wondered, as you admired her,

Why he didn’t love her, but maybe he did,

But like you, and everyone, he was hiding

His love. Certainly it was love that he hid?

THE POET HAS NO GODDAMN IDEA

The poet has been crowned for days and nights
And all songs and all singing delights
And all movies and all night stills,
And all night pools, and the perfumed hills.
The rock songs and the rock celebrities
And the mansions and the mysteries.

The poet has these, and the poet has you,
Because you see a book, and you don’t know what to do.
But the poet knows.
The poet has a sharp nose
For books and things,
Publishing rights, criticisms, and rings.

The poet is trying the lock
But the key doesn’t fit.
There is an awkward silence.
Are you starting to realize this guy isn’t it?
This isn’t the right night. This isn’t the moon.
Fuck.  The guy who wrote this is a loon.

 

CHUMKI SHARMA OF CALCUTTA IS MARCH MADNESS CHAMPION!

AFTER EVERY RAIN I LEAVE THE PLACE FOR SOMETHING CALLED HOME

WHO MADE ME FEEL BY FEELING NOTHING

I WISH YOU WERE JUST YOU IN MY DREAMS

THE LARKS CRY OUT AND NOT WITH MUSIC

This is the FINAL FOUR, Chumki Sharma, Maura Stanton, Lori Desrosiers, Mary Angela Douglas, with the final order of the final four, and champion!
Thanks to all who played.  Congratulations, Chumki  Sharma!

THE WORST POEMS ARE READ

The worst poems are publicly read.
The best ones are read later
Secretly, with surprise,
As if the best were hidden for your eyes.

You found them in the volume published in a hurry;
The publisher, languid, playful—the poet, only worry,
A slim volume, with blurbs gracing a green cover,
Poems of sorrow for a sad, lost lover,
Reflecting your experience, not told
To anyone—the love, illicit, but passionately bold.

The best poems are not read
By the poet at the reading,
Who loved, and still loves,
And has no idea who likes exactly what,
Where she is, and what she might be needing.

The worst poems are read,
The best poems, missed,
Like this one about no one,
Who no one ever kissed.

 

 

 

FOR B AND A

They say women are crazy, and that’s why heartbreaks occur:

She’s not leaving you—she’s leaving you leaving her.

I loved her when I could, and this is when she left;

My heart was full—shocked to find hers bereft.

I loved her in the crescent or the full moon,

Knowing love wasn’t always, but at least it was soon.

If she wasn’t mine today, or even tomorrow,

Next week, surely, there wouldn’t be any sorrow.

But something—something—must have grown in her mind:

My satisfaction meant I was unkind.

If I could love her Wednesday, smile, and be glad

On Friday, wasn’t Thursday at least a little sad?

Was Thursday a day of smiling, too, she died

That Thursday I wrote poems—while she cried.

She wanted me—and hated it—all the time;

I kissed her Sunday; then Monday, Tuesday wrote rhyme,

Suffering not, for she was not—yet she was always mine;

She didn’t like it that she and my poems belonged to me this way.

She left, and now we suffer every night and every day.

 

 

 

 

WHAT I SAID BRIEFLY TO YOU

What I said briefly to you

Is what you will remember,

And what I practiced, long hours in the dark,

Will make no impression at all.

I worried about my imperfect face,

My impetuous, nerdy voice,

But you liked me at a glance—because I was tall.

I don’t wish it to be easy. I want to climb

A week’s journey into the clouds sighing in your mind.

Your body? I will get around to that next time.

What a sarcastic smile in a beautiful face

Can do. It taught me to fear one thing: disgrace.

I can repeat in the mirror of my memory

Safely and tactfully your irregular beauty.

This mirror is the secret to how men fall.

I didn’t know this until I wrote you a poem.

And it made no impression at all.

 

IDEALISM

chumki's fire

Realism has been the rule in painting, fiction,and poetry since the late 19th century.

Idealism has disappeared into Realism’s shadow in the general sweep of secular modernity for over 100 years.

What do we mean by Idealism?

Idealism is when the poet reasons like this:

It is impossible to capture life. To capture life in a picture or photograph, for instance, is to capture but a fleeting look, and while this has its value, is it art?  Reproducing exactly what exists is not possible: so is Realism possible?

Realism is not possible.

Idealism concedes what Realism does not: reality cannot be captured.  Idealism, by this common sense understanding alone, surpasses at once, the realism of Realism.

Further, Idealism now says: since Realism is impossible, it makes even more sense to make poetry and art, which is the imperfect reproduction of reality, ideal.

The Idealist understands that the “Realist” is an “Idealist,” anyway, on every level: reality is too vast and the poet too insignificant for reality to impart its realism in art—the manner and the process and the subject of all expression is determined by the poet making personal and ideal choices.

The issue is not whether a photograph is accurate, or not, in its depiction of what it depicts; the “realistic” photograph is not placed beside nothing, for then, the photograph has a small contribution of “realism” to make.

The issue is whether the photograph is accurate when placed next to reality.  The answer then, is a resounding no.  The “realistic” photograph is, in that case, pitifully wanting, and any use of that photograph is either utilitarian in the most mundane sense—a passport photo, a police photo, etc—or it exists precisely because of some higher, ideal purpose.

So the only artistic choice is idealism.

Idealism is the measure, then, of art, not realism.

Realism is nothing more than a diminished and superfluous version of Ideal Art and Poetry.

Art or writing we admire is always based on ideal depictions of reality, and the more “real” we think a work is, the more that work is, in fact, “ideal” in its motives and representations.  All pleasurable depictions of reality, in poetry or art, are nothing more than ideal insights—disguised as “real” depictions.  Anything else is utilitarian and practical, and not artistic.

One might think of the artist da Vinci’s studies of anatomy as realism—and they are, as much as they are practical and not artistic.

Nature can be beautiful and practical at the same time: think of the flower, with its beauty uniting realism and idealism.  Precisely.  Because reality is that which cannot be made “realistic” in an ideal, or any sort of way by the artist—reproducing the beauty of the (practical) flower is just another failure under the “realism” umbrella.  No artist who is an artist would merely replicate the beauty of the flower so that the beauty of the flower is all the viewer sees.

Art is idealism, or it is not art.

And idealism.  What is it, then?

Is it a happy substitute for a reality which cannot be grasped or understood?

No.  Because as much as reality can be grasped or understood, we have the beginning of idealism.

And what is the end of idealism?

The same as the beginning: happiness.

All poetry and art should make us happy.

But now we must be careful, because happiness belongs to reality, not art, and we have taken pains in this essay to make the reader see that Realism in art does not exist—but if happiness is what we are after, and happiness is real, are we not in danger of sliding back into art which falsely pretends to be realistic? No, and in fact, this is the very thing which makes Idealism “realistic” and triumphant in a realistic manner.  Reality can only be grasped in the smallest way and that “way” is—happiness.  Think of Aristotle, who said tragedy makes us happy.  Think of the art and the writing which makes you happy: it partakes of reality, of the world, of course it does—just not in a “realistic” manner, as much as we assume this to be the case.  This is our point.

We are not saying Idealism is better than Realism—we are saying it is all Idealism—and this truth will make our poetry and art better going forward.

This is easier said, than done.  Audiences and readers hunger for what they think is “realism.”

As a child, I hated museums and loved zoos.

In my childish fancy, I wanted “realism.”

But zoos are “ideal,” in presenting animals from all over the world in cages for the child to see.

Museums, with their heaps of treasure, were not “ideal” enough to my young mind.

Even in infancy, “idealism” is preferred, no matter how much we think “realism” is preferred—it is not. Realism is impossible.

The child delights in drawing at a very young age—and why?  For its “realism?”  Of course not.

The idealist does not avoid the pretense of realism—but that pretense must always lead to happiness, and happiness alone is the justification for all art and all poetry.

What is importantly real, or really important, will be manifest in the art as long as “the real” is not the spike which we fall on, or the light we use to “see,” but the elevating skill of the ideal process itself.

Paris (street = Paris & not Paris) does not need to be evoked with every street in Paris.

The sufferings of mankind do not need to be invoked with suffering.

Art does not need a conscience, since that exists already in reality.

Art does not need anything that already exists in reality.

This is the severe code of complete happiness which should be the measure of all poetry and art.

 

 

ALONE

I’m thinking alone
Is what we always are, but never wish to be.
I’m thinking how
Strange it was to watch you fall in love with me,
As if it always was, but now
That we are lovers, you don’t know how.

And neither do I. How do you fill up a day
When love is everything you want to say?
Life has no idea how to help you do
What you need to do—the plan is done by the two of you:
You, sighing that you don’t how to sing,
Me, crying, unable to do anything
That hasn’t been done before, better, by any number of creeps.
Life is made for the loveless worker who sleeps.
I am wide awake in this bed,
Unable to get this mystery out of my head
Resting millions of miles from your head.
All the crap that has gone before
And the doubts. Love stands on a slippery floor.
Angry, insulted. How did it happen that love
Became this, when we loved, and we knew, and we loved.
All I kept thinking was, don’t give up,
Even if life, forced to the edge by cruel life, lied.
Decide to stay. Or never decide.

JUST AND CRUEL

It is better to secretly burn—
Than publicly love in return.
It is easier to wallow
In the whims of love
Than deliberately and anxiously follow
The cruel love of a just, cruel God above.

So the beautiful smile secretly.
You, my only religion, in secret taught me and kissed me.

It is more difficult to be loved—
You have to love back
The lover not as beautiful as you,
The lover, who because they love you, lack
You, love, everything, and all, all! you secretly wish to do.

It is more difficult to be loved—
You have to love back
The lover not as beautiful as you,
The lover, who because they love you, lack
You, love, everything—which you are lacking, too.

 

CIVILIZATION

We know what civilization is:

Routines, friendships, small pleasures.

Rusty R. Smith enjoyed a cigarette

The way another man would enjoy

A thousand virgins.

Rusty had the occasional doughnut.

Perhaps he was gay, perhaps he wasn’t.

Rusty drank his coffee black; he liked good restaurants,

Smiling; no sex. Dead at fifty one,

He enjoyed the chatty, fatty, easy life

Of affable politics and work.

Democracy is one virgin per man,

And quite often, none;

One is not allowed to have a thousand.

But in some places one can,

And this fucks things up totally.

 

 

 

FEAR AND DESIRE

This thing, desire, makes me sad—

Like love, which is afraid, and a fraud, and fails,

Failing to do what it takes to be glad.

Desire is imaginative and believes the tales

Of desire’s success, that friend

Who ruins what my real friends patiently mend.

I believe those stories of infidelity and madness,

But they are false, exactly as desire is false. Love’s madness fails.

Despondency came; love and desire sought gladness,

But despondency and melancholy rule

Those too cautious, who went to school

Or church, and in the work of words found sadness.

If desire and love make us sad, what of fear that grieves?

The body dies: this I know; this knowing has taken its toll;

What I want most desperately is the survival of my soul;

Sad desire plots and plans. Only fear believes.

 

 

 

 

HAPPY MOTHERISM

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Hillary Clinton supporters are the happiest people in the world. They are professional. They know what is right and they know what is important.

The happiest type of person in the whole world is the western single woman, who has no children, works at a college, buys new clothes once in a while, works hard, but not too hard, pleases the deans, watches students go into debt, and after work goes home and watches television.

Let the college be an art college. Let this woman vote Democratic.

It does not matter if this woman is vacuous and pursues no art herself. She will be considered intellectual. She will be attractive to intellectuals. If she sneers at Sarah Palin and remains childless, she will be considered the epitome of intellectual suavity, cunning foresight, and classiness. It doesn’t matter what she watches on TV, either. Okay, maybe a little PBS.

This is the mark of the intellectual in the West: not having children.

The surest sign of intelligence is foresight. If one doesn’t have foresight, one can possess all sorts of sharp, persistent, smart qualities, and still be considered a complete rube—anti-intellectual in the extreme.

Having children long ago provided a direct benefit to the farmer who needed help on the farm. Those with foresight had children.

One could have 20 children and be the world’s greatest composer, or philosophe.

Today, in the west, it is not necessary to have children.

The world “must be peopled,” yes.

But still, having children is generally considered “irresponsible.”

Or people have children because children are cute—despite the enormous expense, anxiety, loss of privacy, and work required.

This is not foresight.

The childless woman thinks, “they will not always be cute.”

This is foresight.

This alone makes the childless woman, no matter how shallow, selfish or naivé, a bonafide intellectual, a prize companion of artists and cool people.

The childless woman of contemporary western civilization can be all these things:

A “mom” to lonely grown men.

A “sis” to other childless women.

A “daughter” to older men and women.

A “helpmate” to starving artists.

A “comfort” to despairing, divorced people.

So why should a smart, engaging, giving person have children?

There is nothing better than to go home every night, boringly scrolling through Pinterest on the train, and then curl up with milk and cookies in front of the TV.

Sure, the militarized West is suffering from depressing population decline.

The richness of the symbol of the childless woman is worth it, however.

This uncanny symbol might be called the Hillary Clinton phenomenon.

This is not to say that every childless woman is just like Hillary.  But the odds are very good they will support Hillary.

Hillary is the greatest female symbolic force in Western intellectual circles.

As long as the focus is on “can-do” Hillary—as long as her lone child and husband are kept tactfully out of sight—she can be a Big Bank, Soft Machine, New World Order, Republican—and still be considered a Democrat, because she enjoys this great mystical, symbolic status: Mother to All—Mother to None.

A powerful symbol with far-reaching consequences.  Personally, she can be (and usually is) empty and dull, a bland comfort to all; but this is preferred.  The symbol almost requires it.

 

 

 

 

FLOWERS OF BLACK

In the old age black was not counted fair—Shakespeare, sonnet 127

I prefer the black flowers to the white.
The ink of my poems blends in with the night.
I prefer the black of petal and stem
Which in the shadows will not be noticed by them.

Flowers of black, come back, come back.

I prefer the black eyes to the blue.
The look in-between the look of you.
The look that leads me into the night
Where even the dust is dark with delight.

Flowers of black, come back, come back.

The blind know the perfume is better
Than the bright, informing letter.
I banish the clutter of color from my sight.
I want to feel you—you—in the night.

Flowers of black, come back, come back.

The night has its honesty
As the day has its lies.
If I see, I want to see
You silently speak with your eyes.

Flowers of black, come back, come back.

Put black petals on my bed.
These happy flowers of white
Oppress the memory. Travel instead
To the bed that is always a bed,
Where nothing is familiar with light,
Where a love loves love in the folded up night.

 

THAT MAKES YOU GREAT

When you are a poet, and a woman, and you run, and you are panting, and you are late.
And you apologize, and you smile.
That makes you great.

When you are a poet, and take the train and admire the terrain from the window and wonder about fate
With notebooks on your knee.
That makes you great.

When you are a poet, and you write with your eyes all the time, and your notebook is wet, and now it’s late
And you worry about the worms between the flowers.
That makes you great.

When you are a poet, and you decide you will sort it out—with poetry, poetry inside of poetry, late, late
Into the evening, and then the sun.
That makes you great.

When you are a poet, and read doctrines, and you walk among halls and you laugh and you make them wait
And you love—a little—the art of cruelty.
That makes you great.

When I see you coming, when I look at you, when I breathe you, when I read you, when I desire to be with you late, 
When you whisper the quotation that is my fate,
I would not be a stone, or a statue, or great.

 

 

THE POEM REACHES OUT

The poem reaches out.  The poet doesn’t care.
The poem does what a person in love wouldn’t dare.
The poem says precisely, without motive or riot,
The secret of the secrets crying in the quiet,
Secrets which the banner-strewn world tells
To the drowned, where the large wave swells,
To the buried, where the winds whistle in the deep wells,
To the dead, where the lizard listens to the bells.

Crash and clang. The dead world makes noise,
The creaking, metallic run where the passive experience their joys
On the train, after it leaves the station. The hearts
That were there, go home, and, in fits and starts,
Wish for the journey to start back again
So the return might be able to return again.
We went there, again, to the toad in the fen,
To the frog in the lake.
They listen for you—forgotten, for my sake.
I cannot place your eye.

A poem falls to the bottom of the lake
In a capsule, warm and dry.

 

THE FINAL FOUR!!!

WHO MADE ME FEEL BY FEELING NOTHING —MAURA STANTON

THE LARKS CRY OUT AND NOT WITH MUSIC —MARY ANGELA DOUGLAS

I WISH YOU WERE JUST YOU IN MY DREAMS —LORI DESROSIERS

AFTER EVERY RAIN I LEAVE THE PLACE FOR SOMETHING CALLED HOME —CHUMKI SHARMA

Marla Muse: So great to see women rocking this Scarriet Poetry March Madness tournament!

But does it matter, Marla? Doesn’t poetry transcend gender, transcend everything, in the name of beauty?

Marla Muse: Poetry transcends nothing! Transcendence is a mere intellectual idea! Poetry is the opposite of transcendence—it is more earthy than anyone realizes. It does matter that women are winning!

Okay, Marla. You don’t have to get upset.

Marla Muse: Oh Tom, you know I love you.  You’ve run a beautiful tournament. We’ve seen so many beautiful lines. And look at these lines in the final four!

Yes, we should congratulate everyone, now.  And these last four.  They are impressive.

Marla Muse: It’s so exciting. I have no words.

 

THE DRAMATIC IS NEVER US

The dramatic is never us.

It’s the homeless man talking to himself on the back of the bus.

The dramatic is the voice we use

When describing someone else—when drama visits you, you lose.

Drama is ugly fights, but also—the movie star

Whom we think we love, and when in love, deliciously dramatic is what we are.

So love is this: feeling inside

What, if on display, the whole world would deride.

That’s why love lives in secret, despite

Public, ostentatious marriages and the chorus of love is always right!

The only reason for love ending?

We sigh too loudly, and say to ourselves, is this me? Drama defending?

We sigh too loudly, and we are heard

By our rational self—who knows the dramatic is absurd.

But dramatic is also feeling, and feeling is what we need

To defend ourselves, otherwise we’ll be expressionless when someone hits us and makes us bleed.

Dramatic love fades, but dramatic hate grows

Until this kind of drama is all our heart really knows:

Leave me alone, you asshole, I never loved you,

Or anyone. Alone, in the back of the bus: that’s me, in a year, or two.

The poetic is never us.

Poetry is such a difficult thing to do.

Remember when I gave you that poem and you didn’t think it was for you?

 

 

 

THE GIRL

Compare her movements to the way older women walk—heavily, stiffly,

In comparison to this little one, whose every movement is a dance—

Look at her! She approaches the letters in a curious trance,

Her wandering fairy boots, her outfit slightly stiff, her hair turning;

She has more life in one of her arms or hands

Than Madame Stein, who, somberly weighed down by a million sorrows, stands

Proudly and solidly in womanhood, reading the pedantry of poetry

Ignorantly: poetry of the world, poetry titanic and hurly-burly.

It is poetry of the mind, the chopping in the pan of all that is man.

All virtue is young, all loveliness is girly;

All the pains we take in love, in undressing, to find

Love, are missed by this, by these wild movements of this sweet and innocent mind.

 

NEW SCARRIET ESSAY: EVERYTHING IS HARD TO SEE

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“…that we as one might separate the curtain.” –Ben Mazer, December Poems

Calling someone something never makes it true.

Truth itself is deaf to the facts of what we say.

What you put in your poetry is not your poetry.

It is best not to be certain of anything.

You might feel you are certain of race, but the massive mixing of the races is its most singular feature, so your eyes could not be racist even if they wanted to be. The more stupid a person is, the more abstractly and intellectually certain they are about things. To triumph in politically motivated libel and slander is the insidious achievement of a certain kind of neocon, anglophilic, intellectualism which dominates not only thinking in highbrow circles, but a great amount of the power brokerage of the world itself.

The pitch of rhetoric (as obvious as that moment when a clanging train roars past you) changed around 1900—this change is typically labeled “Modernism”—but the change really occurred when imperial Britain and imperial America joined hands in the Gilded Age of Teddy Roosevelt and the Spanish American War.

The heroic America which burst upon the world in the 18th century was defined more than anything as a Quarrel With Empire Britain. When the American/British quarrel ended—its last gasp the Confederacy (secretly and tacitly) supported by Britain/France and opposed by Russia—America effectively became an English speaking extension of London.

America that had been the glory of the world disappeared; the new Anglo-American world leader—even as unprecedented technological innovation continued unabated in the booming, democratic, American colony—made sure food became “fast,” made sure the arts declined, the Middle East was crushed, and saw to it that insane war, secretive strong-arming, and shrill, controlling, divisive rhetoric became the norm.

Today, due to the hard work of Modernism since the mid-19th century, almost all highbrow, power brokering, rhetoric is aimed at this intellectual certainty: you are a hater, you are destroying the planet, what you put in your poetry is your poetry, and you must go broke educating yourself to know this.

This is the messed-up but beautiful world of the 21st century.

Philosophy once sought doubt, and ran from intellectual certainty.

Genius—da Vinci, Ben Franklin, Poe, Mozart—once received a certain amount of devotion.

Now this devotion is frowned upon, because in some abstract sort of way, insinuated by the intellectual management of the new world order, this devotion participates in “hating.”

Children are geniuses in the way they learn, because they do not learn one way. Crippling pedagogy harms them but little; unfortunately, when the student is older, and socialized fitting into society becomes pedagogically imperative, pedagogy does cripple and harm.

The genius resists mainstream intellectualization. The genius knows that what you put in your poetry is not the poetry. The genius doubts all the “hating” rhetoric. The genius—the genius in everyone—naturally feels alone.

When you experience confusion: is that a man or a woman? Casually, walking along the street, for a moment, innocently, we may not know. Or, is that my friend? Or someone else? Our eyes may play tricks on us. We are overjoyed when we know, for doubt is the opposite of happiness.

Imagine the horror of losing memory and peering with confusion at everything. Would beauty and love still be apparent if memory were gone, if pleasurable things were not attached to friends, or the familiar? Is this the thrill of the opium dream, when beautiful sensations exist purely on their own?

Is beautiful oblivion a bad thing?

It is a bad thing, for one reason only—the dreamer realizes that he or she is alone.

Loneliness is the aching burden of the genius, who tends to get from others only two things: malicious envy or vacuous praise.

Criticism is the flip side of, and just important as, poetry.

Nature, of course, is the Genius. All we think of as ‘human ingenuity’ is nothing more than observing and then pragmatically using nature’s gifts.

We see the reflection in the lake. Reflecting upon that reflection, the mirror is born, the camera is born, the cinema is born, and every technology pertaining to receiving, storing and using pictures.

Nerd-ball mathematics belongs to every insight, whether conscious, unconscious, draped in intellectuality, or not.

The refinement of science into the social sciences—business, advertising, arts, pedagogy, entertainment and administrative success–this refinement is the chief feature of Modernism (Anglo/Americanism) and probably has more to do with lying than truth. It is simply how Empire controls things: rule the seas, then lines of journalism, story and communication—in which divisive and libelous rhetoric is effected to divide and conquer, stir up, or pacify, depending on the situation.

The genius seeks to get out from under the cloud of social sciences and see reality as it really is.

The genius revels not in measurement chopped-up, but measurement.

The genius seeks the whole, not the partial.

Mathematics is how nature is largely understood, and old genius and new genius copy her mathematically—whether in architecture or sending a man to the moon.

Empire is what we read about in the paper. It is not life, which triumphs every day; poetry reflects the vibrations of this triumph.

They talk about “mindfulness” these days, but of course there is nothing new here; it is more of what the genius who copies nature has always known: be attentive; observe how nature does things.

Mathematics can be used frivolously as well: pie charts of marketing surveys, the observation that it takes 10,000 hours to become truly proficient at something. This is social refinement, the sort of semi-interesting thing people like Malcolm Gladwell traffic in, but this is a far cry from genius itself.

Geeky math is always a good place to start: why are ugly people smart? Because they desire the proportion denied to their looks and pursue it with a vengeance in their brains. Even beauty can be willed.

Mathematics is on the side of the good poets; good poetry has interesting (mathematical) rhythm—it supports what they say, so what they say sounds better, and this excites the brain in a way that inspires original thinking: how something is said impacts what is said—the counter-intuitive reality of this increases the efficiency of what-thinking, as how-thinking is concretely and intuitively felt.

Mathematics is the complete mind of nature: the genius is always listening to it.

When a woman sits at her dressing table before her mirror, she is not striving to be beautiful, but young. Youth is what the clock of nature gave her. Nature gave to her what her parents gave to her—once she passes the parenting age, nature’s beauty is gone—and there is no human substitute possible. Men decay quickly, too. This is never as tragic, since men are horrors no matter how they look. Most of the time men deserve to crumble.

Everything is manifest in mathematical nature. Nature is a clock.

As I write this, my home town of Salem is hosting, for the eighth year in a row, the Massachusetts Poetry festival, and throughout downtown every imaginable workshop on poetry is offered—it’s the Age of the Workshop—with the naivé but successful marketing belief that whatever hodgepodge thing you put into poetry becomes poetry.

But what you put into poetry is not poetry.

How you say what you are is poetry.

Poetry is hard to see.

The poetic genius travels into the valley of the clock alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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