Helen Vendler’s review of Ben Mazer’s The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (Un-Gyve Press, 2015) in the New York Review of Books last year did not start a Ransom revival. Our nation’s humiliated pundit class has been preoccupied with other issues recently.

When clothes come off and barriers come down, it makes us feel uncomfortable. There are walls and then there are walls. Persons and nations. The law attempts to bar and unite at once. You cannot come in here but of course you can. You will show us what you have but yes you can be clandestine.

We all know a point has no density. It was da Vinci who asserted that a point in geometry is like a zero in mathematics—it is a marker which is crucial for taking up no physical space.

We can argue in abstract realms to much understanding and profit, but when it comes to physical spaces, disputation inevitably turns into a war. Physical means a fight. Abstraction is the only chance for peace. As soon as we talk of physical walls, physical barbarians will be there. Look at the unborn child and the fight over that. Things must be born. But things also must not be born.  Private property enrages the anarchist; the middle classes watched in uncomprehending horror—and still do—as anarchist rage exploded in 20th century modern art—a business run mostly by independently wealthy anarchists; vapid, sharp pieces flying in static-crackling, faux-humble, morally ambiguous terror, causing madness and poetry which goes on for too long, either in the air or in the mind, the paper-thin derangement of the 20th century avant-garde, called at one point “Futurism,” by its Italian fascist wing, but going by all kinds of names in its cult-like fervor, in its simultaneously scattered and focused Margaret Sanger rage, reflecting a world (small place!) which lost its wits (was it 1900? 1850? Who knows?)—in what might be called Britain’s Revenge Against America, the slick British Empire, with its singular, secular, modern reach. The Empire’s genocide against the Irish, India, Arabs, Persians, and Africans, the Opium Wars against the Chinese, the tacit support of the Confederacy in the American Civil War, barging gloriously into World War One to kill the Huns, appeasing the Nazis, and finally turning the United States of America into a CIA Deep State image of its self. That lawyer-clever, Ivy League, leafy-quiet Empire. That one. The one run by London. Divide to conquer. Plant bombs secretly and don’t say a word. White Boss Man Workshop subverting and subduing nations for their raw materials. “We shall write National Geographic. You shall be in it.” Write the history. Make the history. The British Empire on which the fake sun never sets.

The 20th century avant-garde began its rise during World War One, and grew along with German and Japanese militarism, haiku prose poetry, primitive painting, hideous Brutalist architecture, and atonal music in the 1920s and 30s.

As this horror successfully rose, these gradually fell: Platonist/Judeo-Christian philosophy, the glories of Greece and Rome, Renaissance art and poetry, Pope and Byron, and everything splendid which had gone before. Poe said poetry belonged to beauty, but the 20th century disagreed.

In a valuable new edition which collects all of John Crowe Ransom’s poems in one place for the first time, the editor Ben Mazer, in his restrained and sage introduction, focuses on self-conscious self-censorship and revision, of a poet’s own work, over time. The poet, in this case, Ransom, the boy from Tennessee who went off to fight in the Great War and study Greek and Latin at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, treats his poems very much as if they were written by somebody else. Ransom never included poems from his first volume, Poems About God, (Holt, 1919) in Selected editions of his poetry, even though Robert Graves asked to reproduce them, and they were full of fascinating lines and themes.

John Crowe Ransom—and we find this out from Mazer’s now definitive edition—also wrote exceptional poems never collected at all. There’s something strangely half-hidden about this placid Southerner, hyper-explaining essayist, enterprising editor, and slightly mad, gifted poet.

Ransom’s poems are not formalist in a boring way—erratic at times, but even when they are not great, they are beautiful and creepy:

The swimmer’s body is white and clean,
It is washed by a water of deepest green
The color of leaves in a starlight scene,
And it is as white as the stars between.

(from the first poem in Ransom’s first book, “The Swimmer”)

John Crowe Ransom, in his highbrow formalism, overall learning and philosophical acumen, the central place as essayist, theorist, editor and mentor of Modernism in the American mode, the leader of Middle America Modernism—not only as a New Critic, not only as one of the academic leaders of the Creative Writing Program movement, but as poet, editor, philosopher, essayist—is as vital as Pound, (and more accessible and philosophically rigorous); and it is high time, not just for the sake of American Letters, but all Letters, that we, as literary and practical Americans, end the neglect of John Crowe Ransom.

But before we resurrect Ransom, there’s something we need to get out of the way. It has to do with tribal politics—which the British Empire has always exploited and gloried in, on the way to its phenomenal divide-and-conquer success.

In “Under the Locusts,” the 14th poem of Ransom’s first book—published when the highly respected Ransom, a World War One veteran, a school teacher, professor, a Rhodes Scholar with a Masters degree from Oxford University, was 31 years old—we have this stanza

Grinny Bob is out again
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

Perhaps this passage is why John Crowe Ransom, despite being the most important and influential poet/critic in 20th century American Letters, a Bollingen poetry prize winner in 1951 (the same controversial prize Pound won when he escaped hanging for treason), founding editor of the Kenyon Review, mentor to Jarrell and Lowell, the intellectual leader of New Criticism, author of iconic poems and essays which define Modernism better than any other—has been neglected and nearly forgotten.

Controversy has certainly not covered up Pound—who has many admirers.

“Blue Girls” by Ransom may be the only truly perfect poem in existence. (Mazer’s edition gives the two distinct versions, the 1924 original, and the great revised one from Ransom’s 1945 Selected.) Pound never wrote anything as good.

But to return to Ransom’s embarrassing stanza:

Robert Graves—editing and reprinting Ransom’s Poems About God as Grace After Meat in 1923—did not reprint all the poems in Poems About God, in Grace After Meat. Ransom sent a revised and partial copy of his first book to Graves, including “Under the Locusts.” Graves chose to reprint “Under the Locusts.” Ransom, having made a number of subtle changes to the poem, kept the “nigger” stanza intact, except for one slight alteration of the punctuation.

Grinny Bob is out again,
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

According to Ransom’s New Criticism idea, one shouldn’t or (cannot?) read poetry when one is bothering with the intent or the milieu of the author.  This prohibition certainly becomes stretched when looking at this stanza. Perhaps the poem does not reflect the poet’s feelings, but that of the “old men” in the poem. Then, perhaps, the New Criticism (and true poetry) triumphs and Ransom is off the hook? Here’s the poem in full:

What do the old men say,
Sitting out of the sun?
Many strange and common things,
And so would any one.

Locusts are sweet in spring
For trees so old and tough;
Locust trees give sorry shade,
Hardly good enough.

Dick’s a sturdy little lad
Yonder throwing stones;
Agues and rheumatic pains
Will fiddle on his bones.

Grinny Bob is out again,
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

Jenny and Will go arm in arm,
He’s a lucky fellow;
Jenny’s cheeks are pink as rose,
Her mother’s cheeks are yellow.

War is on, the paper says,
Wounds and enemies:
Now young gallivanting bucks
Will know what trouble is.

Parson’s coming up the hill,
Meaning mighty well;
Thinks he’s preached the doubters down,
And why should old men tell?

(Grace After Meat, 1923)

Auden said of Yeats, “Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.” The same could be said of Ransom, whose poetry often matches Yeats for poignancy and beauty: the mad American South hurt Ransom into poetry. But this is a cynical view—though most love that Auden quote. Ireland isn’t mad. America isn’t mad. The British Empire is mad. Or, we’re all mad.

Ransom and the Tennessean New Critics, before they assumed the New Critic name and mantle, defended, in 1930, the pre-Civil War, agrarian, American South in their prose anthology I’ll Take My Stand.

Later, in 1937, the evolving Fugitives—the Fugitive was Ransom’s poetry club and small magazine when he was a student at Vanderbilt—as they were turning into the New Critics—championed Pound’s haiku prose modernism in their text book Understanding Poetry. 

Brooks and Warren were the New Critic editors of the influential text; the two writers were close associates of Ransom, and we’ll never know precisely how Ransom felt about their book—which, trying to look forward, perhaps, not only praised the crackpot Pound in its pages, but outright condemned the Southern formalist Poe (obviously an influence on the poet, Ransom), copying an attack by the English critic Aldous Huxley—who ridicules at some length the rhythmic magic of “Ulalume.”

This was the same decade—the 1930s—which saw Pound’s friend T.S. Eliot give his speech against Jews at the University of Virginia. After Eliot intervened to help his friend Pound in 1945, he would attack Poe in “From Poe to Valery” in 1949. Ransom’s reputation as a poet—no doubt given a boost by his Bollingen win in 1951, (and it was every poet’s desire to be published in Ransom’s Kenyon Review during the 1950s—it was practically Plath’s highest dream)—nevertheless continued to fall: either his poetry was too similar to Poe’s, or the newer, more progressive, post-1945, Modernists couldn’t face down “Under the Locusts.”

The New Critics generally revised their reactionary views, like many Modernists, after the Nazis were soundly defeated in 1945.

The Agrarians quixotically played into the hands of the old British Empire.

Ransom and the Agrarians, in their love of the bucolic, explicitly decried American industrial capitalism—the one thing which allowed the U.S  to be strong, independent, and free of the British Empire.

The reactionary politics, and the “Empire” context we are putting it in, is not meant to be definitive, and can be seen as insidious, but just as easily it can be seen as quaint; Ransom was complex, and smarter than his fellow New Critics; over the symbolic mural of both politics and modernism, social and theoretical, Ransom was subtle, sage, and adept, equally facile at discussing religion or the impressionistic poetry of Wallace Stevens.

It would be unfair to see Ransom as only a “Southern” writer, as Poe is often cheaply and unfairly characterized. Critics too quick to make geography in literature paramount betray themselves as the most shallow kind.

Ben Mazer wisely avoids all controversial speculation; like the good scholar he is, Mazer sticks to the facts before him, and provides a bountiful treasure of a book in his Collected Ransom, replete with wonderful appendixes.

Speaking of Wallace Stevens (d. 1955), whose fame rose as Ransom’s fizzled, (Helen Vendler held aloft the Stevens torch; nothing equivalent was done for Ransom), there is a poem in Ransom’s second collection (Chills and Fever, 1924) which bears comparison to Stevens’ well-known “Peter Quince,” published in Stevens’ first collection, Harmonium, in 1923.

“Peter Quince” debuted in Alfred Kreymborg’s Others magazine in 1915; not a free-verse poem, as it should have been, in those early revolutionary days, but it passed muster with Pound and Williams’ Kreymborg’s clique, evidently, because of its risqué sexual nature. Stevens was never a popular poet—too abstract and professorial, the “lecture” often spoiling the music; Stevens never quite succeeded the way Frost did, in being “wise” in a relaxed, “contemporary” manner, and, exactly like Ransom, there was in Stevens’ poetry often that hint of the old-fashioned, which condemns the poet to artificially-clever-and-imitative purgatory—even if the beauty of the poems slaughters the meager prose rantings of everyone else. After the passage of much time, we realize: this isn’t old-fashioned, it’s good. The poetry becomes safe to like. This should happen to Ransom—at least, if not more, interesting than his contemporaries.

John Crowe Ransom’s “Judith of Bethulia” owns passages which remind one of “Peter Quince,” and in its precise stanzaic structure, lacks the trembling, insouciant, and exquisite music Stevens brings—and yet, Ransom’s poem has a more focused, coherent, and haunting narrative. Ransom, unlike Stevens, provides no lesson on “beauty;” instead Ransom’s “Bethulia” is immersed in a number of factual things, of which beautiful pathos is the unspoken and shimmering crown.

Judith of Bethulia

Beautiful as the flying legend of some leopard
She had not yet chosen her great captain or prince
Depositary to her flesh, and our defense;
And a wandering beauty is a blade out of its scabbard.
You know how dangerous, gentlemen of threescore?
May you know it yet ten more.

Nor by process of veiling she grew the less fabulous.
Grey or blue veils, we were desperate to study
The invisible emanations of her white body,
And the winds at her ordered raiment were ominous.
Might she walk in the market, sit in the council of soldiers?
Only of the extreme elders.

But a rare chance was the girl’s then, when the Invader
Trumpeted from the south, rumbled from the north,
Beleagured the city from four quarters of the earth,
Our soldiery too craven and sick to aid her—
Where were the arms could countervail this horde?
Her beauty was the sword.

She sat with the elders, and proved on their bleak visage
How bright was the weapon unrusted in her keeping,
While he lay surfeiting on their harvest heaping,
Wasting the husbandry of their rarest vintage—
And dreaming of the broad-breasted dames for concubine?
These floated on his wine.

He was lapped with bay-leaves, and grass and fumiter weed,
And from under the wine-film encountered his moral vision,
For even within his tent she accomplished his derision;
She loosed one veil and another, standing unafraid;
And he perished. Nor brushed her with even so much as a daisy?
She found his destruction easy.

The heathen are all perished. The victory was furnished,
We smote them hiding in our vineyards, barns, annexes,
And now their white bones clutter the holes of foxes,
And the chieftain’s head, with grinning sockets, and varnished—
Is it hung on the sky with a hideous epitaphy?
No, the woman keeps the trophy.

May God send unto our virtuous lady her prince.
It is stated she went reluctant to that orgy,
Yet a madness fevers our young men, and not the clergy
Nor the elders have turned them unto modesty since.
Inflamed by the thought of her naked beauty with desire?
Yes, and chilled with fear and despair.

For our money, this is better than Pound, and rivals Stevens.  What’s not to love here?

Buy Mazer’s book. Read Ransom’s poetry. And Ransom’s prose, too. Ransom doesn’t just write about New Criticism, or the South.  To begin, we suggest two of Ransom’s great Modernist essays in Garrick Davis’ Praising It New.

If Ransom is to be revived, Ben Mazer, with his wonderful, scholarly, edition of the collected poems, has done something very important.


Image result for adam and eve in painting

We are one; love’s impossible;
We never let anyone into our circle;
The circle of the self is immaculate, inviolate—
You cannot enter it.

Why did I think there could be love?
My whole life I searched for it,
And the idea of blending with another was heaven!
But now I find
Circles defended by the blind.
“Who’s there? Who’s entering my circle?”
It is I, the yearning and the beautiful.

I put my hand in someone’s hand.
While it happened, it was grand.
I thought love was making us one.
Two cannot be one.
Why did I think that was possible?
I cannot be in your circle.
Was never in there.
We say things. But we cannot care.

Is the circle good?  Is love at the center?
I feel it is. Until the blind blindly enter.

Weather destroyed fashion.
Love destroyed porn.
Who you are today
Gazed at you when you were born.
You’re more loving than you know.
But you’re in my circle. And you will have to go.



Now, from this island,

I see where I was wrong.

I thought there was an ocean,

And storms on this ocean were strong.

Rocks and paths were hidden—double

Uncertainties of blue mist appeared like ocean trouble.

It seemed to me the jungle slope

Was steep, and further into the rain, I lost hope.

My mind was a gusty unknown

As I traveled this island alone.

I didn’t know she was on the land—

Attached to the island; we could stand

Anywhere. She can apologize.

We were blind. Green interfered with my eyes.

There’s no island.


Image result for music in the bath in painting

Most of these songs are popular; ideally, they would be obscure and new to you, but you probably know most of them; but here they are, a type of song, defined by…”sink into.”  The criterion is somewhat unique: the songs are too good to be “background music,” and yet, because the songs have a certain nonchalance, a certain laziness—which can be a virtue in music—they will drift and wash over you, and not demand too much of you; and yet, because these songs are so wonderful, you should find yourself wishing the rest of the world would be quiet so you can listen to them.  Maybe you would like to fall asleep to them at night—and if you do fall asleep before the song is ended, is it still then not a good song? Where has a song gone when it still plays, and you are sleeping?  Many of these songs seem like they were written for that purpose—for the sleeping, not the waking, brain or ear.  The excitement here may be that so many genres are represented—why shouldn’t one be a fan of many different types of music?  Music would want it so. Looking at the list after picking these songs, we noticed that very few of them (“How Fortunate The Man With None” the notable exception) pontificate—and this makes them so much more interesting, various and powerful. There really is nothing to say. Music knows this. Science knows this. Math knows this. Humor knows this. Love knows this. What you actually say, is not that important in these areas. The way you don’t say it, though, is extremely important. You just need to look and hear. Genius looks and hears.  Meanwhile, the rest of us fret or talk. The songs are in no particular order. They are all good. If you do see a song you don’t know, go on you tube and listen to it immediately, because we guarantee all 100 of these songs are the greatest of their kind.  —the Scarriet editors

Fade Into You —Mazzy Star (deliciously insouciant)

Year Of The Cat —Al Stewart (almost like a movie)

A Whiter Shade Of PaleProcol Harum (Rock and Bach)

Horse With No Name —America (just a couple of flattened sevenths)

America —Simon & Garfunkle (life flowing into melody)

A Day In The Life —The Beatles (the first really transcendent rock song)

Tomorrow Never Knows —The Beatles (one chord will do)

Venus In Furs —Velvet Underground (fashionable amateurism)

Video Games —Lana Del Ray (best pop song of the 21st century)

Cosmic Dancer —T. Rex (glam sweetness)

Nights In White Satin —Moody Blues (most popular song of its type, perhaps)

The Rain Song —Led Zeppelin (this band did not just rock)

Two Thousand Light Years From Home —Rolling Stones (Ruby Tuesday & Lady Jane lost in space)

Alone Again Or —Love (strangely haunting 60s California band)

Riders On The Storm —The Doors (only the Doors)

Claire de Lune —Debussy (needs no comment)

Prelude To The Afternoon of A Faun —Debussy (and modern music begins)

Piano Concero No. 17 (slow movement) —Mozart (Mozart was maybe better slow than fast)

Moonlight Sonata (first movement) —Beethoven (the template of ‘sink into’)

Piano Concerto No. 4 (movements 1 & 2) —Beethoven (maybe his greatest pure orchestral work)

Symphony No. 3 (3rd movement) —Brahms (the majestic, autumnal Brahms!)

Mazurka A minor —Chopin (such a darling sweet piece; Horowitz is on you tube)

Gymnopédies No. 1 —Satie (I could listen to this forever)

Nocturne No. 1 —Chopin (maybe the greatest pure composer of the kind of music on this list)

I Want You (She’s So Heavy) —The Beatles (the lads get heavy and roll)

Daphnis et Chloé, Suite no. 2 —Ravel (classical swoon)

Radar Love —Golden Earring (riding is sinking)

In A Gadda Da Vida —Iron Butterfly (1968. Doors influenced)

When The Music’s Over —The Doors (Persian nights, babe)

The End —The Doors (crawling along)

Season of The Witch —Donovan (must be the season of the hurdy gurdy too)

How Fortunate the Man With None –Dead Can Dance (a meditative masterpiece)

He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot —Grandaddy (this song is like flying)

Autobahn —Kraftwerk (doesn’t try to be menacing, heavy, or cool. A pleasant ride)

I Fall In Love Too Easily —Chet Baker (we all do, don’t we?)

Midnight At the Oasis —Maria Muldaur (the 70s schmaltz industry)

Blue in Green —Miles Davis (a trumpet singing from the mist)

Love To Love You Baby —Donna Summer (Song as sex. In poor taste, unless done right.)

Light My Fire —The Doors (when FM radio was supreme)

Your Woman —White Town (the trumpet sample of this 90s tune knocks me out)

Sunshine Superman —Donovan (intricate groove)

I’m Not In Love —10cc (masterpiece of layering)

Guinnivere —Crosby, Stills, and Nash (a girl’s name can be everything in a song)

Across the Universe —The Beatles (John Lennon’s ode to stretching out)

The Spy —The Doors (come go with Morrison into the house)

The Look of Love —Dusty Springield (Bacharach is very romantic)

Us and Them —Pink Floyd (adolescent self-pity given a melody)

Liebestod from Tristan und IsoldeWagner (swimming in swimming music)

Air That I Breathe —Hollies (this is what love is like)

Adagio for Strings —Samuel Barber (sad never sounded so good)

Air —Bach (The illustrious Bach—inventor of music?)

The Lark Ascending —Vaughan Williams (music that hides on the ceiling)

Surabaya Johnny —Lotte Lenya (German musical theater. Wilde. Brecht. Ja.)

A Day In The Life A Fool —Jack Jones (walking around, lost in a song)

Claire —Gilbert O’ Sullivan (lavish and sensitive)

Poetry Man —Phoebe Snow  (there’s a 1967 song called Painter Man. Almost as good)

The Way We Were —Barbara Streisand (Almost anyone can sink into Streisand)

Stranger In Paradise —Tony Bennett  (I’m there, Tony)

It Was A Very Good Year —Frank Sinatra (nostalgia lets you sink)

Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly —Puccini (hushed charm itself)

Sea of Love —Phil Phillips (low budget production can sound luxurious, too)

The Crystal Ship —The Doors (half-slumbering poetry)

Indian Summer —The Doors (the poetry of cheap lounge music; must be Morrison and his band)

Lonely Days —Bee Gees (Melodies, voices, and a subtle heaviness)

First Time Ever I Saw Your Face —Roberta Flack (the first time ever the 70s)

Canon in D —Pachelbel (top 40 baroque classical)

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3 —Ian Dury (languish in lunacy)

All Or Nothing At All —Frank Sinatra with Harry James (Great lyrics in a minor key)

Layla –Derek & The Dominos (the formula is simple: great song and then add a great part 2)

Low Spark of High Heeled  Boys —Traffic (this song has length, reach)

Lush Life —Nat King Cole (great songs like this usually comment on a whole genre)

Third Stone From The Sun —Jimi Hendrix (a session guitarist to an icon overnight)

Is That All There Is? —Peggy Lee (a little talking can do wonders for a song)

How Soon Is Now? —The Smiths (Laughing gas melancholy)

This Guy’s In Love With You —Herb Alpert (relaxed yet passionate)

What’s Goin On —Marvin Gaye (Studio genius was everywhere during this era)

Me and Mrs. Jones —Billy Paul  (wall of sound melancholy soul music)

Space Oddity —David Bowie (One of those songs with everything: production, lyrics, hooks)

Rocket Man —Elton John (lonely outer space song his best ever, except maybe Benny & Jets)

Chasing Cars —Snow Patrol (will you lie with me?)

Transdermal Stimulation —Ween (A slightly “depressed and bored in the suburbs” vibe)

Pavane For A Dead PrincessRavel (grief shared)

It’s A Sin —Pet Shop Boys (Yup)

Kiss Kiss Kiss —Yoko Ono (Yoko matches the Beatles excitement at times)

Another Star —Stevie Wonder (This artist projects love, pure and simple, like no other)

Hey Jude —Beatles  (Paul talking to John, who was losing his mind. Hey John. It’s going to be okay.)

House of the Rising Sun —Animals (Several genre toppers happen at once in this song)

I’ll Be Around —The Spinners  (Simple hook genius)

Waterloo Sunset —Kinks  (the guitar in this)

California Dreaming —Mamas and Papas (multiplicity of voices is first rate)

Bittersweet Symphony —The Verve  (feel like walking down crowded streets while listening)

The Girl From Ipanema —Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz (do you sway or melt listening to this?)

Time of the Season —Zombies  (panting rhythmically to pretty melody)

Crimson and Clover —Tommy James (fin de siecle aesthetics meets trashy pop)

American Cowboy —Jada (Hint of hooker, but more important: hooks!)

The Winner Takes It All —ABBA (Romantic self-pity has never been better expressed)

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again —Bob Dylan (Dylan kept the long ballad alive, if not entirely seriously)

Melancholia —The Who (Don’t know this one? Best Who song ever.)

White Rabbit —Jefferson Airplane (guitar and vocal sound are so good)

My Sweet Lord —George Harrison  (Sink into Beatle/Hallelujah-mania)







Image result for lady playing a flute in painting

Wit’s relationship with me

Is my relationship with you

In poetry; this is what poetry

Is; this defines what I do.

Poetry I do all alone,

But with it, I can play any tone.

I can be more myself with it than with you.

I heard of someone, today, who,

Worked all his life, and, at the age of seventy two,

Had no one—no one!—to leave his money to.

So I am going to write this poem to you.

We can’t live naked; Wallace Stevens doesn’t  fit

In nature; we need a roof—and wit.

Labor is necessary all the time.

The sun is hot, and into the sun we have to climb.

This tragedy of commuting we cannot share

With anyone, and if we should so much as stare

At someone else with desire, it’s called a crime.

But most desires are passing; only wit

Saves us. This poem is my gift which wraps it.








Image result for the poet takes the poem in renaissance painting

The artist wants to own what he sees,

The poet wants to own what he hears,

Like I wanted to own you,

You, and all your fears.

But the painter and the poet find

There is too much to own—none of it will be owned.

Ownership, in creation, is the first thing that is barred.

Poetry is not war. In poetry, peace and forgetting are.

Put the painting away. Whatever is wanted is marred.

Of course I want to own all this.

But who owns the last moment’s kiss?

Do you remember when I held you and every living flight of your face was mine?

Do you remember when I loved you in the flowers, and we drank the shadowy wine?

The mind wants to own the body.

The body wants to own the mind.

Why are the more than loving always the less than kind?

I can have this, but only if it doesn’t do anything and it’s blind.

We find there is too much to lose,

So much to lose—that nothing is finally lost.

The body is immense and the mind doesn’t know what to choose.

Take my hand! It’s mine, but now it belongs to you.

I am gone. The distant mountains are blue.

Did you miss me? I’ll find something else to do.

Of course I want.

Do you remember when I held you and every living flight of your face was mine?

Do you remember when I loved you in the flowers, and we drank the shadowy wine?






Image result for diana the huntress

God, you must be hiding a lover somewhere.

God, tell me the truth, I’m in despair,

Tell me, tell me, what did you create?

The human? I am one. But look at this template.

I thought the human was the creation, but no;

People? Am I a person? With eyes and words? I don’t know.

You are hiding a lover. Can I say this? I think I can.

The template isn’t human. It’s woman and man.

People don’t exist. We are one of two.

And I want the other one. Tell me what to do.

They are all the same: they surrender with a sigh.

And before that and after that they coldly go by.


Image result for beautiful woman sneering in painting

Madness is caused by too much goodness.

When I was bad, I relaxed and loved.

Too much goodness is madness.

The thesis may be difficult to prove,

But it’s true: sanity is when you don’t give a fuck:

I’m still in love with her; she’s moved on.

Years later I still obsess about her, because

She doesn’t give a fuck. I was her pawn.

I was afraid to make her angry. She was always angry.

I was loving and good and never let myself be angry with her,

Until one day, I got really angry at her

Because I never let myself be angry with her,

And I did something stupid and lost her forever.

I’m the crazy one because I still love her

And she’s sane, because she doesn’t give a fuck.

She didn’t give a fuck about anything.

She wanted to be anonymous. Kissing her

Was like kissing water. I knew her

Not to want anything: kids, career,

Art, she didn’t want to make anything,

Didn’t want to leave a mark.

Smile or frown, she liked to disappear into the dark.

Not giving a fuck is why she’s sane—

She continues with her pretty life.

She’s gone, and yet I love her—my caring is my pain.

I never knew someone so sane, so beautiful.

And this was because she didn’t give a fuck,

And I was expendable, another source of her rage;

She cared, like the rest, about looks, about age,

But to care that we care is what makes us insane;

And everyone knows love is the worst madness of all.

The good are caring—and too much caring is madness.

Not caring protects one’s happiness and gladness.

The bad can fall into ruin, it’s true,

And they ruin their body, but don’t lose their mind when they do.

The self-centered are sane—the things they care about are few.

The proof is seen in religion—don’t religions seem completely mad?

Fanciful, superstitious, strict, sadly seeking to make people less bad?

The good find it difficult to reconcile

The bad with religious desire for good—since the world is bad all the while;

The world, which doesn’t give a fuck,

Makes those who care too much—simply out of luck.

By all that’s sane and beautiful! If only she would kiss me again!

Exactly as before! When she seemed to give a fuck, back then.


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“I’m just a jealous guy”–John Lennon


The trouble with jealousy is that it loves,

Holds on sweetly, sweetly as it loves,

Finds grace in the small spaces where it loves,

But it holds onto pictures, and spies

On things it should not spy on; who loves

Without jealousy, or looks into just one pair of eyes?

The trouble with jealousy is that it knows

Love is not love; love constantly pretends

Love loves, love is loyal, and loyalty never ends.

Jealousy loves, even as it looks

Into homes, gardening tools, trash compactors, books.

Jealousy holds aloft the pulled weed,

Calculating necessity and speed

Of putting gardens in order; nature’s high need

Is thick in the margins of every property,

Where jealousy looks, as far as the eye can see.





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Feelings, such as jealousy and fear, are extremely common, and those who say all sorts of negative feelings don’t exist in their heart from time to time are lying.

There has been a tendency in our day to give subjective feelings a great deal more importance than they deserve. 1. We sometimes get so worked up about our feelings about feelings, we make them more important than actual crime—slander, for instance. 2. We work up such a hatred for negative feelings, which are nonetheless very common, we often mistake negative feelings for negative actions; we mistakenly believe feelings permanently mark someone’s character—they do not.

Feelings are ephemeral—they only have the potential to influence our actions; and negative feelings are common; they belong to everyone. So why do we assume feelings are more important than they are? Ironically, if you believe the falsehood that negative feelings are highly influential and corrupt, you give feelings more influence, just with your belief.

But here’s the truth.

Laws—rules which govern and punish negative actions—form the essence of a fair and just society.

And laws are based on facts, not feelings.

Hard evidence is necessary to convict.

If you hate X, this is not proof that you have harmed X.

Negative feelings—let’s take the most obvious one—hate:

Hate is not only common feeling, but it may reflect a good: as when we hate what is bad or disgusting.

Let’s look at a typical example using a negative emotion: jealousy. We are all jealous, and, depending on information, vague or otherwise, which may come our way, we all can be very jealous from time to time. Feelings of jealousy, however, like hate, or other negative feelings, are just feelings. It is not a crime to feel jealousy, and, if you have jealous feelings, this does not mean that you are a “jealous person.” Someone may be making you jealous. The only thing which feeling jealous means, is that you are having jealous feelings. It does not mean you will harm or attack or stalk or harass anyone.

And further, if anyone accuses you of harassment, simply because you express feelings of jealousy, the feelings of jealousy which you express are not proof of anything.

The accusation of harassment, however, is actually something far worse—it is a crime. Slander.

Laws—based on actions, hard evidence, investigated and proven—have nothing to do with feelings. The phrase, “cold-blooded killer” comes to mind. In a just society ruled by “laws, not men,” facts are observed, and arguments are based on facts; feelings have little importance. A jealous lover can make an accusation, and the jealousy of the accuser is not the issue; only the facts surrounding the accusation matter. And if the accused is jealous? This doesn’t matter, either. In the law, subjective feelings do not count.

Ideologies which pre-judge—feminism, for example—increase the tendency to radically over-estimate feelings as signs of truth. Men who happen to have negative feelings for a certain amount of time are tagged negatively forever, as the ideology “proves” its case, as generalized, unexamined slander expands and grows. Another example (gaslighting) would be if a man were cheating on his wife and he made her feel like a jealous person, simply because she had jealous feelings.

Feelings can be very powerful things. When people begin to believe that having a few jealous thoughts is proof that one is a permanently “jealous person,” one can easily see the potential for mass psychological harm.





Image result for sun in renaissance painting blake renoir

Can a poem be happy, and tell the truth, too?

Love, there is no truth except as it relates to you.

So this poem must find a way to make you happy

And praise is what love loves; the world, flattery.

So I’ll ask love how to praise you best

Before my eastern poem travels sadly to the west.

A poet only praises if the poet has seen, or heard,

A sensory delight, and can turn it into a word.

A poet praises—so happiness can also be true;

The sun, light, word, earth—turning in you.

A poet can only praise what love in love has done.

Love, tell me, as the horizon in the west ascends to the sun,

How does love look to you? Look! Cloudy, hungry, skies

Cover the sun. Mother! Accept what’s seen by your child’s eyes.

Praising mother cannot be done.

The origin of love and words are hers.











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I saw the folly of others—

And said what I saw.

I hated law breakers.

I loved the law.

I rebuked the folly

Of others drinking wine.

I was perfect.

But now the folly is mine.

I fly to folly, and sing with folly.

And all the times I couldn’t,

I could, with Molly.

Molly showed me folly.

Molly showed me wine.

I break laws with Molly,

And folly and Molly are mine.



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Poetry makes me unhappy.

It makes me not me.

It’s easy to imagine and say

Night lives in the beautiful day.

Like a hypnotist, poetry can tell

Me I’m sleeping, and things are not well,

And I should remain sleeping

And in my imagination end all horror and end all weeping.

I’m happy after the poem is done;

I slept beneath a sleeping sun.

I danced—and the people saw

The poem and its poet are a law

Unto themselves. I still dance.

I still love. I still laugh. In a trance.





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Honor the best.

The best saves us all.

It appalls you to experience it?

Let it hypnotize you and appall.

Let it murder your pride, individual.

The best saves us all.

I was forced to admit she was beautiful,

Breasts, hips, large; oh! waist small;

A face unparalleled; I cannot turn away,

Ashamed to know a sight wins my heart,

A truth unable to admit, and only in a poem, say.

We only live because of the best.

It kills the pride in all the rest,

Making them run to the banal,

Which has its place, like the beautiful.

The banal, as always, is right here.

Asking for something. Conversation. A beer.


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I never give out my true love’s name.

Is love my god? My god is shame.

In the dreaming garden I walked along,

Too ashamed to sing a song.

Love may be the moon, smooth and bright.

But shame rules the details of the night.

All I whisper when no one’s there

From my true heart? Shame doesn’t care.

The sad images which lie in my heart

Belong to love. But shame rules my art.

Shame rules all I see and hear.

Love hides. Never spoken. Though here.

Shame lives with millions. Do I blame

Love? Shame is not afraid of love. Shame

Is an army of poetry. Shame is not afraid.

Do not love your love, he said. And I obeyed.








Image result for shelley's statue at oxford

This poem needs music,

Beautiful and new,

If this poem would say

All it wants to say to you.

A melody is what it wants—

A melody that haunts,

A melody making sure

Thought is pure

In presentation and intent,

Like a meadow harmonized with a tent.

There could be food within,

Sparkling water, and wine,

And in birdsong, and shadow, you and I may dine.

The harmony of melody

And words, could be saying

“I love you,” with the addition of a quartet playing.

The scene the poem paints might be

A shore with trees, to aid the melody,

Or the melody could bring

Something else—little details of spring?

The poem needs a lot, but I don’t care.

The poem is gone. The poet is right there.







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I’ve changed my mind—I don’t need all the freedom I had.
I wanted fun, but why is fun always seen as bad?
I’ve changed my mind—I don’t need all the freedom I had.

I guess I don’t want to go out and see everybody there.
I made one little joke—and now everyone has to stare?
I guess I don’t want to go out and see everybody there.

I really don’t like him now; I thought he was funny at first,
But now I see humor which turns ugly is absolutely the worst.
I really don’t like him now; I thought he was funny at first.

Love will upset you if it lives in your mind, even if it goes in peace.
If I dump my boyfriend and he still loves me I will call the police.
Love will upset you if it lives in your mind, even if it goes in peace.

I want to get out of this but I love him so much.
I have trouble with words. I have trouble with touch.
I want to get out of this but I love him so much.

I think I love winter. I don’t want it to be spring.
I want this color, and I want to say this thing.
I think I love winter. I don’t want it to be spring.

I’ve been a little unsure since he removed his hat.
I wanted to take from this hour and I wanted to give to that.
I’ve been a little unsure since he removed his hat.

I need to leave. This scene is too urban and loud.
Thinking of safety in numbers, I selected this crowd.
I need to leave. This scene is too urban and loud.

I had a chance to take off my clothes. But now I want them on.
I followed him into the clouds. Now the mountain and the sun are gone.
I had a chance to take off my clothes. But now I want them on.








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I was gentle and true.

But she was not.

So pardon me that I’m not as gentle with you.

She was untruthful and unkind

So I’m not saying what’s exactly on my mind.

She was someone I cannot forget

So I’m not able to love you yet.

I was upright and true.

I don’t know if I can be so with you.

Through her love I learned

To hate. I would perish if I burned;

Feeling love again with that fire,

I would only mock my highest desire

With that which never loves as it should,

Because she was bad—and I was good.

If I love you, I will not call her,

I will only call out your name,

But it can never, never be the same,

And our love will be a little smaller.

Our love will have an understanding

And, when under the trees we kiss,

It will be a yearning for love both of us miss,

And the kiss for that will be the kiss for this.

Under those scented trees, will a great love stir,

When you kiss madly what is gone, and I think of her?

What will you feel as I lean in to kiss you?

That love is sad? And can never be new?



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You can’t defeat the patriarchy.

It takes too many forms, it lives

In too many ways, the forms

Zeus used invade you innocently enough,

Crowning your sight with objects and vistas,

Animals, scenes, sunsets, infinite,

A funeral pyre’s burning death

Closing your eyes, shortening your breath,

The empty ache of all desire never

Satisfied, except when hate and fear

Run you far away from here

Where never-ending change

Decides how far desire may range,

Which otherwise remains in bed

Curled up with flesh, sleepy and fed.






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Why did you love me once, and never again?

Love should be like the sun and send

Light interminable. First you loved me as a friend,

And friendship is so close to love, love

Thinks friendship is what love is, but if it was,

I did not know. A thief is called a thief because he steals,

But I wanted you to take from me. The lover feels

Everything is stolen, as light steals away from the sun,

The orb of all light giving out its light to only one,

Giving, giving, giving. And still it is the sun.

But add to this blind burning, one belief,

The sun becomes responsible. And you became a thief.

They told me you missed my light when you were in your bed.

In the knowledge of your window you saw the moon instead.

They said as you were walking down the avenue

You smiled. To be speaking. And the speaking wasn’t you.

The sun can be everywhere, but I was asleep.

Love can be everywhere. Lights into the libraries creep.

As friends, our next step was love—love is when friends touch

Out of their friendship—light isn’t light so much

As something slower and more solid, the mortal hit,

A palpable hit. We did this once, and then you quit.

You wanted the dark earth to be once more, the sun,

A light, only, a light, too light, shining its light on everyone.






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Reality becomes a play

As soon as you say

Anything about it. In that room

Is the consciousness of war, death, the doom

Of innocents, all in that room.

As soon as you take a picture of the ape,

You can say the human is just something on tape.

The rumor of the image

Is true, once you film the mirage.

The moment Cleopatra hated a man

Who loved her, map-making began.

Isn’t this poem true?

Now that it’s been read by you?

By the time you see the video, sorrow

Will exist, or not exist, tomorrow.

Here is the building. Now you can prove

Anything can be built. Even love.





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