SINCE LIFE

Image result for green swamp in painting

Since life is theater, and love is defined as actors expressing love,

I move in cautious secrecy for the sake of my love.

Since my humble love will be mocked as too serious,

And become food for the humorous,

Should my humility ever become known,

I walk in the shadows, humbly, secretly, and alone.

I have seen actors naked on screen and stage,

Marching to love’s music, aching and graphic,

Cleopatra, Romeo, or a shy porn star, dying in a cage,

Or free to walk among us, the healthy, the dying, the sick,

In schools and conferences, the professional setting,

The rich, the poor, lousy poets, having creepy affairs,

The touristy street, the apartment building missing lights,

Climbing, drunk, the seedy last bit of stairs.

Introvert! Don’t obsess on the extrovert’s laughing and forgetting.

I’ve been there; I’ve hurried to fly in the middle of the morning,

Flown all night, arrived in the next incomplete middle of the night, without warning.

Since you put our love in your poetry, I walked away,

So that I could wake up in the morning to a plain day

Dropping into the lake of nature; the tiny, vivid frogs

Calling back and forth a green comfort to me

In a quiet, final reminder of nature, no drama, or poetry,

Just green; green lakes, green streams flowing into green bogs.

All seek comfort: half-sacred, purely profane,

Love in various best sellers and guises, difficult, insane;

The more we write or talk about it, the worse it gets.

The public proclaims news, principles, God, the New York Mets.

I reject every advantage, comparison, thought, weight,

In my frail solitude. Call it loneliness, love, indifference, hate.

I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you, or let you know.

It’s my fault. I know this better than anyone. Please go.

I’m doing a little thinking. I’m thinking how

I can express how much I love you. I may.  But not now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHO SEDUCED YOU?

Image result for paintings raphael

Who seduced you? The lean wolf, who warned you the fat wolf

Would say to you, “Defy instruction, for pleasure is enough?”

Who seduced you? The philosopher? Did you call his bluff:

“Scholars say, read a poem for learning! But learning’s a curse.

The end of life is happiness, but scholars teach the reverse.”

Who seduced you? Was it wine, which poured over you: “Pleasure

Is here; thought stops, delays and toils for measure?

Why dig for a hundred days? A moment holds a treasure?”

Who seduced you? Your own beauty? Which quickly you used,

Cynically, in fake pleasure, to make someone else confused?

Who seduced you? The riot of the hungry world,

Which made you love the dull quiet of the world?

Who seduced you? The director of the actor in the film which made you cry?

The soldier, who never watches films, who said, “today, I die?”

Who seduced you?  Christ, who said, “The sweet, soft lamb

Will save you from the reasoning of a sly and tedious man?

Who seduced you? The sacred, sacred tradition of the sacred, sacred cow?

This poem?—Me?—Or your mother, who said, “eat your meat now?”

 

GIVE ME WHAT I WANT

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Give me what I want. There is enough

For me. I want to simply love.

But all of us are puritans. We deny

The one who wants to simply love.

Is there such a pitiful supply

Of lovers? Who need love? Why?

And tell me, why did I

Love the unlettered Alpha,

And make the lettered Omega cry?

Omega loved, and wrote

Poems, weeping over a quickly written love note.

God! Every Alpha epistle was pissy,

In brief emails she rebuked me,

Meanly and selfishly.

Selfish Alpha was the world to me,

Because the world doesn’t give

To the world what the world wants. Wanting is how we live.

Alpha had it all: youth, beauty; she didn’t need

The love which those who want love need.

But that was OK. She gave me what I wanted.

Her body was a passive house I haunted

With my desire. Oh my desire

Had nothing to do but burn.

And her house never caught on fire.

But Alpha, as all eventually do,

Came to puritanism, too.

These old trees have seen it all.

Love in the spring, grief in the fall.

What is it the poets need to say?

What we want we can’t have right away.

Alpha turned proud and strove to write.

Her ink became my darkest night.

Give me what I want. And I will give to you

What Omega the poet wishes for too.

 

 

 

 

 

GENDER

The man is the poet, the woman is the poem.

Men and women do not quite meet, like the earth and the moon.

The man is the telescope and the woman is the moon,

An orb circling, half-dark, and alone.

The woman wants the intangible, the man just wants sex.

The woman wants to run, the man wants his ex.

The man is never what the woman expects.

The man is the poet, the woman is the moon,

Who writes poems, too, to a different moon.

What can you say to the woman, or say to the man,

Which you cannot, but they already can,

In the outdoor restaurant, dusky blossoms for a mile,

In the shades of the earth, arguing for a while?

They cannot hear you, but if they could,

They would live in this poem. Which isn’t very good.

 

 

 

INDIAN POETS IN ENGLISH —APRIL

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This is the third installment of Scarriet’s crash course in contemporary Indian poetry in English—seven poets per month (Feb ’18 thru Jan ’19)—suggested by Linda Ashok in The Poetry Mail.

Sukrita P. Kumar writes poetry striving to be everything at once: wise, but wise with simple imagery, which nonetheless reveals wisdom in, and behind, that imagery.  What else can a poet do?

For wise imagery, it doesn’t get any better than this:

Flames are messengers
Carrying the known
To the unknown

Life to afterlife

So ends Sukrita Kumar’s “The Chinese Cemetery.”

One must remember that the history of poetry is actually brief—exciting stories of warriors and gods, religious and creation texts, romantic songs, witty satires, haiku-like imagery, or some combination thereof. Most contemporary poetry is a strict, disciplined journey in quasi-religious imagery; Sukrita Kumar is no exception.

The poem quoted above begins this way:

The smile in the photograph
Is no reflection of what lies
In the dark hollow of the tunnels
Behind cement squares in rows,
Each, one-by-one in size
Marked by dates, picture, name
Of a tiny flash
A dot of life in the universe

Now are things really this bad?  Or is this just extremely disciplined writing?  One almost longs for Dante and his Beatrice, Alexander Pope doing circus tricks, or Keats making voluptuous rhymes—after reading this. But this is what the poets are doing today. Patience on a monument.

Because yes, things are really this bad. For some.

*

Vinita Agrawal’s poem, “The Refugees Are Here,” is an unrelenting tragedy of families dying, forced to trek because of war.

“People and their earth are one,” the poem states at one point.

But everything in the poem contradicts this sentiment.

For instance, “How does then a father explain/to his child’s face showing clear pain/That when a homeland has been snatched/just a home is not enough…”  The child, who eventually perishes, cries out to the father, “I don’t want to go anywhere. You are my home!”

There’s no relief. The poem ends, “the refugees are here/only to keep alive the stories of their land/through chapped, charred lips/that dried up kissing loved ones goodbye.”

**

Mustansir Dalvi writes satiric poetry.

It can be interesting to observe humor philosophically; humor doesn’t usually live full-blown in poetry, and when it does, the critic scrambles to make sense of it. The critic will notice the genre of humor needs to constantly reference things outside of itself; beauty and sorrow are self-sufficient; sorrow can hide and still move us; humor has to know common things that everyone knows.  Funny poetry is harder to pull off, and when it fails, it fails like bad rhyme; we can see it fall.

We are not sure the two poems by Dalvi, found in the Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry, “why someone needed to kick the infant Kafka in the balls” and “Prayer can change your fate, too (found object)” succeed, or not.  Perhaps the critic missed a reference, or two; it was the critic’s fault we “didn’t get the joke.”  Perhaps the critic is wrong altogether, and humor is not the object at all.  Let’s quote the first poem in its entirety, to make sure we are not mad:

Every poet
Wants to wake
As Gregor Samsa
one morning.

Every poet wants
to drag his belly in the dirt,
to be exalted by coarse burns
forming welts around his navel.

Every poet would
willingly put himself in harm’s way
to be squished into concupiscent curd
by someone who doesn’t even notice.

When we get to the third stanza, and read how “every poet would willingly put himself in harm’s way,” we think we are reading pure satire.  Is poetry being ridiculed?  Kafka?  And then there’s the reference to the famous Wallace Stevens poem. The satirist looks outward, challenging assumptions, and we definitely feel challenged.  Is the poem making fun of us—if we don’t “get the joke” (is there a joke?) are we the one who don’t “even notice?”

Mustansir Dalvi has won, and the reader has lost.  Or has the poet lost?  Or has the poet and the reader won?  Or is it all a mystery?  And no one wins or loses. We are Gregor Samsa, the bug.  And we know nothing. Or a lot.

***

Arun Sagar was born in 1965. Reading three of his poems published in Coldnoon, International Journal of Travel Writing, we find pleasing poetry of intimate delicacy.

In “Liège,” we find ourselves enclosed by the poem, and admire the way the poet puts us in the poem; sometimes we think this is the best thing writing can do—put us in a pleasant place.  The phrase, “the bus station an anchored ship” is nice. “Each way out is worthy” also gives great joy, as the poet adds to the pleasurable effect of the immersion.  Granted, one might say this poetic ambition aims low; it concedes pleasant life is all—but skill, sensitivity, patience, and wisdom are required when we find a  poem has replaced our life.

LIÈGE

Already I remember rain
on the windowpane,
the bus station an anchored ship,
soft disco music.
Already I remain onboard
with early morning baggage smells,
the driver’s quizzical smile.
This is the eternal
problématique: 5 am,
the impossibility of sleep
or tears, streetlights
through glass and rain.
Each way out
is worthy, each way leads
to clarity and mist,
and music.
And you, too,
are present here, the mere
knowledge of it
is enough; you too lean back
in your seat,
stretch your feet.
You look at me as if to speak.
.
****

Jennifer Robertson’s poem, “Come Undone,” published in The Missing Slate, is prefaced with a quote from Anais Nin, which is the theme of the poem which follows: “I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women are inside me.”

Madness is win-win in poetry.

The poet may not be mad, but the trope of madness always generates interest.

If the poet is mad, this will likely generate even more interest—unless it completely ruins the poetry.

If the poetry is good, we enjoy the madness whether the poet is writing about madness or is, in fact, mad.  It really doesn’t matter.

The poem isn’t sufficient to prove whether the poet is mad—any sort of hint that madness is in the neighborhood will help; “madness is win-win in poetry” naturally becomes its own prophecy.

And finally, the saving grace is that if we don’t like madness, madness is really not madness at all—in this case, having “many women” inside is healthy, and to be merely “quiet and consistent,” the implied problem.

Jennifer Robertson summons Adrianne Rich (“Diving Into the Wreck”) and Virginia Woolf (who reportedly “put stones in her pocket” when she committed suicide by sea) in her poem, which succeeds beautifully:

No more walls, she says.
No more coats. I’ll have none of that.
None of your hands
shadow-boxing a hermit crab.
No more repetitive shapes
or sharks to
set things right

ocean after ocean after ocean

I’ll speak of things, of names
too difficult to decipher.
And yes, no more changing into a flower,
a sea anemone, a jellyfish.
I’ll remember that all animals
are predatory
at the bottom of the sea.

And then I’ll speak of
hurricanes, mirrors,
and odd-numbered
fantasies
of a brokenness you call
inadequate,
paltry, blonde.

You will not be able to see me change.
You will not see me drifting into the sea.
There will be nothing aquatic
about this shipwreck. You will not know
the colour blue.
When I put stones in my pocket
You’ll still be looking at a mermaid

and saying,
Look, how close
she is to the ship.

 

*****

Arvind Krishna Mehrota is a professor, born in 1947.  He edited the Oxford India Anthology of Twelve Modern Indian Poets. One can access two brief poems of his, one published in Poetry in 1976 and the other in The New York Review of Books in 2011. He has done tireless work as a translator.

Enchanting how “Engraving of a Bison on Stone” (from Poetry) begins:

The land rests
Because it cannot be
Tempted or broken
In a chamber.

“Except That It Robs You Of Who You Are” is a wonderful title; the poem, however, berates “speech” in a somewhat predictable manner.

Except that it robs you of who you are,
What can you say about speech?
Inconceivable to live without
And impossible to live with,
Speech diminishes you.
Speak with a wise man, there’ll be
Much to learn; speak with a fool,
All you get is prattle.
Strike a half-empty pot, and it’ll make
A loud sound; strike one that is full,
Says Kabir, and hear the silence.

The “fool” will “prattle.” So maybe I should shut up.

******

Rochelle Potkar is an amazing find.  She writes with wit and insight.

“Disquiet” is a delight to read, and must be quoted in full:

My father was the quietest man;
his few words made no sense
in the world’s idiom.
.
Saddled into a marriage
astride a dead horse of tradition
he flogged it too many times
for two children.
.
He stayed away even when near.
He did not belong to anyone,
unaware of our favorite colors,
our school grades, or
the names of our boyfriends.
.
He lent money to ruffians at high interest rates
and recovered nothing.
Smoothening his hands over glossy brochures,
he invested in scams of impossible dreams.
.
He used to count his coins
like I now count my words
.
I too am falling out of the system.
.
I too belong to no one.
I fear he is growing inside me…
(Are we always pregnant with our parents?)
.
I fight to brew soup for my daughter
To know her grades
and look her in the eye
during her babbles.
I know her favorite toys, colors
the names of her friends.
.
I have hidden the broken mirrors of my growing disengagements.
I am killing the father inside me,
but he keeps rising.
.
My language is turning alien
in the world’s idiom.
.
I too have placed faith in scams
Of soul, body, and intellect.
The rule being: everyone is duped at least once.
.
I search for him in other faces
and turn mine away
when I find even one similar feature.
.
But can I run away from the one cell that is the whole Self?
.

The “one cell that is the whole Self” is stunning.  The whole poem is lyrical, yet epic in scope, intense, self-aware, and accessible. Poetry too often scrutinizes obscurely and complacently the eccentric, the trivial.  Not only is the poetry of Rochelle Potkar preferable, it far exceeds expectations, as it sagely thrills.

*******

So ends the April edition. Looking forward to May. Thanks again, to Linda Ashok.

BOREDOM IS SEXY

Image result for getting ready for a date in painting

I want to be with you, completely bored.
Bored is the only way to be with someone you love.

Activities exist for those not in love.
When you are not in love, you plan activities like mad,
You think of songs to play, and perfume to put on,
Hoping songs and perfume will make you fall in love.

You think of food and movies to make you fall in love,
You think of taking off your bra to make you fall in love.
You think of marrying to make you fall in love.
You are madly thinking of being in love because you are not in love.
You are terrified of loving someone you do not love
And smile because you think perhaps this terror will make you fall in love.

Because you try everything to fall in love, even terror and despair,
You do not fall in love.

To fall in love, you planned activities, and hated me
Because it was you, not me,
Who planned the activities.

You hated me because I was bored.
You hated me because I was the one
Who was in love
With one who could not fall in love.

MY LIFE IS FINALLY SAFE FROM SORROW

Image result for ripe fields in painting

My life is finally safe from sorrow.

All my dreams are ripe,

The smoke pours from my philosophical pipe.

The fields will be less ripe tomorrow.

The roads of mud where the cannons were dragged,

To fire on the enemy from the hill

Are dry paths.

The landscape is still.

My debts. What are debts?

Someone else will pay.

Isn’t that what we always meant by one fine day?

I always had what it takes.

A little soil and sun,

Wheat. The grinder grinds and shakes.

My sons and daughters

Have read enough.

That creative stuff,

Despite what I said, has gone by.

My children are filled by other containers.

I gave. They are giving.

I died in them.

Now I’m living,

A small light fading in pastel skies,

Looking for stimulation and song.

Is it ripe? Is it ripe?

The paintings? The golden fields?

Everything is ripe. And still it is wrong.

 

PEOPLE THINK THE WORLD IS GHOSTLY

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People think the world is ghostly.

It is not ghostly in the least.

People think there are ghosts.

Physical is the beast.

The wealthiest man longs to be tall.

She twists her neck to parallel park.

You want to play, but you’re too small.

She cannot see in the dark.

Inspiration didn’t make her sing.

There is a physical reason for everything.

The physical is so strong

It writes, sings, and condemns the song.

A dress code is a dream of law.

The handsomest soldier you ever saw

Wore the blue and then the gray

After speeches, and dinner’s delay.

This poem will mock what you heard

Because it’s rhythmically absurd.

There isn’t a ghost

Who will not admit it loves me and air and touch and this poem the most.

 

 

STILL SOFTER

Image result for kissing in renaissance painting

I

Still softer. Your kiss will kill me.

Don’t send me out into the murdering cold.

Still softer. Don’t let this love grow old,

Which now breathes too fast,

Which pursues pleasure too quickly,

So neither the walls, nor the air between, will last.

Wanting makes wanting end.

Your love burns me. Be my friend.

Still softer. Be deliberate with every kiss,

So every pause saddens what every pause will miss.

Thought turns back and repeats a thought from the past

When love is desperate. Love can have no now—

Unless we know how only a soft kiss knows how

One long kiss will never know

There are others. You’ve killed me. I must go.

II

Prevent my erotica. I want to think, instead,

Of the sweetest melody, sweetly falling dead.

The uncompromising shadow surrounds your head

And frames, as in high art, your cheekbones,

Leaving half the forehead and your eyes

Beautiful and sad; too sad for truth, and all truth implies,

The rest of you in darkness. You are not what this owns,

You are the faint scents and musical tones

Falling by your feet, unseen—half-sights, half-sounds, half-sighs;

From the whole mystery, a partial mystery you took;

Your eyes open, too sad for truth; and closed, too sad for lies.

Prevent my erotica. I look

For an hour into your face. Never read another book.

What if another sun burns the low, burning, skies,

A sundown wrapped in pink and fiery sighs,

And this alternate, hungry for grey?

Your sunny eyes.

III

This disgusts me:

Come trembling into my fuck.

I like to say the word, “fuck,”

Because fucking is what I like to do.

After I am tired from fucking her,

Can I say the word “fuck” to you?

I would rather this were out of the way.

To heaven. And let Leda in the arms of Zeus play,

As a swan; the myth of a glad white swan

Was the grey one trying the bright one on.

I will be cogent and fraught. I will sing of God.

I sinned, spoke, repented, felt better. Is that odd?

Is a carnation a religion?  Is a rose religion only a clod?

IV

Moan against me, so that your smile

Will be more memorable after a while.

Or take your smile and put it away

While heavy erotica calls to us all day

In the groan of love and touch.

After I love you, in a way even love will say is too much,

Your smile can come out, please! after a brief time—

Love brief, compared to the sun,

Making its fiery, lengthy run—

The sun that feeds forever on sunny streams

Will place itself on furniture and climb.

V

I remember the direction of that religion

Telling me I was more,

Because I was humble and small—

To love, to fit in, is what I was for.

I remember that Greek religion.

I remember almost all.

I don’t remember the wishes,

The desires, the talk, so much.

I remember your body

And the sweet touch.

I went into the temple

And never came out.

All the scents of heaven?

When the heaven came about?

When the heaven, yellow,

Came next to me, with its eyes?

You dissolved, didn’t you?

Into the sweetest sighs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TO THOSE WHO TAKE MY POETRY SERIOUSLY

Image result for streams in the sun

To those who take my poetry seriously,

Don’t.  Unity is the soul

Of poetry. Unity is just out of reach

Of life’s incomplete, enduring reality

Of accidents, memories and slurred speech—

A poem is a part, that for a moment,

Is greater than the whole,

And because it is a moment, dies In a beautiful way.

A life just cannot be neat and tidy that way.

Should I think, for a moment, that my poem is life,

And you must take it seriously, I fail

At everything—the two opposites, poetry and life,

Must live apart—the head never knows its tail,

The body never knows the soul;

You taking this seriously is a part

Which never knows the whole.

Poetry and life will always be at odds,

Life, the clamor of friends and foes

Who change places; life comes and goes.

Poetry is consistent behavior by lovely gods.

They splash, their limbs always near,

Bathing in summer streams moving not,

The very movement of the air—the silent parts of the intricate plot—

Is never moving.

Choose. A love poem. Or me. Who tried to be loving.              

SHE INVADED IRAQ

Image result for winfield scott in mexico General Santa Ana faces off with General Winfield Scott—Diego Rivera

“I really entertain greater hopes, that America will not finally disappoint the expectations of her Friends” —Washington to Lafayette, letter, 1789

I

Of course when we discuss politics,

There’s no other way to do it

Than to seek compromise.

To point the finger of blame In a simplistic, across the board, manner,

Or in a scientific, true-or-false, manner, Is pointless.

Meeting in the middle IS politics.

II

When you hear people scream, “facts,”

It’s already hopeless.

Those howling for “facts”

Want politics to be a science.

But it’s not. It’s a matter of the heart.

III

Socialists think capitalism is evil,

And capitalists think socialism is evil,

In a factual, scientific, manner, on both sides.

The facts of the argument don’t matter;

There are too many of them.

Only the division matters.

IV

Socialism v. Capitalism is a big diversion.

What matters is you love your country,

And don’t trust globalists, who have no country,

Who will take your country and rob your country

And bring thugs as saviors into your country.

V

It really comes down to this.

Behave as if there is a future heaven.

A future heaven is not a fact.

A future heaven is a lie, but it’s a great lie,

Because it makes people behave honorably and selflessly.

VI

But you always have the people who whisper, “sucker!

There’s no future heaven!

Get pleasure while you can!

Get it now! Don’t be a sucker!”

VII

The world is divided between good, hardworking people

Who are suckers, and smart criminals, who are not suckers,

And know how to make you feel like a sucker.

They know how to promote jealousy, and make you feel

You are missing out on pleasure, and the grass is greener somewhere.

Sometimes these criminals are

Left, and sometimes they are Right.

They wear whatever mask at a certain time which that time requires.

VIII

So the socialists say, “Leave the church and have some fun!”

The capitalists say, “Leave your labor and have some fun!”

“Don’t be a sucker!!”

IX

Whoever has convinced themselves

There is a future heaven, is a good soul.

Whoever thinks the future is hell, is a suicidal soul,

And gives into the hateful politics of “Don’t be a sucker!”

X

Dissembling takes many forms, but it boils down to:

Either, “Don’t work hard. Come write poetry and have sex!”

Or, “Poets are crazy! Make money and have sex!”

And that, in a nutshell, is Left vs. Right, all over the world.

But there’s a third group—they don’t trust the poet or the businessman.

They don’t trust the siren call of the world.

They believe in a future heaven.

They’re not into immediate and momentary pleasure.

XI

Politics is compromise between these three groups.

Rarely do these three groups get along.

It is heaven when they do.

XI

They say when Winfield Scott invaded Mexico, he was kind.

She invaded Iraq. But we didn’t mind.

TOTALLY SEXY IS NOT LOVE

Image result for frogs in painting

Totally sexy is not love.

This is why your lover isn’t nice.

She has urges. She doesn’t want advice.

She doesn’t need excuses. She needs

Fat frog legs eaten whole in the weeds.

Love is just a word to her. She hates

Waiting. She’s not waiting. She waits

For three, two, one and she’s gone

And you running after her turns her on.

Now adore what she really hates.

Herself. And then she hates you, too.

Totally sexy has undressed and murdered you.

Hatred fed sex with its specialized needs.

Where is beautiful now? Oh somewhere in the weeds.

 

 

ONE HUNDRED GREATEST SONGS OF MELANCHOLY ADRENALINE

Image result for bee gees disco fever

We love these songs like a high from an addiction—they are fast, always fast and jittery, and  “adrenaline” is key, but the formula also requires “melancholy”—it is the nature of addictions to be sad because we know addictions doom us to fall further and further from pleasure, as pleasure, in its concentrated form, is supplied.

The tragedy of addiction doomed to finally deprive us of the very pleasure we seek is reified and strengthened in the sad and melancholy component of the addictive song—the pleasurable lift provided by the rush of the song is supplemented by an unspoken and profound irony—when Bruno Mars (and I doubt he thought of this when he wrote the song) sings “I’ve been locked out of heaven for too long” it means he will be happy when he reunites with his lady—but on another level it signifies that addictive hedonism, by its very nature, gradually locks you out of heaven and its true pleasures. You cannot be happy just by listening to these pleasurable songs all the time. You’ll get tired of them and wish for Debussy or Astrud Gilberto instead. Or silence.

The effect is purely physical, and as recording technology perfects itself, older, exciting songs, released 50, 40, 30, 20 years ago, are locked out—they no longer deliver the addictive punch that the new recordings provide. Old songs we love were written for the old studios and the old sounds— they exist in the sound technology of a former day.

A beautiful melody is a beautiful melody, but these exciting songs on our list exude physicality, and melody is moral.

And the lyric, like the melody, is moral, rather than physical.

Like melody, however, a lyric can contribute to the melancholy of the “song of melancholy adrenaline.” The lyric, “Stayin’Alive” is an example of inspirational moral content—it usually speaks of survival, sorrow, confusion, or desperate need.

Some old songs are so rhythmically catchy and many-layered, that as old recordings, they still, miraculously deliver melancholy adrenaline.

The physical rush of these songs is their chief feature—they make you feel you can rise out of yourself, that you are about to lift off the ground, that time itself has been replaced by the song. Without a decent set of stereo headphones I couldn’t compose this list.

The good songs appeal to us so that we don’t want the song to end. A truly great aesthetic experience delivers a great end.

When hits songs used to pour out of little AM transistor radios, now wasn’t that something?

But the monster, if not the actual addiction, has grown.

Here is the list:

1. What Is Love, Haddaway –You can listen to this catchy, layered, masterpiece on endless loop with Chris Kattan, Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell head pumping on YouTube.

2. Sympathy For the Devil, The Rolling Stones —working class, nerdy, English, blues students, whose grandparents lived during Brahms, experienced sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll massively, newly, before AIDS. Why 60s music was so amazing.

3. I Am The Walrus, The Beatles —A whole world began with this 1967 song.

4. Night Fever, Bee Gees —Disco as the fevered dance of death.

5. Mrs. Robinson, Simon & Garfunkel — Still a magical, poignant, guitar-jangling rush 50 years on.

6. Take On Me, a-ha — Who remembers a-ha?  But this hook. The euphoric, aria-like melody is the best part. Not exactly a memorable lyric.

7. Locked Out Of Heaven, Bruno Mars —it rips off the Police but the mad, percussive, guitar-twisted mix is great.

8. Viva La Vida, Coldplay —this is a catchy, forward-driving, elaborately mixed song, with nice lyrics.

9. Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana —Repairs the monotonous 80s drum sound with a melodic bass. When it comes to great songs like this never underestimate a heavy melodic bass carrying everything.

10. Smoke On The Water, Deep Purple —this song is really great, somehow.

11. Light My Fire, The Doors —where did that chord come from, that sultry death.

12. My Sweet Lord, George Harrison —the combination of rock and religious ecstasy should have been more popular, but somehow it wasn’t. True religion veers away from this kind of drug.

13. Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes –it’s rare when songs this rely on vocals and lyrics.

14. Billie Jean, Michael Jackson —His two best songs are probably Billy Jean and Beat It.

15. House of the Rising Sun, Animals —Great organ riff driving bluesy melody. Mathematically perfect.

16. She’s Not There, Zombies —1964 and the addictive formula is already mixed. It’s always a pleasure when one is conscious that interesting words of the song are joining in the high.

17. Heroes, Bowie  —A desperate frenzy. We can be happy, just for six minutes and 11 seconds.

18. 1979, Smashing Pumpkins —that controlled hysteria which pitches forward roller coaster like. That’s what we’re talking about.

19. How Soon Is Now? The Smiths  —Invokes desperate, adolescent, weeping with the vocals already past it.

20. Dancing Queen, ABBA —has all the elements, even though it lacks an edge of desperation. Pete Townsend said their “SOS” was the best pop song ever written.

21. I Melt With You, Modern English —classic song and lyric.

22. Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears  —It’s true.

23. Wild Side, Lou Reed —the lyrics might trigger today, but this song delivers in a subtle, understated way what so many of the flailing heavy hitters do not.

24. LA Woman, The Doors —yeah. Come on.

25. Dreams, The Cranberries —gently and moodily moving.

26. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? Culture Club —ravishes the formula deftly.

27. Have You Ever Seen The Rain? Creedance Clearwater Revival —bass, vocals, organ, guitar.

28. Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones —“Oh, a storm is threat’ning”

29. Walking On Sunshine, Katrina & The Waves —this song really does walk on sunshine. That’s the amazing thing.

30. Paint It Black, The Rolling Stones —the start and end of the 80s sound in a song from 1966.

31. Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This, Eurythmics  —dark and moody, with a beat, usually works.

32. Somebody To Love, Jefferson Airplanes —At their height, the greatest electric string band ever.

33. Green-Eyed Lady, Sugarloaf —Late at night, on FM radio, you hear this song. Most pop music appeals to adolescents. This song seems grown-up. It changes you forever.

34. Taking Care Of Business, Bachman Turner Overdrive —well?

35. Whole Lotta Love, Led Zeppelin —bass follows lead guitar into a deep tunnel.

36. Heart of Glass, Blondie —pretty, pretty, pretty.

37. Le Freak, Chic —the song responsible for AIDS.

38. Runaway Train, Soul Asylum —public service announcements sometimes make good songs.

39. Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie, Pine Top Smith —a guy with a piano, 1928. Don’t ever underestimate what a human can do.

40. Titanium, Sia  —grief and pride in a triumphant fog of laughing gas.

41. Happy, Pharrel Williams —no I feel the beat and I’m a little less sad.

42. That’s The Way I Like It, KC and the Sunshine Band —it is the way we like it.

43. Radar Love, Golden Earring —has a good theme and groove, but never becomes bigger than the sum of its parts.

44. Let’s Dance, Bowie —the genius just likes to dance.

45. Zombie, The Cranberries —meaningful lyrics and driving fuzz bass

46. Funky Town, Lipps, Inc –cool song, with lots going on.

47. Bang A Gong, T. Rex —Marc Bolan feels it.

48. Spirit In The Sky, Norman Greenbaum —did some guy named Norman Greenbaum make the greatest rock song ever?

49. Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival —great songs often tap many genres. This sounds vaguely gospel, folk, and rock n roll underneath the plain rock. It’s AM radio 2 minute length goes by fast.

50. The Last Time, The Rolling Stones —the first home run of this storied band. Riffs rule the world.

51. Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress), The Hollies  —not a remarkable song, exactly, but a remarkable recording—which is sometimes better.

52. What I’d Say, Ray Charles —this 50s piano grooves like mad.

53. Long Tall Sally, Little Richard —before musc got lecture-y, angry, and smug.

54. Counting Stars, OneRepublic —for some tunes fast is best.

55. Thunder, Imagine Dragons —it’s always about a cute little hook.

56. I Want You To Want Me, Cheap Trick —1979. It wasn’t the sucky 80s yet.

57. What I Like About You, The Romantics —the hooky bass and choruses lift it above.

58. Moves Like Jagger, Maroon 5 —dancing like Jagger is good.

59. Celebration, Kool & the Gang —this would be such a good song if they weren’t trying to celebrate.

60. 24K Magic, Bruno Mars —this  soul man knows his way around harmony and hooks.

61. Sunshine Superman, Donovan —a real fine groove.

62. Going Up The Country, Canned Heat —makes you want to lean your ear down and listen to the drums

63. Be My Baby, The Ronettes —Phil Spector had something in his soul.

64. I’ll Never Find Another You, The Seekers —the acoustic guitar just needed a speaker.

65. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes), Edison Lighthouse —yup. This song.

66. She’s A Lady, Tom Jones —when crossover songs were king.

67. Addicted To Love, Robert Palmer –it rocks and sways.

68. I’m A Believer, The Monkees —organ and tamborine.

69. Friday On My Mind, Easybeats —oh God yeah!

70. I Want You, Bob Dylan —when all is said and done, his best fast  song.

71. Walk Like An Egyptian, The Bangles —more up tempo than we remember.

72. The Twist, Chubby Checker —satisfies all the criteria.

73. Torn, Natalie Imbruglia —crank up the folk song.

74. I Love It, Icona Pop —pretty hysterical.

75. Joey, Concrete Blonde —one sometimes wonders how many minor keys should be major.

76. Kodachrome, Paul Simon —this 60s songwriting icon can rock.

77. I Can See For Miles, The Who  —great musicians who veered into program rock sometimes.

78. I Wanna Be Sedated, Ramones —purity?

79. A Horse With No Name, America —a nonchalance hides an urgency of sorts.

80. Burning Love, Elvis —70s Elvis found excitement with this one.

81. Thank you, Dido —thank you to the artist Sade.

82. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, U2 —righteous rocking.

83. The Ballroom Blitz, Sweet —it rocks, and one cannot take it seriously.

84. We Didn’t Start The Fire, Billy Joel —perhaps the template of annoying.

85. MMMBop, Hanson —Okay.

86. You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), Dead Or Alive —spinning around is good.

87. She Drives Me Crazy, Fine Young Cannibals —the 80s sound maybe became too dependent on the heavily miked, heavily foregrounded drum set.

88. Our Lips Are Sealed, The Go-Gos  —a great song from the girl group.

89. One More Time, Daft Punk —this band is good, if somewhat derivative.

90. Electric Avenue, Eddy Grant —great but who let the noodling instruments in?

91. She Bangs, Ricky Martin —this really sounds like a party.

92. I Want Your Love, Chic –nice, melancholy chorus.

93. Drops of Jupiter, Train —the symphony orchestra muscles in too much?

94. Where Is The Love, Black Eyed Peas —too much formulaic lecturing?

95. She’s A Maniac, Michael Sembello —who didn’t like Jennifer Beals?

96. Numb, Linkin Park —wall of sound sensitive.

97. Bad Romance, Lady Gaga —a bit cute.

98. We Found Love, Rhianna —this is for jumping.

99. Holiday, Madonna —girls just want to have fun.

100. Pump Up The Volume, Marrs —like driving fast.

101. Sweet Jane—Velvet Underground

102. Piano Concerto 20 D Minor —Mozart

103. Every Breath You Take —Police

104. Love Will Tear Us Apart —Joy Division

105. Waterloo Sunset —Kinks

106. Don’t Fear The Reaper —Blue Oyster Cult

107. Who’s That Lady? —The Isley Brothers

 

 

 

 

 

MARCH MADNESS CONTINUES. THOMAS HARDY VS. SUSHMITA GUPTA!!

Image result for thomas hardy in a pub

Utterly In Love  –Sushmita Gupta

Of all the remarkable,
Things and feelings,
In my life,
You are one.
And I guard you,
And your identity,
In the deepest,
Quietest corner,
Of my heart,
With a passion,
That some show,
For religion,
And if not religion,
Then they show it,
For revolution.
But me,
I am a mere mortal.
I only know,
To love you,
And love you secretly.
Secretly,
I melt in a pool,
By your thoughts.
Secretly,
I wish,
That you would,
Mould the molten me,
And give me,
A shape,
A form,
And eyes,
That twinkle,
Like far away stars.
And I,
With twinkling eyes,
And fragrant body,
From loving you,
Shall love you,
Even more.

 

The Man He Killed  –Thomas  Hardy

“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have set us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

“I shot him dead because—
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe, of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like— just as I—
Was out of work— had sold his traps—
No other reason why.

“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”

These are two sentimental poems, the first by a poet from India, who writes in English, little known in the United States, and the second by Thomas Hardy, (1840–1928) well known in the English speaking world as a novelist and poet.

Why we should even wonder why poetry is “sentimental,” or why poetry is censored for being “too sentimental,” says more about us as a race, currently, than about poetry. Sentimentality is really nothing more than inscrutability, or having profound feelings in the face of inscrutability. And when we stop to think about it, this is how we spend about 100% of our days—having feelings, in the face of what, to us, is inscrutable. Sentimentality is not only the rule—it is really just about all there is.

The pride of our education wants to say otherwise; we, in our scientific pride, pretend we know a great deal—though we don’t know how we fall in love, we don’t know where we came from, what made the world, where we are going after we die, the thoughts of others, and there is a great deal more we don’t know—a tiny part of which we learn in a day, and then quickly forget.

All respectable poetry production—since the mid-20th century—has been swallowed by the university. Learning is embarrassed by inscrutability, for obvious reasons. It is a simple, unspoken, defensive reaction: modern, academic poetry hates sentimentality. Education is uncomfortable with the inscrutable. The inscrutable and the sentimental are nearly the same.

But since human beings have feelings, and since we actually know (if we are honest) very little, sentimental is what we are—and to suppress this in our poetry, by making poems dry repositories of unsentimental events and facts, is sure to ruin poetry. And it has.

“The Man He Killed” is a favorite, despite its sentimentality, of modern critics—the mid-20th century New Critics’ textbook, Understanding Poetry, spotlights the poem for praise.

The poem is sentimental, however; Hardy admits that its subject—war—is completely inscrutable; the exasperated utterance Hardy uses is [how] “quaint and curious war is!” Men enlist out of boredom, or chance, and kill each other, dying for no reason at all. This is the sentimental theme. The school master, if they are anti-war, will teach this poem for the sake of a good conscience. Conscience, rather than wisdom, now drives the Humanities departments in college. Hardy, then, gets a pass, by the progressive college professor.

A sentimental objection to war satisfies the new academic urge. This sentimentality is allowed.

If one were to point out that statistics show that more deaths result from collecting debts (half-a-crown, or more) or from drinking and fighting “where any bar is,” than in armed conflicts, throughout  history, Hardy’s sanctimonious poem falls apart. It is too self-satisfied with its anti-war argument. The poem’s “sentimentality” is not the problem. Its argument is. The poem assumes men are good and war is bad. But in fact men are bad, and the reason why men are bad is inscrutable—Hardy escapes this uncomfortable fact—and sentimentalizes a hatred of war, while simultaneously taking the sentimental position that men outside of war are always friendly and good.

Or Hardy assumes they could be.

And this is at the heart of the poem’s sentimentality. Blokes savoring drinks with each other in pubs. Generals tell us to kill each other in war. “I would rather take my chances in a bar,” announces Hardy, deeply awash in sentimentality—and alcohol, perhaps.

Just so that is out of the way, we can now look at Gupta’s sentimental poem about love.

“Utterly In Love” is a poem of far more complex sentiment than Hardy’s—which basically says “instead of drinking with this bloke, I’m shooting at him! How absurd!”

Gupta is not mounting an argument against war, or anything the reader is expected to perceive as bad. She is truly sentimental, which is in her favor. She is not mixing some piece of impure intellectuality into her poem, as Hardy, the know-it-all, did.

The love of “Utterly In Love” is “secret,” but does not belong to “religion” or “revolution”—the speaker of the poem admits she has nothing to do with heavenly grace or earthly progress—hers is the love of a “mere mortal.”

Immortality, either from God, or from improving the lot of the human race, is not what she seeks, at least not overtly.

A poem is public, yet poems speaks of secret things, secret loves. Yet what is the most sacred and divine thing we feel, if not secret love?

Immortality is public—God recognizes you, or the human race builds you a monument for your revolutionary deeds.

But placing herself besides these two—religion or revolution—as a “mere mortal” with a “secret” love, the poet describes herself has having no identity whatsoever, going in a thoroughly opposite direction from an accomplished public figure. She is a “pool,” without even a shape. She is receptive, in her complete lack of will. And does this not describe the ultimate, pure, state of the true beloved? She is in a state to be formed by the one she secretly adores. This is psychologically true, since a secret crush makes us formless and helpless, with a desire that melts us. Perhaps we have no will, but the good thing is, we have no ego, either. We are ready to be a poet. We are purely and truly sentimental.

The poet wishes to be created—well, not quite—formed, by the secret love, and here’s the irony; the poet is creating herself, since she writes the poem. The poet becomes God, but this is only implied, not stated. And here’s a further irony, and even more delightful: if the poet is God, the secret love is God, who is forming her—so the more divine she is, as poet, the more divine the secret love is—so we have mutual true love, and the truth of it is expressed at the end of the poem, “And I…From loving you, Shall love you Even more.” The love increases, and is immortal. The mutuality of the lovers exists in the strongest terms, and the secrecy of the secret beloved of the poem enables the other to possibly be God—who is responsible for forming the poet—as well as the poem itself. Which makes God, who is the beloved, and the lover, and the poet, and the poem not “secret” at all—even as the secrecy is the agency which makes it possible to create the poem as a public document.

The winner: Sushmita Gupta.

Image may contain: 5 people, including Sushmita Gupta, people smiling, people standing, tree, outdoor and nature

 

 

 

 

 

NEVER TELL YOUR LOVER

Never tell your lover she is stupid.

But don’t tell her she is smart.

Let her figure it out.

Don’t brag. Then she’ll nag.

Make your mind a vast, neutral, space she can fill with her heart.

If you want her to care,

When you go here, or there,

Don’t tell her where.

Let her decide who you are

By your calm, understated, demeanor. Let news come from afar

That you might tell her something soon

About a certain feeling you had, earlier, under the misty moon.

Always meet her at fifteen minutes to six, never at six on the dot.

Don’t allow her to love what you are—

She never will. Let her try and love what you could be tomorrow, but are not.

She is kind. She may fall in love with someone weaker than you,

Someone incapable of sex.

In this case, there is nothing you can do.

Love, when it turns kind, will always perplex.

Ah romance. This is the worst part;

When a loving mind is killed by a more loving heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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