Image result for mountain tarn

It happened over there—back over there,
She said—pointing to the far mist
Surrounding the mountain—
Where inside the mountain, a cold lake
Surrounded by rock, a lake
Where its one species of fish
Eats amphibian, and thinks it snake,
Regretting but slightly its mistake—
Ravenous—but ravenous is everyone at last.
It happened, it happened in my distant past—
A lake which is a gorge of pure rock bound,
Bound on all sides by rock, where hungry birds look for prey
In the dark pool made of rock all day,
Where tall walls shade
Creatures who barely hide; I was afraid.
She pointed—over there, it happened over there—
When I was a girl, and he was a boy;
What is romance? Love? Excitement? Joy?
Compared to the slow responsible life?
The perpetual eating? The vulture’s wife?
It happened over there—deep in the mist—
And rumors are vague, but rumors persist—
Rumors of gods who the gods kissed—
For the interminable days in the beginning of time.
It happened over there, to me; it happened one time,
As the mist descended into the mountain—
Mist surrounded the lake; it happened too fast to remember,
But I remember. If it happens once, you remember—
It happened once. It was sad. And sad that I remember.



Image result for the muse in renaissance painting

“I know in one step. You, in two.

You think. I simply love you.”

—“Love Not Only Loves, It Judges” Tom Graves

Immediacy and infinity are two sides of the same coin.

The mysterious connection between immediacy and infinity is what makes love (and poetry) both impetuous and eternal—is what gives earthly love both its “can’t wait” energy and its real existence in the Platonist sense that only what is eternal has real existence. Everything else is merely the coin itself, the metal that rusts or eventually melts away, the universe of disappearance, ephemera, illness and death.

One knows what is beautiful through the senses immediately. And all beauty known immediately is infinite, and therefore sublime and profound and everlasting and actual. Beauty known immediately belongs to Nature or God, to actual existence—the star made for the moth of the mind. One does not have to think through, in steps, the beautiful, and this immediate judgement, or knowledge, or understanding, or experience, belongs to the realm of the sensual, the physical, the material, the actual, which strikes our eye with its immediacy and which is experienced sensually.

The poet conceives the best poems, as the universe was conceived, as a whole—and this happy immediacy in the poet’s consciousness participates in what scientists have termed the “Big Bang”—the instantaneous creation of the material universe.

In order for the poet’s immediacy of conception (what the whole is) to have real existence in the physical world, so that the created poem is a fully realized poem with real physical properties—and not merely a group of words attempting, by picking their way, in the accumulative act of seeking “meaning” in a step by tentative step, manner, a meaning always elusive since it must be sought by choosing which parts best convey what the whole is supposed to be (since the poet thinks to find out what the whole is by continually adding parts)—the poem conceived immediately, exactly as the physical universe was conceived immediately, real and eternal, must have material properties in the poet’s real conception of it and in the resulting reader’s experience of it.

The physical existence of the poem is not an inferior byproduct of the poet’s “thinking;” the physical poem, which strikes the ear the way a beautiful body of water with the sun glinting off it strikes the eye, is the poem, fully and completely, and is not the result of “thinking,” nor is the poem meant to be “thought about” when it is first experienced by the reader.

Anything can be “thought about” later, even pieces of garbage—the act of “thinking” or “thinking about” has absolutely nothing to do with experiencing a poem.

This sort of “thinking” inevitably ruins the poem, and destroys the aesthetic sense completely.

In the preparation for the writing of the poem, there can certainly be this kind of “thinking,” the sort of “thinking” all non-poets do, but the immediacy of creating, and the immediacy of experiencing, poetry’s existence in time and space, is physical, sensual, material, and does not belong to “thinking.”

Rhyme and meter distinguish the poem as the real object of interest.

But rhythm and meaning interact in language—in prose, as well as in poetry. Pitiful would it be, to aspire to be “a real object,” and how is it anything but an empty platitude to say “a poem” is “a rhyme?” It insults our intelligence to even come near this platitude, and every good poet, even those with great affection for song and rhyme and rhythm, never commit themselves to the formalist platitude in practice, or conversation. The platitude is still true, however. The poet can rhyme towards silliness—or towards sublimity. It is up to the bravery and skill of the poet.

The lone poet is prolific, and will write several poems in an afternoon, and invisible roots will connect the sudden serial efforts, so that an excellent poem will result, due to the good poem (or an okay poem which fails for a particular reason) composed just before, or the good poem composed just after, in a frenzy of muscle-cloud creativity, as non-poet thinking is enslaved to the poet’s project.

The other sort of poet, far more common, will take six months to write a poem. They will sketch out attempts for the first part of the poem over several weeks; a month or two will pass, and then the second half of the poem will begin to take shape; the earnest zeal of revision takes over, as the idea of the poem slowly comes into focus, urged on, almost accidentally, by this, or that, image, usually.

This other poet inevitably achieves greater worldly success—for during those months when they do not compose, what are they doing? They are networking—making all those friendly, social gestures which insert and cement themselves into advantageous company: their non-threatening personality soothes, their poetry, since it is not very good, does not threaten, and the poetry will often be socially enhancing, as they write about the “right things,” or, in a slightly different strategy, their poetry inhabits a kind of “educated” obscurity, truly advantageous because obscurity is critic-proof; it has no real existence, and therefore it cannot be judged as bad.

The prolific poet, the poet of genius, is too poetically besotted to do any of this, and if their poetry is truly good, and it hasn’t been accompanied with fawning networking, the quality of their poetry is seen as nothing more than an outsider threat. Especially to those for whom poetry belongs exclusively to networking—which inevitably destroys everything which has anything to with poetry.

The prolific poet, lazy to the world at large, may be moved to write an essay in which they assert that “fully material immediacy, which has no time to think” is the most important quality of the poem. And the supporting quality which is: “eternally admirable fullness of expression,” or, in other words, sublimity, beauty, and unity, which defies immediacy, precisely because we wish to linger over its substance, which the poet has miraculously “fit” inside immediacy.

The temporal, material existence of the poem is its duration, and how that duration is expressed by meter (and rhyme).  There is no other way for the temporal poem qua temporal poem to be physical. Yet the immediacy of the wholeness of the experience in terms of soul-enhancing meaning and beauty and sublimity is more important than any mere ‘poem as rhyme’ platitude. 

It is easy to hold up a mirror, as many poets do, to what is ugly, discordant, painful, wrong—and though many poets do this in the name of solidarity and justice and democracy, the true result is that the unpleasant is reproduced, in both form and content, and the percentage in the world of the unpleasant is increased—unpleasant poems of dribbly prose assert to the helpless reader—“you see? the world really is a horrible place! there’s more evil and wrong than you know!” Moral individuals cannot resist this spread-the-news-as-poetry, and build whole “poetic” careers around it.

But morality has nothing to do with poetry. But certainly, since all is contained in the Big Bang, it could matter to the poet. Any moral attitude can be inserted into a poem—the question is simply: what are the physical properties of the poem qua poem which you are fitting the morality into?


Image result for fritz perls

My son wants to study psychology. I always had an interest in what
Makes people tick. My brother and I would talk for hours. What
You had to do to make it through and be a happy person. That
Was an obsession of mine when I was shy and nineteen.
Political activism was great, but Freud and Fritz Perls,
What the inner person really wants, or can’t want, meant more.
My lapsed protestant parents raised me to be secular and educated.
Religion teaches you to be good. They taught me to be happy.
A fine distinction, that. Not that I abandoned the good,
The good was lazily applied by Christian vestiges as a child,
Not drummed in—perhaps it worked out for the best, by accident.

Now I ask myself—I chose poetry over psychology, finally—
What is psychology? In one word, I would say: Invisible.
Psychology is the study of the Invisible. Religion and poetry
Are certainly children of the Invisible, but psychology is the Invisible itself.
Where is the most Invisible found? In people. The secrets of people.
Add to the Invisible the Unspoken, but the Unspoken is often Visible—
Despite what you did not say, I see what you wanted, and what you are.
But what is that?  What did you want to say? Now let’s see.
Did you go to class? Where did you sit? Did you take notes?
Is this like those nightmares I had when I was late for class
And traversed the entire campus looking for what I never found?


Related image

Mars stood next to the moon,

Dwarfed by her size and light,

The vivid red of Mars neither large nor bright,

A point beside the moon—brightening the night.

The moment I glanced these two together,

I knew I wouldn’t describe the weather,

Only the moon and Mars, both silent and far away,

A portion of the universe circling to stay.

Last night I looked for the gleaming moon,

Where she had often been,

But yesterday belonged to the rain and the wind.

Tonight, here is Mars, and the bright moon, too,

The moon, familiar, but Mars I also knew.

I rarely see Mars, but there it was,

A hand’s length from the the moon—who makes me think of love.

Why, she wonders, do we call her moon?

Why, he wonders, do we call him Mars?

And how much foolish poetry is written

Underneath the stars?


Image result for elizabeth taylor

Cats are actresses. Dogs are porn stars.
I recently saw lonely women compared to dogs
In a woman’s poem—what do you expect from poets?
Their moral apologies, their moral ambiguities, and shame,
As they feel around the real and try to give it a name.
The wagging, slobbering loyalty of a dog
Is an acquired taste. A dog, a kind of sexual partner without sex,
Has saved many a life from pure despair
When otherwise we would go out of our minds
From the loneliness our indignant irritation finds.
You had too many thoughts, didn’t you?
In your loneliness you were not wholly focused,
Like da Vinci, like Mozart, like a dog.
Plenty of men prefer the loyalty of a dog
To anything a clever woman can offer;
A dog can be disgusting, but no person
Tends to be disgusting for long.  I should know this
But I don’t. The disgusting doesn’t remain
In the public eye for long. It’s private. Who the fuck knows
How disgusting people can become?
Men hate women, because
A sensitive woman initiated every great love that ever was.


Image result for chickadee in renaissance painting

A chickadee will never see

How a blind composer took her phrase, and added to it a melody—

A famous tragic song of love for all

Who love the difficult love, which holds us all in thrall.

The bird on the bough will never know the plan

To abort the child because it was a different man,

And that the aborted child was born alive and almost saved,

The DNA was switched by the trusted doctor she thought

She loved, and, as the doctor came to murder her, was caught,

And murdered by the assumed father, the rival, as she was slain.

Will poetry, or the chickadee, ever be more than it is, if it knows this pain?





Image result for a beautiful goddess guards the wall

As soon as you begin reading this, you’ve crossed

Into it. This poem exists because you are able to cross

Into it. Otherwise it wouldn’t exist.

Existence requires borders. Everything. Even a list.

Why is life perplexing? There are places you go,

And places you don’t go. That’s all you need to know.

Why is this so difficult? A note in music has a certain duration

Or it’s not a note among the notes of that composition,

Which is—is the audience ready?—playing only when it’s playing,

Just as this poem is here only for the time it’s saying what it’s saying.

If there is a place which is happy, outside of it is nothing, or sorrow.

Happiness today is made of borders—keeping away sadness tomorrow.

The world is mathematically round to keep the non-mathematical out.

The world is measurement and order. Beyond is misery and doubt.

The poem—I’m not inventing it—will keep you here, until it throws you out.

The poem has both of us—I, the poet who saw it first, and then, you;

The poem took you when you entered it; finally, what are you going to do?

The place you entered, and the place you exit, keeps out what’s bad.

The poem keeps out, but also, to be a beautiful poem, contains the sad.

This poem, like all existence, has a border,

But sadly, is a border only. Beauty walks the walls. And now gives the order.


Love not only loves, it judges,

And this is why love fades away

And only the cigarette butts from yesterday

Remain—after you cry, and plead, and say what you need to say.

Only the poet who sings a sweet song,

Hates what needs to be hated

And sees the poem of drippy prose is wrong.

Only a poet hates the one who waited

To show her hate, and when her hate is revealed at last—

Love, asking for honesty, having forced her hand—

Love, not only loving, but seeking continually to understand—

Finds hate, calculating, doubtful, slow, the winner; love unfortunately is fast—

Since by its very nature, love is unable to doubt.

Love belatedly discovers the hate, and calls the hate out.

When I loved you, fully and completely, and love surprised

You in your very eyes,

You looked at me in love, hiding as long as you could, your hate.

I loved you until I understood. You are pitied, wounded, and waiting. I never wait.

Love and judgment are alike in this—

Bright. And with the speed of light, surround, ruin and kiss.

I know in one step. You, in two.

You think. I simply love you.


No one is real. Everyone is a spokesman for someone, or something, else;

Everyone is a puppet for a hidden agenda. A willing, or an unwilling, dupe.

And the landscape of secret competition is so complex, willing and

Unwilling are the same. Seeking security and pleasure is simple,

Right? Absolutely not. All we know are thoughts inside of thoughts.

Everyone is confused absolutely and a puppet absolutely.

Love requires trust, but anyone who trusts a puppet is a fool.

I must include myself in this charade, and ask you not to believe

Anything I say. What can I say in favor of this or that? What do I know?

I am being used. By what or whom, and for what purpose, I’m not certain.

I could represent a large enterprise, changing from within,

And my resistance to change could be, in an odd twist, in favor of it,

Or my actions could be secretly against it, or, a preparation

For something entirely new, separate and different, which will benefit

Those people over there, or maybe I’m an agent for an operation to soften

And confuse, planting seeds for the next unforeseen uprising and change.

I don’t know what my feelings and thoughts are for, or what they indicate.

I don’t trust you. I don’t know what to tell you. What the hell? This poem is over.



1 Anders Carlson-Wee: Brilliant, empathic poem, “How-To,” published in The Nation—then a mob ends his career.

2 Stephanie Burt: Harvard professor and Nation poetry editor publishes Carlson-Wee—caves to the mob.

3 Carmen Giminez-Smith: Nation co-editor, with Burt, apologizes for “disparaging and ableist language” giving “offense,” “harm,” and “pain” to “several communities.”

4 Grace Schulman: Former Nation poetry editor: “never once did we apologize for publishing a poem.”

5 Patricia Smith: Runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in 2018, a slam poet champion, leads Twitter outrage which greets Carlson-Wee’s Nation poem.

6 Ben Mazer: Selected Poems out, discovering unpublished Delmore Schwartz material for Library of America.

7 Rupi Kaur: Milk and Honey, her debut self-published book of viral Instagram ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ verse, has put a young woman from Toronto on top of the poetry popularity heap.

8 Tyler Knott Gregson: NY Times pointed out this Instagram poet’s first collection of poetry was a national bestseller.

9 Christopher Poindexter: This Instagram poet has been compared to Shakespeare by Huffpost. (He’s nothing like Shakespeare.)

10 Nikita Gill: Probably the best of the feminist Instagram poets.

11 Yrsa Daley-Ward: Her Instapoetry memoir, The Terrible, was praised by Katy Waldman in the New Yorker.

12 Marilyn Chin: Her New and Selected (Norton) this October contains her famous poem, “How I Got That Name.”

13 Frank Bidart: Awarded 2018 Pulitzer for his Collected Poems.

14 William Logan: New prose book: Dickinson’s Nerves, Frost’s Woods. New book of poems, Rift of Light, proves again his formal verse is perhaps the best poetry published today.

15 Kevin Young: New New Yorker poetry editor.

16 Evie Shockley: Was on short list for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

17 David Lehman: Series editor for Best American Poetry since 1988—30 years.

18 Linda Ashok: Poet (Whorelight), songwriter (“Beautiful Scar”) and champion of Indian poetry in English.

19 Derrick Michael Hudson: Who still remembers this “Chinese” BAP poet?

20. Dana Gioia: Guest editor of Lehman’s Best American Poetry 2018.

21 Akhil Katyal: “Is Mumbai still standing by the sea?”

22 Urvashi Bahuguna: “Girl kisses/some other boy. Girl wishes/It was Boy.”

23 Jeet Thayil: “you don’t want to hear her say,/Why, why did you not look after me?”

24 Sridala Swami: Jorge Louis Borges of English Indian poetry.

25 Adil Jussawalla: Born in Mumbai in 1940, another Anglo-Indian poet ignored in the U.S.

26 Rochelle D’Silva:  Indian slam poet who writes in English.

27 Billy Collins: Pajama and Slippers school of poetry. And nothing wrong with that at all.

28 W.S. Merwin: One of the few living major poets born in the 20s (goodbye Ashbery, Hall).

29 Valerie Macon: Quickly relieved of her NC poet laureate duties because of her lack of creds.

30 Mary Angela Douglas: a magical bygone spirit who sweetly found her way onto the Internet.

31 Stephen Cole: Who is this wonderful, prolific lyric poet? The daily Facebook fix.

32 Sophia Naz: “Deviants and dervishes of the river/lie down the length of her”

33 Rochelle Potkar: “But can I run away from the one cell that is the whole Self?”

34 Helen Vendler: No one finally cares what non-poets say about poetry.

35 Huzaifa Pandit: “Bear the drought of good poems a little longer”

36 N Ravi Shankar: “a toy train in a full moon night”

37 Sharon Olds: Like Edna Millay, a somewhat famous outsider, better than the men.

38 Nabina Das: “the familiar ant crawling up”

39 Kaveh Akbar: “the same paradise/where dead lab rats go.”

40 Terrance Hayes: “I love poems more than/money and pussy.”

41 Dan Sociu: Plain-spoken, rapturous voice of Romania

42 Glyn Maxwell: Editor of Derek Walcott’s poems— The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013

43 Arjun Rajendran:  Indian poet in English who writes sassy, seductive poems.

44 A.E. Stallings: With Logan, and a few others, the Formalist torch.

45 Patricia Lockwood: Subsiding from viral into respectability.

46 Marjorie Perloff: An old-fashioned, shaming of NYU professor Avital Ronell in the Nimrod Reitman case.

47 Daipayan Nair: Great love and sex poet of India

48 Shohreh Laici: Proud young voice of restless, poetic Iran

49 Smita Sahay: “You flowed down the blue bus/into a brown puddle/below the yellow lamp post/and hung there”

50 Mary Oliver: An early fan of Edna St. Vincent Millay, she assisted Edna’s sister, Norma, in assembling the great poet’s work.

51 Natasha Trethewey: Former U.S. laureate, her New and Selected favored to win National Book Award this year.

52 Anand Thakore: “a single tusk/White as a quarter-moon in mid-July,/Before the coming of a cloud.”

53 Carl Dennis: Author of the poem, “The God Who Loves You.”

54 Tony Hoagland: Today’s Robert Bly.

55 Meera Nair: “I live in a house/Someone else has loved in”

56 Fanny Howe: “Eons of lily-building/emerged in the one flower.”

57 Rita Dove: Won Pulitzer in 1987. Her The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry (2011) was panned by Vendler and Perloff.

58 Diana Khoi Nguyen: Poet and multimedia artist studying for a PhD in Creative Writing.

59 Matthew Zapruder: Poetry editor of the New York Times magazine since 2016.

60 Jenny Xie: “I pull apart the evening with a fork.”

61 Mary Jo Bang: Chair of the National Book Award judges.

62 Jim Behrle: Hates David Lehman’s Best American Poetry series and “rhyme schemes.”

63 Semeen Ali: “diverting your attention/for a minute/contains my life/my undisclosed life”

64 George Bilgere: Ohio’s slightly more sophisticated Billy Collins.

65 Aishwarya Iyer: “When rain goes where will you find/The breath lost to the coming of love?”

66 Sukrita Kumar: “Flames are messengers/Carrying the known/To the unknown”

67 Sushmita Gupta: “So detached, so solid, so just, so pure. A glory unbeholden, never seen or met before.”

68 Merryn Juliette: “before your body knows the earth”

69 John Cooper Clarke: “The fucking clocks are fucking wrong/The fucking days are fucking long”

70 Justin Phillip Reed: His book (2018) is Indecency.

71 Cathy Park Hong: Her 2014 essay, “Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde,” rules our era. The avant-garde is no longer automatically cool.

72 Carolyn Forche:  “No one finds/ you no one ever finds you.”

73 Zachary Bos: “The sun like a boat drowns.”

74 Bob Dylan: “You could have done better but I don’t mind”

75 Kanye West: The musical guest when SNL open its 44th season September 29th

76 Raquel Salas Rivera: “i shall invoke the shell petrified by shadows”

77 Jennifer Reeser: Indigenous, her new collection, will be available soon.

78 Forrest Gander: Be With from New Directions is his latest book.

79 Arun Sagar: “through glass and rain./Each way out/is worthy, each way leads/to clarity and mist,/and music.”

80 Joanna Valente: “Master said I am too anti-social.”

81 Richard Howard: Like Merwin, an American treasure, born in the 1920s.

82 J.Michael Martinez: Museum of the Americas on 2018 National Book Award longlist.

83 Amber Tamblyn: The actress/poet’s dad does the amazing flips in the movie West Side Story.

84 Paul Rowe: Stunning translation of Cesario Verde’s “O Sentimento dum Ocidental.”

85 Jill Bialosky: Norton editor caught plagiarizing by William Logan

86 Robert Pinsky: Editor of the 25 year anniversary edition of Best American Poetry in 2013.

87 Philip Nikolayev: Poet, linguist, philosopher: One Great Line theory of poetry is recent.

88 Ada Limón: The poet lives in New York, California, and Kentucky.

89 Rae Armantrout: Her poems examine, in her words, “a lot of largely unexamined baggage.”

90 Alex Dimitrov: “I want even the bad things to do over.”

91 Sam Sax: “Prayer for the Mutilated World” in September Poetry.

92 Danielle Georges: “You should be called beacon. You should be called flame.”

93 Stephen Sturgeon: “These errors are correct.”

94 Hieu Minh Nguyen: “Maybe he meant the city beyond the window.”

95 Richard Blanco: presidents, presidents, presidents.

96 Kent Johnson: His magazine Dispatches from the Poetry Wars continues the fight against poetry as commodity/career choice.

97 Parish Tiwari: “between falling rain/and loneliness…/the song/that once was ours”

98 Eliana Vanessa: Rrrrr. Lyric internet poet of the Tooth, Death, Love, Sex and Claw school.

99 Rachel Custer: Best known poem is “How I Am Like Donald Trump”

100 Jos Charles: “wen abeyance/accidentlie”





Image result for stars in the sky

When I am to the dark house gone,

My poetry maybe will travel in hearts a little farther on.

But if I failed as a poet, I will not know.

I only hoped, and still to the dark house I go.

When I am to the dark stars gone

The bright stars, as they always have, will shine a little farther on.

This does not require hope. It’s something I know.

The bright stars will shine. When to the dark stars I go.





Crime is like love.

How can we prove

The criminal did it again and again,

And loved us, with love that doesn’t end?

The brash detective proves

That even a lover, a lover who loves,

In one place and one time,

Even as they loved, committed a crime,

Kissing us falsely under a tree.

Prove it, detective. She loved me.

She came to me of her own free will,

To be loved and love. Prove every thrill

Of the mood by that shadowy lake

She felt freely, and all for my sake.

Every sigh she made in the grass

Was for me, and the mood did not pass

When she went home to rest.

Her restlessness was love at its best.

Prove her lack of peace proved

She was mine, and I was the one she loved,

And when we met and kissed again,

It was love which did not want to end,

Whether we kissed on the mountain or by the low lake,

And she tenderly kissed me only for my sake.

And when she didn’t love me that one time,

Can you prove, that this once, love wasn’t like crime?

That she wasn’t guilty, and love didn’t pass

Away, and when later, she kissed me in the grass,

And she told me she was still in love with me

It was love that was the same as when we kissed by the sea?




During the depression, I lived richly.

During the war, I lived peacefully outside of town.

The year the crops and gardens failed,

I enjoyed sugary meals from 7-11.

When I thought about what I was doing I didn’t know what I was doing.

I wrote poetry that was not poetry.

I had thoughts about love that were not about love.

The day the towers fell I was raising children,

And thinking blindly in the back of my mind about many conspiracy theories.

Working on my Ph.D., I drank beer and played Pac-Man

At a Big Ten school, avoiding drunk football linemen.

In 1986 I had more doubts about her after she expressed herself, and yelled.

In 1996 my mind was clarified by a smoking habit, and I was more loved, albeit I smelled.

Paid to take my money, professionals once took the money

I paid to those who were in debt to be above talk of money.

There was a huge crisis—since it was balmy and sunny.

All politics and philosophy belonged for a moment to a silky-haired asshole.

The differences that were not really differences took their toll.

My lover and I during the Age of the Selfie did not take selfies at all.

Once, my short, successful friend pushed me from behind, simply because he was small.


Image result for abstract painting city trees

You permit these thoughts,

These hopes, these stairs, these sights

From the top, with the city trees in view,

As I depart the station. If I saw you,

Before I was allowed to know you were

My love, my maker, making all these things occur,

You, the one who is coming,

You, much more than my troubled thoughts—

I would be too excited; I would fall down the stairs.

The fact that you are not here protects me.

If I saw you, if you were to be seen, to add

To what is only my sad, daily scenery,

A light in shadow emerging below,

Perhaps between those two parked cars,

On that street, where every day, I go

On my interminable commute, my commute would be

Over in an instant, the rapid light and shade.

I am walking down the stairs carefully,

Cool but excited, writing this in my head—

Seeing you? This poem? Is that what you made?


Image result for nickel in painting coins in renaissance painting

Your brain, the size of a nickel,

Must confront ten trillion dollars in change

Every second of every day. Life

Is an endless variety of sadness and torture

And your heart keeps saying it’s OK it’s OK.

Your memory is a beautiful woman

The universe wants to enter: do you remember

How the crowd agreed with you and you felt love

In a way that swamped the embarrassing

Episodes when it was just you and him?

Your brain is amazing. It’s almost worth a dime.

But look. Here comes the coolest god:

Forgetfulness. She is never on time.


Image result for da vinci sketches of astronomy

The eye drinks astronomy
And by the perspective of geometry sees,
The universe, her children, and the poet’s unease.
The farthest star, just out of sight,
Is seen by mathematics, if the calculations are right.
The farthest star, must fall back into
The beginning, central to seeing the you and the non-you,
The big bang, where nothing into matter grew;
Relation, the soul of matter, and so you knew
Perspective was how distance mirrored time.
That was the reason, as a child, you were charmed by rhyme,
And you liked to think about where the universe stopped.
Eventually your whole definition of infinity was dropped.
Today when you prick yourself, and there’s a little blood,
You automatically think of sex and horror films and food.
You thought a little too much, and it spoiled love.
She would have figured things out with you
But you had slightly more mundane things to do.
You couldn’t keep what you were thinking all in one place;
You were writing poems; you were worried about your face.
Poor poet, you know one thing: Many things into one thing will fit;
A little shaping of this verse, and that will be it.




Image result for woman with a knife in renaissance painting

The sad is my object, and I play with it in poetry and song.

She feels sad as a subject, and feels the sad is wrong.

I was able to kiss her and want her and my poetry

Loved her, but her love was deeper, so she left me.

I could be all and everything; I could kiss her, and then be apart;

She was focused on me and me alone, but she broke my heart.

Her daily rituals and appointments enslaved her until I

Arrived to make her happy—yet she made me cry.

The man is more artificial, and has a superficiality

The woman envies; she gives up her melancholy for clarity

And renounces all which prevents the sexes from being the same.

With a small knife she carved into my poem, “I Love You,” the first four letters of her name.


Image result for dark grotto in renaissance painting

Cloudy sunshine emits more light than a lighted room.

Compared to nature, the mind is an unvisited tomb,

Which in darkness picks over the remains of its dead,

Traces of memories fooling itself in a foolish head.

The mind is only an eye, and, when the mind is its own subject, a subject of gloom,

Trapped by its own melancholy, and when it fights

Sad feelings with happy thoughts, it deludes itself with small lights.

The reassurances of the depressed

Repeat themselves in a skull which admits no light, no guest.

“There’s no one here!” Examine the mind,

And the eyeless discovers it cannot find the blind.

Instead, change slightly the old and visible in that piece of history we know as a day,

And make new melody with bright error inside harmony. Seek joy and knowledge that way.



Image result for india in september

Welcome to another month of 7 Indian Poets in English, a project born from the mind and good will of Linda Ashok.

The 7-poets-per-month reviewing began in February of this year, and the experience has been humbling and elevating.  Humbling because the poets are talented, and Scarriet cannot possibly do them justice by looking at them so briefly, and elevating, because to love poetry is to read and support poetry, no matter how imperfectly.


How do we know the poetry reviewer or critic is good and honest?  And is good always honest?

If poetry (and therefore its judgement) involves emotion (and every aesthetic philosopher, even the colder ones, acknowledge emotion as crucial, whether embraced or escaped), must the honest critic, like the poet, be fickle, moody, unsparing, and often wrong?

If the critic obeys no emotion, and instead uses a standard, or lens, to judge the poetry, how do we know the “lens” of the critic is worthy, accurate, or true?  How can the critic prove to us his “lens” is accurate?  And if he can’t, isn’t this supposedly more objective critical method open to the same charges of unreliability?

If a poem is good, does it need criticism?

If the poem succeeds, does it require nagging reminders or explanations—since the poem, because it is a success, says it all?

If a good poem does not require criticism, how can we can attach importance to criticism?

The bad poem doesn’t need criticism, either. Unless the criticism is teaching the bad poet something, and what poet wants to be given a lesson in public re: his poem?

What critic would dare do such a thing?

It’s a miracle criticism exists at all.

Is this why for every 10,000 poets there is one decent, respectable, and serious critic among us?

Poets are always complaining that a critic is not their friend.

But when has a poet ever apologized to a critic?

We know there are bad poems, which no reader or critic should be forced to read, but even with the millions of bad poems published, when has a poet ever apologized?

Critics write apologies—this is what reviews and criticism, in fact, are. So why is the critic perceived as the villain? And the poet the victim?

When the very opposite is true?

And surely there are readers-–who are not critics at all?

Sudeep Sen may be perceived as the victim, but this is not true. By way of demonstration it is only necessary to print his poem “Desire” in full:

Under the soft translucent linen,
  the ridges around your nipples
harden at the thought of my tongue.
  You — lying inverted like the letter ‘c’ —
arch yourself deliberately
  wanting the warm press of my lips,
it’s wet to coat the skin
  that is bristling, burning,
breaking into sweats of desire —
  sweet juices of imagination.
But in fact, I haven’t even touched
 you. At least, not yet.


Devashish Makhija is a filmmaker.

And if that’s not enough, he writes poems like Neruda.

But this critic, sworn to love only the truly good, has never been too impressed by Neruda, the poet of seduction, whose one trick is pick-up lines enhanced by Metaphor 101.

A kiss is never just a kiss. It is, in “The Silence in the Body,” by Makhija, “a yellow ocean of abrasive sand” and “a deep sky of knife-edged stars,” and many other things, but there is a variation on Neruda—“The Silence of the Body” is not a love poem, but a defiant quarrel, in which Makhija offers his “silence” to his beloved’s attempt to “hear me scream.”

From his poem “If I Kill Myself Today”—perhaps not as witty as Dorothy Parker, but it has a pleasant darkness; we quote only the first part:

If I kill myself today

Tomorrow’s milk will curdle
untended at the door

Some clothes in the
washing machine will stay
unwashed forever

A hundred ants will gather in
quiet celebration around some
spilt tea in the kitchen

A quiet celebration around tea.  What’s not to like?


Mani Rao could perhaps be called the e.e.cummings of India; she’s enormously clever, in a coy, on-the-run, romantic, manner. Look at this, from her poem “End of Scene”:

We don’t see each other  any more

Was it art for art’s sake

or did we get some poems out of it

“Until part do us death”

Until we exhaust all endings

Mani Rao can make a reader grimace and grin at the same time.

Here, in its entirety, is her poem, “Peace Treaty:”

What if Helen died

Cuckold crows
Husband recalls
Body face rites

Once broad Trojan devils
Now cower in the shadows of walls
Fearing skywitnesses
Quaking at birdshit

Our boy came back
From overseas with a
Souvenir egg that ticked

A runaway wife’s a rotten prize
Unwanted alive
And dead

History isn’t very old. Poetry isn’t very old.  It’s still dealing with the same alive, rotten, and dead.


Menka Shivdasani is one of those poets very fond of metamorphosis; she pushes right through metaphor into transformation—she becomes utterly at one with an everyday object, or a pet dog, and her metamorphosis story becomes the reason for writing the (prose) poem. She does this so well, that she diminishes herself by association with a thing, and, with subtle imagination, is triumphant, at the same time. “Diary of a Mad Housewife” her tour de force, has her bringing her dog to the vet, and the vet is not sure which one is the dog.

“The Woman Who Speaks to Milk Pots,” perhaps less cleverly, but more concisely, and forcefully, demonstrates her poignant genius at living in a profound way with objects.

I shall ignore
that steely glint
and watch you.

I am simmering too,
padding about
with cotton ball claws,
arching my back
before the flickering
flame, scratching
behind my ear.

You’ve got the cream,
melded into every drop.
I will bide my time
till you separate,
and strain you
through wire mesh.

I’m on edge now; about
to overflow. Don’t sit
so self-contained,
snow-white and cold.

I shall turn the heat up,
put the lid on.

Watch me.


Nabina Das is poet who floods you with sensual detail, but she also steps back for the journey, a longer looking—and it is hard not to be charmed by the simple, yet effective manner her poem “Death and Else” is divided up.  The parts of a poem, and how they contribute to the whole, is such an obvious thing, that sometimes we miss how important it is in moving a poem towards perfection.

age seven:
a white-sheeted stomach
an upward motion
drowning breath.
i’m just a fly
on the wall thinking
why the old man
won’t sit up any more
get his shirt
worn-out leather belt
soaked dentures
and just go.

age eleven:
grandma is all marigold petals
her widow kitchen
shut and swept clean.
the hens she shooed
from the porch
aren’t happy either.
they miss her
rant as much as i do
her cow-dung mud floors
ladles bent
brass plates lying idle.

she recounts the story
at our sleepover –
her sister had sat
where i sit
under the same ceiling
fan from where she
later dangled.
they had a song
about skirt hems
secret love letters.
her voice rebounds
against the ceiling’s hurt
old rose wall
sister’s school sash
the familiar ant crawling up.

early youth:
newspaper packagings never fail
to surprise, to raise curiosity
about a life in black and white, so
i sit down cross-legged poring
with no dateline.
soon the newsprint too
gets shredded –
strip limbs
defaced alphabets
police-record names.

time of lust:
we kiss in a living shadow
away from the dead
body lying gently
in the front yard.
no one notices us
and the mourning
tastes like his stale
my chipped nails
fail to dig into his skin
and we miss the dead.

the other day:
my father’s face
is held in four frames
that don’t contain
his timex watch
the steel-rimmed glasses
a karl marx tie pin
and a pen of many decades.
the frames box him
like all things past,
they smooth his
tender jaw and here
he is young
he is in love.

This is a nice form, which we hope a wonderful poet such as Nabina Das will pursue more often, even if poems and forms sometimes quarrel with each other.


Smita Sahay belongs to a rising wave of women poets attempting to move India forward in terms of female empowerment. She’s into spoken word—and the possibilities of blending it with comedy.  Whatever helps poetry! Poets wait for the day when spectacular crowds attend poetry readings. How do we make poetry as popular as music? When a poem is read silently, it is still performed. To hear music, most people need the music. Will poetry ever be massively popular? Or does it thrill best in one’s head?  This poem by Sahay explores, as only a poet might, mysteriously (I confess to not understanding everything in this poem) the very popular Marilyn Monroe.

For Marilyn Monroe

You flowed down the blue bus
into a brown puddle
below the yellow lamp post
and hung there –
beneath streetlights.
As I walked past,
my cane poked your right eye
and rippled your left.

I walked on,
head in a woolly cap,
heart wrapped in pashmina,
tottering on wobbly knees,
my cane click-clacking.
My head held your pictures
and heart heard voices –
your voices.

You flow in your white dress upon that vent
and croon ‘Diamonds’.
Now you live on buses,
on billboards,
fashion catalogues,
magazine covers;
my memories
and brown puddles.


Preeti Vangani is a spoken word poet earning her MFA at the University of San Francisco and she embraces social justice—which means her poems attempt to describe bad things humans do in the clearest way possible. “Parental Advice,” in which “for your own good” is appended to every line is a “Found poem made entirely from politician and police statements post incidents of rape in India.”

Here’s another poem with the same theme. We quote “Cover Up” in full:

(Woman who survived gang rape, acid attack thrice; forced to drink acid by perpetrators)

How many perverts does it take to change a light bulb?

Dad says wear full pants when a lower caste electrician comes

home to look at your sockets but don’t forget to offer

courtesy water & smile for the camera with me

when the right winged prime minister

celebrates womanhood on Twitter

as #selfiewithdaughter. A woman on the news melts

as she is bathed in acid, she shakes it off

like drying off wet hair. All Indians are my brothers

and sisters is the first line of our pledge:

But a dented sister must beg police brothers to write

an FIR as her body burns bureaucratically

and she is burdened for proof. And she better be wearing

full pants while begging. The govt. must mandate begging

bowls with pink bows for all women while doling out

Rs. 1,00,000/- as her consolation. She must learn to cover

all of her sockets with bowls and hide the jangling pennies

of protest in her chest


Our exciting tour of India through poetry will continue next month. More great poets to come!








Image result for preraphaelite painting

The beautiful face is like other beautiful faces,

The beautiful iconic look other faces share,

A beauty instantly recognized which the knowing cartoonist traces,

But her face compares to nothing—some similarity is there

To other beautiful faces,

But her face violates the template lovers see;

Her face, by the normal measure, should be ugly.

But it isn’t. And those who meet her more than once,

And get over that first illusion

Of the awkward and the ugly, gradually reach a different conclusion.

Her face is like the Christ, a difference the gift of God.

I, too, thought her face was strong, but odd,

A chin too prominent by the architect’s hand,

A beauty even beauty could never understand,

Not beautiful because it was her—

No personality shining through—

But a timeless architecture, imperious and pure,

A beauty not really for love—but belonging more to awe,

A face in an opium dream of lust, no cartoonist could draw.

Her face is the template of a beauty yet to be,

And not only did I succumb,

Her face succumbed to me,

And even now I am dumb

And cannot speak; wit does not belong to eternity.



There is nothing that must be said,

Despite what the vain poets say,

There is only what should be said,

And what we might have said, yesterday.

Do you hear nostalgia in “yesterday?”

That’s mostly what poetry is. That’s mostly what the poets say.

And if you are sad, you must be sad,

But I don’t know anything that must be said.

Examine all the poems, examine all the lives of the dead.

We find the attempt, and all attempts against what was attempted,

And further attempts, and we always attempt, as we should,

And if we ask for the bad, pretending to ask for the good,

The world will punish us, exactly as it should.

You should know this, but maybe you don’t,

And maybe they will tell you, or tactfully, perhaps, they won’t.

You don’t need to explain too much, or you shouldn’t;

You may hurt my feelings, but really, you wouldn’t.

But now the poet comes along and falsely says, what I have said, must be said.

I will write of love—before it is a love, before it is a love of someone who’s dead.

But there is nothing that must be said. Just say what you think you should.

Then tell me again of love that’s neither bad nor good.


Image result for lights across the bay at night

When beauty doesn’t know it is beautiful,

Because beauty wants something more,

Who dares to tell the ignorant

What ignorant beauty is for?

The response will be like the stars

Silent, in silent skies,

Or the sneer on the face of the one who has those beautiful eyes.

The additional, which the beautiful wants,

Adds more to how the beautiful wants

Secretly more beauty.

Everything is sad and needy

Except pure beauty.

When beauty doesn’t know it is beautiful,

It seems more beautiful still,

As when anger burns in fury

But has no fighting will.

“Fight me!” You cry, knowing anger is there.

But anger is far more angry when anger doesn’t care.

When beauty doesn’t know it is beautiful—

Actually, beauty not knowing is always the case;

Beauty isn’t confident, just because it has a beautiful face.

Everything can bring down the beautiful—

We all fear humbling disgrace.

Be careful what you say to the beautiful,

In poetry, or in person.

Less beautiful when it leaves its prison,

The beauty is not a beautiful person,

And wants to be beautiful again, in the prison,

Trapped by its beautiful face and eyes—

You’ve seen the mute stars look down, trapped by an empty sky.

You’ve heard the poet—the big baby—in love with beauty, cry.

Look! The evening lights of the town gleam across the bay—

Each light, a human story; but they have nothing to say.










You want what you want because you don’t want it;

You want what you don’t want a lot;

You cannot want what you want just a little bit,

And the next moment you throw it away.

You wanted a violin—but a violin was too difficult to play.

You wanted me. And you stopped wanting me the same way.

But wanting is such that it is not wanting, because wanting

Is not having, and not having is not knowing, so wanting

Is, by its very nature ignorant. So watch out for wanting.

Beware when you want, and beware being wanted.

You don’t know what a violin is, and you are a violin no one can play.

But when I warn you against wanting, you’re just going to want, anyway.

You want what you don’t want. Why did I think when you wanted me

I was going to be loved? I didn’t. I started to write a poem immediately.



Those unable to think abstractly,

Will hate abstractly, because feeling needs a place to go.

What is the abstract? It is emotion knowing—when we don’t really know.

We think with our feelings, sometimes matter-of-factly,

When the mundane thing must be done,

But daring insights, when we fly close to the truth, or the sun,

Turn our feelings into thoughts. We triumph in the mind,

As thoughts become feelings, when music, both beautiful and blind,

Narrows pleasure by increasing it.

Look at this poetry. It is music.

But those with no insights can only abstractly be abstract,

Can only feel the frustration of feeling, or examine dully the dull fact.

Abstraction is ubiquitous—because partial information

Belongs to expert, child, intoxicant—drunk in death, or elation.

The rush to hate abstractly appalls us. Will all the women hate all the men?

The whole society becomes infected. Madness. War. Here it comes again.

Remember, there is always a reason. Reason can and will understand hate,

Even when it’s directed at innocent you. We can figure it out! It’s not too late.


Yes I admit

I’m a Darwinist in my thought and wit.

If I see the cutest face on a short woman

I think, “Oh yes, cute provides hope for

Her—hope is natural for the human—

A cute face making up for lack of stature,

And so short and tall, rich and poor, we have these choices,

But I hate them, and when I hear the chattering voices,

Shall we go to this restaurant or that one?

All the hopeful ideas and decisions,

The elections, the Darwinist decisions,

Filling up our hopeful lives and days,

I reject these human interactions

And dwell, instead on the divine.

Maybe the restaurant is closed,

The short one rejects you. Fine.

I won’t go to a restaurant.

I will wander. What people hate is what I want.

No I can’t eat that! But I expect to dine.


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