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. 

The great disadvantage which the poet faces, as one who would reproduce the excellent—the excellent, by its very nature, will not be easily reproduced.

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 since all is contained in the Big Bang, it could matter to the poet.






  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    September 30, 2018 at 2:45 am

    This is just incredible.

  2. maryangeladouglas said,

    September 30, 2018 at 2:55 am


    to Matthew Arnold
    to Alfred Lord Tennyson

    parrot gaudy, carnival emblematic the stream of human events
    we watched over Avalon, Camelot
    the faring Fair and thought of this: the hidden life

    as on the other side of a mirror recessive, recessional
    the nightingale furled music killed despair
    the saints and fools for God achieved finally

    their very own silence.

    which to choose the candled gloom or the rainbow riot
    each must choose beyond the news, the collective summing up.that signifies, nothing, really.

    swans as they vanish leave a trace
    as Jesus did on the Loving Cup
    of what has been and of the Return.

    we seized our chance for a furtive glance perhaps
    and were doomed to litter the knight bled trail.
    but saints, they know whose they should be

    still seek the Grail,

    and where to go even to obscurity or further into woe
    it still, it will always come up Gold.
    and where far from the madding crowd

    as the expression goes
    oblivious as snows they are
    drifting into God.

    mary angela douglas 29 september 2018

  3. thomasbrady said,

    October 10, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    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.

    This seems to hint that the poem may exist somewhere and that the poet discovers and then reveals its existence, a Platonic gesture.

    There are other possibilities…what if poetry itself exists as a force, enters the poet, and leaves behind shards, indicators, tendencies, or some other non-concrete element of force, which spurs the poet on to create a poem…it is the poet’s job to learn what seduces poetry into the poet in the first place, and then how to nurture the residuals of poetry’s visit into something we might think of as a poem. As in nurturing any other organic thing onto a growth path, providing this or that can change the trajectory of that growth, even if one is bound by an ideology centered around teleology. So the poem never existed in some netherworld, preordained, waiting to be discovered, but is the residual of a process or poetry as it plays itself self out in the human domain.

    Just thinking out loud.

    —Greg Grummer

  4. thomasbrady said,

    October 10, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    We had some technical difficulties with Greg’s post. We deleted a duplication and now all “replies” to that duplication are not showing up, including the one we have reproduced above.. Our apologies. It wasn’t our intention to delete your post, Greg!

    Anyway, I don’t think the ‘poem’ is something on the outside which ‘enters’ the poet—the fully realized poem is created solely in the mind of the poet—“found” there, perhaps, but the entire creation is an inner process. Pieces and inspirations come from outside, but the poem, only from inside.

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