DEFENDING MYSELF

Image result for the child poet in renaissance painting

I became a poet to defend the child

That I felt in my heart I was.

I had so much to explain, but I knew

All explanations come up short. Even you

Shook your wise head and did not understand

When I tried to repeat what I had learned.

I wanted something which yearned

To understand, which explained

Every rude remark, every pained

Expression, every scornful smile, every doubt,

In a way which no one had quite written about.

Perhaps I learned this from you,

But even in my innocence, I knew

Every explanation begets further misunderstanding,

And so I yearned to explain

Both the shadows and the sunshine of pain.

I felt the most important thing

Was a profound and primal innocence,

And none of the explaining

Explained it, even if explaining didn’t end.

I decided, then, to never explain.

Do not explain, but joyfully defend

Myself, the poet, but most of all, the child,

Facing demons who are not like me,

But merely wild.

 

THROUGH THE EYES OF OTHERS

 

Image result for crowding in to look at the celebrity

If you want to rise,

See the world through others’ eyes.

Love can come from only you,

But love is better when you share the view.

Eager self-love and its enmity,

Strike out at kindness and sympathy,

Even though plain and bland, in vain.

Selfless love is sweet and sane.

Isn’t this all true?

So where did I go wrong with you?

I loved what the crowd loved. But now I see

By this sympathy, I am most unhappy.

Happiest are those

Who love what is entirely hidden by the clothes,

Who don’t need a wife to stand beneath the sun,

And be admired by everyone.

But I took you, admired by every crowd.

Sympathy proved to be too loud.

The public crowded in to see

What I loved. And took you away from me.

 

 

PEOPLE ARE CRAZY SO YOU CAN BE LOVED

Image result for melania trump

This poem is crazy. The best ones are.

They go out as a sun and come back as a star.

I’m trying to fit this poem into a dream.

Here is my poem’s theme:

People are crazy so you can be loved.

Those people you hate because

You hate them? That’s why you’re loved.

Crazy thinking is why you were loved.

Not just mildly crazy. Crazy.

Remember when somebody kissed you?

Remember the mad, mad, love?

When somebody was in love with you?

You were loved. But who the hell are you?

I remember it well.

So please don’t tell

Me about crazy. The best love is crazy.

The best poetry—ask Socrates—is crazy.

People don’t believe in what they don’t want to believe,

And why, for one second, should they believe you?

I remember when you slid into the blue.

I still don’t know what to make of you.

It might be depressing, but it’s really nothing new.

You didn’t figure it out on your own, admit it.

Stop. Don’t broadcast your virtue. Quit it.

I had so much fun with the Trump administration

Because it made you mad.

People will make a teenage dance of the nation.

You teased me because you were hot for Obama,

But 2016 put an end to that drama.

Melania Trump’s looks made you sad.

And because of your abortion, you couldn’t hear

The words, pro-life. That term fills you with fear.

You couldn’t stop talking about “children in cages,”

Because you thought everything you hated

Had to be hated. You twisted, distorted, inflated

Every beautiful act which protected children

From sex-traffickers at the border,

Or professional murderers of the not-yet-born.

You had to calculate every calculating story

To be simple. No matter how complicated the story.

You were completely crazy; it seemed you

Loved me again—remember? when I was crazy, too?

 

 

THE CONSERVATIVE

Image result for the lake district in 19th century painting

When I realized how sad I was—

And how it profited me to say

Exactly how I felt, to everyone around me every day,

Starting with my mother before I was one—

It was that moment when I read

A poem by someone who was dead,

And the poem was so full

Of sorrow, but managed to be beautiful.

Here, I knew sorrow was beautiful.

And it wasn’t that beauty covered up sorrow;

I realized beauty and sorrow were the same;

The beauty, that was the sorrow, protected me from sorrow;

My mother and my father and their arrangement were not to blame;

There was no progress possible;

There was no improving, or getting ahead—

I kissed my mother; I wrote a poem; I lingered in that beautiful sorrow instead.

SORROW IS THE VESSEL

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You’re not going to see happiness

Unless you see sorrow.

You won’t see what your criticism meant

Unless you criticize the president.

You won’t see how the world vainly exists

Unless you feel your own weak wrists.

Sorrow is the vessel we pour our happiness in.

The better our container of sorrow,

The more our nourishment overflows

Into the wet green fields tomorrow.

Every morning the big dog whines for his walk.

About the sickness. You and I really need to talk.

You cannot just receive happiness;

It must pour into your sorrow,

The pleasure must be caught in the jug;

The sad lovers will not lie down on the frayed rug

Unless they are sad.

Sorrow afflicts. Sorrow is always bad.

Do not scorn the tears

Which, to be caught, need the sorrow formed

By the clay of the long sad years.

The whole idea of containers is sad.

I would rather be free, and glad.

I don’t need this metal container, these train cars, these latches,

This heavy misery,

These buildings standing in my poetry,

These solemn village doors, these old, private pathways

Of routine and fatigue in dull nights and days

As we turn over to go back to sleep,

To wake, and travel to work, slowly, and back from work, slowly,

Sweating in the habit of ourselves which is gargantuan.

A little bit of sorrow? It will never win.

We must build a sorrow large

So the happiness knocking will know who is in charge.

Ah, misery. Ah, long shadows of vanity and art.

Always the work to be done. Everybody plays a part.

No one is finished. And when we die

We will think with our small eye

How we need, now, to eat and drink ravenously!

The need now that was banished, and now needs to stay.

But it’s too late.

We didn’t love our sorrow enough.

Our container melted in a medium of hate.

You know what I thought most sadly?

My lover would find happiness, and wouldn’t need me.

She would just stare. Or find a new song.

This would have been a good sorrow, if I had built it.

But I didn’t build it.

We didn’t make our poetry strong.

We were thirsty for so long.

We didn’t have enough sorrow to be happy.

We were not desperate enough

To cry out, and get love.

We didn’t consider our sorrow

Necessary.  You thought, “Tomorrow,

Great happiness will fall down.”

It did. But it wasn’t caught, by your memory, or your gown.

 

 

THE BLUE FAR AWAY

Image result for blue renaissance painting

Painting demands the blue light move from light blue to dark blue

Like the finishing of a day.

When do we call blue, dark blue or lighter blue?

It’s difficult to say.

Painting is what is true;

Painting is reality, too,

If reality lets the painting stay.

Reality took my dreams.

For me, reality is sunbeams,

Or, this is what I like to say.

The white light made my eyes go astray.

I looked too long at the sun,

Gleaming on top of a muted day.

What, then, was I? I couldn’t say.

Not in my wildest dreams did I know

What I was. You and I? The day

Which threw its light on us is gone.

Love is gone. The chase is over. The distant sands

Say nothing, which is all the painting demands.

 

 

 

 

IT’S ALL IN THE WAY IT’S PRESENTED

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It’s too late for this poem to be

You, at last, for the first time, seeing me.

It’s all in the way it’s presented, isn’t it?

If I take what I love, and because I love it,

Thrust this poem towards you, then it

Will all have been in vain; it must

Be accidental. The seeing of the poem by you,

The very writing of it, too,

Must be an accident—

So it looks like even I—never knew what it meant.

I thought: if I first let your friend read it,

Then it won’t seem like I need it

Desperately to be read by you—

And through her, by accident, you can see it, too—

But I know you; you would understand

What I did; you would know it was all planned;

How it only mattered that you see

My poem—about you. The poem—by me.

But read this poem, anyway, and pretend

It had nothing to do with me, or you, in the end.

 

 

IF YOU WERE THEM YOU WOULD DO AS THEM.

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If you were them you would do as them.

There’s no free will—but don’t obey

What moves them, and then they

Will see what they are—

Not individual, having no free will;

They are really not very far

From you, covered by clouds, pictures,

Misty doubts, random and wet,

Sinking into the earth. And yet,

Warmed and lighted by the sun,

Resembling God, or at least one

Who loves other gods, and fills

Apostates with love beyond these hills.

 

 

 

 

AND SO YOU TAKE REVENGE

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And so you take revenge—

And make yourself a better person—

By hating me,

Because I loved you inefficiently.

When you see me, you move away from me.

You wish you had bodyguards to hurt me,

But you must play the victim completely on your own,

Because no army exists to fight the kind of love I gave

To you, which everyone wished they had.

No police state exists where love poetry is.

Not even your intimate friends believe

You when you say my love

Caused you stress.

“I wished he had written poems to me a little less.”

Had you asked me for anything I would have said yes,

But I wasn’t waiting around for some ideal

Situation. I didn’t feel

The need to plan and maneuver.

My only plan was to love you forever.

To love imperfectly,

And write bad poetry,

Is the way the world makes us love,

Until love changes to intellectual disgust

As all passionate kissing must.

Physical love is like petting a dog.

Only poetry can see through the fog

Of love when it changes to one

Who hurries away. Show the world how good you are. Run.

 

 

 

 

THINGS ARE REALLY NOT THAT GOOD

Image result for bill and hillary go to church

Things are really not that good.

Control is everything, and the good

Is not the goal; control is.

The start and end of us all

Is not love or good, but control.

Everything truly good is merely food.

All that’s law is trampled by the rude.

There’s only two forces: Control

And “I won’t be controlled,”

And neither exists

Without the other, and that’s all there is.

That’s it. If you want to know why

Everyone is proudly crazy, that’s why.

If things aren’t good, this is why.

Control is everything, not the good,

And when you do experience the good,

Shortly after, you’re heartbroken.

You realize control has spoken.

The professional, large, sleek animal

Who purrs, and is beautiful?

They will control you and kill you.

No kindness, no law, will save you.

Despair will once again advise you:

The amateurish and the nice

Is all you’ve got. Or seedy vice.

The good is a mystery

To itself. Sunday, a little sublime poetry.

 

I BETTER WRITE THIS POEM FOR YOU

Image result for dam in painting

I better write this poem for you,

Or you’ll be angry, and then I won’t know what to do.

And then there’s all this water, because I built a dam,

So I better use it, or you won’t know who I am.

Other poets run free, their pebbly streams

Laugh; no, I want you to recognize my dreams;

The serenity and solemnity of my wide lake

Lets out the water languidly and slow,

And that’s how you discern that it’s me, that’s how you know

I am the poet who plays simple chords,

And lines up big thoughts behind small words.

Do you remember that sublime evening?

It was just you and I, lingering by water large and still,

I wanted you to know me;

I wrote you a certain kind of poetry;

Then it was night, and slowly, we walked over the hill.

 

 

THE EXCLUDED

Image result for hustlers in suits and ties

Life is too complex to trust each other. Only nice things last.

We must raise large amounts of money, very very, fast.

Everything that’s virtuous is leaning towards the past.

“All the pretty little horses…”

If you have money, we can help you. We need to raise large amounts of money, and fast.

Just give me the money.  I know what you’re thinking, but now

Is not the time for weeping or poetry, not now.

Just give me the money, before I fade

Into the idea that everything is going to fade.

You’ll understand what I’m talking about when this poem’s done,

When you’ve read it. When you’ve given a copy to everyone.

 

 

 

 

I GIVE

Image result for valentine's day party in painting

I give Valentines to everyone

To hide I am giving a Valentine to one—

Whom I especially approve of—

Though it only resembles, superficially, love.

I wish I could love with real passion;

I only live in the likes and dislikes of fashion,

Cutting out hearts from paper that happens to be bright red,

Making sure I am nicely dressed; my love is dead,

And so my love belongs to sorrow.

I smile today. The mystery is for tomorrow.

 

ETERNAL MOOD, VALENTINE’S DAY

Image result for the kiss in renaissance painting

You cannot think this will be an end to this.

Once something is said

It is never dead.

Protection was not necessary. The kiss

Is all. The rest, the anxiety of dogs.

Do you think this—can be an end, to this?

Things will end. But this will never end,

And to think this, will be an end, to this,

Is the end of all your happiness.

All that went before,

All that was already there for you to adore,

Do you think you can understand it better

With thoughts that follow? With a scrawled letter?

Do you think you can detach yourself and know

What is separate from the flow

That can never go?

This can never go.

Breathe the air circulating between, and inside, the words,

The “Edgar,” the “Allan,” the “Poe,”

The repetitions of musical birds,

Leading finally to speech, and words

Which make it hard to understand again.

Do not think an end to this

Is possible. In this kiss,

You and I supply

Towers for the unusual sky—

Rising mist, as adjective, or noun,

Before it lets itself, gently, back down.

 

THE 13TH OF LOVE

Image result for the rain it rains every day in painting

The 13th of Love was a dark and stormy day.

When we love, most of us love that way.

Humans are monsters

(They wash their hair too much, they smile without their eyes)

And I can barely stand

To say “I like you,” and hold one by the hand.

The enmity between the genders is such

That love doesn’t happen that much.

One gender hates and envies the other;

Hatred gets to purge itself in the lover

By that strange and furtive act:

Naked, hating, with a great deal of tact.

But as soon as the hate is purged away,

Hatred between them resumes the next day.

We were like this, remember?

We forgot our love by September.

Little acts of mistrust and doubt

Gradually pushed the affectionate feelings out.

But there were never affectionate feelings, anyway,

Except for one dark, stormy day.

Envy and hatred looked the other way

As we drank.

And then we ate on St. Valentine’s Day.

 

 

 

 

NO ERROR IS ERROR

Image result for garden of eden in renaissance painting

No error is error, because all error

Reflects error, and all reflection is true.

There is no error to forgive.

This would be to confuse error

With how much I give my heart to you.

I love you, and this is not a mistake.

The garden is illusory, the moisture,

The lush grasses, the shapely vines, the snake.

It is all an error, and this is neither good nor bad.

Compared to all the mistakes,

You were the best mistake I ever had.

 

 

I SOLVED MY DREAMS

I solved my dreams. Every one

Of my dreams is solved. What’s done

Lives on as a dream, and what’s to come

Will be a dream; know your dreams,

Because nothing really is. Everything seems.

Nothing makes sense until you make sense of dreams.

Gestalt Therapy Verbatim by Fritz Perls

Was a book hidden beneath the thick curls

Of youth in a New York City, 1960s, hippie, domain

When German philosophy, a warm rain,

Whispered across an empty, devastated, plain.

Yesterday a teenager, with everything to do,

Secretly found the secret: everything in a dream is you.

Describe your dream in the present tense

And say how the spiders are crawling

On you and it’s completely creeping you out.

The spiders are you. The spiders are the part

Of you which you’ve rejected. Touching

Is not something you do with others enough.

Solve your dream, and take in your hand the key

And feel it perfectly into the lock

And live yourself and read your book

And let others read it, and smile.

We haven’t seen you this relaxed in a while.

Now you can better understand me

And the insouciant grandeur

Of my haughty, yet melancholy, style—

Which you first experienced as a kind smile.

Later you found out I had another side

Which you felt was judging you. I blame

Those who blame. Because your dream is you,

Blame is not something you should ever do.

I secretly roll my eyes when people blame.

Dream a word. A word is never a name.

 

 

 

 

POLITICS, AND THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF LOVE

The Democrat wants to bring someone else in to spice up their marriage.

The Democrat wants an abortion to make it easier to bring someone else in to spice up their marriage.

The Democrat wants their spouse to pay for someone else to come in and spice up their marriage.

The Democrat suggests their spouse may be racist for not wanting to pay for someone to come in and spice up their marriage.

The Democrat saw their spouse staring at someone in the street once who looked like the someone the Democrat wants to bring in to spice up their marriage, so the Democrat tells their spouse this is really their idea.

The Democrat, no matter what they do, is still loved by their spouse, who was taught by their religion to work hard, resist temptation, and always forgive.

The Democrat wants more people to come in to spice up the marriage, wants more abortions, and accuses their spouse of racism even more, and demands they pay up even more, as their spouse keeps loving and forgiving them.

Finally, the Democrat’s spouse, unable to take it anymore, also becomes a Democrat.

At that same instant, overwhelmed by guilt, the Democrat becomes a Republican.

 

YOU’RE REALLY NOT THAT SMART

Image result for lisa simpson, genius

The learned should not—and cannot—be popular.

Virtuous, but not learned, is the pathway to the happiness religion brings—the poetry of religion and the religion of poetry, which transcends understanding, is a gift to those who don’t have time or circumstances to really study things (valley, cliffs, gorges) and understand.

It is against this backdrop that we make the bold suggestion: be wary of any learning which is popular—if it is, we have every right to question its sagacity.

Any so-called expert, any policy or philosophy, which prevails upon the public, and does so by claiming expertise, should be highly suspect, especially when it calls upon that same public to make sacrifices based on the learning which the advertised expertise professes.

The consciousness of a people is its final protection, and this consciousness must remain transparent and neutral, never giving in to the temptation which flatters it as more than what it is, in its floating but vital role as neutral perceiver. Infected with the pride of popularized knowledge (an oxymoron), mass consciousness, as much as any individual, will stumble into self-importance and delusion.

The learning which attended the polio vaccine, for instance, was not privy to the general public; a lone scientist, after much study, cracked a difficult, magnificent, and even outlandish secret. The idea of a polio vaccine did not become popular—the public was simply required to follow a scientific edict, and they did, for their own general protection and gain.

Contrast this with socialism. The knowledge which defines socialism, the future benefits assigned to it, is completely understood and grasped by a public enthusiastic for it, and which fully believes it understands its precepts. In this example of socialism, as opposed to the polio vaccine, learning itself is popular, and in this instance, dangerous. The public is not trusting to science arrived at by long study; the public is trusting itself to be learned and full of understanding, and this is precisely where neutrality of judgment is lost, and chaos and crisis are constantly close at hand.

The late sir Roger Scruton said capitalism and socialism are not opposites, any more than feminism and journalism are. You can have a feminist journalist; and, as he joked once, you can have “a capitalist socialist, which means they keep what they earn, but also look smart.”

Socialism is an “-ism” which tells the public it is smart. It makes us look smart, and also, empathetic, too, and it makes us seem so, right now, with a great deal of people all around us, all aware of how smart and virtuous we seem to be to each other—even if no one really knows anything, or does anything, about governing, but protests a lot in the street.

Governing came about, in actuality, a long time ago, by a few scientific, philosophical types thinking long and hard, perhaps when they were very much alone. The U.S. Constitution is science, not an “-ism,” which merely gives the flattering appearance of learning. It has nothing to do with you and your friends being smart and prescient and virtuous now. The Constitution was put together a long time ago. Even the Bill of Rights, a series of important amendments everyone talks about, were written a long time ago, finalized back in the 18th century, before Karl Marx, and his really smart facial hair, even existed.

There’s only one way to be smart. And like Lisa Simpson, standing in front of a blackboard which says, “Paying taxes to the government will not change the climate,” there’s only one way to be calm.

 

 

 

 

ADULTERY AND POETRY, OR A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MUSE

Image result for SHELLEY IN PAINTING

After adultery

I wrote better poetry.

When I was true,

I couldn’t think of a thing to do.

Whenever I was dumped, I thought,

She has sold what she has bought,

And now that she is free,

All she loves is owed to me.

But this did not help my poetry.

You cannot live life bitterly,

And be good, or write good poetry.

Now I have a different take,

And love only for her sake,

Whether she loves me, or no.

Love is beyond any arrangement,

Love is mine. Love cannot go.

Many times love went,

But that was my fault;  now I see

The truth of love’s philosophy.

The one who dumps has no love,

The one who loves, and is dumped, does.

Love is in the individual;

All arrangements are merely practical

And not for love. Love

Enters arrangement by the blessing of individual love,

Which is the only love.

The dumped has love, the one who dumps does not,

For love lives in the individual who loves

And loves alone. I keep loving her,

And therefore I have love.

She dumped, because she lacks love.

But despite the great poetry,

I wish there had been no adultery.

I wish my wife were kissing me

Back in our little flat

And I were kissing her. And that was that.

But things will never be that way.

Our son is broke. And his hair is gray.

 

XXX POEMS BY RAQUEL BALBONI

XXX POEMS COVER.png

Arts & Letters is a new journal—with poetry and nice color reproductions of art, printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In the center of the activity around this simple, modest, but essential magazine (and small press) is Ben Mazer, the important writer/editor, currently editing the Collected Poems of Delmore Schwartz for FSG; and who offered to the public around two years ago his Selected Poems.

Arts & Letters is not burdened with an agenda, or mission; it’s primarily a clique of avant-garde friends. We think this is wise, because this is all Pound and the avant-garde “movements” really were. We suppose there were a few manifestos back in the 1920s, but in 2020 the avant-garde is more established, more relaxed.  Who needs manifestos?

Our favorite passage in Ms. Balboni’s book (actually, Feb March Arts & Letters) is this one, which concludes her first poem in the book, from page 4:

i always forget what you look like
can i borrow some photos
or act all surprised

We love this delicate turn on romance: you remember, you want to remember more, but surprise is good, too.

Ms. Balboni is best when she’s being a bit funny, or when she’s describing the psychology of love and attraction.

We find in this a kind of wild, deadpan humor:

Never try again to photograph the four unlit candles on the mantle in the fun house mirror.

We sense in Ms. Balboni’s poetry the formula articulated by Mr. Eliot 100 years ago: poetry as an escape from emotion—with the highly emotional those who need to escape. There is little emotion in Ms. Balboni’s poetry, but underneath the poetry, emotion desires to well up—it just never does. For instance:

i bowed to it in a shaky collapse
i wept over the trouble it took to find it there,
some center.

Is this due to her art, or the personality of Ms. Balboni? Or is it wrong to ask this? Should we focus on her poetry alone?

When someone keeps a diary, are they thinking, or being emotional?  Both. The diary is the attempt to reconcile thought and feelings.

What is poetry? Lyric poetry is: a diary—in which third person is changed to second.

The most interesting poems of Ms. Balboni use the word “you” frequently, and we like the ones which teasingly shudder about sex.

The use of “you” converts the mere diary writer (who writes of “him,” “her,” or “them”) to a poet; the risk is that in the public view, for protection, the diarist-now-poet’s rhetoric becomes more hidden, more obscure–and some would say, this act of obscuring is the poetry, is the art.

In the poem, “Come,” the longest poem in the volume, beginning on page 37, we get this passage to fire up the bookworm:

Using the wand in public spaces
Masturbating in the library
The library truly makes me horny
So what turns you on and how can i do it
Also makes me cum i wish
Do it all again for another chance
To see how you make me come

A few lines later, a terribly good description of what it means to be in love:

I usually think about this person most of the time but not intentionally in this new way that has been brought out in the open.

In the poem which begins on pg 23, “Healing Magic Through Words,” the poet appears as sensitive but stoic, fighting, perhaps, for her life. It begins, proudly:

You are so special
but I am more special

In the middle of the poem, the diary-turning-into-a-poem speaks:

I need to talk to you to get these thoughts in the open, when i have them to myself i have trouble fully believing in them

Ms. Balboni is very good at this: getting right to the point about something important, and being original about it. At the end of “Healing Magic Through Words,” she is getting drunk at a bar:

Drinking more, i fill my own glass to make sure there is enough for me then i give you the rest. We are close and i touch you so much more now. I expect and accept the pain later too in your bed.

This poem feels honest and brave, but we have to be careful when we assign morality to poetry. A poem which wears morality on its sleeve is no poem.

Ms. Balboni thinks—even when she is trying, for the sake of the poetry, not to think. Those who think, often offend those who feel.

To be less offended, poetry has gradually moved away from thinking (the Metaphysical poets) and towards feeling (the Romantics) and has gone even deeper into feeling, in the practice of the Moderns, who, with nervy touchiness, write obscure poetry which critics (the last vestige of thinking in poetry) can hardly understand. The pendulum will swing back, as it must, towards Romanticism, not for the sake of Romanticism, but for the criticism of it, and only in order that poetry in general swing back towards beauty, clarity, and thinking. Where Apollo, beaming and deep in thought, waits.

Punctuation is used little, if at all, in most of these poems.

In the second poem of XXX Poems, the poet experiments with the period. She uses it.

The poems which use no punctuation are no worse, and are often better, than the ones which do. The semi-colon is used once in the volume, on page 30. We find it in a writhing passage about aliens, after the word “continue;” perhaps, unconsciously, Ms. Balboni doesn’t like the semi-colon; many writers don’t; does creativity need it?

At times the poet becomes impatient with everything.

Body art
Secret art
Not doing anything art
Being so fucking high art
Fuck this im stupid art

But the next line rescues us from this impatience, because it is similar, seems more clear-headed somehow, and it’s also funny:

Obscurity is holding me back from being my full freak self

The one poem which rises out of the book’s searing ruminations into what might be called a story, or a Hawthorne tale, is “She,” on page 27, which begins with the lovely and mysterious:

She was in a secret relationship with one patch of trees in the woods

The poem turns out not to be a story—that’s not the kind of poem these are. The poem focuses on the “she” in the same, strange mood established at the start, in such a way that we soon believe the poet may be talking about herself. And yet somehow it does seem to be a story. This proves that Ms. Balboni is not your ordinary lyric poet; she is able to handle things.

Ms. Balboni is self-observing, without being self-serving. “She” is not actually a story, but it’s cohesive, coherent, and realized, in the way the best lyric poems are. These quotes will give you an idea:

what a mistake that was
getting to know her creepy bitch

~

she probably already knew i was
a freak let me tell you

she brought a Charles Bukowski book
and read it in the woods
the book with a title about horses and long days
her notebook had creamy paper dazzled with cold ink
and the smell of nauseous nicotine smoke,
of a deep breathing girl
leaning on a fence

she’s mine i think
but she’s like a barn cat
and i am the barn

I follow the directions to a ghostly hill wondering

~

She lived in a house that looked like a treasure chest
red rubies blue velvet emerald green

~

all i wanted was to see her up close
to see the way her arms blended with her neck
the sweet creamy skin, the smooth organ so there and soft
although it seemed my eyes played tricks on me when i looked at all

Ms. Balboni is poised for greatness; but she’s an introvert, and this may hinder her. Or perhaps not. Her book is full of observations such as the following, which uncannily depict love, and which only the sensitive introvert, perhaps, understands, because poetry, introversion, and love are the same:

People are outside having fun i am inside having fun

 

—Salem MA, Feb 2, 2020

 

 

WHY POETRY SUCKS SO BAD, AND IS POETRY CONTROVERSY DEAD?

My Floridian FB friend Ann Leshy Wood sent me a link to The American Journal of Poetry, a respectable, online, warehouse of mostly distinguished, widely-published, Best American Poetry, MFA-connected poets.

“Read James Kimbrels poem- he appears with my photographs in this issue—did you look at it at all?”

Wood knows me pretty well, and chides me for various things, including the fact that I sound “flat” on my musical recordings. She brags about Florida. I’ve never been to Florida. She adds, “His poem is very very long it’s very controversial he writes in meter it rhymes pretty good he’s a professor at Florida State University he got in touch with me to congratulate me on my photography”

Ann’s photography is gorgeously outdoors-y and art-enhanced: subtle but powerful colors swirling about, blooming clouds, criss-crossing trees, lonely, rugged landscapes. I decide her work is the best thing about the American Journal of Poetry issue, which features a lot of poems—too many to peruse in one sitting.

James Kimbrel’s poem is 34 Byronic stanzas summarizing recent po-biz tiffs—Dove, Alexie, Wee—and he quotes Eileen Myles asking that men simply stop writing for 50 to 100 years, and he pretty much says to her: excuuuuuse me? and questions the virtue signalling of identity politics, viscerally, as well as pedanticaly—it hinders creative thinking, etc. He closes the poem quoting Jimi Hendrix: “Power of love must usurp the love of power.”

Ann tells me Kimbrel was quickly attacked in print. I haven’t bothered to check out the attacks, because all of this is getting pretty old. And no one outside of po-biz cares, anyway.

Kimbrel’s poem is good in its formalism; it rivals Byron’s metrical ear, and I applaud that; also he seems sincere in propounding his message.

But he finally uses the same strategy as his enemies; his virtues, and the way he expresses those virtues, are exactly the same as theirs.

His rivals will just say, “sorry, that Jimi Hendrix line belongs to us, not you.”

Kimbrel’s problem is: Love doesn’t work in war.

He has left himself open to, “you are just another white privilged male claiming you’ve had it bad; that doesn’t change the overall situation, sorry.”

Mr. Kimbrel must be saying to himself, “I’m the one calling for inclusiveness; I’m the one begging for love; I’m the one living the Jimi Hendrix quote!”

And James Kimbrel is right, except he is wrong, just as they are also right—and because of this, wrong. On both sides, there is a myopic certainty of a mind finally incapable of poetic thought. The only way to drain a po-biz swamp is to do what Poe did—zealously and humorously use the critical faculty on actual poems—or, if one must be factual, find out exactly who is puffing and kissing up to whom, as Alan Cordle once did, to some effect, at Foetry.com.

Also, one should never use the rhetoric of college dorm posters—even if it is by someone as cool as Jimi Hendrix. It will only be taken up by your enemies. They attended college, too.

But to return to the topic of this essay’s title, “Why Poetry Sucks So Bad.”

Having been sent the link to the American Journal of Poetry, after I read the Kimbrel poem, I couldn’t help (and here I was in an abstract, critical mood, having read Kimbrel) but dive into the many poems, with their distinguished bios, before me. The poems were impressive, in terms of their detail. The coloring books were all colored in, without going outside the lines. There was no desperate reaching out after rhyme or meter. I knew I was reading Grade A stuff. Decent haircuts. Good, regular clothes. Honesty, but nothing weird or creepy. Sentences. Sense. Observations based on life experience, travel. Scars, wrinkles, tears, even some blood, and all professionally conveyed. More or less good people, seeking, more or less, the good, with MFA and Best American Poetry credits galore. The kind of poems which produce in every poet genuine fear: is this poetry better than mine?

But, in my detached, disinterested, curious, state of mind, after I read a number of the poems, glancing at the fancy creds (2 MFAs? Wow. 27 books? Impressive.) it hit me.

What was on display here wasn’t poetry.

What was on diplay was—the loquacious. These poets had studied and learned to be loquacious, in such a way that what they had written could reasonably be passed off as poetry.

I was reading gab.

Loquaciousness is as unstoppable as the tides in our species, as important as sleeping or eating. We love to gab. Poetry, or what passes for poetry, unlike anything else, perhaps, lends dignity and validity to gab, which many of us, either loquacious by nature—or shy, and wishing to be more loquacious—love, hold dear to our hearts, and even count as necessary to our mental and physical health.

It is true that shaping gab, measuring gab, organizing gab, is an art in itself—the stump speaker, the salesperson, the politician, the camp fire entertainer, or just a good conversationalist, will take great pride in how they present their gab.

But even when it’s being used as poetry, we need to remember that loquaciousness itself doesn’t care about poetry. It is loquacious. So how could it? Gab exists for itself, as one of the chief primitive conditions of the human race; the loquacious will not pause to let anything stand in its way, especially not an abstract—to its own loquaciousness—notion of the merely poetic, which, the loquacious of a learned bent have already determined is too complex (loquacious?) to be properly defined, anyway.

So we shouldn’t be fooled. When poetry, ill-defined and mumbling, stands at our door, seeking entrance, don’t doubt for a moment that the talkative fellow looming right above his shoulder isn’t coming in with him.

And who do you think has done the real work, made those sentences, breathed life into those flowing poems, published all those books, earned all those MFAs? The timid, uncertain, poet? Or his friend, talking fast, ripped, confident, in your face, yup, that’s right, hey! bristling with all the polite tricks and mannerisms and trivia of civilized life, already almost inside your door?

And then, in my reflective mood, a further insight struck me. Formalism, the essence of which the mere public reads as that which distinguishes a certain kind of writing as, in fact, poetry—that formalism left behind decades ago by the learnedly loquacious themselves, never has been that important in itself; the most important thing about formalism is that it is a check on loquaciousness.

If we think of formalism’s chief reason to exist as a hindrance to gab, we will better understand how formalism came into existence as poetry, when poetry was born—as itself, in terms, mostly, as an interest in form such as defines music and the plastic arts, and as a necessary check on the inevitable flood which sweeps poetry away from itself, the greatest enemy to poetry, this tidal wave which everywhere infiltrates all we call poetry—and, chattering away, makes a mockery of divine poetry—a trickling fountain covered by a howling ocean of neverending gab.

Shelley was right. There is no reason not to use meter and rhyme. But now the great reason has presented itself. It is not so much for what the cunning world of formalism is, but for the over-smooth invader it saves us from.

Now, one might attempt to refute this by saying “formalism cannot have any impact on loquaciousness since it has no effect on its opposite—reticence, and further, ancient poets did use formalism in a loquacious manner.”

But formalism cannot exist if too much reticence is present; formalism needs a fair amount of text on which to operate, so it doesn’t succumb to jingly brevity, and therefore the attributes of loquaciousness—on either side of the coin—and formalism are relevant to each other’s existence. The “check” we speak of is just that, a preventative measure—if a poet is skilled enough to be formally loquacious, free speech and poetry triumph together, and then only rarely, since skill is required, and therefore, formalism keeps the loquacious in check, as a rule.

Gab is not poetry, and will never be poetry. Gab may be loved more than poetry, and in many ways may be more important than poetry—which is all the more reason to protect poetry from gab, to isolate poetry from gab, because we know these two things exist and they are not the same.

Even if gab is poetry’s clay, they are two different things in the end. If gab is gab posturing as poetry in so many ways at present, and if this is happening, unconsciously, it should be called out, for the sake of poetry, which stands so close to gab today, that we don’t even know. Do we?

Note: this essay is not an attempt to review every poem published in the American Journal of Poetry. Every reader and poet should recognize gab when they see it, but as the article points out, gab and poetry are quite similar, and further, I hope it is clear I never meant to imply that all the poems in the AJP issue are gab.

THE NEO-CON CON

British warships in the Far East, 1920s 

A sensitive and historical piece appeared in the Federalist, recently: Are Neocons Really Back In The Trump Administration? 

A delicate piece indeed, even going so far as not to offend the neo-cons themselves, calling their globalist war dreams egalitarian.

The globalist warmongers (Bush and Clinton) may be rooted in 1930s Trotskyism, as this article says, but their roots are deeper. Neo-cons, like liberals, trace their political philosophy back to the British Empire, which fought and befriended-only-to-betray the great American Experiment which came into existence as a counter to the empire’s globalism, taxes, and slavery. The American patriots, underdogs in 1776, have always been underdogs, but miracles keep occuring; one of the biggest was oil, which transformed the world economy in the early 20th century. It’s said often, but oil really did enable the USA, blessed with deposits of black gold beneath places like Texas and Pennsylvania, to materially usurp the British Empire.

In the 19th century, Britain practically did rule the world. This is not a conspiracy theory. They did. And it wasn’t all that long ago. Five or six generations ago. That’s not a long time ago. It’s not ancient history. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was feted by London, and lectured throughout England and America leading up to the Civil War from his work, “English Traits,” on the glory of the British Empire from a racist perpective—yes, this is true—inspired T.S. Eliot, in 1949, whose grandfather knew Emerson, to scorn and attack the pre-Civil War patriot, Edgar Poe, who died in 1849. History teaches anyone who courts her that spans of years are actually very short. And we bring up Emerson/Poe/Eliot as just one cultural, historical example of how deep and entangled the relationship between the British Empire and America is.

In 1860, the America of Washington, Hamilton, and Franklin really was on the ropes, with their old ally France occupying Mexico, and the snake, the Cofederacy, supported tacitly by Britain. Lord Russell was Britain’s prime minister then, grandfather to the great philosopher Bertrand Russell, the great, free thinking, philosopher, who, in his old age, was obsessed with World Government as the way to save the world. Kind of funny, innit?

A few years later, in the Bush era, the ruling political principle of Tony Blair and Bush was to plunge the USA into reckless, destabilizing wars. It’s what Neo-cons love to do, on behalf of the New World Order—the new British Empire.

The CIA, formed shortly after WW II, got too close to MI6, a love affair started, and American intelligence helped the USA fight on as the sophisticated, ivy league, version of the British Empire. The oil of Iran contributed to the glory of Britain until the oil deal ran out in 1979, and Tehran got a fanatical new leader to hate America and roil the middle east. To this day, American politics can be measured by how much one despises the post-1979 regime in Iran. Deplorables hate the regime. John Kerry kind of likes it.

Oil, which still makes America a colossus, is hated by the anti-fossil fuels movement, another political, fault-line, flash-point, if there ever was one.

Bernie, the commie, hates fossil fuels. The left must hate fossil fuels. This has nothing to do with science. (The left falsely believes CO2 is a pollutant. CO2 is necessary for life.)

One would suppose the Greens would hate Trump more than anyone, and they do.

Trump’s “basket of deplorables” is American patriotism pure and simple, hated equally by the two heads of the old divide-and-rule British Empire, called by various names: the Deep State, the New World Order, the DNC plus RINOs, the neo-cons, liberalism. And they rule chiefly with the help of three things: masses who want free stuff, China and Iran.

In this picture we are painting, it is telling how quickly, in 2016, the Left went full-blown McCarthyite. Another indication that behind the scenes the neo-con right and the liberal left were always the same.

Russia is especially hated by the Bertrand Russell/Winston Churchill/BBC faction of the UK.

Mother Russia was America’s ally in the mid-19th century, freeing her serfs when we freed our slaves.

Russia was our friend when the Britain of Lord Russell, and her new ally, France (of Napoleon III, not Lafayette—there’s a reason why Lafayette is named after so many places in America) almost ruled the world in 1860. So it makes sense in this context that Russia is hated (more so than when they were the Soviet Union!) and vociferously called out—on NBC and in the New York Times and in the Washington Post—as being Trump’s friend, and puppet master, by both liberals and neo-cons.

1930s international Trotskyism as the origin of the neo-cons? Perhaps. But we should take an even wider view. The true root of the neo-cons (and their liberal abetters) is 1860s British Empire/Imperial France/Free Trade/Opium Wars globalism.

After all, no one made international mischief like the globalists of London—who, when they could no longer steal oil from Iran, turned it over to the mullahs, to ensure that country would hate the United States. Think of one of the great liberals, Jimmy Carter, and the recent declassified documents showing Jimmy’s State Dept and Jimmy Carter himself, talking with the killer himself, Khomeini, to get him over from Paris and into Tehran where great mischief could be made. Jimmy and his ilk hates Trump. Khamenei hates Trump. Prince Charles hates Trump. Jussie Smolett hates Trump. Meryl Streep hates Trump. And even you, dear reader, in order not to be called a rube by an ivy league, white collar, snot, would be out of your mind, not to hate Trump. He’s crude, and his wife is prettier than your girlfriend.

But let’s keep our fingers crossed. Trade deals. Peace. True democracy. Calm before the doom and gloom on the left, right, and middle. (CBS is almost as scary as Alex Jones.)  A growing economy. And love, too, right? Love. Can’t we also have that?

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