BEN MAZER AND THE NEW ROMANTICISM A NEW BOOK BY THOMAS GRAVES, SCARRIET EDITOR

It is true. I have published a book and I hope you purchase Ben Mazer and the New Romanticism (available at Amazon, etc.) because whether you agree with all of its contents—or half or 10%—you will be a better person afterwards, and a better poet. This is my intention—not agreement, which makes me think of a dictatorship. I’ve always been drawn to Criticism because of my free and rebellious nature.

This book is not about Ben Mazer, with all due respect to this illustrious author; it is about me (and how I think).

As a young poet, upon the wide boulevards of New Haven, Connecticut, at the friendly and serviceable state college there, I fell under the spell of Socrates, for the simple reason that conversational rigor appealed to me—I wanted to get to the bottom of things through talking. “The End” by the Doors, Freudian and Gestalt Psychology, Shakespeare and the theater also appealed to me.

My professor in “Literary Criticism from Plato to Eliot” impressed me with her Plato (emphasis on the creator) Aristotle (emphasis on the created) dichotomy.

Her class (she was my intellectual mother) is where Plato’s muse Socrates first spoke to me.

My love of poetry was mugged by philosophy.

This made my love of poetry stronger—in so much as I distrusted it. I surrendered to the idea that Socrates was my friend, was pushing me onward, was not dragging me down; that Criticism and skepticism were good for poetry, and poetry was good for Criticism—a rapport between them developed in my mind (and it forced me to come to terms with what made poetry truly good apart from philosophy) and this saved me from a number of things: misanthropy, despair, authoritarianism, anarchism, self-pity, fanaticism.

It was my fate to be broadly optimistic, as well as critical and caustic, in my approach to literature.

I also had a popular and outgoing German professor at Southern (an American, of Austrian descent) who would joke that he had a “different personality when he spoke German,” and I could see this was both true and not true. We studied Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kroger, the story of a young poet who yearns (somewhat successfully) to belong to normal society—my professor said it was Mann’s belief “the artist was sick.” I accepted this: normalcy was good, but the outsider poet was good, too. The two poles were equally good.

I think the important lesson I learned at the beginning of my intellectual life (largely unconsciously I suppose) was that no one else could make me choose sides; all my intellectual decisions and choices were mine—down to the very bedrock of conceptual thinking itself, from mathematical abstractions to societal nuances—and in none of these would I ever have to rest. I didn’t need to defend poetry, defend normalcy or defend anything—I only had to defend my own arguments, and these could be whatever I wanted them to be. This made me happy—exhilarated, in a manner I understood intensely, without ever having to explain it, or think about it.

And when I say I was happy, I mean happy as a person—not as a writer, or a poet, or an intellectual. This is important.

How boring for a poet to write poetry or talk about poetry. It is more interesting to me when a person talks about these things. What do you, as a poet, think about poetry? How boring. What do you as a person, think about poetry? OK, now we’re getting somewhere.

There must be a strangeness, a separateness between things, before there can be understanding.

No one wants to critique poems. We would rather read them with pleasure. All poems do not give us the same pleasure—this asymmetry, however, still does not demand critique; let us merely find the good poems and read those.

Criticism has nothing to do with the poems. Criticism belongs to pleasure in argumentation itself.

Poetry never advances.

Only the fame of poetry can advance—poems, poetry, and poets can be more or less famous tomorrow than they are today; and we can perceive this.

Poetry itself, as such, and the pleasure poetry provides as poetry—or as poetry with other things attached, which also might provide pleasure—cannot, in general, be measured.

Criticism, therefore, can only belong to itself. A criticism of a poem is completely separate from the poem.

But the criticism has this advantage: there is far less criticism than poetry. There is so little criticism of poetry (and the point has already been made that the poetry lives separately from any criticism of it) that we can measure criticism’s impact.

Reviewing—quoting copiously from the poems under review—is not Criticism.

Close reading is not criticism. It is enough that the Critic reads poetry—no need to map his eyeball.

A biography of a poet is not criticism, either.

Nor should a misguided treatment of any text be properly called Criticism.

Making an argument which is valuable in itself while speaking on poetry is Criticism—and this is very rare, and belongs to the highest aspirations of literature, and we could make a small list of who these critical authors are (there are not many).

Therefore we can say:

Criticism does advance.

Argument is the defining word here.

There are many critical observations. But they don’t count as Criticism, as wonderful as they are, since they lack the joy of argument.

One thinks of Robert Frost’s remark that free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.

Or Emily Dickinson’s famous poem, “I Never Saw a Moor”

I never saw the Moor —
I never saw the sea —
Yet know I how the heather looks
And what a Billow be.

I never spoke with God
Nor visited in Heaven —
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the Checks were given —

It should not harm poetry—nor criticism—to say Dickinson’s poem makes philosophical and critical gestures but remains a poem.

Ben Mazer’s poetry came into my Criticism. My Criticism did not wander into Mazer’s poetry.

His poetry exists in two places now. This is how poetry breeds—by Criticism.

This is the principle of Eliot’s Tradition, in which the present changes the past.

Here is what poetry always seeks in the first place—for a qualified measure to replace a quantified one.

Criticism is one more dimensional leap for the leaping poet fortunate enough to be taken up by the Critical spaceship.



LOVE

Salem Willows Park — Google Arts & Culture

Love is any emotion you can’t explain.
Love lives between the poem and its pain.
Love makes you seek home and leave home.
Company is love. But to love is to be alone.

She went out and saw couples out
In the park by the sea. To be out
In a foul mood looking for one spot
To be alone but she could not.

I went looking for her. All I saw
Were others in the hills. That’s all I saw.
Love makes you seek home and leave home.
Company is love. But to love is to be alone.

ONLY UNDER THE MOST EXTREME CONDITIONS

Architectural Ruins in Art | DailyArt Magazine | Art History Stories

That I glimpsed the wonders
of poetry
in the 1970s
is a miracle. There wasn’t
any poetry. The Nazis
had killed it
and the adolescent me
who found poems
in quaint old ages
found only embers of a fire
long ago burned out.
Only under the most extreme conditions,
filled with wild and hopeless desire—
can something be invented—
or re-invented. Was it just forgot?
No poet can re-discover
poetry;
that was not my fate, that was not
my lot.
Beware—one with no personality
will go mad and have many;
one reserved, bookish,
refined, sensible,
will end up tragically laughing
on a filthy farm.
The leisure to fail, the failure of the daring
practicality of the fanatic,
do all kinds of harm,
and yet harm is always done,
harm finds its person and its place—
you can see it in my innocent face;
in my life
I managed to find the wrong street
address, approach to things,
wife—
but there still remains a place
I go, safe from all extremes.
I listen to old, sad, music,
I hear in my wild dreams
chuckling intelligence; I am
calm in the truths Plato knew,
I survive you and you—and you,
the one I loved; I remain immune
to sad insights under the moon,
I make it ignorantly into middle age,
free from harm, change, age,
avoiding the serial killer’s sick insight that
sex is rage,
and in my middle age I
ignore
every seduction
which sinks
into the mystic.
Do you think I over-
think? You over-think.
Only under the most extreme conditions
will the most crafty science bring me home
to Poe and you and Athens and
Rome,
in my sad day,
Dante, in the
bright red sky,
every trouble and doubt
which I, dreaming, chased away;
here I am, knowing at last,
only under the most extreme conditions,
to be glorious
for them—who will die—
will be to love them,
who love me, burning, in the
burning past.

STANZAS FOUND IN A DIARY

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When we play at love,
The war begins
Between all who lust
And she who never sins.

So then we die for love
Until war ends,
Because none who trust love
Find the bliss Cynthia sends.

The moon throws her light,
Cold, cold, cold,
Upon lovers who languish,
Upon lovers growing old.

Love, like the world,
Grows old, love, and dies
And fades like bright flowers
Under the sadness which is Cynthia’s.

This sad light of hers
Is too dim to dim the stars.
Isn’t the war splendid tonight?
Can you see the falling cars?

THE BEST THINGS HAPPEN

Image result for lady too proud in painting

The best things happen when we’re waiting around,

Not when we find something, but when we’re found.

When I had absolutely nothing to do,

Only then did I notice you.

When I hurried from place to place

I missed the passive kindness of your face.

When you made the effort

To see me? I did not see you walk by.

The imperious, the defensive, the smart,

Are too proud to know the heart.

If you let life make you wary,

Then life seems even more scary.

One reason follows another

Until reason hides every kind of lover.

In hindsight we think, “that had to be.”

So we never think we’re free.

When we love, we think it’s fate.

I worship love’s fateful chance. But hate

Is always me—I’m the drifting, hateful one.

My soul is what kills, my soul alone.

When we loved, you wanted to be free—

Which was fine. But I feared and cried out: do not murder me.

FALLING INTO THE SURGERY

Lucretia

How can a beautiful poet be a misanthrope?

A poet is a surgeon to a patient on a table,

Removing a little piece of ignorance.

A poem is a knife to your ignorance,

The words, a surgery performed gladly,

Though I enter you, somberly and sadly.

When you laughed at the poetry

Of others today, you were not wrong,

But this will help you, this old song.

Every thing you think you know

Will be dissolved, before I go

And you will be different

When the operation’s done.

The shade of your being

Is a protection, which nonetheless

Blocks the seeing sun.

Once again, you will be able to see

The beautiful, which all once knew as poetry.

A beautiful poet will run

From the stupid conversations;

The poet sees beauty rapidly.

The misanthropic poet is beautiful

And runs from you and you and you.

The surgery’s over.  Sunlight travels the hills.

The old has made the poem new.

I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO CARES

Description of the painting by Salvador Dali “Woman at the window” ❤️ -  Dali Salvador

I am the only one who cares.
I am the genius of caring.
I think how one care leads to more
And care is a towering network
Of numerous wires
Running thru everyone we know.
Love keeps me afloat—
But I worry, though.

THE INSTITUTION OF LOVE

Paintings of Love and Marriage in the Italian Renaissance | Essay | The  Metropolitan Museum of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

There needs to be an institution of love

To make sure each and every lover is kind.

For love is all, if there is an all—

And no one knows another’s mind.

When the mind seethes,

The institution will make every desire met

In the mind’s space

When the soul isn’t certain of what we get,

Even as the lover is not a lover yet.

To calculate accurately the beautiful!

To make each love’s desire beautiful!

The waiting for love and love’s revenge

In earth’s atmosphere takes too long

Even with perfumes and candles and song.

For a certain type of deserving person,

Sublime love doesn’t win—

They are too modest, too sweet,

Or too afraid of sin.

A fantasy has spoken. The data’s in.

Considerations far beside the point

Have made other institutions museums—

Dull, doltish, inaccurate, out of joint.

Let love have an institution

So the harrowing madness of love can win!

Not just theirs. But ours!

The subtle ways love is defeated

Are more numerous than the stars.

Who knows what ridiculous fears

Kept you and I apart for years?

LOVE’S THE ENERGY THAT’S ALWAYS NEW

Image result for comic a man hurt

Love’s the energy that’s always new.

It’s always turning off.

That’s why no one is ever true.

I didn’t. And now I do.

The sun’s the same, the morning’s new.

Were you the one? Was it you?

We are the grain of sand that sees.

To worship, we need hands and knees.

We developed all this civilized shit

So with a certain grace and modesty we could do it.

Please avert your eyes.

Privacy and riches don’t like surprise.

Love needs a secret look.

We need a telephone book

In order to love.

If we can’t love, we are happy to starve.

What we once needed isn’t what we are.

I’ll show you—

I don’t need you. I don’t.

I’m the large grain of sand that won’t.

We are the sapling that runs away.

A whole world was lost yesterday.

But damn if it doesn’t come again

When seven syllables turn to ten,

Or nine—the feathers for a small wren

Is how I count down to a few.

I constantly expect there to be more.

I think I wrote this poem before.

Today, I thought, well, this is what I do—

I say dumb things. I lose things. I fall in love with you.

DOES MY MUSE

For Detail | Portrait painting, Face art, Beauty in art

Does my muse care about my life?
No, she doesn’t. “Tom,
Why don’t you write about your children or your wife?”
I do not, because schemes
Are not poetic. Dreams
Are what my muse desires.
Bad choices destroy you—
If you don’t admit you are wrong.
There are millions of excuses.
There is only one song.
Family is the most important thing
But I would be an idiot to sing
Of morals. The true
Fact of persons cannot be contained
In poems—perhaps in a diary, half-explained—
My muse has always whispered to me:
Real life is too complex for poetry.
A poem is a glimpse of a lover.
Metaphors capture misty
Truths, only. I’m thirsty.
This poem’s over.

THEY LIVE LONG ENOUGH

The Mysteries behind Caspar David Friedrich's “Wanderer above the ...

They live long enough to think they are gods,
And we who read their stories live long enough to think we are gods,
Because after we read their stories we walk away from their stories,
Leaving them back there,
As we stand in the doorway, thinking.

Though time keeps moving, sometimes we think time stands still—
When the forest and the air and the grass are still,
And we stand there for a moment, far outside the poem,
Which we left back there: a poem about the gods
Described as evening clouds towards the horizon sinking.

There is now a chance to stop,
To pretend we will stop moving.
We will stop moving and stop.
We will sink even as we think
As the clouds that were gods drop.

YOU

Sunrise & Sunset Paintings by Famous Artists | 1st Art Gallery

When I look back at life—
The one that is mine but slipping away:
I didn’t know what to do—
I didn’t know what to say.
I would write down later
The words I should have said.
O life of moments and words!
Moments remained in my head.
Big shadow stains the hill.
When I look back at my life:
I must talk to them. I must talk to them.
Insomniac at the window sill.
I didn’t know what to say.
I didn’t know what to do.
I am looking back at myself—
And looking forward to you.

A BOOK OF POEMS

Sunset from Dead Horse Beach Salem MA Photograph by Toby McGuire

A book of poems is like a novel
Which forgets itself from page to page.

This one was published in 1990—
The poet wrote it during the smirking age.

Young in his photo, with a hint of a smirk,
You can see where it ends. Study his work.

Marriage, a kid, 9/11, removed the smirk from his face.
His elegiac tone replaced the funny one.

Every sort of style mingles now. And yet
Contrasting moods always crash the poems we forget.

A light tone with a serious subject,
Or a light subject with a serious tone,

Is the literary way. The cheap
Manner in the shadows. Parking lot. Bone.

What is conservative? Rocks piled by the sea,
Lofty trees, children replacing the old.

Where is the book with a poem entitled
“I Have Been Crying Out For My Love?”

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