YOU MUST DECIDE

Trump Cites Ralph Waldo Emerson's King Quote on Twitter - Bloomberg

You must decide. You are either a man, a woman,
Or a poet.
If you lift a brick as a man, you are a slave.
If you lift a brick as a poet, hope is yours.

If you write poetry as a poet
Nothing can stand in your way.
If you write poetry as a man, you are a slave.

The man is always telling you what to do.
There is a man behind every act you do.
To be a man is to be among men,
To be working for, with, against, over, other men.

The relationship of rivalry
Is the chief relationship.
It is the motion which propels inert matter.

A unity, a singularity, the One
Of our utopians, is without motion or matter.
Find me one who talks of the One—
And I’ll find you a crackpot.

People like us, Lesbia, who are common,
Deceive, and expect others to do so.
It is how the world is made interesting.

Otherwise dullness would prevail;
We would all be watching Waldo Emerson read aloud
His essays on Public Television
And by law the world would gradually shut down.

So even while Emerson said, “The more he talked
Of his honesty, the faster
We counted our spoons,” the opposite occurs;

Men with megaphones not only get our attention,
They get our spoons and melt spoons
To make bigger megaphones. Thank God there are
Two status quos! Otherwise the One would tyrannize.

These two—the material and the spiritual—
Overlap, but are not entirely one—
And for this we can be thankful.

If they overlapped entirely, and were, in fact, one,
A low-paid poet could never feel important;
A wealthy philistine would always feel miserable.
But they are distinct enough, these two.

No matter where in the world one lives,
A million dollars is a million dollars,
A poem translated from Czech into English is a
Poem translated from Czech into English.

Happy and dual and easily understood world—
How thankful we are that the justice of perception
Has divided the world into two status quos.

Miserable me!
I don’t care about money.
And I have never felt compelled to enjoy a Czech poem,
Whether in English or in Czech.

But Lesbia! If one writes as a woman—
Now there’s the end of everything.
To be a woman is to be a truism.
But this doesn’t matter to anyone.

Women who are poets can now, for the first time,
Be safely both, and who can resist
An intelligent woman talking politics or sex
And also about herself, all at once? I can’t.

Who can withstand this rhetoric, Lesbia?
And what if the woman, learned in politics, inserts
An obscure aspect of medieval religious history into her poem?
I am done.

I am burnt to a crisp. I surrender,
I will never read William Cullen Bryant again.
It is over. Carry me out. Resuscitate me, Lesbia!

Scholarship, Progress, Theory, Sensuality, Love, Politics and Feminism
Have made a conflagration of me.
My veins are filled with smoke.
A crisped lily rolls in ashes over my brow.

THE EXCITEMENT OF THE PALE POEM

Antechamber Wall Art | Fine Art America

What brings you unannounced into my room?
Were you not ushered in by my mistress,
Who sits each day as serene as the evening,

Who lounges in her seat by the luxurious door
During my dull and never ending afternoons?
Do you believe you can enter my apartment

Like this, without a sound, with no introduction,
Just because you wish to look upon my evening
Of contemplation where nothing ever happens?

Where is she—she, who swoons between dusk and dusk?
She listens every night for a stranger to come
Who might have a smoothness in the throat

To evoke what passes for talk of the muse.
But in the morning she weaves drops of dew
To make a net of pearl for children

Whose rhetoric promises poems
Written by lovely, tortured persons growing old.
Some say my mistress is my muse

As well as one who reposes, pale and watchful
For the visitor of the sudden, deft knock
Wishing entrance without the usual prelude.

She maintains a disdain lovely to behold.
Never in doubt, she sits in my front room,
Lovelier than the dullest evening which finds

Women serpentine in long dresses. But she is not my muse.
She is my mistress, my usher. Her fragility is touching
And I love her more than— Did she forget to announce you?

HIS POETRY AND HER

huariqueje | Modigliani, Modigliani art, Amedeo modigliani

He came to my house
And laid his beautiful blue shirt on the floor.
He had blue eyes.
He was tall. Don’t embarrass me.
I’m not going to say anymore.
I don’t remember what was said.
During his embarrassing stay
There was perfect music once—
A violin on a hill—
At midnight in my bed.
I think I teased him
By mentioning other men.
That was a good strategy,
More than sufficient
To confuse his poetry.

THE INTROVERT

Irvine Museum showcases California women artists – Orange County Register

Now you understand.
What an introvert can do.
During long off-hours
They practice. You
Size up the poem they wrote
To you as a quick note—
Not quite knowing
Where it is going.
You do like to talk.
But when you walk
With the introvert
Something happens to your mind.
The introvert is kind
Without meaning to be kind.
Their strange attention is new.
The introvert is doing something to you.
Books, music and movies
Were yours, but now you spill your beer
When the introvert comes near.
The introvert kisses you.
It’s a pleasant fear.
You will do nothing.
The introvert looks at you.
Nothing. Nothing.

2 AM IN THE DARK

House at night Painting by Daniel Murray | Saatchi Art

I am an introvert on an extrovert’s ride.
“Shall we move to the country?
You decide.”
“We are moving and you will
Need to do the following.”
I am living here still.
“We will have dogs and anyone can come
Into the house.
Won’t that be fun.”
The house falls down
As she chats on the phone.
She does the taxes.
I’m never alone.
There was romance at first, even a kiss,
But now she’s moved on.
2 AM in the dark
I’m writing this.

THE OLD ARE LIKE POETS

fireplace pic | Aesthetic art, Renaissance art, Classic art

The old are like poets—famous, covered in such light
We cannot see them, only their fame.
They ask, “how old?” You hear the old person’s name.
But unseen the dream of that seasoned mind.
They dream. The world surrenders. Old age is kind.
Strong and busy in the midst of life
We pity the old, but the old are glad.
They dream somewhere. It is we, the young, who are sad.
Uncertainty hangs over the expression of love.
The young exaggerate. They face the pitiless stars above.
“You’ll be old, too,” the distance of the stars say.
The poet disagreed, dreaming a short distance away.

THE FOUR QUARTETS HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Muriel Rukeyser with fellow poets Randall Jarrell, Wallace Stevens, Alan  Tate, Marianne Moore in 1955 | Jewish Women's Archive
Randall Jarrell with friends. Was Modernism revolutionary—or snobby?

Everyone seeks respectability—even the outlaw and the ruffian seek it on some level, even if they don’t say so.

The desire for respectability lies at the core of civilized life. The desire for respectability is so ingrained, we hardly wish to admit to ourselves naked emperors are everywhere, though inside all of us know this to be true.

This operates powerfully in Letters—where all poets are potentially critics—and most critics have a burning desire to be respected as poets.

No one who seeks a literary reputation today will dare to speak above a whisper against two things in particular—nothing is considered greater, nothing more honored, in Letters, than The Four Quartets (1943) by poet/critic T.S. Eliot (who won the Nobel Prize in 1948) and the literary criticism of poet/critic Randall Jarrell. Poetry and the Age is Jarrell’s iconic book of criticism published in 1953.

This could change.

Reputations rise and fall—in minutes.

This has been true for quite a while, however: The agony of the poet has been acute for 100 years.

For 100 years a discussion of poetry has been replaced by “why isn’t poetry read?”

There was a time, shortly before World War Two—around the time many people alive today were born—when T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Randall Jarrell were unknown—and if you “weren’t there,” it is hard to understand that names as common now as Cartier, Chanel or Gucci were obscure, and it was very likely they would remain obscure.

Crazy luck, hard work, networking, all the accidents of the “luckily met” and unpredictable outside influences bubble up into notoriety and fame.

Critics hesitate to trace or embrace this winding truth; it is easier (since they “weren’t there”) to assert, “Why, he’s…he’s…Ezra Pound! He wrote this! And that!”

Given the current political climate (I hear Walt Whitman was just cancelled) and given that Jarrell, Eliot, and Pound were conservative white men, any fame they have is still in jeopardy—as it always is, of course, for all of us.

Which is why we work hard, have children, write poems, criticize, talk.

Talking and poetry are very close to each other. Talking can take the form of sealing a publishing deal, composing a poem, or writing a critical essay. And inevitably proper names are attached.

In conversation, there is “the poetry” and “my poems” and every person in Letters means the second when they talk about the first.

Great poets are found by fame, after working for a long time alone.

The minor poets network, form cliques, and bash the great poets. Fame is like food, only more so—there is only so much to go around, but occasionally fame can feed a few if they are lucky to be merely standing next to it.

A minor intellect seeking fame is an embarrassment—unless it is successful; then it goes from humiliation in the street to a “literary revolution” which makes it on to a syllabus.

The minor poet or poet-critic in a state of fame-seeking arousal inevitably exhibits circular and contradictory reasoning in every instance—this is how we know (if we read carefully) what is going on. They will hate romantic poetry because it is romantic poetry. They will say criticism is dull as they impute criticism in a manner as dull as humanly possible. They will cry out in despair that no one reads widely anymore—as they habitually name-drop the same handful of their poet friends.

Or wishing desperately to solidify their reputation (a radical one) in old age, they will write heavy-sounding, pontifical nonsense:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation. *

* What stands out is the helplessness of the weak and circular reasoning: we perhaps speculate today perpetually on tomorrow. Or, time exists but a time machine doesn’t. To prevent too much “time present” abstraction, the poet reaches out for a “rose-garden” and the “unheard music in the shrubbery, And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses Had the look of flowers that are looked at.” But it’s too late. We know for certain this isn’t the T.S. Eliot of Prufrock; this is an old poet twenty years past the peak of his powers.

Randall Jarrell demonstrates in his criticism better than anyone the phenomenon I sadly describe (“the look of flowers that are looked at”)—Jarrell was poised between two ages—the success of the Modernist Revolution in real terms (young Eliot’s haunting compositions) and the success of the Modernist revolution in institutional terms (“Four Quartets,” the Nobel, the college syllabus), the institutional success threatening to wipe out the earlier one with its flood of cheap radicalism and ambitious credentialism.

Additionally, Jarrell exhibits the ambition of a brilliant writer in the thick of the Modernist ascendancy tantalizingly close to the first rank but clearly confined to the second (no one reads his books of poems; some who are influential read his criticism). Randall Jarrell had connections: Robert Lowell, John Ransom—but he knew who the real stars were (aging but established): Whitman (the only one who was dead), Pound, Eliot, Williams, Stevens, Bishop, Moore, and, of course, Frost—and here was a wrinkle.

Frost, like Auden to a much lesser degree, (no we don’t mean a wrinkled face) was more famous than every Modernist poet combined. Robert Frost wrote the kind of famous rhyming poems the public still adored—the same public the Modernist revolutionaries hated, but were now courting in the college syllabus (an end run appeal).

Jarrell was torn. (Rereading Jarrell today we can see how much this ruined him.) Jarrell hedged his bets, placing a lot of chips on Frost even as he heaped adoration on WC Williams.

Keats was rumored to have been “killed by a criticism” (it wasn’t true) but Jarrell was, in fact, hospitalized for depression by a negative review of his poems. The Romantics were tougher—they fed on virtuosity and Nature. The Modernists lived on reputation, experimental-poetry-with-something-to-prove, and reviews.

To attempt to love both Frost and Williams is to be unconscious as a critic. It keeps one from being clear; one ends up repeating innocuous observations instead of really reading the work: writing whole reviews in which the subject’s poems are not quoted, gushing that Whitman, Frost, and Williams are “American”—as if calling some American poet “American” in a positive sense can possibly mean anything.

Jarrell lovingly reviews Frost but with all sorts of hesitancy and qualifications—he knows he is taking a risk by praising a poet ordinary people (the kind who have never heard of Ezra Pound) like. “Frost has limitations of a kind very noticeable to us.” Jarrell takes pains to examine what he considers lesser-known Frost poems. He quotes this “least familiar” poem and afterwards explores its philosophical weight, “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep:”

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be—
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?


How can one reconcile Jarrell’s (somewhat guilty, true) admiration of “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep” (he compares it to “Housman) to his schoolboy crush on Paterson (Book I)? “I read it [Paterson] seven or eight times, and ended lost in delight.”

No one who likes Frost could possibly like Williams:

“Stale as a whale’s breath: breath!/Breath!”

“Clearly!/speaks the red-breast his behest. Clearly!/clearly!”

To understand Frost, we need to ask: Is poetry really nothing but this: Wisdom which rhymes. Or is it rhyme which is wise? Unconscious critics don’t ask these questions.

There is nothing to understand about “Stale as a whale’s breath: breath!/Breath!” There just isn’t. God save us from that wheel barrow. From those plums.

Poetry is refined talk. Conscious refinement in itself is a boon in many ways to society. To clobber refinement for some “primal truth” is the stuff of revolution—which ends in nightmare.

Poems we unconsciously like should be a red flag. Admiring “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep” is a conscious activity—to admire Williams is to be unconscious.

Those born in the late 19th century (Thomas Eliot was born in 1888, WC Williams was born in 1883) were swept up in the exciting novelty of the age (cinema, looser sex, the Russian revolution, the automobile, the Great War)—and therefore were impatient (loose sex, cars, and movies make one impatient) to be revolutionary artists.

Radical art of the early 20th century! Old people never understand—but now they really didn’t understand. The 1960s truly began in the 1920s.

By the time Jarrell publishes Poetry And the Age WC Williams is 70 years old and just beginning to get a respectable name for himself—“The Red Wheel Barrow” is ancient history.

What else to call it? It was “the age;” it swept people along and it swept the arts and everything else along with it—it had nothing to do with choices; the poets had to be this way. They had to write poetry that was different. And they did. And no one read it. But the revolution could not be stopped: You will either read our poetry, or you will listen to us complaining that you ought to read it and if you don’t read it, we will take over the schools and become professors—and make you read it. And this is exactly what happened. The revolution succeeded even as it failed. The “old” was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the “new,” by revolutionaries who robotically obeyed “the age”—even against their will. They were sorry they didn’t rhyme often enough, but they couldn’t help it. It was the “Age” of Jarrell’s title. The “Age” must be fed.

Randall Jarrell describes the revolution in poetry of his time—and its failure. He is a bitter revolutionary:

“Since most people know about the modern poet only that he is obscure—i.e., that he is difficult, i.e., that he is neglected—they naturally make a casual connection between the two meanings of the word, and decide that he is unread because he is difficult. Some of the time this is true; some of the time the reverse is true: the poet seems difficult because he is not read, because the reader is not accustomed to reading his or any other poetry. But most of the time neither is a cause—both are no more than effects of that long-continued, world-overturning cultural and social revolution (seen at its most advanced stage here in the United States) which has made the poet difficult and the public unused to any poetry exactly as it has made poet and public divorce their wives, stay away from church, dislike bull-baiting, free the slaves, get insulin shots for diabetes, or do a hundred thousand other things, some bad, some good, and some indifferent.”

We (the modern poets) Jarrell insists, are not obscure; we (and he smiles sadly and whimsically) are not read—for no reason that anyone can tell.

In the same essay he writes: “If we were in the habit of reading poets their obscurity would not matter; and once we were out of the habit, their clarity does not help.” He’s in a philosophical quandary. Plainly, “obscurity” and “clarity” are nothing and everything to him.

Jarrell is a regular mess. He knows something is wrong, but is sure nothing is wrong.

“The general public [in this lecture I hardly speak of the happy few, who grow fewer and unhappier day by day] has set up a criterion of its own, one by which every form of contemporary art is condemned. This criterion is, in the case of music, melody; in the case of painting, representation; in the case of poetry, clarity.”

It’s difficult to know whether or not Jarrell comprehends how much he is like a dog chasing his tail. He is certain contemporary poets (of which tacitly he is one) are not obscure, but even if they were, it would not matter, but he understands they are not read (in fact they are condemned!) and he does not know why they are not read, except they seem to be condemned for lacking clarity. Yet clarity is not a factor because this is not what makes poetry popular. Jarrell’s indulgence in self-torture is touching, if not horrifying.

“Is Clarity the handmaiden of Popularity, as everybody automatically assumes? how much does it help to be immediately plain? In England today few poets are as popular as Dylan Thomas—his magical poems have corrupted a whole generation of English poets; yet he is surely one of the most obscure poets who ever lived.”

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night is obscure? The popular poems of Dylan Thomas are not obscure, but rather than debate this, it’s better to concede Jarrell’s point: “obscurity” is only a matter of education—the obscure is only so to the unlearned. Yet—this is but a truism. Something else is bothering Jarrell. What is it?

Here’s a clue:

“Many a man, because Ezra Pound is too obscure for him, has shut forever the pages of Paradise Lost.”

If we were to arrest Jarrell and seize his papers we would see what sort of spy-mission he is on.

Jarrell’s lament is that not enough people read contemporary poetry. But he doesn’t stop there. He points out that Shakespeare is difficult (obscure). He repeats a survey which says that half of Americans don’t read books.

He doesn’t come right out and compare Milton to Pound. And yet he does, anyway.

Milton is Beethoven and Pound is a toy trumpet. And yet. Jarrell mourns that no one reads Milton. Jarrell mourns that no one reads Pound. The message for new audiences interested in poetry, students, anyone who is not enamored of the old, great poetry and yet is curious about poetry in general is this: The damned stupid public understands neither Milton nor Pound. Milton is dead. The damned stupid public will mock you even more for loving what’s gone. But Pound, at least, is…alive. He’s…new.

In his essay, “The Age of Criticism,” Jarrell complains that too many writers are writing criticism but he doesn’t point out a single good critic. On page 81 we get an elaborate anecdote in which Jarrell takes a condescending tone towards a poet who asks Jarrell about Paterson: is it really any good? We are supposed to think, as we read this, “Of course Paterson is good!”

On page 82 we get, “To the question ‘Have you read Gerontion?'[Eliot 1920]—or some other poem that may seem difficult to people—I’ve several times heard people reply: ‘Well, not really—I’ve read it, but I’ve never read a thorough analysis of it, or really gone through it systematically.” Jarrell’s point is that too much criticism has addled the brains of readers who would otherwise be reading T.S. Eliot (Eliot! Pure! In the flesh!) like mad. Jarrell seems unaware that no one read the Modernists (in their little magazines of the 1920s) until they began to seep into the university—on the backs of criticism. What happened, of course, is criticism took on a life of its own—failing to properly reward the leaders of the revolution. And this has made Jarrell either melancholy, or ambitious for the sake of the revolution he hopes will make famous those in his generation, too.

In another anecdote, this one on page 15 in the book, a worldly and wealthy gentleman on a ship to Europe asks Jarrell who his favorite American poets are and Jarrell says “Oh, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost.” In short, the gentleman, who Jarrell otherwise highly admires, answers, “I don’t believe I’ve heard of them.” We are supposed to believe this a very great tragedy.

Why does Jarrell tell this story? Is he trying to say Frost and Eliot are equally obscure? In the mid-20th century Frost was a hundred times better known than T.S. Eliot. And it’s probably still true.

Is Jarrell pretending to hate the briar patch of “obscurity”—where all great poets now reside?

We need to read the first page of the book, from the essay, “The Obscurity of the Poet,” to find the answer:

“When I was asked to talk about the Obscurity of the Modern Poet I was delighted, for I have suffered from this obscurity all my life. But then I realized that I was being asked to talk not about the fact that people don’t read poetry, but about the fact that most of them wouldn’t understand it if they did: about the difficulty, not the neglect, of contemporary poetry. And yet it is not just modern poetry, but poetry, that is today obscure. Paradise Lost is what it was; but the ordinary reader no longer makes the mistake of trying to read it—instead he glances at it, weighs it in his hand, shudders, and suddenly, his eyes shining, puts it on his list of the ten dullest books he has ever read, along with Moby Dick, War and Peace, Faust, and Boswell’s Life of Johnson. But I am doing this ordinary reader an injustice: it was not the Public, nodding over its lunch-pail, but the educated reader, the reader the universities have trained, who a few weeks ago, to the Public’s sympathetic delight, put together this list of the world’s dullest books.”

To the “delight” of the working-class “Public,” even the “educated reader” finds Paradise Lost dull.

We almost think Jarrell is delighted by this, as well, perhaps in a fit of schadenfreude, because, after all, no one reads his (Jarrell’s) poems, but we are not sure. (He actually inserts an original poem into the first essay of the book.)

But recall again Jarrell’s words: “Many a man, because Ezra Pound is too obscure for him, has shut forever the pages of Paradise Lost.”

The prize was almost won—the Modernist revolutionaries of the 1920s were coming into their own—but then suddenly everyone stopped reading poetry!

Or, as Jarrell complains in his essay, “The Age of Criticism,” everyone is writing only criticism. The “literary quarterlies” each contain “several poems and a piece of fiction”…the rest is criticism. The rest is criticism. The words have a dull uneasy sound; they lie on the spirit with a heavy weight.” Jarrell says the criticism is good and bad—but in the essay he quotes not one word of any of it, but Jarrell makes it pretty clear that it’s almost all dull—and the quarterlies should be printing the poems of Ezra Pound, instead.

How would Jarrell have reacted to what came after him—he complained there was too much criticism. What would he have thought of the rise of Theory? Or the rise of poetry, where no readers exist who are not poets, and every poet has the ambition of a Randall Jarrell and every day poems are published which sound like this?

“Stale as a whale’s breath: breath!/Breath!”

“Clearly!/speaks the red-breast his behest. Clearly!/clearly!”

He would have been horrified, and I don’t think he could have seen this coming because he made the mistake so many intellectuals make—he underestimated the people; he looked down on them; he made judgments based not on merit and the long view, but on the sorts of distinctions which thrill us in the moment.

He made the mistake of thinking William Carlos Williams was better for people than the New York Daily News. It’s not. Jarrell was a utopian, a snobby one at that—and this made him blind to grounded, democratic principles. Look at this brilliant passage, which shows that he should have known better than to think, in terms which are nothing but pure snobbery, that the Modernist poet was going to save the world:

“When Mill and Marx looked at a handful of workingmen making their slow firm way through the pages of Shelley or Herbert Spencer or The Origin of Species, they thought with confident longing, just as Jefferson and Lincoln had, of the days when every man would be literate, when an actual democracy would make its choices with as much wisdom as any imaginary state where the philosopher is king: and no gleam of prophetic insight came to show them those workingmen, two million strong, making their easy and pleasant way through the pages of the New York Daily News. The very speeches in which Jefferson and Lincoln spoke of their hope for the future are incomprehensible to most of the voters of that future, since the vocabulary and syntax of the speeches are more difficult—more obscure—than anything the voters have read or heard. For when you defeat me in an election simply because you were, as I was not, born and bred in a log cabin, it is only a question of time until you are beaten by someone whom the pigs brought up out in the yard. The truth that all men are politically equal, the recognition of the injustice of fictitious differences, becomes a belief in the fictitiousness of differences, a conviction that it is reaction and snobbishness or Fascism to believe that any individual differences of real importance exist.”

Yes, Mr. Jarrell, “individual differences of real importance exist,” beginning with Shakespeare put beside WC Williams. The assumption that a person who reads the New York Daily News cannot understand Lincoln or Jefferson is nothing more than a snobby assumption on your part—nor did these “workingmen” pass on WC Williams because Williams was “obscure” or “difficult” or Williams had too much in common with Abraham Lincoln. They rejected him for more basic reasons, which anyone, even a professor, or a great critic like yourself, should be able to understand.

TO LIVE IS TO KILL

Funeral of the Virgin Mary from the predella of the Annunciation ...

To live is to kill.

From the moment of our birth

We write our will,

And in it, see our less than worth:

To those we’ve left: we leave sorrow.

We would have left less tomorrow.

If the goal is smaller funeral lines,

Don’t die famous or young; no one pines

Old age leaving wealth—

The older you are, the less they care for your health.

The ones they desperately mourn

Are children recently born;

They hardly lived, and did not kill

In the way all living does—they leave grief in their will—

Grief that kills.

No song can explain this grief.

So little Shakespeare; so many wills.

As we live, the years

Kill us; more pain and less tears.

If the will we leave

Is generous, heirs do not grieve;

It matters what things

We inherit; each testament and will brings

Sorrow or greatness—

I did love you, but I grieved less

Because you lived and therefore killed.

Life is never empty, it is filled

With those we infected; our life

Took air and sun

And everything that’s precious from everyone.

Our life meant someone could not

Live, we came at the end of a plot

Conceived by death—

We breathed. Every breath

Was, for the world, another death.

We left the world noisier, we drove,

We spread germs, we wove

The sleeve of death for all to wear;

We chased down death in our outward care.

Let me read the will I left behind:

I leave a broken heart to those perceptive and kind,

Sighing thoughts for a sighing mind

And sorrow

To the sensitive who live tomorrow.

ON SEEING THE WORST POEM EVER WHICH RECEIVED 205 LIKES

Giorgione Artworks & Famous Paintings | TheArtStory

The ether of Letters is sour.
Is it possible no poet flies near the sun?
We’ve never seen an age so busy
With poetry where nothing excellent is done.

Criticism was never accepted
By poets too proud
To sing mating songs
Now that streets are loud.

Under the skyscraper’s shadow
Rats and birds pick
At refuse. “I’m a man!
I’m a man! And I’m sick!”

You went into the basement
Where the poets filled out forms.
Today belongs to ink.
Yesterday, storms.

Pink Floyd lost Syd Barrett
And mourning him, went on to fame.
She didn’t really love you—you
Were not the first—so it wasn’t quite the same.

Oh but she did love you—
You were not the last
To find one could both transcend—
And stay to find out about the past.

The death of a beautiful woman
Is the essence of lyric, not because
She is beautiful or woman; gone
Is the gist of what she does.

And you are gone, the person
You once were—you now see
The punctual performance
Of the mightiest poetry.

You substituted one insight for another,
Claiming for yourself a life
In which the folly of the girlfriend
Dignified the wife.

You met someone both demanding
And helpless—instantly
You thought how you surrendered
To her. Instantly you were free.

Because she couldn’t love
Her father, she love-hates you—
And when you acted like her mother
There was nothing the muses could do.

MAN, THOSE DECADES IN AMERICAN POETRY WENT BY FAST

BEN MAZER: POEM FROM HIS FORTHCOMING BOOK | Scarriet

1770-1780 Phillis Wheatley (On Virtue)

O thou bright jewel in my aim I strive
To comprehend thee. Thine own words declare
Wisdom is higher than a fool can reach.
I cease to wonder, and no more attempt
Thine height t’explore, or fathom thy profound.
But, O my soul, sink not into despair,
Virtue is near thee, and with gentle hand
Would now embrace thee, hovers o’er thine head.
Fain would the heaven-born soul with her converse,
Then seek, then court her for her promised bliss.

Auspicious queen, thine heavenly pinions spread,
And lead celestial Chastity along;
Lo! now her sacred retinue descends,
Arrayed in glory from the orbs above.
Attend me, Virtue, thro’ my youthful years!
O leave me not to the false joys of time!
But guide my steps to endless life and bliss.
Greatness, or Goodness, say what I shall call thee,
To give an higher appellation still,
Teach me a better strain, a nobler lay,
O Thou, enthroned with Cherubs in the realms of day!

1780-1790  Philip Freneau  (The Indian Burying Ground)

In spite of all the learn’d have said;
I still my old opinion keep,
The posture, that we give the dead,
Points out the soul’s eternal sleep.

Not so the ancients of these lands —
The Indian, when from life releas’d
Again is seated with his friends,
And shares again the joyous feast.

His imag’d birds, and painted bowl,
And ven’son, for a journey dress’d,
Bespeak the nature of the soul,
Activity, that knows no rest.

His bow, for action ready bent,
And arrows, with a head of stone,
Can only mean that life is spent,
And not the finer essence gone.

Thou, stranger, that shalt come this way.
No fraud upon the dead commit —
Observe the swelling turf, and say
They do not lie, but here they sit.

Here still lofty rock remains,
On which the curious eye may trace,
(Now wasted, half, by wearing rains)
The fancies of a older race.

Here still an aged elm aspires,
Beneath whose far — projecting shade
(And which the shepherd still admires
The children of the forest play’d!

There oft a restless Indian queen
(Pale Shebah, with her braided hair)
And many a barbarous form is seen
To chide the man that lingers there.

By midnight moons, o’er moistening dews,
In habit for the chase array’d,
The hunter still the deer pursues,
The hunter and the deer, a shade!

And long shall timorous fancy see
The painted chief, and pointed spear,
And reason’s self shall bow the knee
To shadows and delusions here.

1790-1800  Joel Barlow  (The Hasty-Pudding, excerpt)

Ye Alps audacious, through the heavens that rise
To cramp the day and hide me from the skies;
Ye Gallic flags, that o’er their heights unfurl’d,
Bear death to kings, and freedom to the world,—
I sing not you.  A softer theme I choose,
A virgin theme, unconscious of the Muse,
But fruitful, rich, well suited to inspire
The purest frenzy of poetic fire.

Despise it not, ye bards to terror steel’d,
Who hurl’d your thunders round the epic field;
Nor ye who strain your midnight throats to sing,
Joys that the vineyard and the still-house bring;
Or on some fair your distant notes employ,
And speak of raptures that you ne’r enjoy.
I sing the sweets I know,—the charms I feel,—
My morning incense, and my evening meal—

1800-1810  John Quincy Adams (The Wants of Man, excerpt)

“Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long.”
‘Tis not with me exactly so;
But ’tis so in the song.
My wants are many and, if told,
Would muster many a score;
And were each wish a mint of gold,
I still should long for more.

1810-1820  Francis Scott Key (Defence of Fort McHenry, excerpt)

O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

1820-1830  William Cullen Bryant  (Thanatopsis, excerpt)

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

1830-1840  Lydia Huntley Sigourney (Indian Names, excerpt)

Ye see their unresisting tribes,
With toilsome step and slow,
On through the trackless desert pass,
A caravan of woe;
Think ye the Eternal’s ear is deaf?
His sleepless vision dim?
Think ye the soul’s blood may not cry
From that far land to him?

1840-1850  Edgar Poe (The Raven, excerpt)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.’

1850-1860   Stephen Foster  (Old Kentucky Home, excerpt)

Weep no more, my lady,
Oh! weep no more today!
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky Home,
For the old Kentucky Home far away.

1860-1870  Walt Whitman (O Captain! My Captain! excerpt)

O captain! my captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring.

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red!
Where on the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

1870-1880   Sidney Lanier  (Hymns of the Marshes, excerpt)

Over the monstrous shambling sea,
Over the Caliban sea,
Bright Ariel-cloud, thou lingerest:
Oh wait, oh wait, in the warm red West,—
Thy Prospero I’ll be.

1880-1890  Ellen Wheeler Wilcox  (Delilah, excerpt)

She touches my cheek, and I quiver
I tremble with exquisite pains;
She sighs – like an overcharged river
My blood rushes on through my veins;
She smiles – and in mad-tiger fashion,
As a she-tiger fondles her own,
I clasp her with fierceness and passion,
And kiss her with shudder and groan.

1890-1900   Ernest Fenollosa  (Fuji at Sunrise)

Startling the cool gray depths of morning air
She throws aside her counterpane of clouds,
And stands half folded in her silken shrouds
With calm white breast and snowy shoulder bare.
High o’er her head a flush all pink and rare
Thrills her with foregleam of an unknown bliss,
A virgin pure who waits the bridal kiss,
Faint with expectant joy she fears to share.
Lo, now he comes, the dazzling prince of day!
Flings his full glory o’er her radiant breast;
Enfolds her to the rapture of his rest,
Transfigured in the throbbing of his ray.
O fly, my soul, where love’s warm transports are;
And seek eternal bliss in yon pink kindling star!

1900-1910   John Whitcomb Riley  (Little Orphant Annie)

You better mind yer parents, and yer teachers fond and dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, ‘an dry the orphant’s tear,
‘An he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the gobble-uns ‘ll git you Ef You Don’t Watch Out!

1910-1920    Robert Frost  (The Road Not Taken)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

1920-1930    Dorothy Parker (A Very Short Song)

Once, when I was young and true,
Someone left me sad-
Broke my brittle heart in two;
And that is very bad.

Love is for unlucky folk,
Love is but a curse.
Once there was a heart I broke;
And that, I think, is worse.

1930-1940 Delmore Schwartz (Sonnet: O City, City)

To live between terms, to live where death
Has his loud picture in the subway ride,
Being amid six million souls, their breath
An empty song suppressed on every side,
Where the sliding auto’s catastrophe
Is a gust past the curb, where numb and high
The office building rises to its tryanny,
Is our anguished diminution until we die.

Whence, if ever, shall come the actuality
Of a voice speaking the mind’s knowing,
The sunlight bright on the green windowshade,
And the self articulate, affectionate, and flowing
Ease, warmth, light, the utter showing,
When in the white bed all things are made.

1940-1950   E.E. Cummings  (Anyone Lived In A Pretty How Town, excerpt)

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

1950-1960   Allen Ginsberg  (Howl, excerpt)

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix;
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.

1960-1970    Sylvia Plath  (Daddy, excerpt)

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

1970-1980    John Ashbery  (Daffy Duck in Hollywood, excerpt)

But everything is getting choked to the point of
Silence. Just now a magnetic storm hung in the swatch of sky
Over the Fudds’ garage, reducing it–drastically–
To the aura of a plumbago-blue log cabin on
A Gadsden Purchase commemorative cover.

1980-1990     Dana Gioia  (My Confessional Sestina, excerpt)

Let me confess. I’m sick of these sestinas
written by youngsters in poetry workshops
for the delectation of their fellow students,
and then published in little magazines
that no one reads, not even the contributors
who at least in this omission show some taste.

1990-2000    Billy Collins  (Composed Over Three Thousand Miles From Tintern Abbey, excerpt)

Something will be missing
from this long, coffin-shaped room,
the walls and windows now
only two different shades of gray,

the glossy gardenia drooping
in its chipped terra-cotta pot.
And on the floor, shoes, socks,
the browning core of an apple.

Nothing will be as it was
a few hours ago, back in the glorious past
before our nap, back in that Golden Age
that drew to a close sometime shortly after lunch.

2000-2010   Franz Wright (A Happy Thought)

Assuming this is the last day of my life
(which might mean it is almost the first),
I’m struck blind but my blindness is bright.

Prepare for what’s known here as death;
have no fear of that strange word forever.
Even I can see there’s nothing there

to be afraid of: having already been
to forever I’m unable to recall
anything that scared me, there, or hurt.

What frightened me, apparently, and hurt
was being born.  But I got over that
with no hard feelings.  Dying, I imagine

it will be the same deal, lonesomer maybe,
but surely no more shocking or prolonged—
It’s dark as I recall, then bright, so bright.

2010-2020 Ben Mazer (It rains. One steps up through the haze)

It rains. One steps up through the haze
of tan and violet to the maze
of memory—misty where one stands,
twisting, separating strands.

The hour’s dim, and no one calls;
obligation mutely falls
through floors of mountains, origin:
anonymously you begin.

The blasted lantern of the nerves
lights up the sky, where starlight curves;
below, on earth, some few pass by
sheer constructs of identity.

They swirl and plaster every sense,
unto a law of difference:
not clear how long, or what direction,
subsume the nerves in their inspection.

The skeleton’s examination
evokes, incites, brief procreation:
filed away, some future date
astonished memories locate.

The seraphs of pedestrians
seep into violets, into tans,
breaching desire’s boulevards;
throw down the last of evening’s cards.

There is no way to formulate
identity’s raw nervous state:
it seems to slip into the world,
by stellar facts and atoms hurled

into the mythic stratosphere.
Ideas formulate the seer.
Genesis sans generation.
A change of trains at London station.

I WENT LOOKING FOR MY DESTINY

Sold Price: Maria Szantho Hungarian Girl With Banjo Original Painting - May  6, 0121 10:00 AM EDT

I went looking for my destiny
And I found you, Destini.
I climbed onto trains.
I flew. I tried hospitals
For cures. I took pains
To follow the logic of others.
I admit, I began to panic.
“Whorehouses and banjo music on the Titanic!
Do you want to go?”
I looked at them. “No.”
They look at the sky, wailing,
Look with fear at the waters below,
Everyone who is getting older.
And nobody wants to go.
I found isolated spots
Of perfection for a brief time.
A song. Ecstasy. Rhyme.
I want immortality.
I want the immortal good.
No one spoke about that
Even though they all understood.
You are my destiny, Destini.
I am tired and afraid, that’s true.
But I found my destiny, Destini.
It’s you.

ELEANOR WINDSOR, I FOUND YOU WITH ANOTHER

Thomas Cole, Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (video) | Khan Academy

WEATHER POEM

https://bolintin.bandcamp.com/track/weather-poem?fbclid=IwAR2y5jIgLcCYTQEIqCxgiJ-O6eO8mr5OIu5v1sSERX92qifMg2APyrrWCqM

Weather Poem, by Bolintin

Cosmin Postolache – music, Dan Sociu – text, Thomas Graves – voice; translated from Romanian by Ioana Vlad

PLEASURE CHANGES US MORE THAN IT SHOULD

The Dolphin Letters Resurrects One of the 20th Century's Most Emotional  Literary Scandals | Vanity Fair

In our minds we think change is knowing.
We know something now—
And we are different from what we were.
Robert Lowell always knew
The poem he wrote would change him.
The professor asks: did this poem change you?
One change must cause a second change—or not.
Today you speak to me differently.
I guess you have changed a lot.
The theory is pleasure causes decay—
I have been punished since I sought pleasure all along.
Today, when I speak, you don’t listen to me.
But it doesn’t feel like I did anything wrong.

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