SURVIVAL OF THE UNFITTEST

Mark Rylance Starring as 'The BFG' for Steven Spielberg | Movie News | SBS  Movies

“Survival of the Fittest” is a phrase I hate;

dog eat dog darwinism leading to nazism

and war. I sang folk songs for years,

“Gonna Study War No More!” Benign

and happy; I did not write one line

of poetry, but I wrote it with grateful tears,

and my poetry was the fittest possible;

but survival wasn’t the point;

Keep the ugly to show us the beautiful,

let everyone live, let everyone share the stage;

don’t remove anyone in a jealous rage.

The “survival” part is the part that’s bad;

“fittest” is good, but “survival” implies death.

I’m for “fittest,” but not “survival of the fittest.”

And equally, “survival of the unfittest”

is pernicious and wrong, and yet

nazis, behind a veil of false benevolence,

use “survival of the unfittest” to usurp power

in the victim market. Illogical, poison flower!

They seem different, nice. But we realize they, too,

are nazis—but too late!

Survival of the unfittest. Unfortunate fate!

You see this. Don’t you?

THE RIGGED GAME

In Pictures: See the Tunnels Beneath Rome's Colosseum, Where Gladiators  Prepared for Battle, Open to the Public for the First Time
American culture and politics is the rigged game.
We find out too late: leaders we loved or hated were the same.
Americans like to believe losers are to blame.
We are. We lost a rigged game.
The guy is gone who rigged the game;
his grandchildren, on top; it will always be the same.
No person or institution is to blame.
They got away; they're free. And that's the game.
She's cooking dinner. "Who won the game?"
She doesn't understand. He needs someone to blame.
He wants to explain it to her, but he cannot.
Neither he, nor his wife, nor his children, understand the plot.
Be thankful for everything we've got.
A beast who would tear apart the world is tame.
Genius already knows the result. On your death-bed you'll see it:
even love was a rigged game.


NOW LET ME RETURN

Lichen Crust on Desert Rocks - DesertUSA
You make love 
to Wittgenstein, Tokyo and lichen
in your blurbs for New Directions;
the anxiety of flux is happy
to spill on your carpet;
impregnated by Cat Stevens
and Syd Barrett,
the uncanny reigns in your mouth.
Now let me return to my poetry,
trusting in many things:
Language. A line which simply sings.
I know the old forms are fallen
and the new
runs in dark alleys on the other side of you.
That's all bullshit, you know.
The old forms are grass.
They move in the wind. They grow.

THIS MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE

My poems are a translated love;
you can feel the lover. This
was written by someone 
who knows how to kiss.

Byron, old poems, are safely dead;
Rosalinda, I know, I know;
analyze a prose poem, instead;
frowning, not loving; new;
written for anyone, not you. 
Today the poem is workshoppped 
professionally;
everything's complete;
the teacher has been paid.

This, however, feels like it was tossed
on the internet to get the poet laid.
How yucky. This line
is sticky; it smells like red wine.

Give me the nerd, the university,
the book, glossy and blurbed.
The New York Times reviewed.
That's how it's done.
The museum. The nice watch. 
The Abstract Nude. 

ROMANTIC

Sexual intercourse and romance never align.

Coffee is consumed with hope,

satiety, with wine.

Pleasures multiply and soon

soiled and plain seems the cold moon.

She was wise to make me wait.

Romance is mysterious and late.

Even the poem is marred

when romance dies;

literature may be taught, in theory—

it lives truly in the lover’s eyes.

Everything explains everything—

we isolate poems in vain.

Without humor we were forced to sing.

Dully I escaped her exciting pain.

I DON’T WANT TO ARGUE WITH YOU

I don’t want to argue with you.

Since the argument of the world began

It’s always been short by one man.

No job is quite complete.

Every love triumphant at first, ends in defeat.

Enthusiasm rooted in symbolism

is at the heart of civilized activity.

Dogs driven by hunger. Or poetry.

There is no in-between.

In the mist—the ghost of that one man was seen

and witnesses testify one by one

getting to the bottom of a conversation

dialect by dialect, which the arias push further on.

I don’t want to argue with you.

This poem is prepared to censor you, too.

But there we are, in the circle,

outside the stage door,

long after the show is over, talking.

CHRISTMAS POEM

Christmas in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance.

I will not go over how Plato

attempted to prove the existence of the soul.

You are enamored of the body

and this is not a philosophical poem.

I’m a philosopher, but I know

poems travel by way of music.

If I believe—with Plato—in the immortality

of the soul, poetry still belongs to poetry.

Less always comes from greater

and greater always comes from less—

opposites. Life always comes from death.

You die, but you live forever. I’m terribly happy

thinking of this. Blame emotional poetry.

I can speak now of a single tree.

Elaborate symbol of creation. Verses grouped by two or three.

In my philosophy is love you will receive

by what they want or I want, or what you cannot bring yourself to believe.

IF I MIGHT GIVE A LITTLE ADVICE WITH MY POEM

John Milton | Biography, Poems, Paradise Lost, Quotes, & Facts | Britannica

Advice has never worked in a poem

unless the advice is profound; they

also serve who only stand and wait;

Milton, and other great poets, advise

profitably in their poetry, but me?

Angry in politics. My muse advises:

Tom, keep your angry mouth shut.

Tom, do you really think if everyone

believed what you believe, society

would run smoothly and things

would never break or die?

Tom, Tom, Tom, don’t witness horror

or you’ll be the horror yourself. Fix

things when they break. Don’t let the sad

push you towards despair.

Think of the woman who was kind to you.

Her red, flowing hair.

THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE POEM

1490s in poetry - Wikipedia

This should have been the poem

where I sincerely renounced all poetry—

saying goodbye to Shelley in hell,

who I failed to write like—

numerous brazen gods hated him too well.

I was stuck in my admiration

of this paper-thin product calculated to be

anything I wanted. How could I kiss

extravagantly

when I was bursting with self-consciousness?

Why did I choose to be clever and lonely?

What the hell? How is it to be

Flogging the present with poetry?

Oh my God, I should have obeyed.

The past never comes to the present

like desire, which comes to it too fast.

Why did I choose to be selfish and afraid?

I should have studied prophecy,

not leaned on this. This alleviates nothing.

Nothing alleviates my poetry.

I should have been good. I knew how.

This should have been the poem.

This one. Which you are reading now.

TO BE FABULOUS

The Autumn Leaves of the Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free) 1019339833  | Shutterstock

To be fabulous is to have

sly and abstract ethics.

The muse wants to get

all Wordsworth on me as I notice

no matter where I go nature

uniquely wins me over. Trees

never get boring outside a window

no matter where I stay. This

is why Wordsworth doesn’t matter.

Sure, nature wins. But that’s precisely

why poems praising nature are inane.

You need the problem of the sun

to invade the poem. That’s why it’s done.

WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOU COULD HAVE HAPPENED WITH SOMEBODY ELSE

Stream Original soundtrack to the Painting "Nighthawks by Edward Hopper" by  nella | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

This idea came to me out of nowhere tonight—

as when one notices a sound, a light

which reveals in a certain way a room;

it has nothing to do with anything;

but it frightened me more than anything else:

What happened with you could have happened with somebody else.

She and I, like you and I, would have wondered why love

between us was allowed to happen:

not complicated, in many ways, not unusual,

but simply what people read about as love.

It’s what we know: two people

going through a wedding ceremony, or two

people having encounters in a book,

maybe one meeting, or not any, or few;

encounters which are encounters of thought;

for example, gloom covers the earth—dark gloom—

I want to know if you are the one I always sought.

I STAYED WITH YOU

American Pastoral at Gagosian

I stayed with you

but my poem was in-between.

You were as red as the heavens.

I reposed in green.

My own green happiness smiled,

my lakes had pleasant thoughts;

you saw my calm happiness

as I lay by your side.

You had but a limited time to thrill

with the sensuality—

the sunrise painted the hill

but the words were mine.

Over the music I heard your voice

excited by the wine.

In the morning, I took everything.

The poem made you jealous.

When I tried to sing,

You derided.

Conspiracy of thought! World divided!

THE LIST DOESNT KNOW

FedEx Truck Lettering Installation - All Pro Fleet Painting - YouTube

The FedEx trucks prowl the streets

delivering our Robert Lowell.

The poets ruined their lives

so their poems could make us whole.

In the lives of indoor cats time quietly stops

and inside her mind today a love she had for me drops.

Autumn afternoon. Long shadows.

It was as warm as summer today.

I was able to make a list of everything I love.

I can do that. I can still do that.

The list doesn’t know you’ve gone away.

WHEN I VERY MUCH WANTED TO LOVE

Lilac-Painting Paintings For Sale | Saatchi Art

When I very much wanted to love,

you presented yourself as a subject the most worth loving

by the highest standard I was then able to define

and the urgency was thankfully small;

we proceeded normally, without wine.

Smiles when I passed you in the hall,

a train of associations on the train

would lead to love,

but why did that love turn particularly insane?

It had its demands, but thanks to them,

pleasures of all types arose:

those of contemplation, even chastity,

as well as the earth of you filling my nose.

The lilacs in the park we touched together,

not afraid of the stinging bees;

they say the tide of good will drown the world,

everyone shall have one drowning world—

at last! you gave me one of these.

The good, they say, will cause a civil war,

so much so that the bad is its fault;

the good will never compromise,

so that even mostly good people rebel;

there it is, in the light, and here;

good will ruin everything; that’s why love

made me unwell.

EZRA POUND AND THE SPIRIT OF GOOD BEHAVIOR.

The Spirit of Romance | Ezra POUND

Ezra Pound in The Spirit of Romance, scholarly ruminations published in London when he was 25 by the cream of 1890s Fabian/Yeatsian literary society in 1910 informs us that the style of 19th century Romanticism in poetry (“spirit of romance”) can be found in classic ancient texts.

Well duh. Plato and the ancients, Provencal and Dante, fed Romanticism. We all know this. It’s a truism. Re-discovery of Plato, Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare defines Romanticism.

Everyone also knows Pound has a tendency to rant. Unlike his other jottings gathered into what might be called works of criticism, The Spirit of Romance is relatively sane. In this work he quotes a lot of medieval poetry (equal or surpassing in length his own commentary), declares Dante and Shakespeare top dogs of the poetry world, and questions the worth of Whitman, deriding the former’s optimism in comparison to Villon’s earthy pessimism—this rather mundane observation is as surly as Pound gets. He does voice an unsupported antipathy to Petrarch. So, the weirdness is there, even in this early work of criticism (his prose becomes increasingly crazy—albeit interesting—as he ages) The soon-to-be Vortex Master and Traitor is practicing to appear scholarly. People will do this occasionally in Letters. Even Pound.

I’m afraid it won’t be very entertaining to skewer Pound in The Spirit of Romance—where he somewhat behaves himself. Pound must have said to himself at a young age: “I may as well put together one respectable book of prose.” This was good for his future reputation: to have one sane book of prose to go with his early lyrics (good, if uneven) and his “Cantos” (very uneven).

In this work he does say odd things.

“The history of literary criticism is largely the history of a vain struggle to find a terminology which will define something.” Pound does not tell us who is writing (vainly) this “history of literary criticism.” It is Pound, perhaps.

“Certain qualities and certain furnishings are germane to all fine poetry; there is no need to call them either classic or romantic.”

Pound, here again, states the obvious. But a couple of pages later he contradicts himself:

“Speaking generally, the spells or equations of ‘classic’ art invoke the beauty of the normal, and spells of ‘romantic’ art are said to invoke the beauty of the unusual.”

Coleridge and Poe have already said all that needs to be said on classical balance and romantic strangeness.

Pound, however, being Pound, is quick to equate Romantic excess with the “barbaric.” Four pages later: “the barbaric and the Gothic mind alike delight in profusion” and here Pound adds a footnote: “Spanish point of honor, romanticism of 1830, Crime passionnel down to Sardou and the 90’s, all date from the barbarian invasion, African and oriental inflow on Mediterranean clarity.” No surprise that Pound, like his American predecessor, Emerson, (“English Traits”) learnedly indulges in a certain amount of poisonous cultural commentary, sticking it to large ethnic populations.

In this first chapter of his book, which focuses on The Golden Ass by Apuleius (b. 125 A.D.) Pound describes the childish “romantic” literature he despises: “The mood, the play is everything; the facts are nothing.” Perusing The Golden Ass, “you read, as a child who has listened to ghost stories goes into a dark room; it is no accurate information about historical things that you seek, it is the thrill which mere reality would never satisfy.”

In chapter two, Pound quotes the splendid poet Arnaut Daniel profusely; Pound’s enthusiasm for grownup medieval literature helps him build his case against the so-called child-like Romantics, Shakespeare, and fantastical, populist literature of all kinds—a daring critical gambit.

Mr. Pound, in the final analysis of his career, is half-a-scholar and half-a-poet; sane prose and popular fiction to flesh out his accomplishments may be lacking, but his principled devotion to literary “reality” makes him a lightning rod for learned-literature-no-one-reads, literature eventually happily subsidized by the government in the schools, thanks to Pound’s allies, the well-connected and well-funded New Critics.

Pound’s scholarly weight rests almost entirely on translation—this is problematic (leaving aside Pound’s issues generally) when it comes to popular poetry in English.

Here is Pound in chapter two:

“Daniel’s poetry is more likely to claim interest than a record of opinions about it. His canzone, which Dante cites among the models of most excellent construction, opens:

Sols sui qui sai lo sabrafan quem sorts
Al cor d’amor sofren per sobramar…

Only I know what over-anguish falls
Upon the love-worn heart through over-love…”

Edgar Poe elevated American letters in a number of ways; going back in time to examine other tongues and their translations was not one of them; Pound filled a niche precisely in this manner—which is why, perhaps, if you like Pound, you won’t like Poe (Harold Bloom’s formula—NYR 10/11/84—was: if you like Emerson, you won’t like Poe).

Poe aimed at the common reader—not scholars, and this choice shouldn’t be an issue for anyone, especially since the pedagogy of Poe had an educational motive. Poe famously said “poetry is a passion, not a study.” Pound shows a similar spirit when he says above in discussing Daniel, “…the poetry is more likely to claim interest than a record of opinions about it…” Ironically, Pound then presents a translation—which is not the poetry—it’s Daniel in English prose—as well as the original, which for the lay reader is not poetry, either, since it is in a foreign language. One of Ezra’s favorite tactics is to use foreign languages (in which he lacked fluency) to talk down to his readers: “It will be helpful to compare Shakespeare to French prose, and if you don’t know French…” Pound may earn points as a scholar, but the common reader loses out.

Modernism is defined by its internationalism—seen most, perhaps, in scholarly interest which naturally results in prose translation—which conveniently overlaps with its production of original poetry—in prose.

The translator inevitably fails at poetry—even as, per his meticulous scholarship, he wins at it, since translation is a failure to produce the genuine article; translation, by its very nature fails, because it is a record of content and form standing apart. The translation scholar perpetuates the very division all original poets dread: the failed poem, but manages to do so in a context of linguistic supremacy. Even the fluent translator is a victim of translation’s sword. As Pound himself says in chapter four, among a great deal of translated passages from El Cid: the “interest is archeological rather than artistic.”

Why was Pound so interested in love poetry from centuries ago? Similar sentiments expressed by poets in English from his own time—the 19th and 20th centuries—receive from him nothing but scorn. Amazingly, however, he says a couple of passing nice things about Shelley in The Spirit of Romance. Yes, I know. Who is this guy, Pound?

The sentimental can sometimes sound more poised translated into prose—especially to those, like Pound and William Logan, averse to the sentimental. Translation courts the technical and superficial, which naturally eats away at feeling; at one remove, sighs and tears are more excused, and may even be embraced in a scholar’s historical context. Arnaut Daniel is not really blubbering; it only seems that way in the translated English prose (or English verse, if the translator is more daring).

The common English-speaking reader finds in Frost or Poe accents they can fully grasp—nor can the high learning of translators match the common reader’s experience of Frost or Poe—whatever kind of translated poetry or terminology. Society—since most of its citizens are not scholars—requires populist poetry. Highbrows often forget this. Frost, not Pound; Poe, not Emerson, inspire the vast amount of readers. There’s no need to choose sides—but as we know, poets and scholars, especially the ambitious ones, are as turf-driven as any animal in the wild. Thus Henry James and T.S. Eliot called Poe “immature,” “primitive;” Emerson called Poe “the jingle man.”

The polite, patient grownup—or the inspired, excitable, child—both of these contribute to Letters; if Poe lifts up the middle-brow (or the low-brow), surely this is just as important as Pound tickling the fancy of the foreign language dilettante.

And if Poe appeals to the high-brow (and he certainly does) and also sells more books, it’s silly to begrudge that.

Poets and critics should put personal differences aside.

Society and poetry—it is no exaggeration to say—depend on it.

TOO EASILY RESOLVED

File:The-white-cat-1894.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Too easily resolved:

retirement, death,

document signed, pet cat loved,

symbol of simplicity: rose, flame, dove,

my poem, silent beast of words,

crying out the dove is the best of birds,

my poem, silly old prayer,

whether it’s uncanny, ecstatic, rare

doesn’t matter; you must care—

or not; you prefer videos and kisses,

and other sensual near-misses,

the cigarette, a voice rising in a room;

my poem, a little door invoking doom,

memory, or some neat thought:

can this be what you needed?

can this be what you sought?

TODAY I WILL DO MY USUAL CHORES AND ALSO WRITE A NOVEL

Historic Libraries in Paris | eParis

The reason I am writing a novel today

is because I didn’t write one yesterday.

Novelty is everything. You can do whatever

you say you will, and if you say it in a poem

it may be a puzzling joke. “I am

going to do it” may really mean I am not.

Poetry beats vows.

It’s up to the poem. The poem is king.

I feel that I could write a novel, but should I feel

writing a poem about writing a novel

is more important, watch out!

This poem may not tell you one interesting thing.


THE TROUBLE WITH BEING LOVED

Semper Augustus | Expensive flowers, Rare flowers, Flower phone wallpaper

The trouble with being loved,

is who you are, that is loved,

will always be destroyed by being loved.

I couldn’t see this when I loved,

but as I am being loved, I see

how good it is for my poetry.

My unhurried calm, my devotion

to important things, made you

want to swim in my ocean—

but this unique, private sea

is mine alone. You swimming here

isn’t the plan. Is that clear?

My ocean is placid and small.

It reflects. It isn’t for you at all.

I don’t like this poem’s insight.

I want love to work.

Nor am I immune. To be lovable

is to be an unhurried, privileged jerk.

I should love you, instead—

I want to love. All ideas are dead.

I TOOK FROM YOU AND NOW YOU LOVE ME

Unknown - "Still Life of Fruit", 18th Century Oil on Canvas, Spanish,  Period Gilt Frame at 1stDibs

I took from you and now you love me—

Gaining and losing, intertwined.

Life decays: a one-sided truth for the ages.

Spending is love defined.

I took your time and you understood, too,

never would I give it back to you.

Because of death, there is not a lot

of time to give

(and yet you must spend time to live)

and that is why you love. You do not

like that I took your time; but you gave

what isn’t yours to save;

you gave time to me and I gave time to you,

but all of it was lost.

Giving takes away, no gain is possible—

we will never be content or beautiful

until time itself remove

this selfish, dying, deluded, love.

NONE OF US KNOW

HD wallpaper: Stars during night time, starry sky, long exposure, evening  sky | Wallpaper Flare

None of us know anything.

The best we can do is win “Jeopardy,”

include, dutifully, footnotes,

polish and refine as we say what we think to say,

break the rule for the rule, obey.

The respected treatise on the stars forgot Psyche,

hiding from us

in one ancient constellation—

does it exist?—

a life-changing grin of gossip and love.

Would that ancient philosophy

have been aware today

in a small poem we could get this close

to actual wisdom? Would the philosopher,

peering past his tired white hair

have believed in his awful soul one part

of this claim? O black heart!

I know what I am—and still I ask:

does “it is what it is”

denote God, or no?

Is my height defined by the tall far, far below?

This poem. Slowly, Tom, climb down.

Join your friends, your mother! milling around

at night, among the statues. Go.

WE WISH

School of Minnows Painting by My Linh O Quinn

We are incomplete nature—

we belong to the sperm, not the fish.

A minnow only needs to grow.

We need to wish.

We can wish palpably;

I don’t need poetry

to imagine myself seeking love from you.

Readers of books are inferior

to those who don’t need to read them.

We have trouble admitting this is true.

I put things in the letter

only because I couldn’t come over and do it for you.

Now that I’m gone, you might as well read

what today I will never be able to do.

BECAUSE IT’S YOU

resika

for my mother

Now that this has happened

I’m at my most unreasonable yet.

I routinely think I know more than everyone;

I’m religious, romantic; I always believe

the world can’t be real.

Now that you are passing, and I grieve,

I know even more the truth of what I feel.

Death isn’t true—

no, it isn’t true.

I believe this—because it’s you.

We hear the news and do what we are expected to do.

But death isn’t true.

IT PROVES THAT

The Titan's Goblet, Thomas Cole (American, Lancashire 1801–1848 Catskill, New York), Oil on canvas, American

It proves that what is most expendable

in your poetry is beneficial to it.

It proves that now cannot

catch up to itself later.

It proves that you will never be happy again.

In what you are writing or what you are saying?

Now you go backwards when you go forward—

not dreaming on the bus, but almost that literally.

It was winter when she died and your tooth-

extraction then was unexpected, too.

You traveled by way of mundane roads

inland to a strange place (hospice)

where she was. A last goodbye is impossible.

You finished a race in the middle of the pack.

It was as if she were saying, you are not

special, you are not my boy, because

I am leaving you. Why didn’t they tell us?

Why didn’t they? Life is no longer life

when your mother dies.

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