A MILD REJOINDER FROM WILLIAM LOGAN

Ben Mazer in Romania, taken by Tom Graves

Scarriet supplies, deliciously, delightfully, a necessary alternative to the banner raising that often passes now for criticism. Still, Tom was wrong to state that I haven’t reviewed the poet Ben Mazer because he’s published by a small press. (I’m not sure who gave him secret access to the contraption of whistles and gears that compose the Rube Goldberg machine of my criticism.) I’ve reviewed a fair number of small-press books over the years, and I look seriously at any book a press sends me. If most of the books I’ve reviewed have come from presses mid-sized or larger, well, those are the books that provoked me. Show me a brilliant book by a press I’ve never heard of, like Melissa Green’s chapbook from Arrowsmith Press; and I’ll review it instantly—even though by the time I received that book it was out of print.

—William Logan

Scarriet’s “Fame and Literature” 5/8/22 which I wrote, said the following:

“Is this essay’s indictment meant to deconstruct not only your feelings, but literature and fame? Like the infinite—an idea that may, or may not, finally exist (does the universe go on forever?)—fame is untouchable; it is the constant in my equation. You, the inconstant one, with the rest of the hypocrites, having your frothy opinions about which poetry is “good” and which poetry you “like,” find your anchor in fame—in the vast poetry pecking order of fame. Ben Mazer has published many books of poetry, but none with a major publisher, so William Logan will not write on him. Logan is famous for his sharp critical teeth—but his teeth chew on what others think, not thought. He returns from the hunt hauling big game; anything less would be embarrassing. William Logan makes no exception to his reviewing rule; even he lives, like all of us, by fame—from which poetry cries and is indistinguishable.”

In the attempt to hammer home my theme that literature is fame—notices, publications, readership—and assuming that if this is true, the pecking order of fame must also be true, I imprisoned William Logan, the great critic, in the magnetic field, with everyone else. There is no individual voice quite like William Logan’s, and I’m only too happy to let him walk away, unharmed, from my pit and my pendulum. Williams Logan is one individual who is always welcome to annoy my philosophy.

When publishing poetry today is like tossing a pebble into the grand canyon, it is good to keep in mind that Criticism is poetry’s light—my poems dwell in my heart and crawl into books with my name on them, dwelling with darkness and flattery—until Criticism comes.

Who have our critics been? Wise, beyond doubt, but too often too wise for the honest, particular review. Where do we go for the honest review? Important question.

Most literary scholars are proud, like Emerson. They don’t stain themselves by reviewing. Harold Bloom? Untrustworthy oratory. Helen Vendler? Charitable and humorless. Marjorie Perloff? Theoretical. Flies a banner.

Why is William Logan of world-historical importance?

Because he is a Critic who reviews. Honestly, and with humor. And lives to tell about it.

Good, independent reviews are good for the ecology. Bloviating manifestos rarely add green to the environment.

Which literary figure in our day is going to last? I’m putting my money on William Logan.

FAME AND LITERATURE

Emily Dickinson—hidden away as fame; childless, but mother of us all.

Most poets have—even published ones—very few readers. Even the supposedly famous poets these days have no public, really. The situation of poetry is nearly a crisis—but enough of that. There’s already a surfeit of crisis-rhetoric today. I’m not talking here about how rotten and cheap and prosaic contemporary poetry is—my point here has nothing to do with that. The point of this Scarriet essay is even more embarrassing, if that’s possible: literature is fame; the two are synonymous.

What I say is true. Fame and literature are the same. Pound and Poe—who couldn’t be more different—understood this; the navigation a poet travels to become famous is the poetry, is the whole subject matter of the poet, is the very poet himself.

The two (poetry and fame) cannot be separated.

Is this a cruel thing to say?

I’ll be honest. I published a book on Ben Mazer’s poetry because he was the most famous poet I knew. Mazer—Romantic, avant-garde, it makes no difference—possesses a shadowy, but not quite an actual, sense of what I’m talking about.

I don’t know anyone who does.

I’m not speaking of personal ambition, with mere pleasure as the goal.

Fame and Literature are one. It’s such an obvious fact in the blatant way I am expressing it that even Scarriet didn’t understand it until the insight hit us yesterday—greatly obvious truths remain hidden to the sophisticated, and even published or unpublished cabbie poets who write about “real life” are sophisticated; the very act of being a poet, no matter how humbly, gives one that sophistication which bars one from the obvious truths. You feel it in your bones, sure, but you don’t come out and say it as I am saying it.

Scarriet specializes in too-simple-to-notice truths. Poe was murdered. The “Dark Lady” is a pun on black ink and the sorrowful nature of the written word. “Modernism” is a far-right, Creative Writing business.

Scarriet (since 2009, founded by Alan Cordle of Foetry.com as a mockery of Blog Harriet) is prominent enough to attract seekers after poetic fame. (Charles Bernstein hates me based on what I wrote about him in Scarriet, according to a trusted source.)

In my rather helpless musings on this—“who are you to ask me to take notice of you? I’m not famous; I can’t make you famous”—the truth that an educated, literary, public exists which I may inhabit, notwithstanding—the simple truth, ‘literature is fame,’ plucked me suddenly out of the crowd.

Emily Dickinson is literature—because we talk of her, not because of what she has written. Who among the sophisticated would take notice of this recluse today? None. Hypocrites! You wouldn’t. She would be admired by a few friends, as friends. She would have no literary existence. Those beyond her friends, those slightly more prominent in the poetry-pecking-order (“how many books have you published? where do you teach?”) would ignore her. You would. Don’t lie. Those who happened to see her work would say to themselves, “Hmm. No wonder she isn’t published. One just cannot emote in clumsy half-rhymes upon ‘immortality’ this way. Amateur.”

But now all is different for you and Emily; she is famous—therefore you convince yourself: “oh, this is good!”

Hypocrite. You have no idea whether any poetry is really good or not. Emily Dickinson is famous because others talk about her and because others talk about her, you do, too.

To hide the humiliating fact that her fame alone is what has converted you to the “truth” that she is now worthy, because our minds can convince us of anything—Keats is somewhat good, Cid Corman is good—you practice a liking, done automatically since it is part of the happy entrails-buzz fame (vicarious or not) bestows.

Is this essay’s indictment meant to deconstruct not only your feelings, but literature and fame? Like the infinite—an idea that may, or may not, finally exist (does the universe go on forever?)—fame is untouchable; it is the constant in my equation. You, the inconstant one, with the rest of the hypocrites, having your frothy opinions about which poetry is “good” and which poetry you “like,” find your anchor in fame—in the vast poetry pecking order of fame. Ben Mazer has published many books of poetry, but none with a major publisher, so William Logan will not write on him. Logan is famous for his sharp critical teeth—but his teeth chew on what others think, not thought. He returns from the hunt hauling big game; anything less would be embarrassing. William Logan makes no exception to his reviewing rule; even he lives, like all of us, by fame—from which poetry cries and is indistinguishable.

***

Postscript.

We may still ask: why is ____ famous, but I submit the answer will never be forthcoming, for fame is its own reason for being, therefore analysis cannot enter. Does anyone doubt that God exists and is beyond us, forever clothed in mystery? And that the only living proof of God’s existence which can ever exist (every other proof learnedly and cleverly posited and just as learnedly and cleverly refuted) lies in a path and a small girl—why would you ever announce, cruelly, the end of that path? That she and all whom she loves will vanish and die? Why would you ever do that?

Is there any doubt that fame inspires all greatness to exist—the thrill of fame is the highest, the very opposite of being buried alive—which is the worst condition, as Poe intuited. Fame for the artist is when you know every exciting thing you do is watched and therefore you automatically rise to the glory of the great, lived, non-secret, secret—participation for its own sake.

Did the man who wrote “Yesterday” and “Let It Be” and “Eleanor Rigby” in the 1960s then write nothing of note as an experienced musician for 5 decades? Why did genius manifest itself only in that five year window of towering, exciting, miraculous fame? The answer is self-evident.

If you have ever seen the video of a famous person’s face through time—a fat faced child, the often homely youth, and then the first photo when they are “famous”—the beauty arrives like a miracle—the fire in the eyes, the facial muscles knowing what to do in the face, it is the receptivity of the now ferocious attention re-broadcast and seen as the light, the fire, the joy, the secret knowledge, eternal and ephemeral, of—fame.

Salem, MA, USA
5/8/22

LOOKING BACK AT SCARRIET 2021

I’ve edited Scarriet since September 2009, when Alan Cordle, who I met on the poetry-contest-exposing website Foetry, created Blog Scarriet as an alternative to the Poetry Foundation’s Blog Harriet—which banned poets (yours truly included) from Harriet’s Comments for being “off-topic” (whatever that means; digression is a sign of intelligence in my book) and soon thereafter Blog Harriet (Poetry magazine’s online site) erased Comments as a feature altogether. Poets like Eileen Myles and Annie Finch were regulars on the Harriet Comments; it was a lively good time, I thought, but management didn’t see it that way, which is fine; Harriet managed to birth Scarriet (indirectly).

Poetry and its politics boils down to one question: Is this a good poem?

Alan Cordle’s question on Foetry.com was narrower: did you take contest fees to publish the winner’s book and was that winner your friend? I did not personally expose anyone; I was just an online participant on Foetry because I was curious about Alan’s quest, which seemed to me a sincere attempt to correct a wrong. Today I still believe this.

I broadened the investigation (watering it down to something more intellectual and benign) to Is This A Good Poem? This question is the ruling spirit of Scarriet. I understood, during my unofficial Foetry membership, that poets are allowed to be friends and help each other. This will always happen, and why not? But what ultimately matters is that the best poems are praised (no matter who writes them, or what manifesto is attached to them) and the worst poems are noticed as such.

This gives rise to a sweet philosophical complexity: how do we know what a good poem is? Who are you as a critic (and a person) to make this judgment? Are you, the judge, able to write a good poem? Who are the famous poets who write bad poems? Who are neglected poets who write good poems? What inhibits us from being honest about this?

Anyway, that’s me and Scarriet in a nutshell.

The poet Ben Mazer is a friend of mine. I have written a book on Ben Mazer—which praises his poetry. I defend him as a writer of good poetry, and the friendship matters less in the ratio of how well I defend him as a poet—and how good he actually is compared to poets not on my radar.

Ben was hanging out with the poet Charles Bernstein last year and Ben said, “Charles doesn’t like you.” This flattered me, as I hadn’t realized a poet of some note knew of me or Scarriet. There’s never any excuse to be a jerk—I have been, at times, in the past, in an effort to have strong, honest, opinions—and make a name for myself.

I’ll take this moment to apologize to anyone I may have offended.

I judge (dead and living) poets in the Scarriet March Madness “contests.” A few of these poets I know, but how good they are, and how I am able to articulate how good they are, is on display for all to see, though how well I know this or that poet, is not always known. Those who know me, know I have very few poet pals, and I try very hard not to get close to bad poets. 😆 I met Marilyn Chin as a friend (not a close friend) a long time ago at Iowa before her career took off. I know Philip Nikolayev because I know Ben. I’m a shy person; my life is not full of friendships with poets—not even close. I think this helps me as Scarriet editor. (Yes you’ll notice Mazer and Chin showing up often, but some things can’t be helped, and I honestly believe they are both really good). I also met Dan Sociu in Romania in 2016, and I do think he’s a good poet. If an unpublished poet is good, I will say so. Discovering truly good poets takes a great deal of time and work—I wish I could do more in this area, but no one alive can single-handedly offer this kind of justice to the Poetry world.

I apologize for this laborious introduction; I wanted to look back at 2021:

January “Winter Threw Its Shadow Over the River of My Years” (1/30) is perhaps the best poem of this month because of its poetic cohesion; a poem can have a great idea, but unity is all. A Jeopardy poem, a CIA poem, a NFL rigging poem (life as “rigged” courts self-pity, but Scarriet siezes on the theme a lot) a love-revenge poem (another common theme) but again, interesting topics don’t make a poem good—but (I don’t think I’m wrong) an accessible idea (no matter how simple) is necessary. “Bored” (1/4) is one of the best of the month, and “My Iranian Girlfriends” (1/3) is subtle and witty.

February “I Can Confirm” (2/1) sounds like Blake, which no Scarriet poem tends to sound like. “In The Evenings” (2/9) is richly poignant, probably the best Scarriet poem of early 2021. Scarriet Poetry Hot 100! (2/15) is always exciting. Amanda Gorman is no. 1, Cate Marvin no. 2 (“Republican Party Is Evil” poets really talk like this), followed by Louise Gluck (Nobel), Joy Harjo (3rd term laureate), Don Mee Choi (National Book Award), Jericho Brown (Pulitzer), Noor Hindi (“Fuck Yr Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying”), Naomi Shihab Nye (Emma Thompson reads her poem “Kindness” on Instagram to 2.3 million views), Wayne Miller (wrote article on talking about poetry online at Lithub) and William Logan (the critic/poet) rounding out the top 10. Also on the Top 100 list, the wonderful fugitive poets Mary Angela Douglas and Stephen Cole—I discovered them not too long ago online. As an experiment, a letter to my dad is published as a poem (2/21). “Now That The Poem Is Over” (2/22) works well.

March “This Poem Can Only Speak For This Poem” (3/7) , “Happy Marriage” (3/11), and “The Object” (3/26) (on musical fame), are the best poems. March Madness—the topic is Pop Music—(3/20) runs through early April, with interesting essays on your favorite artists and bands as they compete with each other. Nina Simone and Led Zeppelin are among those who go far. The tourney includes Spanky and Our Gang (“Sunday Will Never Be The Same”), as well as Dylan, Elvis, and Frank Sinatra.

April Many good poems this month as spring 2021 inspires love poems—not maudlin but suave and biting. Failed love poems unfortunately plague Scarriet, but in certain months real wit, rather than bitterness, accompanies the love. This month seems to be one of them. A Brief History of U.S. Poetry revised (4/30). Check out this post! Scarriet literary history at its best.

May continues with lots of good poems. “When You See Me You Insult Me” (5/25) is a classic Scarriet love poem (who hurt you so badly, Scarriet poet?) and the first of many great literary essays arrives on 5/31—a look at the critic Harold Rosenberg, who hadn’t really been on Scarriet’s radar previously.

June Poems of high quality continue. Book announcement of Ben Mazer and the New Romanticism by Thomas Graves (6/26).

July I read “Weather Poem” by Dan Sociu (7/5). Another audio feature—2 of my songs on YouTube (low-fi) (7/8) Self-indulgent, perhaps; I’ve composed many pop songs never given professional treatment for one reason or another. “Man, Those Decades In American Poetry Went By Fast” (7/11) Another historical re-posting. Finally, an essay: “The Four Quartets Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha” (7/19) in which an overrated work is just one of the things looked at.

August Some of the poems which begin to appear are slightly revised poems written long ago. Three reviews appear this month: The poems of Ruth Lepson (8/1), poems of 14 Younger Poets published by Art and Letters press (8/18) and poems of Daniel Riffenburgh (8/22). Many definitely prefer Scarriet’s prose to its poetry.

September A rather odd article in which the timelines of Delmore Schwartz and Giuseppe Verdi are compared and some observations on the partially neglected poet Schwartz are made. (9/12) An article on Tom Brady and NFL stats (9/26) Scarriet has a very opinionated, love-hate, relationship to sports. Old original poems continue to see the light of day.

October A great month for prose (and poems of decent quality continue) as Scarriet seems to be enjoying one of its best years. “One Hundred Years of Pulitzers” is a revealing historical survey (10/18). “The Poem Defined” (10/21) is a fine essay. Another Poetry Hot 100 (10/27) features the unstoppable Kent Johnson as no.1. The month ends with the scintilating “100 Greatest Poems by Women” (10/31).

November has more Scarriet essays. “Trickle Down Verse” (11/8). “The Good” (11/10). “The Textbook Which Changed Everything: Understanding Poetry” (11/19). In the autumn of 2021, Kent Johnson and his avant friends on FB goaded me into defending my core principles and beliefs. Thanks, Kent! Also this month, you can hear me recite Poe’s “For Annie” on video on my phone, one evening alone in my house, holding my copy of Library America Poe gifted to me by Hilton Kramer many years ago. (11/16)

December The year ends with an essay on Ezra Pound’s The Spirit of Romance, as I attempt to come to grips with this figure who was the subject of a Kent Johnson inspired online debate, “Can a bad person write good poetry?” (12/11) Poems on ‘poetry politics’ (inspired by Kent Johnson and friends) and politics—similar in theme to poems from January 2021, close out the month.

Happy New Year.

Thomas Graves (aka Thomas Brady and Scarriet Editors) Salem, MA 1/1/2022

THE GREEN AND THE BLACK: DELMORE SCHWARTZ AND A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES

The Most Fatiguing of Occupations”* | You Do Hoodoo

A narrator of an autobiographical tale pleads with his parents not to marry—their courtship is up on the screen in a documentary/romance. ‘Don’t have children,’ he yells at them, helplessly, ‘what are you doing?’ An usher in the dream cinema says, ‘Wait, what are you doing? You can’t say whatever you want in a theater.’ A microcosm not only of a life but of a removed and powerful feeling for and against that life—“In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” by Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966) has a poetic transcendence condensing thousands of movies and novels.

At 21, in July, 1935, near the calendar day of his death, Delmore Schwartz wrote perhaps the best short story in English (go read it now if you haven’t).

Get ready.

A Delmore Schwartz revival is coming.

The only possible breakthrough equivalent in American Letters, equal to Delmore’s tale, which did not involve obscenity issues or cunning self-promotion, was Poe’s Raven/Philosophy of Composition/”A long poem does not exist” phenomenon a century earlier.

Like Poe, Delmore was no blue-blood who belonged to a well-established clique. Poe was an impoverished orphan, cut off by a wealthy guardian. Schwartz was a Jew trying to succeed in a world with WASP Harvard at its center and he was also bitterly aware of an inheritance denied him—a Great Depression and corrupt lawyers ate into his father’s legacy which would have made Delmore quite well-off.

Delmore was acutely aware of his outsider Jewish immigrant background even as he ran in Allen Tate’s Modernists circles in a vain attempt to be the next Ezra Pound. He was both arrogant and brilliant enough to half-laugh at this dilemma, ignore this dilemma, perhaps, even as one suspects it pushed him towards paranoia and madness.

Poe and Delmore were outsiders, yet so extraordinarily adept at poetry, fiction, and criticism—all three—they threatened to outstrip every Anglophile above them.

Poe tangled with the wealthy Harvard professor, Longfellow, and thumbed his nose at Emerson. Poe also wrote devastating reviews against New England circles—the same circles which would produce the American-turned-Britisher T.S. Eliot (Eliot’s grandfather, who knew Emerson, left Harvard Divinity School to co-found Washington University in St. Louis).

Delmore was a bit more ingratiating than Poe. Schwartz was pals with nearly everyone, from big shots like Pound, Eliot, Tate, and Ransom, to second-tier figures like Berryman, Jarrell, and Lowell. James Laughlin, who used his Steel fortune inheritance to float Modernist-literature-which-didn’t sell (New Directions) was Delmore’s publisher; a year younger than Delmore, Jay loved to ski and was prone to depression and Delmore bossed him around—when it came to making publishing decisions, it was the blind leading the blind.

Inside positions, top appointments, tenured professorships eluded Delmore, and in the end, Delmore was just as much of an outsider as Poe.

Delmore’s longest term of employment was as an English Composition instructor at Harvard, correcting endless “themes” (freshman papers). He should have been given a chair in his honor and a couple of small seminars of graduate students to teach, but the fates were not kind to him—given how much talent and intellectual ambition he had.

Delmore’s age consisted of short lyric, simple painting, poignant story, strident essay, and cement architecture, but just as the Civil War with its body count shocked the delicate aesthetic community of Poe’s, World War Two and its Boom swamped the introspective, modernist, pessimism of Delmore—a film fan and a philosopher, who lamented TV’s popularity.

Schwartz was on top of the world in 1938—and lost to it by 1943—drinking and popping pills. He did pick himself up a few times, no doubt breathing a sigh of relief when newspapers announced the Axis Powers lost in 1945. Delmore was seeking to add to his fame during a window of time in the early 40s when Pound and Eliot headed up the clique he labored in and no one was sure which side was finally going to win the war. Delmore’s biggest award was the Bollingen Prize (awarded to him in 1959)—a prize made famous by Pound, who won the first-ever Bollingen in 1948 after escaping hanging for treason.

A lady’s man, Delmore would re-marry in 1949 (Elizabeth Pollet, a beautiful blonde novelist who married someone else in 1948 when Delmore got cold feet, admitting she loved Delmore the whole time) and his stories, reviews, and anthologized poems secured his reputation during the late 40s, but as his biographer put it, 1947 saw the “beginning of his worst depression—from which he never entirely recovered”—at this time, “Allen Tate, in Sixty American Poets, concluded that Schwartz had not ‘lived up to his early promise.'” Delmore knew this to be true—but hated someone else saying it.

Delmore did say it, in a journal entry, quoted by Robert Phillips in the introduction to the selected Letters:

“I must think of the house on Ellery St: where I lived alone, drank until I was a problem drinker, fell in love foolishly and vainly wasted the years when I should have been at the height of my powers: during most of the Second World War and after…”

Delmore does not blame his failure on the United States—but this is what Delmore-intellectuals all like to say, by way of some crude remarks made by Baudelaire. Dwight MacDonald, one of Delmore’s oldest friends from the Partisan Review days, in his introduction to Delmore’s Essays, compares Delmore to Baudelaire’s Poe. Here is MacDonald quoting Baudelaire:

“In Paris, in Germany, he [Poe] would have found friends who could easily have understood and comforted him; in America he had to fight for his bread.”

Delmore came to believe this rubbish (the food of nearly every literary intellectual) that Europe is superior in every way to America. Here is Delmore in a letter (8/8/1957) to the English poet Stephen Spender:

“English publishers…do not believe that the best of all books is the bankbook and the writing of poems a self-indulgent hobby…”

This is ironic, since Spender was being secretly paid by the CIA (this would have been “paranoia” had anyone said it then). Here Delmore’s naive side is on display: the belief in the nobility of English publishers; the cynical side of Delmore was constantly ridiculing president Eisenhower.

Delmore was always complaining about the “Almighty Dollar,” and he did face money problems—this did belong to his decline.

Middle-aged Delmore was like the Rolling Stones, who made money touring, long after they stopped writing good songs—only Delmore’s 1930s reputation was used by others (Recommend/review my friend’s book! Be our mag’s poetry editor! Write an introduction for our anthology!) while no one paid Delmore much money; he was fairly stable in the 1950s until his second wife left him—this, combined with his poverty, and everyone using him, and his non-existent belief-system, finished him. Delmore was a dead man walking for the last ten years of his life.

In the last third of his career, Delmore had no center, no belief, nothing to fall back on, except poetry—which he wasn’t able to write. It would be wrong to make too much of Delmore’s Jewishness. Delmore was whatever he wanted to be; he could admire Heine and discuss Jews with Karl Shapiro, but then turn around and say to Robert Lowell (in a 1/27/55 letter):

“I am…a royalist in literature, a classicist in politics..and an Anglo-Catholic in all questions of lyric poetry.”

Delmore said his favorite of his own poems was “Starlight Like Intuition Pierced The Twelve,” written, he said, in 1943, because it had him liking Christianity without having to believe it. Delmore’s madness may have been partially due to his inability to feel genuinely about anything.

As James Atlas describes Delmore in the 1940s—only the second decade of his career—and yet, sadly, the beginning of the end:

“Delmore’s most famous epigram, that ‘even paranoids have real enemies,’ could well have served to characterize Harvard’s intellectual climate, for he was hardly alone in being competitive, high-strung, and temperamental, and had only to elaborate and refine real instances of rudeness in order to arrive at the conspiracies he found so dramatically satisfying.”

Atlas, again: “Bowden Broadwater refused to invite the Schwartzes [Delmore and his first wife, Gertrude] to his parties because ‘they are always imagining that people are talking about them, and they glower from corners.'”

The only certain thing about Delmore’s entire life and literary career is the perfection of the tale, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities;” everything else is ambiguous and painful.

First—and what gets the most attention—mainly because the embarrassment was fictionalized so well by Delmore’s friend, Saul Bellow, is Delmore’s personal destruction: he died, childless and alone, from a heart-attack at 52, looking like an old man.

Second, is the poetry, which is decidedly minor: three anthologized poems, but no great poems, towering above the rest, were ever produced. The world waited, but it never happened—yet he’s remembered as a poet.

Third, he did go on to produce more fiction, mostly realistic and autobiographical, occasionally transcendent or surreal, but none of it has the poetic intensity of “In Dreams,” which has a vivid, searing quality lacking in Delmore’s other stories—which often read like he took a vacation from the calling that produced that first masterpiece. He never escaped the autobiographical fire which burned so brightly in the tale which introduced him to the world—he didn’t use it; he let it use him. He never “got over” things—he picked at them. He suffered from insomnia his entire life. Was this his fault? Do we love him in spite of it? Yes, we love him: no, we don’t blame him; but this is beside the point.

Fourth, the criticism, which is surprisingly polished, even-handed, and likable. And this is somewhat disappointing, given Delmore’s genius. In the critical prose we get Delmore’s Dr. Jekyll side. His essays are full of phrases like “We ought to remember that perhaps…” Pound, though it’s clear Delmore had no illusions about him, is defended as a beautiful and historically important poet who must be read over and over again. Delmore repeats all sorts of Modernist truisms—Rimbaud was great because he hated the bourgeoisie and capitalism and yet Rimbaud failed because his hatred was too extreme, and yet, this too, makes Rimbaud great. There is a faint sympathy for things like Christianity (one can feel Delmore always trying to come across as calm) but every time Christianity is mentioned, it is “dying.” A diligent errand-boy for Modernism, we are continually reminded, “The age in which one exists is the air in which one breathes.” Capitalism isn’t dying, but it’s hateful. The Romantics (old-fashioned, every one) wrote about “nature.” Poe (who Schwartz, like all Modernists, never admitted to, nor actually seemed to, have read) was “naive.” Twentieth century letters, for Delmore, quite simply pours from the head of Rimbaud (and Blake). Because “Christianity was dying.”

In “Rimbaud in Our Time,” Schwartz writes, “[Rimbaud] attempted to return to an ancient purity, a time previous to Europe, and Christianity, a pagan culture: ‘I am a beast, a Negro’… But he cannot accomplish this departure because Europe is everywhere.”

The Rimbaud of “I am a beast, a Negro” is one of those big, stupid ideas which poets and intellectuals should examine, dismiss or refine, not feed. Schwartz was certainly not the only one guilty of this; the young Delmore strove to please a Modernist hierarchy which mostly accepted him; he belonged to that camp and willingly, or unwillingly, breathed that air.

Delmore favored a “special language” for the poets (he adored Finnegan’s Wake) and privileged the didactic over beauty in poetry. If we believe Delmore’s own words, it was because he was stuck in “his age.”

Delmore loved to gossip, joke, and argue—and exceptional at all three, these three inform his work—which continually struggles to rise above gossip, joke, and argument—and reach the level of literature.

He made two great mistakes in his late 20s, following his initial splash.

First, rushing into print a poorly translated Rimbaud.

Second, spending five years writing and publishing a long, didactic, Greek-chorus, autobiographical, prose poem full of exclamation points.

If someone were bent on ruining his career, they could not have given him better advice to that effect.

Glancing at Understanding Poetry 3rd edition, the textbook used in all the schools (the surest way to fame, actually) during Delmore’s lifetime as he sought the lasting respect and recognition he never got, what do we see?

The influential textbook, put together by two New Critics (the unofficial group Schwartz lovingly worked for and with) is filled with Delmore’s rivals, their poems prominently illustrating poetry lessons.

Only one of Delmore’s poems sits at the back of the book, within almost 100 pages of poetry merely reproduced for extra reading, or “study” as the book puts it.

What is this poem?

It is the “Heavy Bear” poem which appears in Delmore’s first book, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” named after the tale, but which contains mostly poems—of uneven quality—published by James Laughlin at his family estate in Norfolk, Connecticut. Laughlin was pushed into publishing by his friend Ezra Pound (who Laughlin stayed with in Italy after graduating from Harvard). Both publisher (Jay) and writer (Delmore) were in their early 20s.

“The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me” (untitled in the book) depicts a person clumsy with appetite and anxiety—a poem of adolescent trepidation and nervousness, which unfortunately contains the lines “Climbs the building, kicks the football,/Boxes his brother in the hate-ridden city.”

One knows poets through textbooks. Unfortunately, for Delmore, “The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me” sitting in the back of Understanding Poetry was not enough to keep his poetry in print.

Pound and Williams were used to illustrate lessons (paltry ones—but nonetheless) in Cleanth Brooks’ and Robert Penn Warren’s tome.

Another poem in Delmore’s first book shows the same theme, but here adolescent anxiety mars the writing itself:

I am to my own heart merely a serf
And follow humbly as it glides with autos
And come attentive when it is too sick,
In the bed cold of sorrow much too weak,
To drink some coffee, light a cigarette
And think of summer beaches, blue and gay.
I climb the sides of buildings just to get
Merely a gob of gum, all that is left
Of its infatuation of last year,
Being the servant of incredible assumption,
Being to my own heart merely a serf.

(first stanza)

This is the humble, depressed side of Delmore—he also could be imperious, caustic, and manic.

The pairing of a young, arrogant, writer with a younger publisher (one who was more into skiing than literature, to boot) was bound to lead to disaster. Schwartz was prolific, as well as a genius—but poor publishing decisions can ruin the relationship between public and writer—unless that writer is a Milton or a Poe.

Poor reception—lack of sales—introduces doubt, and this was terrible for a writer like Delmore, a young, sensitive, outsider.

Delmore’s second collection of poetry did not appear until 1950, and was savaged by Hugh Kenner, author of the Pound Era. Vaudeville For A Princess, a thin, rather unattractive, hardcover published by New Directions, was not well received.

The first poem which greets the reader in Vaudeville is “On A Sentence By Pascal:”

“True eloquence mocks eloquence.”
Did that Frenchman mean
That heroes are hilarious
And orators obscene?

Eloquence laughs at rhetoric,
Is ill at ease in Zion,
Or baa-baas like the lucid lamb,
And snickers at the lion,

And smiles, being meticulous,
Because truth is ridiculous.

Then follows a short essay, “Existentialism: The Inside Story,” which ends, “As for me, I never take baths. Just showers. Takes less time.”

And the second poem in the book, begins:

The mind to me a North Pole is,
Superb the whiteness there I find,
The glaring snows of consciousness
Dazzle enough to make me blind,
Until I see too much, in this
Resembling James’ governess.

And the final stanza:

The mind resembles all creation,
The mind is all things, in a way;
Deceptive as pure observation,
Heartbreaking as a tragic play.
Idle, denial; false, affirmation;
And vain the heart’s imagination—
Unless or if on Judgment Day
When God says what He has to say.

This sort of writing may be amusing—but if you wish to be taken seriously as a lyric poet after a 12 year absence, this is not the way to do it.

The only poems Delmore was known for were three—including “Heavy Bear”—included in his first book, all written before he was 25.

The one book of ‘poems only’ which Delmore published was his third collection, Summer Knowledge, Selected Poems, issued 5 years before his death.

Vaudeville for a Princess, his second collection, which biographer James Atlas calls a “slight achievement,” includes dazzling yet bizarre essays, including cynical summations of Hamlet and Othello by Shakespeare—missing what’s great about these plays and explicitly saying they have no meaning—a glimpse no doubt, into Delmore’s soul.

Writing in the Age of Freud, Delmore, in all his work, wrote almost exclusively about himself—and whether he is a great author depends on how much he understood himself—which this reviewer believes was just enough to make Delmore Schwartz a worthy object of study.

In one of the essays in Vaudeville, we read this about a literary party:

“he was making unkind remarks about editors and critics. This caused an awkward silence because several of the critics were friends of his host and his host was a very kind man…” “I had been warped by being forced to earn my living as a literary critic…”

In another essay from Vaudeville, “Don Giovanni, Or Promiscuity Resembles Grapes,” we get insights on being a playboy which ring true—one comes away believing that Delmore was that breed of melancholy and guilty seducer who may have significantly ruined his literary career and his sensitive nature with screwing.

The sonnets which close out Vaudeville is not a “slight achievement;” they are wonderful, but they do tend to be a little didactic. There are three kinds of poets—the bad ones, the ones worthy of study, and the ones who produce poems we just plain love: Delmore, I think, belongs to the second category—which is no mean feat.

The treatment of Delmore in Delmore Schwartz, The Life of an American Poet, by James Atlas, is like most other responses to Schwartz as a literary figure—respectful, when not being condescending.

It is true that Delmore became paranoid at the end of life, but Atlas is clearly not happy with 36-year old Delmore’s behavior during a cocktail party (“Delmore’s suspicions about his friends were by now verging on paranoia”) but one can understand why Delmore might be upset:

“When William Empson, just back from China and sporting a Mao suit, volunteered that giving the Bollingen Prize to Pound was the best thing America had ever done, Delmore turned on him and accused him of being a traitor to England because he was a Communist. The Mizeners, who lived next door, heard Delmore shouting long after the last guests had gone home.”

Atlas ends the anecdote with “Delmore shouting” as if this proves Empson was reasonable and Schwartz was not—clearly it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Hayden Carruth describes the poet’s decline in 1952, when Schwartz was 39:

“He still looked rather boyish like that old photograph in the Oscar Williams’ anthologies, but his features were somehow softened, hazy, blurred, and his voice was so quiet that I had to bend my head to hear him. I had the impression of great sadness and sweetness. It was as if he was lost and knew he was lost, and had given up caring about it. The exhilarated spirit his older friends remember was never apparent to me, but rather a quietness and a desire to cling to little things—little actions and objects—as if from a simple attachment to littleness for its own sake. He looked and spoke like a defeated shipping-house clerk.”

To see how brief the career of Delmore Schwartz actually was:

Schwartz was born in 1913. The composer Verdi was born in 1813.

By 1840, Verdi’s two young children, a girl and a boy, and his wife, were dead of illness. Verdi’s only son died before he was 2.

Life was not easy in the 19th century, but people were tougher perhaps.

In the year Delmore was born, in Brooklyn, in 1913, a statue of Verdi was placed in his home town in Italy. Delmore died not too far from Verdi Square in mid-town Manhattan.

In 1842, Verdi’s opera Nabucco—the subject: Jews in exile—debuted, in the spirit of unification of Italy. “Song of the Hebrew Slaves” from that opera made Verdi famous.

By 1942, decisions by Laughlin and Schwartz were seriously undermining Delmore’s literary career.

Schwartz’s career theme was alienation—Verdi’s, the opposite, even though suffering and sorrow belonged to Verdi’s life and art.

Verdi had been hit with loss of wife and children. Schwartz, according to Delmore’s biographer, mourned the death of James Joyce, his favorite baseball team (the Giants) not doing well, and Adlai Stevenson losing to Eisenhower in the 1952 election—Schwartz said president Eisenhower would be like “Julius Caesar.”

1847, Verdi’s opera Macbeth opened.

With the poor reception of Vaudeville for a Princess in 1950, Delmore’s career as a poet is nearly over. A book of essays never appeared when Delmore was alive. His fiction was good—but didn’t sell. The public thought of him as a poet, or a critic—but the only poetry really known of Delmore’s was published in 1938.

1851 Rigoletto

1853 Il trovatore

1853 La Traviata

1857 Simon Boccanegra

1959 Summer Knowledge, Delmore’s Selected Poems—reprinted old ones, a few new ones—is published.

According to the Atlas biography, in the late 50s “Editors were magnanimous and deferential to his reputation…Poetry encouraged him to submit verse and paid for it in advance (an unprecedented gesture for Poetry…both William Maxwell and Howard Moss at The New Yorker isolated what was publishable from the disorderly manuscripts he submitted…the quarterlies regularly accepted his work, whatever its quality…

1961 Successful Love (stories) is reviewed by Time and Newsweek. Delmore attends the party in which Norman Mailer stabs his wife. By now Delmore’s life is torn by paranoid episodes and poverty.

1865 Don Carlos

1966 Delmore dies on July 11th, (the birthday of Verdi’s son)

1871 Aida

1874 Requiem

1887 Othello

1893 Falstaff

1901 Verdi dies.

But enough bad news about Delmore Schwartz.

I said a revival was coming. What about that?

Thanks to the work of Ben Mazer and the kindness and receptivity of the Schwartz estate and the publishing house FSG, the Collected Poems of Delmore Schwartz should make an appearance as early as next year—Mazer is finishing up his monumental task as we speak, not only collecting Delmore’s poems but discovering ones never seen before.

Mazer has also asked for new essays on Schwartz—which will be coming out even sooner, from Madhat Press.

There is also The Uncollected Delmore Schwartz, already recently published, from Arrowsmith Press, Ben Mazer, editor.

Schwartz produced enough work—not just poems—and was personally involved in so much of 20th century letters, even if he is judged, finally, as a minor poet—and this is open to argument, let the arguments begin—he must be seen as a major literary figure who has too long been neglected and out of print.

There is plenty to cheer about in the career of Delmore Schwartz:

Here he is, writing to Ezra Pound:

“you seem…to have slowed up…in the old days you were in the middle of everything. Now you seem to have your gaze trained on Jefferson and Social Credit…and a phenomenon like Auden…does not seem to exist for you…” (1938 letter)

“I have been reading your last book, Culture. …A race cannot commit a moral act. Only an individual can be moral or immoral… I…resign as one of your most studious and faithful admirers. Sincerely yours…” (1939 letter)

Go, Delmore!

Here he is, in his essay “The Isolation of Modern Poetry,” correcting T.S. Eliot:

“It is said that the modern poet must be complex because modern life is complicated. This is the view of Mr. T.S. Eliot, among others. ‘It appears likely,’ he says, ‘that poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult.'”

“But the complexity of modern life, [Delmore points out] the disorder of the traffic on a business street or the variety of reference in the daily newspaper is far from being the same as the difficulties of syntax, tone, diction, metaphor, and allusion which face the reader in the modern poem. If one is the product of the other, the causal sequence involves a number of factors on different levels, and to imply, as I think Mr. Eliot does, that there is a simple causal relationship between the disorder of modern life and the difficulty of modern poetry is merely to engender misunderstanding by oversimplification.”

Delmore is right. In fact, Poe, in pointing out how complex civilization had become in his day, asked for brevity in the face of greater hurry due to modernity—which is quite different from difficulty.

T.S. Eliot is wrong. Thank you, Delmore.

Here is Delmore, in another essay, instructing Yvor Winters—who attempts to theoretically isolate every element of poetry:

“One does not start with meter, nor with the explicit statements, but with both, taken together. Their relationship is one of reciprocal modification; each ‘characterizes’ the other, and they cannot be separated, a fact upon which Winters himself insists. This fact is often forgotten. One is offered examples of sublime verse and nonsense rhymes with the same vowels or in the same meter, in order to show that meter is not expressive. This is the error correlative to that of Winters. Mr. Eliot himself was once guilty of it, in a lecture. He read several verses of Tennyson, and then lines with the same meter and rhyme-scheme from a nonsense ballad of Lear. The audience giggled; Mr. Eliot concluded that here was indeed a problem, and then passed hurriedly on to another subject.”

Delmore not only cuts down Winters, he humbles Eliot. Delmore was a real critic.

Here is a poem from the sonnet sequence in Vaudeville, which has both clarity and mystery, and speaks to something not only important to Delmore and to poets, but to all of us:

How Each Bell Rings And Rings Forever More

This life is but fireworks at the fancy shore
Among the summer people, drinking gin,
Chilled by the vanity and the senseless roar
Of breakers broken quicker than a pin,
By the moon broken, soaring and unheard,
–Thus we are tossed! by powers from afar,
By puns on rocks in Christ’s most obscure word,
Or, when the moonlight glitters, by a star!

Look well and you will see there is no stay:
No one takes back a word, but once for all
What has been said can never be unsaid
No matter what trash and newness every day
The fresh years bring and break and take away:
This is the poet’s power, this is his dread.

Let the revival of a writer in the middle of it all, on every level, begin.

ART & LETTERS I4 INTERNATIONAL YOUNGER POETS, PHILIP NIKOLAYEV ED. REVIEWED

Poetry today is crying out for criticism. There is hardly an honest word said about poetry since Ezra Pound said he didn’t like the Russians or Thomas Brady said he didn’t like the Red Wheel Barrow and Thomas Brady doesn’t count because that was me.

Poetry is both the easiest and the most difficult thing to do. The shame of failure is two-fold: 1. Unable to do something which is easy 2. Bitter to discover our vanity had convinced us of immense self-worth, since actually writing great poems is a million-to-one long shot. Failure in poetry is unacceptable. Reviewers, take heed.

It is probably unwise to preface a review of young poets with these words—can young poets handle the truth? Do they deserve it?

Yes and yes.

Youth has everything going for it, especially failure, which is the best path to success. Every poet deserves a chance to understand failure. Also, truth is hardly the proper word—unless I mean “true to myself.”

I wrote (and still write) bad poems. The seduction is the ease of writing the inconsequential in a therapeutic trance. Also, poetry exists in a well (there is puffery but no true public) and therefore poetry expects a rescue crew—not condemnation.

To attempt honest criticism is the fantasy of a crank; honest is a goal of no possible joy—the expectation is kindness and cheering on. To fail to meet this expectation is both to fail to please and to fail generally.

Better to say nice things. The bad will fade away on its own.

But the bad does not fade away at all. It repeats itself in subsequent generations in the form of millions of poems (puffed with great effort) in millennia going forward.

There is a duty, then.

A reviewer ought to be a critic who flushes out poison.

This can be done in a generous spirit, with learning and elan. The poison can be flushed out without having to look at the poison.

The duty can be a cheerful one, then.

Poets, be not afraid.

The first poet in 14 International Younger Poets (from the new and exciting Art and Letters press) is Avinab Datta-Aveng. He has the most pages in the volume. Perhaps because he has a book coming out from Penguin. We are not sure. His first poem has an intriguing title: “My Mother’s Brain.” The title could be tender, tragic or cheeky, depending.

It is a very impressive poem. It features excellent lines:

Unremembered line in my mind

Muttered mother I only heard murder

And an outstanding ending:

…small birds make
A line at the mouth of the gutter
Rushing with rain water.
Crowds clamor to see the view,
The unbearable beauty of the rest
Of the world renewed each time
By what you will never utter.

Greatness hits us right from the start!

Now I’d like to say a word about meaning.

As far as the meaning of poems, there are three kinds.

We don’t understand but understand we are not supposed to understand.

We don’t understand but we believe perhaps others do understand—we believe we may be missing something.

We understand.

A poem which reminds me of “My Mother’s Brain,” Bertolt Brecht’s “Vom armen b.b.,” belongs to the first type. The narrator smokes his cigar, intimates he is not a good person, says he was carried by his mother in the womb from the black forest to the town. We don’t finally understand exactly what the poem is trying to say, but Brecht makes it clear he doesn’t understand, either.

I put Datta-Areng’s poem (it is more complex than Brecht’s poem) in the second category. Unlike one and three, two might possibly be annoying to one without a good dose of negative capability.

Blake Campbell’s “The Millenials” is my favorite poem in the volume. The idea is realized and the versification is exquisite. I have italicized the best parts:

What tempts us to this world
That light has half-erased—
Distraction’s abstract toxins, love
Distilled for us to taste?

No silence here, no slumber;
No slackening this tide
Of lies and knowledge. We are left
Unable to decide

Between them. Sudden flashes
Scorch most of what coheres.
At once the distance shrinks and grows
And flickers with the years.

The cold blue light we live in
Unreels us by the yard
In strips of snapshots someone else
Will find and disregard.

To prove this triumph of “The Millenials” is no accident, from Blake Campbell’s”Prism:”

You say I’ll surely ace it. How the sun
Spends its abundance brightening your eyes,
Your beauty I have yet to memorize
From every angle. How could anyone?

This is not just good; it is Best of All Time good.

I should say something about rhythm.

A poet usually decides between “forms” or prose. “Free verse” is an unfortunate term—it clouds the topic.

T.S. Eliot and Ben Mazer, two masters of poetic rhythm—good for both verse forms and other kinds of poetry—dismissed free verse. Eliot: “it can better be defended under some other label.” And Eliot: “there is no freedom in art.” And Ben Mazer, in a remark after a poetry reading: “it all rhymes.”

The masters of poetic rhythm typically do not wish to discuss prosody.

“Scansion tells us very little.” —Eliot. And again, Eliot: “With Swinburne, once the trick is perceived, the effect is diminished.”

Leaving-out-punctuation is a trick to make prose sound like verse. As with the Swinburne-trick, however, a trick won’t sustain great poetry; rhythm is the secret, and everything besides is nothing but embellishment: rhyme, mood, syntax, idea. A certain completion involving the other elements is great, but without a rhythmic identity uniting the poem, it is dead. This is nothing but a reviewer’s opinion, but can it hurt to offer it?

Formalism—as it survived in the mid-20th century—seems to be finding its way back into poetry.

“Formalism,” as a precise term, like “free verse,” deludes us, as well, however. Check out every masterpiece of poetry. Shelley’s “Ozymandias” is far more like a pop hit by the Supremes than a lump in a museum. Rhythm, not form.

To repeat: poets see two paths: forms or free (prose). But the third way is rhythm—bursting the “forms” or breaking out of “prose;” this aspiration to music (which is what it is) is not properly defying prose, but visual art—the temporal counter to the spatial. If the poet is not able to struggle with these opposing and dancing vectors (music, speech, idea) in their mind at once, a dreary prose results.

I’m happy to report that none of the poets represented here suffers from the affliction of dreary prose.

Editor Philip Nikolayev, in his modest introduction, calls these poets simply poets “he is lucky enough to know.”

Philip Nikolayev keeps very good company.

The urgency of speech, whether in William Blake’s “Tyger” or Raquel Balboni’s “

Relics in disguise foamy mouths through the screen
you can always break into my room through the porch

You can always break into my car with your steel fist.

from “Twin Cars” is the engine. We may think Blake’s tyger is described, or Balboni’s porch, but it never is. Prose is the launch-pad and poetry rockets towards an image it never reaches. As Mazer says, “It all rhymes.” Emerson called Poe “the jingle man” pejoratively. But now we can finally begin to see Emerson’s remark as praise—as, in the early 21st century, poetry is refined into one of those narrow categories John Ransom said was Modernism (division of labor) itself. Romanticism is beginning to return (Swinburne hiding in the backseat perhaps) precisely in this way.

Describing something perfectly in a poem? To quote Blake Campbell, again, “How could anyone?” But rhythm can be perfect. It simply and actually can.

All the poets in 14 International Younger Poets have their individual charm.

Zainab Ummer Farook resembles William Carlos Williams.

Flamboyant in the shade of a clean slate,
we had three of our walls painted pink

Emily Grochowski, Gertrude Stein.

Avoided writing.
A void in writing.
A voided writing.

Chandramohan S, Marianne Moore.

Now, the history of humankind
Snores in my language.

Susmit Panda, Seamus Heaney

I found a curious bronze head by the lake,
and, baffled, showed it to the village folk

all lands glimmer upon the brows of kings.

Justin Burnett, Creeley, but “Witchcraft Heights,” more Williams.

In winter I stuck out from the snow—
Freezing in the gutted grot,

Regretfully, I recall
That innocent numbness,

When white adhered to white,
And I hid.

Sumit Chaudhary, Robert Penn Warren, Marvin Bell, Auden.

feeling from dazzle so far removed
into the arms of things that move.

Paul Rowe, Dylan Thomas.

upon the crumpled glass of Aegean twilight;
volcanic wasps rise, sulfurous effusions,
mercurial breath that carves the crater, admits the flood,
shapes the ochre crescent, mirrors what’s above.

Shruti Krishna Sareen, Baudelaire.

In a riot of colour, the lawn is ablaze
The red silk cotton tree seen half a mile away
Hanging brooms of bottle brush scarlet sway
The waxy crimson poppy petals glaze

Andreea Iulia Scridon, Plath.

When they listen to my somniloquy,
the angels weep in compassion for my misery.
They erase the veins on my legs,
put back together my head,

Kamayani Sharma, Mark Strand.

His face slipping out of doorways ajar,
Like keys falling from Manilla envelopes.

Samuel Wronoski, Jorie Graham.

Otherwise, the day was practical and made of minutes
when nothing happened whatsoever.

Blake Campbell, Bishop, Ransom, Roethke.

The sleeping earth retains her tiny lives,

And even stripped of leaves, the paper birch
Subsists on what has been and what is lost.
But what in other living things survives.

Raquel Balboni, Leslie Scalapino, Ashbery, Eliot

To get to the end of the endless thinking and write it
down again from the beginning.

Avinab Datta-Areng, Geoffrey Hill

On a terrace an old man squints
At the sun, as if trying hard
To pay attention to his genealogy,
To the point at which a rupture occurred.

The resemblances I mention are by no means definitive—it only applies to this volume and springs from my own limited knowledge; poetry is a world in which you don’t need to know a poet directly to be influenced by them, or, occasionally, be them.

Every poet must ask themselves: am I in the wave? Or is the wave me?

In the context of this question, 14 International Younger Poets is a delight.

Thomas Graves, Salem MA August 17th 2021

SCARRIET REVIEW: ON THE WAY-NEW AND SELECTED POEMS BY RUTH LEPSON

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A man must partly give up being a man with women-folk” —Robert Frost

This is like taking off a tight dress that I love” —Ruth Lepson

What is poetry? Obviously it is more than the poetry, but to what extent?

To make it a great deal more than the poetry, the poetry is paradoxically diminished—and this is the soul of modern art, which is the mother of modern poetry—whose name is freedom: art is self-sufficient; moral and aesthetic concerns are excluded. Nothing defines the poem except the poem. No standards exist.

The pure intelligence of the reader enjoys the modern poem.

Living With People

Talking is something.
And tables, talking at tables.
Eating and painting and what walls.
What are they asking.
What am I looking at.
A person talking and eating.
I’m looking at the eyes
that don’t look at me.
The foot-tapping,
the hungry person,
what is being eaten.

This is the first poem in Ruth Lepson’s New and Selected Poems. It is a wonderful honor and privilege to review a poet’s selected poems; one needs to be a critic, not just a reviewer, to review a selected; you are not only reviewing poems, but a life.

What do I mean by “the pure intelligence of the reader enjoys the modern poem?”

As I stated, I’m reviewing a life—it might be a tad reductive to say I’m reviewing the poet as a person.

And yet one could answer that age-old question ‘what is poetry’ by saying ‘it’s an expression of what the poet likes.’ And to keep it simple we can include what they dislike as what they wish to be gone and so it all comes under the category of ‘what the poet likes.’

To review a book of poems is to say: here’s what this person likes.

But I do think ‘person’ (and what they might enjoy) is reductive—I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say I am reviewing Ruth Lepson’s life. A unique life.

It takes “intelligence” to understand a life.

Let’s read this poem, again:

Living With People

Talking is something.
And tables, talking at tables.
Eating and painting and what walls.
What are they asking.
What am I looking at.
A person talking and eating.
I’m looking at the eyes
that don’t look at me.
The foot-tapping,
the hungry person,
what is being eaten.

“Living With People” is full of life.

“Talking is something” nearly defines poetry itself; a poem is a “talking” which is a “something.”

But none of this pedantry exists in Lepson’s line.

Only someone else’s “pure intelligence” could find it, and the line could denote something else entirely; in a dry sort of way it could mean, “Talking is really something. What would life be without talking?” But it doesn’t have to mean this, either.

Yet obviously, and pleasantly, without any coercion, it hints at a life to begin a poem, “Talking is something.”

“And tables, talking at tables” introduces ceremonial life (eating at table)—as well as (and this is rather subtle, I admit) a ceremony of poetry (its tradition of word-resemblance: talking, table.)

After introducing all this in just the first two lines, the poet adds even more: “eating” (biology) and “painting” (art, work).

It now seems reasonable to contain all of it: “walls” and with all that is now going on—“talking” at “tables” in a ceremonial fashion, a consciousness of biological function, of art, of work—it doesn’t feel unusual that doubt and wonder should enter: “what walls./What are they asking./What am I looking at.”

And with these questions, naturally, a bit of alienation (too strong a word, probably—there’s no hyperbole or pretense in the poem) arrives: “I’m looking at the eyes/that don’t look at me.” This could indicate elaborate social anxiety, or rivalry, or could be merely the observation of someone’s eyes at an angle.

“The foot-tapping” introduces the impatience of the world, the worm in the garden, time, ambition, hostility, sorrow.

And finally, the moral question (or is it moral?): “what is being eaten.” And all that involves.

This is what I mean by the “pure intelligence” reading a modern poem.

This poem, like most modern poems, “tells” us nothing. And yet “Living With People” is a history of the world. Not just Ruth Lepson’s world. The world.

One could peruse “Living With People” and think one need not write another poem, again, ever; it says everything.

And yet in terms of poetry and its tradition, it is a marvelously plain and simple poem.

Deceptively so.

If one were just settling into a seat at a poetry reading and were distracted to a slight degree, and one heard “Living With People” read out loud, one’s response might very well be, “Wait? What? Tables. Walls. Eaten. Huh?”

To be honest, “Living With People” would not lend itself well to a recital before an audience. A performance requires the opening bars of the familiar song eliciting cheers from the crowd, followed by the middle of the song continuing at some length until the climax of the expected conclusion.

“Living With People” is an example of modern poetry—it is more than poetry, it is free of ‘having to be poetry’ and to the degree that this is so, as a poem qua poem, it is diminished.

“Living With People” introduces us to Ruth Lepson as an extremely sensitive person who appreciates dining and conversation. It is more than just a poem. The poem quietly shows us the poet. The person. The life.

To understand even more fully what I mean when I say “pure intelligence” is necessary to read modern poetry, it might help to glance at an example of pre-modern poetry.

The classical poem lacks the freedom of the modern poem. The “old” poem tells us exactly how to read it. It cuts a path through the rock—and this is the path we must follow.

Here’s a random excerpt from Bennett Cerf’s An Anthology of Famous English and American Poetry (Conrad Aiken edited and introduced the American side) published by The Modern Library (Random House), the 1945 edition which restored the poems of Ezra Pound (he had been censored in the earlier edition):

Go, dumb-born book,
Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes:
Hadst thou but song
As thou hast subjects known,
Then were there cause in thee that should condone
Even my faults that heavy upon me lie,
And build her glories their longevity.

This is a completely different world. (One stanza from Pound is enough to see this.)

We wrestle with the syntax unfolding the poem in strict and narrow terms.

Pound’s poem is trying to sing. It is tradition-bound.

This book belonged to my father growing up; I happened to find it recently as I was going through old poems of mine.

Compared to Pound, Lespon is free.

It feels like Pound is imprisoning himself in poetry to get free of life—while it feels like Lepson is looking honestly at the prison which is life—by becoming freer in her poetry.

Here is the most purely “aesthetic” poem in Lepson’s book:

Where Seagulls Fly

It’s good to walk the dog
When he finally meets
The black cat down the street.
Years, each tiny lesson.

The way seagulls seem to fly at times
against the wind and into the clouds.
It’s a white day, white and gray.

It’s good to live where seagulls fly,
thick clouds over the gray house.
Spring wind, first night on the porch,
dandelions white,
close to the end of something.

Even when Lepson rhymes (almost never) she’s subtle; “Seagulls” shows her usual reticence awash in strange joy (“It’s good to walk the dog,” “It’s good to live where seagulls fly”) with her typical socially-charged ambiguity (“dog…meets…cat…tiny lesson”) and Lepson’s characteristic hint of stoic heartbreak (“Spring wind…close to the end of something”).

“Where Seagulls Fly” is from Lepson’s third collection of poems, I Went Looking For You, and from that collection onward, she becomes more voluble, leaving behind the minimalism of her second work, Morphology.

Morphology features charming one-line poems such as

The film is a train

I Went Looking For You contains Lepson’s Anne Sexton poem (Ruth took a class with her).

I quote it in full:

Anne Sexton on the Cover

Your cigarette could be a piece of chalk.
(You were telling us This class was saving your life.)
Bracelets handcuff you, hands raised to heaven.

Puffed up hair, full of smoke. Your eyebrows plucked,
pleading. You’re smiling, shoulders bare,
yet your legs are crossed tightly, snakes coupling.

Your dress: swirls of chocolate and vanilla, mud and snow.
Fingernails short, fingers long,
limbs, long, desire, long, longer than
a garden party at which you are this evening’s star.

Your name, plastered across your lap on the book jacket,
wraps you in a golden bow. Today in Harvard Square,
the statue of seated Sumner wore an apron of snow.
I was tired of the gender of things, you wrote.

A glass of booze next to you, nearly empty.
It’s summer, you’re divorced, the thick ring,
it’s huge stone slid to the side
on your right hand now.

But if I hadn’t known you, what would I see?
A long, thin, woman, hopeful, sad, poised
against rejection. Or a strong one,
politic, sure of her next move.

They want blood, you said after your last reading.
Voyeurs. I’m never going to read again, and it was true—
I immerse myself in your biography; you were
famous for your false self, I’m looking for you.

Lepson mentions a number of poets in her book; memorable, indeed, is this sustained focus on Sexton.

I Went Looking For You might be my favorite section from Ruth Lepson’s Selected. It also has the poem “Motion Sickness, Preoccupation,” of which I’ll quote just a bit:

The woman next door listening
to the Moonlight Sonata and, simultaneously, a soap opera.

****

I felt like a sack of sugar, leaking. Your girlfriend
looked like a cross
between Barbara and George Bush.

I Went Looking For You ends with this poignant poem, which finds the poet more accessibly autobiographical than usual (or at least it feels that way):

The Day Of Our Divorce Hearing

you treated me to lunch, a spaghetti place.
We had never been so kind to each other.
When you said I’m still a slob, we laughed.
After lunch, we stood in the parking lot.
You said, you have the last word,
but I said, No, I’m tired of being
the one who sums things up.

You get the last word.
But you couldn’t think of one.
So off you went to our silver car,
I to our red one.
It’s three years later.
And even that’s just a story now.
Lately I don’t feel as if I lived with you.
But I remember our kindness that day,
when it no longer mattered.

Again, we see the uncanny ability of the poet to say not just a lot—but to rip the veil from life—with a few words.

She has little to say about her relationships—were her partners brilliant, bookish, workaholics who failed to appreciate her? This is from “Another Sunset,” the fifth poem in the book:

You read on the beach
about medicine and art;
you sweat all over the magazine;
you cover your eyes
with it: there is pressure
over the bridge of your nose.
Meanwhile, I am drowning.
You have no notion,
and after I drown,
I walk back and don’t say
too much about it.

“You sweat all over the magazine” at the beach artfully describes an obsessive reader.

Lepson doesn’t “say too much about it.” She doesn’t rant or complain in her poems. Instead we get scintillating poetry like this, also from her first collection, Dreaming In Color:

“now that you left…this is like taking off a tight dress that I love.”

Probably the strongest burst of emotion we get from the poet of almost surreal restraint is this one—from Ask Anyone, her fourth collection—from an untitled poem towards the end of the Selected section, before we get to the new poems:

“I’m peeling carrots and I almost start crying isn’t that funny…I was doing everything for you I’m not really peeling carrots am I isn’t that funny fuckhead”

As we can see from this, she is not always a poet of restraint.

Nine new poems grace the last part of On The Way, New and Selected, including “Motet for Mom.”

From Ben Mazer’s introduction: “Ruth’s mother was a Lithuanian Jew, a mathematician, a sculptor, and a Hebrew teacher…”

To quote briefly from “Motet for Mom,” a delightful dialogue:

“Do you believe in God, Mom?”
“A little.”

Lepson is not quite the pure poet at the end of the book that she was at the beginning; she offers passing opinions on John Kennedy, Longfellow, solitary confinement, and factory farming—she’s earned that right as a poet of brevity, subtlety and grace; I don’t mean to imply that when she speaks her mind momentarily here and there it mars the book in any way—it would be insulting to say it shows “development”—she is at the height of her powers (one that honestly approaches ‘major poet’ status) throughout the book.

Her new poems are more explorative, intellectually forceful, and extroverted, even as they retain Lepson’s beautiful, grounded, melancholy. From “Evenings:”

I don’t want to be original.
Life’s too white these days, it’s
all I can do to concentrate on that.

Comparisons swim by like swans.
They’re too far away.

The publisher, MadHat Press, is to be congratulated for bringing out this volume—for me it puts Ruth Lepson in the company of Creeley and Sexton.

To end my review of this beautiful book, Ruth Lepson deserves the last word. This is how “Evenings” ends:

Flickers of dreams
Surface in the evenings.



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.

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.



HAROLD ROSENBERG: THE RETURN OF ROMANTICISM AND CRITICISM

What Did Harold Rosenberg Do? An Introduction to the Champion of "Action  Painting" | Art for Sale | Artspace

The trouble with Criticism is that its whole business is to insert itself between a poem and its reader—a superfluous act; if the poem is good it doesn’t need the extra words of Criticism. The smell of a bad poem arises with the smell of Criticism. No wonder a thousand poets exist for every critic—and even then a critic is 9 times out of 10 a poet whose criticism is morale boosting notes to himself—a pure sideline activity.

When anyone discusses poetry, the same few critics are mentioned over and over—an indication of how unpopular critics are; in the whole history of Letters, five or six critics receive all the press:

Plato—because he had the audacity to ban the poets (too crazy, too emotional) from his Republic.


Aristotle—The Greek alternative to Plato. “Tragedy is good because it purges emotions.”


Samuel Johnson—Did us all a favor by faulting the “metaphysical poets,” saying of them “the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together.”


Wordsworth—Also did us peasants a favor by defining poetry as plain talk.


Poe—More fodder for the simple folk: “A long poem does not exist” and “the best subject for a poem is the death of a beautiful woman.”


T.S. Eliot—Returned poetry to the professors. Told us “poetry must be difficult” in an essay praising the metaphysical poets.

Despite the fact I have said Criticism is rare, that critics are usually poets first, and that people generally dislike or fear criticism, I will defend Criticism in this essay—only because I believe critically I have something to say.

This is all that matters.

Having something to say. Critically, that is.

Auden mocked poets who earnestly felt they “had something to say.”

Well. Of course.

Poets do need ideas, though. In poetry, it is not the idea, but how the idea gets put into the poem.

Somewhere along the way, based on wise remarks by those like Auden, and due to the hard, gem-like resistance of Modernism generally, ideas—as things to be stated, worked-up, and enjoyed—got tossed aside.

Never mind poems—Criticism is nothing but ideas.

Most young writers today who try their hand at “criticism” have no overriding ideas; they choose topics to write on—a poet’s lifestyle or some neat time period.

As I think Plato and Aristotle demonstrated, literary criticism belongs properly to philosophy—even if it’s “amateur” philosophy.

Criticism should remain above poetry and not play second fiddle to it—even if it plays its fiddle in a “professional” manner, like Helen Vendler or Marjorie Perloff, or God forbid, Harold Bloom (who carried on as if he were a pure Critic, but was not; his colleague at Yale, W. Jackson Bate, was far closer to true Criticism).

Critics need to debate other critics. Criticism needs to be a field on its own. It should not be a press agent for poetry. Just like an honest reviewer, critics should never befriend poets.

Enjoying a poem has nothing to do with Criticism. Enjoying a poem is an unconscious activity. Criticism is a conscious activity. And this is okay. We need to become accustomed to the fact that Criticism is its own art. This is difficult in our present day because we haven’t had Criticism practiced like an art form since Plato. So you see the task before us.

There have always been two sides to Criticism and we must decide, before we go any further, which side we are on.

The good side seeks to narrow and the bad side seeks to expand, poetry.

The realist, who wishes to expand poetry’s role, is naive.

We don’t usually associate realism with naivete, but let’s jump into today’s debate by yoking some heterogeneous ideas violently together.

John Crowe Ransom was a realist from Tennessee and Harold Rosenberg an idealist from New York.

Rosenberg is best known as an art critic, but he published a volume of his own poetry and Rosenberg’s philosophical approach (as opposed to a literary criticism approach) happens to put him in a place I can use to great advantage.

Let’s quote Ransom first, from the Preface to his distinguished, prize-winning, collection of essays, The World’s Body:

“First we should see what poetry properly is not, though it is what poetry has often declared to be.”

***

“The poetry I am disparaging is a heart’s-desire poetry. If another identification is needed, it is the poetry written by romantics, in a common sense of that term. It denies the real world by idealizing it: the act of a sick mind.”

This is quite an ideal kind of realism which I have found—Ransom was highly respected in his day, and New Criticism was very influential; it was the school of T.S. Eliot: “difficult,” savvy, worldly, smart.

As opposed to poetry which “denies the real world,” Ransom states in his preface he is for the poetry that “only wants to realize the world, to see it better.”

“The kind of poetry which interests us is not the act of a child, or of that eternal youth which is in some women, but the act of an adult mind; and I will add, the act of a fallen mind, since ours too are fallen.”

Ransom’s language is really loose here—the rather modest expression: “only wants to realize the world, to see it better” could be construed as “idealization.” After all, to merely “see” the world carries with it an immense task (think of how much there is to “see”) but to “realize it,” to merely “see it better” implies narrowing (ideal) not expansion (real). Idealism (which selectively narrows its focus) can be a very realistic approach.

Any “realist” who opposes “idealism” (as Ransom is doing here) finally doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Later in this essay I am going to argue for an idealism free of all worldly elements involved in one’s response to art—sufficient to say that Ransom’s possible wavering between idealism and realism in terms of the world will finally make no difference in my equation. Anyway, “to realize the world, to see it better” is what the scientist barely succeeds at; surely Ransom cannot seriously believe this is a goal of art?

Well I warned you that you would need to pick a side.

A modest narrowing is our only choice when it comes to poetry.

The issue is simple—too simple for “fallen” Ransom to grasp, apparently.

Ransom argues (badly, vaguely, but nonetheless strenuously) for the opposite, for expansion, not narrowing—as he explicitly equates “idealizing” with “sickness.”

Ransom needs to believe the idealist is a sentimentalist. He doesn’t come out and say the sentimentalist is naturally an idealist—this would be to give sentimentalism a chance against being brutalized—which is not at all where Ransom, if one knows him, is coming from. We must therefore question Ransom this way: If one (realistically, practically) chooses what to focus on, why shouldn’t the selection be governed by happiness (the “heart”)? Should we select what we don’t want? (We understand Ransom does not necessarily mean “happiness” when he refers to what he calls “heart’s-desire” sentimentalism, but this is a quibble—to be sentimental is to either be happy or suffer because one wants to be happy.)

Ransom concedes elsewhere in no uncertain terms that for him, art is not science—art, for Ransom, fulfills a complimentary but completely different function. Strange, then, that he should juxtapose the hard, unforgiving laws of science with art which in his view has no child-like happiness or charm, but caters rather to an “adult” and “fallen” mind.

Harold Rosenberg will now set himself down on our side—in this instance, in the moment of my essay, a Wolfgang Mozart to Ransom’s Antonio Salieri.

Ransom is being a child when he rejects the child.

But let’s be clear.

In other places in his writing, generally, Ransom says absolutely brilliant things.

But we get to wisdom truly only thru someone’s ignorance. I saw a cooking show yesterday in which the chef praised the shaved broccoli stalk as the best part of the plant. Critics cannot be timid; they must prepare and ravish other critics. Just as a poet seizes on whatever inspiration happens to come along, critics should not let the hidden, tender parts of other critics go to waste—go for it!

To critics: when you find error in the reasoning of another, don’t be shy—this is how the meal is made.

There is profit, no doubt, in critics trailing after, and cleaning up after, poets; Ransom came into his own by love-hating Milton—his smashing first essay in The World’s Body—but if there is to be a revival of Criticism—which poetry needs almost more than a revival of Romanticism and the Child—critics ought to stir each other up—especially the few who exist, and especially those just coming onto the scene (we hope there are some rowdy ones)—if only to make the public aware that Criticism is not dead, that it’s able to hurt, and draw blood, and have real feelings.

Ben Mazer and the New Romanticism is perhaps a good start. The author of this essay is the author of this just-released book.

Of course my point is not all of Harold Rosenberg is superior to all of John Ransom—those incapable of Criticism might fret over what they imagine in horror is my unforgivable sin—as I impugn an idea or two of Mr. Ransom’s.

The following quotes are from Rosenberg’s essay, “Literary Form and Social Hallucination.” Rosenberg put in this essay his whole critical being, leaving nothing essential out. Writers do have highs and lows. Judge for yourself, but you ought to see immediately how Rosenberg brilliantly advances my argument—it is his argument, really; Rosenberg is in service to me, as much as I am deeply and forever in service to him:

“If, to the Greek, art subordinates the facts to the emotions, to the modern writer it subordinates both facts and emotions to art’s own ends.”

I don’t know any statement which sums up Ancient v. Modern quite so well—and John Crowe Ransom would concur. I don’t know of anyone who would not.

Rosenberg continues:

“…T.S. Eliot gives reasons why literature does not, and ought not, go to the limit in ‘tracing a certain fact.'”

Rosenberg had just quoted Dostoevsky: “The apparent impotence of art made me wonder about its usefulness. Indeed, trace a certain fact in actual life—one which at first glance is not even very vivid—and if only you are able and endowed with vision, you will perceive in it a depth such as you will not find in Shakespeare.” (italics mine)

With that Dostoevsky quotation in mind per Eliot, let’s return to Rosenberg:

“In a good poem, he [Eliot] says, there must be a ‘precise fitness of form and matter…which also means a balance between them.’ Like Dostoevsky, Eliot refers to Shakespeare, but he points out that in a Shakespearean song, ‘the form, the pattern movement, has a solemnity of its own, however light and gay the human emotion concerned, and a gaiety of its own, however serious or tragic the emotion.’ The form, in short, carries its own independent feelings, which play against the feeling aroused by the subject; and the artist, according to Eliot, is most interested in the ‘fitness’ of these contrasting feelings to each other, so that a ‘balance’ may be reached.”

Eliot (and again, Ransom would fully agree, having himself emerged fully formed from the head of Eliot) is stating the great “reactionary” truth of art, which is that the art-form must be taken into account when it comes to art, no matter what the art is “talking about.” Accounting for “form” is necessary, Eliot says, in a “good poem.” And Rosenberg, like an excited child, runs with this idea as an idea, to wherever it might lead:

“If this is the case,” Rosenberg continues, “the form of a literary work acts directly contrary to Dostoevsky’s desire to get to the bottom of a particular state of affairs.”

Doesn’t “desire to get to the bottom of a particular state of affairs” sound similar to what Ransom professed poetry singularly ought to do? In Ransom’s own non-idealizing words: “to realize the world, to see it better.” Rosenberg begins with Eliot (and Ransom attached to him at the hip) but where Rosenberg ends up may not be fit for Ransom’s eyes:

“Indeed,” Rosenberg goes on, “the very function of form would be to cut across the reaction aroused by the subject and suspend the mind in a riptide of feelings belonging to art itself.”

But wait, it gets better. In the next paragraph Rosenberg hits a home run:

“In emphasizing balance Eliot is consistent with the attitude of literature toward truth throughout most of its history. For it is clear that writers have not, traditionally, regarded themselves as crusaders against mystification. Their way has been rather to appropriate illusions inherited in the patterns of story-telling and in the usages of words and to contribute to deepening these illusions. It is not by chance that the meaning of ‘form’ and the meaning of ‘hallucination’ overlap in their connotations of an appearance or ‘show’ without substance. There is a natural alliance between art and deception; and one needs no prompting from modern radicalism to see this alliance as the ideal extension of the relation of the arts to their historic patrons: courts, priesthoods, and in more recent times, capitalists and bureaucrats.”

The reference to “form” as an “appearance” in a “hallucination” is one of the greatest moments, for me, in the history of Letters. Eliot’s delicate “balance” between “form” and “matter” in art is in danger of being swept entirely away into pure suspension of disbelief and illusion. But Rosenberg, the lynx-eyed social critic, grounds it in society: “the ideal extension of the relation of the arts to their historic patrons: courts, priesthoods, and in more recent times, capitalist and bureaucrats.” Again, this is not foreign to Ransom, who brings acute social observances into his literary ideas, but what is being smashed here is Ransom’s naive aesthetic desire to “realize the world, to see it better.”

Rosenberg attaches a footnote after “bureaucrats,” which demands quoting: “Writing about the traditional attitude toward the nude, Paul Valery observed: ‘Everyone had a muddled conviction that neither the State, nor the Law, nor Education, nor Religion, nor anything else that was serious, could function if the truth were entirely visible.’ [Valery’s italics]”

But Rosenberg still isn’t done, bringing in Keats, a modern critic known to Ransom, and then Plato:

“The celebrated phrase about poetry inducing a ‘suspension of disbelief’ need only be given its socio-political dimension and it becomes a formula for the service rendered by art to holders of social power. If it weren’t for art, men’s disbelief would not be suspended. Would not curiosity press them then to chase after the hidden truth? Form, beauty, calls off the hunt by justifying, through the multiple feelings it arouses, the not-quite-real as humanly sufficient.

Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity

Wasn’t it in I.A. Richards’ discussion of Keats’ drugged lines about beauty being truth, truth beauty, in which the poet so perfectly draws the curtain of ecstasy over his vision of painful fact, that ‘suspension of disbelief’ first entered the contemporary vocabulary of literary criticism?”

“Plato’s Republic, which was organized ‘transparently,’ and hence had no disbeliefs to suspend, banished the poet.”

***

“In the past, governments took for granted the cultural Chinese walls which the arts built around them; today, the cost of reinforcing these walls against the siege of rival concepts is included in every defense budget.”

And then another brilliant footnote follows:

“Note to ideology-enders: In the war of ideologies, history grows more and more talkative, i.e., rhetorical, which means that image assaults image, until all have lost their sacredness and none inspires a defense to the death. Thus ideological conflict, which promotes rather than suspends disbelief, is the only kind of conflict among great powers in which hope can exist for a nonviolent resolution.”

“Considering the function of the arts in transferring into familiar experiences the hallucinations bred in the centers of authority, one might decide that the arts are by nature reactionary. Such a conclusion would be neither far-fetched nor particularly novel—I suspect that most liberals feel this, though they shrink from admitting it to themselves.”

Liberals realizing that art is reactionary in 1960? Is this like liberals facing their white privilege in 2021? Not only is Rosenberg’s essay brilliant on several levels (I wish I had time to quote more of it)—it’s prophetic, as well.

But let’s not get side-tracked, although this is perhaps what Rosenberg wants, and this is the danger I face in quoting this marvelous essay at length.

Now at last I can quote Rosenberg a couple of pages later in the essay speaking directly to Ransom’s all-too-common Modernist complaint against poetry of the “heart,” the “child,”—of and for “romantics:”

“The sigh of Keats and the logic of Eliot represent art’s willing acceptance of the merger of substance into form—and the fabled lightheartedness of the artist, his childlike spirit, his ‘innocence,’ have to do with this professional yielding to the falsification, play-acting, and charmed distortion inherent in his medium. The abnormal thing is not the pressure upon art to falsify, but that art should have come to resist that pressure.”

John Crowe Ransom represents the thrust in our time to “resist that pressure” to romantically “falsify,” though he is fully aware of it and even somewhat sympathetic to it. From The World’s Body:

“The whole poem is properly an illusion, but a deliberate and honest one, to which we consent, and through which we follow the poet because it enables him to do things not possible if he were presenting actuality. At some moments we may grow excited and tempted to forget that it is illusion, as the untrained spectator may forget and hiss the villain at the theatre. But we are quickly reminded of our proper attitude. If the author tends to forget, all the more if he pretends to forget, we would recall him to the situation too. Such license we do not accord to poets and dramatists, but only to novelists, whose art is young. And even these, or the best of these, seem now determined, for the sake of artistic integrity, to surrender it.”

We can see from this passage that Ransom understands the importance of art’s deception—but by God he will not be deceived for very long! Ransom goes so far as to be pleased that the “novelists” will “surrender” their art “for the sake of artistic integrity.” Surrender your art for art, Ransom says—but can he really be saying this? Yes, he is saying this. And now comes the following two questions: Why is he saying this? And what is wrong with him?

Rosenberg will help us out; let’s re-quote him: ” In the war of ideologies, history grows more more and more talkative, i.e., rhetorical, which means that image assaults image, until all have lost their sacredness…”

Ransom, who took great delight, with many of his contemporaries, to label Romanticism as the act of a “sick mind,” to hiss at villains from the past, to beat the drum as mustaches were put on the Mona Lisa—was a high-ranking general in the Modernist ideological war in which “image assaults image, until all have lost their sacredness…” Ransom was at the front of the mob which threw splinters of the red wheel barrow at The Raven.

The stripping-away-the-veil-from-art so that all sacredness is lost is just what certain intellectuals love to do. They may justify their acts with “theory” and impressive intellectualism, but they are finally like Ransom’s “untrained spectator” hissing at “the villain at the theatre.”

Their “theatre” is whatever they want it to be. In art theories (think of Wilde) which have the art hide the artist, we are reminded of the New Critical impulse to look “only at the work.” The New Critics never really believed this, and first asserted it in order to seem “pure;” they spent the second half of their careers back-peddling, as they raised the “impure” flag—what I said to gain attention I now renounce as a full human being: thus end all art movements.

In the essay by Ransom just quoted from, “A Poem Nearly Anonymous,” Ransom is most interested in Milton, the “man,” lurking behind the acknowledged masterpiece of “Lycidas.” As Ransom remarks in the penultimate sentence of his essay: “We are disturbingly conscious of a man behind the artist.”

As I said earlier, Ransom falls on the side of expanding poetry, which is wrong (oh we must think of this and think of this and think of this) and despite New Criticism earning its reputation of narrowing (focus on the work only) this is more its exception than its rule—as Eliot questioned what the Metaphysical Poets really were, we must do the same with The New Critics.

What this critic believes is this: there is no “man” behind the poem.

There is no John Milton who John Ransom needs to be “disturbingly conscious of.”

Save your energy, John.

There is a wonderful South Park episode called Sarcastaball, in which the sarcasm a father uses to defend the rough-and-tumble aspects of football is taken literally, leading to a whole new professional sport. The father becomes addicted to sarcasm—he is sarcastic in the doctor’s office—the audience of this South Park episode are not sure whether or not the doctor is being sarcastic as he shows the father brain scans of severe brain damage—but is it from a concussion, or the father’s disease of sarcasm?

Criticism which demands to be taken seriously, but is so absorbed in balancing form and matter (but willing also to choose one for the sake of an art movement so that finally either one will do,) drags us into the mind-fuck world of “Sarcastaball.”

The truth is: form in art is all that matters.

Art is “suspension of disbelief.”

And art is “reactionary,” and we will all just have to deal with it.

Politically, Ransom and his colleagues were reactionary. And this is why in their Criticism, they tried to go the other way. The New Critics’ “balancing” act within literature sprawled over into politics—politics/social commentary (Plato, Marx, the State) has traditionally been the escape-hatch, the fourth wall, for any critic who is not certain of his or her aesthetic designs. If they were more certain of purely motivated art, the critic might become an apolitical creative genius, instead.

Criticism—which wrestles with things other than pure form—is finally seen in the public square as rather a mess. Its politics hides behind its criticism (New Criticism) or its criticism hides behind its politics (Marxism). Our best living Critic happens to be a reviewer—William Logan—and in the eyes of Letters, he is considered a conservative, by default, since he dares to actually criticize what he reviews. No one knows if he is actually reactionary—they assume he is, since he is a Critic, and has no choice but to be less than polite. As an honest Reviewer he has no where to hide. Actually, William Logan is not reactionary. (Like many people, he likes old stuff.) There’s no other reviewer like him, because no one wants to be thought of as reactionary in the world of Letters—and utterly transparent reviewing pegs one as so. Why this phenomenon exists would make for a very interesting essay, indeed. Harold Rosenberg might be able to help, but he’s been dead for over 40 years.

Logan does puncture “Romanticism” in a manner similar to Ransom—and until recently, “conservatives” tended to clobber Romanticism—we will quote Harold Rosenberg in a few minutes on this very point. Romanticism, however, no longer represents progress—perhaps T.S. Eliot and Harold Rosenberg assumed it did; surely William Logan does not object to Romanticism for this reason!

I champion Romanticism—but for aesthetic reasons only. (I do sometimes think in political terms—and do not believe High Modernism is progressive in the least, but as a true Critic, I should suppress these feelings.)

The ideal art form, of course, is music. And in music, form is all. There is no “man” behind Mozart’s music. There is no way one would be construed as “reactionary” in discussing Mozart’s instrumental music honestly, in a detailed and critical manner.

There isn’t even “feelings” as we commonly think of that word, in Mozart’s music. To hear “feelings” in Mozart’s music is to falsify, in a non-artistic sense, the art.

Sarcasm cannot exist in Mozart’s music—it can only exist in speaking of Mozart’s music. Mozart’s music is a very heaven because everything is completely understood immediately there.

If we hear a passage in a Mozart concerto which sounds “sad” to us, there is no way to prove that any of this “sadness” (which is merely due to a certain arrangement of notes) can be traced back to Mozart the “man” (or the “composer,” what difference does it make?)—so we really would be completely deluded to believe it is “sad.”

When you hear a critic going on about the “mature” Mozart wrestling with “tragedy” in his “life” through his “music,” this is only the critical impulse puffed by its own importance. For truly, even if Mozart (who can do it) expresses melancholy in a concerto, the point of the concerto is for the whole to be resolved by the whole—so that a bit of “sadness” qua “sadness” is meaningless—in terms of any understanding we have of the “sad.” Even if a violinist who understands the music better than we do weeps as she plays the music, we cannot, from this, assume the music Mozart has written is intrinsically “sad.”

The overwhelming genius of Mozart might make us sad or frustrated, but this, again, is of no consequence. That we “feel emotional” listening to Mozart’s music is eminently possible—but we can’t trace this back specifically to the music, nor (and this is more far-fetched) to the “man” behind the music.

Rosenberg at one point said that pure formalism is the art which really annoyed the Soviet Union. Why should the Soviets have cared about painting of drips and shapes? They did, Rosenberg insisted.

If you don’t like Mozart, you might want to re-think.

I will end this essay by leaving art and returning to the real world. Art is indeed wonderful because it has nothing to do with the real world.

Harold Rosenberg’s introduction to his book of essays, Discovering the Present: Three Decades in Art, Culture & Politics, published in 1973, contains some remarks worth noting, as well.

“The cultural revolution of the past hundred years has petered out. Only conservatives believe that subversion is still being carried on in the arts and that society is being shaken by it. Today’s authentic vanguardism is being sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, by state arts councils, by museums, by industrial and banking associations.”

***

“Exhibitions of art and publications of literature are quite pleased to be absorbed into the teaching and entertainment industries. Professional art lovers are less interested in their responses to works of art than in knowing what to tell people about them—to take an early example, Leo Stein lecturing on Matisse the moment he began to acquire works by him.”

***

“An assistant professor of English, writing in the Times Book Review on a work by the Marquis de Sade, finds the Marquis’ tortures of servant girls to be tame, and is prepared to fit him into middle-class reading lists. Is this professor radical or conservative?”

***

“That there is no radical presence in society seems to give the conservative an edge in the argument. He can revile the mistakes and foolishness (Romanticism) of those who still hope for more humane social arrangements and for forms more responsive to actualities, high and low. But though the radical consciousness is stymied, the events of the epoch are radical. The values to which the conservative appeals are inevitably caricatured by the individuals designated to put them into practice. The cultural conservative wins the argument, but, like the political conservative, he repeatedly finds himself betrayed. Hence he is in a constant state of paranoia. The most he can hope for is that nothing will happen—that Nixon will not go to China—and that fewer knives will flash in the dark.”

Again, Rosenberg is prophetic about our day: the “conservative” hopes “Nixon will not go to China” (!)

Or: “prophecy” merely means nothing has changed very much?

Ben Mazer sent me Rosenberg’s essays recently—utterly by accident—and isn’t that how life usually changes one?

In Ben Mazer I, too, find that mysterious phenomenon—as a voter, Mazer, shuffling along with the mass of humanity, is a liberal, a Democrat, a leftist all the way, but in the completely unspoken presence of his uncanny work, I find him to be something else.

Thomas Graves, Salem MA 5/31/21

THE POETRY OF INFORMATION

Allen Tate Poems > My poetic side

Nature is excellence everywhere all the time. Art is excellence—extremely rare.

Not only is nature’s excellence more abundant, nature is excellence itself; nature defines excellence—as does that extremely rare excellence art produces, which is why Pope, and the Enlightenment generally, called the Greeks “Nature.”

Not only is the poet’s excellence rare—it is very often a channeling of nature’s.

Truly original art (existing completely apart from nature) which is excellent is rarer still.

The wailing of an honored blues singer imitates the wailing of a babe (nature). Poetry that resents nature—a poem (I’m thinking of no poem in particular, only one that would) which complains, for instance, of loud and unruly children will fail. This failure will be signified by reasonable Criticism—which is Nature. Can you imagine a poem seriously complaining about misbehaving children? I can’t.

All good Criticism, like anything else people produce, comes from Nature.

Art cannot compete with Nature. It may (and often does) run away from it. This is fine. However, Art cannot challenge Nature. It will fail miserably (whether some critic knows it or not).

Nature is ordered, but often appears chaotic—artists who attempt chaos as a way to imitate nature have succeeded wildly (we call it Modernism) but only due to a lapse of judgment (sometimes referred to as the New Criticism).

Everyone agrees poetry died around the middle of the twentieth century.

According to some, like the fearsome critic William Logan, this happened in the wake of a Modernist Renaissance which took on, and quickly exhausted, everything new to be done in poetry.

Robert Lowell was the first casualty of that Early Twentieth Century Modernist moment, failing to rescue the iambic pentameter as he went slowly mad.

Robert Lowell, the mad poet, left Harvard to study with Allen Tate and John Crowe Ransom, a couple of mad (New) Critics.

Most—who don’t care about New Criticism, and who are more radical than Logan—agree poetry died, but are glad it died; in retrospect, that wasn’t poetry, they say, that was Victorian. What is now (still) called “poetry” is better—more “honest” and “raw.” The word, “raw,” was the very term Lowell himself used, as he promised he would try to be more “raw” as the New England Lowell, former pupil of the New Critics, and former Iowa Workshop instructor, made peace with the Beats. Even as the Beats, and every generation following, became poetry workshop instructors.

Others, more pedestrian, looking for reasons why poetry collapsed, blame poems which stopped rhyming. Poetry no longer had form. Poems simply became the receptacles of Everything—and therefore became Nothing.

Two things did happen in the middle of the twentieth century, which had nothing to do with how people wrote poems: the rise in mass popularity of Writing Programs and Blues Music.

Writing poetry simply couldn’t compete with these two things.

The same poet/critic/professors who stopped rhyming due to the success of early twentieth century Modernism ran the Writing Programs. They told poetry to stop rhyming.

Meanwhile, blues music, which everyone loved, was rhyming like crazy.

The post-modern poets were caught in the middle. Poetry, as both an art and a social practice, didn’t know what to do.

But finally the poets had no choice. Not being blues singers, they listened to the Writing Programs. They stopped rhyming.

The death of poetry in the middle of the twentieth century was not the poets’ fault.

Blame the Critics.

The Critics were guilty of embracing chaos—because Nature sometimes seems chaotic. (But it’s not. It’s ordered.)

Criticism, or rather lack of Criticism, killed poetry.

The New Critics are much to blame—they were not New Critics; they were “No” Critics; as one reads what they wrote, one realizes this. As one reads the New Criticism, one finds there is a lot to chew on. But beware. Don’t take it too seriously. You will choke. New Criticism is not nutritious. Most of it is confusion—though it is intelligent.

The New Critics didn’t like Modernism, but Modernism liked the New Critics.

To establish itself successfully in the academy, Modernism needed to look smart, respectable, academic. The New Critics were successfully recruited. Both sides shook hands.

Nerds became thugs; the tweedy New Critics agreed to murder poetry—as they murdered judgment.

They decided modernist poems—the “new” poems—needed to speak. Under the sway of modernism, they decided they didn’t trust Criticism at all.

The New Critics were avatars of the Writing Programs. In the Writing Programs, poetic reputation no longer grew in the wild; it could now be manufactured in academia. This was “the deal.” The affected learning of the New Critics (dressed in tweed) was enough to make the Writing Programs respectable—finally “respectable” in the way crazy Robert Lowell was respectable.

If you think this is hyperbole, let’s quote Allen Tate, a New Critic, from his essay, “Is Literary Criticism Possible?”

When I first taught a college class, about eighteen years ago, I thought that anything was possible; but with every year since it has seemed a little more absurd to try to teach students to “evaluate” works of literature, and perhaps not less absurd to try to evaluate them oneself. The assumption that we are capable of just evaluation (a word that seems to have got into criticism by way of Adam Smith) is one of the subtler, if crude, abuses of democratic doctrine, as follows: all men ought to exercise independent judgment, and all men being equal, all are equally capable of it, even in literature and the arts. I have observed that when my own opinions seem most original and independent they turn out to be almost wholly conventional. An absolutely independent judgment (if such a thing were possible) would be an absolutely ignorant judgment.

Shall the instructor, then, set before the class his own “evaluations?” He will do so at the risk of disseminating a hierarchy that he may not have intended to create, and thus may be aborted, or at least stultified, the student’s own reading. It is inevitable that the instructor shall say to the class that one poem is “better” than another. The student, in the degree of his intelligence, will form clear preferences or rejections that will do little harm if he understands what they are. But the teaching of literature through the assertion of preference will end up either as mere impressionism, or as the more sinister variety of impressionism that Irving Babbitt detected in the absorption of the literary work into its historical setting.

In the beginning of this essay, Allen Tate agonizes over the “humanities” as something which merely has an odor of the past (one teaches time periods) but no truth, and therefore, except for grammar, cannot be taught, unlike “natural science.”

Modernism blew everything up and Robert Lowell, the first “great” poet who came along after this explosion, went mad because he couldn’t go forward—and wasn’t allowed to go back.

And it was the teachers who wouldn’t allow him to go back.

The teachers, like Allen Tate and John Crowe Ransom, went mad, so the poets went mad, too.

Teachers are supposed to steer the ship; they are supposed to rescue the troubled students. The New Critics did the opposite.

Allen Tate is obviously a brilliant, well-educated man. Listen to that subtle pedagogy! But what is it aimed at? What is its end? He is teaching despair. He is teaching mental breakdown.

Here’s what the New Republic had to say (pretty accurately) about Tate 10 years ago:

In the galaxy of American modernism, Allen Tate is now a black hole. The authority that made him, in the 1930s and 1940s, one of the most formidable figures in American poetry, mentor and superego to a generation, has collapsed. Neither his strenuously ambiguous poems nor his orotund essays in literary interpretation (he was one of the deities of the New Criticism) are still commonly read. In both realms, Tate seems to represent a version of modernism scarcely more acceptable than the politics–Agrarian, neo-Confederate, quasi-fascist–that put the seal on his obsolescence.

Of course it is wise to say, when Tate says, ‘when I had what I thought was an independent thought, it turned out to be a conventional thought.’ Yes. This is good. This is why you are a professor. You are the true gatekeeper of literature, because you can tell the truly independent thought from the conventional one.

Yet Tate goes on to wring his hands that if he “evaluates” and “asserts preference” he will create debilitating hierarchies based on personal weakness, or worse, “sinister” elimination of the art of literature itself.

Mind you, these are not political hierarchies Tate is warning against—no judgment at all, for Tate, is the best thing of all. This is the blank, the leveling, which every sincere and successful revolution seeks. Pull down the old walls—then, later, build anew.

John Crowe Ransom was, like Tate, suffering a crisis in teaching literature.

And like Tate, Ransom counted himself as a poet more than a teacher, anxious to have his poetry taught by professors who unfortunately were oblivious—too interested in “evaluation” and “history” (not Ransom or Tate)

Of course, who can blame them? They were ambitious poets—and there is nothing wrong with that. We can forgive them for this.

But to continue:

Now Ransom, from his essay, “Criticism, Inc.”

“Here is contemporary literature, waiting for its criticism; where are the professors of literature? They are watering their own gardens; elucidating the literary histories of their respective periods.”

There it is, in black and white. The lady, Contemporary Literature, has no suitors. What is to be done?

And now let’s return to the highbrow-yet-know-nothing agenda of the “No” Criticism revolution. Here is what Ransom says Criticism is not and cannot be:

“I should wish to exclude: 1. Personal registrations…2. Synopsis and paraphrase…3. Historical studies…4. Linguistic studies…5. Moral studies…6. Any other special studies which deal with some abstract or prose content out of the work.”

Ransom was just as brilliant as Tate, and this narrowing of Criticism by Ransom is brilliant even as it is completely insane.

Don’t get me wrong. If a poet wish to throw off all Criticism in their pursuit of glory, all power to them.

But these gentlemen, Tate and Ransom, are speaking as school teachers. As higher education administrators. As critics.

Ransom, like Tate, is the teacher giving up his role as teacher—it is the madness of professors leading to the madness of the world.

Nor does Ransom in this essay want Criticism which is more social or practical, either:

“I do not suppose the reviewing of books can be reformed in the sense of being turned into pure criticism.”

Finally, he says,

“I know of no authority. For the present each critic must be his own authority.”

This manages to simultaneously contradict every rule, habit, and principle “conservative” Ransom and Tate stand for—while asserting perfectly their perfect madness.

And even so Ransom persists in asserting:

“Studies in the technique of the art belong to criticism certainly. They cannot belong anywhere else, because the technique is not peculiar to any prose materials discoverable in the work of art, nor to anything else but the unique form of that art.”

And then Ransom serves up, after closing off all lanes of Criticism, his own interesting idea:

“I intrude here with an idea of my own, which may serve as a starting point of discussion. Poetry distinguishes itself from prose on the technical side by the devices which are, precisely, its means of escaping from prose. Something is continually being killed by prose which the poet wants to preserve.”

If poetry can be made a subject of study delicately separated out from prose, Ransom thinks he can, by this maneuver, inform true Criticism—of prose!

Again, this is brilliant—but absolutely nuts.

On at least two levels.

One: Poetry is opposed more to painting than prose; poetry and prose are both temporal art forms.

Two: How can one (outside of one’s own mind) assert a “unique form” of an art which is free of all the “abstractions” of all that is traditionally associated with Criticism—without entering an Alice-In-Wonderland-World inside a nutshell?

The New Critics and their empty brilliance (which served Modernism—and Pound’s coterie) existed for a practical purpose. To bury professors who taught Homer, Plato and Keats and usher in the catch-all-as-catch-can Writing Program era—which took poetry away from reviewers, critics, the public—and placed it safely in universities.

Since then, Criticism and Poetry have continued—but oddly.

It isn’t really that poetry is dead.

It is that Independent Poetry Criticism—of Evaluation and Hierarchy—is dead.

The professor has become the poet and the poet has become the professor.

And that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.

Tate and Ransom knew this all along. It wasn’t too many mint juleps or madness (maybe they were mad, who knows?). It was brilliance and ambition. And certainly everyone forgives them.

I’ve heard people defend the Poetry Workshop by saying, “We don’t just write our poems—we are students of poetry in the traditional sense, too!”

No doubt! This fits right into the idea of the poet and the professor becoming the same.

I’m sure this is true. As Poet-Critic Ransom put it, even as he was narrowing Criticism down to a barely visible point: ” A very large volume of studies is indicated by this classification.” The “classification” he is here referring to, is his “exclusion” of everything traditionally associated with Criticism—both outside and inside the classroom.

We can argue all day about what Criticism was before Tate and Ransom took their axes to it, but this would take us far afield; right now let’s just say one very important task a critic had was to make sure no lies were told about the poets.

The last thing a critic should be is self-interested, but this unfortunately occurred when the poet-professors of New Criticism and Pound’s clique shook hands.

Criticism stops evaluating—but that doesn’t mean all sorts of fussy, faux-learning cannot explode in the meantime.

This is exactly what happened. The Keats professors were buried. But “knowledge” grew.

What replaced the old poetry (which in retrospect, seems narrow) is what can only be called:

The Poetry of Information.

Workshop poems tend to be extremely informative.

They are written after long study.

The vast learning of Poetry rolling over weak Criticism is what Ransom and Tate within the academy wanted.

It’s a childish wish among poets too brilliant and ambitious to understand what Oscar Wilde (d. 1900) laid out so beautifully in his master-work, “The Critic As Artist.”

Tate, the professor, was ashamed of his job as a professor in the humanities department. Here is Tate from his essay again:

Of the humanities, the division with which as poet and critic I am presumably most concerned, one must speak with melancholy as well as in ignorance. For into the humanistic bag we throw everything that cannot qualify as a science, natural or social. This discrete mixture of hot and cold, moist and dry, creates in the bag a vortex, which emits a powerful wind of ineffective heroics, somewhat as follows: We humanists bring within the scope of the humanities all the great records—sometimes we call them the remains: poetry, drama, pre-scientific history (Herodotus, Joinville, Bede)—of the experience of man as man; we are not concerned with him as vertebrate, biped, mathematician, or priest. Precisely, reply the social scientists; that is just what is wrong with you; you don’t see that man is not man, that he is merely a function; and your records (or remains) are so full of error that we are glad to relegate them to professors of English, poets, and other dilettanti, those “former people” who live in the Past. The Past, which we can neither smell, see, taste, nor touch, was well labeled by our apostle, Mr. Carl Sandburg, as a bucket of ashes…No first-rate scientific mind is guilty of this vulgarity. Yet as academic statesmen, the humanists must also be practical politicians who know that they cannot stay in office unless they have an invigorating awareness of the power, and of the superior footwork, of the third-rate mind.

Again, the combination here is of sheer brilliance and deep, hopeless, madness and depression. The New Critics did not like what they were doing. They were professors lured by the new poetry. Note how deeply ashamed of the “Past” Professor Tate is. That was their problem. “I want to be a famous poet like Keats (d. 1821)!” Tate must have thought. “But how can I be a famous poet if fame in poetry belongs to the past—and Keats?”

Thanks to Writing Workshops, poetry, as it seeks fame, is as academic as ever.

The world of poetry in John Crowe Ransom’s day was similar to ours—fame for the poets was elusive (Pound and Eliot were not yet famous) and the professors didn’t understand how elusive it was for contemporary poets—because they kept on teaching—before the Writing Program Era took off—Homer and Keats.

Slowly this would change.

Academia would make respectable—in the middle of the twentieth century—those revolutionary Modernists from the century’s beginning.

The essays by Tate and Ransom glimpsed here belong to the period in-between the Modernist explosion (when nothing was certain and things were exciting, doubtful, somewhat pessimistic, and ambitious) and the material rewards which eventually followed.

We now live in an era where Criticism is dead, the English major is dead, the Writing Program still pays the bills, and poets are not famous.

And Blues Music is still much bigger than poetry.

The poetry in favor right now, more so even than overt political poetry, is the Poetry of Information.

The following is a contemporary poem which is an example of this.

Steven Cramer teaches writing, and is one of the best poets writing today. Cramer is as brilliant as Tate and Ransom—and these two were, indeed, brilliant.

“Elegy for Little Richard” is beyond evaluation or rank—it is simply a fantastic poem, teeming with information. The most respected poetry has existed in this mode pretty much since Robert Lowell.

Since Robert Lowell, poetry is now a perfect blend of the “raw” and the “cooked.”

But before we quote this poem in full, let us, for comparison, look at one stanza from a poem in favor prior to the Modernist revolution. It evinces beauty, not information.

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains my sense
As though of hemlock I had drunk
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not thru envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thy happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green and shadows numberless
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

One might call this a selfish poem—the “news” is about the poet, and how he is feeling. There is no “information” provided, in the conventional sense. Keats is no professor.

And now our contemporary poem:

Elegy for Little Richard

Satori can surge upon you on the subway,
lectured Dr. Tufail in Intro Zen.

The mire gives us the very substance of art,
goes Lorca’s Play and Theory of the Duende.

A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom,
reflected Little Richard in a Macon

Greyhound terminal’s greasy spoon,
up to his biceps in Georgia suds, boss-

man piling on pot atop pot atop pot—
and that’s exactly what I meant at the time.

Of the two strains of modesty, false
and true, he knew neither.  I put that little

thing in it, he said of Little Richard’s Boogie—
gospelized flop, in no way Tutti Frutti,

green as air before a downpour. Always
had that thing, but didn’t know what to do

with that thing I had.   For consistency,
he’d win the Whitman Contradiction Prize—

Gay?  I founded Gay. I wore makeup
and eyelashes when no men were. But once

a chartered flight caught fire in a dream,
Jesus Christ made men, men; women, women,

sermoned Minister Richard Penniman.
Satori, Duende: daemon versus demon—

one draws from light; the other swills
in Bier-stink at the Star Club, Hamburg,

1961. He didn’t open for The Beatles;
The Beatles opened for him. Backstage,

he’d preach from RevelationsWe’d all
sit around and listen, just to hear him talk,

remembered Lennon, whose dying mono-
syllable, yeah, I’ll never not recall, down

to the loaf-sized radio the news dirged
through (I call that time my decade-long

lost weekend).  His own One and Only,
for years an ancient star I didn’t know

wasn’t dead—in fact it was the Fab’s
blandish cover of his Long Tall Sally

that schooled the Beatle-daemonic
white mass of us: don’t sit so still; sex

sings best in tongues, if not yet drag;
Truth’s not only Beauty but Raw Joy.

When this hits us early in the poem, we laugh—it’s a shock. A brilliant, humorous effect. Cramer’s a genius.

A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom.

Cramer’s poem is a riveting lesson. It gives us literary criticism in places we wouldn’t expect, and so much more.

“Elegy for Little Richard” is a delight: autobiographical, deeply thematic, linguistically glorious, as well as informative.

The two-line stanzas do not appear to be organized to impart sound—they exist more to hurriedly and efficiently impart information.

The epic fallacy, said Poe, was a lot of short poems strung together to make an epic.

There is no reason why Poe’s formula cannot exist in a shorter poem, where a shorter poem exists only as a sequence of small poetic glimpses: “green as air before a downpour,” “the other swills in Bier-stink at the Star Club” and “Truth’s not only Beauty but Raw Joy.”

We might say that “green as air before a downpour” is Keats—this is John Keats kept alive in poetry today.

To say nothing of “Truth’s not only Beauty but Raw Joy.”

It is a wonderful and beautiful phrase: “green as air before a downpour.” To say “this is like Keats” does make sense.

But no—we need to be more rigorous.

The poetry Keats wrote is defined chiefly by its rhythmic quality—Keats wrote poems rhythmically cohesive. Poems of Information are nothing like this at all.

Information belongs to Man, not Nature.

Pieces of poems are not poems.

The minor poets have written beautiful lines and phrases, but they are minor poets because they have written no major poems. Poe, the critic, often collected beautiful lines from minor poets in his reviews.

Like music laid asleep in dried up fountains

Plain as a white statue on a tall, dark steep

Green dells that into silence stretch away

And the list could go on of lovely phrases by poets no longer read.

But if we quote the following line, we see immediately it belongs to something greater, something immensely popular:

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

This belongs to a wider, rhythmic sea—a famous poem, full of rhythm, which has nothing to do with the Poetry of Information.

The differences are more vital than the similarities—we are talking about two different forms of art.

The Poem of Information began with Robert Lowell (or perhaps that poem by T.S. Eliot with all the footnotes?)—student of Ransom and Tate (but did they “teach” Lowell anything? Doubtful)—think of that poem, which the critic William Logan calls Lowell’s last major poem—“For The Union Dead.” There is a lot of information in that poem—the cars in Boston have “fins” and the Boston Aquarium—have you heard?—is closed, and there is this statue in the Boston Common… It is a very fine poem, but it is scattered, and has no cohesive rhythm.

Here is the second stanza:

Once my nose crawled like a snail on the glass;
my hand tingled
to burst the bubbles
drifting from the noses of the cowed, compliant fish.

Beautiful, in itself, but does it need—aesthetically—to belong, in any sense, really, to this, a few stanzas later?

shaking over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw
and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry
on St. Gaudens’ shaking Civil War relief,
propped by a plank splint against the garage’s earthquake.

There is no “art” which unites the two stanzas. Information belonging to itself is paramount.

Poetry’s rhythmic strategy is absent.

This is what makes Keats Keats.

Rhythm.

I might as well quote the poem evoked by Cramer’s “Truth’s not only Beauty but Raw Joy.”

To get the stark difference, in terms of rhythm and cohesiveness, quotation (because otherwise we might not believe it) is probably necessary; the first and last stanzas should suffice; notice, unlike the Lowell, how much the two stanzas resemble each other:

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
    Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
    A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
    Of deities or mortals, or of both,
        In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
    What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
        What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

……..

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
    Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
    Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold pastoral!
    When old age shall this generation waste,
        Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
    “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”—that is all
        Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Keats sustains the theme—and the rhythm. There is no overriding desire to provide information—in the sense that we understand that term. Information is not barred from the poem—the poem is merely doing other things; information is not necessary; it would merely distract. Information in itself, by its very nature, is distracting. Whatever distracts from the theme—even if it is interesting itself, or relates in some indirect way to the theme—is not artful.

Poetry once implied concentration—not a lot of parts lying about on the ground. Parts were not bad in themselves; the point was to gather them into the poem—to welcome them, and not forget about them.

Can we finally evaluate anything here?

No, we are not ready for that. The world created by Tate and Ransom, and practiced by Lowell a half-century ago is still the air in which we swim. We cannot rank or judge. The Poetry of Information will not be out of fashion at all soon.

What if a poet tells us that if he did not turn on the news, or consult an encyclopedia, or do research on something he sees on a walk, he would have nothing to write about? Should we take him at his word?

Poets—and even the critics—have long since given up being concerned about these sorts of things.

I’ll close by quoting two contemporary, neo-Romantic poems.


I Never Give Out My True Love’s Name

I never give out my true love’s name.

Is love my god? My god is shame.

In the dreaming garden I walked along,

Too ashamed to sing a song.

Love may be the moon, smooth and bright.

But shame rules the details of the night.

All I whisper when no one’s there

From my true heart? Shame doesn’t care.

The sad images which lie in my heart

Belong to love. But shame rules my art.

Shame rules all I see and hear.

Love hides. Never spoken. Though here.

Shame lives with millions. Do I blame

Love? Shame is not afraid of love. Shame

Is an army of poetry. Shame is not afraid.

Do not love your love, he said. And I obeyed.

This poem—one of my own—is aggressively anti-informative.

And this one, by Ben Mazer, from “The King,” also springs more from pure imagination:

XXXVI

for Isabel Biderman

Finally to see with eyes of onyx and jade –
what’s always there. Cleopatra with her crown
gives O’s for X’s, gives X’s for O’s
perpetually working towards the city’s center
by katty-corner, wishes too grand to grant
– for who can both live in the rarest palace
and be its guest? Passing again and again
brings nothing closer – a few feet in the end
and all is different. Different and the same!
A better life, taller and rising to heaven
(the dog escapes, returns according to plan).
Fabulous laughter lives in the hereafter.
The cat withdraws into its impregnable dream.
The actor leaving the palace is just a man.



A BRIEF HISTORY OF U.S. POETRY

Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral - Age of  Revolution

1650 Anne Bradstreet’s The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America: By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts published in London.

1773 Phillis Wheatley, a slave, publishes Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. During the American Revolution she wrote to George Washington, who thanked her, praised her poetry, and invited her to his headquarters.

1791 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is published in Paris, in French.  Ben Franklin’s Autobiography appears in London, for the first time in English, two years later.   Had it been published in America, the Europeans would have laughed.  The American experiment isn’t going to last, anyway.

Franklin, the practical man, the scientist, and America’s true founding father, weighs in on poetry: it’s frivolous.

1794  Samuel Coleridge and Robert Southey make plans to go to Pennsylvania in a communal living experiment, but their personalities clash and the plan is aborted.  Southey becomes British Poet Laureate twenty years later.

1803  William Blake, author of “America: A Prophecy” is accused of crying out “Damn the King!” in Sussex, England, narrowly escaping imprisonment for treason.

1815  George Ticknor, before becoming literature Chair at Harvard, travels to Europe for 4 years, spending 17 months in Germany.

1817  “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant appears in the North American Review.

1824  Byron, who wanted to travel to America (he met George Ticknor in Europe), dies in Greece.

1824  Lafayette, during tour of U.S, calls on Edgar Poe’s grandmother, revolutionary war veteran widow.

1832  Washington Irving edits London edition of William Cullen Bryant’s Poems to avoid politically offending British readers.

1835 Massachusetts senator and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier mobbed and stoned in Concord, New Hampshire.

1835  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow appointed Smith Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard.

1836  Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes 500 copies of Divinity School Address anonymously.  He will not publish another book for 6 years.

1838  Poe’s translated work begins appearing in Russia. Dostoevsky, influenced by Poe, publishes him.

1843  Transcendentalist, Unitarian minister, Harvard Divinity School student Christopher Pearse Cranch marries the sister of T.S. Eliot’s Unitarian grandfather; dedicates Poems to Emerson, published in The Dial, a magazine edited by Margaret Fuller and Emerson; frequent visitor to Brook Farm.  Cranch is more musical and sensuous than Emerson; even Poe can tolerate him; Cranch’s poem “Enosis” pre-figures Baudelaire’s “Correspondences.”

T.S. Eliot’s family is deeply rooted in New England Unitarianism and Transcendentalism through Cranch and Emerson’s connection to his grandfather, Harvard Divinity graduate, William Greenleaf Eliot, founder of Washington U., St. Louis.

1845  Elizabeth Barrett writes Poe with news of “The Raven’s” popularity in England.  The poem appeared in a daily American newspaper and produced instant fame, though Poe’s reputation as a critic and leader of the Magazine Era was well-established.  During this period Poe coins “Heresy of the Didactic” and “A Long Poem Does Not Exist.”  In a review of Barrett’s 1840 volume of poems which led to Barrett’s fame before she met Robert Browning, Poe introduced his piece by saying he would not, as was typically done, review her work superficially because she was a woman. Poe dedicated his 1845 Poems to Elizabeth Barrett. Then Robert Browning entered the picture.

1845 Poe accuses Longfellow of plagiarism.

1847  Ralph Waldo Emerson is in England, earning his living as an orator.

1848  Charles Baudelaire’s first translations of Poe appear in France.

1848  James Russell Lowell publishes “A Fable For Critics” anonymously.

1848 Female Poets of America, an anthology of poems by American women, is published by the powerful and influential anthologist, Rufus Griswold—who believes women naturally write a different kind of poetry.  Griswold’s earlier success, The Poets and Poetry of America (1842) contains 3 poems by Poe and 45 by Griswold’s friend, Charles Fenno Hoffman. In a review, Poe remarks that readers of anthologies buy them to see if they are in them.

1848  Poe publishes Eureka and the Rationale of Verse, exceptional works on the universe—and verse.

1849 Edgar Poe is apparently murdered in Baltimore; leading periodicals ignore strange circumstances of Poe’s death and one, Horace Greeley’s Tribune, hires Griswold (who signs his piece ‘Ludwig’) to take the occasion to attack the character of the poet. There is no press notice of Poe’s unusual passing. Baltimore Sun writer, Joseph Snodgrass, who happens to live close to where Poe is found in distress, and Poe’s hated cousin Neilson Poe (who happens to appear) are prime suspects according to Scarriet. The Baltimore Sun, like the New York Tribune, covers up any hint of foul play with bland and brief coverage.

1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne publishes The Scarlett Letter. There is recent speculation the work is loosely based on Edgar Poe, Fanny Osgood, and Rufus Griswold.

1855 Griswold reviews Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and calls it a “mass of stupid filth.”  Griswold, whose second wife was apparently a man (their divorce is very complicated, involving Griswold lending out his daughter) fills his review with words such as “vileness,” “rotting,” and “shame.”  Whitman later includes the Griswold review in one of his editions of Leaves.

1856  English Traits, extolls the English race, claiming it was the English “character” that vanquished India, is published in the U.S. and England, by poet and new age priest Ralph Waldo Emerson, as England waits for the inevitable Civil War to tear her rival, America, apart.

1859.  In a conversation with William Dean Howells, Emerson calls Hawthorne’s latest book “mush” and furiously calls Poe “the jingle man.”

1860  William Cullen Bryant introduces Abraham Lincoln at Cooper Union; the poet advises the new president on his cabinet selection.

1867  First collection of African American “Slave Songs” published.

1883  “The New Colossus” is composed by Emma Lazarus; engraved on the Statue of Liberty, 1903

1883  Poems of Passion by Ella Wheeler Wilcox rejected by publisher on grounds of immorality.

1888 “Casey at the Bat” published anonymously. The author, Ernest Thayer, does not become known as the author of the poem until 1909—he is the uncle of Scofield Thayer, who will publish “The Waste Land” in the revived Dial.

1890  Emily Dickinson’s posthumous book published by Mabel Todd and Thomas Higginson.  William Dean Howells gives it a good review, and it sells well.

1893  William James, the “nitrous oxide philosopher,” Emerson’s godson, becomes Gertrude Stein’s influential professor at Harvard.

1896 Paul Laurence Dunbar publishes Lyrics of Lowly Life.

1897  Wallace Stevens enters Harvard, falling under the spell of William James, as well as George Santayana.

1904  Yone Noguchi publishes “Proposal to American Poets” as the Haiku rage begins in the United States and Britain, mostly due to Japan’s surprising victory in the Russo-Japanese War. Imagism, eventually celebrated as “new,” is merely a copy of haiku, and belongs to the same trend.

1910  John Crowe Ransom, Fugitive, Southern Agrarian, New Critic, takes a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University.

1910  John Lomax publishes “Cowboy Songs and Frontier Ballads.”

1912  Harriet Monroe founds Poetry magazine; in 1880s attended literary gatherings in New York with William Dean Howells and Richard Henry Stoddard (Poe biographer) and in 1890s met Whistler, Henry James, Thomas Hardy and Aubrey BeardsleyEzra Pound is Poetry’s London editor.

1913  American Imagist poet H.D. marries British Imagist poet Richard Aldington.

1913 The Armory Show in New York, which brings modern art to America, occurs under the guidance of Pound and T.S. Eliot’s attorney and modern art collector, John Quinn.

1914 Robert Frost meets Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell in London.

1914  Ezra Pound works as Yeats‘ secretary in Sussex, England.

1915  Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology published.  Masters was law partner of Clarence Darrow.

1916 Witter Bynner and Arthur Davison Ficke publish Spectra, a poetry hoax spoofing Imagism and everyone is fooled.

1917  Robert Frost begins teaching at Amherst College.

1920  “The Sacred Wood” by T.S. Eliot, banker, London. Decries “Hamlet.” Writes, “immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.”

1921  Margaret Anderson’s Little Review loses court case and is declared obscene for publishing a portion of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is banned in the United States.  Random House immediately tries to get the ban lifted in order to publish the work.

1922  T.S.Eliot’s “The Waste Land” awarded The Dial Prize before Ezra Pound has finished editing it.

1922  D.H Lawrence and Frieda stay with Mabel Dodge in Taos, New Mexico.

1923  Edna St. Vincent Millay wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1923  William Butler Yeats wins Nobel Prize for Literature

1924  Robert Frost wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

1924  Ford Maddox Ford founds the Transatlantic Review.   Stays with Allen Tate and Robert Lowell in his lengthy sojourn to America, and helps to found the American Writing Program Era.

1924  Marianne Moore wins The Dial Prize; becomes editor of The Dial the next year, as E.E. Cummings elopes with the retiring editor Scofield Thayer’s wife.

1924  James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children opens.

1925  E.E. Cummings wins The Dial Prize.

1926  Yaddo Artist Colony opens

1926 Dorothy Parker publishes her first book of poems, With Enough Rope.

1927  Walt Whitman biography wins Pulitzer Prize

1927 Laura Riding, who published poems in The Fugitive, together with Robert Graves, influence William Empson and the New Criticism with their Survey of Modernist Poetry. She’s almost killed jumping out a 4th story window 2 years later.

1929 Harry Crosby, Black Sun Press editor, free verse poet, nephew of JP Morgan, dies at 31 in suicide pact with his lover.

1930  “I’ll Take My Stand” published by Fugitive/Southern Agrarians and future New Critics, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, Allen Tate defend ways of the Old South.

1932  Paul Engle wins Yale Younger Poet Prize, judged by member of John Crowe Ransom’s Fugitive circle.  Engle, a prolific fundraiser, builds the Iowa Workshop into a Program Writing Empire.

1933  T.S. Eliot delivers his speech on “free-thinking jews” at the University of Virginia.

1934  “Is Verse A Dying Technique?” published by Edmund Wilson.

1936  New Directions founded by Harvard sophomore James Laughlin.

1937  Robert Lowell camps out in Allen Tate’s yard.  Lowell has left Harvard to study with John Crowe Ransom at Kenyon College. The trip by Lowell was recommended by the Lowell family psychiatrist, the Fugitive poet, Merrill Moore.

1938  First Edition of textbook Understanding Poetry by New Critics Brooks and Warren, helps to canonize unread poets Williams and Pound, while attacking Poe.

1938  Aldous Huxley moves to Hollywood.

1938 Delmore Schwartz publishes In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, at 25, a smash-hit volume of short stories and poetry.

1939  Allen Tate starts Writing Program at Princeton.

1939  W.H. Auden moves to the United States and earns living as college professor.

1940  Mark Van Doren is awarded Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

1941 F.O. Matthiessen publishes American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman.

1943  Ezra Pound indicted for treason by the United States government.

1946  Wallace Stegner founds Stanford Writing Program.  Yvor Winters will teach Pinsky, Haas, Hall and Gunn.

1948  Pete Seeger, nephew of WW I poet Alan Seeger (“I Have A Rendezvous With Death”) forms The Weavers, the first singer-songwriter ‘band’ in the rock era.

1948  T.S. Eliot wins Nobel Prize

1949  T.S. Eliot viciously attacks Poe in From Poe To Valery

1949  Ezra Pound is awarded the Bollingen Prize.  The poet Robert Hillyer protests and Congress resolves its Library will no longer fund the award.  Hillyer accuses Paul Melon, T.S. Eliot and New Critics of a fascist conspiracy.

1949 Elizabeth Bishop appointed U.S. Poet Laureate.

1950  William Carlos Williams wins first National Book Award for Poetry

1950  Gwendolyn Brooks wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1950 W.S Merwin tutors Robert Graves‘ son in Majorca.

1951  John Crowe Ransom, the Modernist T.S. Eliot of the American South, is awarded the Bollingen Prize.

1953  Dylan Thomas dies in New York City.

1954  Theodore Roethke wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1955 John Ashbery wins Yale Younger Prize for Some Trees. Judge W.H. Auden requested the manuscript.

1957  Allen Tate is awarded the Bollingen.

1957  “Howl” by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg triumphs in obscenity trial as the judge finds book “socially redeeming;” wins publicity in Time & Life.

1957  New Poets of England and America, Donald Hall, Robert Pack, Louis Simspon, eds.

1959  Carl Sandburg wins Grammy for Best Performance – Documentary Or Spoken Word (Other Than Comedy) for his recording of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with the New York Philharmonic.

1959  M.L Rosenthal coins the term “Confessional Poetry” in The Nation as he pays homage to Robert Lowell.

1959 Donald Justice wins the Lamont Poetry Prize for Summer Anniversaries.

1960  New American Poetry 1945-1960, Donald Allen, editor.

1961  Yvor Winters is awarded the Bollingen.

1961  Denise Levertov becomes poetry editor of The Nation.

1961  Louis Untermeyer appointed Poet Laureate Consultant In Poetry To the Library of Congress (1961-63)

1961 Robert Graves appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford—holds the post until 1966.

1962  Sylvia Plath takes her own life in London.

1964  John Crowe Ransom wins The National Book Award for Selected Poems. His Kenyon Review is where Plath and other poets were most eager to publish.

1964  Keats biography by W.Jackson Bate wins Pulitzer. The Burden of the Past and the English Poet by the same author predates, and is a more readable version of, Harold Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence.

1965  Horace Gregory is awarded the Bollingen.  Gregory had attacked the poetic reputation of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

1967  Anne Sexton wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1968  Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, directed by Zeffirelli, nominated for Best Picture by Hollywood.

1971  The Pound Era by Hugh Kenner published.  Kenner, a friend of William F. Buckley, Jr., saved Pound’s reputation with this work; Kenner also savaged the reputation of Millay.

1971  W.S Merwin wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1972  John Berryman jumps to his death off bridge near University of Minnesota.

Berryman’s classes in the 50’s were filled with future prize-winners, not necessarily because he and his students were great, but because his students were on the ground-floor of the Writing Program era.

1972  Frank O’Hara wins National Book Award for Collected Poems

1974 Anne Sexton commits suicide.

1975  Gary Snyder wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1976  Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow’s novel on Delmore Schwartz, wins Pulitzer.

1976 John Ashbery wins Pulitzer, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award for Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror

1977 Gerald Stern wins the Lamont Poetry Prize, Judges Alan Dugan, Philip Levine, and Charles Wright.

1978  Language magazine, Bernstein & Andrews, begins 4 year run.  Charles Bernstein studied J.L Austin’s brand of ‘ordinary language philosophy’ at Harvard.

1980  Helen Vendler wins National Book Critics Circle Award

1981 Seamus Heaney becomes Harvard visiting professor.

1981 Carolyn Forche wins the Lamont Poetry Prize for The Country Between Us.

1981  Derek Walcott founds Boston Playwrights’ Theater at Boston University.

1981  Oscar Wilde biography by Richard Ellman wins Pulitzer.

1982  Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems wins Pulitzer.

1984  Harold Bloom savagely attacks Poe in review of Poe’s Library of America works (2 vol) in New York Review of Books, repeating similar attacks by Yvor Winters, Aldous Huxley and T.S. Eliot.

1984 Charles Bernstein at a poetry conference in Alabama mentions the “policemen of official verse culture.” Gerald Stern presses Bernstein to name names. He does not—except to mention T.S. Eliot as being disliked by WC Williams.

1984  Marc Smith founds Slam Poetry in Chicago.

1984  Mary Oliver is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1985 Gwendolyn Brooks appointed U.S. Poet Laureate for 1985-6.

1986  Golden Gate by Vikram Seth, a novel in verse, is published.

1987  The movie “Barfly” depicts life of Charles Bukowski.

1988  David Lehman’s Best American Poetry Series debuts with John Ashbery as first guest editor.  The first words of the first poem (by A.R. Ammons) in the Series are: William James.

1990 Robert Bly publishes Iron John.

1991  “Can Poetry Matter?” by Dana Gioia is published in The Atlantic. According to the author, poetry has become an incestuous viper’s pit of academic hucksters.

1996  Jorie Graham wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1997 Kent Johnson and Tosa Motokiyu are suspected authors of Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada, one of the richest and greatest controversies in world letters.

1999  Peter Sacks wins Georgia Prize, Jorie Graham, judge.

1999  Billy Collins signs 3-book, 6-figure deal with Random House.

2002  Ron Silliman’s Blog founded. Silliman will attack “quietism” while defending the poetry avant-garde.

2002  Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club wins Pulitzer Prize.

2002  Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems published.

2004  Foetry.com founded by Alan Cordle. The site looks at Poetry Prizes, judges, and poets, in a controversial manner. Shortly before his death, Robert Creeley defends his poetry colleagues on Foetry.com.

2004  Franz Wright wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

2005 Ted Kooser wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

2005 The LA Times call Alan Cordle “the most despised…most feared man” in American poetry.”

2005  William Logan wins National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

2006  Fulcrum No. 5, editors Philip Nikolayev, Katia Kapovich, appears, featuring works of Landis Everson and his editor, Ben Mazer, also Eliot Weinberger, Glyn Maxwell, Joe Green, and Marjorie Perloff.

2007 Joan Houlihan dismisses Foetry.com as “losers” in a Poets & Writers letter. Defends the integrity of Georgia and Tupelo press.

2007  Paul Muldoon succeeds Alice Quinn as poetry editor of The New Yorker.

2007 Frank Bidart wins the Bollingen Prize.

2009 Fanny Howe is awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

2009  The Program Era by Mark McGurl, published by Harvard University Press, an historic look at college creative writing.

2009  Following the mass banning of Alan Cordle, Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords and Christopher Woodman from The Poetry Foundation’s Blog Harriet (which soon bans all public comments), they decide to create Blog Scarriet (September 1 2009 to present)

2010 Sir Christopher Ricks publishes True Friendship: Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht, and Robert Lowell Under the Sign of Eliot and Pound.

2011 Rita Dove publishes her Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry. Helen Vendler and Marjorie Perloff object to her choices. Scarriet defends Dove.

2012 Natasha Trethewey is appointed U.S. Poet Laureate

2013 Mark Edmundson, U VA professor, attacks the quality of contemporary poetry in Harper’s magazine.

2013 Sharon Olds wins the Pulitzer for Stag’s Leap.

2013 Don Share becomes editor of Poetry.

2013 Patricia Lockwood’s poem “Rape Joke” goes viral on social media.

2013 Paul Lewis, professor, brings Poe statue to Boston—the Jingle Man returneth.

2014 Billy Collins interviews Paul McCartney.

2014 Maya Angelou dies.

2014 Peter Gizzi publishes Selected Poems.

2015 Derek Michael Hudson is controversially published as Yi-Fen Chou in David Lehman’s Best American Poetry series, Sherman Alexie, guest editor.

2015 Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric wins multiple poetry and criticism awards, and is on New York Times bestseller list in nonfiction.

2016 Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize in Literature.

2016 Ron Padgett writes 3 poems for the film Paterson.

2016 Helen Vendler reviews Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom, editor, Ben Mazer, in NYR

2017 John Ashbery dies.

2017 William Logan, poet, and the best-know poetry reviewer in America, accuses Norton editor Jill Bialosky of plagiarism. Her book is called Poetry Will Save Your Life.

2017 Garrison Keillor, who broadcasts contemporary poems in his Writer’s Almanac, accused of sexual harassment.

2017 Jorie Graham wins the Wallace Stevens Award with a stipend of $100,000.

2017 Kevin Young becomes poetry editor of The New Yorker.

2017 Kenneth Goldsmith lives and dies by “found poem.” Autopsy of Michael Brown causes outrage.

2018 Anders Carlson-Wee apologizes for his poem in the Nation.

2019 Marilyn Chin is awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature.

2020 Ben Mazer resurrects the poems of Harry Crosby.

2020 Louise Gluck wins Nobel Prize for Literature.

2020 Don Share resigns as editor of Poetry for publishing poem by Michael Dickman.

2021 Amanda Gorman reads at Joe Biden’s inauguration.

2021 Thomas Graves, a Scarriet editor, publishes Ben Mazer and the New Romanticism.

BEN MAZER’S THE HIERARCHY OF THE PAVILIONS—A REVIEW BY THOMAS GRAVES

The Hierarchy of The Pavilions: Mazer, Ben: 9781952335129: Amazon.com: Books

Poets—like diplomats—know what not to say. There is none more reticent than the true poet.

This is all the more remarkable to say, given that a poem (unlike most persons) is a person with his whole being talking.

This is not a metaphor; if you read a letter from your lover saying they are leaving you (for instance) when you are reading that letter, that letter is your lover. A poem is a talking person. No more, no less.

If ‘a person with his whole being talking’ is what a poem really is, how is one reticent in it?

It’s impossible to be reticent in it. We can use words like “pure” and “art,” but we cannot reconcile the two truths we have just posited.

It is difficult to read an excellent book of poetry in one sitting—is one supposed to do such a thing? When I finished Ben Mazer’s The Hierarchy of the Pavilions (Madhat Press) the idea which came to me was “the inevitability of chance.”

Ben Mazer’s poetry has no rules; it does exactly what it wants, and yet it is reticent to a degree unparalleled in the history of letters.

I am a poet less skilled than Mazer; it could help if I compare myself to him, and show you, in my role as a critic and poet, how extraordinary Mazer as a poet is. Here is a poem I wrote:

WHY DIDN’T YOU LET ME LOVE YOU?

I guess it was my fault. I went off to write my poems
Inspired by you, but since I’m not a portrait painter
You didn’t think you needed to be there. In my mind
You were fine and gradually you weren’t there at all.
My poems were the last to notice; they became so good
They brought you back more real than you had been
When you were here and we laughed and sighed in our sin.
The lonely make the best poets; my desire for you
Wrote the poems; having you, did not. Simple painting
Would have solved everything. Poetry is more complex.
As for you, let me guess:
You woke up one day and realized: poets love us less.
Poetry doesn’t care that people are apart.
It’s true, Rosalinda. Poetry lives only in my heart.

I wrote this poem, obviously, with “something to say.” “Why Didn’t You Let Me Love You?” is not reticent at all. It explains its head off, and this is its weakness, in terms of art. One can see that writing a poem like this starts with a clear idea, in which one person is talking to another. Formally, the rhymes are intrusive. There is really no poetry here. It is nice talk, but that’s all it really is.

But here is Ben Mazer.

It rains. One steps up through the haze is the first poem in The Hierarchy of the Pavilions, and here it is in its entirety:

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.

Every phrase, “It rains,” every line, to the final “A change of trains at London station,” every word here—is poetry, and poetry of the highest order. It is not someone talking. It is a spell. As Philip Nikolayev says in his brilliant afterword, “We are as if beckoned to step out of whatever mental state we happen to be in—and into the rain.”

This is precisely it. We are taken out of our own “mental state” and into the poem’s—which, although it uses words, is not like the talking which goes on around us, or in our heads every day. It is a “mental state” produced by every rhythm, every sound, every shard and nerve of the poem’s language which fulfills the impossible prophecy—Ben Mazer’s poem is talking; sure, it’s a person—but it is reticent. It is art.

To quote Nikolayev again:

Identities that seem definite and self-determined are “sheer constructs,” illusions. The unfurling and dissipation of one’s identity is what constitutes one’s destiny, and Mazer’s poetry is very much a poetry of destiny. Luckily, a poet’s identity has a way of dissipating into poetry rather than into the stratosphere.

Once the abstract quest for identity has failed, we simply shake it off—as the dream and head trip and poem that it is—as we refocus our senses on something as concrete and contingent as a change of trains in a major European metropolis. The poem starts with one change of mental state and ends with another, setting the tone for the whole collection, which comprises a large percolation of mental states. The poem’s London is the London of the poet’s personal experience, but it also stands for the context of English poetry, important to him.

philip nikolayev. the hierarchy of the pavilions afterword

Ben Mazer stands at the center of English poetry—all poets of Mazer’s stature writing in English cannot help but be both American and British poets—and poets of the world as much as the best translations permit. That he is a scholar, as well, is a given—one cannot do in poetry what Mazer does in poetry without swimming in it.

The paradox of poetry without personhood I am chewing on can be illustrated by Mazer’s own words from his “The Foundations of Poetry Mathematics,” a series of metaphysical propositions, blessedly included in The Hierarchy of the Pavilions—making this volume even more indispensable:

“2.23. God gives and takes away. What He gives is poetry, what He takes away is the poet.”

The poet knows he doesn’t count—but his poetry does. This may be wrong, but it is the only way to write great poetry; or at least Mazer makes it seem so—for himself, if not the rest of us.

As a scholar, Mazer is singularly pure, just as he is in his poetry. He doesn’t divide himself; he doesn’t take sides in effusive but finally useless debates. His peerless focus on what’s important is demonstrated effortlessly by another gem from “The Foundations of Poetry Mathematics”—this assaulted my eye, lying near to its brother above:

“2.18. “Traditional” and “avant-garde” are interchangeable terms referring to formal mastery of the range of available techniques (including the not yet articulated).”

Mazer cannot be argued with—he will not argue, aesthetically, about “traditional” vs. “avant-garde” but defend both as “formal mastery,” and who but a truculent blowhard without discrimination or patience would disagree? And this is why his poetry stuns and weaves spells none can escape—he has studied and learned not to be argued with; there is no arguing with his pure poetic affect.

If this seems all too simple, well:

“2.20. The mature poet aspires to greater incomprehensibility and less complication.”

Look at this short poem, The black-gold wallpaper, which demonstrates “incomprehensibility” with “less complication,” a poem which says a great deal without really saying anything—just to briefly move in the book from what I could quote from all day (“The Foundations of Poetry Mathematics”) to the poetry:

The black-gold wallpaper,
the scarabs sealed in glass,
our beds set close apart,
how slow the hours pass,
in the great depths of night,
enclosed within the city,
I read from an old book,
with wonder and with pity.

The music is flawless.

Back to “The Foundations of Poetry Mathematics.” Here is another example of how Mazer’s paradoxical and ultimately triumphant mind works:

“2.39. Decisiveness. The same as decisions. If it is impossible to tell the number of these, literally impossible, because there are so many of them, then the poem is a job well done.”

And in this next one the impact is almost akin to hypnosis:

“2.49. Clouds do not have to be clouds. This is as simple an expression of number as I can think of.”

It’s not surprising that a mind like this will also produce, in another mood, humor, with the same singleness of purpose. Nothing stops Ben Mazer’s mind. The Hierarchy of the Pavilions features over 13 pages of something very funny, entitled, “The Magazine Review of Books.”

Ben Mazer writes pure poems “too deep for tears,” and these are almost too deep for laughter:

HELP ME OUT MAGAZINE
SAY THAT AGAIN MAGAZINE
EXCUSE ME MAGAZINE
THE WHY NOT REVIEW OF BOOKS
WANT ME MAGAZINE
ME TOO MAGAZINE
THE ME TOO REVIEW OF BOOKS
MANSTAND
THE TROUBLER
CONFLICT MAGAZINE
MARGERINE
TUNE ME OUT REVIEW OF BOOKS
MICHAEL MAGAZINE
THE HOWARD REVIEW
THE HOWARD REVIEW OF BOOKS
HOWARD MAGAZINE
JILL
BEGGAR MAGAZINE
LOOK OUT MAGAZINE
OFTEN MAGAZINE
CLAMP MAGAZINE
CLIVE REVIEW OF BOOKS
GLIMPSE MAGAZINE
MAKES NO DIFFERENCE MAGAZINE
BIG IDEAS
BOB
BEAR WITH ME REVIEW OF BOOKS

The list get increasingly crazier:

SHAKE MY BOTTLE REVIEW OF BOOKS
BRAIN POWER MAGAZINE
SECRET MEANINGS REVIEW OF BOOKS
NOT A MATTER FOR SPECULATION MAGAZINE

and crazier:

YOU MAY NOT BE GETTING IT REVIEW OF BOOKS
I TOLD YOU BUT YOU DIDN’T LISTEN MAGAZINE
I’M GIVING YOU ANOTHER CHANCE MAGAZINE
I NEVER GET PIMPLES I CAN’T BELIEVE IT MAGAZINE

and crazier:

THIS FEELS FINE I FEEL REALLY GOOD FOR SAYING ALL THIS REVIEW OF BOOKS
PLEASE DON’T HATE ME OR JUDGE ME TOO QUICKLY MAGAZINE
I’M REALLY YOUR FRIEND THAT IS IF YOU’RE NOT A MEAN PERSON REVIEW OF BOOKS

ending after 13 pages, with:

THINK IT OVER CAREFULLY THINK IT OVER CAREFULLY THINK IT OVER CAREFULLY THINK IT OVER CAREFULLY MAGAZINE
JUST LET IT COME TO YOU JUST LET IT COME TO YOU JUST LET IT COME TO YOU JUST LET IT COME TO YOU REVIEW OF BOOKS
THE ELBOW OF THE CHIN SMILES UPSIDE DOWN

I’ll close with a poem which hints at what poetry means for us:

SMOOTH AS A SILKEN BEE

Smooth as a silken bee you found that talk
came honeyed to your lips, the dropped leaflets
of cold war verse did more than just rehearse
the country gossip of another time.
First in milking, first in being read
to the old principal’s confirmed delight
till the days passed, and tall before the dean
you learned that you’d be given every chance,
so that even now you are self-chosen.
When the map wants to look you are the town.

A half a pint would get you half a poem
and one of ham and mustard get you one
so in the shuffle of the boys’ salon
under an optic tutelage by rote
you learned to put your claim upon the light,
translating it to mimicry of sound
just as you had when praying to the ground
in the morning light that knew no names for things
but that which, from the town, the father brings.
In poetry you found a foster home.

Ben Mazer is currently editing, under contract with both the Delmore Schwartz estate and Farrar Straus Giroux, the collected poems of Delmore Schwartz.

This is cause for celebration.

But I think it is tragic how few know how valuable this living poet is.

SCARRIET POETRY HOT ONE HUNDRED!

Image result for poet with a mask

AMANDA GORMAN is an “American poet and activist,” according to Wikipedia.
CATE MARVIN “THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS EVIL. Straight up evil. It’s just beyond.” –Facebook
3 LOUISE GLUCK 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature
4 JOY HARJO In her third term as Poet Laureate.
5 DON MEE CHOI DMZ Colony, Wave Books, wins 2020 National Book Award.
6 JERICHO BROWN The Tradition, Copper Canyon Press, wins 2020 Pulitzer Prize
NOOR HINDI Poem “Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying” in Dec 2020 Poetry.
8 NAOMI SHIHAB NYE Her poem “kindness” read online by Emma Thompson has 2.3 million Instagram views
9 WAYNE MILLER “When Talking About Poetry Online Goes Very Wrong” 2/8/21 essay in Lithub.
10 WILLIAM LOGAN “she speaks in the voice of a documentary narrator, approaching scenes in a hazmat suit.”
11 VICTORIA CHANG Obit Copper Canyon Press, longlist for 2020 National Book Award; also, in BAP.
12 ALAN CORDLE founder of Foetry, “most despised..most feared man in American poetry” —LA Times 2005
13 RUPI KAUR Has sold 3 million books
14 DON SHARE Resigned as Poetry editor August of 2020.
15 MARY RUEFLE Dunce, Wave Books, finalist for 2020 Pulitzer Prize
16 ANTHONY CODY Borderland Apocrypha, longlist for 2020 National Book Award
17 LILLIAN-YVONNE BERTRAM Travesty Generator, longlist for 2020 National Book Award
18 EDUARDO C. CORRAL Guillotine, longlist for 2020 National Book Award
19 PAISLEY REKDAL Poet Laureate of Utah, Guest editor for the 2020 Best American Poetry
20 DORIANNE LAUX Only As the Day is Long: New and Selected Poems, Norton, finalist for 2020 Pulitzer Prize
21 DANEZ SMITH Latest book of poems, Homie, published in 2020.
22 ILYA KAMINSKY LA Times Book Prize in 2020 for Deaf Republic.
23 RON SILLIMAN in Jan. 2021 Poetry “It merely needs to brush against the hem of your gown.”
24 FORREST GANDER Be With, New Directions, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize
25 RITA DOVE Her Penguin Twentieth-Century of American Poetry Anthology is 10 years old. Collected Poems, 2016.
26 NATALIE DIAZ Postcolonial Love Poem, longlist for 2020 National Book Award
27 TERRANCE HAYES “I love how your blackness leaves them in the dark.”
28 TIMOTHY DONNELLY The Problem of the Many, Wave Books, 2019
29 REGINALD DWAYNE BETTS In 2020 BAP
30 FRANK BIDART Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (FSG) winner, 2018 Pulitzer
31 OCEAN VUONG “this is how we loved: a knife on the tongue turning into a tongue”
32 MATTHEW ZAPRUDER Disputed Ocean Vuong’s Instagram reflections on metaphor.
33 SHARON OLDS Stag’s Leap won 2013 Pulitzer; she’s in 2020 BAP
34 HONOREE FANONNE JEFFERS The Age of Phillis, longlist for 2020 National Book Award.
35 CLAUDIA RANKINE Citizen came out in 2014.
36 HENRI COLE Blizzard, FSG, is his tenth book of poems.
37 TRACY K. SMITH In the New Yorker 10/5
38 DIANE SEUSS In the New Yorker 9/14
39 SUSHMITA GUPTA “She missed her room, her pillow, her side of the bed, her tiny bedside lamp.”
40 ANNE CARSON has translated Sappho and Euripides.
41 AL FILREIS Leads “Poem Talk” with guests on Poetry’s website
42 MARY ANGELA DOUGLAS “the larks cry out and not with music”
43 STEPHEN COLE “…the everlasting living and the longtime dead feast on the same severed, talking head.”
44 MARILYN CHIN Her New and Selected was published in 2018 (Norton).
45 KEVIN GALLAGHER Editor, poet, economist, historian has re-discovered the poet John Boyle O’Reilly.
46 DAVID LEHMAN Series Editor for Best American Poetry—founded in 1988.
47 JIM BEHRLE A thorn in the side of BAP.
48 ROBIN RICHARDSON The Canadian poet wrote recently, “I have removed myself completely from Canadian literature.”
49 PAOLA FERRANTE New editor of Minola Reivew.
50 A.E. STALLINGS Like, FSG, finalist for 2019 Pulitzer
51 TAYLOR JOHNSON Poetry Blog: “felt presence of the black crowd as we study our amongness together.”
52 PATRICA SMITH Incendiary Art, TriQuarterly/Northwestern U, finalist for 2018 Pulitzer
53 TYLER MILLS in Jan. 2021 Poetry “Gatsby is not drinking a gin rickey. Dracula not puncturing a vein.”
54 SEUNGJA CHOI in Jan. 2021 Poetry “Dog autumn attacks. Syphilis autumn.”
55 ATTICUS “It was her chaos that made her beautiful.”
56 JAMES LONGENBACH Essay in Jan. 2021 Poetry, wonders: would Galileo have been jailed were his claims in verse?
57 DAN SOCIU Hit 3 home runs for the Paris Goths in Scarriet’s 2020 World Baseball League.
58 PHILIP NIKOLAYEV Editor of Fulcrum and “14 International Younger Poets” issue from Art and Letters.
59 SUSMIT PANDA “Time walked barefoot; the clock gave it heels.”
60 BRIAN RIHLMANN Poet of working-class honesty.
61 TYREE DAYE in the New Yorker 1/18/21
62 JANE WONG in Dec. 2020 Poetry “My grandmother said it was going to be long—“
63 ALAN SHAPIRO Reel to Reel, University of Chicago Press, finalist for 2015 Pulitzer
64 PIPPA LITTLE in Dec. 2020 Poetry “I knew the names of stones at the river mouth”
65 PATRICK STEWART Read Shakespeare’s Sonnets online to millions of views.
66 STEVEN CRAMER sixth book of poems, Listen, published in 2020.
67 HIEU MINH NGUYEN In 2020 BAP
68 BEN MAZER New book on Harry Crosby. New book of poems. Unearthing poems by Delmore Schwartz for FSG.
69 KEVIN YOUNG Poetry editor of the New Yorker
70 BILLY COLLINS Poet Laureate of the U.S. 2001 to 2003
71 ARIANA REINES In 2020 BAP
72 VALERIE MACON fired as North Carolina poet laureate—when it was found she lacked publishing credentials.
73 ANDERS CARLSON-WEE Nation magazine published, then apologized, for his poem, “How-To,” in 2018.
74 DANA GIOIA 99 Poems: New and Selected published in 2016. His famous Can Poetry Matter? came out in 1992.
75 YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA In 2020 BAP
76 MARJORIE PERLOFF published Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire in 2016.
77 HELEN VENDLER her The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar: Essays on Poets and Poetry came out in 2015.
78 MEI-MEI BERSSENBRUGGE A Treatise On Stars, longlist for 2020 National Book Award—her 13th book.
79 GEORGE BILGERE  Belongs to the Billy Collins school. Lives in Cleveland.
80 CAROLYN FORCHE 2020 saw the publication of her book In the Lateness of the World: Poems from Penguin.
81 BOB DYLAN “Shall I leave them by your gate? Or sad-eyed lady, should I wait?”
82 RICHARD HOWARD  has translated Baudelaire, de Beauvoir, Breton, Foucault, Camus and Gide.
83 GLYN MAXWELL The playwright/poet’s mother acted in the original Under Milk Wood on Broadway in 1956.
84 KAVEH AKBAR published in Best New Poets
85 D.A. POWELL The poet has received a Paul Engle Fellowship.
86 JOHN YAU In 2020 BAP
87 DAIPAYAN NAIR “Hold me tight. Bones are my immortality…”
88 ANDREEA IULIA SCRIDON in 14 International Younger Poets from Art and Letters.
89 LORI GOMEZ Sassy and sensual internet poet—Romantic who uses F-bombs.
90 JORIE GRAHAM In 2020 BAP
91 SIMON ARMITAGE In the New Yorker 9/28
92 TOMMYE BLOUNT Fantasia for the Man in Blue, longlist for 2020 National Book Award.
93 TYLER KNOTT GREGSON on Twitter: “let us sign/our names/ in the/emptiness”
94 STEPHANIE BURT Close Calls With Nonsense: Reading New Poetry published in 2009
95 WILLIE LEE KINARD III in Jan. 2021 Poetry “The lesbians that lived in the apartment to the left…”
96 MICHAEL DICKMAN His poem about his grandmother in 2020 July/August Poetry was controversial.
97 FATIMAH ASGHAR published in Best New Poets
98 RICK BAROT The Galleons, Milkweed Editions, on longlist for 2020 National Book Award and excerpted in BAP 2020
99 DERRICK MICHAEL HUDSON had his 15 minutes of fame in Best American Poetry 2015.
100 JEAN VALENTINE (d. 12/30/20) in New Yorker 1/18/21

ROUND TWO GAME SEVEN

Poet, author Maya Angelou dies at 86 – East Bay Times
Maya Angelou—her hit wins it for the Universe

The Universe defeats the Banners 10-6 in a wild game capped with a grand slam by Maya Angelou, as Phoenix advances to the World Series against the Dublin Laureates. Home plate umpire Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the starting pitcher for the Florence Banners, Dante Alighieri, were at odds from the start. Dante bitterly said after the game: “The honorable judge does not know the strike zone.” Dante likes to work the inside of the plate, and he plunks the occasional hitter. Dante put Bob Dylan on his back in the first inning. With Ruth Ginsburg calling inside pitches for balls, as the game progressed, Dante became increasingly livid. But his downfall came when he was on offense. First base umpire E.O. Wilson ejected Dante in the fifth inning, following a scuffle involving many players, including Angelou, the Universe’s catcher. Dante, as the base runner, became tangled up with Universe first baseman Anthony Hecht, as Dante tried to beat out a slow roller to the mound, the ball picked up by Universe starting pitcher Raymond Carver. Dante complained Hecht interfered with his base running, and Hecht objected just as vociferously that the opposite was true. “Why did they throw Dante out of the game, and not Hecht? They say Dante put his hands on [umpire] Wilson, but that’s not true,” Desiderius Erasmus told the press after the game, “but we accept the loss. We congratulate the Universe.” The hitting of Henrik Ibsen and Chuck Berry gave the Universe a 6-3 lead after five complete innings, but in the top of the sixth, Dante Gabriel Rossetti singled, Ben Mazer doubled him over to third, and Guido Cavalcanti homered to tie the game, 6-6. Marge Piercy relieved Carver for the Universe and kept the Banners in check, until she handed the ball over to Jean Cocteau, who earned the win—his third win of the playoffs, with a 0.00 ERA. Meanwhile, Giovanni Boccaccio, relief pitcher for the Banners, began the ninth inning, with the game tied, 6-6, and walked three straight hitters—Delmore Schwartz, Philip Levine, and Larry Levis. Desiderius Erasmus, the manager of the Banners, was thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Ginsburg as he disputed her calls. Pope Leo X, the pitching coach of the Banners, relieved Boccaccio and inserted Sandro Botticelli, who fanned Yusef Komunyakaa and Chuck Berry. With the crowd roaring, and the count 3-2, Maya Angelou advanced the Phoenix Universe into the World Series against the Dublin Laureates with a tremendous home run to left center field.

MORE ROUND TWO RESULTS

My inaugural Dylan concert: It was Bob being Bob . . . with a little  swagger and prancing - The Vinyl Dialogues Blog
Bob Dylan leads Universe to Game 4 victory

UNIVERSE 8 BANNERS 5

The Florence Banners again found themselves in the middle of controversy as Percy Shelley lost control of his temper, and round two game four, when calls did not go his way from home plate umpire Richard P. Feynman. “When an umpire takes away a portion of the strike zone which rightly belongs to the pitcher, he’s altering the outcome of the game in favor of the other team,” is how Shelley put it to the press after the Florence Banners lost to the Phoenix Universe. The home crowd in Italy came to see Shelley tie up the series, 2-2. Instead, a big home run late by Bob Dylan propelled the Universe to an 8-5 victory, and a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. The Banners knocked out the Universe starter, Lucian Freud early, as Christina Rossetti continued her exceptional hitting in the playoffs with a 3 run double in the third. Glyn Maxwell, the Banners back up catcher, homered after Thomas Moore doubled in the fourth, giving Florence a 5-0 lead. But Shelley began to question calls in the top of the fifth, as he walked three straight hitters. Henrik Ibsen then hit a ball off the wall to score two—and red hot Delmore Schwartz slammed another home run to tie the score. Czeslaw Milosz, Edward Said, Michel Foucault, and Jean Cocteau came out of the Phoenix bullpen to keep the Banners scoreless.

BANNERS 3 UNIVERSE 2

Virgil wins his 3rd playoff game in 3 starts as he out-duels Martin Luther King Jr 3-2, in Florence, keeping the Banners alive. King struck out 11 in the loss, while Virgil fanned 12, walking none. With the game tied at 2, Stefan George, the Banners catcher, picked up his second game winning hit of the series, homering down the left field line in the 8th. Virgil struggled a bit in the ninth as Chuck Berry singled, but Berry was thrown out trying to steal by George, and after Bob Dylan singled, Virgil struck out Juvenal on a high fastball for his third complete game win in the post-season. Christina Rossetti singled, went to the third on a bad pick off attempt, and then came home on Friedrich Schiller’s home run, as the Banners jumped off to a 2-0 lead in the first. Anthony Hecht took Virgil deep in the third, making it 2-1, and then singled in Paul Celan in the sixth to tie the score.

BANNERS 5 UNIVERSE 1

Leonardo da Vinci struck out 14 hitters as the series returns to Phoenix, as the Banners force a game 7, with a 5-1 victory over Harriet Beecher Stowe and Steven Spielberg’s Universe. da Vinci also homered and began a 1-4-3 double play when Paul Celan tried to bunt a runner over for the Universe in the second. Lorenzo de Medici’s Banners, the Wild Card team from the Glorious Division, knocked off Ben Franklin’s Boston Secrets in 7 games—winning game seven as the visiting team. Florence is now in a game 7, played tomorrow in Phoenix—and Dante Alighieri hopes to complete the Banners’ comeback. The winner tomorrow enters the World Series against the Dublin Laureates. Singles by Juvenal, Alice Walker, and Galway Kinnell produced the only Universe run. Thomas Wyatt and Ben Mazer knocked in 2 runs apiece for the big Florence win. The Universe will call on Raymond Carver to stop the Banners. Carver has pitched well in his two post-season starts but has received no run support—the Universe were blanked both times. The Universe were the visiting club when they beat Wolfgang Mozart to eliminate Philip II’s Madrid Crusaders in six games.

PLAYOFFS, ROUND TWO

Erasmus of Rotterdam - Quotes, Books & Facts - Biography
Erasmus, manager of the Florence Banners, ejected for questioning the umpire in game one

UNIVERSE 7 BANNERS 5

As the Dublin Laureates wait in the wings to play the winner, the best of 7 series opens in Phoenix, Arizona as the Modern Division winner, Steven Spielberg’s Universe, who knocked off the Madrid Crusaders, takes on the Wild Card Florence Banners of the Glorious Division, who eliminated the Boston Secrets. Martin Luther King, jr gets the win as the Universe prevail, 7-5. Delmore Schwartz, an offensive force for the Universe against the Crusaders in Round One, hit a 3 run homer against Leonardo da Vinci with the Universe trailing 5-4 in the 7th inning. Galway Kinnell and Paul Celan singled with two outs before Delmore’s game winner. Leonardo da Vinci said he “had no idea where the strike zone was” because of the way home plate umpire, Anthony Fauci, called balls and strikes. Fauci tossed the Banners manager, Desiderius Erasmus, in the fourth inning, for questioning calls. Ben Mazer led the Florence Banners attack in the losing effort, with two doubles, a triple, and a stolen base. John Keats homered for Florence.

UNIVERSE 6 BANNERS 5

The Universe wins again, in Phoenix. Harriet Beecher Stowe, who beat Beethoven twice in Round One, struck out four and walked none, as she held Florence to 3 runs through 7 innings, running her record to 3-0 in the playoffs. Marsilio Ficino started for the Banners and took the loss. Christina Rossetti continued her hot hitting for Florence—with the score 6-3 in the top of the ninth, she doubled in two runs to make it 6-5. Jean Cocteau, who has been invaluable for the Universe out of the bullpen, got the final out for the save, walking John Keats and then striking out Friedrich Schiller. Ficino and Thomas Moore both homered in the second to give the Banners a brief 2-0 lead. Stephen Dobyns singled in two in the bottom of the second to tie the score. In the third, Juvenal doubled in Chuck Berry and Maya Angelou, and one out later, scored on a sacrifice fly, as Phoenix took the lead for good.

BANNERS 1 UNIVERSE 0

Dante Alighieri fans six and walks none as he tosses a 5 hit shutout as the series moves to Florence, the Banners winning Game 3 by a score of 1-0. The Banners catcher, Stefan George, slapped a single through a drawn-in infield to score John Keats, for the game’s only run. Raymond Carver struck out 11 in taking the loss—almost pitching well enough to give Phoenix a commanding lead in the series. Paul Celan was 3-3, and a walk, and also made several outstanding plays from his short stop position for the Universe. The Banners’ pitching is why they are favored to win this series, and Dante, who threw inside often—which Florence, with their intimidating pitching staff likes to do—stepped up for the Banners. Percy Shelley, 23-8, 2.78 during the regular season, will attempt to tie up the series for the Banners tomorrow. Universe manager Billy Beane will counter with lefty Lucian Freud—who joined Steven Spielberg’s club mid-season, along with MLK Jr and Raymond Carver.

GAME SEVEN RESULT

Moscow book fair brings out Pushkin fans, lockdown-weary - ABC News
Alexander Pushkin, no. 3 starter for the Boston Secrets

John Keats hit a grand slam in the 8th inning to break a 2-2 tie, as the Florence Banners defeat the Boston Secrets 7-2 in the seventh game of their series, in Boston.

The Florence Banners advance with 2 other teams to the second round, as the only Wild Card Team from the 5 divisions. The Banners won 89 games during the regular season, finishing 2 games back from the 2nd seed Dublin Laureates, who also advanced, defeating the LA Gamers in 6 games. The Banners will now take on the Phoenix Universe, who took 6 games to beat the 3rd seed Madrid Crusaders, the team owned by Philip II of Spain, whose fortunes rose with the mid-season acquisitions of Beethoven and Mozart. The Universe won 82 games in their season, edging out John D. Rockefeller’s Chicago Buyers in the Modern Division. If the Banners beat the Universe—and they are favored, despite being a Wild Card team—the World Series will feature two Glorious Division teams—the Laureates from Dublin and the Banners from Florence. The Secrets, with the best record in the league (95 wins) could not beat Virgil (in games 3 and 7) and that was the difference.

Game 7 in Boston was a re-match of Game 3 in Florence, between starters Virgil and Pushkin, whose records during the regular season are similar: Virgil 19-11, 3.01, 280 K, 4 Shutouts, Pushkin 19-5, 3.61, 328 K, 5 Shutouts. Pushkin was all too happy to play for Ben Franklin, owner, and George Washington, manager of the Boston Secrets—who some have called, “America’s team,” with their “Founding Father” bullpen; their “Republic” author, Plato, and Edgar Allan Poe as top pitchers; and Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, gracing their starting lineup. The complex negotiations of a world poetry league, put together by Muse Inc., favored the English-speaking lands. It was rumored Edgar Poe convinced Pushkin to join the Secrets, but Pushkin said “No one had to convince me. Russia and the United States grew up as nations together in my beloved 19th Century. Poe did tell me something about the British Empire and how their “free trade” wasn’t really “free trade.” I knew what he meant. I will always love the United States.”

Pushkin homered and fanned 15 in the loss. Washington refused to take Pushkin out in the 8th, with the bases loaded. Virgil reached on a bloop single, Ben Mazer walked, and Christina Rossetti beat out an infield hit, for her 15th hit of the series, bringing John Keats to the plate. With Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton warming in the bullpen, pitching coach Clarence Thomas checked on Pushkin, who said he was fine. John Keats has made no secret of the fact that he wanted to play for the Secrets. Shelley wanted to, as well. Both poets preferred America even to England. But Dante, Cavalcanti, Ficino, and Boccaccio told Banners’ owner Lorenzo de Medici they would not play unless he signed both Keats and Shelley. Shelley convinced Keats the Banners would be a great team and bestow great honor. What must Keats have been thinking, when he stepped to the plate against Pushkin and the Secrets in that crucial moment? It would be silly to speculate. Keats reached for a 1-2 curve just off the plate and poked it down the line for an opposite-field home run, breaking the tie in Game 7, bringing glory to the Florence Banners. Paul Simon, the Secrets right-fielder, had the ball in his glove as he smashed against the fence, and made the claim that a fan (a visitor from Florence?) somehow knocked the ball out of his hand for a home run, but replay evidence was inconclusive. The controversy stopped play for half an hour.

With the score 6-2, Friedrich Schiller added a run for the Banners, smashing a home run off Thomas Jefferson in the top of the ninth, to make it, 7-2, and Erasmus, Florence’s manager, stayed with Virgil in the ninth—who ended up with 16 strike outs, and a marvelous series for the Banners. Stephen Cole began the Secrets 9th inning with a double, just missing a home run off the top of the wall, but Virgil quickly retired the next 3 hitters. Virgil was in total command throughout the game.

The second round of the playoffs begins with Steven Spielberg’s Universe hosting the Banners in Phoenix. Leonardo da Vinci (14-11 3.44 229 K 5 SO) will pitch for the Florence Banners against Martin Luther King Jr (11-7 3.99 156 K 1 SO) of the Phoenix Universe. The Dublin Laureates, as the top seeded team remaining, will play the winner of the best-of-seven contest between the Universe and the Banners—for the top prize.

GAME THREE RESULTS

Virgil - Wikipedia
VIRGIL WINS FOR THE BANNERS AS THEY GO UP 2-1 IN THE SERIES

BANNERS 5 SECRETS 2

It was a match-up of 19 game winners—Pushkin, with 5 shut outs and 328 strikeouts versus Virgil, with 4 shut outs and 280 strikeouts. Their clubs split the first two games in Boston, and now in Florence, game three was a must-win for both teams—the Banners may be the Wild Card team, but the Banners and Secrets probably have the two best pitching staffs in the game. Virgil brought his stuff and Pushkin didn’t. Virgil made a statement, striking out the side in the first inning. In the home half of the inning, Ben Mazer hit Pushkin’s first offering for a home run. (Mazer had 13 during the regular season). That set the tone, and Florence (with their fans making a lot of noise) never looked back, as Virgil finished with 18 strikeouts and a complete game 5-2 victory. Christina Rossetti and Friedrich Schiller added homers for the Banners, and Cole Porter, the hottest hitter on the Secrets right now, accounted for both of their runs. Boston will try and even the series tomorrow as Moliere goes against Leonardo da Vinci.

GAMERS 17 LAUREATES 1

The Gamers get their first playoff win, after dropping the first two in Dublin. They win big, as John Betjeman and Joe Green each slam 2 homers, with Charlie Chaplin notching the win—fanning 18 Laureates. Betjeman and Green each had 7 RBIs, and Dorothy Parker of the Gamers added 3 more. John Townsend Trowbridge doubled and scored on a single by Charles Dickens, for the visitors’ only run. The Dublin Laureates, looking to go up 3-0 in the series, sent Robert Louis Stevenson to the hill, who had a nifty 14-6 record during the regular season. But his fastball was kidnapped by Betjeman and Green, as Game Three was a treasure island in Los Angeles for the Gamers, who hope to tie the series with Woody Allen; he will face Samuel Johnson.

CRUSADERS 3 UNIVERSE 0

The “religious team,” the Madrid Crusaders, stop the Universe in Phoenix behind Thomas Aquinas, 3-0. Aquinas, 10-15 during the regular season with a 3.79 ERA, was hurt in late August—he was declared healthy just in time for the playoffs. Madrid’s starter fanned two and walked none, scattering eight hits as he went the distance. Raymond Carver, 12-8 with a 3.28 ERA, had a streak from late July into early September when the Universe won 11 out of 12 games he started. He pitched well enough for the Universe to go up 2-1 in the series, but Mary Angela Douglas took him deep twice. She made the difference offensively, and also was part of a nifty double play in the 7th, when the Universe threatened to score. Aquinas came off the mound, fielded a weak grounder, got the runner at second, and Douglas made an unexpected throw to Bradstreet at third to catch Galway Kinnell off the bag for the double play. Martin Luther King starts tomorrow for the home team against the Crusaders’ George Handel, who owns a 20-5 record.

GAME ONE RESULTS

Unsealing the confessional - Letters - TLS

Gerard Manley Hopkins. The soul of Madrid’s Crusaders?

Banners 4 Secrets 1  Game One in Boston.

John Keats hit a 3 run homer in top of the 11th inning on a 3-2 Thomas Jefferson fastball, as the Wild Card Banners drew first blood.  Dante, four strikeouts, and Poe, six strikeouts, both lasted into the ninth, 0-0.  Christina Rossetti singled in Ben Mazer off current Secrets closer Alexander Hamilton to give the Banners a 1-0 lead. Emily Dickinson knocked in Cole Porter off the Banners’ closer Boccaccio in the bottom of the ninth, to tie things 1-1 and send the game into extra innings. Sandro Botticelli pitched a scoreless 10th and 11th inning to get the win.  Florence is up 1-0!

Laureates 9 Gamers 4  Game One in Dublin.

Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas homered, and Sara Teasdale went 3-4 with 3 runs and 2 stolen bases, as the Laureates chased Lewis Carroll in the fourth inning on the way to an easy 9-4 victory.  Ionesco and Billy Collins hit back to back homers for the Gamers in the 8th and Noel Coward tripled in two in the 9th, but it was too little, too late, as Jonathan Swift allowed 3 hits and fanned five in 7 innings of work. JD Salinger and Livy finished up for Dublin.  Laureates win game one at home.

Universe 6 Crusaders 5  Game One in Madrid.

Beethoven falls to Spielberg’s Universe in Madrid, as an error by Gerard Manley Hopkins in center allows 3 runs to score in the first inning. Hopkins hit a 2 run homer in the 7th and Joyce Kilmer sliced a bases loaded double to make it a 5 run inning, as the Crusaders went up 5-4. But in the top of the 8th, Bishop Berkeley relieved Beethoven with one on and yielded a 2 run homer to Chuck Berry. Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was near-perfect except for the wild 7th inning, stayed in the game, finished strong, and earned the win, as Jean Cocteau retired the final batter for the save, with Mary Angela Douglas waiting to score on second base.  A narrow victory for the Universe, as they go up 1-0 in the series.

The Press Conferences

George Washington, manager, Secrets

Press: Mr. President, were the Secrets distracted by the controversial poem, “Blacks Matter,” which your left fielder Kanye West recited to a crowd outside the park before the game?

Washington: No. Poe wasn’t distracted. Look at how he pitched.

Press: But you lost the game.

Washington: My players aren’t distracted by poetry.

~~

Erasmus, manager, Banners

Press: Keats only had two home runs through May. Why wasn’t he hitting home runs earlier?

Erasmus: He wasn’t eating his Wheaties. (smiles)

Press: How do you feel about this win, beating Poe and the Secrets in Boston?

Erasmus: Winning has nothing to do with feelings. Dante pitched with expertise. My team has faith in expertise.

~~

Bob Hope, manager, Gamers

Press: Charles Dickens help beat you with a big home run today. Why are some of your players saying, Charles Dickens is not a poet?

Hope: If it’s not poetry, it hits pretty good.  Look, we don’t get to say what poetry is. I tell my players, just have fun. And win.

Press: The Dublin fans were yelling insensitive things at Lewis Carroll today. Did they get under his skin?

Hope: We’re not playing the Dublin fans. The Laureates are a good team. We know what we have to do.

~~

Cervantes, manager, Crusaders

Press: Tough loss. Do you regret taking Beethoven out of the game? He clearly didn’t want to leave.

Cervantes: I’m the manager.

Press: But Beethoven was still throwing hard—

Cervantes: I am the manager.

~~

Billy Beane, manager, Universe

Press: It proved to be the right move, but why did you stay with Harriet Beecher Stowe in that five run seventh?

Beane: Because it was the right move.

Press: You’re a baseball guy, not a poet. Does that feel strange?

Beane: Spielberg told me it would feel strange. It does feel strange. But I understand in poetry, strange is good.

~~~

Game Two Matchups

BANNERS AT SECRETS

Florence Banners Game Two Starter: Percy Shelley

1. Ben Mazer CF .272
2. Christina Rossetti LF .281
3. John Keats 2B .279
4. Friedrich Schiller 1B .254
5. Thomas Wyatt RF .299
6. Thomas Moore SS .291
7. Guido Cavalcanti 3B .271
8. Stefan George C .269
9. Percy Shelley P 23-8 2.78

Boston Secrets Game Two Starter: Plato

1. Nathaniel Hawthorne CF .273
2. Cole Porter 1B .297
3. Emily Dickinson C .278
4. Kanye West LF .267
5. Robert Frost SS .275
6. Carl Sandburg 3B .295
7. Paul Simon RF .270
8. Woody Guthrie 2B ,265
9. Plato P 25-8 2.21

~~

GAMERS AT LAUREATES

LA Gamers Game Two Starter: Democritus

1. Noel Coward SS .317
2. John Betjeman CF .325
3. Billy Collins LF .284
4. Eugene Ionesco C .279
5. Dorothy Parker 2B .282
6. Joe Green 3B .261
7. Ernest Thayer 1B .250
8. James Whitcomb Riley 3B .238
9. Democritus P 13-13 4.88

Dublin Laureates Game Two Starter: Blaise Pascal

1. Sarah Teasdale 2B .313
2. Oliver Goldsmith CF .275
3. Alexandre Dumas LF .338
4. Charles Dickens 1B .359
5. Aphra Behn RF .262
6. Mirza Ghalib 3B .254
7. John Boyle O’Reilly C .277
8. JK Rowling SS .228
9. Blaise Pascal P 11-10 4.67

~~

UNIVERSE AT CRUSADERS

Phoenix Universe Game Two Starter: Lucien Freud

1. Chuck Berry 3B .377
2. Maya Angelou C .316
3. Bob Dylan 2B .252
4. Decimus Juvenal RF .260
5. Paul Celan SS .249
6. Delmore Schwartz CF .247
7. Yusef Komunyakaa LF .224
8. Steven Dobyns 1B .230
9. Lucien Freud P 7-6 4.49

Madrid Crusaders Game Two Starter: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1. Gerard Manley Hopkins CF .281
2. Phillis Wheatley LF .252
3. Anne Bradstreet 3B .373
4. Aeschylus CF .253
5. Saint Ephrem SS
6. Joyce Kilmer RF .265
7. Countee Cullen 1B .245
8. Francisco Balagtas C .233
9. Mozart P 12-4 3.77

 

 

THE PLAYOFFS

Sir Noel Coward (1899-1973) - Find A Grave Memorial

Noel Coward, the Gamers shortstop, relaxing before Game One in Dublin against the Laureates.

Welcome to the first game of the Scarriet Poetry Baseball Playoffs, and Boston, Massachusetts, home of the Society Division champions, Ben Franklin’s Secrets, managed by George Washington, with the best record in the league. The Secrets take on the Florence Banners, the Wild Card Team who finished second in the Glorious Division with a solid 89 and 65 record, in a best of seven series, two in Boston, three in Florence, two in Boston (if necessary).

Here are the line ups and starters for the first game in Boston.

Florence Banners
Motto: “The One remains, the many change and pass.”
Owner Lorenze de Medici, Manager Desi Erasmus, Pitching Coach Pope Leo X
Game One Starter: Dante Alighieri

1. Ben Mazer CF .272
2. Christina Rossetti LF .281
3. John Keats 2B .279
4. Friedrich Schiller 1B .254
5. Guido Cavalcanti 3B .271
6. Thomas Moore SS .291
7. DG Rossetti RF .280
8. Glyn Maxwell C .246
9. Dante Alighieri P 17-12 3.39

Boston Secrets
Motto: “We come in the age’s most uncertain hour and sing an American tune.”
Owner B Franklin, Manager G Washington, Pitching Coach Clarence Thomas
Game One Starter: Edgar Allan Poe

1. Nathaniel Hawthorne CF .273
2. Cole Porter 1B .297
3. Emily Dickinson C .278
4. Woody Guthrie 2B .265
5. Robert Frost SS .275
6. Carl Sandburg 3B .295
7. Paul Simon RF .270
8. Kanye West LF .267
9. Edgar Allan Poe P 14-12 3.10

~~~

Here are the other two Playoff games, and lineups:

Welcome to Dublin, Ireland, where the Glorious Division champs host the Peoples Division champs, the LA Gamers!

LA Gamers
Motto: “He thought he saw an elephant that practiced on a fife.”
Owner Merv Griffin, Manager Bob Hope, Pitching Coach Lorne Michaels
Game One Starter: Lewis Carroll

1. Noel Coward SS .317
2. John Betjeman CF .325
3. Billy Collins LF .284
4. Eugene Ionesco C .279
5. Thomas Hood 2B .272
6. Joe Green 3B .261
7. Tristan Tzara 1B .267
8. Ogden Nash 3B .268
9. Lewis Carroll P 17-13 3.04 ERA

Dublin Laureates
Motto: “Luck is bestowed even on those who don’t have hands.”
Owner Nahum Tate, Manager Ronald Reagan, Pitching Coach Arthur Guinness
Game One Starter: Jonathan Swift

1. Sarah Teasdale 2B .313
2. Oliver Goldsmith CF .275
3. Alexandre Dumas LF .338
4. Charles Dickens 1B .359
5. Aphra Behn RF .262
6. Mirza Ghalib 3B .254
7. Boris Pasternak C .242
8. JK Rowling SS .228
9. Jonathan Swift P 22-5 2.80 ERA

~~

Welcome to Spain, where the Madrid Crusaders, champions of the Emperor Division host the Phoenix Universe, the Modern Division champs, in game one of the first round of the playoffs.

Phoenix Universe
Motto: “I know why the caged bird sings”
Owner Steven Spielberg, Manager Billy Beane, Pitching Coach Tom Hanks
Game One Starter: Harriet Beecher Stowe

1. Chuck Berry 3B .377
2. Maya Angelou C .316
3. Bob Dylan 2B .252
4. Decimus Juvenal RF .260
5. Paul Celan SS .249
6. Delmore Schwartz CF .247
7. Philip Levine LF .231
8. Anthony Hecht 1B .229
9. Harriet Beecher Stowe P 14-15 2.83

Madrid Crusaders
Motto: “If in my thought I have magnified the Father above the Son, let Him have no mercy on me.”
Owner Philip II, Manager Miguel Cervantes, Pitching Coach Christopher Columbus
Game One Starter: Ludwig Van Beethoven

1. Gerard Manley Hopkins CF .281
2. Hilaire Belloc C .280
3. Anne Bradstreet 3B .373
4. Aeschylus CF .253
5. Mary Angela Douglas SS .300
6. Joyce Kilmer RF .265
7. Phillis Wheatley LF .252
8. Countee Cullen 1B .245
9. Beethoven P 14-5 2.22

And away we go!

 

 

SCARRIET POETRY BASEBALL STATS

Amazon.com: Woody Allen wearing a baseball uniform Photo Print (24 ...

The first place LA Gamers were in last place when they signed Woody Allen (7-2).

WINS

Rimini Broadcasters  Owner, Fellini, Manager Claudius, Motto, “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.”  50-62, Fifth

Maurice Ravel 4-1
Samuel Coleridge 8-6
George Orwell 10-7
Jacques Lacan 6-5
Vladimir Nabokov 9-15
Giacomo Leopardi 6-10
Paul Valery 3-7
Alfred Hitchcock 1-5

Corsica Codes Owner, Napoleon Bonaparte, Manager, Alexander the Great, Motto “Let the more loving one be me” 57-55 Second

William Logan 3-1
Homer 13-6
Hegel 13-7
Kant 8-9
Balzac 8-11
Cicero 7-11
Hesiod 3-7
Edmund Wilson 2-3
Wislawa Szymborska 0-0

Madrid Crusaders  Owner, Philip II of Spain, Manager Christopher Columbus, Motto “If in my thought I have magnified the Father above the Son, let Him have no mercy on me.” 57-55 Second

Beethoven 9-2
Handel 14-4
Mozart 5-4
Thomas Aquinas 9-13
GK Chesterton 4-5
St. John of the Cross 4-5
George Berkeley 5-7
Plotinus 3-7
Scarlatti 2-2
Joan of Arc 1-0
Tolkien 1-2
Lisieux 0-3

Paris Goths Owner, Charles X, Manager, Arthur Schopenhauer, Motto “Every great enterprise takes its first step in faith.” 60-52 First

Francois Chateaubriand 16-7
Oscar Wilde 13-6
Johann Goethe 12-8
Goya 7-8
Thomas de Quincey 2-0
AW Schlegel 3-4
Gautier 2-4
Dostoevsky 1-1
Camille Paglia 0-2
Baudelaire 3-13

Rome Ceilings  Owner, Pope Julius II, Manager Cardinal Richelieu, Motto “They also serve who only stand and wait.” 60-52 First

GE Lessing 6-3
John Milton 12-7
Ludovico Ariosto 12-8
JS Bach 10-7
Augustine 10-9
John Dryden 8-10
Octavio Paz 1-1
George Gascoigne 1-4
Vivaldi 0-1

Berlin Pistols  Owner, Eva Braun, Manager Randolph Churchill, Motto “A life subdued to its instrument.” 49-63 Fifth

TS Eliot 12-10
William James 11-9
Richard Wagner 7-5
Rufus Griswold 4-3
George Santayana 4-9
Ezra Pound 3-4
Ernest Hemingway 3-8
Horace Greeley 3-6
Hugh Kenner 1-2
Wyndham Lewis 1-6

London Carriages  Owner, Queen Victoria, Manager, Prince Albert, Motto “Ours but to do and die.” 57-55 Third

Andrew Marvell 13-7
Henry James 11-10
Virginia Woolf 11-11
William Hazlitt 9-13
Charles Lamb 3-1
Descartes 3-2
Charlotte Bronte 3-2
Jeremy Bentham 3-9

Florence Banners Owner, Lorenzo de Medici, Manager, Erasmus, Motto “The One remains, the many change and pass.” 60-52 Second

Percy Shelley 15-7
Virgil 13-8
Leonardo da Vinci 10-8
Dante 11-10
Marsilio Ficino 2-1
Boccaccio 5-6
Sandro Botticelli 2-4
William Rossetti 1-3
Bronzino 0-2

The Devon Sun  Owner, PM Lord Russell, Manager, Winston Churchill, Motto “A good indignation brings out all one’s powers.” 51-61 Fourth

John Ruskin 7-3
Bertrand Russell 7-3
Aldous Huxley 11-9
Ralph Emerson 10-12
JS Mill 6-9
Thomas Carlyle 8-15
Henry Thoreau 2-6
Christopher Ricks 0-3

Dublin Laureates Owner, Nahum Tate, Manager, President Ronald Reagan, Motto “Luck is bestowed even on those who don’t have hands.” 64-48 First

Jonathan Swift 16-3
Livy 10-5
Pascal 6-2
Robert Louis Stevenson 9-3
Samuel Johnson 8-8
JD Salinger 2-1
Dana Gioia 2-1
Hans Christian Anderson 1-0
Robert Boyle 4-5
Thomas Peacock 2-7
Edmund Burke 3-9
Arthur Conan Doyle 0-0

Westport Actors  Owner, Harvey Weinstein, Manager, Johnny Depp, Motto “I am no hackney for your rod.” 48-64 Fourth

Chaucer 11-7
Petronius 10-10
Sade 8-8
George Byron 7-7
Norman Mailer 4-7
Richard Rorty 2-3
Henry Beecher 3-7
Andre Gide 1-4
Flaubert 0-6
Hugh Hefner 0-0
Erich Fromm 0-0

Virginia Strangers  Owner, David Lynch, Manager, Bram Stoker, Motto “So still is day, it seems like night profound.” 43-69 Fifth

Alexander Pope 11-9
HP Lovecraft 5-3
Franz Kafka 5-5
Robert Bloch 2-2
Friedrich Nietzsche 7-12
Salvador Dali 3-7
Samuel Beckett 3-9
Shirley Jackson 2-5
Albert Camus 2-11
Philip K Dick 1-3
Luis Bunuel 0-2
Antonin Artaud 0-3
Jean-Luc Godard 0-0

Connecticut Animals  Owner, PT Barnum, Manager, Walt Disney, Motto “Majesty and love are incompatible.” 60-52 Second

Amy Lowell 16-4
Jules Verne 14-9
Ovid 13-8
A.A. Milne 5-4
Melville 7-15
Robert Bly 2-5
Jose y Ortega Gasset 2-0
Gerard de Nerval 1-6
Christopher Hitchens 0-0

The New York War Owner, JP Morgan, Manager, Machiavelli, Motto “The fire-eyed maid of smoky war all hot and bleeding will we offer them.” 60-52 Second

Jack London 5-1
Erich Remarque 15-8
Walter Scott 12-6
William Shakespeare 11-7
Julius Caesar 4-4
Giordano Bruno 2-2
David Hume 9-13
Edward Gibbon 1-4
Richard Aldington 1-6

Boston Secrets Owner, Ben Franklin, Manager, George Washington Motto “We come in the age’s most uncertain hour and sing an American tune.” 71-41 First

Plato 18-6 -leads league
Pushkin 13-4
Edgar Poe 11-8
Moliere 10-9
Thomas Jefferson 5-1
James Monroe 4-2
James Madison 2-1
F Scott Fitzgerald 2-2
Alexander Hamilton 1-1
F Scott Key 4-7

Kolkata Cobras Owner, Satyajit Ray, Manager Rupi Kaur, Motto “Is it true that your love traveled alone through ages and worlds in search of me?” 58-54 Second

Gandhi 14-10
Rumi 13-8
Rabindranith Tagore 13-12
Hermann Hesse 8-10
Kabir Das 4-5
Nissim Ezekiel 2-0
Raja Rao 1-0
Faiz A Faiz 1-1
Krishnamurti 1-1
Kannada 1-2
Ramavtar Sarma 1-2
Acharya Shivapujan Sahay 0-1
Hoshang Merchant 0-1
Suryakant Tripathi 0-0
Sri Ramakrishna 0-0

The Tokyo Mist Owner, Kurosawa, Manager Eiji Yoshikawa, Motto “In Kyoto, hearing the cuckoo, I long for Kyoto.” 45-67 Fifth

Yukio Mishima 12-10
Yone Noguchi 9-9
Issa 10-14
Basho 7-11
Haruki Murakami 3-3
Kobe Abe 2-7
Takaaki Yoshimoto 1-1
Heraclitus 1-2
Murasaki Shikibu 1-3
DT Suzuki 0-5
Mitsuyo Kakuta 0-2

Beijing Waves Owner, Chairman Mao, Manager Jack Dorsey, Motto “Death gives separation repose.” 58-54 Second

Lao Tzu 15-7
Voltaire 14-9
Confucius 8-4
Lucretius 12-11
Rousseau 8-13
Lu Xun 1-0
Lenin 1-0
Khomeini 1-4
Friedrich Engles 0-1
Ho Chi Minh 0-3

Santa Barbara Laws Owner, Dick Wolf, Manager Moshe Rabbenu, Motto “In poetry everything is clear and definite.” 57-55 Third

Francis Bacon 13-11
Aristotle 11-10
Horace 10-12
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. 8-9
Ferdinand Saussure 5-3
Mark Van Doren 4-2
Quintilian 3-3
Ring Lardner Jr. 1-0
Yvor Winters 1-1
ML Rosenthal 1-2
Frank Stella 0-1
Frederick Law Olmstead 0-1

Los Angeles Gamers, Owner Merv Griffin, Manager, Bob Hope, Motto “He thought he saw an elephant that practiced on a fife” 60-52 First

Menander 11-4
Woody Allen 7-2
Democritus 10-6
Lewis Carroll 11-10
Charlie Chaplin 5-3
James Tate 5-5
Christian Morgenstern 3-3
Clive James 2-1
EE Cummings 1-0
Muhammad Ali 1-0
Garrison Keillor 1-2
Derrida 1-7
Antoine de Saint Exupery 0-1
Charles Bernstein 0-4

Arden Dreamers Owner, Pamela Digby Churchill Harriman, Manager, Averell Harriman Motto  “Not the earth, the sea, none of it was enough for her, without me.” 50-62 Fifth

Mary Wollstonecraft 8-4
Margaret Atwood 11-10
Anais Nin 10-13
Jane Austen 4-2
Floyd Dell 4-4
bell hooks 2-1
Helene Cixous 2-1
Michael Ondaaatje 1-0
Jean-Paul Sartre 2-3
Louise Gluck 1-3
Simone de Beauvoir 2-6
Germaine Greer 2-8
William Godwin 1-4
Frida Kahlo 0-0
Diego Rivera 0-0

Manhattan Printers Owner, Andy Warhol, Manager, Brian Epstein, Motto “The eye, seeking to sink, is rebuffed by a much-worked dullness, the patina of a rag, that oily Vulcan uses, wiping up.” 52-60 Fourth

Hans Holbein (the Younger) 10-2
John Cage 6-2
Marcel Duchamp 7-7
Marjorie Perloff 8-13
Hilton Kramer 4-3
Toulouse Lautrec 3-2
Paul Klee 6-7
Guy Davenport 1-1
F.O. Matthiessen 3-4
RP Blackmur 2-4
Stephanie Burt 1-6
Mark Rothko 1-8

Chicago Buyers Owner, John D. Rockefeller, Manager, Charles Darwin, Motto “Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?” 61-51 First

Paul Engle 13-11
Mark Twain 12-7
Sigmund Freud 12-10
Walt Whitman 9-11
Helen Vendler 5-4
Judith Butler 3-2
J.L. Austin 2-3
WK Wimsatt 1-2
Monroe Beardsley 1-2
Thomas Hart Benton 0-0

The Philadelphia Crash, Owner, AC Barnes, Manager Cezanne, Motto “But for some futile things unsaid I should say all is done for us.” 55-57 Third

John Crowe Ransom 12-7
Pablo Picasso 7-3
John Dewey 12-10
Ludwig Wittgenstein 10-11
Walter Pater 8-11
Jackson Pollock 4-6
Walter Benjamin 1-0
Clement Greenberg 1-2
IA Richards 0-3
Kenneth Burke 0-1
Roger Fry 0-1

The Phoenix Universe, Owner Steven Spielberg, Manager, Billy Beane, Motto “I know why the caged bird sings.” 59-53 Second

Jean Cocteau 8-1
Raymond Carver 8-3
Czeslaw Milosz 7-2
Harriet Beecher Stowe 9-10
Martin Luther King Jr 5-4
Michel Foucault 4-3
Harold Bloom 5-6
Lucien Freud 4-5
Marge Piercy 3-5
Lionel Trilling 2-3
Eric Said 2-3
Randall Jarrell 3-6
Timothy Leary 0-0

HOME RUNS BY TEAM

EMPEROR DIVISION

Robert Burns Broadcasters 20
Anne Sexton Broadcasters 16
Rainer Maria Rilke Broadcasters 16
Jim Morrison Broadcasters 10
Mick Jagger Broadcasters 6
Gregory Corso Broadcasters 6

Victor Hugo Codes 29
WH Auden Codes 25
Jean Racine Codes 21
Wole Soyinka Codes 12
Derek Walcott Codes 8
Jules Laforgue Codes 6

Anne Bradstreet Crusaders 23
Aeschylus Crusaders 23
Mary Angela Douglas Crusaders 15
Joyce Kilmer Crusaders 10
Phillis Wheatley Crusaders 9
Saint Ephrem Crusaders 8

Sophocles Goths 25
Heinrich Heine Goths 21
Torquato Tasso Goths 14
Madame de Stael 8
Friedrich Holderlin Goths 7
Thomas Chatterton Goths 6
Dan Sociu Goths 3

Euripides Ceilings 20
Edmund Spenser Ceilings 14
William Blake Ceilings 8
Michelangelo Ceilings 8
John Milton Ceilings 7
Tulsidas Ceilings 5

GLORIOUS DIVISION

Yeats Pistols 29
James Joyce Pistols 22
Ted Hughes Pistols 18
John Quinn Pistols 12
DH Lawrence Pistols 9
Alistair Crowley Pistols 8
Ford Maddox Ford Pistols 5
T.S. Eliot Pistols 5

Henry Longfellow Carriages 22
Alfred Tennyson Carriages 18
Robert Browning Carriages 15
GB Shaw Carriages 11
Paul McCartney Carriages 11
Sylvia Plath Carriages 6
Elizabeth Barrett Carriages 5

Friedrich Schiller Banners 29
DG Rossetti Banners 19
John Keats Banners 14
Ben Mazer Banners 10
Stefan George Banners 9
Christina Rossetti Banners 8
Dante Banners 5
Glyn Maxwell Banners 4

William Wordsworth Sun 26
Matthew Arnold Sun 16
Rudyard Kipling Sun 16
Horace Walpole Sun 13
HG Wells Sun 11
Ralph Emerson Sun 8
Margaret Fuller Sun 5

Alexandre Dumas Laureates 24
Charles Dickens Laureates 24
Aphra Behn Laureates 18
JK Rowling Laureates 13
Sarah Teasdale Laureates 12
Ghalib Laureates 12
Boris Pasternak Laureates 8
Oliver Goldsmith Laureates 6
John Townsend Trowbridge Laureates 6

SOCIETY DIVISION

Thomas Nashe Actors 22
Hafiz Actors 19
Amiri Baraka Actors 10
Gwendolyn Brooks Actors 7
Leonard Cohen Actors 6
Johnny Rotten Actors 4
Marilyn Hacker Actors 3
Audre Lorde Actors 3

Francois Rabelais Strangers 22
Arthur Rimbaud Strangers 22
Theodore Roethke Strangers 18
Knut Hamsun Strangers 7
Mary Shelley Strangers 3

Edward Lear Animals 16
Wallace Stevens Animals 14
Seamus Heaney Animals 10
Lawrence Ferlinghetti Animals 8
Marianne Moore Animals 8
Jack Spicer Animals 7

Stephen Crane War 16
Harry Crosby War 15
Phillip Sidney War 11
Wilfred Owen War 11
Apollinaire War 10
James Dickey War 9
William Shakespeare War 5
Robert Graves War 5
Howard Nemerov  War 5

Robert Frost Secrets 24
Emily Dickinson Secrets 20
Woody Guthrie Secrets 13
Kanye West Secrets 10
Nathaniel Hawthorne Secrets 8
Cole Porter Secrets 6
Stephen Cole Secrets 5
Paul Simon Secrets 4
Edgar Poe Secrets 4

PEOPLES DIVISION

Vikram Seth Cobras 22
Jadoo Akhtar Cobras 21
George Harrison Cobras 20
Gajanan Muktibodh Cobras 10
Anand Thakore Cobras 9
Allen Ginsberg Cobras 8
Kalidasa Cobras 4
Jeet Thayil Cobras 4
Adil Jussawala Cobras 4
Daipayan Nair Cobras 3

John Lennon Mist 19
Hilda Doolittle  Mist 18
Sadakichi Hartmann Mist 16
Yoko Ono Mist 8
Haruki Murakami Mist 6
Gary Snyder Mist 5
Natsume Soseki  Mist 5

Li Po Waves 26
Tu Fu Waves 18
Karl Marx Waves 18
Li He Waves 6
Bertolt Brecht Waves 4

John Donne Laws 22
Thomas Hardy Laws 17
Martial Laws 13
Donald Hall Laws 7
Jane Kenyon Laws 6
Reed Whitmore Laws 6
Antonio Machado Laws 6
Walter Raleigh Laws 5

Eugene Ionesco Gamers 26
Billy Collins Gamers 25
Thomas Hood Gamers 17
Joe Green Gamers 8
Ernest Thayer Gamers 4
John Betjeman Gamers 4

MODERN DIVISION

Sharon Olds Dreamers 24
Edna Millay Dreamers 22
Louis MacNeice Dreamers 20
Jack Gilbert Dreamers 10
Stevie Smith Dreamers 9
Richard Lovelace Dreamers 8
Louise Bogan Dreamers 5
Carolyn Forche Dreamers 4

Aristophanes Printers 24
John Updike Printers 24
Garcia Lorca Printers 11
John Ashbery Printers 10
Andre Breton Printers 9
Lou Reed Printers 7
Hart Crane Printers 6
Christopher Isherwood Printers 5
Marcel Duchamp Printers 5
James Baldwin Printers 5

Elizabeth Bishop Buyers 30 —leads  league
Dylan Thomas Buyers 25
Robert Lowell Buyers 17
Edgar Lee Masters Buyers 8
Kenneth Rexroth Buyers 8
Walt Whitman Buyers 6
Robert Penn Warren Buyers 5
Duke Ellington Buyers 5

Allen Tate Crash 20
Stephen Spender Crash 19
Franz Werfel Crash 11
Donald Davidson Crash 8
Archilochus Crash 8
John Gould Fletcher Crash 6
John Crowe Ransom Crash 6
WC Williams Crash 3
Stanley Kunitz Crash 3

Bob Dylan Universe 24
Juvenal Universe 22
Paul Celan Universe 14
Anthony Hecht Universe 10
Delmore Schwartz Universe 9
Chuck Berry Universe 7
Maya Angelou Universe 7

~~~

IN THE GLORIOUS DIVISION, A TALE OF THREE TEAMS

Percy Bysshe Shelley lost poem to go public at University of ...

Shelley (9-5) pitches for the Florence Banners—the team to beat in the Glorious Division.

The Florence Banners are the glory of the Glorious Division. Look at their pitching staff: Dante, who throws fastballs with such ferocity, hitters are afraid to stand in against him; Shelley, who throws curve after delicate curve, as memorizing as a snake; Virgil, whose hard slider apparently comes from the underworld; Leonardo da Vinci, the lefty, whose mixture of speeds defies belief; and Boccaccio, who comes out of the bullpen like a cloud, a large dark one, which puts an end to everything. And everywhere you look, there is a Rossetti: Christina, William, Dante Gabriel, and in the middle of the lineup, John Keats, almost more Italian than English. And two modern spots of light: Ben Mazer and Glyn Maxwell.

But Keats only has four home runs for de Medici’s Banners—who are 35 and 29 and share first place with two other teams.

The Carriages of London, owned by Queen Victoria, are 35-29, and not exactly filled with the greatest of all time: pitchers William Hazlitt, Virginia Woolf, and Charles Lamb.  Hitters Elizabeth Barrett, Sylvia Plath and Paul McCartney.

Neither do the Dublin Laureates seem that scary. The rather pedantic Edmund Burke is 0-6 in his last 7 starts for Dublin. Their no. 2 starter, Thomas Peacock, has been replaced by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Their lineup features JK Rowling, Boris Pasternak and Oliver Goldsmith. But they, too, are 35 and 29.

The Laureates have won a host of one-run games, especially in the late innings—they get better as the game goes on, and don’t make mistakes in the field or on the base paths. Jonathan Swift joined the Laureates on May 1st, and with his command of 4 pitches and quiet confidence, now owns the best record in the league: 10-1. And don’t forget Livy. He is 8-1 in relief.

Andrew Marvell, the ace of the Carriages, is 10-2.  Charlotte Bronte is 3-1 and Charles Lamb is 3-0, in relief.  On the back of Marvell, the Carriages are doing the little things to win.  Virginia Woolf out-pitched John Stewart Mill in a marvelous 1-0 outing, helped by a bases-loaded, game-saving catch by Philip Larkin in right field. Tennyson’s two out, opposite field, looping, single off an impossible-to-hit-pitch brought in Paul McCartney, who had walked, and then was bunted over to second by Larkin, for the game-winner.

As for the other first place team, those awesome Banners, Virgil, 7-4, has arm tenderness, and will miss 3-4 weeks, Dante is only 6-6, and Boccaccio has been out-dueled a number of times in relief. Shelley has been a monster, logging 9 wins.

Tied for last are the Berlin Pistols—featuring Ezra Pound (demoted to the bullpen), pitching ace T.S. Eliot, and Ted Hughes (13 homers)—and the Devon Sun at 28-36.  Ralph Emerson is 4-3 in his last 8 starts for the Sun, and Lord Russell’s team has been powered by Wordsworth’s 9 homers in the Sun’s last 20 games.

William James has been the best starter for the Pistols at 8-4. T.S. Eliot beat Dante and the Banners 1-0, this week, tossing a one-hitter. The Banners are no longer alone in first, but every team in the Glorious Division will be gunning for them.

We caught up with Paul McCartney, shortstop and lead off hitter for the Carriages, after Andrew Marvell shut out the Sun in Devon.

Scarriet: Welcome to my interview, Paul.

Paul: Oh that sounds…ominous.

Scarriet: This won’t hurt a bit. I promise. Your team’s playing well, you won by a shutout today.

Paul: Oh Andrew Marvell, luv watching him pitch, you know? I have to remember I’m in the field playing the game, because, you know, you get mesmerized, kind of, watching him, do his thing… He’s so good!

Scarriet: Do you see John and George much?

Paul: Not really. They’re both in the what’s it called…the Peoples Division, right? Yeah George is with the Cobras in India…and John, with Yoko, is with the uh….Mist. They’re together, that’s nice. I chat with George…and John… on the phone, sometimes, you know, just say hello…

Scarriet: I did want to touch on the two English teams, the comparisons people have made between the Sun and the Carriages. You’ve heard the talk?

Paul: Oh yeah, when they were first getting this thing together, John told me, “Don’t play for the Sun, man! You belong on the Carriages.”

Scarriet: The Sun have a reputation for being that part of England that wants to rule the world, the British Empire, oppressing everyone…people compare the Sun to the Pistols…while the Carriages..

Paul: —are more like tea and biscuits and…mum. Yeah.  I mean, look, someone said Wordsworth—and Waldo Emerson, you know, they’re nice, and they play for the Sun, but those guys are bastards! (laughing)

Scarriet: Wordsworth did take someone out at second with a nasty slide last week, did you see that?  And Emerson throws at hitters quite a lot.

Paul: Oh I could never write like them! They’re great.  But, there’s not a lot of comfortable, human stuff in their writings, really…look at “English Traits” by Emerson…the English race and how it rules the world!  John tipped me off on that one, Emerson, watch out for that cat…and I dunno, what can you say against Wordsworth?  Daffodils. I love that one. I never could read the long stuff, though…he’s not one I could have a pint with…too stuffy for my taste…

Scarriet: What’s the biggest difference between the Scarriet Poetry Baseball League and rock music?

Paul: Drugs. (laughing)  There’s no drugs in Scarriet Poetry Baseball. Queen Victoria would never… Seriously, you really have to be in top form all the time to compete with these great writers…everything is on the line all the time…big crowds…you can’t slip up….

Scarriet: Does that bother you?

Paul: (nervous laughter) Not really. No, I quite enjoy it, actually. I never depended on drugs to write my songs. It’s just a matter of freedom and relaxation sometimes, you know, I’m not advocating anything, except a little freedom, and I understand everything has a time and a place. It’s all good, really. I’m enjoying myself doing this.

Scarriet: You’ve played well—even hitting home runs from the lead off spot, and the Carriages are tied for first. Congratulations.

Paul: Thanks. Yes. Batting first is not easy. The first time up, especially. But I use it to judge how the pitcher is doing that day, and I’ll tell my teammates—“watch out guys, he’s throwing hard today, or…this is what his strategy seems to be…”

Scarriet: Communication.  Yes, and you steal bases… I don’t think anyone realized how athletic you are…

Paul: Music is very physical. People don’t realize that.  And poetry, or music…you don’t just write it with your mind… the body is the mind…it’s a lot of it, really…but uh…yeah…I enjoy it…the fresh air…the competition…the company is nice…

Scarriet: We’re so glad you could talk to us, Paul. And we’re happy to hear Scarriet Poetry Baseball agrees with you!

Paul: Thanks.

Scarriet: Good luck the rest of the year!

Paul: You, too.  Bye now.

 

 

 

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BERLIN PISTOLS?

General Snobbery | Film and Philosophy

The philosopher. Heidegger. Pitching coach for the Berlin Pistols in the Glorious League.

The Scarriet Poetry Baseball League is organized this way:

The Emperor Division (5 teams)   LAST WEEK

The Glorious Division (5 teams)   THIS WEEK

The Secret Society Division (5 teams)

The Peoples Division (5 teams)

The Modern Division (5 teams)

We already looked at the Emperor Division—two teams (11-5) with ancient and renaissance grandeur are tied for first; Napoleon’s Codes (Homer, Hesiod) and the Ceilings of Pope Julius II (Milton, Spenser), followed by the sturm & drang Goths of Charles X, featuring Goethe, Baudelaire, and Wilde, and these two teams are tied for last: the Broadcasters of Fellini, a modern unit of Jim Morrison, Rilke, Nabokov—and the Crusaders, owned by Philip of Spain, a devout team of Thomas Aquinas, Mary Angela Douglas, Bishop Berkeley, and St. John of the Cross.

WH Auden (Codes), Henrich Heine (Goths) and Aeschylus (Crusaders) lead the Emperor Division with five home runs.  Milton of the Ceilings is the ERA leader with 1.15.  Chauteubriand (Goths) and Kant (Codes) have 3 wins.

Some wonder why Auden is playing for Napoleon, but some teams hire anyone they think can help them win.

The season has just started, but the pitching of the Ceilings (11-5), led my Milton, is the story of the Emperor Division so far; they’re allowing about two runs per game, and that’s how you win titles.

~~~

The Glorious Division is dominated by British icons from Shakespeare’s time to our day.

On top of that division right now, with a 12-4 record, are the Carriages, led by Tennyson’s 7 homers and Andrew Marvell’s 3 wins and 1.30 ERA.

As you know, versifying skill means good defense in the field and the ability to get on base, popular works of fiction of any kind means power, and philosophical, transcendent, or critical acumen translates into great pitching. Marvell was more than just a great lyric poet; he was a politician, wrote long satires, and convinced the new government after Cromwell not to kill Milton.  Marvell is the ace of a pitching-rich ball club.

The Carriages, owned by Queen Victoria, with manager Prince Albert, pitching coach Joseph Priestly, are a tough, no-nonsense, team, marked by high seriousness. Look at their pitching staff: Marvel, Virginia Woolf, William Hazlitt, Henry James, Jeremy Bentham, Charlotte Bronte, and Charles Lamb. (The more introverted Emily Bronte recently joined the Goths.) George Bernard Shaw has slammed 5 home runs off the bench, including two pinch hit game winners, giving the Carriages a tremendous boost; Longfellow has 4 round-trippers from the cleanup spot, and Robert Browning has also drilled four home runs batting fifth. Paul McCartney has 3 home runs and seven stolen bases at the top of the order. The Carriages are absolutely the team to watch in the Glorious Division.

The Laureates are owned by 17th century Poet Laureate of England Nahum Tate, who was born in Dublin. His most popular work was an edition of King Lear, re-written with a happy ending. This gives you an idea, perhaps, of the nature of this team. The Laureates are in second place in this division full of strong modern teams, and much of it is thanks to Livy’s strong work in the bullpen, and the offense led by Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, and Aphra  Behn (14 homers between them). Sara Teasdale has hit 3, and JK Rowling, 2.  The Laureates, who play in Dublin, are similar to London’s Carriages: popular writers tend to have pop in their bat, and the Laureates have plenty of that, and clutch hitting, too. Their starting pitchers are not overpowering, but manager Ronald Reagan and pitching coach Bobby Kennedy feel they can get the job done: Edmund Burke, Thomas Love Peacock, Samuel Johnson, and Leigh Hunt are all healthy and have pitched fairly well. The Irish-Anglo scientist Robert Boyle was picked up to help Dana Gioia and Livy in relief.

The Sun are in third place with a .500 record. They are owned by PM Lord Russell. Winston Churchill (!) is their manager. Lord Palmerston is their pitching coach. The Sun has a modern, worldly scope, fed by the pride of the British Empire, and could dominate this division if it ever clicks into gear. Ralph Waldo Emerson (if one looks deeply into his biography, Waldo is just as British as he is American) is their ace; John Stuart Mill will be out for a while, and John Ruskin will replace him as the no. 2 starter, Aldous Huxley is starter no. 3, followed by Thomas Carlyle. Bertrand Russell, Thoreau, Joshua Reynolds, and Christopher Ricks are in the bullpen. Basil Bunting has been an unlikely power source for the Sun, with 6 home runs batting eighth! Kipling, Wordsworth, and Matthew Arnold are the big bats, but largely silent, so far.  Aside from two unusual games, totaling 60 runs, team Sun has not scored much.  They massacred the Pistols 27-3, and also beat them 23-18.

The Banners, of Lorenzo de’ Medici, the fourth place team at 7-9, have not been hitting much either, but their pitching staff may be the best in the whole league: Dante (Ficino filled in recently), Shelley, Virgil, Leonardo da Vinci, Boccaccio, Bronzino, Botticelli, and William Rossetti.  The Banners hitting features Keats (no home runs yet), Friedrich Schiller (5 homers to lead the team), and DG Rossetti (one home run) in the 3,4,5 part of the lineup. Ben Mazer has been a pleasant surprise for the Banners, with 3 homers from the lead off position.  The Banners will certainly give the Carriages a run for their money. Queen Victoria has to respect de’ Medici.

What’s wrong with Eva Braun’s Pistols?  They are 5-11, but it feels like they are doing much worse. The pitching coach, Martin Heidegger, has been under fire, as the team has allowed a whopping 121 runs.  The Pistols have been hitting, especially Joyce and Yeats (8 homers each!). T.S. Eliot, their ace, is 0-4, and has been getting worse with each start. Three of the Pistols’ five wins have come when William James has started, and James had to leave a tough 3-1 loss with depression. Pound is 1-1, and started the horrendous 27-3 loss; he didn’t want to come out, and people are wondering whether Randolph Churchill, Winston’s son who married Pamela Harriman, has the stuff to manage this team. It’s great that Randolph’s father is Winston Churchill, but do the Pistols need someone tougher to lead them?

Standings

Carriages 12-4  —75 runs, 57 against

Laureates 9-7  —82 runs, 76 against

Sun 8-8  —-95 runs, 73 against

Banners 7-9 —48 runs, 49 against

Pistols 5-11 —82 runs, 121 against

Leaders  WINS

Marvell 3-0, ERA 1.30  –Carriages
Shelley 3-1 ERA 1.78    –Banners

Hazlitt 2-1 ERA 3.09     -Carriages
W James 2-0 ERA 3.10  -Pistols
Woolf 2-2 ERA 3.65      -Carriages
Carlyle 2-1 ERA 4.42     -Sun

Livy 3-1 ERA 2.99   –Laureates   Relief Pitcher
Gioia 3-1 ERA 3.20 –Laureates   RP

C Bronte 2-0 ERA 2.33 -Carriages RP
B Russell 2-0 ERA 2.73 -Sun  RP

Leaders HRS

Joyce, Pistols 8
Yeats, Pistols 8

Tennyson, Carriages 7

Bunting, Sun 6

GB Shaw, Carriages 5
Dumas, Laureates 5
Dickens, Laureates 5
Schiller, Banners 5

Behn, Laureates 4
Longfellow, Carriages 4
Browning, Carriages 4

Scarriet Poetry Baseball News

 

THAT I CAN SIT HERE AND TURN THESE PAGES AND NOT DIE: BEN MAZER’S LANDMARK EDITION OF HARRY CROSBY’S POEMS

The arrest of Dora Marsden, 30th March, 1909

SELECTED POEMS OF HARRY CROSBY, Ben Mazer, ed, MAD HAT PRESS, 6/22/20

DECEMBER 10, 1929

That I can sit here and turn these pages and not die,
As you did, Harry Crosby, when the time was right,
Saying goodbye to Caresse, as you and Josephine turned out the light,
Every poem leading up to your death was just the way it had to have been,
Unless we don’t know that—because of freedom.

No one published your poems for 87 years, until Ben Mazer,
Who finds everything in the darkness of letters, like a laser.
I think of the Tell-Tale Heart when the old poetry had to die
And new poetry opened the door and shot light into the dark room onto the eye.

I can hear T.S. Eliot breathing low
In the stuffy rooms at Cambridge
When during the weekend Pound decided to come down.
Now, after another 27 difficult years, Robert Lowell sits there, remorseful, in his dressing gown.

The sun! give me the sun,
The true dawn, or none.
Give me the diary, Harry, give me the gun.
Was there freedom,
Too much freedom, too much—or absolutely none?

Ben Mazer, poet and editor, born in 1964, is saving poetry from its 20th century catastrophe.

He personally rescued Landis Everson, the most obscure figure of the San Francisco Renaissance, and found him publishing outlets.

He edited The Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (Harvard University Press).

He edited the Complete Poems of John Crowe Ransom (The American South’s T.S. Eliot), noticed in a review by Helen Vendler in the New York Review of Books.

He recently received the green light from FSG to compile the first Collected Poems of Delmore Schwartz.

And now, perhaps the most exciting of all.  Harry Crosby.

Ben Mazer is seeing into publication this year, as editor, the Selected Poems of Harry Crosby, allowing the world to see this central figure for the first time since this Back Bay rich boy (nephew to J.P. Morgan) danced on the world’s stage and self-published his poetry almost 100 years ago.

Crosby belonged to poetry’s One True Circle which overlapped, as one would expect, with the worlds of High Finance, War Profits, and Modern Painting.  Crosby knew Hart Crane, Ezra Pound, DH Lawrence, among others, and was mentored by a wealthy gentleman, Walter Berry (Crosby got his book collection when Berry died in 1927 a few days before Crosby’s 30th birthday) who knew Henry James and Marcel Proust.

Crosby, however, has been utterly forgotten.

Why?

This is what makes Mazer’s project so exciting. Crosby exemplified, perhaps more than any other poet, the One True Circle of 20th Century Anglo-American Poetry, the Who’s Who of Modern Poetry All Intellectuals Know. 

Crosby was the craziest of all.  The really embarrassing one.  He was loved.  But he was excluded—that is, written out of the canon. 

The insane, tabloid, side of the One True Circle is embarrassing, and much of it is not fit for school.

A 20th century poet, to be known, had to be taught in school.  Ezra Pound and WC Williams were as unknown as Harry Crosby, when a couple of government-connected New Critics, in the middle of the 20th Century, put Pound and Williams in a college textbook, Understanding Poetry.

License.

The license of those times, the moral looseness of the One True Circle itself, was one kind of very real license. This was widely understood.

The poems selected for especial praise by the editors of Understanding Poetry were two very brief ones—one by Williams, and one by his U Penn friend, Pound—describing plainly, a red wheel barrow, and petals on a black bough.

Poems praised—and yet poems anyone could write.

The other kind of license was the one for the public at large.

The poetry establishment, without directly saying so, was giving the public license.  The Petals-and-Wheel Barrow clique was rather priestly and private, but it’s implicit message to the reading public was loud and clear: to be a Byron was now a snap—poetry was now extremely brief and extremely easy.

Harry Crosby did not write a two line poem on flower petals or a five or six line poem on a wheel barrow.

Crosby went Williams and Pound one better.

Harry Crosby produced a one line poem:

a naked lady in a yellow hat

Crosby was too hot to handle for a college textbook in the 1930s; Crosby made the tabloids when he shot himself on December 10th 1929, in a suicide pact with his mistress.

Pound and Williams were more attractive.

First, they were alive; second, their poems were austere and moral compared to Crosby’s—who more accurately (and this was a problem in itself) reflected the unfettered, anything-goes, private-parties-of-the-rich sensibility of the One True Circle.

But now Pound and Williams are also dead.

And we can handle anything.

And as we disentangle ourselves from the selling of poetry—the selling that was very consciously done by the One True Circle in the 20th century— and view poetry and the One True Circle more discerningly, we can welcome Harry Crosby into the wider fold, and allow him his rightful place in a pantheon which may be sordid and embarrassing, but is necessary, not only for historical study, but for poetry, itself.

Mazer is also, for those who know his work, perhaps the most important American poet writing today.  His Selected Poems is recently published.

Americans don’t speak much of 21st century poetry. The whole thing is too embarrassing.  Too painful.

There isn’t one critically acclaimed, popular, anything in poetry left.

There’s merely a cool kids list which changes every few months.

There is no poetry, in terms of centralized recognition.

We now live in the Great Empty Hangover of a 1920s Gatsby party.

New Jersey poet Louis Ginsberg was a Nudist Camp member, and belonged to the One True Circle—in particular: Alfred Kreymborg/WC Williams/Ezra Pound/Wallace Stevens/Man Ray/Duchamp. His son was Allen Ginsberg.

Ginsberg, who gained fame, like Baudelaire and Joyce, from obscenity controversy, died in 1997.

Maya Angelou died in 2014.

John Ashbery—known for poetry which “makes no sense,” associated with Modern Art circles in New York City, including Peggy Guggenheim—a modern Gertrude Stein, who was awarded his Yale Younger Poets Award by W.H. Auden, died in 2017.

No one has replaced these figures.

A few replacement figures may exist, poets who knew Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, for instance, but the magnetic pull which holds pieces of inspiration together—think of Plato’s Ion—just isn’t strong enough. These figures may be on poetry lists, but the public doesn’t know them.

The total absence of poetry in the 21st century, its complete de-centered, trivial, existence is the void now faced by Mazer with his lantern.

Here’s an example. The Essential T.S. Eliot was just published (April 2020), reprinting the better-known poems and one essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent.”

The only thing new in the Essential T.S. Eliot is the introduction by Vijay Seshadri. A nice essay.  He has the slick, academic, ‘priesthood patter’ down—Pound and Eliot are profound and wonderful in all sorts of (World War One! The Horror!) ways.

However, in this new, rather sizeable introduction, no one after the middle of the 20th century is mentioned.  

I find this very interesting. The occasion of reprinting T.S. Eliot, in 2020, is cause for not even the faintest flutter in the post-Eliot Tradition.

So what is all this fuss about the Tradition, then?

Does it stop with Eliot and Pound?

Walt Whitman makes an appearance in the introduction—Seshadri tells us Eliot and Whitman are opposites, but also informs us that both were reactionary in their politics and both were influenced by a terrible war.

The most recent figure mentioned in Seshadri’s introduction is Hugh Kenner.  Seshadri reminds us that Bertrand Russell—son of Lord Russell, Prime Minster of England when Whitman was writing—slept with Eliot’s wife. Well, what would an examination of the One True Circle be, after all, without a Harry Crosby type of anecdote?

Eliot, and especially his associate, Ezra Pound—-both unknown and hungry during World War One—as mature, middle-aged, literary figures, both bet, essentially, on the Axis Powers to win World War Two. The second half of the 20th century, therefore, saw the entire sensibility of poetry, unlike the booming, victorious-over-Hitler, United States itself, become a high brow contest to see who could best apologize for what we were told was the best of our poetry—which had lost.

The worst “loser,” the embodiment of all that was lauded in the “new” poetry, was Ezra Pound—a T.S. Eliot objection away from being hung as a traitor in Italy in 1945. Ezra Pound, the irascible, cash-handy, “Make It New” deal-maker, the flesh of the poetry that was supposed to carry us forward to new heights of insight and interest.

But a curious thing happened.

As the 20th century went on, the “new” poetry, instead of taking us forward, took us back.

Poetry kept returning to Ezra Pound, Imagiste poet of World War One; it kept going back to T.S. Eliot and The Waste Land, which will be a hundred years old in 2022; this was the narrative: Pound, Eliot, Pound, Eliot.

But what of us?  What of the next generations?  Well, you had Ashbery, the late 20th century god, chosen by Auden—who had been chosen by Eliot.  There was simply no escape.  The One True Circle, which began in William James’ mental laboratory, kept shining. The rest of us could go to hell.

The One Circle trapped us in so many ways.

The 1970s pot-smoking professors trapped us, with their unreadable doctoral theses on Finnegan’s Wake and The Cantos.

There was the poetry itself which trapped us, the poetry which now anybody could write, and they did: your professor, your classmates, all the while doing the necessary obeisance to the “new” poetry—the crappy sort of poetry so easy to write—it only had to be obscure enough, which made it possible for anyone to believe they were a poet—as long as poetry that was actually good was kept, as much as possible, out of sight.

The poetry that was actually good was anything studied, anthologized, and written, prior to the existence of the One True Circle—that is, whatever Pound and Eliot dismissed: Milton, Poe, Shakespeare.

The past had to be read selectively, based on the One True Circle’s recommendations—one couldn’t just love old poetryno, that was forbiddenVillon, yes.  The “French Symbolists.” Yes. Rimbaud was terribly, terribly cool, even in a Bob Dylan, son of Woody Guthrie, sort of way. Even though no one knew what Rimbaud was talking about. (For a while we didn’t know what Dylan was talking about.) Obscurity was always good.  So Rimbaud was good. Baudelaire was good, no, great, because he was completely wretched. It was as if Baudelaire were alive during WW I!  So he was good. And French, of course, was good. A few tortured passages by Donne. Yes. That was okay, too. Pre-Raphaelite was very good. Because it was prior to the Renaissance, you see. And the Renaissance, because it was truly good, was very, very bad. Byron, Poe, Milton, Elizabeth Barrett, Edna Millay, Sara Teasdale. No way.  Millay and Teasdale were especially annoying, because they wrote a little too much beautiful poetry that actually was good, and they also had the audacity to be contemporary. Hugh Kenner, the Pound fan, was quick to dismiss Millay. And those in the One True Circle nodded silently.

So here we are in 2020, with a big poetic nothing.

We are still talking about Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, or Pound’s friend, WC Williams.

And exactly in the way the New Critics wanted us to talk about them.  The “difficult,” academic-priestly, text-centered way, is how we appropriately baffle ourselves.

There is only one thing which can be discussed outside the text.

World War One’s horrors.

It isn’t so much that we shouldn’t be talking about Eliot.  Certainly, we should. He was a good poet, and a good critic, and the Great War did happen, after all.

But what about everybody else?  What about the big future nothing which the cloudy, morbid, obsession with Modernism has created?

We hear, over and over again, how Eliot’s entire poetic being was a casualty of WW I, (the way “mad Ireland hurt” Yeats “into poetry”—Auden) but Modernist critics never stop to think how maybe the reader is a casualty of Modernism, which came about, as every Modernist is quick to point out, in de rigueur wretched tones, because of a horrific war.  If the horrific war was real, and Modernism’s reaction to it was real, then here is the Romantic poison drunk during the French Revolution—only we can’t talk about the French Revolution, because the One True Circle needs to be historically exclusive, as we see time and time again. Go back—but only to Pound and World War One, please. Stop there. And then, and only then, perhaps, you may perhaps travel indirectly back—as long as you don’t lose the thread, and forget that it connects to Pound—to, let’s say, Rimbaud, the anti-Romantic.

And never, never say the Modernist poets were part of the same group that produced World War One.  Always portray the Modernist poets as victims of the Great War.  Even if Ford Maddox Ford worked in the War Propaganda Office. Whatever you do, don’t mention that! Modernism was a burning cauldron heated by the fires of World War One.  And it melted everything.  That is all.

We bet on the Pound clique, and lost.

After the war, Pound had to be rescued; somehow World War Two had to be forgotten; unlike WW I, there was no WW II poetry of any note.

The Bollingen Prize—the first one—in 1949, was the stamp of approval, the swift and necessary repair of Pound’s reputation. Had Pound been quickly shot as a traitor, the poetry of our age would look entirely different.

The Bollingen Prize was presented to Pound, (amid howls of protest, of course) by three judges W.H. Auden, TS Eliot, and Conrad Aiken.

The One True Circle had to defend itself; it almost imploded, as World War Two made World War One temporarily irrelevant.  Thank God for the Bollingen and 1949!

New Critic and Southerner Allen Tate, who New Englander Robert Lowell worshiped (his eyes on the One True Circle) helped start the Writing Program at Princeton—where professor RP Blackmur taught the younger Princeton creative writing professor John Berryman how to drink—ending in Berryman’s suicide at the U. of Minnesota.

Princeton eventually took over the Bolligen Prize, which was the unofficial life blood of the One True Circle, as the 20th Century progressed, and they give out the Bollignen Prize to this day, the prize itself over-shadowing poets whom no one knows.

The Bollingen continues, but it only exists because Pound had to be saved.

Bollingen, by the way, is the name of the house of Carl Jung. The Bollingen prize originally had non-poetry money attached to it (normal for how poetry grew during the 20th century). Fortunately for the One True Circle, it fell into the lap of Pound’s friend, T.S. Eliot, and the two other judges, who were both Eliot’s friends, at the Library of Congress.

Conrad Aiken and Eliot were old Harvard friends—Harvard profs William James (sometimes known as the Nitrous Oxide Philosopher) and George Santayana, a bachelor who lived the last 20 years of his life in fascist Italy, were the two greatest influences on Aiken and Eliot (as well as Wallace Stevens).

Ralph Waldo Emerson—the antithesis of Poe and friends with T.S. Eliot’s New England grandfather—was William James’ godfather—and William James was the brother of the Great, Inscrutable, Expat, Novelist Henry James. William James was the founder of the first Psychology Department in the United States, at Harvard—and it could be said that William James might be the beginning of the One True Circle, if we must trace it back. (Though it’s in the nature of any True Circle never to be understood.) William James (also known as the Stream-of-Consciousness philosopher, though of course he didn’t invent stream of consciousness) also taught Gertrude Stein (one foot in the Nonsense Poetry Business, one foot in the Modern Painting Business)—she is of course an important member of the One True Circle.  (This game is very easy, but don’t let the ease fool you.)

Eliot was very much like the trans-Atlantic Henry James. The distinguished magazine, The Atlantic, was where Henry James was first published—by William Dean Howells, the editor set up there by Emerson. Eliot’s early tea-cup poetry resembles the novels of Henry James.

The One True Circle is almost entirely made up of men—but women were extremely influential behind the scenes, just as a great deal of non-poetry money was behind the scenes.  Pound needed lots of ready money to be the influence he was, and this mostly came from Pound’s female contacts.

Eliot’s first book (it was really a “pamphlet” according to Seshardri), Prufrock and Other Observations, was subsidized by Pound’s wife and published by the Egoist, a vital Modernist magazine, (Conrad Aiken was the first to review Prufrock and Other Observations—do you see how it works?) and yet the magazine itself, prior to being the Egoist, had been a radical feminist one, The New Freewoman, run by Dora Marsden, before it became, still under her leadership—but guided increasingly by Pound—the Egoist.

Marsden was too radical for even her radical feminist cohorts; she lived the last 40 years of her life as a broken recluse.  She was a passionate believer in radical individualism, feminism, and free love. This is somewhat ironic, given the fact that the mature, “conservative” Eliot excoriated the young Shelley for advocating free love.  Eliot’s career was born on the shoulders of “free love.”  Eliot never had to apologize for his abuse of Shelley, however, because Shelley, the stunning Romantic poet, was persona non grata to Pound’s One True Circle, anyway.

Letters in the 20th century decided to make an American poetry hero out of Ezra Pound and to make College Writing Programs (‘you, too, can be a poet’) the key to success in poetry.

The result: American poetry no longer has a public.

Of course, what happened, happened.  Nothing written here is the attempt to make it all go away. Quite the contrary. We might as well go into it even deeper, if we are to come out of it, and start anew.

Harry Crosby and his Black Sun Press is an important part of that story.

It was suppressed then, and Ben Mazer is bringing it back to light, now.

Mazer’s introduction to Harry’s poems is mostly factual. He details Harry’s life as WW I soldier, poet, and lover. He praises the poetry as having that quality where every reader can see something different in it. He lauds its sincerity. The introduction ends this way:

A notable occasion in Harry’s life was when he witnessed Lindbergh’s landing in Paris on May 20, 1927. On August 1, 1929, he decided that he wanted to learn how to fly. Soon he was taking lessons, and going up with an instructor. Then, he became more and more impatient as he yearned to be allowed to fly solo, but continued to be sent up with an instructor. He was determined to fly solo before departing for America. Finally, on Armistice Day, November 11, Harry completed his first solo flight. Five days later he and Caresse sailed for New York on the Mauretania. On November 18, Harry received a radiogram from Josephine: “IMPATIENT.” On November 22, the Crosbys docked in New York. The next day, Harry visited Josephine before the Harvard-Yale football game. Harry saw much of Josephine in the next two weeks. The final entry in Harry’s diary reads:

One is not in love unless one desires to die with one’s beloved

There is only one happiness it is to love and to be loved

One can get lost in the tabloid excess of Harry’s life.  But there was a tragic Romantic figure beneath the excess—a deeply sensitive man who loved.

The poems of Harry Crosby are bright, fanciful. Here are two samples:

I am endeavoring to persuade a Chinese professor who is at work on a torpedo which he expects to shoot to the sun to allow me to live in the centre of this torpedo

And

a giraffe is gorging himself on sunflowers a Parisian doll is washing herself in a blue fingerbowl while I insist on their electrocution on the grounds of indecency

Crosby’s poetry has a quality which represents the times in which he lived better than anything else that was being published then.

T.S. Eliot thought.

Harry Crosby lived.

The following is one of the most interesting things I found in the book.

This excerpt—from a critical piece Crosby published in the summer of the year he died—proves that Harry belonged, at least in his own mind, to the One True Circle.  You can tell by his likes and dislikes. The following perhaps reveals too much. There is a cult-like worship of those in the One True Circle, which may have even unsettled the members of the One True Circle themselves.  Did Crosby hate Amy Lowell because she was against the U.S. entering World War One—which made his uncle, J.P. Morgan, rich?  Amy Lowell was dedicated to poetry. Pound, police commissioner of the One True Circle, did nothing but ridicule her. And why did Crosby reject a beautiful poet like Edna Saint Vincent Millay?  Perhaps Millay wanted nothing to do with the One True Circle? After all, not everyone liked Ezra Pound.

A well-known phenomenon in the East is the False Dawn, a transient light on the horizon an hour before the True Dawn. The False Dawn = the poets sponsored by Amy Lowell and the Imagists who flickered for a brief instant on the horizon before they dwindled into the Robert Hillyers and Humbert Wolfs, the Edna Saint Vincent Millays, the Walter de la Meres, the Benets and Untermeyers, the Auslanders and Teasdales who spot with their flytracks the bloated pages of our magazines and anthologies. Once again the general reader has been deceived by the False Dawn and has gone back to bed (who can blame him?) thus missing the True Dawn which has definitely appeared on the horizon harbingered by T.S. Eliot, heralded by the Morning Star of Joyce and heliorayed with the bright shafts of Hart Crane, E.E. Cummings, Perse and MacLeish, Gertrude Stein, Desnos, Eluard, Jolas and Kay Boyle.

—Harry Crosby, 1929

Thank you, Ben Mazer.

Harry Crosby and the True Dawn (there was some truth) will always be looking for us.

Those “bright shafts.”

~~~~~
Salem MA, May 1 2020

THE SEASON BEGINS! SCARRIET POETRY BASEBALL!

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This is the first world baseball league in history!!!

25 teams, 500 poets, is a lot to take in, but that’s why we’re here to guide you.

Marla Muse: Is that snow outside?

Yes, Marla, snow is falling outside the commissioner’s office here in Salem, Massachusetts…

On April 16th!  But to continue…

There’s been a lot of recent signings as teams attempt to fill their rosters. And Boston took Franklin’s team from Philly.  Philly already has a team: The Crash.

We suggest you generally familiarize yourself with the teams, and pick a favorite team to win the championship–why not?  We assure you, these games will play out, for real; no hidden hand will determine the winners.

The Emperor Division

THE BROADCASTERS

Fellini’s Broadcasters is a team of flamboyance and show.  They know how to live and die.  A sexy team.  Motto: Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name. Home park: Rimini, Italy on the Adriatic coast.

Starting Pitchers Giacomo Leopardi 5, Ben Jonson 5, Nabokov 5, Coleridge 5, Relief Pitchers Valery 5, Hitchcock (new) 5, Walter Benjamin (new) 4
Robert Burns CF, Rilke 2B, Mick Jagger SS, Charles Bukowski 1B, Jim Morrison LF, Anne Sexton RF, Gregory Corso C, Sappho 3B,
Anacreon, Ingrid Jonker, Edmund Waller, Omar Khayyam, Swinburne

THE CODES

How would the emperor Napoleon pick his team—not knowing who might obey him or laugh at him behind his back? Napoleon was a law-giver, a conqueror, and larger than life, and poets either mocked and disparaged him (Byron, Oscar Wilde, Shelley,) or wrote him knee-bending odes (Victor Hugo, John Clare). The character of this team is difficult to define. Napoleon has brought together the best he can find, if they don’t actively hate him. Motto: Let the More Loving One Be Me.  Home park: Corsica, on the Mediterranean sea.

Napoleon’s The Codes Starting Pitchers Homer 6, Cicero 6, Hesiod 5, Logan 4, Relief Pitchers Kant (new) 6, Balzac (new) 6, Edmund Wilson 5
Racine CF, Victor Hugo 2B, W.H. Auden SS, Callimachus 1B, Soyinka LF, Villon RF, Tati-Loutard C, Derek Walcott 3B
John Peale Bishop, Jules Laforgue, Mina Loy, John Clare, Marcus Aurelius (new), Oliver Wendell Holmes (new)

THE CRUSADERS

This is the Christian team—owned by Philip II of Spain. There had to be one! Motto: If in my thought I have magnified the Father above the Son, let Him have no mercy on me. Home park: Madrid, Spain, near the Prado.

Spain’s Philip II’s The Crusaders SP Aquinas 5, GK Chesterton 5, St John of the Cross 4, Tolkien 4, RP Handel (new) 6, Plotinus (new) 5, Lisieux 4,
Aeschulus CF, Hopkins 2B, Saint Ephrem SS, Countee Cullen 1B, Phillis Wheatley LF, Joyce Kilmer RF, Hilaire Beloc C, Anne Bradstreet 3B
John Paul II, Mary Angela Douglas

THE GOTHS

Charles X of France escaped to England and enjoyed a lavishly supported stay during the French Revolution; he became King after Napoleon, tried to return France to normal, whatever that was, but radicals forced him to abdicate; his team is the Goths—apolitical cool people. Motto: Every great enterprise takes its first step in faith. Home park: Paris, France.

Charles X’s The Goths SP Goethe 6, Chateubriand 6 Wilde 5, Baudelaire 5, RP AW Schlegel 5, T Gautier 5
Sophocles CF, Herbert 2B, Herrick SS, Ronsard 1B, Novalis (new) LF, Catulus RF, de Stael C, Heinrich Heine 3B
Pater (to Printers), Gray, Saint-Beauve, Marot, Irving Layton, Thomas Lovell Beddoes

THE CEILINGS

Pope Julius was a learned pope; he’s got Milton, Michelangelo, (a fine poet, by the way) Petrarch, Euripides, and William Blake. The Ceilings. Not a bad team! Motto: They also serve who only stand and wait. Home park: Rome, Italy.

Pope Julius II’s The Ceilings SP Milton 6, Dryden 6, Ludovico Ariosto 6, Swift 6, RP Bach (new) 6, GE Lessing 6, Augustine (new) 6
Spenser CF, Petrarch 2B, Wiliam Blake SS, Michelangelo 1B, Camoens LF, Tulsidas RF, Euripides C, Ferdosi 3B
James Russell Lowell, Kwesi Brew, Klopstock, Pindar, RH Horne

~~~
The Glorious League

THE PISTOLS

A lot of these teams are owned by mysterious conglomerates.  For the sake of controversy, we’re calling this Eva Braun’s team, but no one knows who really owns this team.  The murky rich. Pound signed with the Pistols, and brought along some friends. Motto: A life subdued to its instrument. Home park: Berlin, Germany

Eva Braun’s The Pistols  SP T.S. Eliot 6, George Santayana 5, Wagner 5, Pound 4, RP Wyndham Lewis 4, Kenner 4, Ernest Hemingway 4, Heidegger (new) 4
DH Lawrence CF, Stein 2B, Yeats SS, Ford 1B, A. Crowley LF, Hughes RF, Jung C, Joyce 3B
Balla, Martinetti, Dorothy Shakespeare, A.R. Orage, John Quinn, Olga Rudge

THE CARRIAGES

This is Queen Victoria’s team—Tennyson, Paul McCartney, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Henry James. You get the idea. Motto: Theirs but to do and die.  Home park: London, England

Queen Victoria’s The Carriages SP Marvell 6, V. Woolf 6, Hazlitt 5, H James 4, RP Jeremy Bentham (new) 4
CF Longfellow, 2B Tennyson, SS Paul McCartney, Geoffrey Hill 1B, Sylvia Plath LF, Philip Larkin RF, Browning C, Elizabeth Barrett Browning 3B
Theocritus, Suckling, Bronte sisters (new)

THE BANNERS

If you want glorious, haunting, human-centered, aestheticism, look no further than Medici’s the Banners. Motto: The One remains, the many change and pass. Home park: Florence, Italy

Lorenzo de Medici’s The Banners SP Dante 6, Shelley 6, Virgil 6, da Vinci 5, RP Boccaccio 6, Joshua Reynolds (new) 5, William Rossetti 5
CF Swinburne (new), 2B Keats, SS Thomas Moore, Friedrich Schiller 1B, C. Rossetti LF, D.G. Rossetti RF, George C, Cavalcanti 3B
Glyn Maxwell, Ben Mazer, Philodemus

THE SUN

Lord Russell, Bertie’s grandfather, was prime minister of Great Britain when France was on their side (under Napoleon III) and America was being ripped apart by the Civil War. French-Anglo Colonialism was wrapping up the globe; Emerson and Thoreau were part of the conspiracy—Poe was dead; the USA would return to England as a bucolic colony. A no-borders paradise run by smart people. Motto: A good indignation brings out all one’s powers. Home park: Devon, England

PM Lord Russell’s The Sun SP Emerson 5, JS Mill (new) 4, Aldous Huxley 4, Thomas Carlyle 4, RP Bertrand Russell (new) 5, Thoreau 4, Christopher Ricks (new) 4,
CF Southey, Kipling 2B, Wordsworth SS, Walpole 1B, Margaret Fuller LF, Basil Bunting RF, Sir John Davies C, M Arnold 3B
Joy Harjo, Marilyn Chin, Macgoye,

THE LAUREATES

Nahum Tate, a 1692 British Poet Laureate, rewrote King Lear with a happy ending. Many own the Laureates, but we think Tate’s story is an interesting one. Motto: Luck is bestowed even on those who don’t have hands. Home park: Dublin, Ireland

Nahum Tate’s Laureates SP Edmund Burke 5, Thomas Peacock 4, Samuel Johnson 4, Leigh Hunt 4, RP Livy (new) 6, Dana Gioia 4
CF Goldsmith, Sara Teasdale 2B, Rod McKuen SS, Charles Dickens 1B, Dumas LF, Aphra Behn RF, Pasternak C, Ghalib 3B
JK Rowling, Verdi

~~~
The Secret Society League

THE ACTORS

Weinstein produced smart, progressive films, and this team, the Actors, reflects that, to a certain degree.  The jailed owner belongs to the league’s timeless ghosts; justice prevails, even as things are and are not. Motto: I am no hackney for your rod. Home park: Westport, Connecticut, USA

Harvey Weinstein’s The Actors SP Byron 6, Chaucer 6, Henry Beecher 5, Petronius 5, RP Sade (new) 6, Gide 4
CF Baraka, Hafiz 2B, Skelton SS, Knight 1B, Langston Hughes LF, Gwendolyn Brooks, RF Marilyn Hacker, Audre Lorde C, Thomas Nashe 3B
Clifton, Page, Jim Carroll

THE STRANGERS

The Strangers definitely have filmmaker David Lynch’s stamp. Motto: So still is day, it seems like night profound. Home park: Alexandria, Virginia, USA

David Lynch’s The Strangers SP Pope 6, Nietzsche 5, Beckett 4, Paglia 4, RP Lovecraft 4, Bloch (new) 4, Philip K Dick (new) 4
CF Rabelais, R. Graves 2B, Riding SS, Roethke 1B, Verlaine LF Kees RF, Rimbaud C, Mary Shelley 3B
Labid, Satie, Burroughs, Fernando Pessoa

THE ANIMALS

It’s a little difficult to define P.T. Barnum’s team, the Animals.   Is it spectacle?  Animal-friendly?  We’re not really sure. Majesty and love are incompatible. Fairfield, Connecticut, USA

P.T. Barnum’s The Animals SP Ovid 6, Melville 5, Verne (new) 5, Robert Bly 4, RP Darwin (new) 5, Nerval 5
CF Jack Spicer, Stevens 2B, Edward Lear SS, Heaney 1B, Mary Oliver LF, Marianne Moore RF, Jeffers C, Ferlinghetti 3B
Scalapino, Kay Ryan, Saint Saens

THE WAR

J.P. Morgan did fund World War One.  This is his team, The War. Motto: The fire-eyed maid of smoky war all hot and bleeding will we offer them. Home park: Madison Avenue, New York, New York

J.P. Morgan’s The War SP Shakespeare 6, Sir Walter Scott 5, Erich Remarque 4, David Hume 4, RP Aldington 4, Gibbon (new) 5,
CF Stephen Crane, Keith Douglas 2B, Sidney SS, Apollinaire 1B, Harry Crosby LF, James Dickey RF, Howard Nemerov C, Brooke 3B
Alan Seeger, T.E. Hulme, Untermeyer

THE SECRETS

America’s team! Motto: We come in the age’s most uncertain hour and sing an American tune. Home park: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Ben Franklin’s The Secrets SP Poe 6, Plato 6, Pushkin 6, Moliere 5, RP F. Scott Key 5, Jefferson (new) 5, Monroe (new) 5, Madison (new) 5
CF Hawthorne, Woody Guthrie 2B, Frost SS, Cole Porter 1B, Kanye West LF, Paul Simon RF, Emily Dickinson C, Carl Sandburg 3B
William Cullen Bryant, Amy Lowell, Bob Tonucci, Stephen Cole, John Prine, Dolly Parton (new), Willie Nelson (new)

~~~
The People’s Division

THE COBRAS

The great literary tradition of India: the Calcutta (Kolkata) Cobras! Motto: Is it true that your love traveled alone through ages and worlds in search of me? Home park: Kolkata, Bengal, India

Sajyajit Ray’s Cobras SP Tagore 5, Rumi 5, Kabir Das 4 (new), Herman Hesse 4, RP Ghandi 6, Nissim Ezekiel (new) 4, Krishnamurti (new) 4, Faiz Ahmad Faiz 4
Allen Ginsberg CF, Sen 2B, Anand Thakore SS, Nair 1B, Thayil LF, Muktibodh RF, Vikram Seth C, George Harrison 3B
Sushmita Gupta, Rupi Kaur, Meenakshi, Dhoomil, Jussawala, Ramanujan, Persius, Doshi, Meghaduta Kalidasa, Nabina Das, Sophie Naz, Linda Ash, Medha Singh

THE MIST

Yoko Ono and her husband are the double play combination for the Tokyo Mist. Motto: In Kyoto, hearing the cuckoo, I long for Kyoto. Home park: Tokyo, Japan

Kurosawa’s The Mist SP Basho 6, Issa 6, Heraclitus 5, Noguchi 4, RP Kobo Abe (new) 5, Suzuki 4
CF Gary Snyder, Ono 2B, John Lennon SS, Robert Duncan 1B, Doolittle LF, Richard Brautigan RF, Sadakichi Hartmann C, Corman 3B
Shikabu, Philip Whalen, Yukio Mishima (new), Haruki Murakami (new)

THE WAVES

Red China, with some ancient aesthetics, Chairman Mao’s The Waves. Motto: Death gives separation repose. Without death, grief only sharpens. Home park: Beijing, China

Chairman Mao’s The Waves SP Voltaire 5, Lucretius 5, Rousseau 5, Lao Tzu 5, RP Khomeini 4, Lenin (new) 4, Engels (new)  4
CF Marx, Li He 2B, Tu Fu SS, Ho Chi-Fang 1B, LF Li Po, RF Billie Holiday, Brecht C, Neruda 3B
Wang Wei, Gary B. Fitzgerald, Wendell Berry, Lu Xun, Bai Juyi, Guo Morou, Baraka, Guy Burgess, Louis Althusser (new)

THE LAWS

The Law and Order producer calls the shots on this team—which is, frankly, hard to characterize. Motto: In poetry everything is clear and definite. Home park: Santa Barbara, California, USA

Dick (Law and Order) Wolf’s The Laws SP Aristotle 5, Lord Bacon 5, Horace 5, Yvor Winters 4, RP Van Doren 4, M L Rosenthal 4, David Lehman 4
CF John Donne, Jane Kenyon 2B, Donald Hall SS, Gottfried Burger 1B, LF Thomas Hardy, RF Machado, Martial C, Akhmatova 3B
Justice, Campion, Seidel, Ajip Rosidi

THE GAMERS

The league needed a Light Verse team, and this is it, and it’s more than that—Merv Griffin’s The Gamers! Motto: He thought he saw an elephant that practiced on a fife. Home park: Los Angeles, California, USA

Merv Griffin’s The Gamers SP Lewis Carroll 5, James Tate 4, E.E. Cummings 4, Morgenstern 4, RP Menander 4, Charles Bernstein 4
CF Betjeman, Thomas Hood 2B, Noel Coward SS, Tzara 1B, Ogden Nash, LF Billy Collins, RF Wendy Cope, Eugene Ionesco C, Joe Green 3B
Riley, McHugh, XJ Kennedy, WS Gilbert, Tony Hoagland

~~~
The Modern Division

THE DREAMERS

Pamela Harriman married Winston Churchill’s son, the producer of The Sound of Music, and New York Governor Averil Harriman, before she ran the DNC.  Her team is the Dreamers. Motto: Not the earth, the sea, none of it was enough for her, without me. Home park: Arden, New York, USA

Pamela Harriman’s  The Dreamers SP Simone de Beauvoir 4, Floyd Dell 4, Anais Nin 4, Marge Piercy 4, RP Germaine Greer (new) 4, Louise Gluck 4
CF Sharon Olds, Edna Millay 2B, Jack Gilbert SS, MacNeice 1B, LF Rukeyser, RF Louise Bogan, Carolyn Forche C, Richard Lovelace 3B
Propertius, Swenson, Jean Valentine, Stevie Smith, Stanley Burnshaw, George Dillon

THE PRINTERS

Andy Warhol is the ruling spirit of The Printers. Motto: The eye, seeking to sink, is rebuffed by a much-worked dullness, the patina of a rag, that oily Vulcan uses, wiping up. Home park: East 47th St, New York, New York

Andy Warhol’s The Printers SP Duchamp 6, Marjorie Perloff 4, Stephanie Burt 4, Mark Rothko 4, RP John Cage 4, RP Blackmur (new) 4, Guy Davenport (new) 4
CF Aristophanes, James Merrill 2B, Hart Crane SS, Kenneth Koch 1B, LF John Updike, RF Lorca, Andre Breton C, John Ashbery 3B
Schuyler, Thom Gunn, Isherwood, Lou Reed

THE BUYERS

Rockefeller didn’t want to spend too much on his team—will Whitman, Freud, Twain, and Paul Engle be a championship rotation of starters?  Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop are the double play combination. Motto: Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion? Home park: Chicago, Illinois, USA

John D. Rockefeller’s The Buyers SP Walt Whitman 5, Freud 5, Twain 5, Paul Engle 4, RP Vendler 4, Wimsat (new) 4, Beardsley (new) 4
CF Penn Warren, Elizabeth Bishop 2B, Robert Lowell SS, Duke Ellington 1B, LF Jack Kerouac, Edgar Lee Masters RF, Rexroth C, Dylan Thomas 3B
Jorie Graham, Harriet Monroe, Carl Philips, Richard Hugo, Alexander Percy, Alcaeus, Franz Wright

THE CRASH

AC Barnes, the wealthy modern art collector, sold his stock right before the Crash of ’29—John Dewey was his aesthetic philosopher. Motto: But for some futile things unsaid I should say all is done for us. Home park: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

A.C. Barnes’ The Crash SP John Crowe Ransom 5, John Dewey 4, Wittgenstein 4, Walter Pater 4, RP Jackson Pollock 4, I A Richards (new) 4, K Burke (new) 4,
CF Allen Tate, Richard Howard 2B, WC Williams SS, Donald Davidson 1B, LF John Gould Fletcher, RF Stanley Kunitz, Stephen Spender C, Archilochus 3B
Merrill Moore, Andrew Nelson Lytle, Luigi Russolo, Anne Waldman, Cleanth Brooks, Harold Rosenberg

THE UNIVERSE

Steven Spielberg’s The Universe is very Hollywood: progressive and American. Motto: I know why the caged bird sings. Home park: Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Steven Spielberg’s The Universe SP Harriet Beecher Stowe 5, Harold Bloom 4, Randall Jarrell 4, Margaret Atwood 4, RP Foucault (new) 4, Milosz 5,
CF Delmore Schwartz, Bob Dylan 2B, Paul Celan SS, Anthony Hecht 1B, LF Philip Levine, RF Galway Kinnell, Maya Angelou C, Chuck Berry 3B
James Wright, Stephen King, Larry Levis, Juvenal, Alice Walker,

~~~

Opening Day Games

Rimini Broadcasters v. Corsica Codes SP Giacomo Leopardi, Homer

Madrid Crusaders v. Paris Goths SP Aquinas, Goethe

Berlin Pistols v London Carriages SP TS Eliot, Andrew Marvell

Florence Banners v Devon Sun SP Dante, Emerson

Westport Actors v Virginia Strangers SP Byron, Pope

Connecticut Animals v New York War SP Ovid, Shakespeare

Kolkata Cobras v Tokyo Mist SP Tagore, Basho

Beijing Waves v California Laws SP Voltaire, Aristotle

Arden Dreamers v Manhattan Printers SP de Beauvoir, Duchamp

Chicago Buyers v Philadelphia Crash SP Whitman, John Crowe Ransom

The Opening Ceremony Poem, read by Commissioner Thomas Brady

We hope you enjoy the game.
It’s not about fame.
It’s about the game.

 

PLAY BALL!

SCARRIET POETRY BASEBALL—HERE WE GO!

Lord Byron In Albanian Dress - 1813 Painting by War Is Hell Store

George Byron in a pensive mood, before taking part in the opening day Scarriet baseball ceremonies.

Happy Easter!

Scarriet has expanded and restructured its baseball league!!

Gone the 2 leagues of 20 teams led by 20 American poets—Eliot, Pound, Frost, Poe, Williams, Stevens, Moore, Dickinson, Millay, Jorie Graham, Ginsberg, Ransom, Cummings, Whittier, Whitman, Bryant, Longfellow, James Lowell, Ashbery, and Emerson.

Now poets like Emerson, Eliot and Poe can be player/managers—to contribute to their teams both at the plate and in the field.

The field is more international—Scarriet Poetry Baseball is now 25 historical teams from all over the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The gods and muses must be pleased with our ten years of Poetry March Madness and our first Poetry Baseball season, where poetry is worshiped through time and space in a manner which no one has ever seen.

Fortunately one of the Muses has always been here to help us, Marla Muse.

Marla Muse: They are indeed pleased, Tom!

You have spoken to the other muses who live in other realms, in those shadowy timeless realms where time is one and poetry lights up suns distantly—

Marla Muse: Yes, and they approve! The stars in the heavens love you more than you know… I would rather die than see poetry die.

This baseball season is different. Mysterious and wealthy owners throughout time and space are bidding, some in secret, for players to fill their rosters.

In the Great Emperor League, we have the Broadcasters. Their motto is “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name” and they feature Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Gregory Corso, Anne Sexton, Bobby Burns, Omar Khayyam, Rilke, Coleridge, Leopardi, Anacreon, Sappho, and Ingrid Jonker.  They are rumored to be owned and funded by a business group led by Federico Fellini, and their ballpark is in Rimini, Italy.

These ballclubs are timeless, in every sense of the word (these teams compete, with actual statistics, where chance unfolds out of space, out of time) but real money, blood money, purchases these players.  We know JP Morgan, for instance, wanted Shakespeare and bid heavily to get him.

The Pistols, who play in Berlin, are said to be associated with Eva Braun, but this cannot be confirmed; one older muse claims to have overheard Eva say, “I take care of this. Adolf is too busy talking to bankers and architects. He doesn’t have time for poetry.” But honestly we cannot say who owns the Pistols.

Nahum Tate, owner of the Laureates, for those who do not know, re-wrote a popular King Lear with a happy ending (after Shakespeare’s death when, for a long period, the Bard was out of fashion,) and was chosen as Poet Laureate of England in 1692. 

Dick Wolf produces Law & Order on television, and appears to have a controlling interest in the Laws, playing out of Santa Barbara.  He’s got Aristotle, Lord Bacon, and Horace.

John Rockefeller opened his purse to get Walt Whitman, and he thinks that will be enough to win a championship.  We don’t know.  We do know baseball is all about pitching.  All you need is a few good arms which dominate, defense behind them, and some clubhouse chemistry, and not too many injuries. It’s a crap shoot, in many ways, and this is why Rockefeller grumbled he wasn’t going to waste money on superstars who hit home runs and have a high batting average. He’s probably right.  A team that wins 2-1 is better than a team that wins 7-4, by pure mathematics, even though the former score wins by 1 and the latter by 3 runs. It’s the ratio that counts.  2-1 = 2. 7-4 = 1.7  This simple reason is why defense wins in every sport. Rockefeller is using this formula, and the oil baron was also advised that you can’t buy a pennant—throwing money at sluggers doesn’t do any good; it’s 90% pitching and luck. Just put a a poet with critical depth on the hill and three good versifiers in the infield and sit back.

Some of the rosters might have some question marks, but that’s what happens in a free market.  It’s an historical fact that Longfellow did meet Queen Victoria in person. But no one expected him to play for her!

And W.H. Auden just “wanted to play for Napoleon, I don’t why.”

Marla Muse: I can’t wait for the season to begin!  Spring is in the air! Around Rome, and in those still fairer isles… Let’s forget about plagues and the starvation for awhile. Songs are going to sing.

Here then, are the Teams, their Mottoes, and the preliminary rosters—they are always changing (there’s a big minor leagues!)

~~~~~~

THE GREAT EMPEROR LEAGUE

Federico Fellini, Rimini  The Broadcasters [Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name]
-Mick Jagger, Sappho, Gregory Corso, Charles Bukowski, Paul Valery, Anne Sexton, Omar Khayyam, Robert Burns, Ben Jonson, Coleridge, Jim Morrison, Edmund Waller, Nabokov, Rilke, Giacomo Leopardi, Anacreon, Ingrid Jonker, Swinburne

Napoleon, Corsica The Codes [Let the more loving one be me]
-W.H. Auden, Homer, Hesiod, Racine, John Peale Bishop, Edmund Wilson, Mina Loy, William Logan, Irving Layton, Villon, Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard, Wole Soyinka, Jules Laforgue, Derek Walcott, Callimachus, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius

King Philip II, Madrid The Crusaders [If in my thought I have magnified the Father above the Son, let Him have no mercy on me]
-Saint Ephrem, G.K. Chesterton, Tolkien, Thomas Aquinas, Hilaire Beloc, John Paul II, Saint Theresa of Lisieux, Joyce Kilmer, Saint John of the Cross, Mary Angela Douglas, Anne Bradstreet, Phillis Wheatley, Countee Cullen, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Aeschulus

Charles X, Paris  The Goths [Every great enterprise takes its first step in faith]
-A.W. Schlegel, Baudelaire, Goethe, Oscar Wilde, Walter Pater, Madame de Stael, Chateaubriand, Sophocles, George Herbert, Heinrich Heine, Robert Herrick, Clement Marot, Ronsard, Saint-Beuve, Catulus, Thomas Gray, John Clare, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Theophile Gautier

Pope Julius II, Rome  The Ceilings [They also serve who only stand and wait]
-Milton, Michelangelo, William Blake, Robert Lowell, Petrarch, G.E. Lessing, John Dryden, Klopstock, GE Horne, Ferdowsi, Ariosto, Luis de Camoens, Swift, Tulsidas, Edmund Spenser, Kwesi Brew, Pindar, Euripides

~~~~~

THE GLORIOUS LEAGUE

Eva Braun, Berlin The Pistols [A life subdued to its instrument]
-Ted Hughes, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, Hugh Kenner, Wyndham Lewis, DH Lawrence, Alistair Crowley, George Santayana, F.T. Marinetti, Giacomo Balla, Richard Wagner, Jung

Queen Victoria, London The Carriages [Theirs but to do and die]
-Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett, Robert Browning, Longfellow, Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath, Hazlitt, Paul McCartney, Geoffrey Hill, Henry James, Andrew Marvel, John Suckling, Virginia Woolf, Theocritus

Lorenzo de’ Medici, Florence The Banners [The One remains, the many change and pass]
-Percy Shelley, Dante, William Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, DG Rossetti, John Keats, Marlowe, Guido Cavalcanti, Glyn Maxwell, Ben Mazer, Friedrich Schiller, Thomas Moore, Philodemus, Virgil, Stefan George, Boccaccio, Leonardo da Vinci

P.M. Lord John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, Devon The Sun [A good indignation brings out all one’s powers]
-Emerson, Horace Walpole, Thomas Carlyle, Thoreau, Wordsworth, Rudyard Kipling, Aldous Huxley, Matthew Arnold, Sir John Davies, Margaret Fuller, Robert Southey, Marilyn Chin, Joy Harjo, Basil Bunting, Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye

Nahum Tate, Dublin  The Laureates [Luck is bestowed even on those who don’t have hands]
-Ghalib, Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Peacock, Leigh Hunt, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Sara Teasdale, Pasternak, Louis Simpson, Dana Gioia, Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, Aphra Behn, Rod McKuen, JK Rowling

~~~~~

THE SECRET SOCIETY LEAGUE

Harvey Weinstein, Westport CT The Actors [I am no hackney for your rod]
-John Skelton, Langston Hughes, Henry Ward Beecher, Chaucer, Amiri Baraka, Lord Byron, Hafiz, Thomas Nashe, Marilyn Hacker, Petronius, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jim Carroll, Lucille Clifton, Etheridge Knight, Audre Lorde, Jimmy Page, Andre Gide

David Lynch, Alexandria VA  The Strangers [So still is day, it seems like night profound]
-Jones Very, Alexander Pope, William Burroughs, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Robert Graves, Laura Riding, Weldon Kees, Berryman, Mary Shelley, Rabelais, Charles Simic, Eric Satie, Labid, Roethke, Camille Paglia, HP Lovecraft, Nietzsche, Samuel Beckett

P.T. Barnum, Fairfield CT  The Animals [Majesty and love are incompatible]
-Ovid, Gerald Stern, Robinson Jeffers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Seamus Heaney, Jack Spicer, Kay Ryan, Leslie Scalapino, Mary Oliver, W S Merwin, Melville, Camille Saint Saens, Edward Lear, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Gerard de Nerval, Robert Bly

J.P. Morgan, Madison Avenue  The War [The fire-eyed maid of smoky war all hot and bleeding will we offer them]
-Shakespeare, Louis Untermeyer, Apollinaire, T.E. Hulme, Richard Aldington, Rupert Brooke, Sir Walter Scott, Philip Sidney, James Dickey, Harry Crosby, Keith Douglas, Wilfred Owen, Howard Nemerov, Stephen Crane, Erich Remarque, Alan Seeger

Ben Franklin  Philadelphia  The Secrets [We come in the age’s most uncertain hour and sing an American tune]
-Paul Simon, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Edgar Poe, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, F. Scott Key, Cole Porter, Plato, Hawthorne, Pushkin, Walter Raleigh, Moliere, William Cullen Bryant, Amy Lowell, Emma Lazarus, Carl Sandburg, Pete Seeger, Natasha Trethewey, Amelia Welby, Woody Guthrie, JD Salinger, John Prine, Kanye West, Stephen Cole, Bob Tonucci

~~~~~

THE PEOPLE’S LEAGUE

Sajyajit Ray, Calcutta The Cobras [Is it true that your love traveled alone through ages and worlds in search of me?]
-Tagore, Allen Ginsberg, Jeet Thayil, Rupi Kaur, Anand Thakore, Dhoomil, G.M. Muktibodh, Rumi, A.K. Ramanujan, Samar Sen, Daipayan Nair, R. Meenakshi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Hermann Hesse, Persius, George Harrison, Adil Jussawalla, Tishani Doshi, Sushmita Gupta, Vikram Seth

Kurosawa,  Tokyo  The Mist [In Kyoto, hearing the cuckoo, I long for Kyoto]
-Basho, Hilda Doolittle, Robert Duncan, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, D.T. Suzuki, Yone Noguchi, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Kobayashi Issa, Lady Izumi Shikibu, Cid Corman, Sadakichi Hartmann, Heraclitus, Richard Brautigan

Chairman Mao, Beijing  The Waves [Death gives separation repose. Without death, grief only sharpens]
-Tu Fu, Lucretius, Karl Marx, Voltaire, Rousseau, Guy Burgess, Amiri Baraka, Brecht, Neruda, Li Po, Li He, Bai Juyi, Lu Xun, Guo Moruo, Ho Chi-Fang, Yen Chen, Billie Holiday, Khomieni, Lu Ji , Wang Wei, Lao Tzu, Gary B. Fitzgerald, Wendell Berry

Dick Wolf, Santa Barbara  The Laws [In poetry everything is clear and definite]
-Ajip Rosidi, Aristotle, John Donne, Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, Donald Justice, Anna Akhmatova, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Campion, Frederick Seidel, Antonio Machado, Mark Van Doren, David Lehman, Lord Bacon, Martial, ML Rosenthal, Horace, Gottfried Burger, Yvor Winters

Merv Griffin, Los Angeles  The Gamers  [He thought he saw an elephant that practiced on a fife]
-Lewis Carroll, James Tate, E.E. Cummings, Tony Hoagland, Ogden Nash, Billy Collins, Eugene Field, W.S. Gilbert, Thomas Hood, Noel Coward, X.J. Kennedy, John Betjeman, Wendy Cope, Tristan Tzara, Heather McHugh, Charles Bernstein, Jack Spicer, James Whitcomb Riley, Joe Green, Menander, Morgenstern

~~~~~

THE MODERN LEAGUE

Pamela Harriman, Arden NY The Dreamers [not the earth, the sea, none of it was enough for her, without me]
-Sharon Olds, Edna Millay, George Dillon, Floyd Dell, Dorothy Parker, Stanley Burnshaw, Richard Lovelace, Stevie Smith, Louis MacNeice, Louise Bogan, Louise Gluck, Jack Gilbert, Marge Piercy, Carolyn Forche, Muriel Rukeyser, Jean Valentine, May Swenson, Propertius, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir

Andy Warhol, East 47th St The Printers [the eye, seeking to sink, is rebuffed by a much-worked dullness, the patina of a rag, that oily Vulcan uses, wiping up.]
-John Updike, Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, James Merrill, Hart Crane, Lorca, Thom Gunn, Stephen Burt, Frank Bidart, Mark Rothko, Marjorie Perloff, John Quinn, Duchamp, Aristophanes, Christopher Isherwood, Andre Breton, Lou Reed, John Cage

John D. Rockefeller, Chicago The Buyers [Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?]
-Walt Whitman, Alcaeus, Edgar Lee Masters, Kenneth Rexroth, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Helen Vendler, Jorie Graham, Franz Wright, Mark Twain, Robert Penn Warren, Paul Engle, William Alexander Percy, Richard Hugo, Carl Philips, Harriet Monroe, Duke Ellington, Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac, Sigmund Freud

A. C. Barnes, Philadelphia  The Crash [But for some futile things unsaid I should say all is done for us]
-Allen Tate, John Gould Fletcher, John Crowe Ransom, John Dewey, Cleanth Brooks, Donald Davidson, Merrill Moore, Walter Pater, Wittgenstein, Andrew Nelson Lytle, Archilochus, Anne Waldman, Stanley Kunitz, Jackson Pollock, WC Williams, Luigi Russolo, Stephen Spender, Richard Howard

Steven Spielberg, Phoenix AZ  The Universe [I know why the caged bird sings]
-Maya Angelou, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Bob Dylan, Margaret Atwood, Paul Celan, Czeslaw Milosz, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, Anthony Hecht, Galway Kinnell, Philip Levine, Larry Levis, Claudia Rankine, Harold Bloom, Alice Walker, James Wright, Juvenal, Chuck Berry, Stephen King

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ballpark Road Trips in Review: 2018 - Ben's Biz Blog

 

 

TO PUT ALL POEMS OF NOTE IN ONE

Lincrusta Wallpaper - VE1967 | Lincrusta Wallpapers in 2020 ...

“old magazines piled up against the hours” -Ben Mazer

To put all poems of note in one,

Sacrificial cries watched by Italians,

Exemplifying hills and small lakes,

Cold, held by higher mountains,

Landscapes bitten off by words

Put into little leather books by spies,

All the Germans who translated things

That stood missing a long time in the earth,

Statues discovered only yesterday,

Yet suspected to be Michelangelo’s;

Records indicate he lived nearby,

The rebellious villages giving alms

Where the best of them were found.

Even the English springs, not Victorian,

Edwardian, leftover scents underground

Where even bright petticoats could find them,

Gave us the greatest challenge, poems

Cooked in spice, eastern vegetables

Chopped, and baked in the ovens

Where I saw down into the hole, black

Not moving, something tiny,

Maybe just a sound that modifies

Living with itself, stands under grass,

Heaves large rocks for hours;

Some of us working, seeing in haze

And further murkiness just before

Five o’ clock, the hour we love,

The hour uniting us, in a definite distance

That puts us in the way of so many poems.

Jolly as a thief, covered, at all points,

The instructions vary, half-understood

By the drinking mind that knows us,

Pulp in the garden, the small things fidget,

O twice-painted Keatsian bicycle,

Described, once again, those tools for you,

Placated nicely, soothed in all the paths

Going to you and letting you know

That here in the limestone hills

Where gods develop, you can still,

In the hush of extraordinary vision,

See things grow, peeping, the smaller,

The better, as the trained discover what

They are good at, at last; but pursue,

Instead, something else, to earn a living,

What no one was good at, what sent

The guards down, always indifferent,

Breeding Shakespeare, keeping the whole thing

For later, for the better yesterday,

Because you, jammed up against the wall,

Thought to turn your head slightly,

Habituated or not, towards sunrise,

You, finally in the poem. You can stand here.

Go ahead, I’m waiting.

LAST TWO FIRST ROUND MATCHES IN SUBLIME MARCH MADNESS!

Clearing in the Woods | Detroit Institute of Arts Museum

We love the hum of crowds, their jostling, anonymous company, when, with friends, we climb the stairs, joking with each other, on the way to our seats in the Poetry Arena, for Poetry March Madness.

After these two matches, all 64 contestants will have made their sublime presence known against an opponent in the 2020 Scarriet March Madness—its 10th anniversary.

Ten years of Poetry March Madness on Scarriet.  It’s hard to believe.

What do you think, Marla?  A proud moment, huh?

Marla Muse:  It’s only time, Tom. Don’t be so full of yourself. It’s only time.

True, Marla, true.

The fans are crazy about this contest.  Here’s one of the most haunting love poems ever written, “Litany” by 7th seeded Carolyn Creedon:

Tom, will you let me love you in your restaurant?
I will let you make me a sandwich of your invention and I will eat it and call
it a carolyn sandwich. Then you will kiss my lips and taste the mayon­naise and
that is how you shall love me in my restaurant
.
Tom, will you come to my empty beige apartment and help me set up my daybed?
Yes, and I will put the screws in loosely so that when we move on it, later,
it will rock like a cradle and then you will know you are my baby
.
Tom, I am sitting on my dirt bike on the deck. Will you come out from the kitchen
and watch the people with me?
Yes, and then we will race to your bedroom. I will win and we will tangle up
on your comforter while the sweat rains from our stomachs and fore­heads
.
Tom, the stars are sitting in tonight like gumball gems in a little girl’s
jewelry box. Later can we walk to the duck pond?
Yes, and we can even go the long way past the jungle gym. I will push you on
the swing, but promise me you’ll hold tight. If you fall I might disappear
.
Tom, can we make a baby together? I want to be a big pregnant woman with a
loved face and give you a squalling red daughter.
No, but I will come inside you and you will be my daughter
.
Tom, will you stay the night with me and sleep so close that we are one person?
No, but I will lie down on your sheets and taste you. There will be feathers
of you on my tongue and then I will never forget you
.
Tom, when we are in line at the convenience store can I put my hands in your
back pockets and my lips and nose in your baseball shirt and feel the crook
of your shoulder blade?
No, but later you can lie against me and almost touch me and when I go I will
leave my shirt for you to sleep in so that always at night you will be pressed
up against the thought of me
.
Tom, if I weep and want to wait until you need me will you promise that someday
you will need me?
No, but I will sit in silence while you rage, you can knock the chairs down
any mountain. I will always be the same and you will always wait
.
Tom, will you climb on top of the dumpster and steal the sun for me? It’s just
hanging there and I want it.
No, it will burn my fingers. No one can have the sun: it’s on loan from God.
But I will draw a picture of it and send it to you from Richmond and then you
can smooth out the paper and you will have a piece of me as well as the sun
.
Tom, it’s so hot here, and I think I’m being born. Will you come back from
Richmond and baptize me with sex and cool water?
I will come back from Richmond. I will smooth the damp spiky hairs from the
back of your neck and then I will lick the salt off it. Then I will leave
.
Tom, Richmond is so far away. How will I know how you love me?
I have left you. That is how you will know
.
.
Does this need any commentary?  Do great poems need any added words?
.
Opposite Carolyn Creedon is a poet of faith and exquisite beauty, whose many poems invoke childhood reigning over the fallen: the sensitive and delicate 10th seeded Mary Angela Douglas. She presents a portion of a poem; many of the sublime examples are excerpts. Few words, but we still feel Mary Angela Douglas has a good chance to win, since how can the soul deny the steady iamb (the voice you hear from long a-go…) drifting into a surprise, which stuns—the trochaic ransacked.  Never has one word been so elevated by the melody of poetry.
.

the voice you hear
from long ago
could be the voice
of all the snows
could be the light of all the stars
of all the feelings near or far
you felt just when
the world was new
until the sorrows
ransacked you

Both poets are from the American South—which implies poems of heartbreak and pessimism, and a beauty of decay which is sadder and more beautiful than anything.  In the calm evening the poets circle each other. It’s a shame that someone has to lose.

~~~~~~~~~~~
Dan Sociu lives in Romania. This masterpiece was translated with help from Ana-Maria Tone.  The Romanian title by the 8th seeded Sociu is “Nimic Nu Mai E Posibil.”

Nothing is possible anymore between me

And a nineteen year old girl, just as nothing

was possible when I was nineteen

years old. I listened to them carefully, they ruffled my hair,

they’d gently reject my touches, no, Dan,

you are not like this, you are a poet. They came

to me for therapy, they’d come with their eyes in tears

to the poet. I was a poet and everyone was in love

around the poet and none with him.

The poet would go out every evening

quaking like a tectonic wave and

in the morning he’d come back humiliated

in his heart—the quakes moving

for nothing, under uninhabited regions.

It’s impossible to define “poet” without intellectual bragging in a high-toned manner which no one quite believes, on one hand, or sounding the alarm against falsity and the fake, on the other. If a poet is truly praised, the definition begins to leave the poet behind; despite Shelley’s “Defense,” for instance, no one looks at today’s poets and then believes what Shelley said.  In this poem, Sociu manages to capture better than anyone, what’s going on underneath what all of us talk about when we talk about the “poet.”  “Nimic Nu Mai E Posibil” manages to sympathize, laud, pity, and disdain what a poet is in a manner visionary, intimate, grounded, and sublime.

Ninth seeded Ben Mazer is one of our best living poets.  In “Cirque D’etoiles,” the sublime keeps gaining speed as we read:

And after all is made a frozen waste
of snow and ice, of boards and rags. . .
if I should see one spark of permanent,
… one chink of blue among the wind-blown slags
approaching thus, and mirroring my surmise,
one liquid frozen permanence, your eyes. . .
should meet you at the end of time
and never end. . .
for always, even past death, you are my friend. . . .
and when at last it comes, inevitable,
that you shall sit in furs at high table
(for what other fate can one expect?)
dispensing honours, correlating plans
for every cause, for education, science. . .
what will I miss? how can I not be there?
who see you sputtering wordless in despair. . .
as I do now “miss nothing, nothing”
and to know you are some other man’s
(the stupid jerk), who once had your compliance. . .
and do these things ever end? (and if so, where?)
I ask myself, and should I feel despair?
to know, to love, to know, and still not care?
in winter, spring, and summer, and in fall,
on land or sea, at any time at all,
to know that half the stars on each night shine,
the other half are in your eyes, and mine. . .
and what is there? And what, I ask, is there?
Only these hurt and wounded orbs I see
nestled against a frozen stark brick wall. . .
and there are you, and there is me,
and that is all, that is all. . .
How from this torment can I wrestle free?
I can’t. . . . for thus is my soliloquy.
And you shall sit there serving backers tea.
And running ladies circles. Think of me. . .
Think of me, when like a mountainous waste
the night’s long dreaming stretches to a farther coast
where nothing is familiar. . . two paths that may have crossed
discover what had long been past recall. . .
that nothing’s really changed at all,
that we are here!
Here among flowering lanterns of the sea,
finite, marking each vestige of the city
with trailing steps, with wonder, and with pity!
And laugh, and never say that you feel shitty,
are one whose heart is broken, like this ditty.
And think that there is nothing there to miss.
Think “I must not miss a thing. I must not miss
the wraps, the furs, the teaspoon, or the kiss.”
And end in wishes. And leave not this abyss.
For all is one, beginning as it’s done.
Never forgetting this, till I am no one.
There is no formula that can forget. . .
these eyes pierce though ten thousand suns have set,
and will keep setting. . . now tuck in your head,
the blankets folded, and lay down in your bed.
And stir the stars, long after we are dead.

The fans are on their feet for both Dan Sociu and Ben Mazer.

The first round of Sublime March Madness action is complete.

The poets gather in the rotunda for music and wine.

Some make their way down the wooded pathways towards the sighing shore alone.

 

 

 

THE POST-MODERN BRACKET IN THE SUBLIME MARCH MADNESS!!

Image result for eleanor rigby in painting

Here is the Post-Modern Bracket, 16 heart-breaks which belong to nowour era, beginning with a boomer anthem, “Day in the Life,” and ending with a memory very recently seen on Facebook. This completes the 4 brackets and the 64 “teams” competing in the Scarriet 2020 Sublime March Madness.

How will future readers read us?  With silence and tears?  With pity?  With gratitude, in digital anthologies tucked inside the heart?  With long essays? With ridicule? With puzzlement?  With sighs?

Anyway, here they are:

1) John Lennon & Paul McCartney (day in the life)

I read the news today, oh boy.
About a lucky man who made the grade.
And though the news was rather sad,
I just had to laugh.
I saw the photograph.
He blew his mind out in a car.
He didn’t noticed that the lights had changed.
A crowd of people stood and stared.
They’d seen his face before.
Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords.

I saw a film today, oh boy.
The English army had just won the war.
A crowd of people turned away.
But I just had to look
Having read the book.

I’d love to turn you on.

Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head.
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up, I noticed I was late.
Found my coat and grabbed my hat,
Made the bus in seconds flat.
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
And somebody spoke and I went into a dream:
I read the news today, oh boy.
4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire,
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all.
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

I’d love to turn you on.

 

2) Carolyn Forche (the colonel)

WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD is true. I was in his house. His wife carried
a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went
out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the
cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over
the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English.
Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to
scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs or cut his hands to lace. On
the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had
dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of
bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief
commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was
some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot
said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed
himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries
home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like
dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one
of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water
glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As
for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck them-
selves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last
of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some
of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the
ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.

3) Rutger Hauer (blade runner dying speech)

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark
Near the Tannhauser Gate.
All those moments
Will be lost in time, like tears
In the rain. Time to die.

4) Marilyn Chin (how i got that name)

I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin.
Oh, how I love the resoluteness
of that first person singular
followed by that stalwart indicative
of “be,” without the uncertain i-n-g
of “becoming.”  Of course,
the name had been changed
somewhere between Angel Island and the sea,
when my father the paper son
in the late 1950s
obsessed with a bombshell blond
transliterated “Mei Ling” to “Marilyn.”
And nobody dared question
his initial impulse—for we all know
lust drove men to greatness,
not goodness, not decency.
And there I was, a wayward pink baby,
named after some tragic white woman
swollen with gin and Nembutal.
My mother couldn’t pronounce the “r.”
She dubbed me “Numba one female offshoot”
for brevity: henceforth, she will live and die
in sublime ignorance, flanked
by loving children and the “kitchen deity.”
While my father dithers,
a tomcat in Hong Kong trash—
a gambler, a petty thug,
who bought a chain of chopsuey joints
in Piss River, Oregon,
with bootlegged Gucci cash.
Nobody dared question his integrity given
his nice, devout daughters
and his bright, industrious sons
as if filial piety were the standard
by which all earthly men are measured.

*

Oh, how trustworthy our daughters,
how thrifty our sons!
How we’ve managed to fool the experts
in education, statistic and demography—
We’re not very creative but not adverse to rote-learning.
Indeed, they can use us.
But the “Model Minority” is a tease.
We know you are watching now,
so we refuse to give you any!
Oh, bamboo shoots, bamboo shoots!
The further west we go, we’ll hit east;
the deeper down we dig, we’ll find China.
History has turned its stomach
on a black polluted beach—
where life doesn’t hinge
on that red, red wheelbarrow,
but whether or not our new lover
in the final episode of “Santa Barbara”
will lean over a scented candle
and call us a “bitch.”
Oh God, where have we gone wrong?
We have no inner resources!

*

Then, one redolent spring morning
the Great Patriarch Chin
peered down from his kiosk in heaven
and saw that his descendants were ugly.
One had a squarish head and a nose without a bridge
Another’s profile—long and knobbed as a gourd.
A third, the sad, brutish one may never, never marry.
And I, his least favorite—
“not quite boiled, not quite cooked,”
a plump pomfret simmering in my juices—
too listless to fight for my people’s destiny.
“To kill without resistance is not slaughter”
says the proverb.  So, I wait for imminent death.
The fact that this death is also metaphorical
is testament to my lethargy.

*

So here lies Marilyn Mei Ling Chin,
married once, twice to so-and-so, a Lee and a Wong,
granddaughter of Jack “the patriarch”
and the brooding Suilin Fong,
daughter of the virtuous Yuet Kuen Wong
and G.G. Chin the infamous,
sister of a dozen, cousin of a million,
survived by everbody and forgotten by all.
She was neither black nor white,
neither cherished nor vanquished,
just another squatter in her own bamboo grove
minding her poetry—
when one day heaven was unmerciful,
and a chasm opened where she stood.
Like the jowls of a mighty white whale,
or the jaws of a metaphysical Godzilla,
it swallowed her whole.
She did not flinch nor writhe,
nor fret about the afterlife,
but stayed!  Solid as wood, happily
a little gnawed, tattered, mesmerized
by all that was lavished upon her
and all that was taken away!

 

5) Derek Walcott (this page)

This page is a cloud between whose fraying edges
a headland with mountains appears brokenly
then is hidden again until what emerges
from the now cloudless blue is the grooved sea
and the whole self-naming island, its ochre verges,
its shadow-plunged valleys and a coiled road
threading the fishing villages, the white, silent surges
of combers along the coast, where a line of gulls has arrowed
into the widening harbour of a town with no noise,
its streets growing closer like print you can now read,
two cruise ships, schooners, a tug, ancestral canoes,
as a cloud slowly covers the page and it goes
white again and the book comes to a close.

6) Philip Nikolayev (litmus test)

Didn’t want to go to the damn party in the first place,
needed to “catch a lecture” the next morning
on Renaissance Florence, one of those stupid 9-a.m.-on-Saturday
events, but my buddy insisted sangria, perfect chance to chat
up Jessica and Jake, so we went
at midnight. Sangria my ass. I mean it tasted extra nice,
bootilicious, but they’d run out of ice
and Jessica and Jake had already left. Half an hour later
three spluttering purple volcanoes
of indeterminate size, but perfectly harmless and hospitable,
spun winking out of the texture of the tabletop,
pouring forth an interminable wordlist full of words
into pulsating Buddha-faced saucers. My armchair
floated in the breeze over the seaweed-infested carpet
dead to rights. I was chary of wading through its Dead Sea
waters, though I needed to pee. My buddy goes man,
I think we just drank some acid, should’ve
poured the stuff that’s on the table but I wanted it cold
from the fridge cuz they’ve no ice
so anyway we can always and later too you know
all that, now best stay where you are, best to just to hang in look
I know you have to pee “like ouch” but listen
I’ve been thinking this week all week every day
for three years now, it’s driving me nuts I’ve always
wanted to talk you up about how you know sometimes
that feeling that we call sublime or subliminal whichever
you can also feel it right that wholesome feeling
a bird tipping from branch to branch to branch in luminous light
a bee crawling from bract to bract a strange kind of lyric feeling
the inexpressible what we felt in childhood
is really what we’re all about like they’re cluing you in on it now
gluing suing slewing you in on it. Spack,
a strange music turned itself on and wouldn’t quit,
that bizarre non-quitter music. Anyway when they sang
happy birthday dear Humphrey
at 2 a.m. I needed to pee especially badly
and trudged off through the interminable apartment
though my buddy hadn’t yet finalized his discourse.
I’d never been in a non-finite apartment before,
after 27 rooms I stopped counting
because I almost wet my pants before finding the bathroom
plus had to wait another ten minutes
while someone was getting sick in there.
And finally when I felt I was going back to normal
and washing my hands, I saw in the mirror,
which was in the key of E flat minor,
myself as a winged demon with golden horns on top
and colored rotating spirals for my pupils, my stare
expressive of the universal doom.
Then there was a descent down the three-mile jade
staircase and gigantic escalades of diamond snow.
My buddy and I sat to our heart’s content on steaming grilles
in the pavement by the Store 24 warming ourselves
(though in fact it was hot) with other nocturnal characters,
who thankfully seemed to know no English, and in the end
I realized that we are chemical through and through,
so determinate and so chemical, while sliding in crystal insects up
the conic mountain of spacetime, with its mass but no weight,
pure composition. Soon by the creaking of refreshed pedestrians
I opened up to the idea that there was one hour left until the lecture.
Is supermarket coffee inherently such a palette of taste,
or was it the radically contingent chemistry of my palate
that temporarily made it so? My buddy had left to sleep it off
(wish I had his worries), but I tried to recompose alone
the ordinary coherency of life. All I heard were the dubious
reverberations of a mid-90s train passing underground.
Savonarola’s sermon, to which I had eventually made it
across the Alps, focused on the ideals of asceticism, poverty
and visionary piety. His project of a bohemian republic
appealed to me deeply as I took faithful notes
diagonally across my notebook (which was unliftable).
Fellow aspirants peeked at me inquisitorially,
but I waved them off, staring at the preacher’s
skinny jowl, enormous nose, dark cowl in profile. Then
I had nothing left or planned for the rest of Saturday
except to get home to my two-bit moth-devoured
studio with its many topological holes
and zip up my brain. I stepped across some literature
to my solitary bed, dedicated exclusively to the twin purposes
of study and sleep, and elongated myself as best I could.
Sleep was out of the question, issues of the irreducible
multiplicity pressing harshly upon my overburdened lobes.
I yearned to be one, complete, so I arched and reached
for the telephone. Yes, dropped some acid last night
first time ever, haven’t slept. Please come save me,
I hate acid. You hadn’t slept much since New York either,
but you arrived instantly, as if wading through atrocious snow
came as naturally to you as levitation to a saint.
I laughed suddenly, for the first time in a month,
shocked to discover your red hair had its usual color.
You had American Spirit cigarettes (I was out),
and in minutes we stood at the foot of Lee Bo’s Cantonese Kitchen,
whose second floor seemed unreachable on foot.
I sighed with relief in the pentatonic elevator.
In the bathroom things went well this time,
no dragons in the mirror. You fed me with a spoon,
then with chopsticks. The hot and sour soup
was indeed hot and sour, it counteracted my internal chill,
and the salt jumbo shrimp were verily salty and jumbo.
The green tea you poured into me sip by tiny sip
made me realize for the first time
how perfect we were for each other. I wept like a whale.
You had changed my chemical composition forever.

 

7) Carolyn Creedon (litany)

Tom, will you let me love you in your restaurant?
I will let you make me a sandwich of your invention and I will eat it and call
it a carolyn sandwich. Then you will kiss my lips and taste the mayon­naise and
that is how you shall love me in my restaurant
.
Tom, will you come to my empty beige apartment and help me set up my daybed?
Yes, and I will put the screws in loosely so that when we move on it, later,
it will rock like a cradle and then you will know you are my baby
.
Tom, I am sitting on my dirt bike on the deck. Will you come out from the kitchen
and watch the people with me?
Yes, and then we will race to your bedroom. I will win and we will tangle up
on your comforter while the sweat rains from our stomachs and fore­heads
.
Tom, the stars are sitting in tonight like gumball gems in a little girl’s
jewelry box. Later can we walk to the duck pond?
Yes, and we can even go the long way past the jungle gym. I will push you on
the swing, but promise me you’ll hold tight. If you fall I might disappear
.
Tom, can we make a baby together? I want to be a big pregnant woman with a
loved face and give you a squalling red daughter.
No, but I will come inside you and you will be my daughter
.
Tom, will you stay the night with me and sleep so close that we are one person?
No, but I will lie down on your sheets and taste you. There will be feathers
of you on my tongue and then I will never forget you
.
Tom, when we are in line at the convenience store can I put my hands in your
back pockets and my lips and nose in your baseball shirt and feel the crook
of your shoulder blade?
No, but later you can lie against me and almost touch me and when I go I will
leave my shirt for you to sleep in so that always at night you will be pressed
up against the thought of me
.
Tom, if I weep and want to wait until you need me will you promise that someday
you will need me?
No, but I will sit in silence while you rage, you can knock the chairs down
any mountain. I will always be the same and you will always wait
.
Tom, will you climb on top of the dumpster and steal the sun for me? It’s just
hanging there and I want it.
No, it will burn my fingers. No one can have the sun: it’s on loan from God.
But I will draw a picture of it and send it to you from Richmond and then you
can smooth out the paper and you will have a piece of me as well as the sun
.
Tom, it’s so hot here, and I think I’m being born. Will you come back from
Richmond and baptize me with sex and cool water?
I will come back from Richmond. I will smooth the damp spiky hairs from the
back of your neck and then I will lick the salt off it. Then I will leave
.
Tom, Richmond is so far away. How will I know how you love me?
I have left you. That is how you will know
.

8) Dan Sociu (nimic nu mai e posibil)

Nothing is possible anymore between me

And a nineteen year old girl, just as nothing

was possible when I was nineteen

years old. I listened to them carefully, they ruffled my hair,

they’d gently reject my touches, no, Dan,

you are not like this, you are a poet. They came

to me for therapy, they’d come with their eyes in tears

to the poet. I was a poet and everyone was in love

around the poet and none with him.

The poet would go out every evening

quaking like a tectonic wave and

in the morning he’d come back humiliated

in his heart—the quakes moving

for nothing, under uninhabited regions.

9) Ben Mazer (cirque d’etoiles)

And after all is made a frozen waste
of snow and ice, of boards and rags. . .
if I should see one spark of permanent,
… one chink of blue among the wind-blown slags
approaching thus, and mirroring my surmise,
one liquid frozen permanence, your eyes. . .
should meet you at the end of time
and never end. . .
for always, even past death, you are my friend. . . .
and when at last it comes, inevitable,
that you shall sit in furs at high table
(for what other fate can one expect?)
dispensing honours, correlating plans
for every cause, for education, science. . .
what will I miss? how can I not be there?
who see you sputtering wordless in despair. . .
as I do now “miss nothing, nothing”
and to know you are some other man’s
(the stupid jerk), who once had your compliance. . .
and do these things ever end? (and if so, where?)
I ask myself, and should I feel despair?
to know, to love, to know, and still not care?
in winter, spring, and summer, and in fall,
on land or sea, at any time at all,
to know that half the stars on each night shine,
the other half are in your eyes, and mine. . .
and what is there? And what, I ask, is there?
Only these hurt and wounded orbs I see
nestled against a frozen stark brick wall. . .
and there are you, and there is me,
and that is all, that is all. . .
How from this torment can I wrestle free?
I can’t. . . . for thus is my soliloquy.
And you shall sit there serving backers tea.
And running ladies circles. Think of me. . .
Think of me, when like a mountainous waste
the night’s long dreaming stretches to a farther coast
where nothing is familiar. . . two paths that may have crossed
discover what had long been past recall. . .
that nothing’s really changed at all,
that we are here!
Here among flowering lanterns of the sea,
finite, marking each vestige of the city
with trailing steps, with wonder, and with pity!
And laugh, and never say that you feel shitty,
are one whose heart is broken, like this ditty.
And think that there is nothing there to miss.
Think “I must not miss a thing. I must not miss
the wraps, the furs, the teaspoon, or the kiss.”
And end in wishes. And leave not this abyss.
For all is one, beginning as it’s done.
Never forgetting this, till I am no one.
There is no formula that can forget. . .
these eyes pierce though ten thousand suns have set,
and will keep setting. . . now tuck in your head,
the blankets folded, and lay down in your bed.
And stir the stars, long after we are dead.

10) Mary Angela Douglas

the voice you hear
from long ago
could be the voice
of all the snows
could be the light of all the stars
of all the feelings near or far
you felt just when
the world was new
until the sorrows
ransacked you

11) Camille Rankine (emergency management)
The sun eats away at the earth, or the earth eats away
at itself and burning up,
.
I sip at punch.
So well practiced at this
living. I have a way of seeing
.
things as they are: it’s history
that’s done this to me.
It’s the year I’m told
.
my body will turn rotten,
my money talks but not enough,
I feel my body turn
against me.
.
Some days I want to spit
me out, the whole mess of me,
but mostly I am good
.
and quiet.
How much silence buys me
.
mercy, how much
silence covers all the lives it takes to make me.
.
In the event of every day and its newness
of disaster, find me sunning on the rooftop, please
don’t ask anything of me.
.
If I could be anything
I would be the wind,
.
if I could be nothing
I would be.
.

 

12) Stephen Cole (unreal city philosophy breakdown)

Keep the knives in the decider box
Where you make your choices.
Rattle the caustic chambers pots
At eye level
In the high mystical arch
Where the pigeons blur.
Reality is the paragon of confusion.

The surface cave is painted
In primary colors
On a mountain wall
But the snow is real.

It bares repeating
The fake cementing
On fracas light goes on
Piecing itself together
Over the top of a barren dream scape.
How reliable after all
Are dreams in dreams?

It goes just that far
And no further.
At this point
the universe turns back on itself.
The content is thrown back into eye
For the regulated comfort.
If some nefarious spirit
Changes the channel:
You’re gone.

 

13) Jeff Callaway (the greatest poems of all)

The greatest poems are never written down,
But lonely and forgotten before pen can be found,
The greatest poems never find the ink,
In the time it takes you to think;
Slowly with time they fade,
And face the guilliotine of jilted poems
And unrequited lovers,
Or glued to my own vague memory
Of what could have been
If only I’d had a pen,
And the recollection
To keep repeating what it was
I was trying to say.

The greatest poems are girls
Who poured Dewars on the rocks
Down their breasts with a splash of water
As I drink it off.

The greatest poems lick the ink
From the tip of my idea.
The greatest poems of all get drunk
From the bottle, straight, no chaser,
No requiem for a dream,
No teen queen Chinese angels on a silver screen,
No Hollywood homecoming queens,
Leaping side to side in ecstasy,
Or just beautiful girls who once
Gave me their phone numbers,
Or girls back in high school
Who kissed me, and later became strippers,
Midnight sirens to madness, mad, drunkard,
Barroom brawls, bras, panties, imported beers.

The greatest poems of all, who put my drinks
On my tab, and heavenly broads
Who brought me elixers which I did drink
Down into my self the likes of abinsthe,
Sugar, laudunum, or I read
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,
Mad at midnight, typing poems furiously
Toward glory, or mayhem, or maybe for
Nothing at all, or maybe just
For the greatest poems of all.

So here, here! to the greatest poems of all!
To bikini contests, to Bikini Kill, to Bukowski,
To Rimbaud and other roughnecks,
To the wet T-shirts at Cedar Isle,
And to the Cedar Creek Lake rememberers
Who still remember all of the greatest poems of all.

To Siberian huskies named Molly who lived in Dallas Texas
With dirty filth, and to dirty filth,
To pain and pills and poems,
To words that slide into lyrical oblivion;
Sometimes these can be
The better rhymes of all times,
Dare I say the greater poems that can rhyme
From poets here today, like drunken
Ramblings, drunken one nighters,
Far beyond driven, drunk drivers,
In Dracula, no more drama before hot actress,
Sexy angel poetess,
Prostitutes, politics, and to the Texas outlaw press,
And to all of the greatest poems of all.

To Polly, to Pam, to the paranormal,
To the ghosts of the greatest poems of all,
To the ghouls, to the grim reaper,
To death, and its poetic casting call for us all;
I’d like to give a shout out to the gangsters,
Of the ghettos of Grand Prairie,
To the hypodermic hipsters of Plano
Who never made it, never got to hear
The greatest poems of all.

To poems that got kicked out of Magnolia
For drinking salt shakers, fat jokes, plastic chairs,
Who never swept the petty shit,
But always pet the sweaty shit,
From shinola to shangri-la,
From 26th and San Gabriel to the angel Gabriel,
From trumpets to cherubim,
To these crazy, insane, hot American chicks
Who love poets, poems, and Palm Pilots,
To an Austin poetry renaissance, or to purgatory.

How ’bout another round of drinks
To the greatest poets and poems of all.

14) Brian Rihlmann (untitled)

we used to joke about it
on days when you could—
his possible ethnicity
his identity…
the “who?” of this man
she kept from you
for 45 years—
even in her final breaths

and the crackle of the crematory flames
told you nothing
nor the rising smoke
nor the box of her ashes
you carried up the flank of Mt. Rose
and scattered in sight of that pond

once, when I hiked up there
alone….after we had died, also
I spoke to her—
“you know you fucked her up….
don’t you?” who were you protecting?”

“mother—your shield was nothing
but a sword…
and she is still falling on it.”

15) Meera Nair (yet another pongala)

What wouldn’t one do
To appease a Goddess?

The city is a bitch in heat
A lighted furnace
Waiting to go up in smoke

Bricks have lined up on pavements
Boundaries drawn
And territories captured
The women arrive in hordes
Laying claim to this fragile city

Goddess, I have no offering to make
No pot of grain
No boiling water
No lit fire
But here is a prayer
From within the walls of my agnostic house

Goddess, make it rain
Torrents and torrents of water
Wash out this hysteria on the streets
Cleanse this litter

Goddess, restore sanity to my city
She burns

 

16) Sean Harvey (reminiscence on facebook)

My Eleanor Rigby. It was 1974, and I was about 11 years old and a student at Charles Peck Elementary. Before the administration figured out that I really wasn’t all that bright, I was briefly in what was then referred to as “the gifted” program for smart kids. I hated it because the special sessions only occurred Tuesdays and Thursdays during physical education, which to me was the best part of the day. I’d be immersed in dodge ball, and I’d see some kid in the distance coming to fetch me to take me away to the creepy portable building; a windowless classroom-like trailer on wheels located at the far end of campus.

The Tuesday and Thursday buzzkill went on for a year, until one day I noticed that there was a new girl in the class. She was a Hollywood version of a shy child, with simple short brown hair and thick-framed glasses, and she sat all the way in the back of the room and she never said a single word. Three weeks passed and I paid absolutely no attention to her, EXCEPT that I noticed she wore the same brown and red dress every single day. One afternoon, our teacher happened to mention how much she herself liked The Beatles, and, in particular, the song “Eleanor Rigby.”

Up shot the hand of the quiet little girl.

I remember that even our teacher was surprised.

“I can sing it for you,” said the girl.

Baffled, the teacher asked: “Sing what?”

I wondered, what is wrong with this kid? I started to feel uncomfortable.

She repeated: “I can sing it. I can sing “Eleanor Rigby” for you.”

I don’t remember how she got permission, or if she just took it upon herself, but up she popped, standing aside her desk, porcelain skin and coke-bottle glasses, and she began to sing:

“Ah …look at all the lonely people …
Ah … look at all the lonely people …
Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door…
Who is it for?”

Do you know how sudden, raw beauty has a way of transcending age or even previous exposure? I am in NO way gifted musically, but the ability to appreciate what’s miraculous is innate. I can remember maybe 10 minutes of fifth grade, and that scene comprises most of it. Listening to her, I immediately understood two things: that her voice was great, angelic, and that an important part of the reason it was great was because she was lonely and afraid. I was deeply and permanently smitten. This quiet little person had sung so bravely and so beautifully, we were all astounded and our teacher actually choked up and began to cry.

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

After, the class sat silently for what seemed like a minute, and as I sat there, I actually felt that something had changed. I knew, perhaps for the very first time in my life, that I would remember a moment, maybe forever.

Leading up to the next class session, no one had to come and fetch me because as fast as I could I ran out to the portables and got there early so I could sit in the seat right next to where the little girl had been. But when the bell rang, she wasn’t there. She had, apparently, moved away from our school just as suddenly as she had arrived. And I never saw her again.

To this day, thinking of that moment makes me sad. But more than that, it makes me yearn for answers to things that no one can answer. Things like where did that little Eleanor Rigby come from? And, in all the years since, did she ever find the place that she belonged?

 

 

 

XXX POEMS BY RAQUEL BALBONI

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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

 

 

SCARRIET’S HOT POETRY ONE HUNDRED 2019—“BEST LINES”

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I don’t know any format—except this one, Scarriet, now in its tenth year—which attempts to bring together every kind of poet in one place.

There are four kinds of poets who never touch each other and exist in separate universes: the formalist poet, the colloquial poet, the professional, and the amateur. Poets of radically different styles insult one another, stylistically, that is—the novelist is more like the poet than different kinds of poets from each other. I can no longer go to a library or a bookstore and seek “poetry” without entering a shooting zone of competing forms and sentiments.

The colloquial now dominates the professional; the beautiful and well-made book cover of the contemporary poet hides more f-bombs than rhymes.

The professional, with their prizes and book deals, wants nothing to do with the amateur—who posts their accessible love poems online. The gulf is such, that a person “who hates poetry” will sooner read, and even like, the amateur’s efforts, before the well-connected professional will deign to glimpse what, in their opinion, is trash (or perhaps to their jealous consternation, good) given away too easily.

One delightful thing I’ve noticed: how a few selected words from a poet’s work can explain the entirety of the kind of poet they are; as much as this is true, it validates this list, and makes it more than just an exercise in which a formalist amateur like myself attempts to ram together, in a feverish fit of schadenfreude, things which do not belong.

These poets do belong together—or, rather, they do not.

Yet here they are.

Thomas Graves, Salem, MA 12/4/2019

*******

1) Laura Foley “to look back and see, on the hilltop, our life, lit from inside.”

2) Luke Kennard “I take the murderer for coffee.”

3) Ilya Kaminsky “What is a child? A quiet between two bombardments.”

4) Kathleen Jamie “Walking in a waking dream I watched nineteen deer pour from ridge to glen-floor”

5) Linda Ashok  “the moon licked up the landscape with her fervent tongue”

6) Fiona Benson “How light I was. How doubtfully safe.”

7) Ben Mazer “Some must be publishers, and some must be spot on, in a horse drawn carriage, taking in the dawn”

8) Sushmita Gupta “She gave a last look at her solitary car, in her garage, with seats folded down so paintings could lay, the slope that rolled down the hill that ended in a roundabout, with palms and coloured grass that looked like hay.”

9) Stephen Cole “You still disturb the meadow with your words.”

10) Julia Alvarez “I’ve broken up with my true love man after man”

11) Brian Rihlmann “nail guns pop pop pop I heard stilettos on concrete the lady of old Reno wandering”

12) Patricia Smith “Who shot you, baby?”

13) Joie Bose “I see you in all the faces I see, crisscrossing the pavements aimlessly.”

14) Indah Widiastuti “Who is the poem I wrote? He speaks a language I never use; read by those I never know.”

15) Kevin Young “We curl down the slide one at a time, blue light at the end.”

16) Joy Harjo “I walked out of a hotel room just off Times Square at dawn to find the sun.”

17) Jill McDonough “I am not interested in makeup. I am interested in jail.”

18) Chelsey Minnis “People in their nightgowns, smoking cigarettes, they give great speeches.”

19) Nabina Das “It’s in love that we wait & let all other loves wither & waste.”

20) Eliana Vanessa “impediment of roses: and this is not the sort of thing you can control, no, how our bodies trembled, post-love, nor the way I will keep falling, to explain it, just so.”

21) Adeeba Shahid Talukder “Splinter the sun, wake all its ashes.”

22) Dorianne Laux “Broken the days into nights, the night sky into stars”

23) Sharon Olds “I caught bees, by the wings, and held them”

24) Alicia Ostriker “there are no pauses in this game”

25) Tishani Doshi “to fall into that same oblivion with nothing. As if it were nothing.”

26) Vidyan Ravinthiran “this isn’t the right kind of snow.”

27) Glyn Maxwell “he goes his way delighted”

28) Anne Carson “During the sermon, I crossed my legs.”

29) Peter Gizzi “I guess these trailers lined up in the lot off the highway will do.”

30) Li-Young Lee “From blossoms comes this brown paper bag of peaches”

31) Blake Campbell “And he entered, great spelunker, the resonant and ancient darkness”

32) Diana Khoi Nguyen “You cannot keep your brother alive.”

33) Marilyn Chin “I watched the world shrink into a penlight: how frail the court poet’s neck, how small this poetry world.”

34) Fanny Howe “We are always halfway there when we are here”

35) Babitha Marina Justin “It is rolling from roof to roof”

36) Meera Nair “You set us up against each other. Men against Women. We are all bovine.”

37) Anthony Anaxagorou “is that your hand still on my elbow?”

38) Tracy K. Smith “We wish to act. We may yet.”

39) Wendy Videlock “He watches ball. She throws a fit. She cannot stand to see him sit.”

40) Daipayan Nair “Autumn leaf! Nothing to keep—apart from beauty.”

41) Mary Angela Douglas “and let the tiny silver trumpets blow”

42) Carolyn Forché “What you have heard is true.”

43) Martin Espada “No one could hear him.”

44) Tina Chang “love is crowding the street and needs only air and it lives, over there, in the distance burning.”

45) Danez Smith “I have left earth.”

46) Ocean Vuong “this is how we loved: a knife on the tongue turning into a tongue.”

47) Eleanor Wilner “the blood that is pouring like a tide, on other shores.”

48) Marge Piercy “a woman is not made of flesh: she is manufactured like a sports sedan”

49) Yusef Komunyakka “My muse is holding me prisoner.”

50) Naomi Shihab Nye “Each day I miss Japanese precision.”

51) Terrance Hayes “I love how your blackness leaves them in the dark.”

52) Carl Dennis “Lending a hand, I’d tell him, is always dignified, while being a hero is incidental.”

53) Jeet Thayil “Some are sweet and old, others are foul-mouthed and bold. Mine is dead and cold.”

54) Victoria Chang “Her last words were in English. She asked for a Sprite.”

55) Kushal Poddar “ferns, orchids, hyacinths sprawl like insomniac veins.”

56) Karen Solie “We itch and prosper heavenward on bands of grit and smoke”

57) Richard Blanco “Stare until the trembling leaves are tongues”

58) Paul Muldoon “putting its shoulder to the wheel it means to reinvent.”

59) Safiya Sinclair “Isn’t this love? To walk hand in hand toward the humid dark”

60) Frank Bidart “Fucked up, you know you’d never fall for someone not fucked up.”

61) Nick Flynn “My therapist points out that fifteen minutes of movie violence releases as many opiates into the body as if being prepped for major surgery.”

62) Jennifer Moss “all beauty turned hostile”

63) Fatimah Asghar “your lantern long ahead & I follow I follow”

64) Hannah Sullivan “All summer the Park smelled of cloves and it was dying.”

65) Jamal May “The counting that says, I am this far. I am this close.”

66) William Logan “Don’t be any form’s bitch.”

67) Juan Felipe Herrera “No food. No food no food no food no food!”

68) Hera Lindsay Bird “it was probably love that great dark blue sex hope that keeps coming true”

69) Ae Hee Lee “She asks your husband to step in.”

70) Jay Bernard “I file it under fire, corpus, body, house.”

71) Sophie Collins “pails full of oil all dark and density and difficult for a girl to carry”

72) Hollie McNish “I let myself go cycling slow as I unbutton my clothes jacket unzipped helmet unclipped”

73) Zaffar Kunial “I didn’t know the word for what I was.”

74) Paul Farley “he fell up the dark stairwell to bed and projected right through to Australia”

75) Deryn Rees-Jones “The movie I’m in is black and white.”

76) Roger Robinson “he picks you up in the hand not holding the book”

77) Lloyd Schwartz “or if not the girl, then Vermeer’s painting of her”

78) Nalini Priyadarshni “but I love tea and so do you.”

79) Raquel  Balboni “Come off as harsh even if I’m friendly”

80) Robert Pinsky “When I had no temple I made my voice my temple.”

81) Emily Lawson “I step out to meet the wanderer: its black-veined hindwings”

82) Bruce Weigl “Why do we murder ourselves and then try to live forever.”

83) Steph Burt “I want to go home, paint my nails until they iridesce, clamp on my headphones, and pray to Taylor Swift.”

84) Merryn Juliette “There is no ceremony to her—she was simply there when yesterday she was not”

85) Thomas Sayers Ellis “It’s entrancement, how they govern you. The entertainment is side effect.”

86) Amy Gerstler “Here on earth, another rough era is birthed.”

87) Rupi Kaur “i change what i am wearing five times before i see you”

88) Forrest Gander “What closes and then luminous? What opens and then dark?”

89) Justin Phillip Reed “when you fuck me and i don’t like it, is that violence.”

90) Franny Choi  “i pick up the accent of whoever i’m speaking to. nobody wants to fuck a sponge.”

91) Emily Skaja “when night came, an egg-moon slid over the steeple.”

92) Mary Ruefle “Night falls and the empty intimacy of the whole world fills my heart to frothing.”

93) Aaron Smith “If a man is given dick, he’s never full.”

94) Donald Revell “Time might be anything, even the least portion of shadow in the blaze, that helpless Hare of darkness in the hawk’s world.”

95) Dan Sociu “people have infinite capacity for transformation, into anything, and I know that I myself can transform”

96) Ben Zarov “There are many, many wrong ways.”

97)  Adil Jussawalla “Twenty years on, its feet broken, will its hands fly to its face when a light’s switched on?”

98) Steven Cramer “no matter how we plead they won’t come down.”

99) George Bilgere “My father would take off his jacket and tie after work and fire up the back yard grill. Scotch and a lawn chair was his idea of nature. Even Thoreau only lasted a couple of years.”

100) Ravi Shankar “I watch, repose, alone.”

WHAT IS ROMANTICISM? MORE THAN YOU THINK.

Romanticism is the attempt to bring what is important in life into poetry.

It is about love and romance only indirectly.

Take the following poem. The author is Edmund Waller, imprisoned for a year in the Tower of London for a political plot; born in 1606, he does not belong to the group of 19th century poets known as “the Romantics,” advertised as rebelling against 17th and 18th century poetry. The poem, however, is pure Romanticism—the much anthologized “Go, Lovely Rose:”

Go, lovely rose!

Tell her that wastes her time and me

That now she knows

When I remember her to thee,

How sweet and fair she  seems to be.

*

Tell her that’s young,

And shuns to have her graces spied,

That hadst thou sprung

In deserts where no men abide,

Thou must have uncommended died.

*

Small is the worth

Of beauty from the light retired;

Bid her come forth,

Suffer herself to be desired,

And not blush so to be admired.

*

Then die, that she

The common fate of all things rare

May read in thee;

How small a part of time they share,

That are so wondrous sweet and fair!

~~~

In examining this poem, we need to recognize some important things which will be missed if we merely list its formal properties—the worst way, obviously, to understand the essence of anything.

Facts defeat the fact, and this is why Socrates belongs to poetry’s wisdom more than Aristotle.

Moderns will be put off immediately by “Go, lovely rose!” But this is to fall into the error just mentioned—the facts cloud the fact.

“Go, lovely rose!” is, in its essence, a fact which eclipses the facts.

The facts are these: Poems say “Go, lovely rose!” but people, especially people today, do not.

The sounds of “go” and “lovely” and “rose” placed together are no accident, and therefore contrived, therefore limiting, and therefore insincere. It is a person speaking through a poem, and not a poem speaking as a person. So say the scholars, with their facts, today.

The facts of “Go, lovely rose!” point to technique—forced resemblances viewed throughout the poem, a damning list of rhythms and rhymes.

But the mystery is this. The following, too, is from another 17th century poet, James Shirley, from his book, Poems, published in 1646—when poets called their books “poems,” since this is what everyone happily understood them to be:

Within their buds let roses sleep,

And virgin lilies on their stem,

Till sighs from lovers glide and creep

Into their leaves to open them.

(from “The Garden”)

The facts, here, point to poetic language, too—sound similarities of great beauty. The rhythm of “into their leaves to open them” is exquisite. Whole libraries of 21st century poems don’t contain poetry like this.

Romanticism, as generally understood, began with Wordsworth’s revolutionary decree that poetry should speak as people do; but looking back, this is confusing, because Wordsworth’s poetry has much more in common with the 17th century poets than with poets of the 20th century.

OK, the scholars admit, Wordsworth said it, but didn’t do it; that came later.

And since poetry of the moderns established itself in the universities, as poets in the 20th century began to teach creative writing, poetry gained an educated sheen surpassing even the 17th century bards (think of Eliot’s footnotes, etc) before poetry finally succumbed to Wordsworth’s homely advice—in the far looser, award winning, efforts published under the name of “poetry” today.

So again, what is Romanticism?

Is Romanticism finally rhyming about flowers?

And if so, how can such a narrow definition even concern us today?

Well, here’s the fact that defeats the fact.

Romantic poetry is poetry which imitates life.

Modern poetry has only an accidental connection to life—for modern poetry is an activity in which self-expression is primary; and the individual, to be an individual, owes nothing to life—within any framed expression (poem) of an individual as an individual. Life, here, is meant in the sense in which it is always meant—life for everybody, and not for the individual. Not everyone is romantic. But life is romantic. Life is a set of conditions which furthers itself. Just as romantic conditions are necessary for romance, so the romantic poem is a set of conditions for romantic responses. The conditions created by romantic poems—beauty, the awareness that beauty quickly dies—are therefore sincere; they reflect life.

The connection between life and poetry is important. Why? Because we have seen, in the last 100 years or so, how poetry can get away with all kinds of shit—and this is one of the things we moderns admire about poetry: it can do whatever the hell it wants. It can be disorderly, and be simply for itself, and not a condition for anything. It can raise its voice. It can be vulgar. It can attempt to frighten, or shock. And it pretty much does this all the time now, even in, and especially in, the academically lauded sphere.

Once license becomes licensed, license tends to become all there is. And nothing will be protected once license is king, except license, since license is the end of all activity qua activity. Poetry is an activity. Life, which completely surrounds us, is not. The moderns are acutely aware of how efficient, modernized existence is a nexus of supporting activities—oil drilling is an activity which supports driving cars, and driving is an activity which supports commuting to work. Protesting oil drilling is also an activity, caught in the great activity nexus, a corrective response to oil drilling—and the correction itself is an activity. Education is an activity which carefully separates itself out into other activities, and one of these activities is poetry. And so on.

The activity, separated out from life, becomes, by the further activity of advertising in the modern world, an activity which is an end in itself. Advertisements for automobiles do not include scenes of cars being driven to work, or for errands—though this is what automobiles are mostly for; no, the advertisements always show driving as a beautiful and exciting activity, reveling in the self-contained activity of driving itself. This is how the advertising industry (the new poetry) depicts driving. Advertising, like any other activity, is not life.

Poetry, then, or modern poetry, is an activity, and known, and defended as such, as an activity which is for itself, just like any virtuous activity, such as driving, of which modern society tacitly approves. It is not quite accurate, then, to say “poetry can get away with all kinds of shit.” Poetry is free, as a modern activity, to be free within its identity as the activity which defines it as a modern activity, supporting, in otherwise unrelated ways, other activities which comprise the modern world. Poetry is an educational activity which promotes linguistic self-expression, and just as a car in an advertisement is never depicted as a commuting tool stuck in traffic, poetry advertised as such by those who nurture its existence in the university, present poetry as an activity which seeks license for its activity: linguistic self-expression in the free and experimental mode. The poetry is not “doing whatever it wants,” but is free in a different manner. It is by the approved nature of its activity qua activity, defined as self-expression in words, practiced experimentally and freely, that it can do anything at all. And since within this framework, it pursues license as an end in itself—which all activities, as advertised, do, and since license always promotes more license, poetry has become increasingly disorderly, since only life is truly conditional and contingent in a manner which requires order (intra-semblance) as a necessity.

Poetry today is highly disordered. It no longer has specific conditions, because this would get in the way of its hard-earned freedom. Romantic poetry, however, is a condition, and this is the whole point of Romantic poetry, and why it does not resemble license-seeking modern poetry.

I don’t like disorderly poetry.

Even if its disorderliness allows it to be about anything it wants.

Orderly and comely poetry is the effect which literary Romanticism promotes, and this orderly condition, like a pleasant bedroom with a fireplace, this atmosphere (merely atmosphere to the modern reader who is quick to find overt romanticism superficial) belongs to the very process which makes conditions infinitely multiply, which makes romantic poetry a reflection of life—due to that very conditionality.

I like beautiful lines of poetry intentionally made, thus made with greater frequency than in colloquial poetry, in which poetic lines emerge accidentally from the prose—and I read entire books recently published in which not one line of poetry can be found, so dense is the book with the honest and colloquial prose of self-expression.

But the Romanticsm we are seeking in this essay is not merely what might be called the sonorous, superficial beauty of “Go, lovely rose!” Once we reject license in self-expression, which includes the commandment to sound how “real” people talk, as the primary criterion of poetry, the poem is now, ironically, free to imitate life, with all its contingencies, with greater facility.

Life, after all, continually alters things, enforces things, and imposes conditions, from without, on what we are doing; it isn’t Waller, then, who artificially approves of “Go, lovely rose!” Life  demands it; Waller isn’t permitted to speak colloquially (though he could) because a higher end is demanded—and higher ends are hidden within the conditions necessary to life. The concision of the poem’s opening, the lovely concision of its drama, like a simple pawn move in chess, operates beyond self-expression and towards conditionality itself. In order for the poet to speak, he sends “a lovely rose” to speak for him. The single word, “rose,” becomes a character in a drama. Self-expression, by any means possible, is replaced by a concise imitation of life, by any means possible. The poem’s message is enforced by the poet telling the rose what to say to his potential beloved. Waller is not expressing himself. He is writing a poem. “Go, lovely, rose!” achieves three things quickly and simultaneously; the swift expression of: beauty, drama, and theme. Mathematical expression annihilates self-expression. Romanticism is not the point at all. Conditionality is. The wooed, in every instance, must be won. The poet is presenting the example of the rose to the reader, by comparing rose and beloved; the alacrity of the expression itself matches the urgency of the message: beauty (rose, person) fades. One aspect of the poem is necessitated by other aspects of the poem, and all of these aspects are dependent on life, or wisdom about life, which gives rise to the poem as poem.

To illustrate Romantisicm from another angle, let’s look at its typical pejorative treatment by a 20th century critic: Delmore Schwartz on the romantic Yeats.

“…some of Yeats’s poems are full of a wisdom which must commend itself to and convince every man, Buddhist to Seventh Day Adventist. The second part of “A Dialogue of Self and Soul” is a passage the equal of Dante and Shakespeare at their best. But in general, the point of view of Yeats’s verse is romantic in its assumptions and its conclusions.”

Note the assumption that “romantic” is bad, while the authors who gave the world Beatrice, Juliet, and Ophelia are held aloft as the highest standard.

Schwartz continues:

“Even when he sees and understands much more than the romantic poet, the lurid glow of romanticism nevertheless hangs over the scene.” …

“An easy instance is such a poem as “The Scholars.” These academic figures, bald-headed, coughing and respectable, would be dumbfounded, the poet suggests, if they met Catullus or the other poets whom they edit and annotate, making a learned text of the lines

“That young men, tossing on their beds,

Rhymed out in love’s despair

To flatter beauty’s ear”

“How utterly banal a view! No doubt, some scholars are worthy of contempt for the reasons advanced by the poet. It is not a question of the character of the scholar, past or present, nor is it necessary to suppose that scholars are handsome and heroic figures. What one finds essentially wrong here is the romantic triteness and stupidity of the attitude, the implied contempt for learning because it is painstaking and not spontaneous, the schoolboy’s view of the absentminded professor, and the Bohemian’s notion of academicism: ‘All (that is, all the scholars) think what other people think,’ Yeats wrote, thinking what other people think.”

—Delmore Schwartz, “An Unwritten Book,” from Selected Essays; originally published 1942, The Southern Review

Schwartz, the Modernist, thinks of scholars as contributing to an important and valued activity, complete and worthy in itself. He concedes there might be some inferior scholars, as Yeats depicts them, but not all of them can possibly be that way—otherwise the “activity” of scholarship would be invalid, which, as Schwartz understands it, is impossible.  But when Socrates said he could not automatically transfer his wisdom to another person who happened to sit down beside him, the Athenian did not mean some, he meant all. The romantic poet, according to “The Scholars,” owes his poetry to desire, not scholarship—the former writes the poem; the latter merely edits it.

The “spontaneous” is the immediacy of beauty, the glory of unhindered free speech, the brevity of wit, the quickness and certainty of love, the leap of understanding (eureka) by the  scientist, and yet this term is the object of Schwartz’s scorn; the “painstaking” is a scholarly virtue, for Schwartz, attempting at a young age to please his New Critic masters, as he calls Yeats’ theme “trite” and “stupid.”

Here’s the thing. The “activity” is always “painstaking,” and sometimes evil, whereas romanticism never is. Schwartz, a brilliant short story writer, poet, and critic, currently enjoying a revival thanks to Ben Mazer and others, is nevertheless wrong in this instance, poisoned by the Modernism of his time.

It is true that the “painstaking” is often for the good—laying transatlantic cable, Mozart hand-writing his music, etc—but life in poetry is always a good, while any painstaking activity, weighed in the balance, is always, in itself, bad. “The Scholars” is a great poem.

The romantic poet participates in life, which includes love. The scholar belongs to an activity—which is different. This Schwartz view sees only a series of activities, with practitioners sometimes more, or sometimes less, skilled at the activity at hand. Romanticism is not an activity, however; it is life. Yeats does not say there should be no more scholars—there will always be scholars, just as there will always be cakes and ale.

Even as the occasional poet will avoid cakes and ale—and be the much better poet for it.

Life is finally the critic. Life is finally the poet.

Romanticism, a term which arose, in fact, as a subtle form of abuse by modernist scholars, happens to describe, quite often, the true poetic effect—which the painstaking, modernist scholar is unable to grasp.

Sometimes the light does not go on.

 

CINEMA AND POETRY: A REVIEW OF THE UNCOLLECTED DELMORE SCHWARTZ, BEN MAZER, EDITOR

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I began to think about a whole lot of things as I was finishing Ben Mazer’s introduction to The Uncollected Delmore Schwartz, just published by Arrowsmith Press.

How does a poet exist in an unpublished, uncollected, or unnoticed state?

How much does the critical and editorial apparatus impact how society apprehends a poet?

Ben Mazer—and hopefully, very soon, many more—will be answering these questions as they pertain to the wonderful, but increasingly neglected writer, Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966).

I was thinking about the cinema, the modern poet as movie-lover, and how this might contribute to the “uncollected” reality of Delmore Schwartz—an author editors and publishers have never known quite what to do with.

Delmore Schwartz burst upon the world in 1937, by way of the Partisan Review crowd in New York City.

Ben Mazer, born in New York City, and raised in Cambridge (Delmore attended Harvard) and a splendid poet himself, is also a daring and sleuth-like editor: Mazer’s ‘Uncollected Schwartz” is a gem.

Mazer’s well-researched work features various genres: poem, story, essay, review, symposium memoir. Which is nice, because Schwartz excelled at them all.

But is this the problem of Delmore Schwartz’s reputation?  “Various genres?”

The poets America loves generally don’t get involved in other aspects of writing.

Where are the essays of W.S Merwin, the plays of Robert Frost, the criticism of Emily Dickinson, the novels of T.S. Eliot, the short stories of Ezra Pound?  No, somehow it diminishes the poet to not be, in terms of output, a poet.  The occasional essay on poetry is allowed, but that’s it.

Schwartz, the writer of variety, is like Poe, in this regard.

But even as Poe worked in, and even invented, or furthered, a number of genres, the 19th century Virginian—limited critically by the “macabre” label—stuck mostly to short pieces—and Poe mostly finished, thankfully, what he started; the single exception, a play.

Schwartz abandoned what seems like hundreds of writing projects.  A prodigy lauded early in his career, winning praise for a short story, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” Schwartz became bogged down in overly ambitious attempts at the long and unwieldy—a pity, for this modern talent should have followed Poe’s advice: the complexity of modernity requires brevity.

Schwartz didn’t use Poe as a guiding star. Both writers shared a certain quixotic arrogance; Poe obeyed form as a writer; Schwartz often did not, and ended up without an epidermis.

Looking back, Schwartz was best, by far, as a short story writer—as good as anyone in the 20th century—but his splendid efforts in this genre, strangely, seem to have only added to a literary reputation of promise followed by insanity, failure and waste.

No one, including Schwartz himself, wished Schwartz to be pegged as a writer of short fiction. The fiction world doesn’t always know what to do with poets, especially the ones who enter as poets first, fiction writers second. Had the order been reversed, Schwartz might have enjoyed a greater social stability.

Schwartz had two sides:

1. the doubtful, sentimental, highly emotional, poet

2. the crass, witty, profoundly wise, and pitiless, critic.

Fiction allowed these two sides to often mingle and shine.

Literary essays allowed Delmore Schwartz insights to peek out.  I’m not a big fan of High Modernism, but when Delmore writes on Stevens, Eliot, Auden, I feel a certain pride. Delmore’s intelligence as a critic is stunning.

Schwartz drowned in modernist self-pity, focused too much on the contemporary in his essays, and wasted too much time on long poems.

Otherwise, there was no stopping Mr. Delmore Schwartz.

One could argue Schwartz is a major poet. But poetry was a disturbing, and not really a friendly, medium for him.

The acerbic, joking, philosophy, the impatient, stuttering, thin-skinned, reflective, doubting, self-pity—all these things which the complex torrent of Delmore Schwartz was—freely articulated in poetry of the loose and modern manner, resulted more often than not, an opportunity by a genius missed.

The moderns who encouraged him were the “modern” moderns, the ones who turned their backs on Poe and everything before Rimbaud, and who liked the idea of residing in 1922 and nowhere else. The obscure heft of Joyce and Pound were unfortunately touchstones for New York City’s highly introspective genius, one who passionately saw through Pound, the person, and rejected him. Rimbaud began it all for the “modern” moderns, and so it’s not at all surprising Schwartz found himself, as a yet lauded and reputed poetic prodigy, hurrying into print a translation of Rimbaud, an imaginative English version of the Frenchman’s “Season in Hell”—almost universally ridiculed in the press for its translation errors; and as the bad reviews came in, the nervous prodigy’s honeymoon was over. Schwartz already had a personality that doubted. He didn’t universally like everyone, and he was not universally liked. When his reputation took a hit, it was pretty bad.

As we advance into the early middle of the 21st century, High Modernism is due for a hard look; well, at least it may help us understand and revive Delmore Schwartz.

Delmore’s survey of Wallace Stevens is the best thing, for my money, in Ben Mazer’s The Uncollected Delmore Schwartz. The mind of Delmore Schwartz is a treasure—without a doubt, this is the singular fact I have come away with in my recent acquaintance of the author who died at 52 alone, in a midtown Manhattan hotel.

Did cinema kill poetry? Schwartz’s guilty pleasure was going to the movies.

Poetry came apart, losing its lyric, leather-bound anthology, fireside, charm, somewhere in the middle of the 20th century, and for Schwartz this was always a good thing, because he belonged to his time, and he sums up the existence of Stevens as an “art for art’s sake” poet—almost ruefully, almost pejoratively—as due to “industrialism.”  The Wordsworthian whine, which didn’t stop with Modernism: the machine produces sorrow.

Stevens, according to Schwartz, is an “Art-man.” The poetry of Stevens smoothly and matter-of-factly occupies the museum, the concert hall, the ivory tower seminar room, the library, the poetry reading. Stevens is for Art, as opposed to the “life” of “disorder,” “presided over by the business man and the Philistine…”

Schwartz acknowledges the danger of this attitude, claiming it inhibited poets of the “Art-man” school in the late 19th century, but Delmore allows Stevens a triumph in it, for going, with a certain amount of intelligent self-consciousness, all in with it. Down with “industrialism.” Up with Wallace Stevens.

The reason cinema is so important for Delmore Schwartz—his break-out short story, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” literally takes place in a cinema as the protagonist watches a “movie” of his parents prior to his birth—is manifold.

Schwartz’s youth coincided with film taking its place as a form of entertainment and art—but which was it? Poetry was losing out to other distractions, and cinema was one.

Film was a guilty, time-wasting pleasure for a poet like Schwartz, but it was a vital connection to “philistine life,” too. Schwartz was not Stevens, and cinema was one central reason: poetry for Stevens was purely aesthetic; Schwartz belongs more to the news-reel voice-over, the screen play, the drama, realistic but flickering, the movie of the peanut-crunching crowd. The hard-nosed, factual, aspect of film represented an important antidote to Schwartz’s morbid, fatalist, autobiographical nature.

The fatalism of film—a memory captured, to never be escaped—seen through his autobiographical obsession—his family divorce drama seeps into almost everything he wrote—underpins his iconic story “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.”

Fortunately, Schwartz cared too much about people (his writing is very social) to be overly distracted by the horrors of “industrialism.”

Schwartz, who deeply admired Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, had a love-hate relationship with all the art movements around him—with a stammering, clumsy, combative, social persona, mixing uneasily with his genius, he couldn’t be as intellectually independent as he should have been; his connections in the intellectual circles of John Crowe Ransom’s Kenyon Review, the Partisan Review, and Harvard, where he met James Laughlin, the editor of New Directions, were all important to him, more than he realized, or wanted to admit, and so the natural, original, impetuous, lonely greatness that was Delmore kept trailing after the divided, humiliated, tortured, social animal that was Delmore.  He unconsciously attempted to resolve this by uncritically admiring the aesthetic writings of his contemporaries (saving his critical energy for gossip towards them as individuals) and so the poet he was meant to be was colored, like the dyer’s hand, by much of the inferior work of his time.

His genius, in the fiction and the essays, mostly won out. In his poetry, it mostly did not. He absolutely nails Stevens in a manner which is fully sympathetic, but manages to diminish him, which is only proper, since Delmore was, it seems to me, the wisest of his circle (a judgment I am well aware will not be taken seriously because “High” Modernism is to this day, yet overrated, and due to the reputation of “crazy” Delmore Schwartz).

“A Note on the Nature of Art,” the second essay in Mazer’s collection, is first-rate in a perfectly logical manner; Schwartz patiently explains the difference between the “expressive” and the “critical-expressive” and doesn’t allow social reality to roll over aesthetic reality, which it will do, unless the critic is familiar with Aristotle and common sense—which Delmore happily was.

The essays are 30 pages of the book; putting aside the poems, of which there are 15 pages—the best one, I think, is “Sonnet,” published in 1950 in the Kenyon Review—we have an excellent 20 page story, and a 5 page memory on his Jewishness, which is also good; the essays occupy the bulk of what is excellent, as well as the story and the small prose memoir, proving once again, at least for me, that we should not look to Schwartz’s poetry as the best example of his work.

For me, as way of quick example, “the worms of fear spread veined” and “but the elation and celebration of the motions/of energy everywhere,” from two different poems, reside as things scattered on the surface; these quotes don’t feel integrated wholly into their poems—too much of his poetry features interesting parts which are not quite fused; there is a unconnected quality which I don’t meet in the prose, and which curtails my enjoyment of the verse. The longer poem, “Dr. Levy,” which Mazer cites for especial praise in his introduction, has emotional sincerity, but it feels more like a short play of not-quite-realized profundity, than a truly realized poem.

True, some of the poems in this volume are high school poems—ironically, there is one on Poe.  Schwartz didn’t care for him.  In his introduction to his long, prose poem, Genesis, Schwartz says he will write like a modern; he will not write like Swinburne—which of course means Poe.

The story in the volume, “An Argument in 1934” is wonderful; the lucid presentation of three, young, intellectual friends, interacting socially, is sensitive, highly observant, and subtle, without being busy or overbearing, and the theme: realism triumphing over the intellectually abstract, is expressed through both dialogue and action in a clear and poignant manner.

This review is not meant to devalue Schwartz as a poet; I just think his fiction is superlative. Profound. Funny. Timeless.

And this is good news: Ben Mazer is set to edit more Delmore Schwartz—the Collected Poems has been green-lighted by FSG, which is very exciting, indeed.

Hopefully “The Uncollected Delmore Schwartz” will be the start of a Delmore Renaissance.

I’ll close by quoting Delmore in Mazer’s book: “Under Forty” from a symposium published by the Contemporary Jewish Record:

The contrast between the authority of the public school teachers and the weakness of the Hebrew school teacher is one which makes the child wonder what reason can justify the emphasis upon Jewishness. I remember my own extreme admiration for the rabbi who spoke to us on Sundays. It seemed to me that he could prove or disprove anything, and that he could find profound meaning in any story or incident. But I took this to be a personal gift; he was a very wise man; he seemed more intelligent than any of the teachers in public school. But then I merely wondered why he limited himself to what we then called temple, and I had no way of knowing that his dialectical and interpretative skills were an inheritance.

*******

The Scarriet editors, Salem MA 11/14/19

CONCLUDING MARCH MADNESS MYSTERY BRACKET FIRST ROUND PLAY

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Meer Nair plays in the Mystery Bracket

Poetry charms us just as any other kind of speech does.  This should give us pause.  What is poetry, then?  How do we know we’re reading poetry?

In the First Round contest in the Mystery Bracket we have this, which is infinitely charming, though we are not really sure why:

“Let us make love. Where are we?”

Michelina Di Martino is the poet.

Di Martino’s fans and supporters and followers resemble the followers of dionysus, which is to be expected. We cannot think of a more delirious meme than “Let us make love. Where are we?”  Frenzied acolytes make for a loud and enthusiastic fan base, which has to make Di Martino the favorite in this contest.

Her opponent is Meera Nair, who is a mother, a poet, and a movie actress.

Her is: “How long can you keep/The lake away from the sea”

It is supremely beautiful—we could ponder this line for hours in a sweet fit of melancholy; the lake, as we will believe, will be drawn to the sea, and landscapes with both lake and sea invoke all the peace and longing we might expect when contemplating robust and watery nature as she lies upon the land.

If Di Martino thrills, as we contemplate unburdening ourselves in smoky, far off hills, Nair allows us to reflect in our rooms, with a window open to the air.  We consider things broad and wide, or trivial perhaps, concerning a lake, and gentle hills leading the watery confinement gurgling down to the sea.  We know Meera Nair’s fragment is poetry. We cannot be sure Michelina Di Martino’s is.  It is perhaps because the packed March Madness arena is filled with noise and confusion, and the warm, heart-rending screams of the crowd, that “Let us make love. Where are we?” wins.

****

Sukrita Kumar’s “Flames are messengers/Carrying the known/To the unknown” burns us with its mysterious wisdom.

What is known more acutely than fire? And what burns?  The unknown.  Everything is unknown to leaping flames. Unknown, the cavernous space filled with sparks, dark and cool above the conflagration which desperately attempts to warm and light our lives.

In stark contrast, Kushal Poddar’s: “Call its name around/with the bowl held in my cooling hand./I can see myself doing this. All Winter. All Summer.”

What could be more different from “Flames are messengers,” a loud pronouncement from the god Vulcan, perhaps, words belonging to the center of the earth, roaring to us from the metal doors of old time? “Call its name around/with the bowl held in my cooling hand./I can see myself doing this. All Winter. All Summer” is the essence of affectionate, domestic tranquility, the lean cat eluding its kind master in the cooling shadows.

How to decide between these two states?

There is no time decide.  Only the impetuous result beneath the lights and clock in the old trembling arena of March Madness.

We smile when we read Kushal Poddar’s offering.  It warms our heart, and this warmth douses the flames.

Poddar will advance to the second round.

****

Ben Mazer is another demonstration that poetry’s force often lies away from whatever we commonly think of as poetry.  Mazer is the champion of a previous Scarriet March Madness, perhaps the greatest prize a poet today can claim.  Nobel? Pulitzer?  Everyone knows these prizes are political.

“her room/retains the look/of the room of a stranger” is the line the Mazer crowd wildly cheers from the rooftops of the Madness arena.

What is this poetic force that Mazer has?

There are so many ways for poetry to excel. But to excel, to stand out, to be regarded with awe, one must evince a quality, a mysterious quality, a strange combination of qualities, which teases the soul of the reader so they surrender almost immediately to the spell.

“her room/retains the look/of the room of a stranger” is all Mazer.  It is mesmerizing, but why?

We would venture to say that Mazer succeeds through the most profound introversion it is possible to evince.

The profound secret to Mazer’s success is simple.  The success is not simple, but the secret is.  And the secret is that Mazer proffers introversion to such an extreme degree, that the reader is disarmed, the reader’s blood pressure is reduced to near-zero, and in the resulting trance, the sweet poison is easily administered, and the spell effortlessly cast.

The great poet cannot be measured by rhymes, words, subject.  Or perhaps they can.  Anything can be quantified before the lynx eye.  But in this instance, as we contemplate the mystery that is the wonder of Mazer, we venture to say it is this: he is greater than nearly all of his peers in poetry (and any extreme in the realm of good taste can succeed in poetry) because his poetry is marked more by introversion than anyone else’s.

This is not to say that Mazer’s poetry cannot say bold or extroverted things.  It is the introverted life from which it comes which conquers.

One can see at once the advantage of introversion in poetry: the hush, the mystery, the unruffled beauty, the calm, the deep breathing, the concentration, the privacy, the reverie, the reverential, the quiet tension, the tender, abashed sinking into the unknown.

Mazer’s opponent is Nabina Das.  She has produced the for this bracket the one entry which might be intimates an actual mystery:

“under the same ceiling/fan from where she/later dangled.”

The future is blisteringly manifest: “where she later dangled.”  Or perhaps the dangling is done in fun?

We doubt it, for there is a menacing finality about the whole thing: “the same ceiling fan from where she later dangled.”

The ambiguity would be more of a problem if the line were not so much fun in itself:

“Under the same” locks nicely into “ceiling fan from where” and the line travels straight up into the thin atmosphere of “she later dangled.”

It’s the kind of line which resembles a surfing wave—it belongs to nature almost as much as it belongs to ink:

“under the same ceiling fan from where she later dangled.”

It is not introverted, by any means.  Not like this, anyway:

“her room retains the look of the room of a stranger”

Both lines could almost be from the same poem.  It is almost as if fate matched these lines in March Madness.

Both are neatly divided in two:

her room retains the look—of the room of a stranger.

under the same ceiling fan—from where she later dangled.

Both are masterpieces of aural architecture:

“room” and “look” and “room” from a group, as do “retains” and “stranger.”

“under” and “where she later” form a group, as do “same ceiling fan” and “dangled.”

It is too close to call.

Nabina Das defeats Ben Mazer!

Fans in the rooms are going crazy.

****

In the final, Mystery Bracket Round One contest, we have Richard Wilbur, and his famous “The morning air is all awash with angels.”

Richard Wilbur’s (1921-2017) opponent is Sridala Swami:

“There is only this book, and your one chance of speaking to the world is through the words in it.”

Richard Wilbur was a leading 20th century formalist, and we can see this in the exuberance of all those “a’s:” air, all, awash, angels. Not to mention the iambic pentameter: The MOR-ning AIR is ALL a-WASH with AN-gels.

Sridala is trying to do something quite different.

There are no angels. There is no morning air.

“There is only this book” and we are already post-modern, or is the a reference to what Dante, in his Vita Nuova, says is his “book of memory,” which creates the smaller book of his Vita Nuova?

Sridala’s line begins with three anapests: There is ON-ly this BOOK, and your ONE

And the caesura in the middle of the line is the spondee, ONE CHANCE—which is the perfect place to make a dramatic pause: you’ve got one chance, bub.

of SPEAK-ing to the WORLD is THROUGH the WORDS in IT.

A long anapest: -ing to the WORLD, and then three iambs ends it: is THROUGH the WORDS in IT.

If we read both lines aloud, we find both scan, the Wilbur with more concentrated force, but hers is equally strong, and more subtle.

Hers is speech within speech.  One chance.

His is the singularity of something supernatural, or perhaps merely descriptive, we see in, and around, the morning air.

Wilbur’s is more fanciful, but there is something beautifully somber and philosophically contemplative in Sridala Swami’s “There is only this book, and your one chance of speaking to the world is through the words in it.”

Sridala Swami wins.

 

Next up:  The Life and Beautiful Brackets.

MARCH MADNESS!! 2019!!

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It’s here once again.  Poetry March Madness!!

Previously, Scarriet has used Best American Poetry Series poems, Speeches by Aesthetic Philosophers, and poems of, and inspired by, Romanticism

This year, our tenth!—and we’ve done this once before—lines of poetry compete. 

The great majority of these poets are living contemporaries, but we have thrown in some of the famous dead, just to mix things up.

The line is the unit of poetry for ancients and moderns alike—moderns have argued for other units: the sentence, the breath—but to keep it simple, here we have fragments, or parts, of poems.

Is the poem better when the poetic dwells in all parts, as well as the whole?  I don’t see how we could say otherwise.

What makes part of a poem good?

Is it the same qualities which makes the whole poem good?

A poem’s excellent and consistent rhythm, by necessity, makes itself felt both throughout the poem and in its parts.

A poem’s excellent rhetoric can be strong as a whole, but weaker in its parts—since the whole understanding is not necessarily seen in pieces.

This is why, perhaps, the older, formalist poets, are better in their quotations and fragments than poets are today.

But this may be nothing but the wildest speculation.

Perhaps rhythm should become important, again, since rhetoric and rhythm do not have to be at war—rhythm enhances rhetoric, in fact.

Some would say modern poetry has set rhythm free.

No matter the quality under examination, however, any part of a poem can charm as a poem—with every quality a poem might possess.

Before we get to the brackets, let’s look at three examples in the 2019 tournament:

Milton’s “Glory, the reward/That sole excites to high attempts the flame” is powerfully rhythmic in a manner the moderns no longer evince. It is like a goddess before which we kneel.

Sushmita Guptas “Everything hurts,/Even that/Which seems like love” also has rhythm, but this is not a goddess, but a flesh and blood woman, before which we kneel and adore.

Medha Singh’s “you’ve/remembered how the winter went/as it went on” is so different from Milton, it almost seems like a different art form; here is the sad and homely, with which we fall madly in love.

And now we present the 2019 March Madness poets:

I. THE BOLD BRACKET

Diane Lockward — “The wife and the dog planned their escape”

Aseem Sundan — “How do I make the paper turn blood red?/How do I make everyone read it?”

Menka Shivdasani — “I shall turn the heat up,/put the lid on./Watch me.”

John Milton — “Glory, the reward/That sole excites to high attempts the flame”

Philip Larkin —“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.”

Eliana Vanessa — “I’d rather be outside, with him,/turning stones in the rain,/than here,/listening to the hum/of so many skulls, alone.”

Robin Richardson — “Please let me be a blaze. I will destroy,/I mean create again this place.”

Khalypso — “to wake up/strangers & sticky & questioning.”

Walter Savage Landor —“I strove with none, for none was worth my strife”

Robin Morgan — “Growing small requires enormity of will.”

Joie Bose — “I am a fable, a sea bed treasure trove/I am your darkness, I am Love.”

Daipayan Nair — “I run, run, run and run/Still I don’t reach my birth/I don’t cross my death”

Edgar Poe — “Over the mountains/of the moon,/Down the valley of the shadow”

Linda Ashok — “When you have a day, let’s meet and bury it.”

Hoshang Merchant — “I have myself become wild in my love for a wild thing”

Aaron Poochigian — “beyond the round world’s spalling/margin, hear Odysseus’s ghosts/squeaking like hinges, hear the Sirens calling.”

****

II. THE MYSTERIOUS BRACKET

Jennifer Barber — “Sure, it was a dream, but even so/you put down the phone so soundlessly”

Percy Shelley —“Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.”

A.E. Stallings — “Perfection was a blot/That could not be undone.”

Merryn Juliette — “grey as I am”

Michelina Di Martino — “Let us make love. Where are we?”

Sukrita Kumar — “Flames are messengers/Carrying the known/To the unknown”

Ben Mazer — “her room/retains the look/of the room of a stranger”

Richard Wilbur —“The morning air is all awash with angels.”

Sridala Swami —“There is only this book, and your one chance of speaking to the world is through the words in it.”

Nabina Das — “under the same ceiling/fan from where she/later dangled.”

Kushal Poddar — “Call its name around/with the bowl held in my cooling hand./I can see myself doing this. All Winter. All Summer.”

Meera Nair — “How long can you keep/The lake away from the sea”

Ranjit Hoskote — “The nightingale doesn’t blame the gardener or the hunter:/Fate had decided spring would be its cage.”

Aakriti Kuntal — “Close your eyes then. Imagine the word on the tip of your tongue. The warm jelly, the red tip of the quivering mass.”

Srividya Sivakumar— “I’m searching for coral and abalone deep in the dragon’s lair.”

Sophia Naz — “Deviants and dervishes of the river/lie down the length of her”

III. THE LIFE BRACKET

William Logan —‘I’ve never thought of you that way, I guess.’/She touched me then with the ghost of a caress.”

Danez Smith — “i call your mama mama”

Divya Guha — “The shaver missing, your greedy laptop: gone too, hiding you.”

N Ravi Shankar—“You are nude, sweet mother,/so am I/as the bamboos creak a lullaby”

Rupi Kaur — “i am not street meat i am homemade jam”

June Gehringer — “I don’t write about race,/ I write about gender,/ I once killed a cis white man,/ and his first name/ was me.”

Marilyn Chin — “by all that was lavished upon her/and all that was taken away!”

Sam Sax — “that you are reading this/must be enough”

Dylan Thomas —“After the first death, there is no other.”

Stephen Cole — “I feel the wind-tides/Off San Fernando Mountain./I hear the cry of suicide brakes/Calling down the sad incline/Of Fremont’s Pass.”

Alec Solomita — “All of the sky is silent/Even the jet shining/like a dime way up high”

Kim Gek Lin Short —“If truth be told/the theft began/a time before/that summer day.”

Lily Swarn — “The stink of poverty cowered in fear!!”

Semeen Ali — “for a minute/That one minute/contains my life”

Akhil Katyal — “How long did India and Pakistan last?”

Garrison Keillor — “Starved for love, obsessed with sin,/Sunlight almost did us in.”

****

IV. THE BEAUTIFUL BRACKET

Mary Angela Douglas — “one candle grown lilac in a perpetual spring”

Ann Leshy Wood — “where groves of oranges rot,/and somber groups of heron graze/by the bay.”

Medha Singh — “you’ve/remembered how the winter went/as it went on”

Yana Djin — “Morning dew will dress each stem.”

John Keats —“Awake for ever in a sweet unrest”

Sushmita Gupta — “Everything hurts,/Even that/Which seems like love.”

William Shakespeare —“Those were pearls that were his eyes”

A.E. Housman —“The rose-lipt girls are sleeping/In fields where roses fade.”

Raena Shirali — “we become mist, shift/groveward, flee.”

C.P. Surendran — “A train, blindfolded by a tunnel,/Window by window/Regained vision.”

Dimitry Melnikoff —“Offer me a gulp of this light’s glow”

Jennifer Robertson — “ocean after ocean after ocean”

Sharanya Manivannan — “burdening the wisps of things,/their threats to drift away.”

Philip Nikolayev — “within its vast domain confined”

Ravi Shankar — “What matters cannot remain.”

Abhijit Khandkar — “So I write this poem and feed it to the ravenous sea.”

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCARRIET POETRY HOT ONE HUNDRED! WITH BEST LINES!

Image result for sushmita gupta poet

 Sushmita Gupta

Poetry doesn’t have a center—therefore this “hot” list is not legitimate, but is.

Good poems and poets are everywhere. These happened to hit my eyes.

The best poems are not being published by the major publishers or the glossy magazines or the Poetry Foundation, but by our Facebook friends, our girlfriends, or the guy sitting next to us at the café. The best poem in English, being written somewhere right now—right now—is probably being written in India. Comforting or not, this is the fact.

The death of Mary Oliver, and its fairly large public notice, shows poetry has a kind of shadow center, if not a real one, occasionally manifesting itself as seemingly real, only to fade into Auden’s cry, “poetry makes nothing happen.” Slowly, in obscure corners of people’s hearts, poetry does happen. It has no intellectual, philosophical, or critical identity, and its social identity is crushed by cinema and the popular song. But times change, and poetry does seem to be simmering towards something larger in the places where large things occur.

Poetry as the technical art, and poetry as it vaguely exists in the everyday efforts and reflections of the world are two different things. No poet or critic is responsible for the vastness of the latter.

In this contemporary snapshot list of poems, I intentionally made the search greater to include the best-known sources, for two reasons: “what are the most distinguished outlets doing?” and for the sake of variety.

So the poems on this list are poems I happily and locally and accidentally see, and also poems gleaned from sources which a slightly larger audience sees.

This explains why you see the poems you do.

As far as how the poems are actually ranked, the best first, and so on, again, I plead guilty to subjectivity, which never excuses authoritarian decisions—it only makes them seem more authoritarian; but the word authoritarian is overused and misused these days—whatever decisions the comfortable, fake-revolutionaries don’t like, are called, after the fact, authoritarian.

The poems are ranked by the best lines uttered in these poems.

Philip Nikolayev (on the list) has a theory that poetry lives, finally, in great lines.

It was a great Facebook discussion, and I forget what I said about it, then, which is all that matters—the Scarriet Hot 100 I introduce here is my authoritarian moment in the sun—and why I bring it up, I don’t know, because I agreed with Nikolayev, then, and now, perhaps, I don’t.

All the poems on the Hot 100 list are good—but some, as good as they are, have nothing but plain and ordinary lines, or phrases. No stand-alone piece of the poem—good when the poem is read as a whole—sounds very interesting.

In rare instances, the title of the poem, coupled with the selected mundane part of the poem, combines to be of interest, or surprising. As you judge, keep the titles in mind as you read the line.

Because the ranking here is by line (or part of a line, or lines) I should say a word or two about what makes a good line.

I believe it can be summed up: a good line is where the vision and the rhythm speak together.

Some lines are good for purely prose fiction reasons—they sound like the start of a great short story. They point, rather than being the point.

One more thing: since Scarriet has written on Indian poetry recently, many poets are from India; those designated “Scarriet” were featured on that date on this site, though found elsewhere. Please search, enjoy, and support, will you? all 100 of these poets.

 

(1) Jennifer Barber —Continuum (2018 The Charles River Journal #8) “Sure, it was a dream, but even so/you put down the phone so soundlessly”

(2) A.E. Stallings —Pencil (2018 Best American Poetry, Lehman, Gioia—The Atlantic) “Perfection was a blot/That could not be undone.”

(3) Sushmita Gupta —Gently Please  (12/18 FB) “Everything hurts,/Even that/Which seems like love.”

(4) William Logan —The Kiss (2017 Rift of Light Penguin) “‘I’ve never thought of you that way, I guess.’/She touched me then with the ghost of a caress.”

(5) Eliana Vanessa —this black rose (12/13 FB) “I’d rather be outside, with him,/turning stones in the rain,/than here,/listening to the hum/of so many skulls, alone.”

(6) Abhijit Khandkar —Bombil  (Poetry Delhi 12/1) “So I write this poem and feed it to the ravenous sea.”

(7) Philip Nikolayev —Blame (1/4/19 FB) “within its vast domain confined”

(8) Sharanya Manivannan —Keeping the Change (12/5/18 Scarriet) “burdening the wisps of things,/their threats to drift away.”

(9) Hoshang Merchant —Scent of Love (10/12/18 Scarriet) “I have myself become wild in my love for a wild thing”

(10) Divya Guha —Non-attendance (1/16/19 Gmail) “The shaver missing, your greedy laptop: gone too, hiding you.”

(11) Ravi Shankar —Buzzards (12/5/18 Scarriet) “What matters cannot remain.”

(12) Mary Angela Douglas —Epiphany of the White Apples (1/3/19 Scarriet) “one candle grown lilac in a perpetual Spring”

(13) N Ravi Shankar—Bamboo (12/26/17 FB) “You are nude, sweet mother,/so am I/as the bamboos creak a lullaby”

(14) Aseem Sundan —The Poet Lied About The Paradise (1/12/19 Indian Poetry) “How do I make the paper turn blood red?/How do I make everyone read it?”

(15) Stephen Cole —The descriptor heart (1/18/19 FB) “I feel the wind-tides/Off San Fernando Mountain./I hear the cry of suicide brakes/Calling down the sad incline/Of Fremont’s Pass.”

(16) Yana Djin —Days are so slow, adoni, so slow (1/2/19 Vox Populi) “In the dusk leaves like golden suns shiver and glow”

(17) Ann Leshy Wood —Thanksgiving, For my father, 1917-2012 (11/23/16 FB) “where groves of oranges rot,/and somber groups of heron graze/by the bay.”

(18) Shalim Hussain —Dighalipukhuri (12/5/18 Scarriet) “His downy heart bleeds over the bliss beneath.”

(19) Linda Ashok —Tongue Tied (4/4/18 Cultural Weekly) “How deep is the universe? How many/light years will it take to reach your belly”

(20) Marilyn Chin —How I Got That Name (2018 Selected Poems, Norton) “by all that was lavished upon her/and all that was taken away!”

(21) Diane Lockward —The Missing Wife (2016 Veils, Halos & Shackles Fishman, Sahay, eds) “The wife and the dog planned their escape”

(22) Daipayan Nair —Roseate with Jyoti (Season 2) Poem VI (12/30/18 FB) “you hold my hand like possibilities”

(23) Ranjit Hoskote —Effects of Distance (8/10/18 Scarriet) “Blue is the color of air letters, of conqueror’s eyes./Blue, leaking from your pen, triggers this enterprise.”

(24) Nabina Das —Death and Else (9/7/18 Scarriet) “under the same ceiling/fan from where she/later dangled.”

(25) Sridala Swami —Redacted poetry is a message in a bottle (6/9/18 Scarriet) “There is only this book, and your one chance of speaking to the world is through the words in it.”

(26) Anand Thakore —Elephant Bathing (7/5/18 Scarriet) “As pale flamingoes, stripped irretrievably of their pinks,/Leap into a flight forever deferred.”

(27) Danez Smith —acknowledgments (December 2018 Poetry) “i call your mama mama”

(28) Anne Stevenson —How Poems Arrive (2018 Best American Poetry, Lehman, Gioia—The Hudson Review) “Or simply wait/Till it arrives and tells you its intention.”

(29) Jennifer Robertson —Coming Undone (4/14/18 Scarriet) “ocean after ocean after ocean”

(30) Srividya Sivakumar—Wargame (1/12/19 Scarriet) “I’m searching for coral and abalone deep in the dragon’s lair.”

(31) Medha Singh —Gravedigger (January 2019 Indian Quarterly) “you’ve/remembered how the winter went/as it went on”

(32) Lily Swarn —The Cobbler (1/7/19 Pentasi B World Friendship Poetry) “The stink of poverty cowered in fear!!”

(33) Sophia Naz —Neelum (5/2/18 Scarriet) “Deviants and dervishes of the river/lie down the length of her”

(34) James Longenbach —This Little Island (November 2018 Poetry) “And when the land stops speaking/The wave flows out to sea.”

(35) Sam Sax —Prayer for the Mutilated World (September 2018 Poetry) “that you are reading this/must be enough”

(36) Raena Shirali —Daayan After A Village Feast (Anomaly #27) “we become mist, shift/groveward, flee.”

(37) Priya Sarukkhai Chabria —She says to her girlfriend (12/5/18 Scarriet) “in the red slush/open/to flaming skies.”

(38) Nitoo Das —How To Write Erotica (10/12/18 Scarriet) “You’re allowed to be slightly long-winded.”

(39) Sukrita Kumar —The Chinese Cemetery (4/14/18 Scarriet) “Flames are messengers/Carrying the known/To the unknown”

(40) Zachary Bos —All that falls to earth (May, 2018 Locust Year—chapbook) “In a library properly sorted/ecology stands beside eulogy.”

(41) Khalypso —Women Are Easy To Love Over The Internet (Anomaly #27) “to wake up/strangers & sticky & questioning.”

(42) C.P. Surendran —Prospect (10/12/18 Scarriet) “A train, blindfolded by a tunnel,/Window by window/Regained vision.”

(43) Dan Sociu —The Hatch (Trans. Carla Bericz, National Translation Month) “the man with the tambourine went off cursing me”

(44) Nalini Priyadarshni —When You Forget How To Write a Love Poem (12/21 Chantarelle’s Notebook a poetry e-zine) “You try different places at different hours,/dipping your pen in psychedelic summer skies”

(45) June Gehringer —I Don’t Write About Race (1/16/19 Luna Luna Magazine) “I don’t write about race,/ I write about gender,/ I once killed a cis white man,/ and his first name/ was me.”

(46) Robin Flicker —I fell asleep holding my notebook and pen (12/22 FB) “In my dream, the pen was a pair of scissors, and I had to cut out every letter of every word.”

(47) Robin Morgan —4 Powerful Poems about Parkinson’s (10/15/15 TED Talk You Tube) “Growing small requires enormity of will.”

(48) Arundhathi Subramaniam —Prayer (11/15/18 Scarriet) “when maps shall fade,/nostalgia cease/and the vigil end.”

(49) Menka Shivdasani —The Woman Who Speaks To Milk Pots (9/7/18 Scarriet) “I shall turn the heat up,/put the lid on./Watch me.”

(50) Ryan Alvanos —7:30 (2011 From Here—album online) “not too long and not too far/I carefully left the door ajar”

(51) Tishani Doshi —The Immigrant’s Song (3/16/18 Scarriet) “hear/your whole life fill the world/until the wind is the only word.”

(52) Semeen Ali —You Look At Me (3/16/18 Scarriet) “for a minute/That one minute/contains my life”

(53) Kim Gek Lin Short —Playboy Bunny Swimsuit Biker (American Poetry Review vol 48 no 1) “If truth be told/the theft began/a time before/that summer day.”

(54) Lewis Jian —Mundane Life (1/9/19 World Literature Forum) “who’s wise enough to reach nirvana?”

(55) Dimitry Melnikoff —Offer Me (1/12/19 Facebook Poetry Society) “Offer me a gulp of this light’s glow”

(56) Kushal Poddar —This Cat, That (12/13/18 FB) “call its name around/with the bowl held in my cooling hand./I can see myself doing this. All Winter. All Summer.”

(57) Ben Mazer —Divine Rights (2017 Selected Poems) “her room/retains the look/of the room of a stranger”

(58) Christopher T. Schmitz —The Poet’s Oeuvre (12/24 FB) “poems that guess/at the argot of an era to come/and ache with love/for the world he’s leaving/and couldn’t save.”

(59) Simon Armitage  —To His Lost Lover (2017 Interestingliterature) “And left unsaid some things he should have spoken,/about the heart, where it hurt exactly, and how often.”

(60) Akhil Katyal —For Someone Who Will Read This 500 Years From Now (7/5/18 Scarriet) “How long did India and Pakistan last?”

(61) Minal Hajratwala —Operation Unicorn: Field Report (8/10/18 Scarriet) “The unicorns are a technology/we cannot yet approximate.”

(62) Jehanne Dubrow —Eros and Psyche (2016 Veils, Halos & Shackles Fishman, Sahay, eds) “my mother might stay asleep forever, unbothered by the monument of those hands”

(63) Rochelle Potkar —Friends In Rape (2016 Veils, Halos & Shackles Fishman, Sahay, eds) “Doesn’t she smile at each one of your jokes?”

(64) Merryn Juliette —Her Garden (9/21 FB) “grey as I am”

(65) Marilyn Kallet —Trespass (Plume #89) “Maybe that’s what Verlaine said,/at the end.”

(66) Meera Nair —On Some Days (12/17 FB) “on all days/Without fail/I need you”

(67) Nathan Woods —Wander, Wonder (12/26 FB) “into wands for spells to scatter the beasts”

(68) Rajiv Mohabir —Hybrid Unidentified Whale (11/15/18 Scarriet) “no others/can process its cries into music.”

(69) Dana Gioia —The Stars Now Rearrange Themselves (Video, Dana Gioia Official Site) “a crack of light beneath a darkened door.”

(70) Paige Lewis —You Can Take Off Your Sweater, I’ve Made Today Warm (January 2018 Poetry) “Right now, way above your head, two men”

(71) Smita Sahay —For Nameless, Faceless Women (2016 Veils, Halos & Shackles) “change the way you tell your stories.”

(72) Sampurna Chattarji —As a Son, My Daughter (2016 Veils, Halos & Shackles) “You fear nothing./You frighten me.”

(73) Michelina Di Martino —Original Sin (1/12/19 Intense Call of Feelings) “Let us make love. Where are we?”

(74) Jo-Ann Mort —Market Day (Plume #89) “wanting the air/ beside me to welcome you.”

(75) Sohini Basak—Laconic (1/12/19 Scarriet) “the rude dove just blinked”

(76) Carol Kner —Pieces of us Keep Breaking Off (Plume #89) “to quench the rage that lunges daily”

(77) Shikha Malaviya —September 9, 2012 (A poem in 9 hours) (11/15/18 Scarriet) “Our hips swaying badly/to Bollywood beats”

(78) Michael Creighton —New Delhi Love Song (8/10/18 Scarriet) “all are welcomed with a stare in New Delhi.”

(78) Ranjani Murali —Singing Cancer: Ars Film-Poetica (8/10/18 Scarriet) “Anand jumps to his death from the staggering height of two feet”

(79) Jeet Thayil —Life Sentence (7/5/18 Scarriet) “your talk is of meat and money”

(80) Urvashi Bahuguna —Boy (6/9/18 Scarriet) “Girl kisses/some other boy. Girl wishes/it was Boy.”

(81) Huzaifa Pandit —Buhu Sings an Elegy for Kashmir (3/16/18 Scarriet) “The beloved weeps in a hollow tongue”

(82) Nandini Dhar —Map Pointing At Dawn (2/21/18 Scarriet) “Ghost uncle is a calligrapher who cannot hold/a pen between his fingers.”

(83) Sumana Roy —Root Vegetables (2/21/18 Scarriet) “darkness drinks less water than light”

(84) Jorie Graham —Scarcely There (January 2019 Poetry) “We pass here now onto the next-on world. You stay.”

(85) Christian Wiman —The Parable of Perfect Silence (December 2018 Poetry) “Two murderers keep their minds alive/while they wait to die.”

(86) Martha Zweig —The Breakfast Nook (December 2018 Poetry) “One day it quits./The whole business quits. Imagine that.”

(87) Alex Dimitrov —1969 (September 2018 Poetry) “Then returned to continue the war.”

(88) Campbell McGrath —My Music (12/17/18 The New Yorker) “My music is way better than your music”

(89) Terrance Hayes —American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin (2018 Best American Poetry, Lehman, Gioia—The New Yorker) “It is possible he meant that, too.”

(90) Garrison Keillor —I Grew Up In A Northern Town (1/12/19 FB) “Starved for love, obsessed with sin,/Sunlight almost did us in.”

(91) Dick Davis —A Personal Sonnet (2018 Best American Poetry, Lehman, Gioia—The Hudson Review) “These are the dreams that turned out to be real.”

(92) Sharon Olds —The Source (2018 All We Know of Pleasure—Poetic Erotica by Women, Shomer) “Ah, I am in him”

(93) Manjiri Indurkar —Diabetes at a Birthday Party  (1/12/19 Scarriet) “Who talks about diabetes at someone’s birthday party?/Ma’s life is a cautionary tale.”

(94) Jayanta Mahapatra —Her Hand (1/12/19 Scarriet) “The little girl’s hand is made of darkness/How will I hold it?”

(95) Rony Nair —Solarium (1/12/19 Scarriet) “some people get off on sleeping with your enemy”

(96) John Murillo —A Refusal To Mourn The Deaths By Gunfire, Of Three Men In Brooklyn (American Poetry Review vol 48 no 1) “You strike your one good match to watch it bloom/and jook”

(97) CA Conrad —a Frank poem (12/31/18 Facebook Fraternity of Poets, DonYorty.com) “one experience is quietly/consumed by the next”

(98) Sara J. Grossman —House of Body (Anomaly #27) “weather of abundant appendages”

(99) Rupi Kaur —did you think i was a city (1/5/19 Instagram) “i am not street meat i am homemade jam”

(100) Warsan Shire —The House (2017 Poetry Foundation) “Everyone laughs, they think I’m joking.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A FEW REMARKS ON POETRY, CHRISTIANITY AND NEO-ROMANTICISM— PART ONE

Image result for 3 wise men renaissance painting

The following essay is offered as nothing more than an intoxicating drink, with a few unique qualities—most of the musings here you’ve probably heard before; sometimes it’s only emphasis that matters.

Recall the scene in the Meno: Socrates proves all knowledge is recollection (which means the soul is immortal) by suggesting to an unlearned child the means to answer a difficult geometrical problem.

The Platonist poet, Shelley, agrees:

Reason is the enumeration of qualities already known; imagination is the perception of the value of those qualities, both separately and as a whole. Reason respects the differences, and imagination the similitudes of things. Reason is to imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the spirit, as the shadow to the substance.

Knowledge involves a certain humility; humans, the Platonist knows, do not invent; “reason” is merely “recollection,” or, as Shelley puts it, “enumeration of qualities already known.” Qualities are not invented, imagined, or discovered; qualities are, as the (grounded!) Romantic understands, “already known.” And the “imagination,” according to Shelley, “is the perception of the value of those qualities, both separately and as a whole.” Imagination is the “perception of the value of those qualities.” Imagination doesn’t create, or invent; the whole process is far more mundane (says the Romantic!); “perception of value, with an eye to “separately and as a whole.”

This is not easy stuff, but easier, since the Platonist grasps how really modest and small human intelligence is—the “imagination” is the “agent” perceiving the “value of qualities already known,” by using “reason” as an “instrument.”

This intoxicating drink I offer, with a little help from the Romantics, should calm and relax you, if nothing else.  Complexity, discovery, labor, be gone.

This is what I intend to do.  Give you a whiff of poetry, Christianity, and Neo-Romanticism.  You can even close your eyes and find your way.

You know this stuff.

You know it’s true.

But you’ve forgotten.

This essay, “A Few Remarks on Poetry, Christianity and Neo-Romanticism,” should not be taken any more seriously than if flowery letters stating the same should be found on the side of a bottle. When we say seriously, sometimes, what we drink, and the label embellishing it, is serious indeed, but not in the manner of truth, but only of pleasure—so drink, and become intoxicated, and see what pleasures follow; nothing found in this Scarriet essay will necessarily be true; you’ll find only random observations made by a poet for the sake of poetry.

The defense of poetry is, by now, an old practice; half-wits do it; narrowing the subject of poetry to include “Christianity and Neo-Romanticism” is nothing more, really, than an attempt to peak interest in the drink. Philosophy is my beach-reading; if “A Few Remarks” is philosophical, good—think of it as amusement in a philosophical vein.

To state the Neo-Romanticism theme simply: the first criterion of poetry is beauty, in all its particular attributes, heightened by the imagination, and everything else flows from this highest category.

Beauty is advantageous for two reasons—imagination must be present to an extraordinary degree, since imagination first began as the urgent invention to create happiness when faced with sorrow, and beauty is happiness; secondly, beauty also requires harmony, and therefore a certain order and rigor is always necessary to carry off that harmony. Beauty, then, keeps poetry enthusiastic, since happiness is the best motivator for enthusiasm, and at the same time beauty requires expertise and skill to add the necessary harmony to the imaginative attempts to be beautiful.

With Neo-Romanticism, then, beauty is the top category—for the practical reasons just given, and this stricture need not be onerous; beauty was chosen precisely because beauty is not onerous—and naturally, all other elements may of course be present (so modern irritation with the flimsy idealism and ineffectual prettiness of “beauty” does not get the upper hand), just to remember that beauty is the measure and general design which prevails, even as the frightening (with its sublime attributes), the humorous (profound, or sublime wit) and other qualities contribute, in descending order, to that harmonizing effect the Romantic poet is known for, whether it is Byron laughing, Coleridge weeping, Keats gasping, Shelley sighing, Wordsworth philosophizing, Tennyson singing, Millay regretting, Eliot whispering, or Mazer dipping his dreaming toe in the dreaming springs.

Harmony is the leading trait of beauty, and while most poetry refers to things outside of itself to win favor (the poet serving as a kind of rough, honest, social messenger) harmony demands all interest reside within the poem itself (easy political sentiments, in this case, fail) and so how the parts fit is crucial. We know instinctively, but not rationally, how the parts of a beautiful face harmonize to give us pleasure—the trick surpasses our understanding; the same nose on another face is merely a beautiful nose on an ugly face; judgment of the whole is all. The poem cannot refer; its beauty must be its own, and only harmony can achieve this, for ‘a poem’ as it exists as ‘a poem’ is not beautiful; several parts harmonizing is the poem’s only chance.

The poem as a self-enclosed entity is imprisoning—harmony must be freeing, even as it forces parts together to make them fit. Parts must dwell beside each other in interesting and freeing ways, even as they harmonize as a whole—this is the key to beauty. Eyes must be able to flash like stars and be vastly different from mouth, nose, and chin—even as these eyes live on the same beautiful face as those other features: the nose—what can it possibly have to do with the eyes? It’s all a mystery, but certainly not a trivial one, since beauty and harmony are certainly not trivial.

Yet in many respects the harmony of a face is quite simple—and almost without harmony—compared to the harmony of a piece of music, or a poem. All a pretty face needs is: pretty eyes, check, pretty nose, check, pretty chin, check. How do these harmonize? It is not so much harmony, as a mere list of pleasing attributes. More profound and mysterious by far is the notion of the face itself. What is a human face, and why does it please? Then we would need to posit material considerations which have nothing to with lofty notions of beauty and harmony, and yet, these considerations are profound nonetheless: the eyes see, the mouth speaks and tastes, etc. The face is part of a living thing thriving in the world. The beauty of an eye is a poetic idea, since the eye is an instrument for seeing, and yet the seeing action of the eye-instrument is part of its beauty—practical considerations harmonize with beauty.

Harmony is an ever-widening process, even as it belongs to the limits of its action as a harmonizing whole, with a defined beginning, middle, and end.

We must ask, therefore, what practical considerations belong to the poem, as we explore its harmony and beauty. The upper idea hiding a subordinate idea is a crucial way a poem harmonizes, just as a piece of great music allows us to hear different threads simultaneously.

This brings us to Christianity, as it pertains to practical life harmonizing with beauty.

The poet makes choices, in the imagination, to allow us to perceive the more beautiful result. The poet, like the priest, must take practical matters and somehow harmonize them with beauty for the sake of imaginative fancy.

The “virgin birth” is just such an imaginative fancy, which pleases the Christian—but not the atheist, who sneers, “Virgin birth? Bah! Impossible! this absurdity brings down, like a house of cards, your entire religion.”

But the Romantic, who might be an atheist, will, as a poet, nonetheless tell the objecting atheist, “hold my beer.”  Is religion not a series of interconnecting ideas, rather than facts?

The “virgin birth” is not a fact, but an ideaan idea which lives in a universe of other ideas; Keats’ “negative capability” defines the poet as one who can entertain doubts, who can temporarily dwell where answers are suspended, so that fancy (imagination) has a chance to build a harmonizing aspect of things, which moves us happily forward into a better reality.

Religion is a poetic, not a factual, response, to the world.

Harmony and imagination is the religious way.

The factual world (virgin births do not occur) is not a poetic one.

Or it is, if God is a poet.

Secularism is the poet (as fact-master) attempting to be God (as fact-master).

Religion posits God as the one true poet.

For virgin births do occur in the factual world.

The universe itself was a virgin birth. No scientist knows how the universe came into existence, and we doubt whether it was made by daddy light and mama darkness, or any other myth the primitive imagination might invent.

Imagination grows and matures with monotheistic religion. The immaculate conception is a profoundly scientific concept. The one universe was born, not by evolution, but in a manner absolutely mysterious and unknown. This is the fact of existence. The religious fancy, the poem, and the scientific fact, come together, in the harmonizing imagination, as one.

The harmonizing relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, in which the new obeys, and yet miraculously fulfills, and surpasses, the old, pertains to the strategies of poetry itself, and the inner harmonizing character of poems.

The parts come from the whole, and not the other way around.

God coming to earth requires a virgin birth, since there is no immortal element on earth; there is no immortal dad to impregnate the mortal mother. One needs to hold off the objection, then, to the virgin birth, in order for the God-coming-to-earth story to proceed.

The sacred story of Christ is a great poem, and so feeds poetry, if poetry harmonizes fully, and across the board, and, if we think of the trope of everyone writing the same poem, every time a poet writes a poem, as more than mere linguistic expression, not as a mere fragment of a song or a fragment of a plaint, or a fragment of a protest, or any factual observation the would-be poet might want to indulge in, we can understand a poem as a poem coming into being.  And this exists as a cloud of mystery, not as ‘writing poems for Christ,’ or anything so obvious or silly.

A virgin birth also avoids, for aesthetic reasons, sex, the messy core of messy reality. The raw fact of sex is not condemned or avoided, for sex certainly does have its harmonizing place in the world.

But what to do about sex is not a trivial matter, and has profound practical considerations. In The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews must choose whether she wants to be a nun, or not.

Her choice belongs more to religious behavior, than to religious poetry. Religion is in the world, as much as the secular is.

However, we did mention earlier that good harmony keeps its parts, to a certain extent, free from each other. Harmony, which pulls together, should also be freeing. The freedom to choose to be a nun and serve the religion that way, belongs to a profoundly harmonizing challenge.

In another major religion, all women of the religion are forced to be nuns. Here the woman is free of the agonizing moral, social and religious choice which women in the Catholic faith must choose for themselves. Julie Andrews did not know what to do. The West has such a demand for choice and freedom, the whole thing for many people can be overwhelming. But the more freedom, the greater necessity there is for harmony and poetry.

Any religiosity seems horribly quaint in the face of modern, secularist advance.  I speak a little of Christianity (of which I am ignorant) just to appease the title, “A Few Remarks on Poetry, Christianity, and Neo-Romanticism.”

Quickly, before I lose all respect, I would like to examine, for pure pleasure alone, a recent sonnet by Ben Mazer, the contemporary Neo-Romantic poet.

A virgin snow remade the world that year.
Three kings had heard the rumour from afar
and wandered from the East by guiding star.
The sacred place was frosted with the sheer
anticipation of a world to come.
The shepherds and the animals were dumb
with gazing out the windows for the far
approaching kings, the radiant Hamilcar.
The old world would be disappearing fast;
the marvels that they saw they knew would last.
The wind stood patient on the bare swept sill.
Guests stood in silence on the little hill.
The three kings from a distance could be seen.
It was the most spectacular thing that’s ever been.

The Neo-Romantic aspect of this will be quickly seen.  When, against our will, there’s no escape, and we surrender to poetry’s predicament, this is love, romance, and all the helplessness implied, as expressed by again, Shelley, in his Defense of Poetry:

Man is an instrument over which a series of external and internal impressions are driven, like the alternations of an ever-changing wind over an Æolian lyre, which move it by their motion to ever-changing melody. But there is a principle within the human being, and perhaps within all sentient beings, which acts otherwise than in the lyre, and produces not melody alone, but harmony, by an internal adjustment of the sounds or motions thus excited to the impressions which excite them. It is as if the lyre could accommodate its chords to the motions of that which strikes them, in a determined proportion of sound; even as the musician can accommodate his voice to the sound of the lyre. A child at play by itself will express its delight by its voice and motions; and every inflexion of tone and every gesture will bear exact relation to a corresponding antitype in the pleasurable impressions which awakened it; it will be the reflected image of that impression; and as the lyre trembles and sounds after the wind has died away; so the child seeks, by prolonging in its voice and motions the duration of the effect, to prolong also a consciousness of the cause. In relation to the objects which delight a child these expressions are what poetry is to higher objects.

In order for this formula, which Shelley has evoked, to work: the ‘human lyre’ which “seeks, by prolonging in its voice and motions the duration of the effect, to prolong also a consciousness of the cause,” we must first really be a lyre, and be literally ‘played’ as a passive instrument; this passivity is the secret to human joy: settling into a dark theater and allowing images to wash over us as we sit there passively—far removed from drudgery and reason and understanding and work of any kind—one is simply a passive lyre. This is why Poe, ‘the Last Romantic,’ championed poetry which aspired to beauty and music and condemned the didactic poem—for didactic poetry slides over into the realm which belongs to labor and pain, and not thoughtless, passive, joy, the surrender necessary to experience poetry in a state of true excitement.

This is not to say poetry (words) benefits from a darkened theater, but the idea of inescapable focus is the same—poetry is different from film, but their joy is based on the same thing: trusting passivity, which frees us from the irritable ‘reaching’ we normally do, in thought or action, and we think naturally here of Keats’ Negative Capability. Sensuality (sound) in poems works like the brightened screen in the cinema—the sensual, unconscious device of passive joy, used to produce the higher version of harmony which attempts to surpass itself.

If this passive, first, step of delight is not allowed to occur, the next step: “which acts otherwise than in the lyre, and produces not melody alone, but harmony, by an internal adjustment of sounds or motions…” cannot occur.

To intellectualize, in the common light of day, the horrors of the world, in the spirit of a utilitarian lecturer, will deprive poetry of Shelley’s cinematic mission, and will end up on the other side of Neo-Romanticism; this is why prosaic Modernism is so hostile to Romanticism—as Scarriet has demonstrated in a number of articles over the last ten years.

In Part Two, we will examine Mazer’s poem more closely.

OH NO, PLEASE HELP US! ANOTHER SCARRIET POETRY HOT ONE HUNDRED

angry-mob

1 Anders Carlson-Wee: Brilliant, empathic poem, “How-To,” published in The Nation—then a mob ends his career.

2 Stephanie Burt: Harvard professor and Nation poetry editor publishes Carlson-Wee—caves to the mob.

3 Carmen Giminez-Smith: Nation co-editor, with Burt, apologizes for “disparaging and ableist language” giving “offense,” “harm,” and “pain” to “several communities.”

4 Grace Schulman: Former Nation poetry editor: “never once did we apologize for publishing a poem.”

5 Patricia Smith: Runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in 2018, a slam poet champion, leads Twitter outrage which greets Carlson-Wee’s Nation poem.

6 Ben Mazer: Selected Poems out, discovering unpublished Delmore Schwartz material for Library of America.

7 Rupi Kaur: Milk and Honey, her debut self-published book of viral Instagram ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ verse, has put a young woman from Toronto on top of the poetry popularity heap.

8 Tyler Knott Gregson: NY Times pointed out this Instagram poet’s first collection of poetry was a national bestseller.

9 Christopher Poindexter: This Instagram poet has been compared to Shakespeare by Huffpost. (He’s nothing like Shakespeare.)

10 Nikita Gill: Probably the best of the feminist Instagram poets.

11 Yrsa Daley-Ward: Her Instapoetry memoir, The Terrible, was praised by Katy Waldman in the New Yorker.

12 Marilyn Chin: Her New and Selected (Norton) this October contains her famous poem, “How I Got That Name.”

13 Frank Bidart: Awarded 2018 Pulitzer for his Collected Poems.

14 William Logan: New prose book: Dickinson’s Nerves, Frost’s Woods. New book of poems, Rift of Light, proves again his formal verse is perhaps the best poetry published today.

15 Kevin Young: New New Yorker poetry editor.

16 Evie Shockley: Was on short list for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

17 David Lehman: Series editor for Best American Poetry since 1988—30 years.

18 Linda Ashok: Poet (Whorelight), songwriter (“Beautiful Scar”) and champion of Indian poetry in English.

19 Derrick Michael Hudson: Who still remembers this “Chinese” BAP poet?

20. Dana Gioia: Guest editor of Lehman’s Best American Poetry 2018.

21 Akhil Katyal: “Is Mumbai still standing by the sea?”

22 Urvashi Bahuguna: “Girl kisses/some other boy. Girl wishes/It was Boy.”

23 Jeet Thayil: “you don’t want to hear her say,/Why, why did you not look after me?”

24 Sridala Swami: Jorge Louis Borges of English Indian poetry.

25 Adil Jussawalla: Born in Mumbai in 1940, another Anglo-Indian poet ignored in the U.S.

26 Rochelle D’Silva:  Indian slam poet who writes in English.

27 Billy Collins: Pajama and Slippers school of poetry. And nothing wrong with that at all.

28 W.S. Merwin: One of the few living major poets born in the 20s (goodbye Ashbery, Hall).

29 Valerie Macon: Quickly relieved of her NC poet laureate duties because of her lack of creds.

30 Mary Angela Douglas: a magical bygone spirit who sweetly found her way onto the Internet.

31 Stephen Cole: Who is this wonderful, prolific lyric poet? The daily Facebook fix.

32 Sophia Naz: “Deviants and dervishes of the river/lie down the length of her”

33 Rochelle Potkar: “But can I run away from the one cell that is the whole Self?”

34 Helen Vendler: No one finally cares what non-poets say about poetry.

35 Huzaifa Pandit: “Bear the drought of good poems a little longer”

36 N Ravi Shankar: “a toy train in a full moon night”

37 Sharon Olds: Like Edna Millay, a somewhat famous outsider, better than the men.

38 Nabina Das: “the familiar ant crawling up”

39 Kaveh Akbar: “the same paradise/where dead lab rats go.”

40 Terrance Hayes: “I love poems more than/money and pussy.”

41 Dan Sociu: Plain-spoken, rapturous voice of Romania

42 Glyn Maxwell: Editor of Derek Walcott’s poems— The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013

43 Arjun Rajendran:  Indian poet in English who writes sassy, seductive poems.

44 A.E. Stallings: With Logan, and a few others, the Formalist torch.

45 Patricia Lockwood: Subsiding from viral into respectability.

46 Marjorie Perloff: An old-fashioned, shaming of NYU professor Avital Ronell in the Nimrod Reitman case.

47 Daipayan Nair: Great love and sex poet of India

48 Shohreh Laici: Proud young voice of restless, poetic Iran

49 Smita Sahay: “You flowed down the blue bus/into a brown puddle/below the yellow lamp post/and hung there”

50 Mary Oliver: An early fan of Edna St. Vincent Millay, she assisted Edna’s sister, Norma, in assembling the great poet’s work.

51 Natasha Trethewey: Former U.S. laureate, her New and Selected favored to win National Book Award this year.

52 Anand Thakore: “a single tusk/White as a quarter-moon in mid-July,/Before the coming of a cloud.”

53 Carl Dennis: Author of the poem, “The God Who Loves You.”

54 Tony Hoagland: Today’s Robert Bly.

55 Meera Nair: “I live in a house/Someone else has loved in”

56 Fanny Howe: “Eons of lily-building/emerged in the one flower.”

57 Rita Dove: Won Pulitzer in 1987. Her The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry (2011) was panned by Vendler and Perloff.

58 Diana Khoi Nguyen: Poet and multimedia artist studying for a PhD in Creative Writing.

59 Matthew Zapruder: Poetry editor of the New York Times magazine since 2016.

60 Jenny Xie: “I pull apart the evening with a fork.”

61 Mary Jo Bang: Chair of the National Book Award judges.

62 Jim Behrle: Hates David Lehman’s Best American Poetry series and “rhyme schemes.”

63 Semeen Ali: “diverting your attention/for a minute/contains my life/my undisclosed life”

64 George Bilgere: Ohio’s slightly more sophisticated Billy Collins.

65 Aishwarya Iyer: “When rain goes where will you find/The breath lost to the coming of love?”

66 Sukrita Kumar: “Flames are messengers/Carrying the known/To the unknown”

67 Sushmita Gupta: “So detached, so solid, so just, so pure. A glory unbeholden, never seen or met before.”

68 Merryn Juliette: “before your body knows the earth”

69 John Cooper Clarke: “The fucking clocks are fucking wrong/The fucking days are fucking long”

70 Justin Phillip Reed: His book (2018) is Indecency.

71 Cathy Park Hong: Her 2014 essay, “Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde,” rules our era. The avant-garde is no longer automatically cool.

72 Carolyn Forche:  “No one finds/ you no one ever finds you.”

73 Zachary Bos: “The sun like a boat drowns.”

74 Bob Dylan: “You could have done better but I don’t mind”

75 Kanye West: The musical guest when SNL open its 44th season September 29th

76 Raquel Salas Rivera: “i shall invoke the shell petrified by shadows”

77 Jennifer Reeser: Indigenous, her new collection, will be available soon.

78 Forrest Gander: Be With from New Directions is his latest book.

79 Arun Sagar: “through glass and rain./Each way out/is worthy, each way leads/to clarity and mist,/and music.”

80 Joanna Valente: “Master said I am too anti-social.”

81 Richard Howard: Like Merwin, an American treasure, born in the 1920s.

82 J.Michael Martinez: Museum of the Americas on 2018 National Book Award longlist.

83 Amber Tamblyn: The actress/poet’s dad does the amazing flips in the movie West Side Story.

84 Paul Rowe: Stunning translation of Cesario Verde’s “O Sentimento dum Ocidental.”

85 Jill Bialosky: Norton editor caught plagiarizing by William Logan

86 Robert Pinsky: Editor of the 25 year anniversary edition of Best American Poetry in 2013.

87 Philip Nikolayev: Poet, linguist, philosopher: One Great Line theory of poetry is recent.

88 Ada Limón: The poet lives in New York, California, and Kentucky.

89 Rae Armantrout: Her poems examine, in her words, “a lot of largely unexamined baggage.”

90 Alex Dimitrov: “I want even the bad things to do over.”

91 Sam Sax: “Prayer for the Mutilated World” in September Poetry.

92 Danielle Georges: “You should be called beacon. You should be called flame.”

93 Stephen Sturgeon: “These errors are correct.”

94 Hieu Minh Nguyen: “Maybe he meant the city beyond the window.”

95 Richard Blanco: presidents, presidents, presidents.

96 Kent Johnson: His magazine Dispatches from the Poetry Wars continues the fight against poetry as commodity/career choice.

97 Parish Tiwari: “between falling rain/and loneliness…/the song/that once was ours”

98 Eliana Vanessa: Rrrrr. Lyric internet poet of the Tooth, Death, Love, Sex and Claw school.

99 Rachel Custer: Best known poem is “How I Am Like Donald Trump”

100 Jos Charles: “wen abeyance/accidentlie”

 

 

 

WHITMAN VS. MAZER—THE SENTIMENTAL POETRY MARCH MADNESS CONTINUES

 

Image result for walt whitman

The sentimental, as this 2018 March Madness Poetry tournament is finding out—as poems smash into each other in the particle accelerators of Scarriet’s aesthetic criticism—refers to any emotion at all, even anger.

Emotion, which the Modernists sought to distance themselves from—because the Victorians and the Romantics were too emotional in their poetry—is the beating heart of any poem; the poem cannot survive without emotion.

Are poems truth, as in scientific truth?  Even those who hate emotion, would not make such a claim (it would be an emotional one).

So if poems are not scientific documents, what are they?  They are sentimental documents—as much as feeling can be registered in a scientific (aesthetic, philosophical, psychological) manner.

The Modernists were fashionably reactive, but rather bankrupt philosophically and critically—the New Critics’ objected shrilly to the relevance of  the reader’s emotional response to a poem (yes, poems may make us feel something, they conceded, but this was not as important as the objective description of the poem as a thing).

T.S. Eliot, the father of New Criticism, famously  called poetry an “escape from emotion,” but he was confusing Poe’s formula that verse was 90% mathematical and 10% moral.

Poems can certainly be written, as Wordsworth said, in “tranquility,” even as powerful feelings flow between poet and reader.

The poem itself is not emotional.

The whole question of “escaping” emotion, or counting emotions bad in a poem, the way emotions are bad if one loses one’s temper in real life, is besides the point.

The mathematical is not emotional, and verse is largely mathematical—even prose poetry relies on rhythm, which is music, which is math.

But should the poet invent, and impart, emotion as part of the poem’s effect?

Yes, and this is a truism.

Aristotle says emotions can be “purged” by poetry. Aristotle was arguing with Plato, and looking for a way to praise emotions, but the “purging” idea is incomplete.  Let’s say a poem elicits disgust—how does this “purge” anything?  Does this mean we will never feel disgusted, again?  Of course not.  The poem has given us a feeling of disgust where there was none before, and whenever we remember the poem, we are disgusted.

The emotional content of a poem can include some “bad” emotions—fear or sorrow, for instance—disgust should probably be avoided altogether, but even disgust may be used, sparingly, perhaps—but the poem itself should do more than just produce an emotion, or a combination of emotions; the emotions of the poem must be accompanied with—what?  And here’s the mystery; here’s what the poet must decide with each poem.  All we know is that every poem should be highly sentimental, in the old, less pejorative, meaning of the term.

In the Fourth Bracket, the Sushmita Bracket, we feature some living poets, who don’t give a damn what contemporary critics think, and find joy and weeping in the poetic euphoria of grand, old, high sentiment.

Ben Mazer—one of the greatest living poets (tell us how he is not)—gives us a poem burning on emotional jet fuel.

As we have said, the “emotion” of a person and the “emotion” of a poem are two different things.

Personal emotion could indeed be something we would want to “escape” from, to tamp down, to control, etc.

A poem, however, understands no such social limits or niceties.

The more the poet understands this crucial distinction, the better the poet will be; those who do not understand this distinction produce poetry which is either purely dull, or purely offensive.

Number 5 (December Poems) –Ben Mazer

I was at the Nuremberg Rallies pleading with my wife,
I love you, I love you, more than anything in the world!
As she looked off to see the dramatic spectators,
she turned to me and said, you hate my guts.
I wept, I pleaded, no, it wasn’t true!
I only married you because I love you!
There is no force to plead with that can change her course,
now everything is quite its opposite,
and yet she said, “I wish that it were true,”
and would not answer “Do you love me?”
or contest “You do! You love me!”
What are we then? Man and wife
hopelessly lost and separated in strife
and worser grief than was known to despair
at using words like markers, no means yes,
when Jesus Mary Magdalene won’t you bless
the two true lovers, their heads to your thighs,
and let this nonsense out in bursts of tears and sighs.

The famous poem by Walt Whitman is Mazer’s opponent.  We copy the first stanza.

O Captain! My captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d 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.

Many know and admire this poem, and Walt Whitman was embraced by the moderns—Pound put out a hand to Whitman (while ignoring Poe, and other important figures of the 19th century.)

Those who admire Whitman’s poem, when pressed, would probably not remember “But O heart! heart! heart!/O the bleeding drops of red.”

What respectable poet writes anything like this today?

And yet, “O Captain! My Captain!” is a great poem, a powerful poem, a memorable poem, with a wonderful rhythm—if Whitman had checked himself and said, “I can’t write nonsense like O heart! heart! heart!” who doubts but that the poem would never have seen completion, would never have been written at all?

The only drawback to Whitman’s poem is that it exhausts its theme in the first stanza, and the next two stanzas merely recapitulate the first.  It is a bold and lovely poem, however.

Ben Mazer, similarly, pours on the sentimentality in his poem—the poet is vulnerable in the extreme.  The hysterical and desperate nature of the poem is announced at once, with, “I was at the Nuremberg Rallies pleading with my wife.”  This alone, marks the poem as genius, and then Mazer presents the searing, simple words of an actual, intimate conversation, which adds to the drama, and then Mazer ends the poem with a direct, emotional plea at the highest possible pitch.

Mazer’s poem has four parts, with the poet’s position never wavering—the first part announces the setting and situation, the second part features a dialogue, the third part presents a key, yet hopeless turn in the dialogue, “I wish that it were true,” and in the last part, the poet seeks divine assistance, after beginning the poem with a reference to earthly power.

There’s no crying in poetry?

Yes there is.

Mazer wins.

MARCH MADNESS 2018 —SENTIMENTAL AND WORTHY

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This year’s Scarriet 2018 March Madness Tournament is a contest between great sentimental poems.

We use Sentimental Poems because sentimentality in the United States has long been seen as a great fault in poetry.

It is necessary we bring attention to a crucial fact which is so obvious many overlook it: In the last 100 years, it is considered a virtue for the poet to avoid sentimentality.

But poetry does not belong to the factual.

Ever since Socrates pointed out that Homer wasn’t trustworthy when it came to chariots, law, war, or government, the fact that poetry is not factual has been understood and accepted.

As science grew in stature, it was only natural that Plato was seen as more and more correct—science, the eyes and ears of discovery, made the imagination of lyric song seem feeble by comparison.  Entertainment, Plato feared, could take the place of truth—and destroy society, by making it tyrannical, complacent, sensual, and blind.

Plato’s notion, to put it simply, triumphed.

Homer was no longer considered a text book for knowledge.

Poetry was just poetry.

Religion and science—one, an imaginative display of morals, the other, an imaginative display of reason, became the twin replacements of poetry for all mankind.

Poetry still mattered, but it belonged to entertainment and song, the frivolous, the sentimental—as much as these matter, and they do.  The sentimental was not considered a bad thing, but it was never confused with science. Nor was poetry confused with religion. Religion, with its unchanging sacred texts, was society’s moral guide; a poem springs up suddenly in a person’s mind, a fanciful thing, a piece of religion for the moment—not a bad thing, necessarily, but ranked below science and religion.

Poetry sat on the sidelines for two thousand years.  Homer made it glorious, Plato killed it, and then Science and Religion, for a couple of millennia, were Homer’s two important substitutes.

For two thousand years poetry was sentimental, not factual.

Religion bleeds into poetry (quite naturally) —Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare, Milton—and in the rival arts, painting, and music—helps religiosity (high sentiment) to thrive and not be overthrown by science (fact).

Music and painting were especially glorious—we use the word without irony—(and religious) during the Renaissance, becoming almost scientific; musicians like Beethoven proved music is more than entertainment—it enriches the soul as much as religion.  Plato would certainly have approved of Bach and Beethoven, if not Goya and Shelley.

Poetry crept back into good standing (since being dethroned by Plato) through religion’s back door—as religion—especially during the Enlightenment and the 19th century—became more and more disgraced by science.

Modernism changed all that.

In the beginning of the 20th century, poetry (together with painting and music) decided it didn’t need religion or science.

Perspective (the mathematics of seeing), which developed in Renaissance painting, is science.

Cubism, Collage, (2-dimensional fragments) and Abstract painting’s color-mixing do not constitute scientific advancement.

Speech and versification enhance each other in poets like Pope and Byron—this has a certain scientific validity—poetry dribbling off into awkward prose, as it pretends to “paint” an “image,” does not.

Verse exists as written music.   Verse, like music, is a system of notation.  Beethoven’s notes do not float around experimentally on the page—Beethoven’s genius exists both in the notation, and in what the notation projects, with the sound of musical instruments. Beethoven’s genius also lies largely in the realm of the sentimental. Which is not a bad thing at all. Sentimentality occupies the battle-ground middle between religion and science—the genius of the modern is found more in artists like Beethoven and Byron, than in the more self-conscious “modernist revolution” of the 20th century—which was largely a step backwards for art and poetry, as talkers like Ezra Pound and John Dewey gained ascendancy.

Here’s an example of the pseudo-science which infested 20th century Modernism: Charles Olson’s idea that poetry is expressed as “breath,” and can be notated as such, on the page.  Yes, people breathe as they read verse, but “the breath” has nothing to do with verse in any measurable way.  A sigh is dramatic, sure. But a sigh isn’t scientific. Yet no one laughed at Olson’s idea. Modernists took it seriously.

And here in 2018, in the wake of Modernism with its sharp-pointed, experimental, unscientific irreverence, poets continue since 1900 to frown on anything sentimental, associating it with flowery, Victorian verse—when the sentimental belongs to the genius of great poetry.

Poetry is sentimental.

Bad poetry is sentimental only because all poetry is sentimental.

The damaging mistake Modernism made, dumping anything pre-1900, in its pursuit of the non-existent “new” (never really described or defined) was the insistence that sentimentalism was bad.

It was a logical mistake, as we have just shown: all poetry (since Socrates knocked off Homer) is sentimental, not factual; Modernism’s childish, fake-science, tantrum against the sentimental was a gambit against religion, which was already collapsing before the advent of science.

Modernism did not embody scientific glory—unless skyscrapers as architecture belong to science.

The 20th century engineers and physicists (far closer to Leonardo da Vinci than William Carlos Williams) were scientific; religion lived on in the lives of the poor, even as Nietzsche-inspired, 20th century professors said God was dead; and meanwhile the Modern poets dug themselves into a hole—rejecting religion, while proudly beating their chests (Modernism’s crackpot identity was male) before the idol of pseudo-science. Modern poetry fell into oblivion, where it still exists today—secular, unscientific, unsentimental, unmusical, without a public, or an identity.

Sentimental poetry did live on throughout the 20th century—poetry is sentimental, after all.  It continued to thrive, in popular music, but as poetry, it mostly thrived beneath the Modernist headlines.

To highlight this argument, Scarriet’s 2018 March Madness Tournament will feature great sentimental poetry.

Before we start, we’d like to define the issue in more detail.

We do not assert that mawkish, simplistic, hearts-and-flowers, unicorns-and-rainbows, poetry is good.

But tedious, pedantic, dry, prosaic poetry is not good, either.

We simply maintain that all poetry, and the very best poetry, is sentimental, rather than factual—despite what Modernist scholars might say.

It is necessary to point out that verse is not, and cannot, as verse, be somehow less than prose, for verse cannot be anything but prose—with the addition of music.

Verse, not prose, has the unique categorical identity which meets the scientific standard of a recognizable art, because verse is prose-plus-one.  Verse is prose and more.  Here is the simple, scientific fact of verse as an identifying category, which satisfies the minimal material requirements of the category, poetry.

The objection can be raised that the following two things exist

1. prose and

2. prose which has a poetic quality, but is not verse

and therefore, poetry can exist without verse.

But to say that prose can be poetic while still being prose, is really to say nothing at all; for if we put an example of prose next to prose-which-is-poetic, it only proves that some prose writing samples are more beautiful than other prose writing samples.

This still does not change this fact: Verse is prose-plus-one.  Prose can be enchanting for various reasons; it can have a greater interest, for example, if it touches on topics interesting to us—but the topic is interesting, not the prose; the content of prose can have all sorts of effects on us—secondly, and more important, prose can certainly appeal for all sorts of sensual reasons, in terms of painting and rhythm and sentiment, and this is why we enjoy short stories and novels. But again, verse is all of this and more; verse is, by definition, prose-plus-one.

To repeat: Verse is more than prose. Prose is not more than verse.

What do we mean, exactly, by sentimental?  Isn’t there excellent verse which is not sentimental at all?  No, not really, if we simply define sentimental as the opposite of factual.

We might be confused here, because a fact can be sentimental; a simple object, for instance, from our past, which has associations for us alone—there it is, a souvenir, a fact which can move us to tears.

Just as verse is prose-and-more, the sentimental is fact-and-more.  Poetry adds sentiment to the fact.

Here are two examples of good poems, and because they are poems, they are sentimental; they are not sentimental because they are good, or good because they are sentimental.  The sentimental is a given for the poem. And because facts come first, and sentiment is added, poems use facts, even though poems are not factual.

Think of Byron’s famous lyric, “We Shall Go No More A Roving.”  The sentiment is right there in the title. “No more!” Something we did together which was pleasantly thrilling will never happen again.  

If this Byron lyric not sentimental, nothing is.   But we can state its theme in prose.  The sentimentality can be glimpsed in the prose, in the preface, in the idea.  The verse completes what the prose has started.

Facts, and this should not be surprising, do a lot of the work in sentimental poetry.  One of the things which makes Byron’s gushing lyric gloriously sentimental, for instance, is the fact that it is not just I who shall “go no more a roving,” but we shall “go no more a roving.” This is a fact, and the fact contributes to the sentimentality; or, it might be argued, the sentimentality contributes to the fact.

Carl Sandburg, born in 1878, got his first break in 1914 when his poems were accepted by Poetry, the little Modernist magazine from Chicago—where Sandburg was raised. Sandburg was initially famous for his “hog butcher for the world” poem about Chicago, but the Modernists (including the academically influential New Critics) withdrew their support as Sandburg gained real fame as a populist, sentimental poet. Sandburg even became a folk singer; his poem “Cool Tombs” was published in 1918, and you can hear Sandburg reading this masterpiece of sentimentality on YouTube—and you can hear Sandburg singing folk songs on YouTube, as well.  What is sentimental about a “cool tomb,” exactly?  Is it the sound-echo of “cool” and “tomb?” The sentimental in poetry proves the sentimental is not always a simple formula.

Shelley’s “Ozymandias” might be preferred by Moderns, because on the face of it, this poem doesn’t seem very sentimental at all.  Shelley’s poem is factual: a traveler sees a ruin. Shelley describes the facts as they are—here’s what the traveler sees.  But upon reflection, one recognizes how powerful the sentiment of the poem is—a great thing existed, and is now gone.  And yet, what is gone was evil, and the poem mocks its loss, and the final image of the poem is simply and factually, “the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

However, and we don’t need to push this point more than necessary, the whole power of Shelley’s poem is sentimental.  The fact of the statue, half-sunken in the sands of a desert, is just that—a fact.  Were it only this, the fact would not be a poem—all poems, to be poems, must be sentimental; the sentiment is added to the fact.

The poet makes us feel the sentimental significance of the fact; this is what all poems do.

And now to the Tournament…

Our readers will recognize quite a few of the older poems—and why not?  The greatly sentimental is greatly popular.

Most will recognize these poems right up through “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot.

The half-dozen poems composed more recently, in the fourth and final bracket, will not be as familiar, since sentimental examples of verse no longer get the attention they deserve; we bravely furnish them forth to stand with the great sentimental poems of old.

“Sentimental” by Albert Goldbarth is not actually sentimental; the poem is more of a commentary on sentimentality by a pedantic modern, in the middle of the modern, anti-sentimental era.

“A Dog’s Death” may be the most sentimental poem ever written, and it comes to us from a novelist; as respectable poets in the 20th century tended to avoid sentimentality.

The poems by Sushmita Gupta, Mary Angela Douglas, Stephen Cole, and Ben Mazer we have printed below.

The great poems familiar to most people are sentimental—at the dawn of the 20th century, sentimentality was unfortunately condemned.

Here are 64 gloriously sentimental poems.

Old Sentimental Poems—The Bible Bracket

1. Western Wind –Anonymous
2. The Lord Is My Shepherd –Old Testament
3. The Lie –Walter Raleigh
4. Since There’s No Help, Come Let Us Kiss and Part –Michael Drayton
5. The Passionate Shepherd to His Love –Christopher Marlowe
6. That Time Of Year Thou Mayst In My Behold –William Shakespeare
7. Full Fathom Five Thy Father Lies –William Shakespeare
8. Adieu, Farewell, Earth’s Bliss –Thomas Nashe
9. The Golden Vanity –Anonymous
10. Death, Be Not Proud –John Donne
11. Go and Catch A Falling Star –John Donne
12. Exequy on His Wife –Henry King
13. Love Bade Me Welcome –George Herbert
14. Ask Me No More Where Jove Bestows –Thomas Carew
15. Il Penseroso –John Milton
16. On His Blindness –John Milton

Newer Sentimental Poems—The Blake Bracket

1. Why So Pale and Wan Fond Lover? –John Suckling
2. To My Dear and Loving Husband –Anne Bradstreet
3. To Lucasta, Going to the Wars –Richard Lovelace
4. To His Coy Mistress –Andrew Marvel
5. Peace –Henry Vaughan
6. To the Memory of Mr. Oldham –John Dryden
7. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard –Thomas Gray
8. The Sick Rose –William Blake
9. The Little Black Boy –William Blake
10. A Red, Red Rose –Robert Burns
11. The World Is Too Much With Us –William Wordsworth
12. I Wandered Lonely As  A Cloud –William Wordsworth
13. Kubla Khan –Samuel Coleridge
14. I Strove With None –Walter Savage Landor
15. A Visit From St. Nicholas –Clement Clarke Moore
16. When We Two Parted –George Byron

Still Newer Sentimental Poems—The Tennyson Bracket

1. England in 1819 –Percy Shelley
2. To ___ –Percy Shelley
3. Adonais–Percy Shelley
4. I Am –John Clare
5. Thanatopsis –William Cullen Bryant
6. To Autumn –John Keats
7. La Belle Dame sans Merci –John Keats
8. Ode to A Nightingale –John Keats
9. How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways –Elizabeth Barrett
10. Paul Revere’s Ride –Henry Longfellow
11. Annabel Lee –Edgar Poe
12. Break Break Break  –Alfred Tennyson
13. Mariana –Alfred Tennyson
14. The Charge of the Light Brigade –Alfred Tennyson
15. My Last Duchess  –Robert Browning
16. The Owl and the Pussy Cat –Edward Lear

Even Newer Sentimental Poems—The Sushmita Bracket

1. O Captain My Captain –Walt Whitman
2. Because I Could Not Stop For Death  –Emily Dickinson
3. The Garden Of Proserpine –Charles Swinburne
4. The Man He Killed –Thomas Hardy
5. When I Was One and Twenty  –A.E. Housman
6. Cynara –Ernest Dowson
7. Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock  –T.S. Eliot
8. Not Waving But Drowning  –Stevie Smith
9. Nights Without Sleep –Sara Teasdale
10. What Lips My Lips Have Kissed –Edna Millay
11. Sentimental –Albert Goldbarth
12. Dog’s Death –John Updike
13. Utterly In Love –Sushmita Gupta
14. I Wrote On A Page Of Light –Mary Angela Douglas
15. Waiting –Stephen Cole
16. Number 5 (December Poems) –Ben Mazer

Utterly in Love –Sushmita Gupta

Of all the remarkable,
Things and feelings,
In my life,
You are one.
And I guard you,
And your identity,
In the deepest,
Quietest corner,
Of my heart,
With a passion,
That some show,
For religion,
And if not religion,
Then they show it,
For revolution.
But me,
I am a mere mortal.
I only know,
To love you,
And love you secretly.
Secretly,
I melt in a pool,
By your thoughts.
Secretly,
I wish,
That you would,
Mould the molten me,
And give me,
A shape,
A form,
And eyes,
That twinkle,
Like far away stars.
And me,
With twinkling eyes,
And fragrant body,
From loving you,
Shall love you,
Even more.

I Wrote On A Page Of Light –Mary Angela Douglas

I wrote on a page of light;
it vanished.
then there was night.

then there was night and
I heard the lullabies
and then there were dreams.

and when you woke
there were roses, lilies
things so rare a someone so silvery spoke,

or was spoken into the silvery air that

you couldn’t learn words for them
fast enough.
and then,

you wrote on a page of light.

Waiting –Stephen Cole

I believe if She were here
She would tell me
The cold winds are departing.

The message delivered
Thoughtfully,
If only I was listening.

Comfort to the discomfort
With her warming words.
The void filled,
Recognized,
For what it lost,
Otherwise,
It could not be filled.

For Her,
The rules are absent by rules.
She always knows what to say
As only for the proper need,
She construes,
According to sidereal secrets
Of the long, long day.

Number 5 (December Poems) –Ben Mazer

I was at the Nuremberg Rallies pleading with my wife,
I love you, I love you, more than anything in the world!
As she looked off to see the dramatic spectators,
she turned to me and said, you hate my guts.
I wept, I pleaded, no, it wasn’t true!
I only married you because I love you!
There is no force to plead with that can change her course,
now everything is quite its opposite,
and yet she said, “I wish that it were true,”
and would not answer “Do you love me?”
or contest “You do! You love me!”
What are we then? Man and wife
hopelessly lost and separated in strife
and worser grief than was known to despair
at using words like markers, no means yes,
when Jesus Mary Magdalene won’t you bless
the two true lovers, their heads to your thighs,
and let this nonsense out in bursts of tears and sighs.

BEN MAZER: THE LAST MODERN

Image result for ben mazer selected poems

Selected Poems by Ben Mazer
Paperback, 248 pages
Madhat Press
Preface by Philip Nikolayev

T.S. Eliot was born in 1888. As Ben Mazer’s Selected Poems, with its T.S. Eliot heft, lands on America’s doorstep (as writing workshop and slam poet hives hum in every college town) this is the question a few may be asking: is Mazer a genius, or a copyist?

When we write in the ascendant style of an age, we position ourselves for greatness (think Beethoven atop Mozart), or neglect—a copyist the world doesn’t need.

W.H. Auden—younger, English-born, sassier than the somber American, T.S. Eliot—whom Eliot published, and who, after traveling to Berlin and China with Isherwood, subsequently moved to America and awarded John Ashbery his Yale Younger—is Auden Mazer’s fountainhead?

Are the following quotes from Auden or Mazer?

1.Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day/Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,/He got down to work

2. The flier, at the Wicklow manor,/Stayed throughout the spring and summer,/Mending autos in the drive

3. In a strange country, there is only one/Who knows his true name and could turn him in./But she, whose father too was charged with murder

4. Look, stranger, on this island now/The leaping light for your delight discovers

5. And move in memory as now these clouds do,/That pass the harbor mirror/And all the summer through the water saunter.

The insouciance of rhymes flung against the language of hard-boiled detective fiction. It’s Modernism longing to be Romantic, but finding it quite impossible.

1, 4, and 5 are Auden; 2 and 3, Mazer.

Shelley in army uniform, cynically resigned to domesticated Empire life—which pays better than it ought.

Ben Mazer is for, by, and about poetry which sings out the following historical paradox:

Shelley, the Romantic, is quick—look at him riding winds and swift ocean currents.

The Modern, with her machines and her anxiety, hasn’t got time for Romanticism singing Shelley, and, yet, the modern boredom and leisure which the modern affects, allows for poetry which goes deeper into the Shelley of Shelley than Shelley ever did.

If you give Mazer a few minutes (since a long poem doesn’t exist) he will pour more Shelley on you than you’ve ever known before.

The Mazer quoted above, in the comparison with Auden, is early Mazer.  The later Mazer is less like Auden and more like Eliot.  But these comparisons are not entirely fair. Mazer is Mazer.

Here’s an excerpt from Mazer’s “The Double:”

I remember chiefly the warp of the curb, and time going by.
As time goes by. I remember red gray green blue brown brick
before rain or during rain. One doesn’t see who is going by.
One doesn’t think to see who is going by.
One sees who is going by all right, but one doesn’t see who is going by.
The bright lights attract customers to the bookstore.
Seeing, chalk it up to that. The bitter looks of the booksellers,
as you leave the shop without paying. Rickety steps that will soon
be history. A ripped up paperback book with some intelligent inscriptions
in very dried out blue gray ink. Lots of dumpsters. And seagulls.
Or are they pigeons. They seem related, as the air is to the sea.
When it gets darker, or foggier, it is a really big soup
of souls, works of art, time tables, the hour before dinner,
theatrical enterprise, memories of things never happened, warnings
spoken in a voice familiar, a keen and quickened sense
of possibility glimpsed through windows.
Handbills, whatever to mark the passing time. And sleep.
I know it is good when the good of it is not noticed.
It is something you try and tell someone privately in a room
where the light is broken in October. Your sense of time
is the source of your charm with strangers,
who would accept you anyways.

Mazer’s accumulation of details—this is the first 22 lines of “The Double” (Poems (2010) in Selected pg. 9)—unlike the poetry of Ashbery, which explodes in non sequitur—narrows down to philosophy. With each additional observation, Mazer’s centripetal process pins down meaning; notice how the passage we have quoted is not just creating categories, but reflects on category itself: “They seem related, as the air is to the sea.” See (“seeing, chalk it up to that”) the subtle manner in which observations are linked throughout the passage: the ambiguity of the poet’s seeing-but-not-seeing-who-is-going-by is repeated in the “booksellers,” who by their very nature see-but-don’t-see visitors to the bookstore, since they want visitors (our poet) to buy books from their store—a store which has “rickety” steps, indicating not many people are buying books, and the store itself will become “history”—the bookstore itself will become a book. The poet embraces the trope of attracting customers (readers) himself—the poet comments on what makes poetry good (“I know it is good when the good of it is not noticed”) defines imagination (“memories of things never happened”) and the actual surroundings of the poet’s rambles (“lights, fog, handbills, dumpsters, gulls, bookstores, the hour before dinner) cunningly mingle with the walking-and-seeing poet’s thoughts on poetry: “try and tell someone privately…” “your sense of time” (poetry, a temporal art) “is the source of your charm with strangers”—and with “strangers” we are back to the booksellers—and the customers who don’t buy (“strangers” to each other) and readers of poems—the more successful, the more “charm” the poet has, the more readers (“strangers”) the poet will have.

The hidden meaning of “The Double” is the lonely enterprise of the seeing-but-not-seeing poet who strives to be successful—the background of urban poverty and charm denoting the modern is just one of its layers. There is a density of significance impossible to define, but Mazer’s poetry has it.  “The Double,” “Death and Minstrelsy,” and “The Long Wharf,” three longish poems which greet us in the beginning of Mazer’s Selected, should be taught in every writing class—these three poems alone ensure Mazer’s immortality.

We also think “Divine Rights,” Cirque D’ Etoiles,” “Deep Sleep Without Reservations,” “Monsieur Barbary Brecht,”  “The King,” (excerpted in Selected) and “After Dinner Sleep” fall into the “immortal” category, though there are shorter pieces (mostly sonnet-length) in the book of great charm, and even sublimity.

In Auden’s “The Partition,” quoted above, Auden was writing about the immensely real: the British Empire dividing up its conquests.

Mazer writes of the real, but almost religiously avoids current events.

Mazer writes of what is close—he is Romantic in nature.

The British Empire splitting apart requires the poets of that Empire to say something, to mourn, to capture.

The American Empire holding itself, remarkably, together, is impossible to speak, except in amateurish and splenetic bouts of boring and dubious prophecy. The best American poets are not historians. They enjoy being in the middle of a dream.

In the wider historical scope, it could just be this.

Mazer is properly, we think, poetry, not history.

Poetry, in a certain historic time and place, which tries to be history, fails.

Poetry of any sensuality, which doesn’t try to be history, tends to be Keatsian.  We don’t read the poetry of Keats to find out about English history.

Mazer, the neo-Romantic, might be called the Wordsworth of brick, but he is really closer to the sublime Keats than the more mundane and pedantic (though still good) Wordsworth. A Romantic urbanity thrills, and when a natural scene is glimpsed, it is all the more beautiful. To this extent, Mazer is Wordsworth.

Still more powerfully, Mazer carves out, half-self-consciously (there’s genius in that “half”) the leisure to travel wholly in Keatsian revery—into and around reality (we use “reality” in the plainest and most mundane way possible)—which makes Ashbery look like a mere manipulator of words, by comparison.

Ashbery’s prose-poetry might be said to resemble the Stars Wars trinity of prequel movies: Ashbery’s pyrotechnical ur-poetry attempts to modernize the nostalgic; Ashbery is a kind of hyper-contemporary of quotation and copying, done very well, but missing what makes the franchise (Poetry) great.

Every major contemporary critic, from Harold Bloom to Helen Vendler, acknowledges Ashbery—now the mourned, late Ashbery—as the contemporary master. But no one would say Ashbery is the future of poetry, or a reenactment of what makes the “old” poetry “great.” Ashbery took the franchise, Poetry, and inserted himself in front of it as a language machine which artificially generates poetry with a small “p.” The Ashbery “river” is like poetic consciousness, but without the Poem. Ashbery is (or attempted to be) the equipment of poetry without Poetry, without the poetry itself, without the ‘iconic poem.’

Ashbery also has a Jar Jar Binks quality, a silliness which condemns him before a certain more serious crowd.

William Logan, known for his critical rigor (and rancor?), isn’t fond of Ashbery. Logan, much younger, will outlive Bloom, Vendler, and Perloff, and so we’ll see.

Mazer may be the last Modern—his Modernism resembling Luke Skywalker’s lonely predicament in the currently much discussed, and much maligned, Last Jedi.

The High Modernism of T.S. Eliot is new, yet old, situated, in terms of politics and taste, somewhere between Dante and the new diversity.

Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi—and we might as well say it: Mazer is the last Modern.

Mazer gets his “Force” from the Tradition (in our crude analogy, the “Force” from the original Star Wars films)—Mazer’s work belongs to High Modernism, but if his poetry is “heroic,” (and we believe it is) the poetry is both nostalgic (timeless, longing) but also unique—when we read Mazer’s poetry, we care about the person in the poetry, and this is what gives the “great” poem an added, human, interest. The reader identifies with the poet on his quest, but also with the poem-significance of the quest, in terms of the bigger picture—Tradition, Poetry.  The great poem will use both elements in its appeal—1. this is a good poem 2. my heart is moved to pity and understanding by this poet who lives in this poem.

Mazer writes poems first, and secondly, poetry. Mazer’s poems will ensure his immortality—or not.

Ashbery wrote poetry first, and secondly, poems. Ashbery’s immortality depends on his poetry—as time rolls on and does its usual up-rooting and destroying.

A poem is probably a better shelter, but who knows how the future moves?

A review of a poet’s Selected Poems—retrospective by its very nature—would not be complete without some discussion of the arc of the poet’s career.

Critics love to talk of an artist’s phases, but most of this talk is speculation and half-truth; it is the fate of a poet to be a poet—never to be a poet in this or that phase.  Tennyson wrote about Crimea because Crimea happened—not because Tennyson was in a phase.

The quality which makes any artist significant is

1. recognized by the connoisseur immediately

2. transcends phases.

A long poem does not exist.  In the same way, a book of poems does not exist. Mazer’s Selected is hefty, but even if it were not, any poet’s Selected is for reading, at one’s leisure, a marvelous poem, or a series of marvelous poems. Eventually, the whole book may be digested and understood, and even memorized, but a Selected is not intended to be read straight through in one sitting.

The arc of any great poet’s career is: over a certain amount of time, they wrote poems.

And that’s it.

If a poem is successful, it escapes the circumstances of its writing.

We can say Dante was “exiled,” and this fact contributes to our understanding of the Divine Comedy.  Well, yes and no.

A biographical fact is good. The imagination of the poet rarely finds it useful, however.

But what happened to Mazer?  Don’t we care?  And shouldn’t his Selected Poems reflect this?

If you want to know, read the poems.

Keats, the most iconic Romantic, once complained of Wordsworth writing about Dover.  “Dover?” Keats groused, who would write on Dover?  The Moderns, of course, would laugh at this—why shouldn’t the poet write on anything he wants?  But Keats—no matter how much his advice may fly in the face of “freedom” and “common sense,” is correct.

No poet should write on Dover.  The poet uses his imagination to describe his own imagination.  Otherwise, the poet should be a photographer, a political writer, or a travel writer.

Mazer did write on New York. “Entering the City of New York” Selected, pg 84

It begins:

Entering the city of New York
is something like approaching Ancient Rome,
to see the living people crawling forth,
each pipe and wire, window, brick, and home.

The times are sagging, and it is unreal
to know one’s slice of mortal transient time.
We angle forward, stunned by what we feel,
like insects, incognizant of every crime.

We are so duped, who make up civilization
in images of emotions that we feel,
to know the ague of the mortal steel,
each one perched balanced at his separate station.

The graves are many, and their fields decay,
where nothing can be meant to stand forever.
No doubt in due course God will have his way,
and slowly, slowly, all our bonds dissever.

Mazer is obeying Keats’ edict, and not writing on New York City; these opening lines are certainly redolent of some very large city which a humble, rural, meditative stranger enters, but more importantly, an almost 18th century sublimity is expressed—the subject is not New York City, but the soul.

Mazer should be read for poetry, which vibrates to the times, to the reality—which surrounds all of us; and as we read, Mazer’s poetry frees itself of that reality, and then returns to it.  It’s the new return in the poetry which matters, not exactly what he is writing about. 

Even as the exact, in the winding, mossy ways of the poetry, is paramount.

If this advice sounds like a truism, it is, but it is a truism which is fading away, as Keats is fading away.  Mazer is Modernism returning (impossible!) to Romanticism, and not in a bookish sense, or a scholarly sense, but in exactly the way we have described it—it is poetry returning to poetry.

A minor drawback: Mazer reads his poetry aloud in a manner which does not do justice to its greatness; admirably, he speaks plainly, letting the poetry speak; at times, however, monotone eclipses music. The verse of Mazer’s Selected Poems Tour comes out of his body, which can barely know his mind, the latter being so vast as to have no affinity with mere lisp and gesture. (In person, Mazer tends to be very intense, and very quiet, rather than ebullient, but this makes his occasional joking and excitable nature all the more charming.)

In person, Mazer is a wit, one who does not waste words.

At one of his readings, there was a long question for Mazer, involving the structure of his poetry.

Mazer paused, and then said, “It all rhymes.”

The drama of the poems is missing in Mazer’s recitation, perhaps, because the drama is delicately locked within, guarded by the brain of the poet, which, when it comes to speaking its treasure, fails to properly spill outward the swells and currents of its majesty—in the ephemeral instruments devoted to breath.

We saw an anecdote, once, of Rupert Brooke reading his poetry so softly that he could only be heard in the front row. Mazer can be heard—he is certainly competent when he reads. Mazer is a talented musician, and his devotion to poetry (to the delight of poets everywhere) overtook his earlier interest in music.

Who are the great living poets today?

The audacity to seriously ask this question precludes, perhaps, an answer.

Should we say it?

At the top, or near, of the greatest living poets, is, without a doubt, Mazer.

NOVEMBER 2017. THE SCARRIET POETRY HOT 100.

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1) Sushmita Gupta— When the waves lashed and the clouds loomed and I was alone.

2) Diane Seuss— I could do it. I could walk into the sea!

3) Rachel  McKibbens— as you lie still within the soft forgotten witch of your body

4) Daipayan Nair— The maker of a house carries its hardness.

5) Eminem— The best part about me is I am not you.

6) Sharon Olds—  I had not put it into words yet, the worst thing

7) Natasha Trethewey— two small trout we could not keep.

8) Billy Collins— The name of the author is the first to go

9) Terrance Hayes— but there are tracks of your syntax about the land

10) Robert Pinsky— The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.

11) Bob Dylan— How does it feel?

12) Dan Sociu— the quakes moving/ for nothing, under uninhabited regions. (trans. Ana-Maria Tone)

13) Ben Mazer— Mother then/I am your son/The King.

14) Denise Duhamel— Ken wants to feel Barbie’s toes between his lips

15) Molly Fisk—  Then someone you love. And then you.

16) Sherman Alexie— They were common people who believed only in the thumb and the foot.

17) Jorie Graham— the infinite finding itself strange among the many

18) Charles Simic— Have you found a seat in your room/For every one of your wayward selves?

19) Louise Glück— In her heart, she wants them to go away.

20) Richard Howard— inspired by some wag’s verbose variations on the theme of semi-porn bric-a-brac

21) Donald Hall— so that she could smell the snowy air.

22) Stephen Cole— For the knowing heart the known heart cannot know.

23) Laura Kasischke— as if the worship of a thing might be the thing that breaks it.

24) Mary Ruefle— the dead borrow so little from the past.

25) Tony Hoagland— Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.

26) Kevin Young— a freshman, I threw/a Prince party, re-screwed/ the lights red & blue

27) Maxine Beneba Clarke— penny lane/on the Beatles trail/all the locals say and they nod/as if for sure they know/our tourist game

28) Carolyn Forché— What you have heard is true.

29) Mary Jo Bang— A plane lit down and left her there.

30) Dan Beachy-Quick— Drab bird unseen in the dark dark’s underbrush

31) Carl Dennis— Which for all you know is the life you’ve chosen.

32) Christian Wiman—  Do you remember the rude nudists?

33) Stanley Plumly— I clapped my hands just for the company.

34) Major Jackson— All seeing is an act of war.

35) Gary B. Fitzgerald— A life is gone and, hard as rock, diamonds glow in jet black skies.

36) Mary Angela Douglas—  the larks cry out and not with music

37) A.E. Stallings— From the weeds of the drowned.

38) Joe Green—  the teacup is filled with the eyelashes of owls

39) Dorianne Laux—  It’s tough being a guy, having to be gruff and buff

40) Collin Yost— I’ll love you when you’re mad at me

41) Rupi Kaur— Don’t tell me my women aren’t as beautiful as the ones in your country

42) Wendy Cope— The planet goes on being round.

43) Warsan Shire— when the men come, set yourself on fire.

44) Savannah Brown— Hi, I’m a slut. What?!

45) Brenna Twohy— My anxiety is a camera that shows everyone I love as bones

46) Lily Myers— My mother wanes while my father waxes

47) Imani Cezanne— Addiction is seeking comfort in that which is destroying you.

48) Ada Limón— What’s left of the woods is closing in.

49) Olivia Gatewood— resting bitch face, they call you

50) Vincent Toro—  This island like a basket/of laundry 

51) Koraly Dimitriadis— the day I moved out, I took my wedding dress to mum’s house

52) Nayuka Gorrie— I lose it and find it and lose it again.

53) Hera Lindsay Bird— Keats is dead so fuck me from behind

54) Marie Howe— Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?

55) Valerie Macon— You are the boss of your canvas

56) Patricia Lockwood—  OK, the rape joke is that he worshiped The Rock.

57) Danielle Georges—  O poorest country, this is not your name.

58) Frank Bidart—  In the evening she takes a lethal dose of poison, and on the following morning she is dead.

59) Eileen Myles— I write behind your back.

60) Leila Chatti— Are you also dreaming? Do you still worship me, now that I’m here?

61) Claudia Rankine—  After the initial presidential election results come in, I stop watching the news.

62) Anne Carson—  I can hear little clicks inside my dream.

63) William Logan—  the pastel salons require/the formalities of skin

64) Marilyn Chin—  lust drove men to greatness, not goodness, not decency.

65) George Bilgere—  The mysteries/from the public library, due

66) Robin Coste Lewis—  what’s greyed/In and grey slinks ashamed down the drain.

67) Daniel Borzutzky—  hieroglyphics painted on the/walls of financiers who accumulate capital through the/unjustified sexual behavior of adulterous/women

68) Maggie Smith—  Any decent realtor,/walking you through a real shithole, chirps on/about good bones

69) Kim Addonnizio—  a man who was going to be that vulnerable,/that easy and impossible to hurt.

70) Kay Ryan—  If it please God,/let less happen.

71) Dana Gioia—  there is no silence but when danger comes.

72) Megan Fernandez— The bullet is a simple, adolescent heartache.

73) Kushal Poddar— My mom, a wheelchair since two thousand and one

74) Sascha Aurora Akhtar— I ate/But I am/Hungrier than before

75) Jennifer Reeser— your coldness and my idealism/alone for all this time have kept us true.

76) Linda Ashok—  a sudden gust of Kalbaisakhi/changed the conversation.

77) Ramsha Ashraf— tremble and tremble and tremble/With every kiss

78) Amber Tamblyn— If it had been Hillary Clinton, this would’ve never happened to Harvey Weinstein.

79) Ruth Awad— Nothing grows from me except the dead

80) Merryn Juliette— I will love her all insane

81) Nathan Woods— The best poems swell the lungs.

82) Nahid Arjouni— My headscarf will shudder if you speak with anyone. (trans. Shohreh Laici)

83) Philip Nikolayev— the fool moon/couldn’t stand the iambic pentameter any longer

84) Saira Shah Halim— The rains left behind a petrichor of shared verses

85) Jay Z— I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.

86) Nalini Priyadarshni— mostly bookish, as sinfulness should be

87) Mark Doty— Into Eden came the ticks, princes of this world, heat-seeking, tiny

88) Paige Lewis— I’m making love easy for everyone.

89) Mary Oliver—  You don’t have to be good.

90) Lyn Hejinian— to change this nerdy life upon row upon row upon row

91) Afaa Weaver— I stand here where I was born,/ and the masks wait for me.

92) Alex Dimitrov— What is under the earth followed them home.

93) Ben Lerner— jumpsuits, they have changed/painting

94) Wendy Videlock— the owl devours/ the hour,/ and disregards/ the rest

95) Joie Bose— I own that you from that night in November

96) Amy Gerstler— Pardon my/frontal offensive, dear chum.

97) Nathaniel Mackey—  Some new Atlantis known as Lower/Ninth we took leave of next

98) W.S. Merwin— into a world he thought was a thing of the past

99) Juan Felipe Herrera— Where is our exile? Who has taken it?

100) Charles Bernstein—  Think about it, Mr./Fanelli.

LOVE IS AN ACT: IN PRAISE OF ROMANTICISM

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It is time to be honest about love.

We are going to argue that love—truly romantic love—rejected as cheap and backwards these days, will save the world.

First, we admit that love is rare, and it dies rather quickly. Everyone experiences this. We like something if it benefits us, and all sorts of human relationships are based on practical arrangements. Love, and here we will skip a definition, since it refers to what most of us have experienced at some point: it is mad, complete, mystical, and full of desire. It is not friendship. It can strike us before puberty, but after puberty, the charisma involved largely partakes of sexuality.

It is a truism to say love requires focus. Love must be intense, have intensity—if it is what we know as love, it must be intense—and this brings us to love’s desire for beauty. It wouldn’t make sense for love to involve many things, for this would be to dilute and diminish by spreading too thin, all that love is, and we agree love must have intensity.

Love must have a physical dimension, and to have the force and importance love requires, love should be rare, but not so rare as to be beyond human possibility, and a certain social comprehension. Individual human beauty fits this criterion—human beauty is rare, invokes intensity and focus, and though rare, is accessible.

In the same manner that durable, attractive, and rare metals such as silver and gold will always signify value in terms of wealth in society, human beauty, whether we like it or not, is the coin of love.

We begin with individual human beauty.

But now we have two more elements.

These elements are based on the idea that love is an act.

Do we mean in the sense that “acting” is fake? “To be able to act” is simply what a successful person is able to do. One can say that beauty is “fake,” in the context of love; but this is to assume that the attractive, which is desired, is insincere, but how so? Acting, like beauty, might be construed as fake in “matters of the heart,” but this view, in the name of a fake “depth,” is the superficial one. If something is truly desired, and if any action, including “acting,” belongs to the category of achieving what is desired, how can it then be deemed superficial? We are forced to use acting, action, and act, and all these three words imply—since we are not talking of friendship or the spiritual, but the concentrated madness of love.

When we say “acting,” we do not include lying, or being dishonest in any way which hurts the beloved. We mean “acting” with the goal of loving one person. The “act” is for love, not for “playing around.”

After beauty, there are two layers of “acting” involved:

One: micro-acting, which refers to the natural charm of the person, an unconscious extension of physical attractiveness, and

Two: macro-acting, which involves the actual “behavior of love;” making vows and uttering words of promise, committment, passion, excitement, praise and, naturally, love.

Micro-acting is crucial. One can be physically attractive, but have very little actual charm. Physical beauty is necessary, but even necessary is micro-acting, the way a person smiles, their personality, how they “act.” We have all seen the attractive face which loses all its beauty the moment we experience that dull something in the person behind it. Beauty exists cleverly and minutely.

Macro-acting takes work.

Micro-acting is just the way the person is.

All three, personal beauty, micro-acting, and macro-acting, mutually enhance each other, and all three are present in love.

Acting, even as we are describing it here, in a heightened, non-pejorative way, is typically seen as wretched, superficial, dishonest, and unseemly.

But what we are saying here is that acting is at the heart of romantic love, and romantic love could not exist without it.

Romantic love is not necessary to marriage and children; there are many societies where marriage is arranged, or where women are second class citizens, or worse, and therefore breeding does not require love at all.

Here we notice two things. Romantic love, which may lead to marriage and children, is not necessary to these two things.

But when it is, it requires women to be free and equal to men.

If this is true, is the western tradition of romantic love directly involved in equality for women?

And if romantic love does require “acting,” is this why romantic love is easy for other societies to disparage, and why romantic love is increasingly viewed as insincere, useless, and crazy—especially with increasing contact between the west—and societies (Islam, for instance) which put more of a premium on breeding, and submissive women, than romantic love?

Recall that the major trope of romantic love as “madness” comes from Plato, who opined human breeding farms as a national ideal. (Plato redeems himself in other places, defending love, and the equality of women, but his pragmatic side had moments in his famous society blueprint, “The Republic.”)

What if romantic love is the true path to free and equal women, to a free and equal society, and love itself?

What if romantic love faces grave danger before the more practical forces of not only societies which enslave women, but groups who view romantic love as a backwards and superficial act?

Much has been made recently of the unlikely alliance between feminists and Muslims—how could these two groups possibly be allied?

Both oppose romantic love.

Islam prioritizes modesty—marriage in which the woman is subordinate.

Romantic love does not fit into this scheme.

Feminists (and many sexual progressives) dislike romantic love—since it prioritizes attractive and flirtatious females. Indicted here is the great western tradition of dead white male literature of the roaming, independent, pining male poets, and their beautiful female muses.

But the great tradition of romantic love does not feature enslaved, uneducated, subordinate women. Nor does it feature empty-headed, sexual bimbos, either.  And women can be beautiful in millions of different ways.

The Romantic poets, Keats and Shelley, loved educated women.

Equals. Women who could appreciate their poetry. Women (think of Mary Shelley) who were writers, as well.

Poe’s “Ligeia” is an entrancing, mentally and spiritually powerful, woman. Poe rejected as a literary ideal the merely sexual or physically attractive female. Flirtatious women meant nothing to Poe. But the woman poet was a source of great admiration for the American.

The great tradition of Romantic love features strong women. Otherwise it is perverted Romanticism.

Two wars. One should never fight two wars.

Women do not put on uniforms and go to war against other women. Men do that.

In nations where men fight other men and keep their women veiled and subordinate, men fight two wars, one against men, and another against their women.

These societies which fight two wars tend to lose out to the countries in the west—whose women are free and educated—the result of the western romantic literary tradition.

Here’s to Romanticism—often portrayed as reactionary, but it is quite the opposite.

Our readers have noticed we have championed the poet, Ben Mazer, who is just now bringing out his Selected Poems to a great deal of acclaim.

Ben Mazer and Scarriet are leading the revival of Romantic poetry.

We must admit that romance is an act—in the superficial meaning of that word.

We must admit to love’s superficiality.

Even as we defend it.

It is through poetry that micro-acting and macro-acting become one; and the poet achieves the charm of the lover—which all desire to possess.

Romantic love may just be the answer to world peace.

If the world heeds this essay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAKE JOHN CROWE RANSOM GREAT AGAIN

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Helen Vendler’s review of Ben Mazer’s The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (Un-Gyve Press, 2015) in the New York Review of Books last year did not start a Ransom revival. Our nation’s humiliated pundit class has been preoccupied with other issues recently.

When clothes come off and barriers come down, it makes us feel uncomfortable. There are walls and then there are walls. Persons and nations. The law attempts to bar and unite at once. You cannot come in here but of course you can. You will show us what you have but yes you can be clandestine.

We all know a point has no density. It was da Vinci who asserted that a point in geometry is like a zero in mathematics—it is a marker which is crucial for taking up no physical space.

We can argue in abstract realms to much understanding and profit, but when it comes to physical spaces, disputation inevitably turns into a war. Physical means a fight. Abstraction is the only chance for peace. As soon as we talk of physical walls, physical barbarians will be there. Look at the unborn child and the fight over that. Things must be born. But things also must not be born.  Private property enrages the anarchist; the middle classes watched in uncomprehending horror—and still do—as anarchist rage exploded in 20th century modern art—a business run mostly by independently wealthy anarchists; vapid, sharp pieces flying in static-crackling, faux-humble, morally ambiguous terror, causing madness and poetry which goes on for too long, either in the air or in the mind, the paper-thin derangement of the 20th century avant-garde, called at one point “Futurism,” by its Italian fascist wing, but going by all kinds of names in its cult-like fervor, in its simultaneously scattered and focused Margaret Sanger rage, reflecting a world (small place!) which lost its wits (was it 1900? 1850? Who knows?)—in what might be called Britain’s Revenge Against America, the slick British Empire, with its singular, secular, modern reach. The Empire’s genocide against the Irish, India, Arabs, Persians, and Africans, the Opium Wars against the Chinese, the tacit support of the Confederacy in the American Civil War, barging gloriously into World War One to kill the Huns, appeasing the Nazis, and finally turning the United States of America into a CIA Deep State image of its self. That lawyer-clever, Ivy League, leafy-quiet Empire. That one. The one run by London. Divide to conquer. Plant bombs secretly and don’t say a word. White Boss Man Workshop subverting and subduing nations for their raw materials. “We shall write National Geographic. You shall be in it.” Write the history. Make the history. The British Empire on which the fake sun never sets.

The 20th century avant-garde began its rise during World War One, and grew along with German and Japanese militarism, haiku prose poetry, primitive painting, hideous Brutalist architecture, and atonal music in the 1920s and 30s.

As this horror successfully rose, these gradually fell: Platonist/Judeo-Christian philosophy, the glories of Greece and Rome, Renaissance art and poetry, Pope and Byron, and everything splendid which had gone before. Poe said poetry belonged to beauty, but the 20th century disagreed.

In a valuable new edition which collects all of John Crowe Ransom’s poems in one place for the first time, the editor Ben Mazer, in his restrained and sage introduction, focuses on self-conscious self-censorship and revision, of a poet’s own work, over time. The poet, in this case, Ransom, the boy from Tennessee who went off to fight in the Great War and study Greek and Latin at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, treats his poems very much as if they were written by somebody else. Ransom never included poems from his first volume, Poems About God, (Holt, 1919) in Selected editions of his poetry, even though Robert Graves asked to reproduce them, and they were full of fascinating lines and themes.

John Crowe Ransom—and we find this out from Mazer’s now definitive edition—also wrote exceptional poems never collected at all. There’s something strangely half-hidden about this placid Southerner, hyper-explaining essayist, enterprising editor, and slightly mad, gifted poet.

Ransom’s poems are not formalist in a boring way—erratic at times, but even when they are not great, they are beautiful and creepy:

The swimmer’s body is white and clean,
It is washed by a water of deepest green
The color of leaves in a starlight scene,
And it is as white as the stars between.

(from the first poem in Ransom’s first book, “The Swimmer”)

John Crowe Ransom, in his highbrow formalism, overall learning and philosophical acumen, the central place as essayist, theorist, editor and mentor of Modernism in the American mode, the leader of Middle America Modernism—not only as a New Critic, not only as one of the academic leaders of the Creative Writing Program movement, but as poet, editor, philosopher, essayist—is as vital as Pound, (and more accessible and philosophically rigorous); and it is high time, not just for the sake of American Letters, but all Letters, that we, as literary and practical Americans, end the neglect of John Crowe Ransom.

But before we resurrect Ransom, there’s something we need to get out of the way. It has to do with tribal politics—which the British Empire has always exploited and gloried in, on the way to its phenomenal divide-and-conquer success.

In “Under the Locusts,” the 14th poem of Ransom’s first book—published when the highly respected Ransom, a World War One veteran, a school teacher, professor, a Rhodes Scholar with a Masters degree from Oxford University, was 31 years old—we have this stanza

Grinny Bob is out again
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

Perhaps this passage is why John Crowe Ransom, despite being the most important and influential poet/critic in 20th century American Letters, a Bollingen poetry prize winner in 1951 (the same controversial prize Pound won when he escaped hanging for treason), founding editor of the Kenyon Review, mentor to Jarrell and Lowell, the intellectual leader of New Criticism, author of iconic poems and essays which define Modernism better than any other—has been neglected and nearly forgotten.

Controversy has certainly not covered up Pound—who has many admirers.

“Blue Girls” by Ransom may be the only truly perfect poem in existence. (Mazer’s edition gives the two distinct versions, the 1924 original, and the great revised one from Ransom’s 1945 Selected.) Pound never wrote anything as good.

But to return to Ransom’s embarrassing stanza:

Robert Graves—editing and reprinting Ransom’s Poems About God as Grace After Meat in 1923—did not reprint all the poems in Poems About God, in Grace After Meat. Ransom sent a revised and partial copy of his first book to Graves, including “Under the Locusts.” Graves chose to reprint “Under the Locusts.” Ransom, having made a number of subtle changes to the poem, kept the “nigger” stanza intact, except for one slight alteration of the punctuation.

Grinny Bob is out again,
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

According to Ransom’s New Criticism idea, one shouldn’t or (cannot?) read poetry when one is bothering with the intent or the milieu of the author.  This prohibition certainly becomes stretched when looking at this stanza. Perhaps the poem does not reflect the poet’s feelings, but that of the “old men” in the poem. Then, perhaps, the New Criticism (and true poetry) triumphs and Ransom is off the hook? Here’s the poem in full:

What do the old men say,
Sitting out of the sun?
Many strange and common things,
And so would any one.

Locusts are sweet in spring
For trees so old and tough;
Locust trees give sorry shade,
Hardly good enough.

Dick’s a sturdy little lad
Yonder throwing stones;
Agues and rheumatic pains
Will fiddle on his bones.

Grinny Bob is out again,
Begging for a dime;
Niggers haven’t any souls,
Grinning all the time.

Jenny and Will go arm in arm,
He’s a lucky fellow;
Jenny’s cheeks are pink as rose,
Her mother’s cheeks are yellow.

War is on, the paper says,
Wounds and enemies:
Now young gallivanting bucks
Will know what trouble is.

Parson’s coming up the hill,
Meaning mighty well;
Thinks he’s preached the doubters down,
And why should old men tell?

(Grace After Meat, 1923)

Auden said of Yeats, “Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.” The same could be said of Ransom, whose poetry often matches Yeats for poignancy and beauty: the mad American South hurt Ransom into poetry. But this is a cynical view—though most love that Auden quote. Ireland isn’t mad. America isn’t mad. The British Empire is mad. Or, we’re all mad.

Ransom and the Tennessean New Critics, before they assumed the New Critic name and mantle, defended, in 1930, the pre-Civil War, agrarian, American South in their prose anthology I’ll Take My Stand.

Later, in 1937, the evolving Fugitives—the Fugitive was Ransom’s poetry club and small magazine when he was a student at Vanderbilt—as they were turning into the New Critics—championed Pound’s haiku prose modernism in their text book Understanding Poetry. 

Brooks and Warren were the New Critic editors of the influential text; the two writers were close associates of Ransom, and we’ll never know precisely how Ransom felt about their book—which, trying to look forward, perhaps, not only praised the crackpot Pound in its pages, but outright condemned the Southern formalist Poe (obviously an influence on the poet, Ransom), copying an attack by the English critic Aldous Huxley—who ridicules at some length the rhythmic magic of “Ulalume.”

This was the same decade—the 1930s—which saw Pound’s friend T.S. Eliot give his speech against Jews at the University of Virginia. After Eliot intervened to help his friend Pound in 1945, he would attack Poe in “From Poe to Valery” in 1949. Ransom’s reputation as a poet—no doubt given a boost by his Bollingen win in 1951, (and it was every poet’s desire to be published in Ransom’s Kenyon Review during the 1950s—it was practically Plath’s highest dream)—nevertheless continued to fall: either his poetry was too similar to Poe’s, or the newer, more progressive, post-1945, Modernists couldn’t face down “Under the Locusts.”

The New Critics generally revised their reactionary views, like many Modernists, after the Nazis were soundly defeated in 1945.

The Agrarians quixotically played into the hands of the old British Empire.

Ransom and the Agrarians, in their love of the bucolic, explicitly decried American industrial capitalism—the one thing which allowed the U.S  to be strong, independent, and free of the British Empire.

The reactionary politics, and the “Empire” context we are putting it in, is not meant to be definitive, and can be seen as insidious, but just as easily it can be seen as quaint; Ransom was complex, and smarter than his fellow New Critics; over the symbolic mural of both politics and modernism, social and theoretical, Ransom was subtle, sage, and adept, equally facile at discussing religion or the impressionistic poetry of Wallace Stevens.

It would be unfair to see Ransom as only a “Southern” writer, as Poe is often cheaply and unfairly characterized. Critics too quick to make geography in literature paramount betray themselves as the most shallow kind.

Ben Mazer wisely avoids all controversial speculation; like the good scholar he is, Mazer sticks to the facts before him, and provides a bountiful treasure of a book in his Collected Ransom, replete with wonderful appendixes.

Speaking of Wallace Stevens (d. 1955), whose fame rose as Ransom’s fizzled, (Helen Vendler held aloft the Stevens torch; nothing equivalent was done for Ransom), there is a poem in Ransom’s second collection (Chills and Fever, 1924) which bears comparison to Stevens’ well-known “Peter Quince,” published in Stevens’ first collection, Harmonium, in 1923.

“Peter Quince” debuted in Alfred Kreymborg’s Others magazine in 1915; not a free-verse poem, as it should have been, in those early revolutionary days, but it passed muster with Pound and Williams’ Kreymborg’s clique, evidently, because of its risqué sexual nature. Stevens was never a popular poet—too abstract and professorial, the “lecture” often spoiling the music; Stevens never quite succeeded the way Frost did, in being “wise” in a relaxed, “contemporary” manner, and, exactly like Ransom, there was in Stevens’ poetry often that hint of the old-fashioned, which condemns the poet to artificially-clever-and-imitative purgatory—even if the beauty of the poems slaughters the meager prose rantings of everyone else. After the passage of much time, we realize: this isn’t old-fashioned, it’s good. The poetry becomes safe to like. This should happen to Ransom—at least, if not more, interesting than his contemporaries.

John Crowe Ransom’s “Judith of Bethulia” owns passages which remind one of “Peter Quince,” and in its precise stanzaic structure, lacks the trembling, insouciant, and exquisite music Stevens brings—and yet, Ransom’s poem has a more focused, coherent, and haunting narrative. Ransom, unlike Stevens, provides no lesson on “beauty;” instead Ransom’s “Bethulia” is immersed in a number of factual things, of which beautiful pathos is the unspoken and shimmering crown.

Judith of Bethulia

Beautiful as the flying legend of some leopard
She had not yet chosen her great captain or prince
Depositary to her flesh, and our defense;
And a wandering beauty is a blade out of its scabbard.
You know how dangerous, gentlemen of threescore?
May you know it yet ten more.

Nor by process of veiling she grew the less fabulous.
Grey or blue veils, we were desperate to study
The invisible emanations of her white body,
And the winds at her ordered raiment were ominous.
Might she walk in the market, sit in the council of soldiers?
Only of the extreme elders.

But a rare chance was the girl’s then, when the Invader
Trumpeted from the south, rumbled from the north,
Beleagured the city from four quarters of the earth,
Our soldiery too craven and sick to aid her—
Where were the arms could countervail this horde?
Her beauty was the sword.

She sat with the elders, and proved on their bleak visage
How bright was the weapon unrusted in her keeping,
While he lay surfeiting on their harvest heaping,
Wasting the husbandry of their rarest vintage—
And dreaming of the broad-breasted dames for concubine?
These floated on his wine.

He was lapped with bay-leaves, and grass and fumiter weed,
And from under the wine-film encountered his moral vision,
For even within his tent she accomplished his derision;
She loosed one veil and another, standing unafraid;
And he perished. Nor brushed her with even so much as a daisy?
She found his destruction easy.

The heathen are all perished. The victory was furnished,
We smote them hiding in our vineyards, barns, annexes,
And now their white bones clutter the holes of foxes,
And the chieftain’s head, with grinning sockets, and varnished—
Is it hung on the sky with a hideous epitaphy?
No, the woman keeps the trophy.

May God send unto our virtuous lady her prince.
It is stated she went reluctant to that orgy,
Yet a madness fevers our young men, and not the clergy
Nor the elders have turned them unto modesty since.
Inflamed by the thought of her naked beauty with desire?
Yes, and chilled with fear and despair.

For our money, this is better than Pound, and rivals Stevens.  What’s not to love here?

Buy Mazer’s book. Read Ransom’s poetry. And Ransom’s prose, too. Ransom doesn’t just write about New Criticism, or the South.  To begin, we suggest two of Ransom’s great Modernist essays in Garrick Davis’ Praising It New.

If Ransom is to be revived, Ben Mazer, with his wonderful, scholarly, edition of the collected poems, has done something very important.

SCARRIET SUCCESS

We are busy at Scarriet—publishing new posts on almost a daily basis: original essays, poems, epigrams, Scarriet March Madness Poetry contests—in its 8th year, going on right now, Scarriet Poetry Hot 100’s, you tubes of poem readings, and even song compositions.  And one day we would like to repeat our successful Scarriet Poetry Baseball Leaguein 2010 (when I was teaching English Composition as an adjunct professor and working full time at my real job) Blog Scarriet ran an entire season with 16 teams of all-time poets with entire lineups, pitching staffs, trading deadlines, statistics, pennant races, and a world series—Philadelphia Poe defeated Rapallo Pound.

Scarriet Poetry Hot 100 allows us to bring attention to poets who are not famous yet, but who have written wonderful things: Daipayan Nair, Stephen Cole, Sushmita Gupta, Payal Sharma, Mary Angela Douglas, Nalini Priyadarshni, Philip Nikolayev, Paige Lewis, Valerie Macon, George Bilgere, Kushal Poddar, Joe Green, Cristina Sanchez Lopez, Merryn Juliete, Chumki Sharma, Stephen Sturgeon, Simon Seamount, Lori Desrosiers, and Noah Cicero.

This is a personal note to just say THANK YOU to all our readers—as we head towards a million views since our founding in 2009.  “The One Hundred Greatest Hippies Songs Of All Time” (published in February 2014) still gets over 2,000 views a week.  “The Top One Hundred Song Lyrics That Work As Poetry” (published in 2013) still gets 1,000 views a week.  And posts like “Yeats Hates Keats: Why Do The Moderns Despise The Romantics?” (published in 2010) are constantly re-visited.

A poet (who I’ve never met) on Facebook, Linda Ashok, originally from Kolkata, today requested her FB Friends share “what’s happening to your poetry” and, without thinking, I quickly wrote a post—and realized your friendly Scarriet Editor has been up to quite a lot, lately, and Scarriet readers might as well hear about it:

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Shohreh Laici  who lives in Tehran and I are working on a Persian/Iranian poetry anthology—in English.   (See Laici’s translations of Hessamedin Sheikhi in Scarriet 11/26/16)

My critical study of the poet Ben Mazer will be published by Pen & Anvil Press.

My review of Dan Sociu’s book of poems Mouths Dry With Hatred  is in SpoKe issue 4

Also in SpoKe issue 4: is my review of the Romanian poetry scene (after attending Festival de Literatura, Arad, 9-12 June 2016, Discutia Secreta)

Thanks to poet and professor Joie Bose, I participated in Kolkata’s Poetry Paradigm Coffee for a Poem on World Poetry Day, March 21, in Cambridge MA.

Charles River Journal will be publishing chapters of my Mazer book.

Facebook and Scarriet is where it all happens: so I’m actually not that busy—the literary world comes to me!

Below: the new family dog.  If I don’t walk her, she pees in my bed.  Seems fair.

Image may contain: people sitting, dog, living room, table and indoor

 

 

FEBRUARY POEMS BY BEN MAZER, REVIEWED

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As the shadows lengthen on American poetry in the 21st century, one is naturally prepared to think there was a noisy, sunny noon of poetry with noisy, popular poets.

But there never was such a thing.

We had, in our early days, the British imitators: William Cullen Bryant, (friend to Lincoln) with his “Thanatopsis”; the splendid, dark Poe; dashing in his prose but solemn and brief in his poetry; Emerson and Thoreau asserting nature, not poetry, in due obeisance to the arrogant British idea that her late colony was still a wilderness; Whitman secretly reviewing his own poems, waving a private Emerson letter in the public’s face as way of validation, but Whitman was almost as obscure as Dickinson—no, America has had no sunny noon of poetry; Ben Franklin, the diplomat-scientist-founding father, representing our mighty nation of pragmatists, had little use for the muse.

To put things in historical perspective:

Emily Dickinson caught on with modern critics as a force to be reckoned with in the 1930s.

Billy Collins was born in 1941.

A few years after Billy Collins was born, Ezra Pound—friend to both anglophilic “Waste Land” and haiku-like “Wheel Barrow”—caused a brief stir as a traitor in an Allied cage. The New Critics liked Eliot, Pound, and Williams and gave them critical support, some notice. Otherwise they had probably died. And the canon would be ruled instead by the wild sonneteer, Edna Millay, the Imagist, Amy Lowell, perhaps the cute scribbler E.E. Cummings.

The New Critics, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and the Creative Writing Program Era, all began to flower in the late 1930s/early 1940s, around the time Collins was born—and, a few years earlier, you had Frost (discovered in England, not New England, right before the First World War, as Harriet Monroe was starting Poetry with money from Chicago businessmen—and help from foreign editor Ezra Pound) and then another generation back, you have the end of Whitman’s obscure career. And then a couple generations further back, the often disliked, and controversial, Poe, who mocked the somewhat obscure Transcendentalists—including Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Unitarian friend, William Greenleaf Eliot,  founder of Washington University in St. Louis, T.S. Eliot’s grandfather.

So not only is there no noisy noon of American poetry, no period when gigantic dinosaurs of American Verse ruled the earth, one could almost argue that we are still in the early morning of our country’s poetic history, way before noon—the noon has not even happened yet, as much as we often posit that American poetry is an abandoned field at sundown, where the 21st century MFA mice are playing.

Even if good poetry abounds in America today, it has no center, no fame, no visible love; Billy Collins, who sells a few books, was a teen when Allen Ginsberg, son of poet Louis Ginsberg, who knew WC Williams, achieved a bit of rock star fame through an obscenity trial. Allen Ginsberg has been dead for 20 years.

What of poets born after 1950?

Who knows them?

Where are the biographies and critical studies?

How can the greatest country on earth have no poets anyone really knows, for two whole generations?

Who is a young poet that we know?

Is the thread broken?  Is the bowl shattered? Will the sun never shine on this doorway again? What has happened to American poetry?

This sobering preface of mine (some might call it too sweeping and hysterical) is written by one who is proud to announce his critical study of the poet Ben Mazer is soon to be published by the noteworthy Pen and Anvil Press.

Who is Ben Mazer?

Born in 1964, he is the best pure poet writing in English today.

We use the word “pure” knowing the term is sometimes abused—Robert Penn Warren ripped Poe and Shelley to pieces in a modern frenzy of “purity” hating: sublime and beautiful may also, complexly, mean “pure.”  The heart has its reasons for loving purity—which all the Robert Penn Warren essays in the world can never understand (the essay we have in mind by Warren is “Pure and Impure Poetry,” Kenyon Review, ed. John Crowe Ransom, 1943—when Billy Collins was two years old).  If “beautiful and sublime” seem too old-fashioned, too “pure” for one’s taste, I assert “purity” as it pertains to Mazer means 1. accessible 2. smooth 3. not tortured.

Mazer has published numerous books of poems.

Mazer is also the editor of a number of important books, including the Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (a neglected, but extremely influential figure)—Mazer’s large book reviewed by Helen Vendler in the NYR last year.

February Poems is Mazer’s latest book of poems, following hard upon December Poems. The two are a pair—marking the sudden unraveling of an ideal marriage.

The first poem in “February Poems” goes like this:

The sun burns beauty; spins the world away,
though now you sleep in bed, another day
brisk on the sidewalk, in your camel coat,
in another city, wave goodbye from the boat,
or study in an archival library,
like Beethoven, and thought is prodigy.
Do not consume, like the flowers, time and air
or worm-soil, plantings buried in the spring,
presume over morning coffee I don’t care,
neglect the ethereal life to life you bring.
O I would have you now, in all your glory,
the million-citied, Atlantic liner story
of what we were, would time come to forget
being so rich and passing, and yet not covet.

This poem falls from the first word to the last with a temporal perfection not seen since Milton. One may recognize Robert Lowell, too, who was somewhat besotted with Milton—Mazer’s a better poet than Lowell, however.

Look at how in “The Sun Burns Beauty,” every line is packed with sublimity discretely spoken, none the less sublime for the discretion:

“The sun burns beauty.”  Lovely double meaning. Consumes beauty, but also is beautiful. “Burns” quickly gives way to “spins,” as the poem, like a heavenly orb, picks up weighty speed: “another day, brisk on the sidewalk…wave goodbye…” the stunning plea: “Do not consume…presume I don’t care…neglect the ethereal life to life you bring…” and the conclusion, worthy of a sun which is burning beauty: “O I would have you now…of what we were, would time come to forget being so rich and passing, and yet not covet.”  Magnificent.  How long have we waited for poetry like this?   It’s truly timeless in the tradition—a word we can use without any qualification or irony.

We mentioned purity above; another way of getting across what I mean is Mazer’s use of Eliot’s Objective Correlative.

Eliot’s Objective Correlative is not a blackboard term for Mazer; it lives in his poetry. Eliot asked that the poem’s emotion match the object. Eliot’s request is a simple one: the reader doubts the poem’s veracity if the poet is unduly excited by a mundane object.

The poet’s emotions tell him what to say; and it is with our emotions we read the poem.

Much is made in poetry (naturally) of the skill in using words—Mazer clearly has a wonderful vocabulary and all that; yet also, in Mazer’s poetry, fact does match feeling; it’s not a word-game—Mazer’s trajectory isn’t words.  Mazer understands the Objective Correlative.

T.S. Eliot represents the Modernist counter to the perceived hyperbolic imbalance of the Romantics: Wordsworth getting terribly excited by a flower, Byron yawning at the end of the world—it cuts both ways.

Eliot’s objective critical dictum was a correction—and Mazer, who, in many ways, is Romanticism redux, instinctively, now, well into the 21st century, obeys Eliot’s dictum—but flexibly.

We’ve got Wordsworth and his famous dictum from “Lyrical Ballads:” poetry helps us to see the mundane as extraordinary, using plain speech, which goes against Eliot’s rule—and Mazer is not only a Robert Lowell, an Eliot, but a Wordsworth.

Mazer sounds Modern.

As he revives Romanticism.

And, I dare to say, the Enlightenment—when the Metaphysicals provided poetry heft and light.

Revival is always open to the charge of retrograde.

But how many layers of post-modern experimentation are there?

Before the public gets bored?

Oh, yes, that happened about 75 years ago.  When Billy Collins was born. And critics were rising to an appreciation of Emily Dickinson.

John Ashbery, born in 1927, had a head start on Mazer—Ashbery added Romantic verbosity to Modern dryness, irony, archness, in a painterly, foggy mix of not quite making sense. Mazer, if it must be said plainly, is a little better than Ashbery. Mazer does make sense.

The poems in Mazer’s February Poems do not, for the most part, have titles—to the worshiper who would carry around this book of love, like a holy book of some sorts, the page numbers will suffice to identify the great passages within.

These lines which begin the poem on page 7 speak out plainly and passionately but with the greatest mystery:

All grand emotions, balls, and breakfasts,
make little sense, if nothing lasts,
if you should leave the one you love,
inexplicable as Mozart’s star above

This passage at the top of page 8, a new poem, may be a statement for the ages:

The living are angels, if we are the dead in life
and immaculate beauty requires discerning eyes
and to ask incessantly who you are
is both our strength and doubt in faith, to know
what we must appear within ourselves to know:
that we do love each other, that we know who each other is
by putting ourselves in the hands and the eyes of the other,
never questioning the danger that rides on words
if they should misstep and alter a logical truth,
or if they should signify more than they appear to,
whether dull, indifferent, passionate, deeply committed
or merely the embodiment of a passing mood,
some lack of faith in ourselves we attempt to realize
through the other who remains steadfast in all the flexibility of love.

This is stuff which could be read at weddings on top of mountains around the world.

The poem which resides at page 15 goes like this, (and observe how “love” in the first line both is invaded, and invades, the “fiercest passion”—as Mazer has crafted the syntax):

The fiercest passion, uncommon in love,
yearns to be understood, do incalculable good;
must penetrate the beloved’s eyes, give rise
to beauty unmatched anywhere above.

Note the lovely internal rhyming: “understood and good” in line 2, “eyes” and “rise” in line 3, are but two examples.

We’ll continue with the whole poem, “The fiercest passion, uncommon in love:”

Infinite stasis exploring tenderness,
substantially is the basis of all bliss,

“Infinite stasis exploring tenderness” !!

although ethereal, indelible,
not subject to the chronologic fall.
And yet vicissitudes will upset this,
and forces will keep true lovers apart
too many years, breaking the sensitive heart,
that pours its passion in undying letters,
while hope’s alive to break the social fetters,
incalculable agonies poured into great art.
Bribes the organist, locks the door,
unwilling to suffer any more,
must make his grand statement to the world,
all his grief, anger, and love hurled
back at the gods which all his genius spited;
his biography says love was unrequited.
We live in the shadow of his despair,
grief so great, where there is nothing there.

And here it ends. This is not egotistical…”We live in the shadow of his despair” refers to the “shadow” of the poem itself (its inky visage) living to the readers as they read, and the “grief” of the poet is “so great,” the poem disappears (“nothing there”)—the very opposite of egotistical; it is grief conveyed powerfully.

The entire book—February Poems—contains lines such as these—which belong to an expression of love poetry rarely seen.

The poems range from greatest bliss:

The moonlight is incomprehensible.
My lover’s lips are soft and rosy pink.
Who could understand love which transfigures night,
when night itself does the transfiguring?
She sleeps. Awake, I hold her in my arms,
so soft and warm, and night is beautiful.

…In sleep she moans and shifts, embracing me.
I can’t budge from where I lie, but am content.

(excerpt from poem on pg. 16)

To acute despair, not merely told, explained, but in the poetry itself, lived:

The vanishing country roads have vanished.
There, the steep descent into the new, different town.
We are together, and we look around.
What are these flags and trees that grasp and clutch
the infinite progress of our former selves,
of love so great that it must be put away,
not where we left it, but where we can’t reach;
why should eternity itself miss you so much?
The music of a thousand kinds of weather
seep into the trees, sweep into the leaves that brush
your shoulder lightly where I left my heart,
once, long ago, when we first made our start
to drive so many miles to here together.
But where is here? The place we are apart.

(poem, “Vanishing country roads,” pg 64)

To pure sublimity and beauty and joy:

The greatest joy known to mortal man,
shall live beyond us in eternity.
Catching you ice-skating in mid-motion,
cheeks flush, winter pristine in our hearts,
ineffable, permanent, nothing can abolish,
when the deep forest, buried in snow’s white
holds the soul’s eternal solitude,
when, melting coming in, each particular
that stirs the senses, is the flight of man
to unspoken urgencies, garrulous desire
continually fulfilled, the captured stances
that drift like music in the light-laced night,
shared words in murmurs soft as downy sky,
the stars observe with their immortal eye.
Furious, presto-forte homecoming
races into the eyes and fingertips,
confirming and commemorating bells
resounding with our vulnerable desire
in momentary triumph that’s eternal.
Life passes on to life the raging stars,
resonances of undying light.
All years are pressed together in their light.

(“The greatest joy known to mortal man” pg 17)

We wish for a whole generation of young readers to spring up, profoundly and happily in love—following in the footsteps of Mazer, in his growing fame, in his mourning—clinging fast to their torn and re-smoothed copies of February Poems.

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2017 SCARRIET POETRY HOT 100

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1 Bob Dylan. Nobel Prize in Literature.

2 Ron Padgett. Hired to write three poems for the current film Paterson starring Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani.

3 Peter Balakian. Ozone Journal, about the Armenian genocide, won 2016 Pulitzer in Poetry.

4 Sherman Alexie. BAP 2015 ‘yellow-face controversy’ editor’s memoir drops this June.

5 Eileen Myles. Both her Selected Poems & Inferno: A Poet’s Novel making MSM lists.

6 Claudia Rankine. Citizen: important, iconic, don’t ask if it’s good poetry.

7 Anne Carson. The Canadian’s two latest books: Decreation & Autobiography of Red.

8 Paige Lewis. Her poem “The River Reflects Nothing” best poem published in 2016.

9 William Logan. In an age of poet-minnows he’s the shark-critic.

10 Ben Mazer. “In the alps I read the shipping notice/pertaining to the almond and the lotus”

11 Billy Collins. The poet who best elicits a tiny, sheepish grin.

12 John Ashbery. There is music beneath the best of what this New York School survivor does.

13 Joie Bose. Leads the Bolly-Verse Movement out of Kolkata, India.

14 Mary Oliver. Her latest book, Felicity, is remarkably strong.

15 Daipayan Nair.  “I am a poet./I kill eyes.”

16 Nikky Finny. Her book making MSM notices is Head Off & Split.

17 Sushmita Gupta. [Hers the featured painting] “Oh lovely beam/of moon, will you, too/deny me/soft light and imagined romance?”

18 A.E. Stallings. Formalism’s current star.

19 W.S. Merwin. Once the house boy of Robert Graves.

20 Mary Angela Douglas. “but God turns down the flaring wick/color by color almost/regretfully.”

21 Sharon Olds. Her Pulitzer winning Stag’s Leap is about her busted marriage.

22 Valerie Macon. Briefly N.Carolina Laureate. Pushed out by the Credentialing Complex.

23 George Bilgere. Imperial is his 2014 book.

24 Stephen Dunn. Norton published his Selected in 2009.

25 Marilyn Chin. Prize winning poet named after Marilyn Monroe, according to her famous poem.

26 Kushal Poddar. “The water/circles the land/and the land/my heaven.”

27 Stephen Burt. Harvard critic’s latest essay “Reading Yeats in the Age of Trump.” What will hold?

28 Joe Green. “Leave us alone. Oh, what can we do?/The wild, wild winds go willie woo woo.”

29 Tony Hoagland. Tangled with Rankine over tennis and lost.

30 Cristina Sánchez López. “I listen to you while the birds erase the earth.”

31 Laura Kasischke. Awkward social situations portrayed by this novelist/poet.

32 CAConrad. His latest work is The Book of Frank.

33 Terrance Hayes. National Book Award in 2010, a MacArthur in 2014

34 Robin Coste Lewis. Political cut-and-paste poetry.

35 Stephen Cole. “And blocked out the accidental grace/That comes with complete surprise.”

36 Martín Espada. Writes about union workers.

37 Merryn Juliette “And my thoughts unmoored/now tumbling/Like sand fleas on the ocean floor”

38 Daniel Borzutzky. The Performance of Being Human won the National Book Award in 2016.

39 Donald Hall. His Selected Poems is out.

40 Diane Seuss. Four-Legged Girl a 2016 Pulitzer finalist.

41 Vijay Seshadri. Graywolf published his 2014 Pulitzer winner.

42 Sawako Nakayasu. Translator of Complete Poems of Chika Sagawa.

43 Ann Kestner. Her blog since 2011 is Poetry Breakfast.

44 Rita Dove. Brushed off Vendler and Perloff attacks against her 20th century anthology.

45 Marjorie Perloff. A fan of Charles Bernstein and Frank O’hara.

46 Paul Muldoon. Moy Sand and Gravel won Pulitzer in 2003.

47 Frank Bidart. Winner of the Bollingen. Three time Pulitzer finalist.

48 Frederick Seidel. Compared “Donald darling” Trump to “cow-eyed Hera” in London Review.

49 Alice Notley. The Gertrude Stein of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project.

50 Jorie Graham. She writes of the earth.

51 Maggie Smith. “Good Bones.” Is the false—“for every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird”— poetry?

52 Adrian Matejka. His book The Big Smoke is about the boxer Jack Johnson.

53 Elizabeh Alexander. African American Studies professor at Yale. Read at Obama’s first inauguration.

54 Derek Walcott. Convinced Elizabeth Alexander she was a poet as her mentor at Boston University.

55 Richard Blanco. Read his poem, “One Today,” at Obama’s second inauguration.

56 Louise Glück. A leading serious poet.

57 Kim Addonizio. Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life came out in 2016.

58 Kay Ryan. An Emily Dickinson who gets out, and laughs a little.

59 Lyn Hejinian. An elliptical poet’s elliptical poet.

60 Vanessa Place. Does she still tweet about Gone With The Wind?

61 Susan Howe. Born in Boston. Called Postmodern.

62 Marie Howe. The Kingdom of Ordinary Time is her latest book.

63 Glynn Maxwell. British poetry influencing Americans? Not since the Program Era took over.

64 Robert Pinsky. Uses slant rhyme in his translation of Dante’s terza rima in the Inferno.

65 David Lehman. His Best American Poetry (BAP) since 1988, chugs on.

66 Dan Sociu. Romanian poet of the Miserabilism school.

67 Chumki Sharma. The great Instagram poet.

68 Matthew Zapruder. Has landed at the N.Y. Times with a poetry column.

69 Christopher Ricks. British critic at Boston University. Keeping T.S. Eliot alive.

70 Richard Howard. Pinnacle of eclectic, Francophile, non-controversial, refinement.

71 Dana Gioia. Poet, essayist.  Was Chairman of NEA 2003—2009.

72 Alfred Corn. The poet published a novel in 2014 called Miranda’s Book.

73 Jim Haba. Noticed by Bill Moyers. Founding director of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.

74 Hessamedin Sheikhi. Young Iranian poet translated by Shohreh (Sherry) Laici

75 Pablo Larrain. Directed 2016 film Neruda.

76 Helen Vendler. Wallace Stevens champion. Helped Jorie Graham.

77 Kenneth Goldsmith. Fame for poetry is impossible.

78 Cate Marvin. Oracle was published by Norton in 2015.

79 Alan Cordle. Still the most important non-poet in poetry.

80 Ron Silliman. Runs a well-known poetry blog. A Bernie man.

81 Natalie Diaz.  Her first poetry collection is When My Brother Was An Aztec.

82 D.A. Powell. Lives in San Francisco. His latest book is Repast.

83 Edward Hirsch. Guest-edited BAP 2016.

84 Dorianne Laux. Will always be remembered for “The Shipfitter’s Wife.”

85 Juan Felipe Herrera. Current Poet Laureate of the United States.

86 Patricia Lockwood. Her poem “Rape Joke” went viral in 2013 thanks to Twitter followers.

87 Kanye West. Because we all know crazy is best.

88 Charles Bernstein. Hates “official verse culture” and PWCs. (Publications with wide circulation.)

89 Don Share. Editor of Poetry.

90 Gail Mazur. Forbidden City is her seventh and latest book.

91 Harold Bloom. Since Emerson, Henry James, and T.S. Eliot are dead, he keeps the flame of Edgar Allan Poe hatred alive.

92 Alan Shapiro.  Life Pig is his latest collection.

93 Dan Chiasson. Reviews poetry for The New Yorker.

94 Robert Hass. “You can do your life’s work in half an hour a day.”

95 Maurice Manning.  One Man’s Dark is a “gorgeous collection” according to the Washington Post.

96 Brian Brodeur. Runs a terrific blog: How A Poem Happens, of contemporary poets.

97 Donald Trump. Tweets-in-a-shit-storm keeping the self-publishing tradition alive.

98 Ben Lerner. Wrote the essay “The Hatred of Poetry.”

99 Vidyan Ravinthiran. Editor at Prac Crit.

100 Derrick Michael Hudson. There’s no fame in poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCARRIET POETRY HOT 100 IS HERE AGAIN!!!

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1. Matthew Zapruder: Hurricane Matthew. Hired by the Times to write regular poetry column. Toilet papered the house of number 41.

2. Edward Hirsch: Best American Poetry 2106 Guest Editor.

3. Christopher Ricks: Best living critic in English? His Editorial Institute cancelled by bureaucrats at Boston University.

4. Joie Bose: Living Elizabeth Barrett Browning of India.

5. Sherman Alexie: Latest BAP editor. Still stung from the Chinese poet controversy.

6. Jorie Graham: Boylston Professor of Oratory and Rhetoric at Harvard

7. W.S Merwin: Migration: New and Selected Poems, 2005

8. Terrance Hayes: “I am not sure how a man with no eye weeps.”

9. George Bilgere: “I consider George Bilgere America’s Greatest Living Poet.” –Michael Heaton, The Plain Dealer

10. Billy Collins: Interviewed Paul McCartney in 2014

11. Stephen Cole: Internet Philosopher poet. “Where every thing hangs/On the possibility of understanding/And time, thin as shadows,/Arrives before your coming.”

12. Richard Howard: National Book Award Winner for translation of Les Fleurs du Mal in 1984.

13. William Logan: The kick-ass critic. Writes for the conservative New Criterion.

14. Sharon Olds: Stag’s Leap won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2012.

15. Nalini Priyadarshni: “Denial won’t redeem you/Or make you less vulnerable/My unwavering love just may.”  Her new book is Doppelgänger in my House.

16. Stephen Dobyns: “identical lives/begun alone, spent alone, ending alone”

17. Kushal Poddar: “You wheel out your mother’s latte silk/into the picnic of moths.” His new book is Scratches Within.

18. Jameson Fitzpatrick: “Yes, I was jealous when you threw the glass.”

19. Marilyn Chin: “It’s not that you are rare/Nor are you extraordinary//O lone wren sobbing on the bodhi tree”

20. E J Koh: “I browsed CIA.gov/for jobs”

21. Cristina Sánchez López: “If the moon knows dying, a symbol of those hearts, which, know using their silence as it was an impossible coin, we will have to be like winter, which doesn’t accept any cage, except for our eyes.”

22. Mark Doty: His New and Selected won the National Book Award in 2008.

23. Meghan O’ Rourke: Also a non-fiction writer, her poetry has been published in the New Yorker.

24. Alicia Ostriker: Born in Brooklyn in 1937.

25. Kay Ryan: “One can’t work by/ lime light.”

26. A.E. Stallings: Rhyme, rhyme, rhyme.

27. Dana Gioia: Champions Longfellow.

28. Marilyn Hacker: Antiquarian bookseller in London in the 70s.

29. Mary Oliver: “your one wild and precious life”

30. Anne Carson: “Red bird on top of a dead pear tree kept singing three notes and I sang back.”

31. Mary Jo Bang: “A breeze blew a window open on a distant afternoon.”

32. Forrest Gander: “Smoke rises all night, a spilled genie/who loves the freezing trees/but cannot save them.”

33. Stephen Burt: Author of Randall Jarrell and his Age. (2002)

34. Ann Lauterbach: Her latest book is Under the Sign (2013)

35. Richard Blanco: “One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes/tired from work”

36. Kenneth Goldsmith: “Humidity will remain low, and temperatures will fall to around 60 degrees in many spots.”

37. Rita Dove: Her Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry is already 5 years old.

38. Stephen Sturgeon: “blades of the ground feathered black/in moss, in the sweat of the set sun”

39. Marjorie Perloff: Her book, Unoriginal Genius was published in 2010.

40. Kyle Dargan: His ghazal, “Points of Contact,” published in NY Times: “He means sex—her love’s grip like a fist.”

41. Alan Cordle: Foetry.com and Scarriet founder.

42. Lyn Hejinian: “You spill the sugar when you lift the spoon.”

43. Stephen Dunn: Lines of Defense: Poems came out in 2014.

44. Ocean Vuong: “Always another hour to kill—only to beg some god/to give it back”

45. Marie Howe: “I am living. I remember you.”

46. Vanessa Place: Controversial “Gone with the Wind” tweets.

47. Helen Vendler: Reviewed Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom, editor Ben Mazer, in the NYR this spring.

48. Martin Espada: Vivas To Those Who Have Failed is his new book of poems from Norton.

49. Carol Muske-Dukes: Poet Laureate of California from 2008 to 2011.

50. Sushmita Gupta: Poet and artist. Belongs to the Bollyverses renaissance. Sushness is her website.

51. Brad Leithauser: A New Formalist from the 80s, he writes for the Times, the New Criterion and the New Yorker.

52. Julie Carr: “Either I loved myself or I loved you.”

53. Kim Addonizio: Tell Me (2000) was nominated for a National Book Award.

54. Glynn Maxwell: “This whiteness followed me at the speed of dawn.”

55. Simon Seamount: His epic poem on the lives of philosophers is Hermead.

56. Maggie Dietz: “Tell me don’t/ show me and wipe that grin/ off your face.”

57. Robert Pinsky: “When you were only a presence, at Pleasure Bay.”

58. Ha Jin: “For me the most practical thing to do now/is not to worry about my professorship.”

59. Peter Gizzi: His Selected Poems came out in 2014.

60. Mary Angela Douglas: “the steps you take in a mist are very small”

61. Robyn Schiff: A Woman of Property is her third book.

62. Karl Kirchwey: “But she smiled at me and began to fade.”

63. Ben Mazer: December Poems just published. “Life passes on to life the raging stars”

64. Cathy Park Hong: Her battle cry against Ron Silliman’s reactionary Modernists: “Fuck the avant-garde.”

65. Caroline Knox: “Because he was Mozart,/not a problem.”

66. Henri Cole: “There is no sun today,/save the finch’s yellow breast”

67. Lori Desrosiers: “I wish you were just you in my dreams.”

68. Ross Gay: Winner of the 2016 $100,000 Kingsley Tufts award.

69. Sarah Howe: Loop of Jade wins the 2016 T.S. Eliot Prize.

70. Mary Ruefle: Published by Wave Books. A favorite of Michael Robbins.

71. CA Conrad: His blog is (Soma)tic Poetry Rituals.

72. Matvei Yankelevich: “Who am I alone. Missing my role.”

73. Fanny Howe: “Only that which exists can be spoken of.”

74. Cole Swensen: “Languor. Succor. Ardor. Such is the tenor of the entry.”

75. Layli Long Soldier: “Here, the sentence will be respected.”

76. Frank Bidart: Student and friend of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell.

77. Michael Dickman: “Green sky/Green sky/Green sky”

78. Deborah Garrison: “You must praise the mutilated world.”

79. Warsan Shire: “I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes/On my face they are still together.”

80. Joe Green: “I’m tired. Don’t even ask me about the gods.”

81. Joan Houlihan: Took part in Franz Wright Memorial Reading in Harvard Square in May.

82. Frannie Lindsay: “safe/from even the weak sun’s aim.”

83. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright: Translates contemporary German poetry.

84. Noah Cicero: This wry, American buddhist poet’s book is Bi-Polar Cowboy.

85. Jennifer Barber: “The rose nude yawns, rolls over in the grass,/draws us closer with a gorgeous laugh.”

86. Tim Cresswell: Professor of history at Northeastern and has published two books of poems.

87. Thomas Sayers Ellis: Lost his job at Iowa.

88. Valerie Macon: Surrendered her North Carolina Poet Laureate to the cred-meisters.

89: David Lehman: Best American Poetry editor hates French theory, adores tin pan alley songs, and is also a poet .”I vote in favor/of your crimson nails”

90: Ron Silliman: Silliman’s Blog since 2002.

91: Garrison Keillor: The humorist is also a poetry anthologist.

92: Tony Hoagland: “I wonder if this is a legitimate category of pain/or whether he is just spin doctoring a better grade”

93. Alfred Corn: One of the most distinguished living poets.

94. Philip Nikolayev: He values spontaneity and luck in poetry, logic in philosophy.

95. Laura Kasischke: Read her poem, “After Ken Burns.”

96. Daipayan Nair: “I was never a part of the society. I have always created one.”

97. Claudia Rankine: Her prize-winning book is Citizen.

98. Solmaz Sharif: Her book Look is from Graywolf.

99. Morgan Parker: Zapruder published her in the NY Times.

100. Eileen Myles: She makes all the best-of lists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEN MAZER: POEM FROM HIS FORTHCOMING BOOK

BEN IN ROMANIA

Greatest poet of his generation? Ben Mazer in Romania last month. Photo, Scarriet

THE GREATEST JOY KNOWN TO MORTAL MAN

The greatest joy known to mortal man,
shall live beyond us, in eternity.
Catching you ice skating in mid-motion,
cheeks flush, winter pristine in our hearts,
ineffable, permanent, nothing can abolish,
when the deep forest, buried in snow’s white
holds the soul’s eternal solitude,
when, melting coming in, each particular
that stirs the senses, is the flight of man
to unspoken urgencies, garrulous desire
continually fulfilled, the captured stances
that drift like music in the light-laced night,
shared words in murmurs soft as downy sky,
the stars observe with their immortal eye.
Furious, presto-forte homecoming
races into the eyes and fingertips,
confirming and commemorating bells
resounding with our vulnerable desire
in momentary triumph that’s eternal.
Life passes on to life the raging stars,
resonances of undying light.
All years are pressed together in their light.

Ben Mazer was educated at Harvard University, where he studied with Seamus Heaney, and at the Editorial Institute, Boston University, where he studied under Christopher Ricks and Archie Burnett. His poem which appears here is from his sixth poetry collection, February Poems, which will be published by the Grolier Poetry Press in the fall of this year. Mazer’s most recent collections are The Glass Piano (MadHat Press, 2015) and December Poems (Pen & Anvil Press, 2016). He is also the editor of The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (Boston: Un-Gyve Press, 2015). He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the Editor of The Battersea Review.

REFINE THE BRUTE

When I’m asked for an opinion on modern American poetry, I want to do more than list poems and poets I like, though this is probably the only adequate response. Anything else will be sure to confuse as much as it enlightens.

But I cannot resist the injunctions, so fraught with discipline is my soul, even though it inhabits a bestial body.

Before poems are offered up, however, I have a desire to show my thoughts on what poetry is, and what it does, and what it is supposed to do, if it is worthy to be called, poetry, of which “modern” and “American” are even more hopelessly vague.

Surely poetry has a certain pedagogical use.

Verses and rhyme help us significantly in two ways: v