MORE NO.1 SEED PLAY: NEW YORK (GINSBERG’S LOWER EAST SIDE) V. MIAMI (HOWARD MOSS) and SEAMUS HEANEY BATTLES JACK MYERS

no. 1 seed play

MIAMI BEACH —Howard Moss

Was Nature always a snob,
Distributing shorefronts only to the rich?
The poor have come to the right conclusion.

The car lots are dangerous, boutiques have closed
In the cleancut shopping mall whose potted palms
Stand helplessly guarding smashed flower boxes,

As slowly expensive logos drift away;
Subversively dreaming of the cold, signs crumble;
The place has the effect of a dead casino.

Yet the sea repeats its fire drill,
The waves coming in as they were meant to come,
All hailing light, beachcombers, tourists, one

Canadian spinster on her towelled maple,
A lifeguard selling products for the sun—
Still more arrive to take those heat waves in.

If you’re high up enough to witness it,
This city’s saving grace is light on water,
The bay on one side, the ocean on the other,

Collins Avenue strung out on lights—
Blue neon, the sign language of Paris—
Seen from a terrace overlooking Bal Harbour,

Though this evening’s tropical aroma
Is marred by a sad old man who stands regretting
His waistline before a Men Shop’s window,

Watching a coastline glassily reflected
Take its revenge, the tides undermining
The palmed investments of the big hotels,

Breaking through the breastwork of the dunes,
Thundering in to where they used to be,
To lap at the imported Louis Quinze

Already stricken with the plague of mold
Shifting on deer feet in draperied lounges
(So far no one has noticed the ugly

Patch of dry rot under the sofa,
Not even the Cuban trained in mildew,
Trained to pronounce the “doll” in “dollar,”

Otherwise it sounds too much like “dolor.”)
How botched is Paradise, how gone for good
Old rock and beach, this gorgeous littoral

Of palms adoring the sun, and sea grape,
Oleander, and white jasmine blooming
Under the nursing home’s blinded windows

Where the cardiacs and the sun-stroked blackouts
Wheel past the splash of a tropical fish tank
Leading a murderous life of its own.

A water hole abandoned by the young,
Either the old will take it over
Completely or South American money

Found its new capital: a kitsch Brasilia
Of pre-stressed concrete with its air-conditioned
Swiss bank branch, and a single restored

Art deco hotel for absentee landlords
Scanning the sea rehearsing endlessly
Its threatened drama never to be performed.

Bravo, Howard Moss, and Miami Beach.  But now meet New York City and Allen Ginsberg!!

THE CHARNEL GROUND   -Allen Ginsberg

“… rugged and raw situations, and having accepted them as part of your home ground, then some spark of sympathy or compassion would take place. You are not in a hurry to leave such a place immediately. You would like to face the facts, realities of that particular world …”   —Trungpa

Upstairs Jenny crashed her car & became a living corpse, Jake sold grass, the white bearded pot belly leprechaun  silent climbed their staircase
Ex-janitor John from Poland averted his eyes, cheeks flushed with vodka, wine who knew what as he left his groundfloor flat, refusing to speak to the inhabitant of Apt 24
Who’d put his boyfriend in Bellevue, calling police, while the artistic Buddhist composer on sixth floor lay spaced out feet swollen with water, dying slowly of AIDS over a year–
The Chinese teacher cleaned & cooked in Apt 23 for the homesexual poet who pined for his gymnast thighs & buttocks — Downstairs th’old hippy flower girl fell drunk over the banister, smashed her jaw–
her son despite moderate fame cheated of rocknroll money, twenty thousand people in stadiums
cheering his tattooed skinhead murderous Hare Krishna vegetarian drum lurics–
Mary born in the building rested on her cane heavy legged with heart failure on the second landing, no more able
to vacation in Caracas & Dublin — The Russian landlady’s husband from Concentration Camp disappeared again — nobody mentioned he’d died — tenants took over her building for hot water, she couldn’t add rent & pay taxes, wore a long coat hot days
alone & thin on the street carrying groceries to her crooked apartment silent–
One poet highschool teacher fell dead mysterious heart disrythmia, konked over in his mother’s Brooklyn apartment, his first baby girl a year old, wife stocial a few days–
their growling noisy little dog had to go, the baby cried–
Meanwhile the upstairs apartment meth head shot cocaine & yowled up and down
East 12th Street, kicked out of Christine’s Eatery till police cornered him, top a hot iron steamhole
near Stuyvessant Town Avenue A Telephone booth calling his deaf mother–sirens speed the way to Bellevue–
past whispering grass crack salesman jittering in circles on East 10th Street’s
southwest corner where art yuppies come out of the overpriced Japanese Sushi Bar — & they poured salt into potato soup heart failure vats at KK’s Polish restaurant —
Garbage piled up, nonbiodegradable plastic bags emptied by diabetic sidewalk jhomeless
looking for returnable bottles recycled dolls radios half eaten hamburgers–thrown away Danish–
On 13th Street notary public sat in his dingy storefront, drivers lessons & tax returnes prepared on old metal tasks–
Sunnysides crisped in butter, fries & surgary donuts passed over the luncheonette counter next door–
The Hispanic lady yelled at the rude African-American behind the Post Office window
“I waited all week my welfare check you sent me notice I was here yesterday
I want to see the supervisor bitch dont insult me refusing to look in–”
Closed eyes of Puerto Rican wino lips cracked skin red stretched out
on the pavement, naptha backdoor  open for the Korean family Dry Cleaners at the 14th Street corner Con Ed workmen drilled all year to bust electric pipes 6 feet deep in brown dirt so cars bottlenecked wait minutes to pass the M14 bus stopped mid-road, heavy dressed senior citizens step down in red rubble
with Reduced Fare program cards got from grey city Aging Department offices downtown up the second flight by elevators don’t work–
News comes on the radio, they bombed Baghdad and the Garden of Eden again?
A million starve in Sudan, mountains of eats stacked on docks, local gangs &
U.N.’s trembling bureaucrat officers sweat near the equator arguing over
Wheat pile shoved by bulldozers — Swedish doctors ran out of medicine — The pakistan taxi driver
says Salman Rushdie must die, insulting the prophet in fictions
“No that wasn’t my opinion, just a character talking like in a poem no judgement” “Not till the sun rejects you do I,” so give you a quarter by the Catholic Church 14th St you stand half drunk
waving a plastic glass, flush faced, live with your mother a wounded look on your lips, eyes quinting,
receding lower jaw sometimes you dry out in Bellevue, most days cadging dollars for sweet wine
by the corner where Plump Blindman shifts from foot to foot showing his white cane, rattling coins in a white paper cup some weeks
where girding the subway entrance construction saw-horses painted orange
guard steps underground — And across the street the bank machine cubicle door sign reads
Not in Operation as taxis bump on potholes asphalt mounded at the crossroad when red lights change green
& I’m on my way uptown to get a cat scan liver hiopsy, visit the cardiologist,
account for high blood pressure, kidneystones, diabetes, misty eyes & dysethesia–
feeling lack in feet soles, inside ankles, small of back, phallus head, anus–
Old age sickness death again come round in the wink of an eye–
High school youth the inside skin of my thighs was silken smooth tho nobody touched me there back then–
Across town the velvet poet takes Darvon N, valium nightly, sleeps all day kicking methadone
between brick walls sixth floor in a room cluttered with collages & gold dot paper scraps covered
with words: “The whole point seems to be the idea of giving away the giver.”

Allen Ginsberg, no. 1 Seed, wins, 98-75.  Ginsberg advances!  Moss is going home.

Next contest, and the final No. 1 Seed v. No. 16 Seed Matchup in the Tourney this year:

“The Experts” by Jack Myers

When the man in the window seat
flying next to me
asks me who I am
and I tell him I’m a poet,
he turns embarrassed toward the sun.
The woman on the other side of me
pipes up she’s 4’10” and is going to sue
whoever made these seats.

And so it is I’m reminded how I wish I were
one of the aesthetes
floating down double-lit canals
of quiet listening, the ones
who come to know something as
mysterious and useless
as when a tree has decided to sleep.

You would think for them
pain lights up the edges of everything,
burns right through the center of every leaf,
but I’ve seen them strolling around,
their faces glistening with the sort of peace
only sleep can polish babies with.

And so when a waitress in San Antonio
asks me what I do, and I think
how the one small thing I’ve learned
seems more complex the more I think of it,
how the joys of it have overpowered me
long after I don’t understand,

I tell her “Corned beef on rye, a side of salad,
hold the pickle, I’m a poet,” and she stops to talk
about her little son who, she says, can hurt himself
even when he’s sitting still. I tell her
there’s a poem in that, and she repeats
“Hold the pickle, I’m a poet,”
then looks at me and says, “I know.”

THE POET-WRITING-ABOUT-BEING-A-POET-IN-THE-REAL-WORLD POEM.

TEAM MYERS IS A WARM, EMOTIONAL CLUB, REFLECTING THE CHUMMY SENTIMENTALITY WHICH SEEKS THE HUMAN MEASURE: KINDNESS.

MYERS: TO HELL WITH THAT COLD, AESTHETIC BULLSHIT. MY POEMS ARE KIND. MYERS KNOWS THERE WILL ALWAYS BE THAT PERSON WHO “TURNS EMBARRASSED TOWARD THE SUN” IN THE WINDOW SEAT OF THE AIRPLANE WHEN YOU TELL HIM YOU’RE A POET.

HEANEY, MYERS’ OPPONENT, CONTEMPLATES MAN AND TECHNOLOGY, TOO (A COMMON POETIC THEME, THE MOST COMMON MODERN POETIC THEME?) BUT INSTEAD OF LIVE PLANES  THERE’S A DEAD TRAIN-TRACK, INSTEAD OF A PICKLE, THERE’S A STAKE, AND INSTEAD OF PEOPLE TALKING, THERE’S A LONE PERSON “COMING ON HIMSELF” IN A  LEAFY RUIN.

THE COLLOQUIAL “HOLD THE PICKLE” IS WHERE MYERS’ STAKES HIS CLAIM AND HEANEY TAKES PERHAPS EVEN A GREATER RISK WITH HIS “WHERE I DREW THE IRON LIKE A THORN/OR A DIALECT WORD OF MY OWN/WARM FROM A STRANGER’S MOUTH.” WHAT AN ODD PHRASE!

TEAM MYERS IS A HIGHLY SOCIAL UNIT. TEAM HEANEY, THE FAVORED TOP SEED, HAS ICE IN THEIR VEINS. A VERY INTERESTING MATCHUP.

“An Iron Spike” by Seamus Heaney

So like a harrow-pin
I hear harness-creaks and the click
of stones in a ploughed-up field.
But it was the age of steam

at Eagle Pond, New Hampshire,
when this rusted spike I found there
was aimed and driven in
to fix a cog on the line.

It flakes like dead maple leaves
in the track of the old railway,
eaten at and weathered
like birch stumps dressed by beavers.

What guarantees things keeping
if a railway can be lifted
like a long briar out of ditch-growth?
I felt I had come on myself

in its still, grassed-over path
where I drew the iron like a thorn
or a dialect word of my own
warm from a stranger’s mouth.

And the sledge-head that drove it
with a last opaque report
deep into the creosoted
sleeper, where is that?

And its sweat-cured, polished haft?
Ask those ones on the buggy;
inaudible and upright
and sped along without shadows.

HEANEY IS ALL EYE USING METAPHOR:

It flakes like dead maple leaves
in the track of the old railway,
eaten at and weathered
like birch stumps dressed by beavers.

IN THIS STANZA, “BEAVERS” SERVES THE METAPHOR SO THAT “BEAVERS” ARE NOT “IN” THE POEM; NOR ARE “BIRCH STUMPS,” FOR “IT” IS “LIKE BIRCH STUMPS DRESSED BY BEAVERS.”

COGS WERE RARE IN RAILWAYS; THEY HELPED TRAINS GO OVER MOUNTAINS, BUT HEANEY’S HISTORY IS CORRECT: THERE WAS A LINE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE THAT CLIMBED MOUNT WASHINGTON, BUT THE FIRST COG RAILWAY WAS IN ENGLAND.

HEANEY IS METAPHOR, PENDANTRY, TERMINOLOGY, METICULOUSLY AND HISTORICALLY CORRECT, BUT COLD AND DRY.

THE MYERS POEM IS WARMER, MORE INTERESTING, LESS PEDANTIC.

AND MYERS WINS!   80-77!   ANOTHER TOP SEED UPSET!!!

ROBERT LOWELL CELEBRATES BIRTHDAY AS THE NO. 1 SEEDS BEGIN PLAY FOR MARCH MADNESS

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Robert Lowell, the No. 1 Seed in the South, will celebrate his birthday as he rumbles with 16th Seed Karen Kipp.

Kipp’s poem, “The Rat,” is a menacing cartoon.

Lowell’s entry, “Shifting Colors,” is gentler, the water-color version of “The Rat’s” chiaroscuro, but will have no trouble bullying “The Rat.”  You don’t push Lowell around in the paint; maybe he misses from the outside sometimes, but he more than makes up with it with his rebounding.

Both poems use animals and gods to invoke the human.  It’s stunning, really, how similar in approach these poems are.

Will the master, Robert Lowell prevail?

MARLA:  Robert Lowell is a monster.

A monster?

MARLA: That’s all I’m going to say.

Marla, do you think Lisa Lewis has a chance against Ashbery in the East?

MARLA:  Well, she is nervous.  She’s a woman, after all.

Oh, boy…

MARLA: Ashbery’s not worried.  He’s a man…

Let’s talk about the Lewis poem, “Responsibility.”

MARLA: Well, OK.

It’s a raw, painful, vulnerable meditation on existence, pretty bleak….

MARLA:  Meanwhile Ashbery’s poem is breezy, amusing…

I think an upset’s possible…and now let’s look at the other two No. 1 Seed contests!  Seamus Heaney’s “An Iron Spike” v. Jack Myers’ “The Experts” in the North.

MARLA: Iron Spike v. The Experts.  I love it!

And, finally, in the West, Allen Ginsberg’s “The Charnel Ground” v. Howard Moss’ “Miami Beach.”

MARLA: Charming matchup…two little bald men… Charnel Ground v. Miami Beach…nice!

We’ll have more analysis, and of course, show you the poems.  A lot more coming up!

Meanwhile, Marla’s trying not to root for the women.  She’s trying to remain objective…

MARLA: I am.

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