Scarriet 2011 March Madness. North Bracket, round Two. “Aubade” by Larkin v. “The Experts” by Jack Myers.

Reading Larkin’s “Aubade” is not like flying in an airplane. Larkin didn’t like to travel. Reading “Aubade” is to be crushed by the large rock of ‘we’re going to die’ and the art of it is: the emotion expressed in the poem fully belongs to ‘I’m going to die.’

Ironically, there would be something morbidly pedantic about Larkin’s poem if it were not about death; if it were about any other subject, its manner would offend with its certainty, but here it thrills. With the simplicity of a child reaching for a sweet, or a fly buzzing onto poo, Larkin chooses a topic that makes his rhetoric inescapable—and he triumphs. The inevitablilty of Larkin’s skillful rhymes pack the reader in ice and cart him on greased wheels away. The length of the poem is perfect, too; it presses down on us long enough so that we are dead. Had it been shorter, we would have been able to escape.

Because Larkin’s “Aubade” is not a typical loose APR poem—no grime, no spittle, no grandiosity, no hyperbole, no obscurity, no doubts, no pieces of the puzzle left lying about—its formalism gleams, a white towering wonder, a singing cloud above a chattering wood. In American company, even in the company of American poets, Larkin’s fierce,  fanatical atheism wounds with its Englishy swift directness, recalling Shakespeare and Shelley with its emotional blade, true because ruthless in the way it manages to perfect subjectivity with a philosophical picture framed by god-like sound. Larkin’s faithlessness is so pure that only divinity could have made it. Larkin pushes us to God just as the priest sometimes pushes us away.

Meanwhile Jack Myers operates on a more human level up in his plane with the indifferent, and later, on the ground with a waitress. It’s not sentimental; it’s good stuff Myers has going on here, but what happens is by making real life poetry and poetry real life, as Myers attempts to do, both disappear. There’s poetry in good hardboiled detective fiction, in landscapes, in ordinary things, but one can’t say, ‘look! here is the poetry.’ For poetry to be poetry it has to remain elusive. One cannot will poetry, although there’s will involved and it seems that of that kind of will there’s never enough.

If you chase two rabbits, you lose both. You cannot be poetic and real. Further, to make things even more difficult, there are objects which are poetic and objects which are not. Americans since 1945 don’t accept that there are some objects which are poetic and some objects which are not. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Americans did not feel the need to constantly and consciously prove this truism to be an error. If we still believed it, but just didn’t think about it so much, it wouldn’t be a problem. But we’ve got to the point where we”ve become defensive about it, like Myers in the airplane.

Larkin defeats Myers, 97-85.



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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