CAROL MUSKE MESSES WITH JAMES SCHUYLER IN ROUND TWO, WEST BRACKET

Is it good when a woman kicks a man’s ass?

Some say poetry comes down to one thing: novel juxtaposition. What is metaphor if not this? Aristotle put Metaphor at the center, and the rest of ancient theories are concerned with proper and coherent imitation of life when humans jump up on stage. Modernity has not added anything new—only a few quirks and quibbles. The important modern critics like Poe (rigorously, classically) and Eliot (bizarrely, haphazardly) recall ancient standards. The rest is vanity.  Auden puts his finger on things in a letter to Frank O’Hara in 1955: “I think you (and John [Ashbery], too, for that matter) must watch what is always the great danger with any ‘surrealistic’ style, namely of confusing authentic non-logical relations which arouse wonder with accidental ones which arouse mere surprise and in the end fatigue.”

But to return to novel juxtaposition and proper and coherent imitation: Carol Muske’s poem, “A Former Love, A Lover of Form,” has it all: vivid elements which combine in surprising ways, actual life exemplified, concision, a leisurely observation of things which finally blossoms into a forceful, epigrammatic close.

James Schuyler, in “Red Brick and Brown Stone,” is anxious to present life vividly and concisely, even if it’s a lonely, boring one of stifling routine.

There is more distress in Muske’s poem, a greater novelty of juxtaposition, and hers finally has more intellectual interest.

Muske wins easily, 82-64.

Before we say goodbye to Schuyler, we should say a word about him, because his story is a typical one in modern American poetry: just as Pound was a secretary to an iconic Brit, Yeats,  Schuyler was a secretary to Auden. Later Schuyler became associated with O’Hara, Ashbery and the Modern Art culture in New York City (The New York School)—Schuyler’s roommate from 1961 to 1973 was the painter Fairfield Porter, trained at Harvard and the Art Student’s League, a post-WW II haven for Abstract and Pop artists. Schuyler rejected Auden’s formalism.

Welcome to the Sweet Sixteen, Carol Muske!

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FIRST ROUND MARCH MADNESS WINNERS!

winner

Let’s get this winners and losers business out of the way…

Here are the winners:

EAST BRACKET

LISA LEWIS (d. John Ashbery) Responsibility
WILLIAM MATTHEWS (d. James Wright) Good Company
GILLIAN CONOLEY (d. Robert Creeley) Beckon
CAROLYN CREEDON (d. James Tate)  litany
GREGORY CORSO (d. Stanley Kunitz)  30th Year Dream
DORIANNE LAUX (d. A.R. Ammons)  The Lovers
LESLIE SCALAPINO (d. Jack Spicer)  that they were at the beach
BARBARA GUEST (d. Larry Levis) Motion Pictures: 4

NORTH BRACKET

KAREN KIPP (d. Robert Lowell)  The Rat
JACK HIRSCHMANN (d. Robert Penn Warren*) The Painting
EILEEN MYLES (d. Frank O’Hara)  Eileen’s Vision
WILLIAM KULIK (d. Czeslaw Milosz)  Fictions
SHARON OLDS (d. Robin Becker)  The Request
TESS GALLAGHER (d. Richard Hugo)  The Hug
STEPHEN DOBYNS (d. Jim Harrison)  Allegorical Matters
AMY GERSTLER (d. Norman Dubie)  Sinking Feeling

NORTH BRACKET

JACK MYERS (d. Seamus Heaney)  The Experts
PHILIP LARKIN (d. Joseph Duemer)  Aubade
BILL KNOTT (d. Robert Bly)  Monodrome
EDWARD FIELD (d. Donald Justice)  Whatever Became of Freud
MAURA STANTON (d. Anne Carson)  The Veiled Lady
ALAN DUGAN (d. Hayden Carruth)  Drunken Memories of Anne Sexton
HOWARD NEMEROV (d. David Ignatow)  IFF
MICHAEL PALMER (d. Yusef Komunyakaa)  I Do Not

WEST BRACKET

ALLEN GINSBERG (d. Howard Moss) The Charnel Ground
DONALD HALL (d. Douglas Crase)  To A Waterfowl
RICHARD CECIL (d. Robert Hass)  Apology
JOY HARJO (d. Sylvia Plath)  A Post-Colonial Tale
JAMES SCHUYLER (d. Stephanie Brown)  Red Brick and Brown Stone
REED WHITTEMORE (d. Heather McHugh)  Smiling Through
STEPHEN DUNN (d. Sam Hamill)  What They Wanted
CAROL MUSKE (d. Charles Bukowski)  A Former Lover, A Lover of Form

* Robert Penn Warren resigned from the tourney

MARLA MUSE: Some of the losers I really don’t want to say goodbye to; the Milosz, the Justice, the Dubie, the McHugh…

The Bukowski…there’s something holy about his work, a wry honesty that few poets evince…I was thinking about the qualities that go into writing good poetry, both the New Critical qualities of the poem itself and those qualities the poet as a human being must have…

MARLA MUSE: The poet must say the right thing at the right time.

Or seem to.  Because in real situations in life, that’s a good quality to have: to be able to say the right thing at the right time, but for the poet, “time” can be years as they work on the poem, which distorts the meaning of that ability, the ability to say the right thing at the right time: if someone really has that ability in life, to really say the right thing at the right time, they wouldn’t need to fake it in a poem…

MARLA MUSE: Oh, you’re getting all Plato on me…life is real, poetry is fake

But isn’t it true, Marla, that ‘saying the right thing at the right time’ is not the same thing in life, as it is in poetry…poets can wait for the right time to pass, but in life, you can’t…the room is silent, and life calls for something to be said then, but to be a poet you can slink away and say something later…it doesn’t have to be at the right time

MARLA MUSE: The right time in the poem?

Yes, when you failed to say the right thing at the right time in life…

MARLA MUSE: But if we’re talking about qualities, the person who can say the right thing in a poem is probably the person who can say the right thing in life…

No, because if you can say the right thing at the right time in life, there’s no motivation to do so in a poem, for the poem is a shadow…life doesn’t let us wait years…

MARLA MUSE: But it does.  You are trying to connect life and poetry, you are trying to connect two things, and you can’t, and therefore you are saying nothing…

Am I?  So I shouldn’t have asked my original question: what qualities in life match those qualities in the poet…

MARLA MUSE: What about not fearing to go into an underground mine?  Does that help a poet?  To risk your life for somone else, does that have anything to do with being a poet?  I think we can only look at the poem.  I think the New Critics were right…

But Marla, you are beautiful!  How can you say something like that?

MARLA MUSE: Are we talking about poetry?

Thomas Brady is never talking about poetry, is he?

MARLA MUSE: Well, Tom, sometimes you do…

I’m thinking about that Bukowski poem, the car headlights, the remark by the mother, and the son’s joking, half-shameful, half-boastful response, and all the various parts in that Bukowski poem—isn’t the good poem when all those parts cohere?

MARLA MUSE: Bukowski lost! Why are you talking about him? Ah, you are recalling that debate you had…when you used the word “incoherent”…clever boy…you’re a New Critic, after all…

Yea, but the New Critics themselves were such narrow-minded, creepy—

MARLA MUSE: They hated the Romantics, that’s all, but that’s why you’re here, Tommy boy…

But right now this is not about me…congratulations, poets!

THE OTHER NO. 5 SEEDS BATTLE

LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 14:  John Calipari the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats gives instructions to his team during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Rupp Arena on February 14, 2015 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

No. 5 Stanley Kunitz (“Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation”) falls to Gregory Corso (“30th Year Dream”) in the East, 73-70.   Corso was anxious and fell behind early, but woke up and went crazy. Kunitz killed his chances with a disgusting image and his last shot: “Who can understand the ways/of the Great Worm in the sky?” fell short.  Corso dreams he is handed an address and told “Christ wants to see you,” and ends: “‘Damn/impulsive goon-faced proletariat-Shelley greaseball dopey fuck!/And cried, ‘denied…denied…denied'” Yea!  Go Corso!

Sharon Olds has no trouble with her opponent, the 12th seed in the South bracket, Robin Becker, winning 91-72.  “A History of Sexual Preferance” by Becker is about a giddy first date in historical Philadlephia and coyly references the ‘pursuit of happiness/pleasure.’  “The Request” by Olds may be one of the greatest love poems of all time, and we quote it in full:

He lay like someone fallen from a high
place, only his eyes could swivel,
he cried out, we could hardly hear him,
we bent low, over him, his
wife and I, inches from his face,
trying to drink sip up breathe in
the sounds from his mouth. He lay with unseeing
open eyes, the fluid stood
in the back of his throat, and the voice was from there,
guttural, through unmoving lips, we could
not understand one word, he was down so
deep inside himself, we went closer, as if
leaning over the side of a well
and putting our heads down inside it.
Once—his wife was across the room, at the
sink—he started to garble some of those
physical unintelligible words,
Raas-ih-AA, rass-ih-AA, I
hovered even lower, over his open
mouth, Rassi baaa, I sank almost
into that body where my life half-began,
Frass-ih-BAA—“Frances back!”
I said, and he closed his eyes in his last
yes of exhausted acquiescence, I
said, She’s here. She came over to him,
touched him, spoke to him, and he closed his
eyes and he passed out and never
came up again, now he could move
steadily down.

In the final 5 seed v. 12 seed matchup, over in the West, Stephanie Brown looked to upset James Schuyler with her “Interview with an Alchemist in the New Age” which begins

Someone, if you pay the price, can hypnotize you
and you can speak, from memory, oh so long ago imbedded in your soul,
about the past, and history, and your place in it, how you struggled
in the heat and the dust near the Great Pyramid of Giza,
how you gazed into the mirror of your beloved,
how you took a bow with your fellow thespians, in Greece,
how a sycophant betrayed you in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

And wouldn’t it be neat, she says.  The poem (one can see the chatty tone in the quotation above) doesn’t really say more than that, unless there’s some deep, ironic point I’m missing.  Go to the rim, Stephanie!  Make sharper passes!  (She fell behind early.)

Schuyler’s APR entry pulverizes a life into a candy roll and lays it out before us; a sample from “Red Brick and Brown Stone” :

He arises. Oriane
the lurcher wants
her walk. Out into
the freeze. Oriane
pees and shits…

…Off by cab to
Florentine palasso
racquet club: naked,
the pool, plunge, how
Many laps? Home. (Through
out the day, numerous
cigarettes. I forget
which brand. Tareytons.)
A pencil drawing of
a vase of parrot tulips.
Records: Richter:
Scriabin: Tosca:”Mario!
Mario! Mario!” “I
lived for art, I
lived for love.” Sup
per: a can of baked
beans, a cup of raspberry
yogurt. Perrier. Out?
A flick? An A.A.
meeting? Walk Oriane.
Nine p.m. Bed. A
book, V.Woolf’s let-
ters. Lights out, sleep
not quite right away.
No valium. The night
passes in black chiffon.

Shhhhh.  G’nite, James. Sleep well. You’ve advanced to the next round, beating the charming librarian from California, Stephanie Brown 71-64.  Well played!

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