THE FINAL FOUR AS MARCH MADNESS CONCLUDES!

ISLANDS > KARINA SMIGLA-BOBINSKI

Scarriet finishes its March Madness Poetry Tournament (the Sublime) for the year 2020 in this post. Congratulations to all the participants, in this our 10th anniversary season.

The crowds are fevered, excited, massing in great numbers into the arena with whoops and screams, as Final Four play descends upon March Madness Island.

Ovid (Classical Bracket) It is art to conceal art.

Matthews (Romantic Bracket) Green dells that into silence stretch away.

Fitzgerald (Modern Bracket) So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Sociu (Post-Modern Bracket) The quakes moving for nothing, under uninhabited regions.

When it comes to the sublime, we have no time to think.

The sublime stops thought as it overwhelms our senses.

But paradoxically, poetry is not sensual—poetry is born of a priori thought; it is a medium made, and that medium, language, is a system of signs, not something which, in itself, is sensual; nor does the creative impulse have anything that we can recognize as sensual—we cannot “see” the chess player thinking, nor do we know how the moves of the chess pieces are shaped by the mind, or what sensuality belongs to any decisions as such.

And, as opposed to the mere 64 square chess board of the mere chess player, the blank page of the poet contains many more possible “moves” than a chess board, which nothing physical could understand in real time and not be overwhelmed and defeated before it starts.

Perhaps the sublime is the paradoxical attempt of thought to be physical—the poem understood physically is sublime by this very fact, beyond any “content” per se.

But this does not seem quite right—content must matter.  The sublime simply cannot be codified in words.  And  yet—would the sublime be satisfied with no definition of itself?

I suppose one could attempt a formula for the sublime, as Poe did, with his “Raven”—what is the best way to write a popular, yet learned poem?  How many lines?  What subject?  What structure?

To attempt a definition of the sublime right here and now (as fans at this moment are filling the arena, and before Marla Muse has appeared on the scene):

A sublime expression requires two compact, highly simple, and distinct, ideas which war and unite in a wave/particle state of paradox, in a manner which gives us a pleasant, non-thinking experience.

Ovid: It is art to conceal art.

If art is good, then we should not want to conceal it, and if art is bad, then art is good to conceal itself, but how can art be both good and bad?—in both cases Ovid’s assertion would seem to be false.

Unless art is both good and bad—bad when it is not concealed, good when it is concealed, and therefore good when it conceals itself, and therefore the concealing (which if it is good, we don’t see) is the good action, and therefore it does fit our definition: “two compact, highly simple, and distinct, ideas which war and unite in a wave/particle state of paradox.”  But does it meet the second requirement?  Does Ovid’s “It is art to conceal art” give us a “pleasant, non-thinking experience?” For the cheering, singing, and excitable Ovid fans, the answer would seem to be yes.

“Green dells that into silence stretch away” would seem—

But now it is too late.  Play has begun, Marla Muse has turned down the lights; fires lit all around dance to the collective urges of the fans.

Away, away stretch the green dells…

The vista resists the concentrated might of the screaming circle in the center of the throng.

The art of each opponent looks for an opening, creates an opening—but to enter, or to trap?

What risks are taken!  The “art” is momentarily exposed, and a gasp goes up from the crowd!  Matthews suddenly brings what he has from silence, into the green dells…

The play is unbelievable!

The fans are going crazy!

Ovid concealed a bit too long!

Cornelius Matthews wins! He’s going to the championship!

~~~~~~~~~

In the other Final Four match-up, F. Scott Fitzgerald has us “beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

We attempt to go forward, but the current takes us back.

Here is the whole passage:

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an æsthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Fitzgerald’s passage has so many marvelous parts: “that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house…”

Please open your gold filigree program, Poetry March Madness acolytes, to Dan Sociu’s poem (Marla will bring up the lights in just a moment):

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.

******

Here, then, the paradox which slams us in the heart as true:

“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.

Dan Sociu defeats F. Scott Fitzgerald!

~~~~~~~~~~

Dan Sociu faces Cornelius Matthews in the 2020 March Madness Championship!!

Sociu has saved the best for last.

“Green dells that into silence stretch away” has concision, it has painterly beauty, and loftiness and yes, sublimity.

And now the conclusion of Sociu’s poem:

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.

The arena erupts. The fans are now pure energy. The sounds of the arena blare across the sea, the news hesitant and anxious no longer. Even the children know.

Dan Sociu has won the 2020 Poetry March Madness.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

ROMANTIC BRACKET PLAY IN THE SUBLIME MADNESS TOURNEY!

Image result for Tennyson

The fan turnout has been unbelievable for this year’s Madness tournament. Everyone is flying to Madness Island for these games.  And Marla Muse has been quite the hostess.

Marla Muse: I love the Romantic poets!

In Round One play, first seed artist/poet William Blake (the Tyger), who died in the first quarter of the 19th century, takes on 16th seeded author and wit Oscar Wilde, who died at the 19th century’s close.

Blake’s Tyger should terrify any opponent; Blake’s music is like a hammer, like Beethoven, or like heavy metal—what simplicity, what power: “Tyger, Tyger, burning bright in the forest of the night.” One has no problem imagining Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin singing this.

Wilde’s essay “The Critic As Artist” is like the music of Ravel:

We are sometimes apt to think that the voices that sounded at the dawn of poetry were simpler, fresher, and more natural than ours, and that the world which the early poets looked at, and through which they walked, had a kind of poetical quality of its own, and almost without changing could pass into song. The snow lies thick now upon Olympus, and its steep, scraped sides are bleak and barren, but once, we fancy, the white feet of the Muses brushed the dew from the anemones in the morning, and at evening came Apollo to sing to the shepherds in the vale. But in this we are merely lending to other ages what we desire, or think we desire, for our own. Our historical sense is at fault. Every century that produces poetry is, so far, an artificial century, and the work that seems to us to be the most natural and simple product of its time is always the result of the most self-conscious effort. There is no fine art without self-consciousness, and self-consciousness and the critical spirit are one.

Interesting contest, because Wilde insists on the “self-consciousness” of the “critic/artist” in the face of Blake, perhaps the most impetuous, and least self-conscious, artist who ever lived.

Blake romps, to the blood-curdling yells of his fans, and advances to Round Two.  So long, Oscar!  You are right.  The artist needs the self-consciousness of the critic. The bullied child is full of knowledge.

~~~~~~~~

Goethe’s poetic drama, Faust v. Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” a poem as iconic as Blake’s Tyger.

We kept the devil away for two millennia, thanks to the Christian religion—whether the “devil” really exists, or not.  Life is merely the play of our imagination—so say the non-religious; so why then, do they object to Christianity so much?  If Christianity is real, or it’s poetry, it’s still pretty good poetry.  In this passage from Goethe, Faust, the professor, woos a Christian peasant:

Gretchen: You don’t believe in God?

Faust: Do not misunderstand me, my love, my queen!
Who can name him?
Admit on the spot:
I believe in him?
And who can dare
To perceive and declare:
I believe in him not?
The All-Embracing One,
The All-Upholding One,
Does he not embrace, uphold,
You, me, Himself?
Does not the Heaven vault itself above us?
Is not the earth established fast below?
And with their friendly glances do not
Eternal stars rise over us?
Do not my eyes look into yours,
And all things thrust
Into your head, into your heart,
And weave in everlasting mystery
Invisibly, visibly, around you?
Fill your heart with this, great as it is,
And when this feeling grants you perfect bliss,
Then call it what you will—
Happiness! Heart! Love! God!
I have no name for it!
Feeling is all;
Name is mere sound and reek
Clouding Heaven’s light.

Gretchen: That sounds quite good and right;
And much as the priest might speak,
Only not word for word.

Faust: It is what all hearts have heard
In all the places heavenly day can reach,
Each in his own speech;
Why not I in mine?

Gretchen: I could almost accept it, you make it sound so fine,
Still there is something in it that shouldn’t be;
For you have no Christianity.

Faust: Dear child!

Gretchen: It has long been a grief to me
To see you in such company.

Faust: You mean?

Gretchen: The man who goes about with you.
I hate him in my soul, through and through.
And nothing has given my heart
In my whole life so keen a smart
As that man’s face, so dire, so grim.

Faust: Beloved child, don’t be afraid of him!

“Feeling is all,” says professor Faust, wooing by expanding Christian love to include sex. A great speech, Gretchen acknowledges, though not quite true to the words of my religion. This “not quite” is finally the only “not quite” there is.  Faust says religion is whatever good thing our hearts hear, but Gretchen’s Christian heart won’t be melted by that, and then she mentions Mephistopheles, and again, without learning, she instinctively understands, in the most innocent simplicity, that something is not right. First she rejects the idea of “what Faust’s individual heart thinks” and then she rejects “how the devil’s individual face looks.” For Gretchen, a standard judges the individual. Faust comes from the opposite direction—the individual is supreme. Gretchen eventually is seduced—because she is an individual.

Everyone knows Emily Dickinson’s great poem. But here it is no match for the mesmerizing Faust!

Goethe advances!

~~~~~~~

Coleridge’s Kubla Khan versus Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.  Third seed, fourteenth seed.

Why do we include Marx in a sublime contest with poets?

Because this idea shook the world:

“There is a physical relation between physical things. But it is different with commodities.”

There. It is that simple.  With one blow, Marx broke everything in two. A  ghost inhabited every object.

Trade, or capitalism, existed long before Marx—the word “commodity” came into use in English in the 15th century.

A country has excess grain and trades it for coffee, and now it has grain and coffee, two things instead of one.

Commodity meant “convenience” or “advantage,” and it was a good thing as long as trade produced a greater variety for everyone.

But as trade became more sophisticated, commodity pricing—trade for the sake of trade—replaced things themselves.

Commodities were still things, up until Marx.  As trade became weaponized, a commodity was now more valuable and sacred than a thing.

And this happened just when mass wealth began to upset the old hierarchical order.  A new hierarchy of hoarded wealth emerged, and Marx was the bitter result.

We say “bitter result,” because with bad faith trading, things were no longer what they were; everything was ephemeral and relative, and nothing was stable.

The sublime slid into the fast and the commonplace in a manner that was nearly sublime.  Marx is nearly sublime, but not finally sublime. He fell into what he criticized.

Kubla Khan by Coleridge is sublime.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Coleridge advances.

~~~~~

Shelley (the Cloud) v. Hawthorne (the Scarlet Letter)

The passage from Nathaniel Hawthorne is lovely and sublime:

She inherited her mother’s gift for devising drapery and costume. As the last touch to her mermaid’s garb, Pearl took some eel-grass, and imitated, as best she could, on her own bosom, the decoration with which she was so familiar on her mother’s. A letter,—the letter A,—but freshly green, instead of scarlet! The child bent her chin upon her breast, and contemplated this device with strange interest; even as if the one only thing for which she had been sent into the world was to make out its hidden import.

Now here is the excerpt from Shelley’s “The Cloud:”

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

And since in Shelley’s divine poetry, he captures the roving and playful essence of Hawthorne’s Pearl, Shelley advances.

~~~~~~~

John Keats v. R.H. Horne

The Englishman Richard Henry Horne (1802-1884) fought for Mexican independence in the 1820s, was a literary friend of Elizabeth Barrett (before she became Browning) and Charles Dickens in the 1840s, called himself the “father of the Australian wine industry,” as he spent most of the 1850s in Australia, and spent the last 25 years of his life in London. He published plays, and an epic poem, “Orion,” which Edgar Poe praised in 1844. From “Orion:”

There, underneath the boughs, mark where the gleam
Of sunrise through the roofing’s chasm is thrown
Upon a grassy plot below, whereon
The shadow of a stag stoops to the stream,
Swift rolling toward the cataract, and drinks,
While ever and anon the nightingale,
Not waiting for the evening, swells his hymn—
His one sustained and heaven aspiring tone—
And when the sun hath vanished utterly,
Arm over arm the cedars spread their shade,
With arching wrist and long extended hands,
And grave-ward fingers lengthening in the moon,
Above that shadowy stag whose antlers still
Hung o’er the stream.

The painting here is quite admirable, and there is a certain Miltonic force to Horne’s long poem—all but forgotten today.

Keats, who lived less than a third of Horne’s long life, rose to remarkable fame, and Horne was one of the few, early on, to praise Keats.

From Hyperion:

Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon, and eve’s one star,
Sat gray-hair’d Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair;
Forest on forest hung about his head
Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,
Not so much life as on a summer’s day
Robs not one light seed from the feather’d grass,
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.

How interesting it would be, if Horne would win…

Holy God!  He does!  R.H. Horne advances!

~~~~~~~

Marla Muse: Blake, Goethe, Coleridge, and Shelley—not much surprise that these advance. And R.H. Horne in an upset!

How many outside this tournament even know who Horne is, Marla?

Marla Muse: I see quite a few fans studying their programs with puzzled looks!

Is it not strange that Richard Horne wrote thousands of letters to Elizabeth Barrett, before Robert ran away with her? And Poe, who loved “Orion,” also corresponded with Elizabeth, when she was still Barrett, and that Poe dedicated his 1845 Poems to her?

Marla Muse: O that is sweet! And speaking of which, look who is coming this way!

Elizabeth Barrett versus Pushkin!!

Both of these entries are stunning!

First Elizabeth Barrett, from her epic poem, The Drama of Exile:

On a mountain peak
Half sheathed in primal woods and glittering
In spasms of awful sunshine, at that hour
A lion crouched,—part raised upon his paws,
With his calm massive face turned full on thine,
And his mane listening. When the ended curse
Left silence in the world, right suddenly
He sprang up rampant, and stood straight and stiff,
As if the new reality of death
Were dashed against his eyes,—and roared so fierce,
(Such thick carnivorous passion in his throat
Tearing a passage through the wrath and fear)—
And roared so wild, and smote from all the hills
Such fast keen echoes crumbling down the vales
To distant silence,—that the forest beasts,
One after one, did mutter a response
In savage and in sorrowful complaint
Which trailed along the gorges.

I don’t think many of our March Madness fans are acquainted with this side of Elizabeth Barrett!

“Which trailed along the gorges.” What a vast, dramatic scene she paints!

This is masterful.

And a lyric poem from Pushkin, who is so adept at breaking one’s heart:

If I walk the noisy streets,
or enter a many thronged church,
or sit among the wild young generation,
I give way to my thoughts.

I say to myself: the years are fleeting,
and however many there seem to be,
we must all go under the eternal vault,
and someone’s hour is already at hand.

When I look at a solitary oak
I think: the patriarch of the woods.
It will outlive my forgotten age
as it outlived that of my grandfathers’.

If I caress a young child,
immediately I think: Farewell!
I will yield my place to you,
for I must fade while your flower blooms.

Each day, every hour
I habitually follow in my thoughts,
trying to guess from their number
the year which brings my death.

And where will fate send death to me?
In battle, in my travels, or on the seas?
Or will the neighbouring valley
receive my chilled ashes?

And although to the senseless body
it is indifferent wherever it rots,
yet close to my beloved countryside
I still would prefer to rest.

And let it be, beside the grave’s vault
Young life forever will be playing,
and impartial, indifferent nature
Spreads, forever staying.

Which is more sublime?

Pushkin, who puts his whole, melancholy life into one beautiful lyric poem?

Or Barrett, who displays artistic unity in one sublime passage?

Elizabeth Barrett wins!

~~~~~~

And look who we have now!

Marla Muse: I don’t think I can contain my excitement!

Byron versus Poe!!

This is one of the biggest crowds we’ve ever had for March Madness. Poe against Byron.  The fans are merry, not melancholy, as the excitement lifts up even the most melancholy and literary of spirits.

Sometimes we swear the sublime is simply that which is terribly sad.

Is there anything sadder than this excerpt from Byron’s poem, “Darkness?”

The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr’d within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp’d
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir’d before;
The winds were wither’d in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—She was the Universe.

This is so beautiful: “as they dropp’d they slept on the abyss without a surge.”  Listen to this, children!  This is poetry.  No mere fop, Byron.

Poe counters with an ‘end of the world’ tale of his own; not everything Poe wrote became famous. The entry is a passage from Poe’s neglected “Conversation of Eiros and Charmion” (two spirits named after Cleopatra’s attendants) which imagines a comet approaching earth; people are terrified, then realize the comet is merely made of gas, and can do no harm.  Halley’s comet (1835) would have been seen by Poe a few years prior to writing this tale, and, in 1832, there actually was a “comet panic” in which scientists miscalculated, and said a comet was going to hit the earth.  Poe’s stories tend to be based on facts, or at least actual scary events.

The prevalence of oxygen in the comet has a pleasurable and life-giving effect at first, as it moves into our atmosphere.  Then Poe brings the hammer down:

It had been long known that the air which encircled us was a compound of oxygen and nitrogen gases, in the proportion of twenty-one measures of oxygen, and seventy-nine of nitrogen, in every one hundred of the atmosphere. Oxygen, which was the principle of combustion, and the vehicle of heat, was absolutely necessary to the support of animal life, and was the most powerful and energetic agent in nature. Nitrogen, on the contrary, was incapable of supporting either animal life or flame. An unnatural excess of oxygen would result, it had been ascertained, in just such an elevation of the animal spirits as we had latterly experienced. It was the pursuit, the extension of the idea, which had engendered awe. What would be the result of a total extraction of the nitrogen? A combustion irresistible, all-devouring, omni-prevalent, immediate; — the entire fulfillment, in all their minute and terrible details, of the fiery and horror-inspiring denunciations of the prophecies of the Holy Book.

Why need I paint, Charmion, the now disenchained frenzy of mankind? That tenuity in the comet which had previously inspired us with hope, was now the source of the bitterness of despair. In its impalpable gaseous character we clearly perceived the consummation of Fate. Meantime a day again passed — bearing away with it the last shadow of Hope. We gasped in the rapid modification of the air. The red blood bounded tumultuously through its strict channels. A furious delirium possessed all men; and, with arms rigidly outstretched towards the threatening heavens, they trembled and shrieked aloud. But the nucleus of the destroyer was now upon us; — even here in Aidenn, I shudder while I speak. Let me be brief — brief as the ruin that overwhelmed. For a moment there was a wild lurid light alone, visiting and penetrating all things. Then — let us bow down, Charmion, before the excessive majesty of the great God! — then, there came a shouting and pervading sound, as if from the mouth itself of Him; while the whole incumbent mass of ether in which we existed, burst at once into a species of intense flame, for whose surpassing brilliancy and all-fervid heat even the angels in the high Heaven of pure knowledge have no name. Thus ended all.

Which deserves to win?  The sublime poetry of Byron? Or the hypnotizing prose of Poe?

The March Madness committee fears a riot—whoever wins, both sides loyal and passionate, as one might expect of those souls who gather beneath the banner, Byron, or the banner, Poe.

But the crowd is calmer than expected. Deadly quiet, even.

And with a whisper comes the result: “The winner is the poet, Lord Byron!”

~~~~~~~

And the final First Round contest in the Romantic Bracket—Cornelius Matthews versus Lord Tennyson!!

Everyone knows this by Tennyson. His sublime poem, The Splendor Falls, quoted in its entirety:

The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
.
O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowng!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
.
O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

This may be the most iconic poem ever.

Marla Muse: It makes me want to faint!

Oh, Marla, people love to catch you when you fall!

Marla Muse: I know! (laughter)

Cornelius Matthews wrote a 34 stanza poem called “Wakondah,” from which has been selected one beautiful line, selected once, for praise, by Poe, in a review in which he otherwise mocked the work.

And then we find in a letter from Poe to Matthews—where Poe asks Matthews for R.H. Horne’s address—that Poe, in his review of “Wakondah,” was only kidding, and has since become terribly ashamed, and sorry.

Ah, Letters!

The line is:

Green dells that into silence stretch away

Magnificent!

It will be amazing to see if a single line of sublimity can beat Tennyson.

But first we must attend to Marla Muse.

She has fainted.

2016 SCARRIET MARCH MADNESS!! BEST CONTEMPORARY LINES OF POETRY COMPETE!!!

Scarriet: You know the rules, don’t you?

Marla Muse: Rules?

Scarriet: The March Madness rules.

Marla: Of course!  A sudden death playoff within four brackets. The winner of each bracket makes it to the Final Four, and then a champ is crowned!

Scarriet: We have 64 living poets, represented by their best lines of poetry—and these lines will compete for the top prize.

Marla: Exciting! To be sad, to be happy, or intrigued, or fall into a reverie—from a single line!  Only the best poets can do that to you!  Are all of these exceptional poets?

Scarriet: Of course they are.  The New Wave of Calcutta poetry is represented; poets who have won prizes recently; poets published in the latest BAP; some fugitive poets; and we’ve included a few older lines from well-known poets to populate the top seeds, for a little historical perspective.

Marla: A famous line of poetry!  It seems impossible to do these days.

Scarriet: There are more poets today. And no one is really famous. Some say there are too many poets.

Marla: Marjorie Perloff!

Scarriet: Maybe she’s right.

Marla: Enough of this. Let’s see the brackets!  The poets!  The lines!

Scarriet: Here they are:

 

NORTH BRACKET

Donald Hall–To grow old is to lose everything.

Jorie Graham–A rooster crows all day from mist outside the walls.

Mary Oliver–You do not have to be good.

Anne Carsondon’t keep saying you don’t hear it too.

Robert Haas–So the first dignity, it turns out, is to get the spelling right.

Maura Stanton–Who made me feel by feeling nothing.

Sean O’Brien–‘People’ tell us nowadays these views are terribly unfair, but these forgiving ‘people’ aren’t the ‘people’ who were there.

Warsan Shire–I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes—on my face they are still together.

Ben Mazer–All is urgent, just because it gives, and in the mirror, life to life life gives.

Melissa Green–They’ve mown the summer meadow.

Peter Gizzi–No it isn’t amazing, no none of that.

Traci Brimhall–I broke a shell to keep it from crying out for the sea.

Molly Brodak–boundlessness secretly exists, I hear.

Charles Hayes–Her sweaty driver knows his load is fair.

Jeet Thayil–There are no accidents. There is only God.

Jennifer Moxley–How lovely it is not to go. To suddenly take ill.

 

WEST BRACKET

Louise Gluck–The night so eager to accommodate strange perceptions.

A.E. Stallings–The woes were words, and the only thing left was quiet.

Patricia Lockwood–How will Over Niagara Falls In A Barrel marry Across Niagara Falls On A Tightrope?

Kevin Young–I want to be doused in cheese and fried.

Ross Gay–One never knows does one how one comes to be.

Andrew Kozma–What lies we tell. I love the living, and you, the dead.

Denise Duhamel–it’s easy to feel unbeautiful when you have unmet desires

Sarah Howe–the razory arms of a juniper rattling crazily at the edge of that endless reddening haze.

Emily Kendal Frey–How can you love people without them feeling accused?

Cristina Sánchez López–Have you heard strings? They seem like hearts that don’t want to forget themselves.

Natalie Scenters-Zapico–apartments that feel like they are by the sea, but out the window there is only freeway

Donna Masini–Even sex is no exit. Ah, you exist.

Meredith Haseman–The female cuckoo bird does not settle down with a mate. Now we make her come out of a clock.

Candace G. Wiley–My dear black Barbie, maybe you needed a grandma to tell you things are better than they used to be.

Ada Limón–just clouds—disorderly, and marvelous and ours.

Mary Angela Douglas–The larks cry out and not with music.

 

EAST BRACKET

Marilyn Hacker–You happened to me.

Charles Simic–I could have run into the streets naked, confident anyone I met would understand.

Laura Kasischke–but this time I was beside you…I was there.

Michael Tyrell–how much beauty comes from never saying no?

Susan Terris–Cut corners   fit in   marry someone.

Chana Bloch–the potter may have broken the cup just so he could mend it.

Raphael Rubinstein–Every poet thinks about every line being read by someone else.

Willie Perdomo–I go up in smoke and come down in a nod.

Tim Seibles–That instant when eyes meet and slide away—even love blinks, looks off like a stranger.

Lori Desrosiers–I wish you were just you in my dreams.

Philip Nikolayev–I wept like a whale. You had changed my chemical composition forever.

Stephen Sturgeon–City buses are crashing and I can’t hear Murray Perahia.

Joie Bose–Isn’t that love even if it answers not to the heart or heat but to the moment, to make it complete?

Kushal Poddar–Your fingers are alight. Their blazing forest burns towards me.

Marilyn Chin–It’s not that you are rare, nor are you extraordinary, O lone wren sobbing on the bodhi tree.

Stephen Cole–Where every thing hangs on the possibility of understanding and time, thin as shadows, arrives before your coming.

 

 

SOUTH BRACKET

W.S. Merwin–you know there was never a name for that color

Richard Wilbur–not vague, not lonely, not governed by me only

Terrance Hayes–Let us imagine the servant ordered down on all fours.

Claudia Rankine–How difficult is it for one body to see injustice wheeled at another?

Richard Blanco–One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes tired from work.

Brenda Hillman–Talking flames get rid of hell.

Les Murray–Everything except language knows the meaning of existence.

Susan Wood–The simple fact is very plain. They want the bitterness to remain.

Lawrence Raab–nothing truly seen until later.

Joe Green–I’m tired. Don’t even ask me about the gods.

Lynn Hejinian–You spill the sugar when you lift the spoon.

Connie Voisine–The oleanders are blooming and heavy with hummingbirds

Rowan Ricardo Phillips–It does not not get you quite wrong.

Chumki Sharma–After every rain I leave the place for something called home.

Nalini Priyadarshni–Denial won’t redeem you or make you less vulnerable. My unwavering love just may.

Julie Carr–Either I loved myself or I loved you.

 

 

 

 

 

THE WEST, THE WEST…JOHNNY DRYDEN V. DYLAN THOMAS, AND YEATS BATTLES TENNYSON

A funny thing happens when poems gather for battle: the superficial aspects of song take on a new prominence; the mind cannot take in all the “nuances” of “poetry,” and so, as poems eager for a crown press upon us in the public tumult, where emotional cries punctuate the slopes of ideas, the surface-joys of music become our pleasure, almost as if we were at home with a phonograph, or at a rowdy concert, letting our minds go…

Oh if you can just get past JohnJohnny” Dryden’s “Nature underneath a heap/Of jarring atoms lay,/And could not heave her head,” knowing Nature cannot heave her head because the world has not yet arisen, and all the pre-world atoms are still in chaos…if you can not worry this idea too much, musically you’ll be better off…

To hell with Ezra Pound, already, and his grumbly precepts against the full-on joys of music.

Dryden’s “Song for St. Cecilia’s Day” tickles our senses like a brass band:

From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began:
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
“Arise, ye more than dead!”
Then cold and hot, and moist and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
And Music’s power obey.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.

What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
When Jubal struck the chorded shell
His listening brethren stood around,
And, wondering, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound.
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?

The trumpet’s loud clangour
Excites us to arms,
With shrill notes of anger
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thundering drum
Cries “Hark! the foes come;
Charge, charge, ’tis too late to retreat!”

The soft complaining flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.

Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains, and height of passion
For the fair disdainful dame.

But oh! what art can teach,
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ’s praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their heavenly ways
To mend the choirs above.

Orpheus could lead the savage race,
And trees uprooted left their place
Sequacious of the lyre:
But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher:
When to her Organ vocal breath was given
An Angel heard, and straight appeared –
Mistaking Earth for Heaven.

As from the power of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great creator’s praise
To all the blessed above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky.

Ta Da!!

Of course there is a philosophy here, but it’s such a deep one, it’s shallow: music is the cause and effect of both the world, and the world beyond.  Who cannot groove to this?  “More than dead” is how Dryden describes the cold universe before the world was made, and up the world arises—sweeter and more miraculous than any zombie movie.  Can you dig it, baby?

Dylan Thomas, the favored seed in this Western Bracket contest with Dryden, presents what has to be experienced by the crowd in the Scarriet Madness arena as music, and it creeps upon us with the same magic in the same manner that Mr. Dryden’s did:

AND DEATH SHALL HAVE NO DOMINION

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Dylan Thomas was a glorious, and yet a lazy, sloppy poet—he found gold with

Though lovers be lost love shall not
And Death shall have no dominion.

But we wish he had worked on “Dominion” more—even made more stanzas, because the template is so admirable; look how the third and final stanza droops with vague talk of “gulls” and “daisies”—to finish a magnificent poem so poorly!  What was Dylan thinking?  Speak the first two stanzas aloud to yourself and it will bring tears, and then stumble over the third, ruining the climax…”No more gulls cry at their ears”???

Let’s move quickly to the second contest, Marla Muse, recovered from your fainting spell…

Marla Muse (a little wearily): Thank you, Tom.

You’re welcome, Marla.  I like your green dress.

William Butler Yeats is a poet the Official modernists do not know what to do with, because Yeats—does not rhyme with Keats—sang like the Old Romantics, or at least, superficially, he did…if you really listen, Yeats is close to a doggerelist when compared to Shelley and Keats…but then analysis of any kind is barred when it comes to authors like Yeats, covered as they are with the whole Irish thing, exploited by every hypocrite that leaves his native land to make it big in London.  One simply can’t be reasonable, honest, or discerning inside that green, blathering cloud.

But this poem of Yeats’ is uncannily beautiful—everything seems right.  It probably is Yeats’ best poem, even though it lacks a lot of the fussy symbolism and foreboding pomposity of his ‘major’ poems, and it merely copies Wordsworth.  But who cares?  To read this poem is to fall under a sweet and delicate spell, each and every time.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavement grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

There is something about the confidence of that first line: “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,” which lures one in…

And Yeats’ opponent today—Tennyson!!   Once that name—Tennyson—was equated with poetry itselfBut like Longfellow, hairy, tobacco-stained, Tennyson doesn’t thrive in post-modernity’s placid, plastic glare. Lord Tennyson, reputed as that stuffy, imperialist, Victorian, Englishman, falters, fades in the gloaming by the moat…  The memory of Lord Alfred Tennyson in poetic circles seems to moulder even as the memory of William Butler Yeats, the Irish mystic, flies on, steadily…

But now the music begins, the music arrives in the dark of our subjectivity…  Listen!  Here is the song that surely made young Emily Dickinson fear for her soul…but it freed her, for what self-pity was allowed her, the poor recluse, after this!

MARIANA—Tennyson

WITH blackest moss the flower-pots
    Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
    That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look’d sad and strange:
    Unlifted was the clinking latch;
    Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
        She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
            He cometh not,’ she said;
        She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
            I would that I were dead!’

Her tears fell with the dews at even;
    Her tears fell ere the dews were dried;
She could not look on the sweet heaven,
    Either at morn or eventide.
After the flitting of the bats,
    When thickest dark did trance the sky,
    She drew her casement-curtain by,
And glanced athwart the glooming flats.
        She only said, ‘The night is dreary,
            He cometh not,’ she said;
        She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
            I would that I were dead!’

Upon the middle of the night,
    Waking she heard the night-fowl crow:
The cock sung out an hour ere light:
    From the dark fen the oxen’s low
Came to her: without hope of change,
    In sleep she seem’d to walk forlorn,
    Till cold winds woke the gray-eyed morn
About the lonely moated grange.
        She only said, ‘The day is dreary,
            He cometh not,’ she said;
        She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
            I would that I were dead!’

About a stone-cast from the wall
    A sluice with blacken’d waters slept,
And o’er it many, round and small,
    The cluster’d marish-mosses crept.
Hard by a poplar shook alway,
    All silver-green with gnarled bark:
    For leagues no other tree did mark
The level waste, the rounding gray.
        She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
            He cometh not,’ she said;
        She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
            I would that I were dead!’

And ever when the moon was low,
    And the shrill winds were up and away,
In the white curtain, to and fro,
    She saw the gusty shadow sway.
But when the moon was very low,
    And wild winds bound within their cell,
    The shadow of the poplar fell
Upon her bed, across her brow.
        She only said, ‘The night is dreary,
            He cometh not,’ she said;
        She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
            I would that I were dead!’

All day within the dreamy house,
    The doors upon their hinges creak’d;
The blue fly sung in the pane; the mouse
    Behind the mouldering wainscot shriek’d,
Or from the crevice peer’d about.
    Old faces glimmer’d thro’ the doors,
    Old footsteps trod the upper floors,
Old voices call’d her from without.
        She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
            He cometh not,’ she said;
        She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,’
            I would that I were dead!’

The sparrow’s chirrup on the roof,
    The slow clock ticking, and the sound
Which to the wooing wind aloof
    The poplar made, did all confound
Her sense; but most she loathed the hour
    When the thick-moted sunbeam lay
    Athwart the chambers, and the day
Was sloping toward his western bower.
        Then, said she, ‘I am very dreary,
            He will not come,’ she said;
        She wept, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
            O God, that I were dead!’

This poem, with its never-ending, melancholy gloom, reaches a peak of that kind of sad expression which seems fantastical, in the way Tennyson expresses it, but which actually is ordinary and wraps itself around us all.

“Mariana” had to be written, so that Victorianism could end, and Modernism could begin. Tennyson brought us to the top of the old heights, so the new low ground could be made ready.

But will such music ever end?

Who prevails, in the end, in the very end, the Yeats, or the Tennyson?

In our action today, we see Dryden triumph over Thomas, 72-69.

And here, in the corner of the stadium, Tennyson weeps, for by a score of 80-79, Yeats has won.

BOY V. PROF! SHELLEY AND MATTHEW ARNOLD CLASH IN THE WEST!

We all know “The Cloud” by Shelley, and “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold are classics.

Both poems seek a redemptive consistency amidst change and fear, and it would be safe to say this is the chief role of religion, and once, the chief role of poetry.

Shelley’s poem is remarkable for its sound—no contemporary poet can match Shelley’s music without crashing and burning in sounding like Dr. Seuss.  Faith in this kind of poetry is necessary to persist in the beauty which can result—but more than beauty: the atomism of Shelley’s poem, its glittering movement, replicates the tumbling, mutating cloud-theme itself.

THE CLOUD

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

I sift the snow on the mountains below,
And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night ’tis my pillow white,
While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
Lightning my pilot sits;
In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,
Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,
As still as a brooding dove.

That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone,
And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-coloured bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

How different is the Arnold poem, as it drags in sentiment and commentary, Arnold, the school teacher making assumptions about figures from the past, Arnold, the pacifist making statements against war, Arnold, the over-educated Victorian as rotting Romanticism, but with the torch still burning!

Shelley’s poem contains no human sentiment—it is not, actually, “Romantic,” but the voice of pure existence; if the God of tremulous existence could speak, Shelley would be the mouthpiece.  Romanticism is the highest concentration of human passion in art—artless human passion is legion, but the artful part belongs to the great Romantics like Shelley, and “The Cloud” is merely the result of the highest human passion inscribed artfully naturally evolving into the god-like with its purest manifestation in the sound-sense of highly skilled poetry.

Arnold’s poem begins divinely, and competes with Shelley’s genius, even surpasses it, in the opening music of that remarkable first stanza, but then it falls to human bathos, the human sentiment of pedantry and self-pity, but since Arnold is alive to the Romantic tradition we hardly notice the worm invading the corn. 

Historically, in the movement from Romanticsm to Modernism, the physics of “The Cloud” ends with Arnold’s lament that behind Shelley’s materiality is emptiness, but this is because Arnold the critic did not take Shelley to heart and chose instead to elevate Wordsworth as the Great Romantic. 

“Ah love, let us be true to one another” is a bracing sentiment in the face of Arnold’s universal despair, but this temptation needs to be resisted—we mean giving into Arnold’s despair, because if love is brought in as a last-minute rescue, as a sentiment that is the only good thing, it ends up detaching love from the universe itself—it finally gives into smallness and fear, not to mention pedantry.  Shelley’s materiality is more than that, since the poet is the god, the creative impulse is what matters, not Arnold’s subjective and highly seductive wailing.

DOVER BEACH

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Agaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

The great seduction is: “ignorant armies,” because the reader, of course, pats himself on the back with Arnold…at least I’m not ignorant and war-like, as I survey with Arnold this woeful world.  

Matthew Arnold was, in fact, one of the figures T.S. Eliot, and other modernists, hitched a ride on, in order to ultimately give into self-pity and denigrate the glorious likes of Shelley.  It is against the rules of Scarriet March Madness to quote another poem by a contestant during a match, but Shelley’s “Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples,” which resembles “Dover Beach,” has none of the latter’s over-educated justification of acute misery. 

O, violent, brawling game!

Fights are breaking out in the stands!

The game is delayed five times to clear the court!

The refs seem to want to give the game to Arnold….

Triple Overtime!

Shelley 101, Arnold 100!!!!

Marla Muse has fainted!!!!!

INTERLUDE PRIOR TO SWEET SIXTEEN PLAY

Soft thy lips, softer than the grass;
Kiss me softly and let the hours pass.
Love belongs to vows and promises, alas,
But thy kisses are greater, by far
Than love giving speeches to a star;
Thy kisses are greater than love and its throngs,
Greater than towers, circuses and songs.
Give me your lips again—I am never done!
God Himself must go when your kisses come.

—Marla Muse

BLAH BLAH BLAH: INTRODUCTIONS, BLURBS

Don’t we hate them?  Those introductions praising a poet before they go on?  Why do they have them?  They are stupid, and they seem more stupid the more clever they are.  They are not necessary.  Shut up.  I don’t care how many prizes this poet has won.  Let the poet get up on the podium and read their goddamn poems. Enough with this tradition already.  The oily professors and graduate students with their prefaced remarks for the visiting poet: look how clever I am!  Bet you didn’t know how many layers of meaning gleam in the title of our poet’s latest book!  Maybe I’ll get laid!  The poet doesn’t need an introduction.  Imagine how annoying it would be if you went to the theater, and before the play: “Before we begin, I’d like to make a few remarks about our playwright tonight.  William Shakespeare, as you all know…”  Save it.

And then blurbs.  Has there ever been a blurb which does not negate everything we mean when we utter the sacred word, poetry?  The blurb is like the Introduction, but a frozen version of it, a cold stain.  Shall we do away with blurbs forever?  Yes.  Just give me a plain book that says “Poems” on it, and, in smaller letters, the author’s name.   The blurb is a sugary humiliation, a confectionery wreck, a cotton candy tomb, a blah blah blah that chokes and humiliates.  Have we no shame?

Therefore, without introduction, we present the 2012 Scarriet March Madness EAST BRACKET!

EAST

1. John Ashbery
2. Seamus Heaney
3. Geoffrey Hill
4. Billy Collins
5. Jorie Graham
6. Robert Pinsky
7. Mary Oliver
8. James Tate
9. Paul Muldoon
10. Charles Simic
11. Charles Bernstein
12. Marie Howe
13. Carol Ann Duffy
14. Franz Wright
15. Carolyn Forche
16. Ben Mazer

Blurbless, sans introduction, these names stand before you.

These poets want to do one thing: Win.

They want to win, because the winner will spend an entire night with Marla Muse.

Marla Muse:  I beg your pardon?

Marla! You’re supposed to say, “And they will never forget it.”

Marla Muse:  I never agreed to do that!  And I don’t think it’s funny!

I was just kidding…in the name of poetry…these poets…don’t you think the winner…?  I wasn’t implying…

Marla Muse:  It’s not funny.

Sorry.  Well, they still want to win…

Marla Muse:  Of course they do.

And soon we’ll announce what poems the poets will be going with in the first round!

Marla Muse:  Stay tuned!

It’s so cute the way you say “Stay tuned…”

Marla Muse:  Thank you.

SCARRIET’S MARCH MADNESS 2012!

IT’S BAAAACKK!!!   SCARRIET’S MARCH MADNESS!!!

The Dove/Vendler clash last year shook all of poetry, and the blood lust to know which poems are best and what kind of poetry is best for society has grown to a fever pitch.  We’ve seen poets fighting poets, poets crowding before windows to glimpse the latest judgement on this issue. Like motorcycles, poets are everywhere!  And they’re noisier and more irrascible than ever!

Given the gravity of the accusations and counter-accusations that have ensued, we the Scarriet editors decided that the best way to settle the disputes was by honest, clean sport.

What the irascible editors and critics cannot resolve, basketball will untie.

If the professors cannot agree on the worthiness of these poems, we will help.  What we propose is nothing less than smashing each poem against a glass backboard and hurling it down the length of a parquet floor.  We can hear the objection: ‘But some poems are too delicate for such treatment.’  We beg to differ.  The poem’s EFFECT may be an evocation of delicacy, but no poem of worth is brought to fruition without bruises, sweat, surreptitious eye-gouging and dramatic faked falls in full view of a ref who is schooled in every genre and philosophical nuance of our time.

Shall the poems competing in March Madness come only from the Dove anthology?

Some will, but the tournament will feature contemporary poems from all over.

Our intrepid reporter, Marla Muse, will continue to bring you interviews and analysis all through March Madness.  She will put this whole Rita Dove/Helen Vendler controversy in perspective for you.  She will dig into the lives, and explore the playing ability, of the participating poets.

We will also use a slightly different format this year, based on feedback from our readers.   We will have 64 competing poets this year, rather than 64 competing poems, so different poems by the competing poets will be featured in each elimination round.

Stay tuned for the bracket listings!

THE MAURA STANTON INTERVIEW

RON SILLIMAN: CRITICAL COWARDICE.

The Veiled Lady

In the 19th Century, clever mediums
Would rap a table, making the dead speak.
Ghostly hands would hover in the air,
Heads would appear, Caesar, Napoleon.
Sometimes the whole immaterial body
Of someone’s beloved, dead daughter or sister
Glided through a room allowing swords
To pass though it. Once a husband rose
And tried to caress what was never there,
A veiled lady he thought was his wife,
While others in the room almost fainted
To see him step right through her crinoline.
D.D. Home could levitate out windows
And float above a busy London street.
Imagine sitting on the horsehair sofa
Almost hysterical, watching that miracle…
But it was done with thick plate glass and lights,
A conjurer’s trick, just like the accordion
Played by a ghost in front of Robert Browning
Who shuddered when a spirit hand reached out
And put a wreath of flowers on Elizabeth
Though afterwards he called it sham, imposture.
But that’s what I am, that’s what we all are
To one another, a trick of light and glass
Projected before an audience of dupes.
Don’t you see I’m only an illusion?
You look aghast. You think I’m cynical
But when you touch me in the dark at night
You touch biology, twitchings and snores,
Wetness, jerking muscles. Wild images
Flicker across my convoluted brain
As it constructs a person out of dreams.
That woman you say you love doesn’t exist.
Look at the way our faces have appeared
On the black glass of the picture window
Now that it’s evening, and the lights are on.
There she is, standing beside you, smiling.
Go to her. Embrace her if you can.

Maura Stanton

Now let’s go down to the floor where Marla Muse is with Maura Stanton, who is one of Scarriet’s Elite Eight, Marla?

Marla Muse (MM): Thanks, Tom. Maura, congratulations on your entry into the Elite Eight, how’s it feel?

Maura Stanton (MS): It feels great, Marla.

MM: Thanks for taking time out to talk with me, I know you’re here today at Walt Whitman Stadium to practice free-verse throws for your upcoming match to gain entry into the Scarriet Final Four.

MS: It’s no problem, I needed a break anyway.

MM: Maura, you’ve earned the nickname “The Veiled Lady” for your elusiveness and stealth out on the floor. And you have managed to conjure up almost out of thin air one of the most illustrious squads this game has ever seen. How did you attract such stellar talent?

MS: Well Marla, management has been very supportive, and we were very blessed in the draft last year.

MM: Blessed, I love it! Luck had nothing to do with it?

MS: That one’s above my pay grade, Marla.

MM: Maura, speaking of luck, you have a player who once extolled the value of luck in his generals, I’m speaking of course of Napoleon himself.

MS: Nappy is one of our starters, we get him out there at the beginning to spook the opposition.

MM: Alongside Caesar.

MS: Yes, Cheezer and Nap work wonders together, which is amazing when you consider the egos at play there.

MM: Absolutely, but I notice you don’t keep them in long.

MS: That’s correct, we put them in for the first few minutes of play, let them run up the score, then cut them loose for the night.

MM: To conquer new worlds! And yet even after they’ve left, their presence somehow lingers on throughout the game.

MS: Oh yes.

MM: Maura, your offense of course has reminded many of legendary coach William Lindsay Gresham’s famous squad from the 1940s, I’m speaking of course of the famous “Nightmare Alley.”

MS: It’s an honor to be compared with them.

MM: And of course for one season Gresham’s team featured the great Tyrone Power, and many said his best work was done during his time with the “Nightmare Alley” squad.

MS: Power never phoned it in, and he dug deep during his time in the “Alley.”

MM: Maura, this spiritualism stuff, we all know it’s fake, know we’re being manipulated, but yet we’re also susceptible. Why is that?

MS: Well Marla—

MM: Could it be because humans already believe so many things that are so patently absurd?

MS: Well Marla, I—

MM: And I don’t just mean the theists and polytheists among us, I mean the deists and atheists as well. Perhaps the irrational part of the mind can only be tempered by beliefs that are irrational?

MS: Well Marla—

MM: Or is it that humans have such a powerful need to communicate with the departed, to apologize for past sins, to correct the uncorrectable?

MS: (silent)

MM: Maura, I’m very interested in how you relate our susceptibility to spiritualist claims to our need for illusion in the realms of sex and romance. Because the need for illusion in those realms is so necessary, isn’t it?

MS: I believe it is.

MM: Especially for men, I think, since I have long noted that a man’s imaginative powers are crucial to his attaining potency, especially after a certain age.

MS: And what age would that be?

MM: Oh you kid! Twelve! But seriously, Maura, I think one of the reasons Viagra is so necessary in our time is because modern man’s imagination has become so, if you pardon the term, shriveled up.

MS: Hmm.

MM: I read The Atlantic, I read the stories of couples who make over 150K a year, yet the husband hasn’t gotten an erection with his wife in over a decade.

MS : Trouble in paradise?

MM: Well put!

MS: Although I suspect husbands have always had trouble with sexual performance with only one woman over decades.

MM:The Coolidge Effect!

MS: Quite so. Even the most ancient stories tell of men who needed concubines and multiple wives to retain potency, so I don’t think it’s just a modern phenomenon.

MM: Maura, if the object of desire is just “biology, twitchings and snores,/wetness, jerking muscles”, i.e., a bare, forked creature, then how can she arouse desire in the lover?

MS: She acts upon and stimulates the imagination of the lover. It’s all in the lover’s imagination.

MM: Yes, as you say, “That woman you say you love doesn’t exist.” And yet she does—

MS: She does exist, but not as the lover perceives.

MM: I remember a woman once explaining why she loved a man, and she said, “He saw the me I didn’t.”

MS: That’s wonderful.

MM: Isn’t it?  The lover can see the beloved as she never saw herself… Maura, I am so impressed with how your star center D.D. “Double D” Home and your power forward Bobby “BB Gun” Browning have managed to bury the hatchet to get to the Elite Eight, and possibly the Final Four.

MS: Well, the will to win makes strange bedfellows, and don’t forget that both of the Brownings appear in my poem. Without them, the team wouldn’t be where it is today. You see, Marla, poets must rely on other poets; it’s not like owners of hotdog stands, who can just go it alone. When she was Elizabeth Barrett, in her rookie year, she and Edgar Poe wrote to each other, a trans-Atlantic flirtation; Poe dedicated his 1845 Poems to her—but that was the year Robert came into her life.

MM: I like when you say Robert and Elizabeth “appear” in your poem.  Whatever “appears” must also “vanish”…

MS: I hadn’t thought of that…  Nice, Marla.

MM: Had you thought of including Yeats in your poem?  He was really into the occult.

MS: I had thought of Yeats, and he was a free agent available for the season, but the Brownings were more of what I was looking for. Seances were so big in the Victorian era. Yeats is either thought of as a Modern or a late Romantic.

MM: But Yeats was a Victorian in so many ways. It’s just that the Modernists were horrified at being called Victorians…OK, let’s go now to a commercial, for the Antiques Roadshow!

MARLA MUSE INTERVIEWS CAROLYN CREEDON

MM: Carolyn Creedon!  One more win and you’re going to the Final Four!

CC: Wow.

MM: Think about that for a moment. You’re more or less an unknown poet, but you’ve shot, passed, and rebounded yourself into a position to win the Scarriet APR 2011 Title.

CC: I’m honored.

MM: Look at the poets in this tournament: Larkin, Olds, Ashbery, Hall, O’Hara, Lowell, Justice, Bly, Ginsberg, Plath, Sexton, Heaney…

CC: It blows my mind.

MM: No one knows who you are. Would you like to talk a little about your poetry career?

CC: I guess so.

MM: We can talk about Oprah memories we’ll never forget, if you like.

CC:  The cars. When she gave away the cars.

MM: I was kidding.

CC: I know.

MM: Are you nervous?

CC: You seem nervous.

MM: Scarriet is a nervous place.  But a good Muse is always a little edgy.

CC: I like to be calm when I write.

MM: Inspiration requires a certain shudder, even if it’s small, a nervous energy. I inspire. I’m a muse.  Marla Muse.

CC: The tiny hairs might move.

MM: Yes!

CC: Great!

MM: Let’s talk about ‘Litany,’ a poem I love, by the way.  Was his name really Tom?

CC:  No.  But I always liked the name.

MM:  If all poems were as good as ‘Litany,’ poetry would be popular again.

CC:  You flatter me!

MM: No, I’m serious.  But too many others want to publish inferior poetry.

CC: But I love other poets and other poems.

MM: Of course you do!  Carolyn Creedon, I have a feeling you’re going all the way!  Good luck!

CC: Thank you.

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!

MORE APR POETS CRASH AND BURN AS MARCH MADNESS APPROACHES

They’re falling like flies.

Here are the poets eliminated so far:

Ai, Alvarez, Angel, Asekoff, Bell, Berrigan, Berryman, Boland, Booth, Braun, Broumas, Buckley, Burkard, Ceravolo, Clark, Clifton, Curbleo, Dickey, Dove, Early, Eberhart, Emanuel, Forche, Gibbons, J.Gilbert, Gluck, Goodman, Graham, Herrera, Hillman, Hirsch, Hirshfield, Hoagland, Hogan, Hollander, Howard, S.Howe, Jeffers, Keelan, Kinnell, E.Knight, Koch, Kumin, Lauterbach, Lederer, Lee, Levertov, P.Levine, Lieberman, Lima, J.Logan, Lux, Major, Marks, McGrath, Mead, Medina, Meredith, Merwin, Miller, H. Moss, S.Moss, Olson, Oppen, Orr, Osbey, Pecor, Pereira, Plumly, Rakosi, Rawson, Rector, Revell, Rexroth, Rich, Roberts, St. John, Sadoff, J.Sandburg, Schwerner, Seidel, Seidman, Sexton, D.Shapiro, K.Shapiro, Simic, Simpson, D.Smith, Snodgrass, G.Snyder, J.Snyder, Stafford, Stern, Stewart, Stone, Stroffolino, Stryk, Swenson, Valentine, Walcott, Waldman, Warsh, Weigl, R.Weiss, T.Weiss, Wenderoth, Wilbur, C.K.Williams, C.Wright, Yau, Zweig.

There are some poets…when you put them on the court…BAM!…they perform…they rise to the occasion…they impress the crowd…they leave the audience with something…they have that ‘poetic gift’ which is always at their disposal no matter what they happen to be doing… and it doesn’t matter how many people are watching and how close, or tense the game is…they never lose the touch on their soft shot…or lose accuracy…or lose concentration..it can’t be explained..some have it.

Other poets, the ones eliminated here, in isolated instances, with valiant effort and pre-meditation, accomplish something wonderful, but they have bad nights, bad days, they express things that resonate in themselves but not with others, not with the crowd.  (Listen to that crowd, poets!  They sound like the sea.  Smell them.  The salt of their sweat.  Hear them.  Their cries.  Their urgencies.  They move the air; they say: Make us feel.  Make us understand.  Write for us, the world, not your own idea, wrapped, warming beneath a lamp, in a dim alley of your brain. Not in there.  We are here.  Here we are!)

But the losers do not move the crowd.

The losers wrote (occasionally it might seem like there’s a typo which mars the text below—but that’s how it is with bad poetry—no typos in the following; what appears is the poets’ actual text):

We say a heart breaks—like
a stick, maybe, or a bottle
or a wave.  But it seems

Or:

Sat., Apr. 26, 1973
Jefferson City, Mo. 65101
(500 yards, as the crow flies,

Or:

Almost at the end of the century
this is the time of the pain of the bears
their agony goes on at this moment

Or:

Reading I spilled the wine.
Do you care? Are you wet? Do you care?
In a later epistle, hands dry, I will say

Or:

After seven years and as the wine
leaves and black trunks of maples wait
beyond the window, I think of you

Or:

To survive things have to be blunted,
Raw experience is too fierce to endure.
The mind blots out much of experience

Or:

The way things move sometimes,
light or air,
the distance between

Or:

where the raven suddenly wetly and rawly
roughens the low vacillations of various windsweeping
hushings—as if he’s clawed

Or:

When the immutable accidents of birth—
parentage, hometown, all the rest—
no longer anchor this fiction of the self

Or:

She saying, You don’t have to do anything,
you don’t even have to be, you Only who you are,
you nobody from nowhere,

Or:

The universe is sad.
I heard it when Artur Rubenstein played the piano.
He was a little man with small hands.

Or:

I look out the window: spring is coming.
I look out the window: spring is here.
The shuffle and click of the slide projector

Or:

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.

The percentage of women in this APR collection, and reflecting in the March Madness Tournament is not sizable: it’s roughly 25%, which will not make a lot of people happy, right, Marla?

MARLA MUSE: No.

The gender issue will always partake of the particle/wave paradox:  All the individual can ever say is that he will not reject women who are good.  As an individual, he cannot say: I will accept women who are bad and I will reject men who are good.

Aesthetics and justice are unfortunately oil and water.

If the relations between the sexes are ruled by the wicked heart, it would not be wise to then let the judgment be swayed by the heart in other matters.

Contrarily, if the heart, which makes men and women behave as they do towards each other, is good and operates in a way that passeth understanding, in that case the judgment needs to defer to that heart.

In either case, the judgment should not presume to get involved legislating the heart in any controversy between the sexes—regarding poetry.

This, I believe, is as much as can be said philosophically on the subject.  Marla?

MARLA MUSEI don’t like what you say, but I think you have a good heart and (sob!) I am in love with you, Tom, …don’t worry folks, I’m fine!….so I will carry on the best I can in these circumstances, won’t I? 

Good!  I vow I will not take advantage of your feelings when I speak again on the subject.  And I’m sure you’ll have more to say as Scarriet Poetry March Madness continues!

MARLA MUSE: I’m sure I will!

OH! AND THAT SHOT MISSED BY A MILE…!

I’m here at courtside with Marla Muse as we watch another poet shooting all wrong, trying to get into this March Madness tourney…

Marla—oh! two players tangled up…one fell on top of the other hard at midcourt…that had to hurt…Marla, what seems to be wrong with Michael Burkard…

MARLA MUSE:  Oh, I don’t know.  He graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1973.  I suspect drugs, booze…  Can you imagine getting a creative writing degree at Iowa in 1973?  Happy hour?  Dime beers?  The 60s were still happening in 1973!  Nixon is still in office.  Can you imagine…the Iowa Writer’s Workshop?  When “Nights In White Satin” was on the radio?  I don’t think Michael Burkard has anything left.  He’s terrible.  He’ll never make the tournament.  The APR gave him 9 poems in this anthology—more than almost any of the 180 poets represented, but he’s awful.  Look:

Wait, Marla, are you going to quote the whole poem?

MARLA MUSE:   I have to.  They have to see…how bad this poem is…they won’t believe it otherwise…I have to quote the whole thing…they’re all this bad, too…every poem he’s ever written…they’re all this bad…it’s hard to believe…but you know, when you’re smoking all that dope…

Yea, it must have been a strange life…teaching at Sarah Lawrence in the 80s…I wonder if anyone ever told him his poetry sucked…or maybe that wasn’t cool back, then…in the 80s…you just didn’t do that…or bad was good, or something…

MARLA MUSE:  Yes, that could have been it…bad was good…it was the 80s…poetry was adrift…Lehman’s  BAP came along at the end of the 80s…there was no direction in poetry…the first writing workshop generation was getting old and putting together their Complete and their Selected…the next generation of workshoppers were following, directionless, in a cloud of pot smoke…they were strange times…I remember the fall of the Roman Empire…no, but even this doesn’t compare…OK, let me read this poem…just imagine it emerging from a giant cloud of weed…what else can explain its badness?  OK, here goes:

[I Have A Silence In The Rain]

I have a silence in the rain
and I have my horses.
I have my shoes and I have my name,

the beginning of the street
and the street downtown, between the canyons,
and the trees which shine my shoes.

I have a silence and an end,
an end which is not critical,
not the weight. The houses bloom

and they’ve never been mine,
but there were beings in the rooms,
there were souls to each of the houses,

each of the rooms,
and this extended to the prison of the city
and the prison of the sea, the towns

there, by that sea, and that end
which was narrow
and by itself.  It was so much itself—

that end—
that I was uneasy there, a facade
it seemed, I had a reputation

for going nowhere.
I was always elsewhere
and that was why. I extended my weight

to my shoes and the few trees
and the horses—and the old closed motel
on the thing I called the bluff, the motel

closed for years, staring in the terribly pink sunset
with its pink vases
and pink doors. And the silence which stared.

The horses were below.
The horses were weight, in the evening
they shined too.

—Michael Burkard (1986)  from The Body Electric, America’s Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review

Wow.  Marla, I’m stunned.  That’s…that’s…bad.

MARLA MUSE: It’s safe to say this poet will not be joining the 64 in the March Madness tournament…but you know what that kind of poetry says…?  It says: man, I was enjoying life…I was getting high, I was teaching at Sarah Lawrence…everything I touched was profound…I didn’t even have to try…I’d just put on a wrinkled button-down shirt….and black jeans…and comfortable old brown shoes…and I had my Iowa MFA…and that’s all I needed…and I’d look out the window and scratch my head and THAT was cool…my very being WAS COOL…maybe today we can’t see it…but this kind of poetry should invoke a world of cool, relaxed, pleasure…campus breezes…campus sunsets…campus parties…

But here we are in the 21st century…March Madness…and it’s all different…March Madness, baby!

MARCH MADNESS: MORE DEATH AND DESTRUCTION!

march madness

The death of the poets continues as the 180 of The Body Electric APR anthology is reduced to the 64 of Scarriet’s Poetry March Madness Brackets.

We told you John Berryman was eliminated.  To see why, here’s the first stanza of “4th Weekend” reprinted from The Body Electric:

Recovering Henry levelled & confronted;
helpt Mary Lou, was helpt by Mary Lou;
accepted incest, etc.
Major his insights into other burns,
grand his endeavors on their sick behalf,
on the trip into sick himself

Do you see why Berryman won’t be in the tournament, Marla? 

Marla: Grrrr.

You can see this is just self-pitying, self-indulgent trash, can’t you?

Marla: mmmmm.

Thank you, Marla.

Who else has been elim-i-na-ted?

Ai

Through the hole in the hut’s wall,
I watch the old woman who put me up,
leaning against a wooden tub, elbow deep in wash water.
 

Julia Alvarez

He said in his mother’s house, growing up
he remembered roses, and his friend said
his mother could not abide print on her walls

Ralph Angel

Now that we’ve finally arrived here
you won’t let me hold you.
And were you stopped along the way by a reason to believe

L.S. Asekoff

Perhaps there has never before been such an open sea,
the malady of death & the long affair
in the absence of history

Marvin Bell

I wanted to see the self, so I looked at the mulberry.
It had no trouble accepting its limits,
yet defining and redefining a small area

Ted Berrigan

We remove a hand…
In a roomful of smoky man names burnished dull black
And labeled “blue” the din drifted in…

Eavan Boland

Life, the story goes,
Was the daughter of Cannan,
And came to the plan of Kildare.

Olga Broumas

I woke up in the dark
of a moon steamed against glass
black as if glazed with ebony

Can you see, Marla, how this writing isn’t going to win any prizes?

Poets are supposed to, at the least, write good lines.

Their lines are supposed to be more interesting than prose lines, than lines you would read in the beginning of a short story, or novel, because with a short story, or novel, you expect a story to unfold, so you don’t need every line to be wonderful; but with the poet, you do need every line to be wonderful, because otherwise, you might as well read a short story. 

Okay, so the first line is ordinary, but the poet can redeem himself with the second line that plays off the first line, to make an interesting pair, but with these excerpts above, this doesn’t happen; the lines themselves are not interesting, nor does the poet show any skill in using one line to sound interesting next to another, and by the third line, you can see that nothing at all interesting is happening.  (Not that we stopped reading after three lines with any of these poets and their poems in the APR’s The Body Electric.  We read them all.)

Die, poets!  In the sorrow and agony of your death, you become the dust in which the winners grow!  Climb winners, on the backs of the losers!  Some are born to sweet delight.  Some are born to endless night.

Marla: Aaaaaiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

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