WHAT IF MODERN POETRY IS JUST DR. SEUSS WITHOUT THE RHYME?

Theodor-Seuss-Geisel-Postage-Stamp

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
Because I really like myself!
And what I assume you shall assume,
Out-of-doors, or in this room!
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
You are good as I am good—and true as I am true!

I loafe and invite my soul,
Would youl like to share a bowl?
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
A little tiny spear, alas!

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their
parents the same, what do you think of that?
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin—thirty-seven? oh, drat!
Hoping to cease not till death.
When I’m forty, will I have sweet breath?

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Fruits and vegetables, get thee hence!
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
Oh, this paraticular fruit is rotten!
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Whether it be lark or buzzard,
Nature without check with original energy.
(And I’m not just talkng about having to pee!)

*

So much depends,
I told my friends,
On a wheel barrow that’s red
Or white chickens, instead!

*

Petals on a wet black bough
Seem to be faces in the Metro, now.

*

As I sd
to my friend, Fred,
because I am
always talking—Sam,

I sd, which was not
his name (he gets that a lot)—
the darkness sur-
rounds us, what for?

shall we buy
a goddamn big car
hey, or shall I—
or can we drive far?

drive, he sd, for
Christ’s sake look at yr
speedometer!
what u drivin that way for?

*

By the road to
the contagious hospital under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the northeast
—a cold wind.  Beyond, the waste
Of broad, muddy fields brown
with dried weeds, standing and fallen down

patches of standing water
the scatter—

ing of tall trees
All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves

I’m really bored,
Oh here’s a brown puddle we can ford—

under them leafless vines—Lifeless
in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-

They enter the new world
naked,cold,
uncertain of all
save that they enter.
All about them the cold, familiar

wind—Now the grass, tomor—
row the stiff curl
of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined—It quickens:  clar-
ity, outline of leaf

But now the stark
dignity of entrance–oh, now it’s dark!
Still, the profound change
has come upon them:  rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken—hurray!

*

I saw the best minds—OK, maybe not the best,
a pretty smart guy from Jersey, stoned, who moved out west,
was naked and hysterical, he had failed his driver’s test,
walking down a negro street at dawn
looking for a fix!  he was crazy, man, he was gone!
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry
dynamo
in a coffee shop in Soho
in the machinery of night
Poverty! And jazz! but their skin was mostly white!
I was crazy when I wrote that obscene ode,
but I dig William Blake and I know the guy who wrote On The Road!

ADIEU TO QUAINT MODERNISM

Name a Flower While You’re At It

show us your animal self in words
william carlos williams
show us the frustration and the sorrow and the anger
of the real man*
william carlos williams
the hunger the taking the eating
the enjoying the apology for
eating plums (cold)
william carlos williams
a novel in sixteen words
we can be done with it all
tomorrow at 6
i go to plum island
and leave this style
behind
forever

* William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883—March 4, 1963) b. Rutherford, New Jersey. Father, William George Williams, a cologne distributor, was English. Traveled with mother, living in Geneva and Paris. While at University of Pennsylvania began a lifelong friendship with Ezra Pound and met H.D. Became acquainted with circle of writers and artists including Wallace Stevens, Mina Loy, Marcel Duchamp, and Alfred Kreymborg, editor of Others, to which Williams contributed regularly; frequented Walter Arensberg’s salon and Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery.  Met Louis Zukovsky in 1928; Zukovsky included poems by Williams in February 1931 issue of Poetry devoted to “Objectivist” poets; Objectivist Press published Williams’ Collected Poems 1921-1931 (1934). Through Pound, met James Laughlin, publisher of New Directions, which published most of his subsequent books.  Suffered heart attack in 1948. Met and correpsonded with Robert Creeley and Allen Ginsberg.

THE SCIENTIFIC NATURE OF POETRY

The ex-block of marble

The debate as to whether poetry is scientific, or not, divides along these lines: Should science tell us what poetry is?  Or, does poetry itself have scientific attributes?

The latter position has, for the time being, won out, for academics have long since been invested in the importance of poetry; the task of education has long been to assume that poetry is beneficial and scholars, tasked by their educational research, breed further categories in self-sustaining, self-reflexive projects which fertilize education’s artistic role.  Of course poetry has scientific attributes.  It has no end of them, and if it lacks them itself, it easily absorbs the language of other university departments and grows into them—if not in substance, then in name.

Poetry is the scientist, and not the object on the scientific table; otherwise poetry might fall victim to a Platonist definition—a disparagement which would ultimately consign it to a sport, to an entertainment, to a game, or, even worse: an illusion, a waste, a vanity, a deception, an evil.

One can sense at a glance the gulf between these two views.

No matter how one happens to feel about these two views, the famous Platonist formula that art (a painting of a bed) is thrice removed from the truth, is a tough nut to crack.   Art is either imitation, or the vestiges of imitation (see abstract art).  As for poetry, Socrates puts it simply in The Republic, Book X:

Do not rely, I said, on a probability derived from the analogy of painting; but let us examine further and see whether the faculty with which poetical imitation is concerned is good or bad.

By all means.

We may state the question thus: Imitation imitates the actions of men, whether voluntary or involuntary, on which, as they imagine, a good or bad result has ensued, and they rejoice or sorrow accordingly. Is there anything more?

No, there is nothing else.

We like how Plato reduces poetry to “an imitation of the actions of men, voluntary or involuntary, on which, as they imagine, a good or bad result has ensued, and they rejoice or sorrow accordingly.”  If it is too simple, it gains a great deal from being true and simple, and giving the whole issue a great deal of healthy perspective, and forcing the hand of those who talk in great abstractions, leaving the human aspect behind.

The painful thing is, however, that once we accept one premise, Socrates has us beat, and as night follows the day, we are led down the path of declaring art too dangerous for society. Again, from Book X:

And the other principle, which inclines us to recollection of our troubles and to lamentation, and can never have enough of them, we may call irrational, useless, and cowardly?

Indeed, we may.

And does not the latter—I mean the rebellious principle—furnish a great variety of materials for imitation? Whereas the wise and calm temperament, being always nearly equable, is not easy to imitate or to appreciate when imitated, especially at a public festival when a promiscuous crowd is assembled in a theatre.

…And does not the same hold also of the ridiculous?  …and having stimulated the risible faculty at the theatre, you are betrayed unconsciously to yourself into playing the comic poet at home.  …And the same may be said of lust and anger…poetry feeds and waters the passions…

Now here we have to separate our modern indignation at Plato’s recrimination from the acknowledgement that Plato’s observations are true.  We may retort, ‘What’s wrong with lust and anger in art?”  But this does not disqualify the facts of Plato’s philosophy regarding the imitative properties of poetry.

To return to the question, Should science tell us what poetry is?

One of the knotty issues has always been the attempt to untangle form from content, or, failing that, to make half-hearted stabs at saying they are different—yet the same.  The knottiness of the issue tends to reflect badly on the ‘poetry-as-subject-of-scientific-investigation’ school, favoring the school of poetry-as-science, since mystery favors poetry as the inscrutable science over poetry as the object of scientific scrutiny.   In the spirit of the Platonist school, then, let us turn our full attention on the form/content problem, with the help of Plato’s Muse.

Let’s begin with the block of marble that becomes a statue. 

The form is a block which becomes the form of a statue.  This might be denoted as Being > Being Subtracted.

We could also see this as form = no form (the block) becoming form = form (the statue).    An opposite (form = no form) > The same (form = form)

The content is a block (of marble) which becomes the content of a statue.  This also might be denoted as Being > Being Subtracted.

We could also see this as content = no content (the block) becoming content = content (the statue).   An opposite (content = no content) > The same (content = content)

Form and Content BOTH exist in before/after states.

Form and Content do NOT exist as qualities, but as a process of a quality.

Since Form and Content equally involve the question of HOW the Block (Form and Content) becomes the Statue (Form and Content), the What (content)/How (form) duality is a FALSE ONE.

If we cannot adequately define form v. content, no statement involving them can be true; no formula which equates them, divides them, or defines them as related in any way, can be true.

Thus Robert Creeley’s formula—form is an extension of content—is bankrupt.

The transformative process of how a block becomes a statue is equal for form and content; hence it is wrong to say form is a “how” and content is a “what.”

Why should the skill of the sculptor be less significant than a mere theoretical hair-splitting between form versus content?  Clearly the opposite is the case.  How the sculptor effects the transformation is far more significant than the hair-splitting scenario.

Finally, the skill of the sculptor rests on imitation, for unless the viewer recognizes what the block becomes, how can we say skill exists at all?

Is poetry the same?  How does the analogy of ‘block transformed to statue’ work with the poem?  Is it the words the poet chooses which become ‘the statue?’  Yes.  And is language the ‘block of marble?’ How could it be otherwise?  What other ‘block,’ if not language, does the poet have?  The marble has certain properties and behaves a certain way when shaped.  So our language has grammatical, syntactical, and sound qualities particular to it, and behaves a certain way when shaped, as well.  And is it not the skill in shaping which is the real how that matters, not the mere hair-split of ‘form is how, content is what?’  Indeed.  And what of imitation? Is not this the chief concern?  Will the skill in shaping a poem be manifest if the reader fails to recognize the result? No, it will not.

This is not to say that novel and ideal considerations are left out, and cannot be created by the imitative process, but it goes without saying that the ideal, like imitation, is found in reality. For instance: the whole is made up of parts, the whole is itself counted among the parts—these sorts of things which are universal will sustain and inform the particular imitation, and so invention and orginality of course come into play.

Now that we have swept aside the whole form/content controversy, perhaps poetry can begin to be seen for what it is, and the scholars can begin to awake from their nightmares.

NO. 3 SEEDS CREELEY, O’HARA, BLY, AND HASS TAKE ON CONOLEY, MYLES, KNOTT AND CECIL

Gillian Conoley is scared.

In Scarriet’s Second Annual March Madness, with more viewers than ever, this young poet must take on an icon in the first round of play, a poet she greatly respects.  “Oh hell” was her response when she learned she had to play Creeley.

“No way.  Creeley? I love that guy.  I can’t play him!

Creeley’s poems are small, but he brings an army.

You bet she’s scared.

Here’s the Creeley APR poem that made it into the Scarriet March Madness Tourney:

Be Of Good Cheer

Go down obscurely,
seem to falter

as if walking into water
slowly. Be of good cheer

and go as if indifferent,
even if not.

There are those before you
they have told you.


Conoley
knows that every one of her words will seem excessive next to that masterpiece.  There’s a world in the simple “There are those before you/they have told you.

Is this poor woman going to be skinned alive?

Is this competition business too dangerous?  Should Conoley simply forfeit?

No.  She’s gonna play. She’s going to say creeley over and over again until the word becomes absurd, to bulk up her courage.

These are only words.  Nothing can hurt me.

Her poem:

Beckon

Dead cold spots in the air,
others bright and richly colored as opera,

my old dress is worn out,
torn up, dumped,

another thing the mad made.
Saddles laid out to dry,

vowels left up in the air as if something is better
left unsaid as if I could have.

And truth is music’s mute half,
a sentence broken into,

the half tone of a husband
waiting alone in a car,

so that only the sun warrants a red mane.
A figure passes quickly

in the ever-unquiet breath
of you, you, you and sometimes me.

The future made, an absolute night
troubled by how we will live up

to the day’s sequence of images in full sail,
as wind folds other things,

and ink branches and conceives.
Last night was floral,

a satin comforter fell
into violence, old

strangely beautiful voices
in the thin thread of my dreams

in the thin thread of my speech.
I was embarrassed because I wanted lines in the face

and the laughter that spills over
to bring me luck’s child.

I had a dream like seconal, sleepy rule of birth,
odor of seduction. I had only prayer, prayer

and science. On a street young girls gathered,
loud with nothing to say, as in an attempt to explain a local fire.

Gillian Conoley has done it!  The crowd is going crazy! Conoley has beaten Creeley!  Oh my God I don’t believe it!  Another upset! Scarriet March Madness, can you believe it?

Marla!  How did she do it?

MARLA MUSE:  She brought an uncanny sense of absence to her presence.  It’s almost as if she studied Creeley’s every move!  Every gesture, every image, every line was understated, suggestive in the extreme…down here at courtside…can you hear me up there, Tom?…what a scene down here…it’s bedlam…I’ve never felt such excitement…we’re trying to get in closer, so we can get a word from Conoley, but it’s just a madhouse…! I’m afraid I’m going to get swallowed up by the crowd…

Marla?  Marla, are you there?  Fans, I’ve never seen anything quite like this!  Young Conoley just gave us the thrill of a lifetime…she just beat Creeley…the final score 61-60…

The upsets just keep comin…!

POETS GATHER TO CELEBRATE MARCH MADNESS

Though eliminated from the 2011 Scarriet Second Annual March Madness Tourney based on the Best Poems from APR, John Berryman spoke, and spoke for a long time.  He insisted quite a few times that he “wasn’t boring and he wasn’t drunk—like some of you out there…” (!!)

John Ashbery seems to actually be paying attention to John Berryman.  He, along with Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley, are still waiting to see if they make the final 64 poets playing in this years March Madness Tournament.  They all have poems in The Body Electric: America’s Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review, edited by Stephen Berg, David Bonanno, and Arthur Vogelsang.

Harold Bloom’s introduction to The Body Electric is typical Whitmaniacal trash from the esteemed blowhard, and need not be discussed here, for it is wholly uninteresting.  It begins, “This anthology takes its title from Walt Whitman, who shares with Emily Dickinson an aesthetic eminence not quite achieved by even the strongest American poets of the century just ending: Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and, as many would add, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and others.”  Oh, please shut up, Harold D. Bloom.  That’s enough from you.  We do not know a single person interested in what Harold Bloom has to say, or ever did.  His cacophony has been tolerated long enough.  Someone throw him out of the building.  He won’t be invited back.  (Though he did perform a serviceable job as commisioner of Scarriet’s 2010 Poetry Baseball League this past summer.  We thank him for that.)  Marla Muse is said to fancy Mr. Bloom, but we believe it is only because  Mr. Bloom once had Camille Paglia in his classroom, and Marla Muse hearts Ms. Paglia.

We’ll have the usual round of interviews with Marla Muse in the weeks to come!

The excitement is growing every day as Scarriet’s 2011 Second Annual March Madness approaches, and fans wonder who will make the tournament!

MORE ‘READING THIS POET IS LIKE…’

John Berryman

You are 54.  It’s the dead of winter.  You’re at a dinner, drunk, you are trembling with desire, you self-consciously intone Shakespeare to yourself in the restroom, hoping no one enters, then glance at yourself, glasses, beard, and stop.  Wash your hands, under the fingernails.

Robert Creeley

You are 21.  It’s early spring, ice still on the walks.  You are scratching the tiny beard of your perfect heart-shaped face, precise nose, you are proud of your chiseled face, you are making a decision to caress it everywhere.

Robert Hass

You are 38.  It’s late spring, and blooming.  You just had sex with a woman and you’re thinking of geese flying over the San Fernando Valley and how rain comes to us from a million miles and then you reach for a newspaper and say to the poem working itself out in your head, ‘hold on.’

Louise Gluck

You are 46.  It’s winter, roughly.    You just took a shower.  You are sitting on a white couch in a beautiful apartment with a tall plant, and muted reds on the walls; with a nice pen you strike the personal, allowing philosophy to inform a dare you wish you had made.

A.R. Ammons

You’re 40.  It’s hot, glorious summer.  You are tramping through underbrush, the burrs are sticking to your trousers, your torn Mr. Rogers sweater, your glorious brown shoes…

Donald Justice

You’re 30.   It’s September.  You’re sitting around on a long afternoon, drinking Buds and playing poker with friends: three musicians and a rocket scientist.  You’re very relaxed, having a good time, when suddenly, a melancholy fit descends.



THE SILLIMAN CLAQUE DEFINED

Instead of defining “The School of Quietude,” which would seem to include every legitimate work of literature in the universe, it might be simpler to define its opposite:  The Silliman Claque.

1. Sprang from the School of Pound, that ill-defined sack of half-baked platitudes which happily expands the definition of poetry to include kitchen sinks (as long as the kitchen sinks are modern—or disguised as Greek artifacts).  The Pound method is something like this:  Burn all the metronomes which happen to be at hand.  (Sing and dance around the flames.  Fornicate, even, while the metronomes burn.)  Write whatever comes into your head for about an hour.   Call what you’ve written a “canto.”  Write more of these.  Call the work “The Cantos.”   You will be called either a presumptuous ass—or a genius.  Add a manifesto or two for those who believe you are a genius.  Get yourself accused of treason.  In the hospital for the criminally insane, entertain a few young poets, the ones who lack admission into writing workshops now popping up around the country.  Be yourself, but flatter these brave, ambitious visitors enough to win a few disciples.  Your legacy is assured.

2.  Push regionalism.  This has the advantage of defining your Claque in the absence of any actual common sense pertaining to it. Pretend a mimeograph closet, or a tree, or a bridge, in California is radically different from one in Massachusetts.

3.  Close-reading.   See deeper than Wordsworth, go beyond the Transcendentalists, bring more powerful microscopes than even the New Critics feigned using, as you penetrate, with your powerful acumen, in a magic spell of gravitas, every speck in (or even around and above) the poem.  Never be pedantic enough. Always strive for more pedantry and close-reading wizardry.  Show how a comma in Creeley will out-live Hamlet, or a colon in Olsen is more important than the “Paradise Lost,”or that a hypen in Duncan is more significant than all the odes of Keats (though hint at such wonders—do not assert them; make poetry an adventure, not a competition—none of Arnold’s Touchstones, only touch the wonders of the subtle and the small, in new and strange and remarkable ways…)  For example, from Creeley.  If you would escape the dread “School of Quietude,” contemplate the following until a bowel movement comes.  Think of it as more than mere poetry-analysis; think of it as a way to know the zen of your mind and your body, as everything waits for you:

It the moon did not . . .
no, if you did not
I wouldn’t either, but
what would I not

do, what prevention, what
thing so quickly stopped.
That is love yesterday
or tomorrow, not

now. . . .

WHO KILLED JOHN KEATS? ‘TWAS ONE OF MY FEATS

Pardon us as we take a fanciful page from the book of George Gordon, Lord Byron.

……………………….WHO KILLED ROBERT CREELEY?

……………………….Who killed Robert Creeley?
……………………….Twas I, Foetry. Yes. Really.
……………………….Now exiled here by the site that bans
……………………….We’ve dealt a mortal blow to Franz.
……………………….You cannot know where your reputation’s laid,
……………………….Or who pays you, at last, and who finally is paid.
……………………….Beware, you swaggerer, with cred and name
……………………….Who comes to quell: first, you lose, then, you swell our fame.

Franz Wright’s recent visit to Scarriet reminded us of the time when Robert Creeley came calling on Foetry.com shortly before he passed away in March of 2005.

John Keats was treated so rudely by the press a rumor began that a harsh criticism had killed him.   The poet is the most vulnerable to criticism since the poet and the critic both use words.   Poetry, by its very nature, has a It is so because I say it is so existence.   Words are cheap, and the poetry world is small.  Poetic reputations are fragile and can disappear overnight.

Longfellow was a wealthy titan whose poems were widely read in expensive and beautiful volumes.  Poe was a poverty-stricken, contentious critic who insulted and berated poets like Longfellow;  Poe was reviled by many literary elites of his day.   Poe, however, now towers over Longfellow and poets who are utterly forgotten.   Those who ‘go about their business’ and who are ‘above’ the sort of battles Poe indulged in usually sink into oblivion.   The trouble-makers survive.

Alan Cordle’s revolutionary Foetry.com turned po-biz on its head almost overnight with his controversial claims.  Controversy is catnip to fame.  Perhaps  Creeley and Wright knew what they were doing when they jumped in the Foetry dirt.

Flowers (and fame) need dirt to grow.

Thomas Brady of Scarriet was obviously out of his mind, temporarily, let’s hope, when he wrote the following as Monday Love on Foetry.com:

And what’s this crap about how a “librarian” [Alan Cordle] can’t express an opinion on poetry or the poetry world?  Jeez, what a lot of snobby rot. Since when did degrees and publishing creds and ‘official poet’ stamped on the forehead decide who can or cannot speak on poetry?  Did Keats have an MFA?  Philip Sidney, one of the world’s most prominent poets, never published a poem.  And what of Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler?  I can’t find any of their poems, but the world bows to their opinion.  If some twit gets an MFA and publishes a few books of obscure poetry scribbles, that twit should then have some kind of authority because of his CV?

No, poetry is naturally fitted for something more democratic and honest. R. Perlman [since discovered to be  Joan Houlihan] disgraces himself [herself] when he [she]indulges in this ‘poetry-cred’ nonsense–99% of the time such a gambit is merely an attempt to paper over stink.  I have never asked what his [her] creds are, nor do I care.  Those who come here trailing the glory of their creds in their wake tend to get slaughtered.  We don’t care who they are.  Robert Creeley came here and was treated like anyone else–in other words, a bit roughly.  We don’t care for that phony ‘respect,’ which the pompous desire.  Only the argument you make here counts.

Poetry was invented so that the learned could speak to the unlearned. Poetry is for the unlearned ear, because it had its origins, as Dante points out in his Vita Nuova, in the following circumstance: the learned fop was mad for some illiterate serving girl and therefore had to remove all that was phony and elevated in his speech to reach her heart.  The opinion which the poet craves is always the simplest and heart-felt one.  The ‘learned’ opinion is not to be trusted, finally.  Every poet in secret knows this.  This does not mean the poet writes simplistic twaddle, for the poet still must impress in a powerful manner, but that manner is not learned fops stroking each other’s learned egos, which only ruins the art.

—Monday Love, Foetry.com  2007

It is not our intent to dance on anybody’s grave.

We salute Mr. Creeley for not going gentle into that good night.

And God bless Franz Wright, too.

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