SCARRIET POETRY BASEBALL ALL-STAR-BREAK STANDINGS AND STATS!

An Essay on Modern Education-Jonathan Swift-1740 – Advocatetanmoy ...

Swift. The Dublin Laureates are only 2 games out of first in the Glorious Division—thanks to his 12-1 record.

MODERN DIVISION

NEW YORK BUYERS ROCKEFELLER  43 37 –
PHOENIX UNIVERSE SPIELBERG   42 38 (1)
MANHATTAN PRINTERS WARHOL 40 40 (3)
PHILADELPHIA CRASH BARNES 36 44 (7)
ARDEN DREAMERS HARRIMAN 36 44 (7)

WINS

Hans Holbein Printers 5-1
Marcel Duchamp Printers 6-2
Mark Twain Buyers 11-6
Paul Engle Buyers 10-7
Margaret Atwood Dreamers 9-6
John Crowe Ransom Crash 7-5

Relief

Pablo Picasso Crash 9-3
Jean Cocteau Universe 3-0
Czeslaw Milosz Universe 5-2
John Cage Printers 5-2

HOME RUNS

Elizabeth Bishop Buyers 22
Sharon Olds Dreamers 19
Aristophanes Printers 19
John Updike Printers 19
Dylan Thomas Buyers 18
Edna Millay Dreamers 17
Juvenal Universe 15
Bob Dylan Universe 14
Robert Lowell Buyers 14
Louis MacNeice Dreamers 14
Stephen Spender Crash 14
Paul Celan Universe 11
Garcia Lorca Printers 10

The closest race in the league is the dogfight in the Modern Division between Rockefeller’s Buyers (who once led by a wide margin) and Spielberg’s Universe—a game apart, and the Printers are only 2 games away from the Universe. Robert Lowell has been hot at the plate for the Buyers, Bob Dylan for the Universe. Pitching-wise, Mark Twain has been hot again for the Buyers (and leads the division in wins), and Raymond Carver (replacing Randall Jarrell in the rotation) has been hot for the Universe (4-2). MLK Jr is 3-2 in his 8 starts since joining the Universe, and Spielberg has added Jean Cocteau (3-0) to the bullpen, a move he feels will put the Universe over the top. But Andy Warhol’s Printers made moves, too. Hans Holbein the Younger joined the rotation, and is 5-1. Paul Klee is a new lefty starter (3-3). Toulouse Lautrec (3-2) filled in admirably for the injured Duchamp (a toilet fell on his toe). Aristophanes and John Updike have both slammed 19 homers for manager Brian Epstein and his Printers. John Ashbery, who has seven homers from the lead off spot, and is one of the best fielding third basemen in the league, predicted the Printers would win it all. “Why shouldn’t I say that?” he asked. The Crash and the Dreamers, tied for last, are not that far out (seven games) and so every team is truly in the hunt in this division. John Crowe Ransom of the Crash did not win his first game until the end of May, and now at 7-5 he’s among the pitching leaders. John Dewey is 3-0 in July, Wittgenstein and Pater are 2-1 in July. Has the moment arrived for the Crash? Picasso has won 9 games for the Crash in relief. Franz Werfel has replaced the injured John Gould Fletcher in left, and has already begun hitting homers. Stephen Spender leads the Crash in that category. Stevie Smith, playing for the hurt Louis MacNeice, clubbed four homers for the Dreamers, and the home run power of Edna Millay (17) and Sharon Olds (19) has been on display all year for Pamela Harriman’s club. MacNeice himself has 14. The Dreamers have been doing everything they can to fix their bullpen (Germaine Greer has been a huge disappointment) but relief pitching is a tricky affair. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera have joined the team, but all sorts of off-the-field issues have resulted in not much action—a blown save by Kahlo.  Jean Paul Sartre, however, has gone right to work—he’s 2-3 in relief in some very close games. As for the starting rotation, William Godwin pitched well but went 1-4 filling in for Simone de Beauvoir (2-7), losing to Ransom 4-3 on her first start back. Mary Wollstonecraft has joined the Dreamers and is 3-1 in 8 starts. Anais Nin is 8-8. Margaret Atwood has regained her early season form, and is 9-6. Don’t count out the Dreamers!

PEOPLES DIVISION

KOLKATA COBRAS S. RAY 47 33 –
SANTA BARBARA LAWS DICK WOLF 41 39 (6)
BEIJING WAVES MAO 39 41 (8)
TOKYO MIST KUROSAWA 36 44 (11)
LA GAMERS MERV GRIFFIN 35 45 (12)

WINS

Jalal Rumi Cobras 11-3
Rabindranith Tagore Cobras 11-7
Mahatma Gandhi Cobras 10-6
Lao Tzu Waves 10-6
Yukio Mishima Mist 9-6
Yone Naguchi Mist 8-5
Oliver Wendell Holmes Laws 8-6

Relief

Confucius Waves 7-2
Mark Van Doren Laws 4-1
Menander Gamers 6-3

 

HOME RUNS

John Donne Laws 18
Vikram Seth Cobras 18
Li Po Waves 17
Jadoo Akhtar Cobras 16
John Lennon Mist 15
Billy Collins Gamers 15
Hilda Doolittle Mist 15
George Harrison Cobras 14
Eugene Ionesco Gamers 14
Thomas Hardy Laws 14
Karl Marx Waves 13
Tu Fu Waves 13
Sadakitchi Hartmann Mist 11

The Kolkata Cobras have 3 good hitters and 3 good pitchers, and a six game lead in the Peoples Division. Vikram Seth is tied with the division lead in homers with 18, Jadoo Akhtar has 16 round-trippers, and George Harrison, 14 (though Harrison strikes out way too much). We could also mention Allen Ginsberg of the Cobras, batting .301 with 7 homers. The three big starters for the Cobras are Rumi, Tagore, and Gandhi. Kabir Das has improved in the bullpen; the Cobras have been healthy, and don’t plan on any big moves. The Laws, in second place, are also healthy; they added Ferdinand Saussure to their relief corps, but otherwise are staying with the team they’ve had since the beginning, and has arrived at the all star break 2 games over .500: Martial, Donne, and Thomas Hardy with 40 homers in the middle of the lineup, Aristotle, their ace who was hot, but lost 4 straight as they hoped to close in on the Cobras, Bacon, 10-4 since going 0-5 to start the season, Horace 4-2 in the last 5 weeks, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, pitching well, but not getting run support lately, as is the case with Aristotle. Donne is the only one hot at the plate right now. The Waves are 8 back, and slipping a bit lately, as Lao Tzu has been their only consistent pitcher; Confucius made a big splash in the beginning of the year, winning all sorts of late inning games—he’s just 1-0 in the last 5 weeks; Voltaire and Rousseau continue to disappoint. Tu Fu and Karl Marx have cooled off at the plate somewhat. Brecht and Neruda are not hitting. “The whole team has dropped off,” Jack Dorsey, the Waves manager said, “and it’s time we get back in this. We have an amazing team.” The Tokyo Mist got a boost when Yukio Mishima (9-6) replaced Heraclitus, and Yone Naguchi has quietly compiled an 8-5 record, but the two top starters for the Mist, Basho and Issa, have been a study in frustration. Issa gets no run support; Basho’s ERA is too high. Haruki Murakami (2-1) may be the bullpen ace they need, but it’s too early to tell. The Mist would love to have some of relief pitcher Kobe Abe’s (2-7) losses back. The Mist are not really hitting right now. John Lennon and Hilda Doolittle lead the team with 15 homers apiece—but most of those were hit in May. The Mist are a game out of last place—occupied by the LA Gamers. Billy Collins is probably the hottest hitter for the Gamers right now, which isn’t saying much; he has 15 dingers (We can imagine Collins writing a poem on the word ‘dinger’) and Ionesco is right behind him on the team with 14. Collins, the left fielder, and Joe Green, the third baseman, came within an inch of a nasty collision chasing a pop foul down the left field line last week. “We almost lost 20 homers,” manager Bob Hope said. And maybe 20 errors. Collins has been a circus in the field. If a last place team is going to make a run, it will be the Gamers. Merv Griffin’s club has added the following to their pitching staff—Democritus (5-5) is now starting for E.E. Cummings. Charlie Chaplin (2-1) is now starting for Garrison Keillor (1-2), who replaced James Tate (5-5).  Woody Allen (2-2) has replaced Antoine de Saint Exupery (0-1), who replaced Derrida (1-6). Muhammad Ali (2-1) and MC Escher, a lefty relief specialist, have joined the Gamers bullpen, which has been mostly patrolled by Menander (3-2) and Morgenstern (2-2). Charles Bernstein is 0-4. Clive James joined recently, and is 1-1. Gamers fever is still high!

SOCIETY DIVISION

BOSTON SECRETS BEN FRANKLIN 51 29 —
NEW YORK WAR JP MORGAN 42 38 (9)
WESTPORT ACTORS WEINSTEIN 40 40 (11)
FAIRFIELD ANIMALS PT BARNUM 38 42 (13)
VIRGINIA STRANGERS DAVID LYNCH 31 49 (20)

WINS

Alexander Pushkin Secrets 10-1
Amy Lowell Animals 11-2
Plato Secrets 13-5
Walter Scott War 11-5
George Byron Actors 7-4
Moliere Secrets 8-5
Chaucer Actors 8-5
Erich Remarque War 10-7
Alexander Pope Strangers 8-7
Gaius Petronius Actors 8-7

Relief

Thomas Jefferson Secrets 4-1
HP Lovecraft Strangers 4-2
Sade Actors 6-4

Home Runs

Emily Dickinson Secrets 19
Thomas Nashe Actors 18
Theodore Roethke Strangers 18
Stephen Crane War 16
Hafiz Actors 14
Arthur Rimbaud Strangers 14
Robert Frost Secrets 14
Harry Crosby War 13
Francois Rabelais Strangers 11
Wallace Stevens Animals 11
Woody Guthrie Secrets 11
Seamus Heaney Animals 10
Amiri Baraka Actors 10

Ben Franklin’s Secrets own the best record in the league (51-29) and have the biggest division lead (9 games). Pushkin and Plato have nearly half the Secrets wins, while Moliere, their fourth starter, has a nifty 8-5 mark, as Poe, their ace continues to struggle (6-7)—but most of it is due to low run support. Poe threw his first shutout right before the all star break. The Secrets’ Emily Dickinson leads the Society Division with 19 homers; Frost has 14, Woody Guthrie 11, and Kanye West leads the team in homers over the last couple of weeks; he now has 7, as does Nathaniel Hawthorne, the Secrets lead off hitter (.299, 9 stolen bases, 6 triples). With a solid, Founding Father, bullpen, the Secrets have no real weaknesses, and Boston has got to feel happy about the way things are going—although manager George Washington never looks happy. The second place War are 4 games over .500, have been getting good starts from Walter Scott and Erich Remarque, and manager Machiavelli is hoping Shakespeare (7-7) will come back stronger after his rehab (newly signed Julius Caesar is 2-2 with a shutout in his absence). The War’s Stephen Crane leads JP Morgan’s club with 16 homers, and Harry Crosby has been a surprise with 13. Jack London is new in the Wars bullpen, which has been shaky. The two Connecticut teams, Harvey Weinstein’s Actors (Byron and Chaucer their best pitchers, Nashe and Hafiz their best hitters) and PT Barnum’s Animals (Amy Lowell 11-2 the only star so far; they’ve added AA Milne in the bullpen) have some catching up to do, eleven and thirteen games back, respectively. Norman Mailer (3-3) is a new pitcher for the Actors.  Finally, the Strangers. They are 20 games out. David Lynch and manager Bram Stoker made a big move and got Franz Kafka. He’s 0-2 in relief and 0-6 as a starter. Salvador Dali is new, and he’s 1-2, stepping in for Becket (3-8). The Strangers ace, Alexander Pope, is either brilliant or so-so; he has 4 shutouts, but he’s 8-7. Theodore Roethke has cracked 18 homers for the Strangers (Rimbaud has 14, Rabelais has 11) but the team strikes out too much and hits into too many double plays. Twenty games out in this division may be too big a climb for David Lynch’s Strangers. Manager Bram Stoker merely stared at us coldly when we mentioned this.

GLORIOUS DIVISION

FLORENCE BANNERS DE MEDICI 46 34 —
DUBLIN LAUREATES NAHUM TATE 44 36 (2)
LONDON CARRIAGES QUEEN VICTORIA 43 37 (3)
BERLIN PISTOLS EVA BRAUN 34 46 (12)
DEVON SUN JOHN RUSSELL 34 46 (12)

WINS

Jonathan Swift Laureates 12-1
John Ruskin Sun 6-1
Andrew Marvell Carriages 12-3
Virgil Banners 10-4
Percy Shelley Banners 11-5
William James Pistols 9-5
Leonardo da Vinci Banners 8-4
Virginia Woolf Carriages 9-8

Relief

Livy Laureates 9-3
Bertrand Russell Sun 6-3
Richard Wagner Pistols 5-3

HOME RUNS

William Yeats Pistols 25
Friedrich Schiller Banners 18
Charles Dickens Laureates 18
Henry Longfellow Carriages 17
William Wordsworth Sun 17
Aphra Behn Laureates 17
James Joyce Pistols 15
Ted Hughes Pistols 14
Alexandre Dumas Laureates 13
Robert Browning Carriages 13
Arthur Tennyson Carriages 11
DG Rossetti Banners 11
HG Wells Sun 10
Matthew Arnold Sun 10
GB Shaw Carriages 10

Right now the Glorious Division is a 3 team race—the Banners, led by the bat of Friedrich Schiller (Keats is finally starting to hit a little) and a great starting rotation, led by Virgil and Shelley, are in first. But right behind the Banners are the Laureates, who now have Pascal (3-1) and Robert Louis Stevenson (4-1) in their starting rotation to go with Jonathan Swift (12-1), and they’ve picked up JD Salinger and Hans Christian Anderson in relief, just in case they need them. Charles Dickens, Aphra Behn, and Alexandre Dumas are smashing homers for Nahum Tate’s Dublin club, who were playing quite well even before they made these changes. Watch out for the Laureates. Some see them as a populist joke. Especially since they’ve added Pascal, and with the way Swift is pitching, they are not. The Carriages are in third, and in the thick of it, too. Paul McCartney has smashed 9 homers from the lead off spot (and is batting .340), George Bernard Shaw has clubbed 10 off the bench, and then you have Tennyson, Browning, and Longfellow belting out 41 between them in the middle of the order. Andrew Marvell (12-3) is London’s towering ace, but after that, including the bullpen, the pitching is thin. To remedy a weak bullpen, they just added Descartes. In limited use, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Lamb haven’t been too bad in relief. Virginia Woolf (9-8) has tossed a lot of innings as their no. 2 starter. If the Carriages keep hitting (and they do win on the road) they can take this thing. The Devon Sun and Berlin Pistols, tied for last at 34 and 46, and 12 games out of first, have pretty good bullpens (Bertrand Russell anchors the Sun pen, Richard Wagner, the Pistol’s) they can hit the ball out of the park (Yeats, Joyce, and Ted Hughes for the Pistols, Wordsworth, HG Wells and Matthew Arnold for the Sun) but starting pitching is their doom. The Pistols’ T.S Eliot lost his first five starts and has battled back to 9-9. The Pistols’ Ezra Pound began the year at 1-3, including losses of 27-3, 24-7, and 22-14. Pound was replaced by Hemingway (0-2) and then Horace Greeley (3-6). Maybe they will try Pound, again. The moody William James is the Pistols best starter. He’s 9-5.  After Santayana won 3 in a row in May, he can’t win. The Sun’s woes are similar. Emerson is 6-10. John Stuart Mill (4-6)—spelled by Ruskin, the Sun’s best pitcher so far—Aldous Huxley (6-8), and Thomas Carlyle (5-10) have been no better than Emerson. Ruskin, who helps Thoreau and Russell in the bullpen, has 4 shutouts (his phenomenal run when he briefly replaced Mill); the rest of the staff has one (Emerson). Maybe it’s time to put Ruskin back in the starting rotation. “I will pitch where the manager [Winston Churchill] wants me to pitch,” said Ruskin. Churchill, and the Sun’s owner, John Russell, likes Emerson, Mill, Huxley, and Carlyle. So we’ll see.

 

EMPEROR DIVISION

Rome Ceilings Pope Julius II  44 36 —
Paris Goths Charles X  41 39 (3)
Corsica Codes Napoleon Bonaparte 41 39 (3)
Madrid Crusaders Philip II 40 40 (4)
Rimini Broadcasters Fellini 38 42 (6)

WINS

Francisco Goya Goths 7-2
Ludovico Ariosto Ceilings 9-4
George Orwell Broadcasters 7-3
Homer Codes 10-5
GWF Hegel Codes 9-5
George Friderik Handel Crusaders 8-4
Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand Goths 10-6
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Broadcasters 6-4
John Milton Ceilings 8-7
Oscar Wilde Goths 7-6
Wolfgang Goethe Goths 7-6

Relief

Maurice Ravel Broadcasters 4-0
JS Bach Ceilings 9-5

HOME RUNS

WH Auden Codes 20
Anne Bradstreet Crusaders 19
Sophocles Goths 19
Heinrich Heine Goths 18
Victor Hugo Codes 18
Aeschylus Crusaders 16
Euripides Ceilings 14
Mary Angela Douglas Crusaders 13
Rainer Maria Rilke Broadcasters 12
Robert Burns Broadcasters 12
Jean Rancine Codes 12
Edmund Spenser Ceilings 11
Torquato Tasso Goths 10
Anne Sexton Broadcasters 10

The Ceilings still lead the Emperor Division, with a 3 game lead over the recently surging Goths—tied for last not long ago. The Ceilings once invincible starting pitching has faltered, and they look human and beatable. Milton went 7 straight trips to the mound without a win; Dryden got hurt and has only won once since early June; Augustine is win-less in his last nine starts; Ariosto, however, continues to pitch well, Bach is still a miracle in the bullpen, and Euripides and Blake are hitting and scoring runs. Goya came out of the pen where he was 3-0 and has won 4 as a starter for the Goths, replacing Baudelaire (2-9) in the rotation.  Thomas de Quincey is a recent bullpen acquisition. Tasso, playing for the hurt Ronsard, has 10 homers, adding to the melancholy duo of Sophocles (19) and Heine (18) for the Goths. W.H. Auden has smashed a division-leading 20 for Napoleon’s Codes, 41-39—like the Goths, and Homer (10-5) and Hegel (9-5) have emerged as their lethal starting duo. In a tight division race, Madrid’s Crusaders (4 games out) and the Remini Broadcasters (6 games behind) are in striking distance. The Crusaders, a .500 team for a while now, are being lifted by music: Handel (8-4) leads the team in wins; Mozart (3-2) and Beethoven (4-1) who joined the team in June, hope to eventually push them over the top. Joan of Arc is the new lefty in the bullpen. The Crusaders have plenty of pop with Anne Bradstreet (19 homers), Aeschylus (16 homers) and Mary Angela Douglas (13 homers)—the contemporary poet who won a starting job off the bench—replacing an injured Saint Ephrem at shortstop—when she starting hitting homers. The Broadcasters are Fellini’s team, and this currently last-place team is difficult to define: Rilke and Burns lead them in homers, Mick Jagger leads them in stolen bases, Jim Morrison leads them in doubles, Anne Sexton leads them in batting average, George Orwell, who is both starter and reliever, leads them in wins, Samuel Taylor Coleridge is their best starting pitcher right now, and Maurice Ravel is slowly becoming a star in the bullpen. “The musicians are beginning to change Scarriet Poetry Baseball,” Ravel said. “A memorable phrase of music is just a good as an epigram.”

 

 

IN THE GLORIOUS DIVISION, A TALE OF THREE TEAMS

Percy Bysshe Shelley lost poem to go public at University of ...

Shelley (9-5) pitches for the Florence Banners—the team to beat in the Glorious Division.

The Florence Banners are the glory of the Glorious Division. Look at their pitching staff: Dante, who throws fastballs with such ferocity, hitters are afraid to stand in against him; Shelley, who throws curve after delicate curve, as memorizing as a snake; Virgil, whose hard slider apparently comes from the underworld; Leonardo da Vinci, the lefty, whose mixture of speeds defies belief; and Boccaccio, who comes out of the bullpen like a cloud, a large dark one, which puts an end to everything. And everywhere you look, there is a Rossetti: Christina, William, Dante Gabriel, and in the middle of the lineup, John Keats, almost more Italian than English. And two modern spots of light: Ben Mazer and Glyn Maxwell.

But Keats only has four home runs for de Medici’s Banners—who are 35 and 29 and share first place with two other teams.

The Carriages of London, owned by Queen Victoria, are 35-29, and not exactly filled with the greatest of all time: pitchers William Hazlitt, Virginia Woolf, and Charles Lamb.  Hitters Elizabeth Barrett, Sylvia Plath and Paul McCartney.

Neither do the Dublin Laureates seem that scary. The rather pedantic Edmund Burke is 0-6 in his last 7 starts for Dublin. Their no. 2 starter, Thomas Peacock, has been replaced by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Their lineup features JK Rowling, Boris Pasternak and Oliver Goldsmith. But they, too, are 35 and 29.

The Laureates have won a host of one-run games, especially in the late innings—they get better as the game goes on, and don’t make mistakes in the field or on the base paths. Jonathan Swift joined the Laureates on May 1st, and with his command of 4 pitches and quiet confidence, now owns the best record in the league: 10-1. And don’t forget Livy. He is 8-1 in relief.

Andrew Marvell, the ace of the Carriages, is 10-2.  Charlotte Bronte is 3-1 and Charles Lamb is 3-0, in relief.  On the back of Marvell, the Carriages are doing the little things to win.  Virginia Woolf out-pitched John Stewart Mill in a marvelous 1-0 outing, helped by a bases-loaded, game-saving catch by Philip Larkin in right field. Tennyson’s two out, opposite field, looping, single off an impossible-to-hit-pitch brought in Paul McCartney, who had walked, and then was bunted over to second by Larkin, for the game-winner.

As for the other first place team, those awesome Banners, Virgil, 7-4, has arm tenderness, and will miss 3-4 weeks, Dante is only 6-6, and Boccaccio has been out-dueled a number of times in relief. Shelley has been a monster, logging 9 wins.

Tied for last are the Berlin Pistols—featuring Ezra Pound (demoted to the bullpen), pitching ace T.S. Eliot, and Ted Hughes (13 homers)—and the Devon Sun at 28-36.  Ralph Emerson is 4-3 in his last 8 starts for the Sun, and Lord Russell’s team has been powered by Wordsworth’s 9 homers in the Sun’s last 20 games.

William James has been the best starter for the Pistols at 8-4. T.S. Eliot beat Dante and the Banners 1-0, this week, tossing a one-hitter. The Banners are no longer alone in first, but every team in the Glorious Division will be gunning for them.

We caught up with Paul McCartney, shortstop and lead off hitter for the Carriages, after Andrew Marvell shut out the Sun in Devon.

Scarriet: Welcome to my interview, Paul.

Paul: Oh that sounds…ominous.

Scarriet: This won’t hurt a bit. I promise. Your team’s playing well, you won by a shutout today.

Paul: Oh Andrew Marvell, luv watching him pitch, you know? I have to remember I’m in the field playing the game, because, you know, you get mesmerized, kind of, watching him, do his thing… He’s so good!

Scarriet: Do you see John and George much?

Paul: Not really. They’re both in the what’s it called…the Peoples Division, right? Yeah George is with the Cobras in India…and John, with Yoko, is with the uh….Mist. They’re together, that’s nice. I chat with George…and John… on the phone, sometimes, you know, just say hello…

Scarriet: I did want to touch on the two English teams, the comparisons people have made between the Sun and the Carriages. You’ve heard the talk?

Paul: Oh yeah, when they were first getting this thing together, John told me, “Don’t play for the Sun, man! You belong on the Carriages.”

Scarriet: The Sun have a reputation for being that part of England that wants to rule the world, the British Empire, oppressing everyone…people compare the Sun to the Pistols…while the Carriages..

Paul: —are more like tea and biscuits and…mum. Yeah.  I mean, look, someone said Wordsworth—and Waldo Emerson, you know, they’re nice, and they play for the Sun, but those guys are bastards! (laughing)

Scarriet: Wordsworth did take someone out at second with a nasty slide last week, did you see that?  And Emerson throws at hitters quite a lot.

Paul: Oh I could never write like them! They’re great.  But, there’s not a lot of comfortable, human stuff in their writings, really…look at “English Traits” by Emerson…the English race and how it rules the world!  John tipped me off on that one, Emerson, watch out for that cat…and I dunno, what can you say against Wordsworth?  Daffodils. I love that one. I never could read the long stuff, though…he’s not one I could have a pint with…too stuffy for my taste…

Scarriet: What’s the biggest difference between the Scarriet Poetry Baseball League and rock music?

Paul: Drugs. (laughing)  There’s no drugs in Scarriet Poetry Baseball. Queen Victoria would never… Seriously, you really have to be in top form all the time to compete with these great writers…everything is on the line all the time…big crowds…you can’t slip up….

Scarriet: Does that bother you?

Paul: (nervous laughter) Not really. No, I quite enjoy it, actually. I never depended on drugs to write my songs. It’s just a matter of freedom and relaxation sometimes, you know, I’m not advocating anything, except a little freedom, and I understand everything has a time and a place. It’s all good, really. I’m enjoying myself doing this.

Scarriet: You’ve played well—even hitting home runs from the lead off spot, and the Carriages are tied for first. Congratulations.

Paul: Thanks. Yes. Batting first is not easy. The first time up, especially. But I use it to judge how the pitcher is doing that day, and I’ll tell my teammates—“watch out guys, he’s throwing hard today, or…this is what his strategy seems to be…”

Scarriet: Communication.  Yes, and you steal bases… I don’t think anyone realized how athletic you are…

Paul: Music is very physical. People don’t realize that.  And poetry, or music…you don’t just write it with your mind… the body is the mind…it’s a lot of it, really…but uh…yeah…I enjoy it…the fresh air…the competition…the company is nice…

Scarriet: We’re so glad you could talk to us, Paul. And we’re happy to hear Scarriet Poetry Baseball agrees with you!

Paul: Thanks.

Scarriet: Good luck the rest of the year!

Paul: You, too.  Bye now.

 

 

 

THE FIVE DIVISIONS IN THE SCARRIET POETRY BASEBALL LEAGUE SO FAR

Gary McKeon on | The beatles, Beatles pictures, Paul mccartney

Paul McCartney, lead-off hitter for the London Carriages, has 6 home runs.

EMPEROR DIVISION

The Rome Ceilings have outscored their opponents 84-49 at home—holding them to 2 runs per game, as their spacious outfield, (as big as the Colosseum) and fleet center fielder Edmund Spenser, gobbles up would-be home runs; Milton, Dryden, Ariosto (7-2) and Augustine, with Bach in the bullpen, is all pitching coach Marco Polo, and manager Cardinal Richelieu need. If the Corsica Codes are going to catch the Ceilings, they’re going to have to pitch better, and play better on the road. In his last 5 starts, no. 3 starter Hesiod is 0-5.  Victor Hugo (2B) and W.H. Auden (SS) are hitting a ton, but Napoleon’s infield (Callimachus 1b, Derek Walcott 3b) leads the league in errors. The Madrid Crusaders have to be happy that Mary Angela Douglas played so well filling in for Saint Ephrem at shortstop—Douglas, Aeschylus, and Bradstreet were a murderer’s row from late May to early June. St. John of the Cross and Handel have pitched really well recently. But the big news: Cervantes, the Crusaders manager, has met with Mozart and Beethoven—if either one of these join the Crusaders pitching staff, all bets are off.  The Paris Goths (22-26) are out of contention because of one starter—Baudelaire is on a 9 game losing streak; the ‘cursed’ pitcher has had poor run support (10 runs in his last 7 starts). The Goths’ position players have been dogged by injuries; Tasso and Holderlin, tied with the 3rd most homers on the club, began the year on the bench. Manager Schopenhauer might put Baudelaire in the bullpen for a spell and use newly acquired Goya as a starter. The Rimini Broadcasters, at 22-26, in last place with the Goths, need to decide what to do with George Orwell, who pitched well for the damaged Samuel Coleridge—who is now healthy. The Broadcasters need pitching help (Ben Jonson, their no. 2 starter, has been lackluster) and are close to signing Lacan, Gurdjieff, Frida Kahlo, or Salvador Dali. Nero, the Broadcasters manager, has spoken to all of them.

Standings

Ceilings  Pope Julius II, 31-17  “They also serve who only stand and wait”
Codes Napoleon Bonaparte 25-23 “Let the more loving one be me”
Crusaders Phillip II of Spain 24-24 “If in my thought I have magnified the Father above the Son let Him have no mercy on me”
Broadcasters Federico Fellini 22-26 “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name”
Goths Charles X 22-26 “Every great enterprise takes its first step in faith”

WINS

Chateaubriand Goths 7-2
Ariosto Ceilings 7-2

Handel Crusaders 6-2
Milton Ceilings 6-4

Homer Codes 5-3
Hegel Codes 5-3
Nabokov Broadcasters 5-4
Aquinas Crusaders 5-5

Relief

Bach Ceilings 5-2

GLORIOUS DIVISION

The first place London Carriages swept the Laureates in Dublin—as Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Bronte combined to throw a 4-0, 11 inning shut out, and William Hazlitt beat Samuel Johnson in a 2-1 pitching duel. When the Laureates tried to repay the favor, and beat the Carriages 3 out of 4 in London; Virginia Woolf avoided the sweep, out-pitching Thomas Peacock 2-1.  The Carriages (27-21) swept the Florence Banners (25-23) when they first visited London, Andrew Marvell beating Dante 5-0. The second time the Carriages hosted the Banners, they lost 3 out of 4 to de Medici’s club, as Virginia Woolf prevailed over Shelley, 3-2.  That’s the difference between the first three teams.  The Devon Sun would be in last place, except John Ruskin won 5 straight replacing the injured J.S. Mill, Bertrand Russell is 5-1 in relief, and William Wordsworth hit some clutch homers. The Sun are tied with the Pistols, who they beat 23-18 and 27-3 in Berlin; however, the Pistols have beat the Sun 6 out of 8 since then. T.S. Eliot finally began winning (5 straight, 2 shutouts) a cursed Pound was sent to the bullpen, and the Pistols enjoyed a power surge from Ted Hughes, John Quinn, and Alistair Crowley.

Standings

Carriages Queen Victoria 27-21
Laureates Nahum Tate 25-23
Banners de Medici 25-23
Pistols Eva Braun 22-26
The Sun PM John Russell 22-26

WINS

Andrew Marvell, Carriages 7-2
Percy Shelley, Banners 7-4

Jonathan Swift, Laureates 6-1
William James, Pistols 6-2

John Ruskin, Sun 5-1
Leonardo da Vinci, Banners 5-2
Virgil, Banners 5-4
Virginia Woolf, Carriages 5-6
T.S. Eliot, Pistols 5-7

Santayana, Pistols 4-4
Samuel Johnson, Laureates 4-4
Dante, Banners 4-5
Emerson, Sun 4-6

Relief

Bertrand Russell, Sun 5-1
Livy, Laureates 5-1

SOCIETY DIVISION

The Boston Secrets have 10 wins in relief, while starters Plato and Pushkin have excelled; starters Poe and Moliere have been disappointing, and the Secrets haven’t exactly knocked the cover off the ball, but defense, and coming out on top in close contests, find Ben Franklin’s team solidly in first. No other team in the Society Division is playing over .500—the Connecticut Actors (24-24) are relying on Byron (6-0 in his last 8 starts) Chaucer (3 shutouts), and Thomas Nashe (12 home runs) and not much else. The Manhattan War need Shakespeare to pitch better, but he has won 5 games, and has been out-dueled a couple of times; he’ll be fine. Stephen Crane is the only one really hitting for the War. Philip Sidney (4 home runs) has been playing hurt (foot).  The Fairfield (Connecticut) Animals are tied with the War, and scoring runs is even more of a problem for them—Wallace Stevens, their clean-up hitter, has only 5 home runs. Seamus Heaney, their leader, has 8. P.T. Barnum’s club is scoring enough for Amy Lowell—she has one of the best records in the league. Herman Melville has been a study in futility, however. He’s 1-9. The Virginia Strangers are losing close games; Lovecraft is not scaring anyone in relief; Camus is 2-8; Pope, their ace, is 5-4. Rimbaud, Rabelais, and Roethke are providing pop. Manager Bram Stoker is talking to Luis Bunuel and Jean-Luc Godard about helping the Strangers bullpen.

Standings

The Secrets Ben Franklin 29-19
The Actors Harvey Weinstein 24-24
The War J.P. Morgan 23-25
The Animals P.T. Barnum 23-25
The Strangers David Lynch 21-27

WINS

Plato, Secrets 8-3

Amy Lowell, Animals 7-1

Walter Scott, War 6-2
Byron, Actors 6-3
Remarque, War 6-4
Verne, Animals 6-5

Pushkin, Secrets 5-1
Chaucer, Actors 5-3
Pope, Strangers 5-4
Nietzsche, Strangers 5-4
Shakespeare, War 5-4

Petronius, Actors 4-3
Hume, War 4-6

Relief

Lovecraft, Strangers 4-1
Shirley Jackson, Animals 4-1

PEOPLES DIVISION

The Kolkata Cobras were not happy when Tulsidas agreed to play right field with Lorenzo de Medici’s Ceilings, but the Cobras have done just fine without him, depending heavily on the 20th century and English. Ramavtar Sarma and Acharya Shivapujan Sahay were just added to the bullpen, to help Kabir Das, Nissim Ezekiel, Krishnamurti, Faiz A. Faiz, and Raja Rao, as manager Rupi Kaur and pitching coach V.S. Naipal struggle to find the right combination there. Herman Hesse is 3-5 as the fourth starter, but Rumi, Tagore, and Gandhi are a combined 21-7.  Javed Akhtar, Vikram Seth, George Harrison, and Anand Thakore have combined for 145 RBIs, while Samar Sen and Allen Ginsberg have scored 55 times at the top of the order. The Beijing Waves, in second place, are 17-7 at home, with Lao Tzu as a starter and Confucius in relief, their top hurlers. Khomeini in the bullpen, and Voltaire and Rousseau as starters, have been big disappointments. Ho Chi Minh, Lenin, Engles, and Lu Xun are in the mix in relief. Jack Dorsey, the Waves manager, is at his wit’s end trying to find pitching for Chairman Mao’s team. Li Po, Tu Fu, and Karl Marx are hitting well in the middle of the order, but they need more from Brecht, Li He, and Neruda. The Santa Barbara Laws are playing much better away from home than the Waves, and are tied with them for second place, as John Donne and Thomas Hardy lead the Laws in homers. The good news for the 25-23 Laws is the recent performance of 3 of their starters—Aristotle, Francis Bacon, and Oliver Wendell Holmes are all 4-1 in their last 6 starts. Quintilian has been added to help Mark Van Doren in relief. The Tokyo Mist and the LA Gamers are the current bottom feeders in the Peoples Division. Yukio Mishima (6-4, 2.10 ERA)  has been a pleasant surprise for the Mist, filling in for the injured Heraclitus as the no. 3 starter, and has certainly earned a spot on the team. Basho and Issa as starters, Kobe Abe and D.T. Suzuki in relief, have not been good. John Lennon, Hilda Doolittle, and Yoko Ono are not hitting in Tokyo, as the Mist have a terrible home record.  The Mist are 4-12 against the Waves, but are playing .500 against everyone else. The Gamers are 1-7 against the Cobras. James Tate has started to win, but Derrida is 0-4 in his last 4 starts, and Democritus replaced the injured E.E. Cummings only to go 1-4. Lewis Carroll, the Gamers ace, has contributed to the slide, not able to win in his last 4 starts. Ionesco leads the Gamers with 11 homers. Manager Bob Hope is talking to both Woody Allen and Muhammad Ali about joining the bullpen. Merv Griffin is also trying to woo W.H. Auden away from Napoleon’s Codes in the Emperor Division. Auden, critically esteemed, yet a champion of Light Verse, would be an ideal fit for the Gamers.  But Auden is leading his division in homers and seems to love playing in Corsica, so that move is doubtful.

Standings

The Cobras, Satyajit Ray 29-19
The Waves, Chairman Mao 25-23
The Laws, Dick Wolf 25-23
The Mist, Kurosawa 20-28
The Gamers, Merv Griffin 19-29

WINS

J. Rumi, Cobras 7-1
R. Tagore, Cobras 7-3
M. Gandhi, Cobras 7-3

Lao Tzu, Waves 6-2
Yukio Mishima, Mist 6-4
Lucretius, Waves 6-4

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr, Laws 5-2
Yone Noguchi, Mist 5-3
Lewis Carroll, Gamers 5-5
James Tate, Gamers 5-5
Francis Bacon, Laws 5-6

Relief wins

Confucius, Waves 6-2

MODERN DIVISION

The Chicago Buyers have the best record in the whole league, even as Freud has stopped winning and their bullpen has not been effective.  But Freud started out 5-0, and now the other 3 starters have taken over: in their last 6 starts, Whitman is 3-1,  Twain is 4-1, and Paul Engle is 4-1. Elizabeth Bishop has more home runs than anybody (20), plus Dylan Thomas has 14, and Robert Lowell has 10. The Arden Dreamers have cooled after a hot start and now they’re in second place—under .500 and 9 games behind the Buyers. Margaret Atwood and Anais Nin have each won 5 for the Dreamers, but Germaine Greer is 2-6 in relief. Manager Averell Harriman would love Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera to join their bullpen. Talks are underway. Run-scoring is not a problem for the Dreamers. Sharon Olds, Edna Millay, and Louis MacNeice have knocked in 129 runs between them. Bob Dylan (.311 batting average, 9 home runs) finally got hot for the Phoenix Universe, but manager Billy Beane knows they have to make a move, as they are 10 games out of first and not one of their pitchers has been outstanding. Steven Spielberg’s Universe is talking to everyone, including Jack London, Octavio Paz, and MLK Jr. The Manhattan Printers have been playing much better lately. John Updike is their home run leader with 14, and Duchamp and Marjorie Perloff have been on fire—Duchamp is 4-1 and Perloff is 5-0 in their last 7 starts; Stephanie Burt, and Mark Rothko, however, have been dismal; Burt is 0-4 in his last 6 trips to the hill, Rothko has not won in his last 5 outings. That leaves us with the Philadelphia Crash, 13 games out of first.  The only bright spot is Pablo Picasso in relief (7-2). Allen Tate leads them with 8 homers. Walter Pater hasn’t won in 6 starts, John Dewey is 0-1 in his last 4, and their ace, John Crowe Ransom, has yet to notch a win. Manager Giorgio de Chirico and Henri Matisse are doing what they can to keep Ransom’s confidence up. The Crash lost Ransom’s first four starts by one run, and he was tossed for throwing at hitters in one of those close games. Pitchers Clement Greenberg and Roger Fry are said to be close to signing for the last-place Crash.

Standings

The Buyers John D. Rockefeller 32-16
The Dreamers Pamela Harriman 23-25
The Universe Steven Spielberg 22-26
The Printers Andy Warhol 21-27
The Crash A.C. Barnes 19-29

WINS

Paul Engle, Buyers 8-2

Mark Twain, Buyers 7-2

Margaret Atwood, Dreamers 5-3
Anais Nin, Dreamers 5-4
Marjorie Perloff, Printers 5-4
Freud, Buyers 5-4

Walt Whitman, Buyers 4-2
Duchamp, Printers 4-3

Relief Wins

Picasso, Crash 7-2

HOME RUNS  —LEAGUE LEADERS

Elizabeth Bishop, Buyers 20 (Modern Div)

William Yeats, Pistols 16 (Glorious Div)
Charles Dickens, Laureates 16 (Glorious Div)

James Joyce, Pistols 15

WH Auden Codes 15 (Emperor Div)

Sharon Olds, Dreamers 14
John Updike, Printers 14
Dylan Thomas, Buyers 14

Edna Millay, Dreamers 13
Aristophanes, Printers 13
Louis MacNeice, Dreamers 13
Aphra Behn, Laureates 13
Aeschylus Crusaders 13
Sophocles Goths 13
Anne Bradstreet Crusaders 13
Stephen Crane, War 13 (Society Div)

Victor Hugo Codes 12
Friedrich Schiller, Banners 12
Thomas Nashe, Actors 12
Vikram Seth, Cobras 12 (Peoples Div)
Javed Akhtar, Cobras 12 (Peoples Div)

Heinrich Heine Goths 11
Arthur Rimbaud, Strangers 11
Ionesco, Gamers 11
Li Po, Waves 11

Lord Tennyson, Carriages 10
Ted Hughes, Pistols 10
Emily Dickinson, Secrets 10
George Harrison, Cobras 10
John Donne, Laws 10
Robert Lowell, Buyers 10

Edmund Spenser Ceilings 9
Rilke Broadcasters 9
Robert Burns Broadcasters 9
Robert Browning, Carriages 9
William Wordsworth, Sun 9
Alexandre Dumas, Laureates 9
Thomas Hardy, Laws 9
Karl Marx, Waves 9
Bob Dylan, Universe 9
Juvenal, Universe 9

Tu Fu, Waves 8
John Lennon, Mist 8
Seamus Heaney, Animals 8
Mary Angela Douglas Crusaders 8
Jean Racine Codes 8
Allen Tate, Crash 8
Stephen Spender, Crash 8
Muriel Rukeyser, Dreamers 8
Matthew Arnold Sun 8
Henry Longfellow Carriages 8
GB Shaw Carriages 8

Anne Sexton Broadcasters 7
Robert Frost, Secrets 7
Francois Rabelais, Strangers 7
Theodore Roethke, Strangers 7
Billy Collins, Gamers 7
Thomas Hood, Gamers 7
Anand Thakore, Cobras 7
Hilda Doolitte, Mist 7
Martial, Laws 7
Paul Celan, Universe 7
Kenneth Koch, Printers 7
John Quinn Pistols 7
HG Wells Sun 7
Basil Bunting Sun 7

Woody Guthrie, Secrets 6
Harry Crosby, War 6
Hafiz, Actors 6
Euripides Ceilings 6
Kenneth Rexroth, Buyers 6
Anthony Hecht, Universe 6
Hart Crane, Printers 6
Wole Soyinka Codes 6
JK Rowling Laureates 6
Sara Teasdale Laureates 6
Paul McCartney Carriages 6
Haruki Murakami Mist 6
Sadakichi Hartman Mist 6

Joe Green Gamers 5
Tasso Goths 5
John Paul II Crusaders 5
Holderlin Goths 5
Wallace Stevens Animals 5
Phillis Wheatley Crusaders 5
Jim Morrison Broadcasters 5
Knut Hamsun Strangers 5
Amiri Baraka Actors 5
Gwendolyn Brooks Actors 5
Lawrence Ferlinghetti Animals 5
Boris Pasternak Laureates 5
Christina Rossetti Banners 5
Ben Mazer Banners 5
Alistair Crowley Pistols 5
Sir John Davies Sun 5
Yoko Ono Mist 5
Donald  Davidson Crash 5
Federico Garcia Lorca Printers 5
Robert Penn Warren Buyers 5
John Gould Fletcher Crash 5
Stevie Smith Dreamers 5
Richard Lovelace Dreamers 5
Jack Gilbert Dreamers 5

Maya Angelou Universe 4
Edgar Lee Masters Buyers 4
Duke Ellington Buyers 4
John Crowe Ransom Crash 4
Andre Breton Printers 4
John Ashbery Printers 4
Kalidasa Cobras 4
Donald Hall Laws 4
Ghalib Laureates 4
DG Rossetti Banners 4
Dante Banners 4
Geoffrey Hill Carriages 4
Phillip Sidney War 4
Shakespeare War 4
Derek Walcott Codes 4
William Blake Ceilings 4
Thomas Chatterton Goths 4
de Stael Goths 4
John Milton Ceilings 4
Michelangelo Ceilings 4

Oliver Goldsmith, Laureates 3
John Townsend Trowbridge Laureates 3
Glyn Maxwell, Banners 3
Ford Maddox Ford, Pistols 3
D.H. Lawrence, Pistols 3
Olga Rudge Pistols 3
Filippo Marinetti Pistols 3
Alfred Orage Pistols 3
Margaret Fuller Sun 3
Rudyard Kipling Sun 3
Horace Walpole Sun 3
Carol Ann Duffy Carriages 3
Elizabeth Barrett Carriages 3
Carl Sandburg Secrets 3
Nathaniel Hawthorne Secrets 3
Paul Simon Secrets 3
Robert Graves War 3
Marianne Moore Animals 3
Ovid Animals 3
Jack Spicer Animals 3
Reinhold Neibuhr Crusaders 3
Robert Herrick Goths 3
Callimachus Codes 3
Jules Laforgue Codes 3
Mick Jagger Broadcasters 3
Francois Villon Codes 3
Gottfried Burger Laws 3
Reed Whitmore Laws 3
Jane Kenyon Laws 3
Antonio Machado Laws 3
Ernest Thayer Gamers 3
Noel Coward Gamers 3
Bertolt Brecht Waves 3
Gary Snyder Mist 3
Natsume Soseki Mist 3
Izumi Shikabu Mist 3
Li He Waves 3
Allen Ginsberg Cobras 3
Walt Whitman Buyers 3
Carolyn Forche Dreamers 3
Lou Reed Printers 3
Archilochus Crash 3
WC Williams Crash 3
Chuck Berry Universe 3
Delmore Schwartz Universe 3

Joyce Kilmer Crusaders 2
Saint Ephrem Crusaders 2
James Russell Lowell Ceilings 2
Mina Loy Codes 2
John Clare Codes 2
Vladimir Nabokov Broadcasters 2
Giacomo Leopardi Broadcasters 2
Gregory Corso Broadcasters 2
Edgar Poe Secrets 2
Cole Porter Secrets 2
Wilfred Owen War 2
Apollinaire War 2
Alan Seeger War 2
T.E. Hulme War 2
James Dickey War 2
Robinson Jeffers Animals 2
Mary Shelley Strangers 2
Marilyn Hacker Actors 2
David Bowie Actors 2
Lucille Clifton Actors 2
Rod McKuen Laureates 2
Van Morrison Laureates 2
Thomas Wyatt Banners 2
Stefan George Banners 2
Thomas Moore Banners 2
Guido Cavalcanti Banners 2
John Keats Banners 2
T.S. Eliot Pistols 2
Gertrude Stein Pistols 2
Carl Jung Pistols 2
Dorothy Shakespeare Pistols 2
Ralph Waldo Emerson Sun 2
Marilyn Chin Sun 2
Joy Harjo Sun 2
Joseph Addison Sun 2
Richard Steele Sun 2
Philip Larkin Carriages 2
Sylvia Plath Carriages 2
Simone de Beauvoir Dreamers 2
Jorie Graham Buyers 2
Marcel Duchamp  Printers 2
Larry Levis Universe 2
Christopher Isherwood Printers 2
Stanley Kunitz Crash 2
Franz Werfel Crash 2
Galway Kinnell Universe 2
James Baldwin Printers 2

Scarriet Poetry Baseball Reporting

PISTOLS SCRAMBLE BACK—EVEN AS POUND IMPLODES

William James - Psychology, Pragmatism & Books - Biography

William James, the Nitrous Oxide Philosopher. Savior of the Pistols?

Who really likes Pound’s work?  The crackpot rantings in prose, the so-so verse, occasionally good as robbery.  Forget the politics and the strange, dangerous, hidden, unsavory, life, and the fact that nobodies, for whatever reason, won’t shut up about him, as if every writer who knew Pound needed Pound to tuck them in at night. Who can stand him?

The Berlin Pistols have demoted Pound to the bullpen after his last five starts, in which the Pistols lost 16-11, lost 27-3, won 3-2 (Pound got a no decision) lost 24-7 and lost 22-14.

“We had to stop the bleeding,” Heidegger, the Pistols’ pitching coach, said.  “It was bit embarrassing, but it’s just one of those things. Pound will collect himself, and he will be back. Something like this can happen to anyone.”

But as a team, even as Pound, one of their starters, was self-destructing, the Pistols turned it around.

It began with a 2-0 shutout thrown by William James in the Florence Banners’ home park.

At the time, the Pistols were 5-13.

After playing 17-13 ball in their last 30 games, the Pistols are now 3 games out of second place.

Ted Hughes, James Joyce, and William Butler Yeats are providing the power for Eva Braun’s club.

Ernest Hemingway and Horace Greeley have tried to fill Pound’s starting role, without much success.

Rumor has it the Pistols might give Rufus Griswold a shot.

The Devon Sun and the London Carriages of the Glorious Division both represent the glories of Britain and its Empire, but the Sun is less sunny; Lord Russell, who owns the Sun, was the Prime Minister, in the mid-19th century, in charge of looting the world and destroying the United States; his grandson, Bertrand, stellar out of the bullpen for the Sun, cuckolded the young American, T.S. Eliot.  You get the idea: arrogant, profane, as well as entitled. Wordsworth, the green and sensitive face of Empire, leads the Sun with 9 home runs.

The Sun are fading a bit, but they received a glowing performance by John Ruskin.

Who is Ruskin?  He was an art critic who coined ‘the pathetic fallacy’ was the intellectual founder of the Pre-Raphaelites, was sued for libel by James Whistler, and lost, and as a result, resigned his professorship at Oxford.

Stepping in for the injured John Stuart Mill, Ruskin won 2-1, and then over his next four starts, made history.

Perhaps urged on by his mound opponents’ pitching, Ruskin pitched not one, not two, not three, but four consecutive shutouts for the Sun, and every game was 1-0.

You can’t make this up.

This is why we play Poetry Baseball.

Will the league now sign James Whistler?

Another savior: Jonathan Swift, signed at the beginning of May by the Laureates, to replace Leigh Hunt.

Swift has won 6 of his 8 starts, with a 3.49 ERA, as Dublin is in second place, only 2 games out of first—tied with the Banners of Lorenzo de Medici.

Shelley, da Vinci, Virgil, and Dante are a solid starting core for the Banners, who are 16-8 at home, but only 9-15 on the road. Friedrich Schiller leads the Banners with 12 homers.  John Keats is still in a slump, batting .214 with 2 homers. The Banners were the favorite to win at the start of the season. They will probably need a rejuvenated Keats to put them over the top. “What ails thee, John Keats?” the Banners fans cry.

Andrew Marvell has been a real ace for the first place Carriages, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Lamb have won 6 games in relief, and Tennyson leads Queen Victoria’s team with 10 homers; Robert Browning has 9.

GLORIOUS DIVISION STANDINGS

Carriages Queen Victoria 27-21
Laureates Nahum Tate 25-23
Banners de Medici 25-23
Pistols Eva Braun 22-26
The Sun PM John Russell 22-26

WINS

Andrew Marvell, Carriages 7-2
Percy Shelley, Banners 7-4

Jonathan Swift, Laureates 6-1
William James, Pistols 6-2

John Ruskin, Sun 5-1
Leonardo da Vinci, Banners 5-2
Virgil, Banners 5-4
Emerson, Sun 5-5
Virginia Woolf, Carriages 5-6
T.S. Eliot, Pistols 5-7

Santayana, Pistols 4-4
Samuel Johnson, Laureates 4-4
Dante, Banners 4-5

Relief

Bertrand Russell, Sun 5-1
Livy, Laureates 5-1

Charles Lamb, Carriages 3-0
Charlotte Bronte, Carriages 3-1
Dana Gioia, Laureates 3-2

HOMERS

Yeats, Pistols 16
Dickens, Laureates 16

James Joyce, Pistols 15

Aphra Behn, Laureates 13

Friedrich Schiller, Banners 12

Lord Tennyson, Carriages 10
Ted Hughes, Pistols 10

Robert Browning, Carriages 9
William Wordsworth, Sun 9
Alexandre Dumas, Laureates 9

 

 

 

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BERLIN PISTOLS?

General Snobbery | Film and Philosophy

The philosopher. Heidegger. Pitching coach for the Berlin Pistols in the Glorious League.

The Scarriet Poetry Baseball League is organized this way:

The Emperor Division (5 teams)   LAST WEEK

The Glorious Division (5 teams)   THIS WEEK

The Secret Society Division (5 teams)

The Peoples Division (5 teams)

The Modern Division (5 teams)

We already looked at the Emperor Division—two teams (11-5) with ancient and renaissance grandeur are tied for first; Napoleon’s Codes (Homer, Hesiod) and the Ceilings of Pope Julius II (Milton, Spenser), followed by the sturm & drang Goths of Charles X, featuring Goethe, Baudelaire, and Wilde, and these two teams are tied for last: the Broadcasters of Fellini, a modern unit of Jim Morrison, Rilke, Nabokov—and the Crusaders, owned by Philip of Spain, a devout team of Thomas Aquinas, Mary Angela Douglas, Bishop Berkeley, and St. John of the Cross.

WH Auden (Codes), Henrich Heine (Goths) and Aeschylus (Crusaders) lead the Emperor Division with five home runs.  Milton of the Ceilings is the ERA leader with 1.15.  Chauteubriand (Goths) and Kant (Codes) have 3 wins.

Some wonder why Auden is playing for Napoleon, but some teams hire anyone they think can help them win.

The season has just started, but the pitching of the Ceilings (11-5), led my Milton, is the story of the Emperor Division so far; they’re allowing about two runs per game, and that’s how you win titles.

~~~

The Glorious Division is dominated by British icons from Shakespeare’s time to our day.

On top of that division right now, with a 12-4 record, are the Carriages, led by Tennyson’s 7 homers and Andrew Marvell’s 3 wins and 1.30 ERA.

As you know, versifying skill means good defense in the field and the ability to get on base, popular works of fiction of any kind means power, and philosophical, transcendent, or critical acumen translates into great pitching. Marvell was more than just a great lyric poet; he was a politician, wrote long satires, and convinced the new government after Cromwell not to kill Milton.  Marvell is the ace of a pitching-rich ball club.

The Carriages, owned by Queen Victoria, with manager Prince Albert, pitching coach Joseph Priestly, are a tough, no-nonsense, team, marked by high seriousness. Look at their pitching staff: Marvel, Virginia Woolf, William Hazlitt, Henry James, Jeremy Bentham, Charlotte Bronte, and Charles Lamb. (The more introverted Emily Bronte recently joined the Goths.) George Bernard Shaw has slammed 5 home runs off the bench, including two pinch hit game winners, giving the Carriages a tremendous boost; Longfellow has 4 round-trippers from the cleanup spot, and Robert Browning has also drilled four home runs batting fifth. Paul McCartney has 3 home runs and seven stolen bases at the top of the order. The Carriages are absolutely the team to watch in the Glorious Division.

The Laureates are owned by 17th century Poet Laureate of England Nahum Tate, who was born in Dublin. His most popular work was an edition of King Lear, re-written with a happy ending. This gives you an idea, perhaps, of the nature of this team. The Laureates are in second place in this division full of strong modern teams, and much of it is thanks to Livy’s strong work in the bullpen, and the offense led by Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, and Aphra  Behn (14 homers between them). Sara Teasdale has hit 3, and JK Rowling, 2.  The Laureates, who play in Dublin, are similar to London’s Carriages: popular writers tend to have pop in their bat, and the Laureates have plenty of that, and clutch hitting, too. Their starting pitchers are not overpowering, but manager Ronald Reagan and pitching coach Bobby Kennedy feel they can get the job done: Edmund Burke, Thomas Love Peacock, Samuel Johnson, and Leigh Hunt are all healthy and have pitched fairly well. The Irish-Anglo scientist Robert Boyle was picked up to help Dana Gioia and Livy in relief.

The Sun are in third place with a .500 record. They are owned by PM Lord Russell. Winston Churchill (!) is their manager. Lord Palmerston is their pitching coach. The Sun has a modern, worldly scope, fed by the pride of the British Empire, and could dominate this division if it ever clicks into gear. Ralph Waldo Emerson (if one looks deeply into his biography, Waldo is just as British as he is American) is their ace; John Stuart Mill will be out for a while, and John Ruskin will replace him as the no. 2 starter, Aldous Huxley is starter no. 3, followed by Thomas Carlyle. Bertrand Russell, Thoreau, Joshua Reynolds, and Christopher Ricks are in the bullpen. Basil Bunting has been an unlikely power source for the Sun, with 6 home runs batting eighth! Kipling, Wordsworth, and Matthew Arnold are the big bats, but largely silent, so far.  Aside from two unusual games, totaling 60 runs, team Sun has not scored much.  They massacred the Pistols 27-3, and also beat them 23-18.

The Banners, of Lorenzo de’ Medici, the fourth place team at 7-9, have not been hitting much either, but their pitching staff may be the best in the whole league: Dante (Ficino filled in recently), Shelley, Virgil, Leonardo da Vinci, Boccaccio, Bronzino, Botticelli, and William Rossetti.  The Banners hitting features Keats (no home runs yet), Friedrich Schiller (5 homers to lead the team), and DG Rossetti (one home run) in the 3,4,5 part of the lineup. Ben Mazer has been a pleasant surprise for the Banners, with 3 homers from the lead off position.  The Banners will certainly give the Carriages a run for their money. Queen Victoria has to respect de’ Medici.

What’s wrong with Eva Braun’s Pistols?  They are 5-11, but it feels like they are doing much worse. The pitching coach, Martin Heidegger, has been under fire, as the team has allowed a whopping 121 runs.  The Pistols have been hitting, especially Joyce and Yeats (8 homers each!). T.S. Eliot, their ace, is 0-4, and has been getting worse with each start. Three of the Pistols’ five wins have come when William James has started, and James had to leave a tough 3-1 loss with depression. Pound is 1-1, and started the horrendous 27-3 loss; he didn’t want to come out, and people are wondering whether Randolph Churchill, Winston’s son who married Pamela Harriman, has the stuff to manage this team. It’s great that Randolph’s father is Winston Churchill, but do the Pistols need someone tougher to lead them?

Standings

Carriages 12-4  —75 runs, 57 against

Laureates 9-7  —82 runs, 76 against

Sun 8-8  —-95 runs, 73 against

Banners 7-9 —48 runs, 49 against

Pistols 5-11 —82 runs, 121 against

Leaders  WINS

Marvell 3-0, ERA 1.30  –Carriages
Shelley 3-1 ERA 1.78    –Banners

Hazlitt 2-1 ERA 3.09     -Carriages
W James 2-0 ERA 3.10  -Pistols
Woolf 2-2 ERA 3.65      -Carriages
Carlyle 2-1 ERA 4.42     -Sun

Livy 3-1 ERA 2.99   –Laureates   Relief Pitcher
Gioia 3-1 ERA 3.20 –Laureates   RP

C Bronte 2-0 ERA 2.33 -Carriages RP
B Russell 2-0 ERA 2.73 -Sun  RP

Leaders HRS

Joyce, Pistols 8
Yeats, Pistols 8

Tennyson, Carriages 7

Bunting, Sun 6

GB Shaw, Carriages 5
Dumas, Laureates 5
Dickens, Laureates 5
Schiller, Banners 5

Behn, Laureates 4
Longfellow, Carriages 4
Browning, Carriages 4

Scarriet Poetry Baseball News

 

PISTOLS AT CARRIAGES

Father and Son - The International Churchill Society

Randolph Churchill MBE. Manager of the Berlin Pistols in the Glorious Division.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to London, England where Queen Victoria’s Carriages host the Berlin Pistols.

The Carriages have taken the first two games of this four game series with Andrew Marvell and Virginia Woolf getting the wins.

Spring has arrived, and the vines and flowers which adorn Queen’s Ball Park—the most “comfy” stadium on earth—are colorful and fragrant.

Today it will be William Hazlitt making the start for London.

Marla Muse spoke briefly to the Carriages’ pitching coach, Joseph Priestly, who had this to say about his no. 3 starter:

“Hazlitt throws hard, and comes right at you. He has no delicacy on the mound. After all, he did say this, to quote him directly, if I might: ‘Love turns, with little indulgence, to indifference or disgust: hatred alone is immortal.’ If that doesn’t say something about him, I don’t know what does. I have a great amount of confidence with him on the mound. He challenges hitters, and never makes excuses.”

Eva Braun’s Pistols will counter with William James, the “Nitrous Oxide Philosopher,” Harvard professor, brother of the famous expat novelist, godfather to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and inventor of Stream of Consciousness writing, based on his absolutely brilliant, depressing, and self-observed psychological experiments.  Anyone who has ever taken a psychology course in college can thank William James, who made Psychology a respectable subject in college for the first time. James has a very slow delivery, a curve ball that dreams its way to the plate; he doesn’t throw hard, but he’s sneaky fast.

Here’s the defense behind William James.   In center field, the passionate DH Lawrence.  In right field, the austere Ted Hughes. In left field, the mysterious Aleister Crowley. James Joyce at third base, Ford Maddox Ford (German, British, and American) at first. At shortstop, William Butler Yeats, at second base, Gertrude Stein, and behind the plate, doing the catching, Carl Jung.

For the Carriages: Longfellow is in center, Philip Larkin holds down right field, and Sylvia Plath is over in left.  At third, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. At first base, Geoffrey Hill.  Up the middle, we have Paul McCartney at shortstop and Tennyson at second. Playing catcher, Robert Browning.

Andrew Marvell of the Carriages out-dueled T.S. Eliot of the Pistols (15 K) in game one, 2-0, with the Brownings each hitting a home run.

The Carriages won game two 6-3. Virginia Woolf went nine innings and allowed three runs; a 3 run homer in the bottom of the ninth by George Bernard Shaw off George Santayana, game 2 starter for the Pistols, was the difference. Paul McCartney singled twice and stole a base. Sylvia Plath tripled and scored on a two strike, two out single by Woolf. Longfellow knocked in two. Simon Armitage began the rally in the ninth with a bloop single.

The Pistols scoring was provided by a solo homer by Yeats, and a two-run double by Joyce.

~~~

Hazlitt’s first pitch. A ball.  And we’re underway!

The next delivery to Lawrence at the plate…he turns on it…wow, he got all of it…that ball…is out of here!  Gone!  A home run!  Pistols lead, 1-0.

Here we are in the fourth inning…still 1-0 Pistols, on the home run by DH Lawrence…Longfellow facing William James with two outs and nobody on…James has pitched well so far…and there’s a ball to right field…way back…way back…And Longfellow has tied up this game! All Ted Hughes, the right fielder for the Pistols, could do was look up.  It’s now 1-1.

In the sixth, still 1-1.  Both starters Hazlitt and James pitching brilliantly.  Wait. William James is motioning to the dugout. He wants the manager. Something’s wrong. Randolph Churchill, the Pistols manager is coming out of the dugout.  Let’s see… Well, I guess that’s it for James. He’s coming out. Not sure what’s wrong with him. Richard Wagner is up warming in the bullpen for the Pistols. And he’s going to get all the time he needs, because this is considered an injury. Not sure what it is, though. The umpires are discussing things with Churchill on the mound. It’s apparently…depression. William James is depressed, and has to come out. James has suffered bouts of depression all his life.  This is considered an “injury.”  He just can’t pitch any longer, even though up until now, he’s been terrific!

Wagner now pitching for the Pistols. And he strikes out Paul McCartney to end the inning!

William Hazlitt is cruising along, making it look easy. He’s busting his fastball inside, then freezing hitters with changes and curves away.

We’re in the bottom of the 8th, score still tied at one. The Carriages’ James Shirley pinch hitting…there’s a single up the middle!  Here’s George Bernard Shaw, who hit the big pinch hit home run yesterday. Shaw is batting for McCartney, who looked bad last at bat against Wagner. The catcher, Carl Jung, Yeats, the shortstop, Gertrude Stein the second baseman, Heidegger, the pitching coach, and Wagner, the pitcher, are talking things over on the mound. Wyndham Lewis and Hugh Kenner are throwing in the bullpen. They’re ready to come in.

Heidegger goes back to the dugout. Randolph Churchill (son of Winston) decides to stick with Wagner, their ace relief pitcher.

Shaw fouls off pitch after pitch…

Shirley has some speed at first…Ford Maddox Ford is on the bag, taking throws from Wagner, as they want to keep Shirley, the potential winning run, from taking a big lead…

Here’s the 3-2 from Wagner to Shaw…well-hit to center field…DH Lawrence goes back…back…back…gone! A home run for Shaw! George Bernard Shaw has done it again! Can you believe it?

The Carriages lead 3-1!

Hugh Kenner comes in and gets Tennyson on a fly to right.  Inning over. But the damage has been done.  For the second straight game, George Bernard Shaw has burned the Pistols off the bench.

Hazlitt will get the win, if Charles Lamb can take care of the Pistols in the ninth…

Gertrude Stein and Aleister Crowley go quietly, a pop fly and a ground out.

Pinch hitting for Kenner in the pitching spot is Filippo Marinetti, the founder of Futurism.

The Pistols are down to their last out.

Charles Lamb gets a called strike.  0-1.

Wasting no time, Lamb comes back with a fast ball, just off the plate. Ball one.  One and one, now…

Marinetti hits a shot towards third…

Caught by the third baseman Elizabeth Barrett Browning!

And the London Carriages have won their third straight against the Berlin Pistols!

William Hazlitt wins; he’s 1-0. Richard Wagner loses; he’s 0-1.

Ezra Pound will try to salvage a win in the four game series for the Pistols tomorrow.  He will face Henry James.

Good night, Marla!

 

 

THAT I CAN SIT HERE AND TURN THESE PAGES AND NOT DIE: BEN MAZER’S LANDMARK EDITION OF HARRY CROSBY’S POEMS

The arrest of Dora Marsden, 30th March, 1909

SELECTED POEMS OF HARRY CROSBY, Ben Mazer, ed, MAD HAT PRESS, 6/22/20

DECEMBER 10, 1929

That I can sit here and turn these pages and not die,
As you did, Harry Crosby, when the time was right,
Saying goodbye to Caresse, as you and Josephine turned out the light,
Every poem leading up to your death was just the way it had to have been,
Unless we don’t know that—because of freedom.

No one published your poems for 87 years, until Ben Mazer,
Who finds everything in the darkness of letters, like a laser.
I think of the Tell-Tale Heart when the old poetry had to die
And new poetry opened the door and shot light into the dark room onto the eye.

I can hear T.S. Eliot breathing low
In the stuffy rooms at Cambridge
When during the weekend Pound decided to come down.
Now, after another 27 difficult years, Robert Lowell sits there, remorseful, in his dressing gown.

The sun! give me the sun,
The true dawn, or none.
Give me the diary, Harry, give me the gun.
Was there freedom,
Too much freedom, too much—or absolutely none?

Ben Mazer, poet and editor, born in 1964, is saving poetry from its 20th century catastrophe.

He personally rescued Landis Everson, the most obscure figure of the San Francisco Renaissance, and found him publishing outlets.

He edited The Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (Harvard University Press).

He edited the Complete Poems of John Crowe Ransom (The American South’s T.S. Eliot), noticed in a review by Helen Vendler in the New York Review of Books.

He recently received the green light from FSG to compile the first Collected Poems of Delmore Schwartz.

And now, perhaps the most exciting of all.  Harry Crosby.

Ben Mazer is seeing into publication this year, as editor, the Selected Poems of Harry Crosby, allowing the world to see this central figure for the first time since this Back Bay rich boy (nephew to J.P. Morgan) danced on the world’s stage and self-published his poetry almost 100 years ago.

Crosby belonged to poetry’s One True Circle which overlapped, as one would expect, with the worlds of High Finance, War Profits, and Modern Painting.  Crosby knew Hart Crane, Ezra Pound, DH Lawrence, among others, and was mentored by a wealthy gentleman, Walter Berry (Crosby got his book collection when Berry died in 1927 a few days before Crosby’s 30th birthday) who knew Henry James and Marcel Proust.

Crosby, however, has been utterly forgotten.

Why?

This is what makes Mazer’s project so exciting. Crosby exemplified, perhaps more than any other poet, the One True Circle of 20th Century Anglo-American Poetry, the Who’s Who of Modern Poetry All Intellectuals Know. 

Crosby was the craziest of all.  The really embarrassing one.  He was loved.  But he was excluded—that is, written out of the canon. 

The insane, tabloid, side of the One True Circle is embarrassing, and much of it is not fit for school.

A 20th century poet, to be known, had to be taught in school.  Ezra Pound and WC Williams were as unknown as Harry Crosby, when a couple of government-connected New Critics, in the middle of the 20th Century, put Pound and Williams in a college textbook, Understanding Poetry.

License.

The license of those times, the moral looseness of the One True Circle itself, was one kind of very real license. This was widely understood.

The poems selected for especial praise by the editors of Understanding Poetry were two very brief ones—one by Williams, and one by his U Penn friend, Pound—describing plainly, a red wheel barrow, and petals on a black bough.

Poems praised—and yet poems anyone could write.

The other kind of license was the one for the public at large.

The poetry establishment, without directly saying so, was giving the public license.  The Petals-and-Wheel Barrow clique was rather priestly and private, but it’s implicit message to the reading public was loud and clear: to be a Byron was now a snap—poetry was now extremely brief and extremely easy.

Harry Crosby did not write a two-line poem on flower petals or a one-sentence poem on a wheel barrow.

Crosby went Williams and Pound one better.

Harry Crosby produced a one sentence poem:

a naked lady in a yellow hat

Crosby was too hot to handle for a college textbook in the 1930s; Crosby made the tabloids when he shot himself on December 10th 1929, in a suicide pact with his mistress.

Pound and Williams were more attractive.

First, they were alive; second, their poems were austere and moral compared to Crosby’s—who more accurately (and this was a problem in itself) reflected the unfettered, anything-goes, private-parties-of-the-rich sensibility of the One True Circle.

But now Pound and Williams are also dead.

And we can handle anything.

And as we disentangle ourselves from the selling of poetry—the selling that was very consciously done by the One True Circle in the 20th century, and view poetry and the One True Circle more discerningly—we can welcome Harry Crosby into the wider fold, and allow him his rightful place in a pantheon which may be sordid and embarrassing, but is necessary, not only for historical study, but for poetry, itself.

Mazer is also, for those who know his work, perhaps the most important American poet writing today.  His Selected Poems is recently published.

Americans don’t even speak of 21st century poetry. The whole thing is too embarrassing.  Too painful.

There isn’t one critically acclaimed, popular, anything in poetry left.

There’s merely a cool kids list which changes every few months.

There is no poetry, in terms of centralized recognition.

We now live in the Great Empty Hangover of a 1920s Gatsby party.

New Jersey poet Louis Ginsberg was a Nudist Camp member, and belonged to the One True Circle—in particular: Alfred Kreymborg/WC Williams/Ezra Pound/Wallace Stevens/Man Ray/Duchamp. His son was Allen Ginsberg.

Ginsberg, who gained fame, like Baudelaire and Joyce, completely from obscenity controversy, died in 1997.

Maya Angelou died in 2014.

John Ashbery, known for poetry which “makes no sense,” associated with Modern Art circles in New York City, including Peggy Guggenheim, a modern Gertrude Stein, who was awarded his Yale Younger Poets Award by W.H. Auden, died in 2017.

No one has replaced these figures.

A few replacement figures may exist, poets who knew Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, for instance, but the magnetic pull which holds pieces of inspiration together—think of Plato’s Ion—just isn’t strong enough. These figures may be on poetry lists, but the public doesn’t know them.

The total absence of poetry in the 21st century, its complete de-centered, trivial, existence is the void now faced by Mazer with his lantern.

Here’s an example. The Essential T.S. Eliot was just published (April 2020), reprinting the better-known poems and one essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent.”

The only thing new in the Essential T.S. Eliot is the introduction by Vijay Seshadri. A nice essay.  He has the slick, academic, ‘priesthood patter’ down—Pound and Eliot are profound and wonderful in all sorts of (World War One! The Horror!) ways.

However, in this new, rather sizeable introduction, no one after the middle of the 20th century is mentioned.  

I find this very interesting. The occasion of reprinting T.S. Eliot, in 2020, is cause for not even the faintest flutter in the post-Eliot Tradition.

So what is all this fuss about the Tradition, then?

Does it stop with Eliot and Pound?

Walt Whitman makes an appearance in the introduction—Seshadri tells us Eliot and Whitman are opposites, but also informs us that both were reactionary in their politics and both were influenced by a terrible war.

The most recent figure mentioned in Seshadri’s introduction is Hugh Kenner.  Seshadri reminds us that Bertrand Russell—son of Lord Russell, Prime Minster of England when Whitman was writing—slept with Eliot’s wife. Well, what would an examination of the One True Circle be, after all, without a Harry Crosby type of anecdote?

Eliot, and especially his associate, Ezra Pound—-both unknown and hungry during World War One—as mature, middle-aged, literary figures, both bet, essentially, on the Axis Powers to win World War Two. The second half of the 20th century, therefore, saw the entire sensibility of poetry, unlike the booming, victorious-over-Hitler, United States itself, become a high brow contest to see who could best apologize for what we were told was the best of our poetry—which had lost.

The worst “loser,” the embodiment of all that was lauded in the “new” poetry, was Ezra Pound—a T.S. Eliot objection away from being hung as a traitor in Italy in 1945. Ezra Pound, the irascible, cash-handy, “Make It New” deal-maker, the flesh of the poetry that was supposed to carry us forward to new heights of insight and interest.

But a curious thing happened.

As the 20th century went on, the “new” poetry, instead of taking us forward, took us back.

Poetry kept returning to Ezra Pound, Imagiste poet of World War One; it kept going back to T.S. Eliot and The Waste Land, which will be a hundred years old in 2022; this was the narrative: Pound, Eliot, Pound, Eliot.

But what of us?  What of the next generations?  Well, you had Ashbery, the late 20th century god, chosen by Auden—who had been chosen by Eliot.  There was simply no escape.  The One True Circle, which began in William James’ mental laboratory, kept shining. The rest of us could go to hell.

The One Circle trapped us in so many ways.

The 1970s pot-smoking professors trapped us, with their unreadable doctoral theses on Finnegan’s Wake and The Cantos.

There was the poetry itself which trapped us, the poetry which now anybody could write, and they did: your professor, your classmates, all the while doing the necessary obeisance to the “new” poetry—the crappy sort of poetry so easy to write—it only had to be obscure enough, which made it possible for anyone to believe they were a poet—as long as poetry that was actually good was kept, as much as possible, out of sight.

The poetry that was actually good was anything studied, anthologized, and written, prior to the existence of the One True Circle—that is, whatever Pound and Eliot dismissed: Milton, Poe, Shakespeare.

The past had to be read selectively, based on the One True Circle’s recommendations—one couldn’t just love old poetryno, that was forbiddenVillon, yes.  The “French Symbolists.” Yes. Rimbaud was terribly, terribly cool, even in a Bob Dylan, son of Woody Guthrie, sort of way. Even though no one knew what Rimbaud was talking about. (For a while we didn’t know what Dylan was talking about.) Obscurity was always good.  So Rimbaud was good. Baudelaire was good, no, great, because he was completely wretched. It was as if Baudelaire were alive during WW I!  So he was good. And French, of course, was good. A few tortured passages by Donne. Yes. That was okay, too. Pre-Raphaelite was very good. Because it was prior to the Renaissance, you see. And the Renaissance, because it was truly good, was very, very bad. Byron, Poe, Milton, Elizabeth Barrett, Edna Millay, Sara Teasdale. No way.  Millay and Teasdale were especially annoying, because they wrote a little too much beautiful poetry that actually was good, and they also had the audacity to be contemporary. Hugh Kenner, the Pound fan, was quick to dismiss Millay. And those in the One True Circle nodded silently.

So here we are in 2020, with a big poetic nothing.

We are still talking about Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, or Pound’s friend, WC Williams.

And exactly in the way the New Critics wanted us to talk about them.  The “difficult,” academic-priestly, text-centered way, is how we appropriately baffle ourselves.

There is only one thing which can be discussed outside the text.

World War One’s horrors.

It isn’t so much that we shouldn’t be talking about Eliot.  Certainly, we should. He was a good poet, and a good critic, and the Great War did happen, after all.

But what about everybody else?  What about the big future nothing which the cloudy, morbid, obsession with Modernism has created?

We hear, over and over again, how Eliot’s entire poetic being was a casualty of WW I, (the way “mad Ireland hurt” Yeats “into poetry”—Auden) but Modernist critics never stop to think how maybe the reader is a casualty of Modernism, which came about, as every Modernist is quick to point out, in de rigueur wretched tones, because of a horrific war.  If the horrific war was real, and Modernism’s reaction to it was real, then here is the Romantic poison drunk during the French Revolution—only we can’t talk about the French Revolution, because the One True Circle needs to be historically exclusive, as we see time and time again. Go back—but only to Pound and World War One, please. Stop there. And then, and only then, perhaps, you may perhaps travel indirectly back—as long as you don’t lose the thread, and forget that it connects to Pound—to, let’s say, Rimbaud, the anti-Romantic.

And never, never say the Modernist poets were part of the same group that produced World War One.  Always portray the Modernist poets as victims of the Great War.  Even if Ford Maddox Ford worked in the War Propaganda Office. Whatever you do, don’t mention that! Modernism was a burning cauldron heated by the fires of World War One.  And it melted everything.  That is all.

We bet on the Pound clique, and lost.

After the war, Pound had to be rescued; somehow World War Two had to be forgotten; unlike WW I, there was no WW II poetry of any note.

The Bollingen Prize—the first one—in 1949, was the stamp of approval, the swift and necessary repair of Pound’s reputation. Had Pound been quickly shot as a traitor, the poetry of our age would look entirely different.

The Bollingen Prize was presented to Pound, (amid howls of protest, of course) by three judges W.H. Auden, TS Eliot, and Conrad Aiken.

The One True Circle had to defend itself; it almost imploded, as World War Two made World War One temporarily irrelevant.  Thank God for the Bollingen and 1949!

New Critic and Southerner Allen Tate, who New Englander Robert Lowell worshiped (his eyes on the One True Circle) helped start the Writing Program at Princeton—where professor RP Blackmur taught the younger Princeton creative writing professor John Berryman how to drink—ending in Berryman’s suicide at the U. of Minnesota.

Princeton eventually took over the Bolligen Prize, which was the unofficial life blood of the One True Circle, as the 20th Century progressed, and they give out the Bollignen Prize to this day, the prize itself over-shadowing poets whom no one knows.

The Bollingen continues, but it only exists because Pound had to be saved.

Bollingen, by the way, is the name of the house of Carl Jung. The Bollingen prize originally had non-poetry money attached to it (normal for how poetry grew during the 20th century). Fortunately for the One True Circle, it fell into the lap of Pound’s friend, T.S. Eliot, and the two other judges, who were both Eliot’s friends, at the Library of Congress.

Conrad Aiken and Eliot were old Harvard friends—Harvard profs William James (sometimes known as the Nitrous Oxide Philosopher) and George Santayana, a bachelor who lived the last 20 years of his life in fascist Italy, were the two greatest influences on Aiken and Eliot (as well as Wallace Stevens).

Ralph Waldo Emerson—the antithesis of Poe and friends with T.S. Eliot’s New England grandfather—was William James’ godfather—and William James was the brother of the Great, Inscrutable, Expat, Novelist Henry James. William James was the founder of the first Psychology Department in the United States, at Harvard—and it could be said that William James might be the beginning of the One True Circle, if we must trace it back. (Though it’s in the nature of any True Circle never to be understood.) William James (also known as the Stream-of-Consciousness philosopher, though of course he didn’t invent stream of consciousness) also taught Gertrude Stein (one foot in the Nonsense Poetry Business, one foot in the Modern Painting Business)—she is of course an important member of the One True Circle.  (This game is very easy, but don’t let the ease fool you.)

Eliot was very much like the trans-Atlantic Henry James. The distinguished magazine, The Atlantic, was where Henry James was first published—by William Dean Howells, the editor set up there by Emerson. Eliot’s early tea-cup poetry resembles the novels of Henry James.

The One True Circle is almost entirely made up of men—but women were extremely influential behind the scenes, just as a great deal of non-poetry money was behind the scenes.  Pound needed lots of ready money to be the influence he was, and this mostly came from Pound’s female contacts.

Eliot’s first book (it was really a “pamphlet” according to Seshardri), Prufrock and Other Observations, was subsidized by Pound’s wife and published by the Egoist, a vital Modernist magazine, (Conrad Aiken was the first to review Prufrock and Other Observations—do you see how it works?) and yet the magazine itself, prior to being the Egoist, had been a radical feminist one, The New Freewoman, run by Dora Marsden, before it became, still under her leadership—but guided increasingly by Pound—the Egoist.

Marsden was too radical for even her radical feminist cohorts; she lived the last 40 years of her life as a broken recluse.  She was a passionate believer in radical individualism, feminism, and free love. This is somewhat ironic, given the fact that the mature, “conservative” Eliot excoriated the young Shelley for advocating free love.  Eliot’s career was born on the shoulders of “free love.”  Eliot never had to apologize for his abuse of Shelley, however, because Shelley, the stunning Romantic poet, was persona non grata to Pound’s One True Circle, anyway.

Letters in the 20th century decided to make an American poetry hero out of Ezra Pound and to make College Writing Programs (‘you, too, can be a poet’) the key to success in poetry.

The result: American poetry no longer has a public.

Of course, what happened, happened.  Nothing written here is the attempt to make it all go away. Quite the contrary. We might as well go into it even deeper, if we are to come out of it, and start anew.

Harry Crosby and his Black Sun Press is an important part of that story.

It was suppressed then, and Ben Mazer is bringing it back to light, now.

Mazer’s introduction to Harry’s poems is mostly factual. He details Harry’s life as WW I soldier, poet, and lover. He praises the poetry as having that quality where every reader can see something different in it. He lauds its sincerity. The introduction ends this way:

A notable occasion in Harry’s life was when he witnessed Lindbergh’s landing in Paris on May 20, 1927. On August 1, 1929, he decided that he wanted to learn how to fly. Soon he was taking lessons, and going up with an instructor. Then, he became more and more impatient as he yearned to be allowed to fly solo, but continued to be sent up with an instructor. He was determined to fly solo before departing for America. Finally, on Armistice Day, November 11, Harry completed his first solo flight. Five days later he and Caresse sailed for New York on the Mauretania. On November 18, Harry received a radiogram from Josephine: “IMPATIENT.” On November 22, the Crosbys docked in New York. The next day, Harry visited Josephine before the Harvard-Yale football game. Harry saw much of Josephine in the next two weeks. The final entry in Harry’s diary reads:

One is not in love unless one desires to die with one’s beloved

There is only one happiness it is to love and to be loved

One can get lost in the tabloid excess of Harry’s life.  But there was a tragic Romantic figure beneath the excess—a deeply sensitive man who loved.

The poems of Harry Crosby are bright, fanciful. Here are two samples:

I am endeavoring to persuade a Chinese professor who is at work on a torpedo which he expects to shoot to the sun to allow me to live in the centre of this torpedo

And

a giraffe is gorging himself on sunflowers a Parisian doll is washing herself in a blue fingerbowl while I insist on their electrocution on the grounds of indecency

Crosby’s poetry has a quality which represents the times in which he lived better than anything else that was being published then.

T.S. Eliot thought.

Harry Crosby lived.

The following is one of the most interesting things I found in the book.

This excerpt—from a critical piece Crosby published in the summer of the year he died—proves that Harry belonged, at least in his own mind, to the One True Circle.  You can tell by his likes and dislikes. The following perhaps reveals too much. There is a cult-like worship of those in the One True Circle, which may have even unsettled the members of the One True Circle themselves.  Did Crosby hate Amy Lowell because she was against the U.S. entering World War One—which made his uncle, J.P. Morgan, rich?  Amy Lowell was dedicated to poetry. Pound, police commissioner of the One True Circle, did nothing but ridicule her. And why did Crosby reject a beautiful poet like Edna Saint Vincent Millay?  Perhaps Millay wanted nothing to do with the One True Circle? After all, not everyone liked Ezra Pound.

A well-known phenomenon in the East is the False Dawn, a transient light on the horizon an hour before the True Dawn. The False Dawn = the poets sponsored by Amy Lowell and the Imagists who flickered for a brief instant on the horizon before they dwindled into the Robert Hillyers and Humbert Wolfs, the Edna Saint Vincent Millays, the Walter de la Meres, the Benets and Untermeyers, the Auslanders and Teasdales who spot with their flytracks the bloated pages of our magazines and anthologies. Once again the general reader has been deceived by the False Dawn and has gone back to bed (who can blame him?) thus missing the True Dawn which has definitely appeared on the horizon harbingered by T.S. Eliot, heralded by the Morning Star of Joyce and heliorayed with the bright shafts of Hart Crane, E.E. Cummings, Perse and MacLeish, Gertrude Stein, Desnos, Eluard, Jolas and Kay Boyle.

—Harry Crosby, 1929

Thank you, Ben Mazer.

Harry Crosby and the True Dawn (there was some truth) will always be looking for us.

Those “bright shafts.”

~~~~~
Salem MA, May 1 2020

SCARRIET BASEBALL OPENING DAY

Ano Meria-Agios Georgios Road

Napoleon convinced Homer the fate of Greece lies with central Europe; the torrential rains in Corsica which delayed both opening game ceremonies and the game itself didn’t seem to bother Napoleon one bit. He smiled the whole time, and even toasted several dignitaries, and the fans, at one point, to tremendous cheers, with champagne from South Africa (watered down).

Homer scattered seven hits in a lengthy and soggy, complete game, 5-3 win over the visiting Rimini Broadcasters in an epic contest marred by heavy Mediterranean rains, as Napoleon’s Codes prevailed over a persistent Federico Felini team in the first game of the season.

The first pitch of the year delivered by Homer was a strike.  Knee high, on the outside part of the plate, where Homer pretty much stayed all day (and into the night—this was a long game.)

The Broadcasters took an early 1-0 lead against Homer and the Codes in the second as Robert Burns walked (Corsica fans thought ball four was strike three) and scampered home on a Jim Morrison double.

The Codes stormed back in the bottom of the fourth, taking the lead for good. The Broadcaster starter, the noble Leopardi, seemed bothered by the muddy mound, and fell at one point delivering a pitch. Homer himself began the scoring with an infield single. After Callimachus fanned, Derek Walcott drew a walk and Jean Racine drove in two with a slicing triple that took a funny hop off the wall past Anne Sexton in right. Racine then scored on a Victor Hugo sacrifice fly.

Wole Soyinka and WH Auden both hit solo homers in the seventh, chasing Leopardi.  Auden, the English poet, was asked after the game, once again, why he was playing for Napoleon’s team.  “Because it’s a good team,” Auden said, “and I love the limestone cliffs of Corsica overlooking this ballpark.” Soyinka, sitting nearby, with a big laugh, called out, “limestone cliffs, baby!”

Not too far away, in Paris, the other Emperor Division contest saw the home Goths trounce the visiting Crusaders 9-5, as Johann W. Goethe earned the opening day win and also knocked in three runs. Thomas Aquinas never looked comfortable on the mound for Philip II’s Madrid team, as he couldn’t find the plate in the first. Somber and humble afterwards in the clubhouse, Aquinas said simply, “God was not with us this day.” Smiling through tears, he added, “He’s not always with us for every little thing we want. I need to pitch better….”

In one other game to report, in the Glorious Division, London was happy as Queen Victoria’s Carriages hosted an opening day win against the Berlin Pistols and starting pitcher T.S. Eliot.

Andrew Marvell, with ninth inning help from Jeremy Bentham, stopped the Pistols, 2-0, besting Eliot in a pitching duel which saw Robert Browning and Elizabeth Browning slam solo homers to provide the scoring for the home team. Eliot struck out 15 hitters, including Henry Longfellow four times, but Marvell never allowed a Pistol past second base as his big curve was accurate and a wonder to watch.

Pistols starting pitcher Ezra Pound, hanging out in the bullpen with Hemingway, Heidegger, Hugh Kenner, Wyndham Lewis, John Quinn, and Olga Rudge, got into a shouting match with some London fans in the seventh inning, and then after the game complained bitterly that the Pistols “gave Tom no run support after he pitched such a great game; I think I might have to put myself in the lineup; when you can’t hit the ball hard, you have to manufacture runs! Maybe I’m crazy, but I think we should win every game!” William Yeats, hitting in the cleanup spot for the Pistols (0-3 with a walk and a strikeout) grumbled as he left, “It’s still early. We have a lot of games to play. This is a terribly good team.”

Reporting from Corsica, Paris, and London, this is Scarriet Poetry Baseball news.

 

THE SEASON BEGINS! SCARRIET POETRY BASEBALL!

Index of /main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01

This is the first world baseball league in history!!!

25 teams, 500 poets, is a lot to take in, but that’s why we’re here to guide you.

Marla Muse: Is that snow outside?

Yes, Marla, snow is falling outside the commissioner’s office here in Salem, Massachusetts…

On April 16th!  But to continue…

There’s been a lot of recent signings as teams attempt to fill their rosters. And Boston took Franklin’s team from Philly.  Philly already has a team: The Crash.

We suggest you generally familiarize yourself with the teams, and pick a favorite team to win the championship–why not?  We assure you, these games will play out, for real; no hidden hand will determine the winners.

The Emperor Division

THE BROADCASTERS

Fellini’s Broadcasters is a team of flamboyance and show.  They know how to live and die.  A sexy team.  Motto: Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name. Home park: Rimini, Italy on the Adriatic coast.

Starting Pitchers Giacomo Leopardi 5, Ben Jonson 5, Nabokov 5, Coleridge 5, Relief Pitchers Valery 5, Hitchcock (new) 5, Walter Benjamin (new) 4
Robert Burns CF, Rilke 2B, Mick Jagger SS, Charles Bukowski 1B, Jim Morrison LF, Anne Sexton RF, Gregory Corso C, Sappho 3B,
Anacreon, Ingrid Jonker, Edmund Waller, Omar Khayyam, Swinburne

THE CODES

How would the emperor Napoleon pick his team—not knowing who might obey him or laugh at him behind his back? Napoleon was a law-giver, a conqueror, and larger than life, and poets either mocked and disparaged him (Byron, Oscar Wilde, Shelley,) or wrote him knee-bending odes (Victor Hugo, John Clare). The character of this team is difficult to define. Napoleon has brought together the best he can find, if they don’t actively hate him. Motto: Let the More Loving One Be Me.  Home park: Corsica, on the Mediterranean sea.

Napoleon’s The Codes Starting Pitchers Homer 6, Cicero 6, Hesiod 5, Logan 4, Relief Pitchers Kant (new) 6, Balzac (new) 6, Edmund Wilson 5
Racine CF, Victor Hugo 2B, W.H. Auden SS, Callimachus 1B, Soyinka LF, Villon RF, Tati-Loutard C, Derek Walcott 3B
John Peale Bishop, Jules Laforgue, Mina Loy, John Clare, Marcus Aurelius (new), Oliver Wendell Holmes (new)

THE CRUSADERS

This is the Christian team—owned by Philip II of Spain. There had to be one! Motto: If in my thought I have magnified the Father above the Son, let Him have no mercy on me. Home park: Madrid, Spain, near the Prado.

Spain’s Philip II’s The Crusaders SP Aquinas 5, GK Chesterton 5, St John of the Cross 4, Tolkien 4, RP Handel (new) 6, Plotinus (new) 5, Lisieux 4,
Aeschulus CF, Hopkins 2B, Saint Ephrem SS, Countee Cullen 1B, Phillis Wheatley LF, Joyce Kilmer RF, Hilaire Beloc C, Anne Bradstreet 3B
John Paul II, Mary Angela Douglas

THE GOTHS

Charles X of France escaped to England and enjoyed a lavishly supported stay during the French Revolution; he became King after Napoleon, tried to return France to normal, whatever that was, but radicals forced him to abdicate; his team is the Goths—apolitical cool people. Motto: Every great enterprise takes its first step in faith. Home park: Paris, France.

Charles X’s The Goths SP Goethe 6, Chateubriand 6 Wilde 5, Baudelaire 5, RP AW Schlegel 5, T Gautier 5
Sophocles CF, Herbert 2B, Herrick SS, Ronsard 1B, Novalis (new) LF, Catulus RF, de Stael C, Heinrich Heine 3B
Pater (to Printers), Gray, Saint-Beauve, Marot, Irving Layton, Thomas Lovell Beddoes

THE CEILINGS

Pope Julius was a learned pope; he’s got Milton, Michelangelo, (a fine poet, by the way) Petrarch, Euripides, and William Blake. The Ceilings. Not a bad team! Motto: They also serve who only stand and wait. Home park: Rome, Italy.

Pope Julius II’s The Ceilings SP Milton 6, Dryden 6, Ludovico Ariosto 6, Swift 6, RP Bach (new) 6, GE Lessing 6, Augustine (new) 6
Spenser CF, Petrarch 2B, Wiliam Blake SS, Michelangelo 1B, Camoens LF, Tulsidas RF, Euripides C, Ferdosi 3B
James Russell Lowell, Kwesi Brew, Klopstock, Pindar, RH Horne

~~~
The Glorious League

THE PISTOLS

A lot of these teams are owned by mysterious conglomerates.  For the sake of controversy, we’re calling this Eva Braun’s team, but no one knows who really owns this team.  The murky rich. Pound signed with the Pistols, and brought along some friends. Motto: A life subdued to its instrument. Home park: Berlin, Germany

Eva Braun’s The Pistols  SP T.S. Eliot 6, George Santayana 5, Wagner 5, Pound 4, RP Wyndham Lewis 4, Kenner 4, Ernest Hemingway 4, Heidegger (new) 4
DH Lawrence CF, Stein 2B, Yeats SS, Ford 1B, A. Crowley LF, Hughes RF, Jung C, Joyce 3B
Balla, Martinetti, Dorothy Shakespeare, A.R. Orage, John Quinn, Olga Rudge

THE CARRIAGES

This is Queen Victoria’s team—Tennyson, Paul McCartney, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Henry James. You get the idea. Motto: Theirs but to do and die.  Home park: London, England

Queen Victoria’s The Carriages SP Marvell 6, V. Woolf 6, Hazlitt 5, H James 4, RP Jeremy Bentham (new) 4
CF Longfellow, 2B Tennyson, SS Paul McCartney, Geoffrey Hill 1B, Sylvia Plath LF, Philip Larkin RF, Browning C, Elizabeth Barrett Browning 3B
Theocritus, Suckling, Bronte sisters (new)

THE BANNERS

If you want glorious, haunting, human-centered, aestheticism, look no further than Medici’s the Banners. Motto: The One remains, the many change and pass. Home park: Florence, Italy

Lorenzo de Medici’s The Banners SP Dante 6, Shelley 6, Virgil 6, da Vinci 5, RP Boccaccio 6, Joshua Reynolds (new) 5, William Rossetti 5
CF Swinburne (new), 2B Keats, SS Thomas Moore, Friedrich Schiller 1B, C. Rossetti LF, D.G. Rossetti RF, George C, Cavalcanti 3B
Glyn Maxwell, Ben Mazer, Philodemus

THE SUN

Lord Russell, Bertie’s grandfather, was prime minister of Great Britain when France was on their side (under Napoleon III) and America was being ripped apart by the Civil War. French-Anglo Colonialism was wrapping up the globe; Emerson and Thoreau were part of the conspiracy—Poe was dead; the USA would return to England as a bucolic colony. A no-borders paradise run by smart people. Motto: A good indignation brings out all one’s powers. Home park: Devon, England

PM Lord Russell’s The Sun SP Emerson 5, JS Mill (new) 4, Aldous Huxley 4, Thomas Carlyle 4, RP Bertrand Russell (new) 5, Thoreau 4, Christopher Ricks (new) 4,
CF Southey, Kipling 2B, Wordsworth SS, Walpole 1B, Margaret Fuller LF, Basil Bunting RF, Sir John Davies C, M Arnold 3B
Joy Harjo, Marilyn Chin, Macgoye,

THE LAUREATES

Nahum Tate, a 1692 British Poet Laureate, rewrote King Lear with a happy ending. Many own the Laureates, but we think Tate’s story is an interesting one. Motto: Luck is bestowed even on those who don’t have hands. Home park: Dublin, Ireland

Nahum Tate’s Laureates SP Edmund Burke 5, Thomas Peacock 4, Samuel Johnson 4, Leigh Hunt 4, RP Livy (new) 6, Dana Gioia 4
CF Goldsmith, Sara Teasdale 2B, Rod McKuen SS, Charles Dickens 1B, Dumas LF, Aphra Behn RF, Pasternak C, Ghalib 3B
JK Rowling, Verdi

~~~
The Secret Society League

THE ACTORS

Weinstein produced smart, progressive films, and this team, the Actors, reflects that, to a certain degree.  The jailed owner belongs to the league’s timeless ghosts; justice prevails, even as things are and are not. Motto: I am no hackney for your rod. Home park: Westport, Connecticut, USA

Harvey Weinstein’s The Actors SP Byron 6, Chaucer 6, Henry Beecher 5, Petronius 5, RP Sade (new) 6, Gide 4
CF Baraka, Hafiz 2B, Skelton SS, Knight 1B, Langston Hughes LF, Gwendolyn Brooks, RF Marilyn Hacker, Audre Lorde C, Thomas Nashe 3B
Clifton, Page, Jim Carroll

THE STRANGERS

The Strangers definitely have filmmaker David Lynch’s stamp. Motto: So still is day, it seems like night profound. Home park: Alexandria, Virginia, USA

David Lynch’s The Strangers SP Pope 6, Nietzsche 5, Beckett 4, Paglia 4, RP Lovecraft 4, Bloch (new) 4, Philip K Dick (new) 4
CF Rabelais, R. Graves 2B, Riding SS, Roethke 1B, Verlaine LF Kees RF, Rimbaud C, Mary Shelley 3B
Labid, Satie, Burroughs, Fernando Pessoa

THE ANIMALS

It’s a little difficult to define P.T. Barnum’s team, the Animals.   Is it spectacle?  Animal-friendly?  We’re not really sure. Majesty and love are incompatible. Fairfield, Connecticut, USA

P.T. Barnum’s The Animals SP Ovid 6, Melville 5, Verne (new) 5, Robert Bly 4, RP Darwin (new) 5, Nerval 5
CF Jack Spicer, Stevens 2B, Edward Lear SS, Heaney 1B, Mary Oliver LF, Marianne Moore RF, Jeffers C, Ferlinghetti 3B
Scalapino, Kay Ryan, Saint Saens

THE WAR

J.P. Morgan did fund World War One.  This is his team, The War. Motto: The fire-eyed maid of smoky war all hot and bleeding will we offer them. Home park: Madison Avenue, New York, New York

J.P. Morgan’s The War SP Shakespeare 6, Sir Walter Scott 5, Erich Remarque 4, David Hume 4, RP Aldington 4, Gibbon (new) 5,
CF Stephen Crane, Keith Douglas 2B, Sidney SS, Apollinaire 1B, Harry Crosby LF, James Dickey RF, Howard Nemerov C, Brooke 3B
Alan Seeger, T.E. Hulme, Untermeyer

THE SECRETS

America’s team! Motto: We come in the age’s most uncertain hour and sing an American tune. Home park: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Ben Franklin’s The Secrets SP Poe 6, Plato 6, Pushkin 6, Moliere 5, RP F. Scott Key 5, Jefferson (new) 5, Monroe (new) 5, Madison (new) 5
CF Hawthorne, Woody Guthrie 2B, Frost SS, Cole Porter 1B, Kanye West LF, Paul Simon RF, Emily Dickinson C, Carl Sandburg 3B
William Cullen Bryant, Amy Lowell, Bob Tonucci, Stephen Cole, John Prine, Dolly Parton (new), Willie Nelson (new)

~~~
The People’s Division

THE COBRAS

The great literary tradition of India: the Calcutta (Kolkata) Cobras! Motto: Is it true that your love traveled alone through ages and worlds in search of me? Home park: Kolkata, Bengal, India

Sajyajit Ray’s Cobras SP Tagore 5, Rumi 5, Kabir Das 4 (new), Herman Hesse 4, RP Ghandi 6, Nissim Ezekiel (new) 4, Krishnamurti (new) 4, Faiz Ahmad Faiz 4
Allen Ginsberg CF, Sen 2B, Anand Thakore SS, Nair 1B, Thayil LF, Muktibodh RF, Vikram Seth C, George Harrison 3B
Sushmita Gupta, Rupi Kaur, Meenakshi, Dhoomil, Jussawala, Ramanujan, Persius, Doshi, Meghaduta Kalidasa, Nabina Das, Sophie Naz, Linda Ash, Medha Singh

THE MIST

Yoko Ono and her husband are the double play combination for the Tokyo Mist. Motto: In Kyoto, hearing the cuckoo, I long for Kyoto. Home park: Tokyo, Japan

Kurosawa’s The Mist SP Basho 6, Issa 6, Heraclitus 5, Noguchi 4, RP Kobo Abe (new) 5, Suzuki 4
CF Gary Snyder, Ono 2B, John Lennon SS, Robert Duncan 1B, Doolittle LF, Richard Brautigan RF, Sadakichi Hartmann C, Corman 3B
Shikabu, Philip Whalen, Yukio Mishima (new), Haruki Murakami (new)

THE WAVES

Red China, with some ancient aesthetics, Chairman Mao’s The Waves. Motto: Death gives separation repose. Without death, grief only sharpens. Home park: Beijing, China

Chairman Mao’s The Waves SP Voltaire 5, Lucretius 5, Rousseau 5, Lao Tzu 5, RP Khomeini 4, Lenin (new) 4, Engels (new)  4
CF Marx, Li He 2B, Tu Fu SS, Ho Chi-Fang 1B, LF Li Po, RF Billie Holiday, Brecht C, Neruda 3B
Wang Wei, Gary B. Fitzgerald, Wendell Berry, Lu Xun, Bai Juyi, Guo Morou, Baraka, Guy Burgess, Louis Althusser (new)

THE LAWS

The Law and Order producer calls the shots on this team—which is, frankly, hard to characterize. Motto: In poetry everything is clear and definite. Home park: Santa Barbara, California, USA

Dick (Law and Order) Wolf’s The Laws SP Aristotle 5, Lord Bacon 5, Horace 5, Yvor Winters 4, RP Van Doren 4, M L Rosenthal 4, David Lehman 4
CF John Donne, Jane Kenyon 2B, Donald Hall SS, Gottfried Burger 1B, LF Thomas Hardy, RF Machado, Martial C, Akhmatova 3B
Justice, Campion, Seidel, Ajip Rosidi

THE GAMERS

The league needed a Light Verse team, and this is it, and it’s more than that—Merv Griffin’s The Gamers! Motto: He thought he saw an elephant that practiced on a fife. Home park: Los Angeles, California, USA

Merv Griffin’s The Gamers SP Lewis Carroll 5, James Tate 4, E.E. Cummings 4, Morgenstern 4, RP Menander 4, Charles Bernstein 4
CF Betjeman, Thomas Hood 2B, Noel Coward SS, Tzara 1B, Ogden Nash, LF Billy Collins, RF Wendy Cope, Eugene Ionesco C, Joe Green 3B
Riley, McHugh, XJ Kennedy, WS Gilbert, Tony Hoagland

~~~
The Modern Division

THE DREAMERS

Pamela Harriman married Winston Churchill’s son, the producer of The Sound of Music, and New York Governor Averil Harriman, before she ran the DNC.  Her team is the Dreamers. Motto: Not the earth, the sea, none of it was enough for her, without me. Home park: Arden, New York, USA

Pamela Harriman’s  The Dreamers SP Simone de Beauvoir 4, Floyd Dell 4, Anais Nin 4, Marge Piercy 4, RP Germaine Greer (new) 4, Louise Gluck 4
CF Sharon Olds, Edna Millay 2B, Jack Gilbert SS, MacNeice 1B, LF Rukeyser, RF Louise Bogan, Carolyn Forche C, Richard Lovelace 3B
Propertius, Swenson, Jean Valentine, Stevie Smith, Stanley Burnshaw, George Dillon

THE PRINTERS

Andy Warhol is the ruling spirit of The Printers. Motto: The eye, seeking to sink, is rebuffed by a much-worked dullness, the patina of a rag, that oily Vulcan uses, wiping up. Home park: East 47th St, New York, New York

Andy Warhol’s The Printers SP Duchamp 6, Marjorie Perloff 4, Stephanie Burt 4, Mark Rothko 4, RP John Cage 4, RP Blackmur (new) 4, Guy Davenport (new) 4
CF Aristophanes, James Merrill 2B, Hart Crane SS, Kenneth Koch 1B, LF John Updike, RF Lorca, Andre Breton C, John Ashbery 3B
Schuyler, Thom Gunn, Isherwood, Lou Reed

THE BUYERS

Rockefeller didn’t want to spend too much on his team—will Whitman, Freud, Twain, and Paul Engle be a championship rotation of starters?  Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop are the double play combination. Motto: Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion? Home park: Chicago, Illinois, USA

John D. Rockefeller’s The Buyers SP Walt Whitman 5, Freud 5, Twain 5, Paul Engle 4, RP Vendler 4, Wimsat (new) 4, Beardsley (new) 4
CF Penn Warren, Elizabeth Bishop 2B, Robert Lowell SS, Duke Ellington 1B, LF Jack Kerouac, Edgar Lee Masters RF, Rexroth C, Dylan Thomas 3B
Jorie Graham, Harriet Monroe, Carl Philips, Richard Hugo, Alexander Percy, Alcaeus, Franz Wright

THE CRASH

AC Barnes, the wealthy modern art collector, sold his stock right before the Crash of ’29—John Dewey was his aesthetic philosopher. Motto: But for some futile things unsaid I should say all is done for us. Home park: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

A.C. Barnes’ The Crash SP John Crowe Ransom 5, John Dewey 4, Wittgenstein 4, Walter Pater 4, RP Jackson Pollock 4, I A Richards (new) 4, K Burke (new) 4,
CF Allen Tate, Richard Howard 2B, WC Williams SS, Donald Davidson 1B, LF John Gould Fletcher, RF Stanley Kunitz, Stephen Spender C, Archilochus 3B
Merrill Moore, Andrew Nelson Lytle, Luigi Russolo, Anne Waldman, Cleanth Brooks, Harold Rosenberg

THE UNIVERSE

Steven Spielberg’s The Universe is very Hollywood: progressive and American. Motto: I know why the caged bird sings. Home park: Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Steven Spielberg’s The Universe SP Harriet Beecher Stowe 5, Harold Bloom 4, Randall Jarrell 4, Margaret Atwood 4, RP Foucault (new) 4, Milosz 5,
CF Delmore Schwartz, Bob Dylan 2B, Paul Celan SS, Anthony Hecht 1B, LF Philip Levine, RF Galway Kinnell, Maya Angelou C, Chuck Berry 3B
James Wright, Stephen King, Larry Levis, Juvenal, Alice Walker,

~~~

Opening Day Games

Rimini Broadcasters v. Corsica Codes SP Giacomo Leopardi, Homer

Madrid Crusaders v. Paris Goths SP Aquinas, Goethe

Berlin Pistols v London Carriages SP TS Eliot, Andrew Marvell

Florence Banners v Devon Sun SP Dante, Emerson

Westport Actors v Virginia Strangers SP Byron, Pope

Connecticut Animals v New York War SP Ovid, Shakespeare

Kolkata Cobras v Tokyo Mist SP Tagore, Basho

Beijing Waves v California Laws SP Voltaire, Aristotle

Arden Dreamers v Manhattan Printers SP de Beauvoir, Duchamp

Chicago Buyers v Philadelphia Crash SP Whitman, John Crowe Ransom

The Opening Ceremony Poem, read by Commissioner Thomas Brady

We hope you enjoy the game.
It’s not about fame.
It’s about the game.

 

PLAY BALL!

SCARRIET POETRY BASEBALL—HERE WE GO!

Lord Byron In Albanian Dress - 1813 Painting by War Is Hell Store

George Byron in a pensive mood, before taking part in the opening day Scarriet baseball ceremonies.

Happy Easter!

Scarriet has expanded and restructured its baseball league!!

Gone the 2 leagues of 20 teams led by 20 American poets—Eliot, Pound, Frost, Poe, Williams, Stevens, Moore, Dickinson, Millay, Jorie Graham, Ginsberg, Ransom, Cummings, Whittier, Whitman, Bryant, Longfellow, James Lowell, Ashbery, and Emerson.

Now poets like Emerson, Eliot and Poe can be player/managers—to contribute to their teams both at the plate and in the field.

The field is more international—Scarriet Poetry Baseball is now 25 historical teams from all over the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The gods and muses must be pleased with our ten years of Poetry March Madness and our first Poetry Baseball season, where poetry is worshiped through time and space in a manner which no one has ever seen.

Fortunately one of the Muses has always been here to help us, Marla Muse.

Marla Muse: They are indeed pleased, Tom!

You have spoken to the other muses who live in other realms, in those shadowy timeless realms where time is one and poetry lights up suns distantly—

Marla Muse: Yes, and they approve! The stars in the heavens love you more than you know… I would rather die than see poetry die.

This baseball season is different. Mysterious and wealthy owners throughout time and space are bidding, some in secret, for players to fill their rosters.

In the Great Emperor League, we have the Broadcasters. Their motto is “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name” and they feature Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Gregory Corso, Anne Sexton, Bobby Burns, Omar Khayyam, Rilke, Coleridge, Leopardi, Anacreon, Sappho, and Ingrid Jonker.  They are rumored to be owned and funded by a business group led by Federico Fellini, and their ballpark is in Rimini, Italy.

These ballclubs are timeless, in every sense of the word (these teams compete, with actual statistics, where chance unfolds out of space, out of time) but real money, blood money, purchases these players.  We know JP Morgan, for instance, wanted Shakespeare and bid heavily to get him.

The Pistols, who play in Berlin, are said to be associated with Eva Braun, but this cannot be confirmed; one older muse claims to have overheard Eva say, “I take care of this. Adolf is too busy talking to bankers and architects. He doesn’t have time for poetry.” But honestly we cannot say who owns the Pistols.

Nahum Tate, owner of the Laureates, for those who do not know, re-wrote a popular King Lear with a happy ending (after Shakespeare’s death when, for a long period, the Bard was out of fashion,) and was chosen as Poet Laureate of England in 1692. 

Dick Wolf produces Law & Order on television, and appears to have a controlling interest in the Laws, playing out of Santa Barbara.  He’s got Aristotle, Lord Bacon, and Horace.

John Rockefeller opened his purse to get Walt Whitman, and he thinks that will be enough to win a championship.  We don’t know.  We do know baseball is all about pitching.  All you need is a few good arms which dominate, defense behind them, and some clubhouse chemistry, and not too many injuries. It’s a crap shoot, in many ways, and this is why Rockefeller grumbled he wasn’t going to waste money on superstars who hit home runs and have a high batting average. He’s probably right.  A team that wins 2-1 is better than a team that wins 7-4, by pure mathematics, even though the former score wins by 1 and the latter by 3 runs. It’s the ratio that counts.  2-1 = 2. 7-4 = 1.7  This simple reason is why defense wins in every sport. Rockefeller is using this formula, and the oil baron was also advised that you can’t buy a pennant—throwing money at sluggers doesn’t do any good; it’s 90% pitching and luck. Just put a a poet with critical depth on the hill and three good versifiers in the infield and sit back.

Some of the rosters might have some question marks, but that’s what happens in a free market.  It’s an historical fact that Longfellow did meet Queen Victoria in person. But no one expected him to play for her!

And W.H. Auden just “wanted to play for Napoleon, I don’t why.”

Marla Muse: I can’t wait for the season to begin!  Spring is in the air! Around Rome, and in those still fairer isles… Let’s forget about plagues and the starvation for awhile. Songs are going to sing.

Here then, are the Teams, their Mottoes, and the preliminary rosters—they are always changing (there’s a big minor leagues!)

~~~~~~

THE GREAT EMPEROR LEAGUE

Federico Fellini, Rimini  The Broadcasters [Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name]
-Mick Jagger, Sappho, Gregory Corso, Charles Bukowski, Paul Valery, Anne Sexton, Omar Khayyam, Robert Burns, Ben Jonson, Coleridge, Jim Morrison, Edmund Waller, Nabokov, Rilke, Giacomo Leopardi, Anacreon, Ingrid Jonker, Swinburne

Napoleon, Corsica The Codes [Let the more loving one be me]
-W.H. Auden, Homer, Hesiod, Racine, John Peale Bishop, Edmund Wilson, Mina Loy, William Logan, Irving Layton, Villon, Jean-Baptiste Tati-Loutard, Wole Soyinka, Jules Laforgue, Derek Walcott, Callimachus, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius

King Philip II, Madrid The Crusaders [If in my thought I have magnified the Father above the Son, let Him have no mercy on me]
-Saint Ephrem, G.K. Chesterton, Tolkien, Thomas Aquinas, Hilaire Beloc, John Paul II, Saint Theresa of Lisieux, Joyce Kilmer, Saint John of the Cross, Mary Angela Douglas, Anne Bradstreet, Phillis Wheatley, Countee Cullen, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Aeschulus

Charles X, Paris  The Goths [Every great enterprise takes its first step in faith]
-A.W. Schlegel, Baudelaire, Goethe, Oscar Wilde, Walter Pater, Madame de Stael, Chateaubriand, Sophocles, George Herbert, Heinrich Heine, Robert Herrick, Clement Marot, Ronsard, Saint-Beuve, Catulus, Thomas Gray, John Clare, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Theophile Gautier

Pope Julius II, Rome  The Ceilings [They also serve who only stand and wait]
-Milton, Michelangelo, William Blake, Robert Lowell, Petrarch, G.E. Lessing, John Dryden, Klopstock, GE Horne, Ferdowsi, Ariosto, Luis de Camoens, Swift, Tulsidas, Edmund Spenser, Kwesi Brew, Pindar, Euripides

~~~~~

THE GLORIOUS LEAGUE

Eva Braun, Berlin The Pistols [A life subdued to its instrument]
-Ted Hughes, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, Hugh Kenner, Wyndham Lewis, DH Lawrence, Alistair Crowley, George Santayana, F.T. Marinetti, Giacomo Balla, Richard Wagner, Jung

Queen Victoria, London The Carriages [Theirs but to do and die]
-Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett, Robert Browning, Longfellow, Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath, Hazlitt, Paul McCartney, Geoffrey Hill, Henry James, Andrew Marvel, John Suckling, Virginia Woolf, Theocritus

Lorenzo de’ Medici, Florence The Banners [The One remains, the many change and pass]
-Percy Shelley, Dante, William Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, DG Rossetti, John Keats, Marlowe, Guido Cavalcanti, Glyn Maxwell, Ben Mazer, Friedrich Schiller, Thomas Moore, Philodemus, Virgil, Stefan George, Boccaccio, Leonardo da Vinci

P.M. Lord John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, Devon The Sun [A good indignation brings out all one’s powers]
-Emerson, Horace Walpole, Thomas Carlyle, Thoreau, Wordsworth, Rudyard Kipling, Aldous Huxley, Matthew Arnold, Sir John Davies, Margaret Fuller, Robert Southey, Marilyn Chin, Joy Harjo, Basil Bunting, Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye

Nahum Tate, Dublin  The Laureates [Luck is bestowed even on those who don’t have hands]
-Ghalib, Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Peacock, Leigh Hunt, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Sara Teasdale, Pasternak, Louis Simpson, Dana Gioia, Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, Aphra Behn, Rod McKuen, JK Rowling

~~~~~

THE SECRET SOCIETY LEAGUE

Harvey Weinstein, Westport CT The Actors [I am no hackney for your rod]
-John Skelton, Langston Hughes, Henry Ward Beecher, Chaucer, Amiri Baraka, Lord Byron, Hafiz, Thomas Nashe, Marilyn Hacker, Petronius, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jim Carroll, Lucille Clifton, Etheridge Knight, Audre Lorde, Jimmy Page, Andre Gide

David Lynch, Alexandria VA  The Strangers [So still is day, it seems like night profound]
-Jones Very, Alexander Pope, William Burroughs, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Robert Graves, Laura Riding, Weldon Kees, Berryman, Mary Shelley, Rabelais, Charles Simic, Eric Satie, Labid, Roethke, Camille Paglia, HP Lovecraft, Nietzsche, Samuel Beckett

P.T. Barnum, Fairfield CT  The Animals [Majesty and love are incompatible]
-Ovid, Gerald Stern, Robinson Jeffers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Seamus Heaney, Jack Spicer, Kay Ryan, Leslie Scalapino, Mary Oliver, W S Merwin, Melville, Camille Saint Saens, Edward Lear, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Gerard de Nerval, Robert Bly

J.P. Morgan, Madison Avenue  The War [The fire-eyed maid of smoky war all hot and bleeding will we offer them]
-Shakespeare, Louis Untermeyer, Apollinaire, T.E. Hulme, Richard Aldington, Rupert Brooke, Sir Walter Scott, Philip Sidney, James Dickey, Harry Crosby, Keith Douglas, Wilfred Owen, Howard Nemerov, Stephen Crane, Erich Remarque, Alan Seeger

Ben Franklin  Philadelphia  The Secrets [We come in the age’s most uncertain hour and sing an American tune]
-Paul Simon, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Edgar Poe, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, F. Scott Key, Cole Porter, Plato, Hawthorne, Pushkin, Walter Raleigh, Moliere, William Cullen Bryant, Amy Lowell, Emma Lazarus, Carl Sandburg, Pete Seeger, Natasha Trethewey, Amelia Welby, Woody Guthrie, JD Salinger, John Prine, Kanye West, Stephen Cole, Bob Tonucci

~~~~~

THE PEOPLE’S LEAGUE

Sajyajit Ray, Calcutta The Cobras [Is it true that your love traveled alone through ages and worlds in search of me?]
-Tagore, Allen Ginsberg, Jeet Thayil, Rupi Kaur, Anand Thakore, Dhoomil, G.M. Muktibodh, Rumi, A.K. Ramanujan, Samar Sen, Daipayan Nair, R. Meenakshi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Hermann Hesse, Persius, George Harrison, Adil Jussawalla, Tishani Doshi, Sushmita Gupta, Vikram Seth

Kurosawa,  Tokyo  The Mist [In Kyoto, hearing the cuckoo, I long for Kyoto]
-Basho, Hilda Doolittle, Robert Duncan, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, D.T. Suzuki, Yone Noguchi, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Kobayashi Issa, Lady Izumi Shikibu, Cid Corman, Sadakichi Hartmann, Heraclitus, Richard Brautigan

Chairman Mao, Beijing  The Waves [Death gives separation repose. Without death, grief only sharpens]
-Tu Fu, Lucretius, Karl Marx, Voltaire, Rousseau, Guy Burgess, Amiri Baraka, Brecht, Neruda, Li Po, Li He, Bai Juyi, Lu Xun, Guo Moruo, Ho Chi-Fang, Yen Chen, Billie Holiday, Khomieni, Lu Ji , Wang Wei, Lao Tzu, Gary B. Fitzgerald, Wendell Berry

Dick Wolf, Santa Barbara  The Laws [In poetry everything is clear and definite]
-Ajip Rosidi, Aristotle, John Donne, Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, Donald Justice, Anna Akhmatova, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Campion, Frederick Seidel, Antonio Machado, Mark Van Doren, David Lehman, Lord Bacon, Martial, ML Rosenthal, Horace, Gottfried Burger, Yvor Winters

Merv Griffin, Los Angeles  The Gamers  [He thought he saw an elephant that practiced on a fife]
-Lewis Carroll, James Tate, E.E. Cummings, Tony Hoagland, Ogden Nash, Billy Collins, Eugene Field, W.S. Gilbert, Thomas Hood, Noel Coward, X.J. Kennedy, John Betjeman, Wendy Cope, Tristan Tzara, Heather McHugh, Charles Bernstein, Jack Spicer, James Whitcomb Riley, Joe Green, Menander, Morgenstern

~~~~~

THE MODERN LEAGUE

Pamela Harriman, Arden NY The Dreamers [not the earth, the sea, none of it was enough for her, without me]
-Sharon Olds, Edna Millay, George Dillon, Floyd Dell, Dorothy Parker, Stanley Burnshaw, Richard Lovelace, Stevie Smith, Louis MacNeice, Louise Bogan, Louise Gluck, Jack Gilbert, Marge Piercy, Carolyn Forche, Muriel Rukeyser, Jean Valentine, May Swenson, Propertius, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir

Andy Warhol, East 47th St The Printers [the eye, seeking to sink, is rebuffed by a much-worked dullness, the patina of a rag, that oily Vulcan uses, wiping up.]
-John Updike, Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, James Merrill, Hart Crane, Lorca, Thom Gunn, Stephen Burt, Frank Bidart, Mark Rothko, Marjorie Perloff, John Quinn, Duchamp, Aristophanes, Christopher Isherwood, Andre Breton, Lou Reed, John Cage

John D. Rockefeller, Chicago The Buyers [Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?]
-Walt Whitman, Alcaeus, Edgar Lee Masters, Kenneth Rexroth, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Helen Vendler, Jorie Graham, Franz Wright, Mark Twain, Robert Penn Warren, Paul Engle, William Alexander Percy, Richard Hugo, Carl Philips, Harriet Monroe, Duke Ellington, Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac, Sigmund Freud

A. C. Barnes, Philadelphia  The Crash [But for some futile things unsaid I should say all is done for us]
-Allen Tate, John Gould Fletcher, John Crowe Ransom, John Dewey, Cleanth Brooks, Donald Davidson, Merrill Moore, Walter Pater, Wittgenstein, Andrew Nelson Lytle, Archilochus, Anne Waldman, Stanley Kunitz, Jackson Pollock, WC Williams, Luigi Russolo, Stephen Spender, Richard Howard

Steven Spielberg, Phoenix AZ  The Universe [I know why the caged bird sings]
-Maya Angelou, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Bob Dylan, Margaret Atwood, Paul Celan, Czeslaw Milosz, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, Anthony Hecht, Galway Kinnell, Philip Levine, Larry Levis, Claudia Rankine, Harold Bloom, Alice Walker, James Wright, Juvenal, Chuck Berry, Stephen King

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ballpark Road Trips in Review: 2018 - Ben's Biz Blog

 

 

IS SCARRIET BASEBALL BACK?

Ebbets Field, Brooklyn 6/15/38 - Dodger fans this night ...

When Scarriet was young and the Scarriet editors more ambitious, an entire 154 game poetry baseball season happened: two leagues, 20 teams, and a world series in which the Philadelphia Poe defeated the Rapallo Pound 4 games to 1.

Teams were built around an American poet and every position was filled with figures (not only poets) associated with the team’s poet-manager.

The sports writing sounded like this:

Whitman picked up Gaugin, Melville, and Aaron Copeland as starting pitchers, but all three were hard-luck hurlers.  There was an odd chemistry to the Whitman club that never clicked: Robinson Jeffers, D.H. Lawrence, William Rossetti, Edgar Lee Masters, Bronson Alcott, Lawrence Ferlinghetti were in a lineup together that never hit in the clutch, didn’t run the bases enough, failed to move runners over, and even fought in the clubhouse; it was a mess.  Whitman’s verve never carried over to his interesting mix of players.

William Carlos Williams shared last place with Whitman; the lineup of Duchamp, Creeley, Rexroth, Duncan, Snyder, Loy, Noguchi, and Spicer just didn’t provide enough punch.

Mallarme and Hollander hit for Stevens, Dos Passos and Picasso for Cummings, and Dickinson got hitting from Keats and TennysonFrost was in the race for a while, getting good offense from Hardy, Larkin, Oliver, and Wordsworth.

After his heralded signing at mid-season, Jesus Christ of the Frost proved to be human on the mound at 10-5.  Pound and Eliot could not be caught.

The final standings:

AL

rapallo pound                       100-54   –
london eliots                          97-57    3
new england frost                  91-63    9
amherst emily                       78-76   22
hartford stevens                    75-79   25
cambridge cummings            72-82   28
new york moore                    69-85   31
iowa city grahams                  67-87   33
brooklyn whitmans                 61-93   39
new jersey williams                61-93   39

NL

philadelphia poe                   92-62    –
brooklyn ashberys                 89-65   3
boston lowells                       85-69   7
cambridge longfellows           83-71   9
new york bryants                   82-72  10
concord emersons                 79-75  13
maine millays                        75-79  17
tennessee ransom                 70-84   22
hartford whittiers                  66-88   26
new jersey ginsbergs            49-105  43

Why was the Pound so successful?  A bunch of players, added after the season was underway, wildly defied expectations.  Here’s a little commentary with the world series lineups:

The Philadelphia Poe’s projected starting lineup:

Gilmore Simms, RF.   Hurt for most of the year (Samuel F.B. Morse filled in admirably).  Simms can run.

Charles Brockden Brown, SS.    A slap hitter who advances runners.  George Lippard, another native Philadelphian, is the reserve infielder.

Charles Baudelaire, 2B.   Gap hitter, makes contact.

George Byron, 1B.    When Byron couldn’t play, Alfred Hitchock took over.  Byron slugged 29 homers.

Thomas Moore, C.    Excellent on-base percentage.

Fydor Dostoevsky, 3B.    Hit over .400 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position.   Team-leading 47 doubles.

Virginia Poe, CF.   Swift as a deer in center.   Surprising power: 17 homers.

Fanny Osgood, LF.     League-leading 14 assists.  Very hard to strike out.

Alexander Pope, P.     Great sacrifice bunter.

And, for the Rapallo Pound:

Aleister Crowley, CF.   Took over for Wyndham Lewis.  Crowley hit three triples in the Pound’s pennant-clinching victory.

Hilda Doolittle, 2B.   Great D from H.D.  She’s been nursing a sore ankle.  Flaubert may start instead.

William Butler Yeats, SS.  The best glove anyone has ever seen.  A disappointment at the plate, but does get on base.  Francis Villon, his replacement, can hit.

Ford Madox Ford, 1B.   41 homers, 134 RBIs.

James Joyce, LF.   .311 batting average.  Back from a late-season injury.  Basil Bunting was his replacement.

James Laughlin, 3B.  The New Directions kid wasn’t expected to hit.  He slugged 39 homers and batted .340.   MVP numbers from a mere editor.

Ernest Fenollosa, C.  Steady, handles pitchers well.  Missed the month of August.  Margaret Anderson of the Little Review is the back-up.

Benito Mussolini, RF.  Great clubhouse presence.  A gun for an arm in right.  Few go from first to third on him.

Marquis de Sade, P.   Chats with the opposing catcher the whole time he’s up.

Pound and his team were frankly, scary. But Poe, and his team were not intimidated, as the two clubs met in the world series.

Here’s a recap of the five games:

Game One

Philadelphia rightfielder Gilmore Simms homered in the bottom of the 14th inning as the Philadelphia Poe edged the Rapallo Pound in the first game of the World Series, 5-4.

The Pound took the early lead as Francois Villon hit a 2-home run in the first inning against Philadelphia starter Alexander Pope.  Manager Ezra Pound chose to start Villon at shortstop over Yeats, who has not hit well this year.  In the second inning,  Aleister Crowley made it 3-0 as he scratched a hit, stole second and third, and came home on a sacrifice fly by Ford Madox Ford.

Sade, the eccentric Rapallo starter, kept the Poe in check until Alfred Hitchcock, starting in place of Lord Byron—unable to play because of dizzy spells—doubled, and came home on a two-out single by Dostoevsky in the bottom of the fourth, to make it 3-1.

Pope, the Philadelphia starter, then scored a run for the Poe in the fifth to make it 3-2.  Sade hit Pope, who then went to third when Simms’s grounder to Villon was thrown into centerfield trying to get a force at second, and Pope scored on Baudelaire’s single to left with two outs.

Philly tied it in the bottom of the sixth on back-to-back singles by Thomas Moore, Dostoevsky, and Virginia Poe.

The Pound went ahead, 4-3, in the top of the seventh on a homerun by Benito Mussolini.

Then, in the bottom of the ninth, with Sade still on the mound, having retired the side in order in the seventh and eighth, James Laughlin, the young third baseman for Rapallo, allowed a grounder to go under his glove, allowing Virginia Poe to score the tying run.  She was on second with two outs, after a bloop double.

Richard Wagner and then Filipo Marinetti pitched well in relief for the Pound, while Winfield Scott and then Jaques Lacan kept the Pound in check into the middle of the 14th inning.

Charles Olson came in for the Pound in the bottom of the 14th, got two easy outs, and then faced Poe leadoff hitter William Gilmore Simms.  On the first pitch, a high fastball, the South took the North deep, and the Philadelphia Poe are up 1-0 in the first Scarriet World Series.

Game Two

Ernest Fenollosa drove his second homerun deep into the Philadelphia night against Poe reliever Conan Doyle to snap a 5-5 tie in the top of the ninth, and give the Rapallo Pound a victory over the Philadelphia Poe, to knot this tense series at one game apiece.

The contest now heads to Rapallo for game three on Saturday.

Alexander Humboldt yielded singles-hitter Ernest Fenollosa’s first of two shocking grandslams on a hanging curve in the second, then allowed a run in the third, before settling down and pitching well until he was lifted for a pinchitter in the bottom of the eighth.   Samuel F.B. Morse went down swinging for the Poe, and the game moved to the ninth, tied at 5.  Pound starter H.G. Wells left the contest in the bottom of the sixth when he allowed the Poe to tie the score with two runs, on a Charles Brocken Brown two-run double off the wall.

Poe reliever Jules Verne walked the bases loaded, after retiring the first two Pound batters he faced in the top of the ninth.  Poe then brought on Arthur Conan Doyle, and Fenollosa took his first pitch fastball deep to left-center.

Louis Zukovsky picked up the win in relief, as he held the Poe scoreless in the seventh and eighth, pitching out of jam in the eighth.  Hugh Kenner came in for the Pound to pitch a scoreless ninth.

After Fenollosa’s first grandslam in the top of the second, Charles Baudelaire got the Poe on the board in the bottom of the second with a two-run homer off H.G. Wells, to make it 4-2.

Game Three

It began with Blavatsky and ended with Dostoevsky.

Ezra Pound’s obtuse opinion of Russian Literature (“I have omitted the Rhooshuns.”  —How To Read) came back to haunt him yesterday, as Fyodor Dostoevsky broke a 0-0 tie in the 14th inning (Poe won the first game of the Series in 14 innings!) with a single punched through a drawn-in infield, scoring Philadelphian George Lippard.  It was Dostoevsky’s birthday, and surely the most exciting one of his life.

The Pound were bewitched for 10 innings by Lord Bacon, not quite in command of his 3 pitches, as the Pound left 12 runners-on-base, 7 in scoring position, threatening to score numerous times.  The French hero Lafayette pitched shutout ball for the next three frames.  Percy Shelley pitched the bottom of the 14th.  The Englishman struck out the Pound’s James Joyce, coming after him with 3 straight fastballs with two outs and the bases loaded to give the Poe a heart-stopping 1-0 victory, and a 2-1 series lead.

The Rapallo fans screamed themselves hoarse.  The game took six hours and eleven minutes to play.  Numerous celebrated authors were spotted in the stands: Homer, Socrates, and Dante were sitting together, as a matter of fact.  T.S. Eliot, of course, was on hand, and in the front row, accompanied by his lawyer John Quinn and the author Aldous Huxley.

The game was stopped at one point, when Poe complained to the umpires that team Pound was dimming the lights when it was team Poe’s turn to bat.
The lighting was apparently the same; no one was sure whether Poe’s complaint was legitimate, or not, but the managers almost came to blows, as Pound went ballistic.  The game itself was almost called.  The Rapallo fans, who were not privy to the discussions on the field, had no idea what was happening, but some started to take the field when they saw Pound rushing the Poe dugout.  It took three quarters of an hour to restore order.

The Pound’s Madame Blavatsky spun her black magic for 7 shutout innings; she was lifted for Harriet Monroe after walking two straight batters to start the top of the 8th.

Harriet Shaw Weaver pitched a scoreless 10th and Dorothy Shakespeare kept the Poe quiet in the 11th and 12th; Pound’s most successful reliever, Richard Wagner, entered wearing his cape for the start of the 13th, and promptly struck out the side, but he quickly got into trouble in the fourteenth, when suddenly he couldn’t find the plate with his magnificent curve.  George Lippard pinch-ran for Samuel F.B. Morse, who was struck on the knee by Wagner with a 3-0 fastball.  Two more walks loaded the bases, and with two outs, Fyodor Dostoevsky made “the Rhooshuns” proud, with perhaps the most important hit for the Poe all year.

Game Four

Samuel Taylor Coleridge scattered 11 hits and helped his team with a bases-clearing double as the Romantic poet led the Philadelphia Poe to an easy Game 4 win over Olga Rudge and the Rapallo Pound.

The Poe came into game 4 leading 2-1, with both wins coming in 14 inning contests.  The Pound missed countless opportunities to score in Game 3 and the team now seems haunted by those missed opportunities.  Rudge, who was 19-5 during the regular season, was not sharp, and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska fared no better in relief.

Gilmore Simms, who won Game One with a 14th inning homer, tripled to lead off the game and scored on a Baudelaire double, setting the tone for the one-sided contest.

Coleridge described his performance as “unreal,” telling reporters after the game he could not remember what he did on the mound, or with the bat.  “I honestly don’t recall the game at all,” he opined, his curls dangling sweat, looking oddly cherubic as he looked upward from the bench in front of his locker, blinking into the photographer’s lights.

Game One starter, the Marquis de Sade, goes for the Pound tomorrow to stave off elimination.

Game Five

Alexander Pope allowed 3 hits over seven innings to lead the Philadelphia Poe to a 5-1 victory over the Marquis de Sade and the Rapallo Pound. 

Osip Mandelstam hurled a pefect eighth for the Poe, and General Winfield Scott pitched the ninth, yielding a solo homerun to James Joyce, as the Poe won the first Scarriet World Series title by winning three straight at Rapallo, the Pound’s home park.

Arthur C. Clarke, starting in left field for Fanny Osgood, was the batting hero for the Poe, with 3 hits and 4 RBIs.

Lord Byron had the other RBI for the Poe, as he delivered a two-out single to knock in Charles Brockden Brown to start the scoring in the third, after looking foolish on the previous pitch by Sade, Byron falling down as he chased a slow pitch out of the strike zone.   “Poetry is nothing more than a certain dignity which life tries to take away,” Byron said later in a jubilant clubhouse.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BREAKING NEWS

Scarriet may play another baseball season!!

And add more teams!!

More poets!!

Stay tuned.

 

FIRST ROUND ACTION CONCLUDES IN THE MODERN BRACKET

Image result for alan seeger

Alan Seeger—yes, he is related to the folk singer Pete Seeger—certainly has a sublime entry:

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

World War One was such a horrible meat grinder, it’s a miracle any beautiful poetry on that war was possible, but poets will find a way.  The theme is similar to ‘all quiet on the western front.’  I will die when it’s “quiet.”  I will die when it’s “Spring.”

The Moderns often point to the Great War as the end of “pretty, Victorian poetry;” it’s not that poems like Seeger’s on WW I were not beautiful, were not popular, were not moving—it’s just that the horror of war “outside” the text began to condemn it (pretty poetry) as naive.  The air-tight jar of art-for-art’s sake was broken by an event too vast and grisly for that jar to survive.

The problem is, however, that when you try and ‘fit’ poetry to the gruesome stupidity of life, it’s no longer poetry.  So now, you’ve not only done a stupid thing by having World War One, you’ve gone and ruined poetry, too.

And this is not to say that all poetry should be flowery and Victorian and how dare you introduce more realistic views—no.  The point is, poetry should never be defined by “what are we going to do about World War One?”  In any way, ever. Because—the dyer’s hand. If you write poetry about iconic stupidity, it will be stupid. After you go to the ironic well of ‘I will die when it’s quiet/spring’ one too many times, you may have to start writing ‘his face was blown off’ while trying to be poetic, and that will take too much effort, or make one indulge too much in brutality for its own sake.  And if you wish to address the stupidity of World War One in a truly serious or scientific way, you probably won’t be using poems.

Seeger’s opponent is Richard Eberhart and his poem, “The Groundhog:”

In June, amid the golden fields,
I saw a groundhog lying dead.
Dead lay he; my senses shook,
And mind outshot our naked frailty.
There lowly in the vigorous summer
His form began its senseless change,
And made my senses waver dim
Seeing nature ferocious in him.
Inspecting close his maggots’ might
And seething cauldron of his being,
Half with loathing, half with a strange love,
I poked him with an angry stick.
The fever arose, became a flame
And Vigour circumscribed the skies,
Immense energy in the sun,
And through my frame a sunless trembling.
My stick had done nor good nor harm.
Then stood I silent in the day
Watching the object, as before;
And kept my reverence for knowledge
Trying for control, to be still,
To quell the passion of the blood;
Until I had bent down on my knees
Praying for joy in the sight of decay.
And so I left; and I returned
In Autumn strict of eye, to see
The sap gone out of the groundhog,
But the bony sodden hulk remained.
But the year had lost its meaning,
And in intellectual chains
I lost both love and loathing,
Mured up in the wall of wisdom.
Another summer took the fields again
Massive and burning, full of life,
But when I chanced upon the spot
There was only a little hair left,
And bones bleaching in the sunlight
Beautiful as architecture;
I watched them like a geometer,
And cut a walking stick from a birch.
It has been three years, now.
There is no sign of the groundhog.
I stood there in the whirling summer,
My hand capped a withered heart,
And thought of China and of Greece,
Of Alexander in his tent;
Of Montaigne in his tower,
Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.

It is the scene-shifting of this poem which is so moving. Poems exist in time, if we let them.  There are poems which exist in a picture.  But some poems exist only as they unfold.  Poets often miss this principle: a poem is a continual arriving and leaving, and the rare, poignant ones ride the temporal itself. One could state the theme of decay in a much shorter poem, but a short poem would not get the decay in life and memory as Eberhart here so beautifully unwinds it.

Alan Seeger, brave man!  Fare thee well!

Eberhart advances.

~~~~~~~~

The arena can hardly contain the crowd for this one: T.S. Eliot versus Dylan Thomas!

The sly, slim, astute Eliot, unruffled as a cat on a stuffed chair. The bubbling, passionate, beer-soaked Thomas.

Already a few brawls outside the stadium.

The languorous sounds of “Prufrock” as it reaches its mesmerizing end:

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

The crowd is lulled into an ecstatic trance, but Dylan Thomas is about to change all that…

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

One of the great drawbacks of homosexuality is that so many great poems are now ruined, because the word “gay” is used in the old sense.

Some scholars believe T.S. Eliot was gay.

Still other scholars think we’re all gay. Let’s just defer to them right now, shall we?

Marla Muse: Tom!  What are you babbling about?

Nothing, Marla, just having fun.  But I think I’ve come down with a cold.

Marla Muse: You might want to take care of that cold. I hear people who are 99 years old and have diabetes and asthma are dying in Italy.

Good God, Marla, now what are you babbling about?

“Parody! Parody!” In the vestibules the Dylan Thomas fans are making a fuss that “Prufrock” is nothing but a school boy parody.

Maybe we should leave, Marla.  It seems to be getting out of control down there.

Marla: Rage, indeed. Perhaps we should leave. Was that a beer bottle which just flew by?

Marla, follow me.

~~~~~~~~

The final First Round Scarriet March Madness Sublime contest in the Modern Bracket is two 20th century poets: W.H. Auden and Edna St. Vincent Millay. 

Marla Muse: Both great poets. And both used rhyme. You know, as time rides farther and farther away from the 20th century, and we look back, it will begin to appear, as we read the poems most memorable, that free verse was no factor in modern poetry at all!

History is funny, isn’t it?

Marla Muse: Not only history, but time!

Is time itself the funny part?  Perhaps it is…

Marla Muse: After many a summer dies the swan.

Tennyson.

Marla Muse: No, that’s mine.  The muses own all of it.

Of course.

Here is the first half of Auden’s energetic march, “As I Walked Out One Evening:”

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.
.
And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
‘Love has no ending.
.
‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,
.
‘I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.
.
‘The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.’
.
But all the clocks in the city
Begin to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.
.
‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.
.
‘In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
Tomorrow or today.
.
‘Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver’s brilliant bow.
.
‘O plunge your hands in water
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.
.
‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A land to the land of the dead.

“And the seven songs go squawking/like geese about the sky.”  I could recite that line forever!

Look at the Auden fans! Doing a “plunge them in up to the wrist” dance!  What a cavorting mob!

Marla Muse: There’s quite a gathering of Edna fans, too. Millay is heavenly.

Here she comes now with one of her best known sonnets.

Her fans are strewing petals everywhere about her!

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
.
.
The Milly fans are singing, over various strumming chords, “no more,” over and over again, hypnotically, in a simple major key, as they wind about, in a great procession, out of the arena towards the river.
.
The Auden followers are bellowing Auden’s ballad in E minor. A few things are being broken.
.
And so ends the First Round play in the Modern Bracket.
.
Lights, lights, everywhere, as night falls, and music echoes behind the trees.

 

 

 

 

XXX POEMS BY RAQUEL BALBONI

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Arts & Letters is a new journal—with poetry and nice color reproductions of art, printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In the center of the activity around this simple, modest, but essential magazine (and small press) is Ben Mazer, the important writer/editor, currently editing the Collected Poems of Delmore Schwartz for FSG; and who offered to the public around two years ago his Selected Poems.

Arts & Letters is not burdened with an agenda, or mission; it’s primarily a clique of avant-garde friends. We think this is wise, because this is all Pound and the avant-garde “movements” really were. We suppose there were a few manifestos back in the 1920s, but in 2020 the avant-garde is more established, more relaxed.  Who needs manifestos?

Our favorite passage in Ms. Balboni’s book (actually, Feb March Arts & Letters) is this one, which concludes her first poem in the book, from page 4:

i always forget what you look like
can i borrow some photos
or act all surprised

We love this delicate turn on romance: you remember, you want to remember more, but surprise is good, too.

Ms. Balboni is best when she’s being a bit funny, or when she’s describing the psychology of love and attraction.

We find in this a kind of wild, deadpan humor:

Never try again to photograph the four unlit candles on the mantle in the fun house mirror.

We sense in Ms. Balboni’s poetry the formula articulated by Mr. Eliot 100 years ago: poetry as an escape from emotion—with the highly emotional those who need to escape. There is little emotion in Ms. Balboni’s poetry, but underneath the poetry, emotion desires to well up—it just never does. For instance:

i bowed to it in a shaky collapse
i wept over the trouble it took to find it there,
some center.

Is this due to her art, or the personality of Ms. Balboni? Or is it wrong to ask this? Should we focus on her poetry alone?

When someone keeps a diary, are they thinking, or being emotional?  Both. The diary is the attempt to reconcile thought and feelings.

What is poetry? Lyric poetry is: a diary—in which third person is changed to second.

The most interesting poems of Ms. Balboni use the word “you” frequently, and we like the ones which teasingly shudder about sex.

The use of “you” converts the mere diary writer (who writes of “him,” “her,” or “them”) to a poet; the risk is that in the public view, for protection, the diarist-now-poet’s rhetoric becomes more hidden, more obscure–and some would say, this act of obscuring is the poetry, is the art.

In the poem, “Come,” the longest poem in the volume, beginning on page 37, we get this passage to fire up the bookworm:

Using the wand in public spaces
Masturbating in the library
The library truly makes me horny
So what turns you on and how can i do it
Also makes me cum i wish
Do it all again for another chance
To see how you make me come

A few lines later, a terribly good description of what it means to be in love:

I usually think about this person most of the time but not intentionally in this new way that has been brought out in the open.

In the poem which begins on pg 23, “Healing Magic Through Words,” the poet appears as sensitive but stoic, fighting, perhaps, for her life. It begins, proudly:

You are so special
but I am more special

In the middle of the poem, the diary-turning-into-a-poem speaks:

I need to talk to you to get these thoughts in the open, when i have them to myself i have trouble fully believing in them

Ms. Balboni is very good at this: getting right to the point about something important, and being original about it. At the end of “Healing Magic Through Words,” she is getting drunk at a bar:

Drinking more, i fill my own glass to make sure there is enough for me then i give you the rest. We are close and i touch you so much more now. I expect and accept the pain later too in your bed.

This poem feels honest and brave, but we have to be careful when we assign morality to poetry. A poem which wears morality on its sleeve is no poem.

Ms. Balboni thinks—even when she is trying, for the sake of the poetry, not to think. Those who think, often offend those who feel.

To be less offended, poetry has gradually moved away from thinking (the Metaphysical poets) and towards feeling (the Romantics) and has gone even deeper into feeling, in the practice of the Moderns, who, with nervy touchiness, write obscure poetry which critics (the last vestige of thinking in poetry) can hardly understand. The pendulum will swing back, as it must, towards Romanticism, not for the sake of Romanticism, but for the criticism of it, and only in order that poetry in general swing back towards beauty, clarity, and thinking. Where Apollo, beaming and deep in thought, waits.

Punctuation is used little, if at all, in most of these poems.

In the second poem of XXX Poems, the poet experiments with the period. She uses it.

The poems which use no punctuation are no worse, and are often better, than the ones which do. The semi-colon is used once in the volume, on page 30. We find it in a writhing passage about aliens, after the word “continue;” perhaps, unconsciously, Ms. Balboni doesn’t like the semi-colon; many writers don’t; does creativity need it?

At times the poet becomes impatient with everything.

Body art
Secret art
Not doing anything art
Being so fucking high art
Fuck this im stupid art

But the next line rescues us from this impatience, because it is similar, seems more clear-headed somehow, and it’s also funny:

Obscurity is holding me back from being my full freak self

The one poem which rises out of the book’s searing ruminations into what might be called a story, or a Hawthorne tale, is “She,” on page 27, which begins with the lovely and mysterious:

She was in a secret relationship with one patch of trees in the woods

The poem turns out not to be a story—that’s not the kind of poem these are. The poem focuses on the “she” in the same, strange mood established at the start, in such a way that we soon believe the poet may be talking about herself. And yet somehow it does seem to be a story. This proves that Ms. Balboni is not your ordinary lyric poet; she is able to handle things.

Ms. Balboni is self-observing, without being self-serving. “She” is not actually a story, but it’s cohesive, coherent, and realized, in the way the best lyric poems are. These quotes will give you an idea:

what a mistake that was
getting to know her creepy bitch

~

she probably already knew i was
a freak let me tell you

she brought a Charles Bukowski book
and read it in the woods
the book with a title about horses and long days
her notebook had creamy paper dazzled with cold ink
and the smell of nauseous nicotine smoke,
of a deep breathing girl
leaning on a fence

she’s mine i think
but she’s like a barn cat
and i am the barn

I follow the directions to a ghostly hill wondering

~

She lived in a house that looked like a treasure chest
red rubies blue velvet emerald green

~

all i wanted was to see her up close
to see the way her arms blended with her neck
the sweet creamy skin, the smooth organ so there and soft
although it seemed my eyes played tricks on me when i looked at all

Ms. Balboni is poised for greatness; but she’s an introvert, and this may hinder her. Or perhaps not. Her book is full of observations such as the following, which uncannily depict love, and which only the sensitive introvert, perhaps, understands, because poetry, introversion, and love are the same:

People are outside having fun i am inside having fun

 

—Salem MA, Feb 2, 2020

 

 

THE NEO-CON CON

British warships in the Far East, 1920s 

A sensitive and historical piece appeared in the Federalist, recently: Are Neocons Really Back In The Trump Administration? 

A delicate piece indeed, even going so far as not to offend the neo-cons themselves, calling their globalist war dreams egalitarian.

The globalist warmongers (Bush and Clinton) may be rooted in 1930s Trotskyism, as this article says, but their roots are deeper. Neo-cons, like liberals, trace their political philosophy back to the British Empire, which fought and befriended-only-to-betray the great American Experiment which came into existence as a counter to the empire’s globalism, taxes, and slavery. The American patriots, underdogs in 1776, have always been underdogs, but miracles keep occuring; one of the biggest was oil, which transformed the world economy in the early 20th century. It’s said often, but oil really did enable the USA, blessed with deposits of black gold beneath places like Texas and Pennsylvania, to materially usurp the British Empire.

In the 19th century, Britain practically did rule the world. This is not a conspiracy theory. They did. And it wasn’t all that long ago. Five or six generations ago. That’s not a long time ago. It’s not ancient history. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was feted by London, and lectured throughout England and America leading up to the Civil War from his work, “English Traits,” on the glory of the British Empire from a racist perpective—yes, this is true—inspired T.S. Eliot, in 1949, whose grandfather knew Emerson, to scorn and attack the pre-Civil War patriot, Edgar Poe, who died in 1849. History teaches anyone who courts her that spans of years are actually very short. And we bring up Emerson/Poe/Eliot as just one cultural, historical example of how deep and entangled the relationship between the British Empire and America is.

In 1860, the America of Washington, Hamilton, and Franklin really was on the ropes, with their old ally France occupying Mexico, and the snake, the Cofederacy, supported tacitly by Britain. Lord Russell was Britain’s prime minister then, grandfather to the great philosopher Bertrand Russell, the great, free thinking, philosopher, who, in his old age, was obsessed with World Government as the way to save the world. Kind of funny, innit?

A few years later, in the Bush era, the ruling political principle of Tony Blair and Bush was to plunge the USA into reckless, destabilizing wars. It’s what Neo-cons love to do, on behalf of the New World Order—the new British Empire.

The CIA, formed shortly after WW II, got too close to MI6, a love affair started, and American intelligence helped the USA fight on as the sophisticated, ivy league, version of the British Empire. The oil of Iran contributed to the glory of Britain until the oil deal ran out in 1979, and Tehran got a fanatical new leader to hate America and roil the middle east. To this day, American politics can be measured by how much one despises the post-1979 regime in Iran. Deplorables hate the regime. John Kerry kind of likes it.

Oil, which still makes America a colossus, is hated by the anti-fossil fuels movement, another political, fault-line, flash-point, if there ever was one.

Bernie, the commie, hates fossil fuels. The left must hate fossil fuels. This has nothing to do with science. (The left falsely believes CO2 is a pollutant. CO2 is necessary for life.)

One would suppose the Greens would hate Trump more than anyone, and they do.

Trump’s “basket of deplorables” is American patriotism pure and simple, hated equally by the two heads of the old divide-and-rule British Empire, called by various names: the Deep State, the New World Order, the DNC plus RINOs, the neo-cons, liberalism. And they rule chiefly with the help of three things: masses who want free stuff, China and Iran.

In this picture we are painting, it is telling how quickly, in 2016, the Left went full-blown McCarthyite. Another indication that behind the scenes the neo-con right and the liberal left were always the same.

Russia is especially hated by the Bertrand Russell/Winston Churchill/BBC faction of the UK.

Mother Russia was America’s ally in the mid-19th century, freeing her serfs when we freed our slaves.

Russia was our friend when the Britain of Lord Russell, and her new ally, France (of Napoleon III, not Lafayette—there’s a reason why Lafayette is named after so many places in America) almost ruled the world in 1860. So it makes sense in this context that Russia is hated (more so than when they were the Soviet Union!) and vociferously called out—on NBC and in the New York Times and in the Washington Post—as being Trump’s friend, and puppet master, by both liberals and neo-cons.

1930s international Trotskyism as the origin of the neo-cons? Perhaps. But we should take an even wider view. The true root of the neo-cons (and their liberal abetters) is 1860s British Empire/Imperial France/Free Trade/Opium Wars globalism.

After all, no one made international mischief like the globalists of London—who, when they could no longer steal oil from Iran, turned it over to the mullahs, to ensure that country would hate the United States. Think of one of the great liberals, Jimmy Carter, and the recent declassified documents showing Jimmy’s State Dept and Jimmy Carter himself, talking with the killer himself, Khomeini, to get him over from Paris and into Tehran where great mischief could be made. Jimmy and his ilk hates Trump. Khamenei hates Trump. Prince Charles hates Trump. Jussie Smolett hates Trump. Meryl Streep hates Trump. And even you, dear reader, in order not to be called a rube by an ivy league, white collar, snot, would be out of your mind, not to hate Trump. He’s crude, and his wife is prettier than your girlfriend.

But let’s keep our fingers crossed. Trade deals. Peace. True democracy. Calm before the doom and gloom on the left, right, and middle. (CBS is almost as scary as Alex Jones.)  A growing economy. And love, too, right? Love. Can’t we also have that?

J. ALFRED PRUFROCK AND THE RAVEN

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I wish I had a loud voice,

Then people would have no choice

But to listen to me. In a restaurant,

Around friends, I would get what I want.

My friends, and even those who run the restaurant

Would have no doubt.

I would be heard. And later, with her, alone,

I could reveal the truth: “I only shout

And boast to be heard. I chose

That voice for gain,” I could whisper.

And then she would take off her clothes…

But I don’t have a voice based on a plan.

I have the voice any man

Could listen to, or not.

I’m a working stiff who commutes.

I’m careful. There isn’t any plot!

A warning: this sad poem will quietly fade away.

Is that okay?

I’m not the man people need to see.

There’s nothing about me

Which rises above something marvelous

I might say in my poetry.

I even hold still in an emergency.

I’m the softest voice you ever heard,

As quiet as that solemn bird.

 

 

THE EXQUISITE EDGAR POE

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Edgar Poe was born on January 19, 1809.

Poe is a figure of opposites—which is what all successful people are.

First, it makes you enigmatic, which is always good, and it makes you enigmatic in a manner both complete and accessible, since opposites imply both depth and self-conscious unity, in a readily discernible manner. This will always make a character more attractive, and if not always appealing—some prefer consistency to complex magnitude—well, if today you don’t like this, tomorrow we’ll have its opposite. ‘I will always find a way to make you like me.’

Readers find Poe both emotional and mathematical.

One of his great themes was the double.

His essay on the physical universe, Eureka, was the first serious explanation of the Big Bang; it was read by Einstein, and Poe’s stunning scientific treatise is more influential than anyone will probably know. In it, we find the great opposites of the beginning when there is “nothing,” and the “bang” which produces “everything,” as matter expands into difference—which is how matter exists.

It is no surprise, then, that Poe’s detractors took to stealing from him those opposing qualities which make him truly who he is. He wrote humorous tales, but they focused soley on the ones concerned with murder. He laughed as often as he wept, but to suppress all that was great about him, all they had to do was appeal to our belief that he wept only, for we, the non-great, all share this low character—which takes delight in weeping for clowns and laughing at the sad. We laugh at Poe’s weeping, unable to accept he laughs, too. It makes us feel better. Genius, when experienced nakedly, has this way of making us, because we lack genius, feel miserable. And we don’t want to feel that. No one wants to feel overwhelmed by anyone. Hero-worship has a rule: it must have warmth and passion, but have a narrow, mean focus. Poe’s planet is both tropical and icy; but out of pride, we see him only as winter.

Poe is seen as ‘oddly this way.’ And therefore he doesn’t speak for us. He only represents a part of us. Poe has been damned with faint praise by the wise at Harvard and Oxford for so long, he is damned. He’s not perceived as one of us: an American speaking to Americans. But he was completely and soberly American in a time when Europe sneered at the upstart republic; Poe seems European, not because he strove to be that way; he was—and we have trouble seeing this—an American showing the world he could be anything he damn wanted. And seeming to be European was just one of his strategies. He lived and wrote for half his adult life in Philadelphia and New York, but somehow is boxed in as a Southerner who is a little too stiff, with a faint smell of gin, and worse, also falling into bohemian poverty which he hated—so on a personal level everyone has a reason to faintly dislike him. We’ve dressed him in borrowed clothes, in an outfit we’d like to think he wore—but Poe wears the world, the world doesn’t wear him. The default Poe that Americans “know” is not Poe, and since the private person belonging to his genius is to us a blank, the widely disseminated default simply lives on, reinforcing, inevitably, everything about him that is cheap and wrong. This happens to all of us; it’s just more magnified and unfortunate in a great writer.

For America’s sake, it’s a pity, because we lost somewhere in our Letters this true spokesman—who also happens to be one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived.

The opposites of good and evil will forever have a hold on our souls, not only in fiction, but in reality.

Poe was the Benjamin Franklin American good to colonialism’s world-cranking evil.

Poe belonged to the United States of America in its fragile, puritan, chaste, brilliant, heroic beginnings.

America is not the underdog anymore. But this is no reason to misunderstand and ignore America’s Shakespeare. Poe was not pretentious, so wouldn’t care, surely, that he’s B-movie popular. But ironically, no writer wrote for the educated few as much as Poe.

Whitman said America was “a poem.” But Poe, only 10 years older than Whitman, though he seems several lifetimes older, was America as “a poet.” Just as ‘America as a poem’ expands the definition of a poem, Poe’s ‘poet’ wrote more than poetry—murder mysteries (!) in which Dupin, an amateur, foils the chief of police, a professional. One coast of Poe barely knows the other. His laughing mountains barely know his sad valleys.

Britain, who had poets galore (America, before Poe, only school-boy imitators) was fast becoming the prose fact of the world. Places like India were colonized in reality, as America was colonized in the minds of brilliant but homely citizens like Thoreau and Emerson, who succumbed to the idea that locomotives were useless, even as U.S. manufacturing was the only thing keeping the United States free of colony status. Emerson (homely) and Poe (pretty) hated each other and Harold Bloom (homely) actually took up this quarrel, heavily on the side of Emerson. Anyone who does not consider themselves belonging to the world of locomotives will prefer Emerson, believing against all evidence that they are pretty, for taking the side of Emerson, simply because they are against locomotives.

America, with her locomotives, was the British Empire’s nightmare.

In Poe’s day, America was David to the British Empire’s Goliath, and the stone in David’s sling was not poetry; it was a locomotive. Poe was on the side of David and his locomotive, unlike Emerson’s friend Thoreau, for instance, who, unwittingly, by spurning the locomotive, sitting by his pond, played into the hands of the British Empire of colonies and holdings and farms and ponds and rivers and mines and booty and no borders. The romantic American belongs, at last, to Great Britain, and the Modernists, as Randal Jarrell surmised, were Romantics becoming so worldly they were no longer Americans—Henry James, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound— globalist white men who sneered at Poe—the world’s great literary inventor—as provincial, immature, and backwater, so devious and self-assured were they. Eliot really let loose against Poe in “From Poe to Valery,” only after American-turned-British Eliot won his Nobel.

The “smart set” thought Poe “boyish.” But this is always how worldly, defensive neurosis dismisses a clear-eyed god.

Poe, as a critic, desired two things: Always be original. Never be obscure. He called Thomas Carlyle an “ass” for being obscure.

Poe was loudly and confidently Romantic-as-Modern; no antiquarian, Poe. Look at how he defines old versus modern long before “the Modernists” appeared, in his review of a British Literature anthology:

“No general error evinces a more thorough confusion of ideas than the error of supposing Donne and Cowley metaphysical in the sense wherein Wordsworth and Coleridge are so. With the two former ethics were the end—with the two latter the means.”

Poe prefers Coleridge to Donne. But Poe finally understood exquisite and delicate imagination is far more important in poetry than ethics. Which is an idea so new that almost no one believes it. Eliot, the leading critic of the 20th century, preferred Donne to Coleridge, and now ethics in poetry is everywhere, threatening to overthrow both fancy and imagination (which Poe, ever-grounded, said were closer than we think).

In his review of the British anthology edited by S.C. Hall, Poe quotes from four poems, the first of which he does not like, a much anthologized specimen you may know, by Sir Henry Wotton:

1

You meaner beauties of the night

That poorly satisfy our eyes,

More by your number than your light,

You common people of the skies

What are you when the sun shall rise?

2

You curious chaunters of the wood

That warble forth dame Nature’s lays,

Thinking your passions understood

By your weak accents; what’s your praise

When Philomel her voice shall raise?

3

You violets, that first appear

By your pure purple mantles known,

Like the proud virgins of the year

As if the spring were all your own,

What are you when the rose is blown?

4

So, when my mistress shall be seen

In sweetness of her looks and mind,

By virtues first, then choice a queen,

Tell me if she were not designed

Th’ eclipse and glory of her kind?

And here’s the last poem which Poe quotes, by Marvell, which Poe loves:

“It is a wondrous thing how fleet

‘Twas on those little silver feet,

With what a pretty skipping grace

It oft would challenge me the race,

And when ‘t had left me far away

‘Twould stay and run again and stay;

For it was nimbler much than hinds,

And trod as if on the four winds.

I have a garden of my own,

But so with roses overgrown,

And lilies that you would it guess

To be a little wilderness,

And all the spring-time of the year

It only loved to be there.

Among the beds of lilies I

Have sought it oft where it should lie,

Yet could not till itself would rise

Find it although before mine eyes.

For in the flaxen lilies shade,

It like a bank of lilies laid,

Upon the roses it would feed

Until its lips even seemed to bleed,

And then to me ‘twould boldly trip,

And print those roses on my lip,

But all its chief delight was still

On roses thus itself to fill,

And its pure virgin limbs to fold

In whitest sheets of lilies cold.

Had it lived long it would have been

Lilies without, roses within.”

Most of us either like, or dislike, old rhyming poems. Leave it to Poe to start a war between two old gems few would bother to distinguish from each other.

Of the first poem (Henry Wotton), Poe says,

“Here everything is art—naked or but awkwardly concealed. No prepossession for the mere antique…should induce us to dignify with the sacred name of Poesy, a series such as this, of elaborate and threadbare compliments…stitched apparently together, without fancy, without plausibility, without adaptation of parts—and it is needless to add, without a jot of imagination.”

Of the Marvell, Poe, in swooning rapture, calls “the portion of it as we now copy…abounding in the sweetest pathos, in soft and gentle images, in the most exquisitely delicate imagination, and in truth—as any thing of its species.”

Whether writing on the mysteries of the universe, the mystery of a stolen letter, or on the delicate accents of poetry, Poe is a literary treasure—strict but passionate.

“DAMN TRUTH AND LOOK ON BEAUTY TILL IT BEGINS TO HURT”

Anand Thakore, poet and musician

Whenever poetry is discussed, the smartest person in the room (or on social media) inevitably defines poetry as a linguistic construction—meant merely to please.

The greatest enemy of poetry?  Prose meaning which can be paraphrased.

Auden said it: In poetry, the desire to “fiddle around with words” is more important than “having something to say.”

This was the message of I.A. Richards and the New Critics—who were more influential than anyone realizes, especially among the learned and the influential.

Drain your poems of “truth.” Any traces of learning? Put them in footnotes at the end. T.S. Eliot, a New Critic, finally, did this with his most famous poem.

Indian poet Anand Thakore on Facebook recently: “the only way to learn how to read poetry is to damn truth and look on beauty till it begins to hurt”

Some would say this puts too much burden on poetry to be beautiful; it narrows poetry, inhibits it, cutting off poetry from verbal expression, which is the core of what poetry is. Poe was accused of being too “narrow” by American critics, especially by those who preferred Whitman.

But as Thakore goes on to say: “…pure truth-talk has other forms of discourse better suited…much neo-classical 18th century verse  fails… because poetry gets reduced to desperately ‘neat’ encapsulation of truth and deprived of it’s essential function.”

Thakore’s point is that it takes an even greater confidence in poetry’s verbal expression to believe it can succeed without the “neat encapsulation” of “pure truth-talk”—better suited to prose—as poetry defines itself as a unique (and valuable) genre in itself.

Thakore nicely encapsulates the New Critical philosophy: Poetry isn’t truth, but (and here Thakore quotes I.A. Richards) “pseudo-statements of musical, linguistic and emotive power.”

But here’s the rub. To really make his point, Thakore was forced to walk back the Keatsian equation of Beauty and Truth—according to Thakore, what Keats said wasn’t really “true.”

Sujatha Mathai wasn’t buying Thakore’s distinction, jumping in to defend poetic or ecstatic truth: “I feel truth is in the sense of a state of BEING. If I am moved to ecstasy by a wonderful sunset, I can feel Beauty is Truth. And that is all I need to know.”

One can read this to mean that a sunset is like a philosophical truth—or a poem; neither imply practicality or self-interest.

Philosophical wisdom, ecstatic moments, sunsets, and poetry have no practical merit in and of themselves.

The “ecstatic” position Mathal expressed is a humbler one than the New Critics. Those who argue for ‘ecstasy as a state of being’ may not be conscious of it, but what they are really expressing is the following:

It isn’t that Keats is saying “beauty is as important as truth!” but rather, “Truth? Meh. It merely pleases us as beauty does.”

When we state Keats’ formula in this more modest way, it is not sublime-sounding; it’s almost flat out disrespectful. Comparing sunsets to philosophical truths can have no other conclusion but this modest one: truth is (only!) beauty.

Thakore (the smartest one in the room) started the ball rolling with the New Critic I. A. Richards. Here is Thakore in his own words on Keats’ famous formula:

“Keats’ famous concluding lines ‘truth’s beauty/beauty truth’…comprise an ecstatic pseudo-statement that is of value not because it is ‘true’ but because it is beautifully constructed and acheives a balance between two paradigms—the aesthetic and the epistemological—in a way hitherto unthought of in verse.”

This doesn’t sound disrespectful, even as it says the same thing: the truth expressed by Keats isn’t worth a feather, or, a pretty feather is all it is. Using the word “epistemological” feels the same as when Mathai uses “BEING.” It refers to a broad view, that’s all; the equivalent of “we have room to talk about this later.” But the diminishment of the Poetry as Truth formula in every sense remains.

Mandakini Pachauri (this is all from the same FB discussion) quoted Dickinson’s “I Died For Beauty,” one who died for truth and one who died for beauty in the tomb finally covered in moss, but Thakore wasn’t impressed:

“It’s just a mundane reworking of the Keatsian paradigm.”

Dickinson, in Thakore’s view, violated the poetic rule: making truth (an established “paradigm”) the center of a poem. Truth and Beauty walked into a bar…

Here is Scarriet’s response to the conundrum of truth and beauty in poetry:

Truth directs our actions in the most ironic fashion possible. Truth questions our senses by directing our senses. Facts are mundane. Truth, which uses facts, is profound. Poetry follows truth’s path from the mundane to the profound. Remember this was Wordsworth’s formula expressed in the Preface to Literary Ballads: poetry takes the plain and makes it remarkable. Recall also this was Wordsworth’s poetical mission—his colleague, the more supernatural Coleridge, was ascribed the reverse: going from the remarkable to the plain. The path is what is important, not the direction; and the poetic path is the same as the truth’s. But this doesn’t mean what poetry says, or the things on the path, are true. 

Neither the Romantics nor Scarriet disagree with Thakore so far.

But back to truth. To put it more simply: Truth is when you realize your prison is a palace or your palace is a prison. A poem is a prison striving to be a palace.

Ode On a Grecian Urn: “Bold lover, never never canst thou kiss (Prison)…”ever will thou love and she be fair!” (Palace)

Truth is always a flash of insight, more connected to ecstasy than we realize. Beauty is slower and slowly fades.

Truth is so quick, it belongs to eternity.

How a poem is constructed—to which Thakore gives priority—is this truthful, or beautiful? The construction may be beautiful, but the “how” definitely belongs to truth.

Let us make the following supposition:

If you believe Truth and Beauty are different, you will be all the more moved by the speaking out of the phrase at the end of Keats’ poem. The anguish is what moves us, not the truth.

And if, instead, we believed Truth and Beauty were the same before we read Keats’ poem, we would also be moved by the ending of Keats’ poem.

Why?

How can a truthful disagreement have zero effect on how much we are moved by Keats’ utterance at the end of his poem?

In the second instance our ego would be moved—‘the stupid world thinks they are different, but Keats the poet agrees with me!’

This proves what Anand Thakore is saying. The construction of the poem is the “truth;” there is no truth, per se. Had the ‘truth/beauty’ phrase been at the beginning of the poem, phrase and poem would have failed.

And yet, if the critical approach we take to Keats’ poem is true, does it not indicate that truth matters in poetry?

Poetry is an antidote to crude, ephemeral, or mistaken feeling, not an indulgence in it.

How do we escape feeling, but through truth?

Thakore also implicitly favored truth over beauty with his “hitherto” remark. Originality is a factor in poetry’s value, and the fact of originality belongs to truth, not beauty. Poe famously argued that originality was crucial in judging poetry.

Truth, not beauty, is what the highest poetry attains. Beauty is a secret joke in the formula, for beauty is secondary to truth; beauty is what fools us. Truth, however, is not such a fool as to not see the value of the foolish. Truth reveals the palace as a prison, or the prison as a palace—and what this means is that the beautiful is not definite; beauty is the variable in the equation. The poem’s construction is definite. The law of how a poem is ideally ordered or constructed is a tangible truth in itself. Beauty is a disease to truth’s health. We love a disease, however, to cure ourselves of it. Poetry fools us into understanding beauty as its truth. And this is beautiful.

 

DELMORE SCHWARTZ AND THE MODERN COMPLAINT

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The peculiar error of the modern poets—an error so obvious as to escape attention—was the continual investigation of what it meant to be modern, a term by which these 20th century poets (our grandparents and great grandparents) felt they were somehow novel and special. If thinking about poetry has anything to do with writing it, the modern poets were the first poets forced to be something else (modern) first, and poets second.

The previous movement—Romanticism—was so named by later critics; the Romantic poets, as critically-minded as any aesthetic clique, never thought of themselves as “Romantic” poets. They wrote poetry. Modern poetry, it must have been, when they were alive.  Wordsworth, one of the so-called Romantic poets, and as different in sensibility from another Romantic poet, Byron, as one poet next to another can possibly be, was no revolutionary. Wordsworth strove to write like Milton—just less religiously; there was no “break” at all, in terms of the poetry. A poem was a poem, just as a sword was a sword, or a feeling was a feeling. Wordsworth may have felt he was writing closer to how regular folk talk—but looking back we now know that was just something his criticism said.

One will, of course, find critics who insist Wordsworth was a “break,” (Byron would have said Wordsworth—whom the author of “Don Juan” took delight in ridiculing—was “broken”) but these critics will be found to be the same ones who believe the “modern” describes poetry, if only to conveniently map out eras as a means of filling up teaching hours in the classroom, and helping their charges remember what they are studying in rough historical terms. Victorian poets wrote when Queen Victoria was on the throne. Modern poets wrote during the reign of some other queen. And so on. But we “moderns” know (because we are “modern?”) that “modern” means much more than that. It is so ripe with meaning that modern poets are only secondarily poets—in the sense that all poets who came before them were.

I don’t think one can ever go wrong as a poet to think deeply about what it means to be a poet; the modern, however—what is it?

Here’s Randall Jarrell in The Nation in 1942:

What has impressed everybody about modernist poetry is its differentness. The familiar and rather touching “I like poetry—but not modern poetry” is only another way of noticing what almost all criticism has emphasized: that modernist poetry is a revolutionary departure from the romantic poetry of the preceding century.

In his essay, “Poets Without Laurels,” (1938) John Crowe Ransom writes, “Modern poetry is pure poetry.” Just as the isolated skill of “statecraft” has replaced state and religion blended into one, poetry is no longer epic, religious, sweeping, but small, aesthetic, specialized. Just as Puritanism isolates morality from the old pomp of the Catholic Church and seals it up in the devotee’s heart, modern poetry isolates, as a special value, pure aesthetics from morality and everything else.

Robert Penn Warren in his lecture at Princeton in 1942, “Pure and Impure Poetry” wrestled with Ransom’s idea of modern poetry as “pure.” Context, for Warren, keeps interfering with purity, in the same way excess of feeling naturally brings on mockery—Ransom’s “purity” has porous borders; Eliot’s “objective correlative” demands Shelley’s love admit a desire for sex (loosely speaking); in order for the sex to remain hidden, however, poetry must be obscure; and so Modernist obscurity ascends the throne; Shelley and Poe’s poetry excludes the unpleasant, the ugly, the immoral; modern poetry, in its attempt to break with Romanticism (including Dryden, Milton, and Shakespeare) includes these things, includes the vulgar, includes whatever was once aesthetically left out. In order for the modern contradiction of inclusive, lyric “purity” to work, however, obscurity is required, unless one is prepared to advance past Shelley by introducing sex into one’s poems, which the Moderns were not willing to do.

Eliot, in “Hamlet and his Problems” calls Hamlet a failure because Hamlet’s “disgust” with his mother (she is having sex with his uncle) isn’t handled properly.

I began this essay by referring to the modern poets’ “error,” unnoticed due to its obvious nature; and here it is.

The attachment of “modern” to poetry obscures and distracts from the poetry—in the very same manner that obscurity itself is the chief problem of modernist poetry (Jarrell’s “I like poetry—but not modern poetry” self-consciously expresses this public distaste).

And why is modern poetry obscure?

Ransom’s modernist, art for art’s sake, division of labor, puritanical evolution in the direction of “purity” ran headlong into Poe’s narrow and practical definition—the inevitable, self-conscious, progressive, boiling down of the essential nature of the poem as Critical object in Lord Bacon’s laboratory.

Trapped by the exclusionary nature of the pure lyric poem, which had been freed from its old epic duties as historian and moral story teller, the Romantic lyric is the inescapable reality facing the “revolutionary” Modern.

In the early 20th century, a desperate gambit followed—make the uneasy purity of the modern lyric a product which includes, rather than excludes, all things which are not poetic, or beautiful, or traditionally aesthetic.

But to arrive at purity by including all sorts of things is impossible. Therefore exclusion had to be practiced (the soul of all art is exclusion) in such a way as to somehow pretend inclusion (sex accompanying love, disgust accompanying restraint, confusion accompanying focus, laughter accompanying sorrow) and you have the modern poets practicing something impossible to pull off, with obscurity the natural result.  This was, and is, modern poetry.

To be lyric, clear, Romantic, beautiful is to go back. Modern meant forward, out of the trenches of Poe, into the arms of everything—which, by its inclusive nature, ruins pure poetry, the old pure poetry which excludes.

Like the beautiful English poets, who almost to a man, ran headlong into the Great War of 1914, poetry, in the same historical instant, ran into the arms of insanity, busyness, mockery, excess, obscurity, unease, the mundane, pain, ugliness, and death.

We arrive now at Delmore Schwartz and his essay “The Isolation of Modern Poetry.”

In his essay, published in John Crowe Ransom’s Kenyon Review in 1941, Schwartz is certain that the poet is isolated from modern society. Not because, as T.S. Eliot says, modern society is complex and therefore modern poetry needs to be complex, and therefore difficult, and therefore the modern poet is likely to be misunderstood—Schwartz finds this relationship “superficial.”

Mr. Eliot is seldom superficial in any regard; here, however, I think he is identifying the surface of our civilization with the surface of our poetry. But the complexity of modern life, the disorder of the traffic on a business street or the variety of reference in the daily newspaper is far from being the same thing as the difficulties of syntax, tone, diction, metaphor, and allusion which face the reader in the modern poem.

If only Delmore had spent the entire essay confuting Mr. Eliot!  His essay might have unlocked many anti-Modernist insights.  Those who hate Eliot for vague reasons—too English, too Anglican, too stuffy—are wrong, but those who find Eliot invincible in his judgments are dangerously wrong. Good to see Delmore wasn’t afraid of taking on the master.

But Schwartz goes on to say a similar thing: modern society doesn’t care for poetry; the poet’s isolation, therefore, is extreme.  Schwartz doesn’t blame people, but society.  Bankers and insurance salesmen cannot like poetry—the way they make their living prohibits it.

The fundamental isolation of the modern poet began not with the poet and his way of life; but rather with the whole way of life of modern society. It was not so much the poet as it was poetry, culture, sensibility, imagination, that were isolated.

After rebuking Eliot, Schwartz goes on for the rest of the essay to entirely agree with him.  Poetry, as Schwartz points out, is not the same as a busy street. Eliot is too blase, is what Schwartz is saying. Complex life, complex poetry. But Schwartz sees a much deeper problem. The complexity of modern life does not provide new material for the poet (Eliot’s rather optimistic view) but rather obliterates all connections between ordinary people caught up in that complexity and the poet who wishes to communicate with those modern readers. According to Schwartz:

There have been unsuccessful efforts on the part of able poets to write about bankers and about railroad trains, and in such examples the poet has been confronted by what seems on the surface a technical problem, the extraordinary difficulty of employing poetic diction, meter, language, and metaphor in the contexts of modern life.

Delmore then gives us the example of Wallace Stevens:

At the conclusion of his reading of his own poetry, this poet and business man remarked to one of the instructors who had welcomed him: “I wonder what the boys at the office would think of this.”

But this seems as superficial as T.S Eliot’s point about modern life forcing the modern poet to be “difficult.”  Why do we assume “the boys in the office” cannot like poetry?

Modern life impacts all persons—and a poet is a person. No matter how different life or society has become, the poet experiences society in the same ocean of experience as everyone else, no matter what kind of “poet” he is; for the materials the poet uses is under discussion when we talk about banks and trains.  The poet of ancient Greece, or the poet of any society at any point in history, has a duty to speak to other members of society—otherwise what kind of poet is he?  If he chooses to write about banks and trains, or not, he still will be understood as a poet—for when Delmore rebuked TS Eliot, this was exactly his point—poetry is not the same as banks and trains.

Schwartz is saying modern life is far more than a busy street.  It is far worse.  Modern life is not merely more complex.  It kills the soul, is really what Schwartz is saying.  But unfortunately, this is nothing but hyperbole.  The soul is forever doing battle with life—modern or not.

If the whole of society has succumbed to the not-poetic, then society is isolated from itself, and everyone is afflicted, not just the poet.

Either the poet’s modern audience is similarly affected, or not.

If not, the poet needs to bridge the gap—with poetry—that’s what poets do and why we call it poetry. (And write anguished essays about how poetry has flown and the poet is isolated.) In ancient times, or now.

And if the poet’s audience is similarly afflicted, then wherefore the “isolation?”

Is it because most of society finds insurance firms attractive and the poet does not? Of course not; we must assume a thread of humanity connecting poet and audience re: the non-poetic aspect of insurance firms. No one finds insurance firms attractive.

Schwartz also brings up money. Insurance firms make money and poetry does not, and therefore the poet is ashamed, of no worth, pitied, and therefore isolated, by society. But imagine if Keats were born to a fortune. He would not be Keats. Poetry is so valuable—as to be like money in the fortune it bestows upon its worshipers, but it is not money—does not belong to exchange—otherwise it would not be wealthy in what it is: poetry, which is not, but which rivals, the good fortune of money. What Schwartz is doing is feeling sorry for himself, and using society (which isolates him, the poet) as the excuse—and the transferring of the self-pity (in a Marxist sort of way) into a philosophy, which, in the long run, only makes the individual feel worse, because the self-pity grows in an abstract (disguised) manner.

Therefore, the “difficulty,” or the “famous obscurity” of modern poetry, as Schwartz calls it, is because the modern poet writes not from a common place shared by modern society (banks, insurance firms) but from the poet’s own peculiar, eccentric, isolated self, pushed into a corner by the massively complex (agreeing with Eliot more than he realizes) and non-poetic aspects of modern life.

Again, however: if the society lacks poetry (hasn’t it always?) it follows that poetry must be dearly desired in every quarter.

Poetry, we must assume, is good, is happiness, (since isolating it is bad) and happiness is what modern society lacks (surely the poet doesn’t wish misery on anyone in the name of poetry). The insurance salesman, lacking poetry, needs it, and no amount of enforced, self-pitying, isolationism will possibly be able to provide poetry to the insurance salesman.

Either poetry is being stamped out, and therefore is more necessary than ever, or modern society is inventing different means of delivering poetry without poets themselves being necessary (at least not the self-defeating, bad poets).

In order to prove that the poet was once fully integrated into society, Schwartz provides a few dubious examples: the ancient drama “festivals” which were the talk of the ancient town. But surely this was the ancient equivalent of Hollywood, not poetry in the modern sense. And who thinks of “festivals” as steady poetry employment which earns a living, anyway?

He claims “the Bible” was once the common picture for society at large, until it was eclipsed in the 18th and the 19th centuries by science and Darwin. But shouldn’t this be good news for the poets, who get a chance to replace the priests?

He mentions Blake as one of the first modern rebels, ushering in the new “obscurity” of poetry no longer able to rely on the Bible. But what could be less obscure than the “Tyger” or “Songs of Innocence?”

Schwartz then comes to Baudelaire, the poet who espouses the poetry of clouds, art for art’s sake, the modern poet refusing to write of heroic or “respectable” things, an orphan, cut off from family and all things universal, since with the fall of the Bible, follows the fall of Man. But here Delmore is applying rope to the “helpless” poet—when we know it is precisely poetry which unties all ropes.

Delmore thinks poetry isn’t free, since he applies “modern” to both society and poetry.

But this is a knot easily broken by anyone not ready to embrace the self-pity which insists “modernity” is our dreadful fate.

POETRY MAGAZINE’S INDIA ISSUE, JULY/AUGUST 2019

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Poetry’s India issue is not an India issue.

In the globalist introduction by editors Kazim Ali and Rajiv Mohabir, we are told countries do not exist; only colonies and far-flung sub-cultures do.

In their introduction to Poetry’s “Global Anglophone Indian Poems,” the editors wish to erase the nation of India:

“Indian” is the wrong word to encompass  and label diasporic subjectivities of South Asians that descend from a system of indenture.

This sounds like something one would hear in the British Foreign Office around 1933.

Narratives flip. History repeats. The optimism of Indian independence from the British in the middle of the 20th century has been replaced by the pessimism of learned, anti-colonialist academics, who hold that there was no “Indian” independence from the “British” after all—because, according to Ali and Mohabir, “There is no such thing as cultural purity—Indian or not.”

A nation—which gathers together differences in a happy embrace—is this possible? It was not, according to the British Empire, whose very rule depended on division, nor is it anything the editors wish to get behind, spending most of the introduction asserting India isn’t real. Because nothing “culturally pure” exists. Which we all know, but…

“Culture” is a term always used broadly, and in terms of connection—and this is the very essence of the word; and this aspect of it shouldn’t inspire fear, unless one wants to get rid of culture altogether. We all admire gardens, and gardens grow, even as they remain gardens. Nations are nations in as much as they have a culture which binds the nation as a nation together, and this is a good thing. The editors, however, see danger:

The notion of a culturally pure India is a dangerous weapon leveraged to maintain social distance, as in some cases it fans anti-Muslim and anti-Black politics.

Is “social distance” civility? What do they mean by this?

And what exactly is “Muslim politics?” And is “Muslim” or “black politics” ever “pure,” and, because of this “purity,” is it, too, “dangerous?”

Or is it only the “culturally pure India” which is “dangerous?”

Division is always good, according to the editors—since the greatest unity India ever achieved was “an India that does not exist today, except for in histories kept by elders: a pre-partition British India, a single landmass owned by white masters.”

God forbid Indians get to rule a “landmass.” Better, according to the editors, that Indians are divided—to the point where they don’t really exist.

For Ali and Mohabir, Indian unity of any kind is either non-existent, white, or bad. India as a Hindu country is something the editors cannot bring themselves to even mention, as this, perhaps to them, is the ultimate horror. They refer to Hindus once—in the first paragraph, as if the religion practiced by a billion Indians, 4 Indians in 5, were a minor anomaly:

On the one hand, “Indian” languages were always transnational, or—in more modern times—global. Regional languages encountered one another, as well as Farsi and Urdu, during Mughal conquests; the concepts of Hindi as a national language and Hindustan as a national space were both developed in response to the perceived foreign influence of the northern empire builders. Crosspollination existed between the Urdu-speaking Mughals and Farsi- and Arabic-speaking cultures, both in spoken and written literatures. Queen Elizabeth I and Emperor Akbar the Great were exchanging letters in Urdu and English through their translators before there was a British East India company.

This is their first paragraph. What does this mean?

I understand protecting minority rights—constitutions and laws cover this; but to forever and preemptively assume the majority is the devil, and to always undermine it on principle isn’t exactly the recipe for a strong and happy nation.

The editors point of view seems to be that anything which has anything to do with “indenture” and “diaspora” is the best thing of all. A kind of strange, unholy, celebration of the results of the British Empire keeps breaking out in the rhetoric of the editors. Are the “white masters” hiding in the wings? In high rises in London? In the editorial offices of Poetry? We hope not.

That British Empire was quite a thing. “Colonies” and the “indentured” and “diaspora” everywhere. Did the British make India? Yes, absolutely, according to Ali and Mohabir—exemplifying the truth that the British “Divide and Rule” Empire still lives, spilling into everything, even the rhetoric which attempts to summarize the topic in a short introduction:

The earliest Indian poetry in English, including those poems by nationalist anti-colonial poets like Rabindranath Tagore and Sarojini Naidu, were poems from the British literary tradition. It would take a new generation of Indian poets, who included the Kala Goda poets Arun Kolatkar, Adil Jussawalla, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, and others, to begin developing a new Indian English aesthetic that drew not only on British influences, but local traditions as well as global ones.

Just as the British Empire both made and destroyed India, it continues to erase all sense of what anyone might say—including these editors, Ali and Mahobir—about Indian poetry in English.

The Indian “nationalist anti-colonial” poems were “poems from the British literary tradition.”

Got that?

Indian literary independence was British.

Therefore, Ali and Mohabir say,

It would take a new generation to begin developing a new Indian English aesthetic that drew not only on British influences, but local traditions as well as global ones.

But what is British influence if not “global,” thanks to its global empire? And how could poets like Tagore not have been influenced by “local traditions” back then, writing poems from “the British literary tradition?”

One can see how any attempt to extract “India” from “English” is hopeless. That is, if one ignores the content of poems and puts them into implicitly denigrated categories such as the “British literary tradition,” the only discernible aesthetic gesture made by the editors—whose introduction is otherwise lost in politics. Their aesthetic point begins with a platitude made regarding “tradition” and reasons from that nothing into more nothing. All the editors say is true—if truth is a circle starting at nowhere and ending at no place.

And now we come to the poetry selection.

As one might expect, there is no “British literary tradition” anywhere in sight.

The poems in the “Global Anglophone Indian Poems” issue of July/August Poetry, establish themselves right away as that which could not possibly belong to any tradition at all, except perhaps this one: Poems in English That May As Well Have Been Written in Urdu Since No English Speaker Can Understand Them. This will show those British white devils! And anyone who speaks their language!

The interesting thing about the 42 “Indian” poems in the Poetry Indian issue is that almost all of them sound like they could have been written by Ezra Pound—redolent of that flat, unthinking, anti-Romantic, anti-lyricism which roams the desert looking for an oasis of sweet rhyme intentionally never found, for the journey is to punish such desires.  And in this desert we rarely come across a person who speaks as a real person about some accessible thing that matters in a life really lived. It’s poetry that vaults at once past actual life, and any Romantic ideal of actual life, into some abstract library of learned reference. What we get is not Kishore Kumar as a poem (if only!) but a condescending or ironic reference to Kushore Kumar—in the abstract, attenuated, machine-like speech of the anti-lyrical, footnote, poem.

One of the better poems in the portfolio, by Arundhathi Subramaniam (it actually has a somewhat personable and lyric beauty) happens to contain the Kushore Kumar reference, a footnote gesture less annoying than usual. I also enjoyed the poems by Nabina Das, Rochelle Potkar, Sridala Swami, Jennifer Robertson, Ranjit Hoskote, Mani Rao, and Hoshang Merchant, though in most cases I’ve seen better examples of their work elsewhere. I’ve written about these poets in Scarriet. I compared Swami to Borges, praised Subramaniam as a “lullaby” poet, called Potkar a wonderful discovery, and even placed these poets into this year’s Scarriet Poetry March Madness. But here they are in Poetry. And of course I am happy for them.

Have I soured on the Indian poetry in this special edition of Poetry because I read the introduction first, and that soured me? Or were my expectations too high, thinking the venerable Poetry magazine would offer the best Indian Poetry selection I had ever seen?

Here’s the first poem we meet in the volume. It’s a kind of flickering, black and white, news reel of broken images, half-memories, abstracted references. Modernist to the core. What is it saying? We are not sure, exactly. India was never free, never happy? The ends of lines and the end of the poem, swoon towards their termination in an Eliotic whimper. What we do know is the poem is vaguely complaining, inglorious, and trying its best not to sound poetic (because the Romantics are not allowed).

Freedom (Nabanita Kanungo)

It would try to lisp a dumbness sometimes—
the language of welts rising slowly on the panes,
a cracked blur of riot-torn air,
confused which year it was.
.
The last time it made a sound was when
it crinkled on its way into a bin,
a great plot of justice. I wasn’t born, then;
my father was.
.
It must have been whole once,
for you could still conceive it like a dream,
a gloriously illegitimate thing, though;
until a country was torn out of its heart one day
and you saw its impaled ghost in the moon.
.
My grandfather told me we had slept so long
with a flag over us, we couldn’t run when
machetes poked us awake amidst still-dreaming heads
rolling in the streets like marbles struck in game.
.
There was nowhere to go and we went nowhere,
with its face slumped on our backs
and history books that said what had happened is the past,
.
until sixty years later, a community’s threats betraying
her voice, a poor nun requested me
to leave my month-old job in a convent
where I’d studied since childhood.
.
I keep trying to find its shape in photographs, old letters,
the wind of stories trapped in some cancerous throat, dying …
.
a tattered roof in the stars, a tent flying off
with meanings barely gathered into a heap.

One imagines a Modernist school teacher shaping this poem—and what is ironic about this, of course, is that Modernism was the period when the English were still (cruelly) ruling India. The Greeks, the Romantics, where is their influence? Why is Indian poetry ruled by a style belonging to early 20th century American Anglophiles, like Pound and Eliot? Pessimistic, anti-Romantic Pound and Eliot? Why? Poe fought for American literary independence—and was rejected, even reviled, by the Anglo-American modernist establishment (Eliot hated Poe as much as he hated Shelley).

Look how the first poem in the volume ends: “with meanings barely gathered into a heap.” Why should Indian poets linger in the tidal pools of late British Empire despondency? “Because we have troubles!” Of course you do—but why is the aspiration and promise and identity of the poetry you choose the sour, anti-Romanticsm of your British masters? The ones even British poets like Shelley found objectionable? Indians, what are you thinking?

What is the editorial mission of this Indian Poetry portfolio?

Poems not enjoyed as poetry, but deemed useful as vague, Modernist, teaching-sorts-of-things?

And as much as this may be somewhat useful, and wide-ranging, the editors have somehow managed, even in this case, to present a narrow vision of Indian poetry. Not so much Wall of Sound, as Wall of Pound. Indian poets stuck in a desultory, lost-in-time, Modernism. The editors have put Indian Poetry in a certain container, coloring what it contains. It doesn’t have to be this way. The Indian poets writing in English have access to a long tradition of poetry in English, including every sort of world historical poet translated into English. There’s no reason they must, in such large numbers, wear the stiffness of Anglo/American Modernism.

Trapped in the dullness of this anti-poetry (referencing all sorts of cultural things in a stilted manner) one dutifully marches through the gray maze of this highly learned affectation thinking: is Indian poetry today the attempt to smash the “British Literary Tradition,” in solidarity with a few dead, white, male, American poets, who killed their “British Literary Tradition” with the cudgel of Ezra Pound? (Never mind that the “British Literary Tradition”—whatever shallow idea one has of it—didn’t have to be “killed,” and why with Ezra Pound?)

I have discovered many poems by Indian poets lately, many of them poets in this Poetry issue, as well as many excellent amateurs who by dint of their academic outsider status, would never be selected for a collection like this.

I’m convinced the quality of Indian poems in English today is equal, or greater, to, the quality of poems written in the UK and America.

Yet Indian poets get scant attention.

Unfortunately (and this is nothing against the poets themselves represented here) you would not know this quality exists from Poetry’s India issue—which is a terrible shame.

It’s almost a betrayal.

When I was younger, I naturally thought poetry was everything, and editing was nothing. Now I’m beginning to think the opposite is true. I could name exciting Indian or Indian-background poets I admire, poets who don’t write like Ezra Pound, but write with honesty and vigor, and inhabit a variety of styles in a thrilling, even memorable, manner, and yet one might be moved to go find a poem by these poets and be underwhelmed—since no poet publishes poems of equal quality.

The selection matters.

Every poet—because it is finally the poems, not the poet, which matter—has bad and good poems.

It is important we find and assemble the good ones. Critics and reviewers must judge. This is all they are supposed to do.

Let me name some wonderful poets left out of this selection: Linda Ashok, Anand Thakore, Ravi Shankar, Medha Singh, Daipayan Nair, Kushal Poddar, Sharanya Manivannan, Sarukkhai Chabria, Joie Bose, Menka Shivdasani, Ranjani Murali, Akhil Katyal, Jeet Thayil, Sushmita Gupta, Urvashi Bahuguna, N Ravi Shankar, Abhijit Khandkar, Aseem Sundan, Sukrita Kumar, CP Surendran, Nalini Priyadarshni, Divya Guha, Arjun Rajendran, Aishwarya Iyer, Sophia Naz, Meera Nair, Arun Sagar, Tishani Doshi, Huzaifa Pandit, Bsm Murty, Sumana Roy, Aakriti Kuntal.

Sensual, hopeful, colorful, wise, spiritual, romantic, scientific, wry, affectionate. And yes, anti-Modernist. That’s why I love these poets.

It may seem an act of sour grapes to list a few of my favorite poets the editors missed, and there’s a danger an incomplete search of their work will disappoint. The last thing I wish to bring to Poetry’s Indian Poetry party is bitter words and no answers. Even passable Ezra Pound imitators deserve better than that.

 

THE NEW LITERACY

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After the child has learned his alphabet and become fluent in their native tongue, when a desire to be a writer takes over, what is the “literacy” which comes next?

There are stages of literacy in which proficiency surpasses itself, but usually we stop short, or venture outward into a verbosity without order.

The order of the alphabet, the sentence, the paragraph—for prose; the line—in the more ordered, or perhaps messier, poetry, is not impressive; it is merely the literacy of anyone—the student, the rank amateur, the mediocre scribbler.

What is the further literacy which marks the pro?

Are there measurable and greater stages? And of what do they consist?  Larger vocabulary? Greater life experiences? Wider reading?

Yes, but does this sum it up?

It’s rather commonplace to think of the novel as merely a series of letters, or epistles—some put this as the origin as the novel; Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein this way.

The great writer rests on this as their crutch—the hidden progress they made from the alphabet to the missive.

All one has to do is write correspondence, and the letter of correspondence is the unit—and enough of these allows the novel, or short story, to exist.

But the poet is lost in the wilderness. The line is a meager unit, but it’s all the poet has. The stanza has no internal organization, per se, except a rhyme, or a refrain—but today these devices are ones poets almost entirely reject. Also, the stanza isn’t much lengthier than a line.

But there is a unit which the poets, even the modern ones, have been using, and rather secretly.

This unit is the sonnet.

Think of the most famous poems in the canon.

Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind is 5 sonnets strung together.

As is the Ode to a Grecian Urn by Keats: 5 sonnets.

Eliot’s Prufrock is 11 sonnets.

Poe’s Raven, when you break its long line in half, is 15 sonnets.

We remember Poe saying the Raven was an ideal length for the popular poem—108 lines.  One could see this unique work of Poe’s as a sonnet-slayer. The sonnet emerges uneasily from it, and it must be admitted that calling any lyric poem an ‘X number of sonnets’ is not always proper, or simple.

Plath’s Daddy is, as we might expect, a formal monstrosity, 4-5 unwieldy sonnets, threatening all the time to be a greater number of shorter sonnets, or murdered sonnets bleeding into each other, even as the unit, the sonnet, is glimpsed; her poem is undermining, and embracing, the sonnet-form as a unit, simultaneously; the poem is both extremely formalist, yet subversive in its formalism—and the sonnet is the underlying reason.

Ginsberg’s Howl is also roughly 15 sonnets—that is, the better known, first, part of the poem equals 15 sonnets. The whole of the poem is 21 sonnets.  The second (Moloch!) and third (Carl Solomon!) parts of Howl are 3 sonnets each. The more famous part, the first one, lacks cohesion—its disordered rebellion finally fails to find poetic unity.  This probably increased its notoriety as a modern, or post-modern work, but there is something which happens when poems are rebellious—they merely sink into prose.

But the point here is that every well-known lyric poem in English is perhaps best understood as a sequence of sonnets—not lines.

And we don’t even have to mention the sonnet in literature itself—the giants who used it: Shakespeare, Milton, Michelangelo, Dante, Petrarch, Sidney, Wordsworth, Yeats, Millay; and what was Dickinson, writing, really, if not the sonnet? How many significant poems are, if not sonnets, precisely, near-sonnets?

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address consists of three sonnets, with each sonnet corresponding to the three rhetorical turns made in the address, 1) The civil war testing the great proposition 2) We cannot dedicate, we cannot hallow, this ground 3) But we will dedicate, and what we dedicate will not perish.

And wonderful coincidence! An excellent piece on the sonnet’s effect on modern and contemporary poetics, “Petrarch’s Hangover, An Argument in Five Sonnets,” by Monica Youn, was just published this week. Here it is.

The secret literacy of great poetry?

The unit of poetry is not the line, but the sonnet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A FEW REMARKS ON NEO-ROMANTICISM PART 2

When contrast goes, everything goes.

Romantic poetry gave way to modernist poetry, but was is it revolution—or evolution?

Critics of poetry—the few who are left—don’t care to ask; the question gives too much credit to the romantics.

The whole of poetry has its divisions—and these divisions are historical and scholarly, but scholars also study the whole, the whole which is implicit in these divisions. The divisions are “classical,” “romantic,” and “modern;” the contrast provides the textbooks published since the early 20th century their food.

But since among the critics, romantic poetry is considered dead, the divisions and the whole are, for the present moment, gone.

Romantic poetry loses value, vanishes, and therefore, the literary history of poetry vanishes.

Banish what comes before love and you banish love.

The creative writing industry—like all industries, little concerned with love—arose with modernism—the tradition and the past has vanished; the writing program poet writes in a default present; glancing at the past is still done, but hidden idiosyncratic influence on a student writer is not the same as a thriving public tradition.

The poet Keats may have appeal, but the default setting for creative writing poets is: don’t sound like Keats. Rhyme is not modern. Rhyme may sound more poetic, but the trope of modernist poetry is: ‘modern’ is more important than ‘poetry.’ Modernist poetry is an interesting scholarly division, indeed.

Modernist poetry is free to rhyme, or not to rhyme, but freedom, the ostensible revolutionary driving force, is not free—in order to advance, rhyme is eschewed. It is not forbidden, of course. The forbidden is stronger when not spoken. No modern has ever said ‘don’t rhyme.’ Eliot will call Shelley immature. The clock ticks, and modern injunctions are by the wise silently understood. We are in the present now. Hushed voices. The celebrations are over. Switch on the electric light, watch the news reels, and quietly write your résumé.

Contrast is everything. Modernist poetry exists to shed the romantic.

But as Eliot pointed out in “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” the future changes the past within any tradition—the tradition is not just the past. 

If modernist poetry has done two things—eclipsed romanticism and run its course as an experiment, the whole tradition will wither on its ‘future end,’ and thus will wither altogether.

Randall Jarrell, the American poet and critic, college roommate of Robert Lowell—the first Writing Program teacher-poet superstar, who studied, with Jarrell, under Modernist New Critic god John Crowe Ransom—did ask the question:

Is modernist poetry revolutionary or evolutionary?

Jarrell asked the question at exactly the right time, when America was winning the greatest war in history. Modernism is, in fact, American.

Today, romantic poetry implies an English accent, or a European accent. A real American is modernist, or romantic with a smirk.

Talk of rhyme and modernism always goes off the tracks as an argument, because modernist poetry launched in 1914, and yet there was still rhyme making headlines everywhere: Yeats, Kipling, Frost, Millay—even Eliot, the leader, rhymed, to rapturous effect.

But Kipling and Yeats died before the 1930s were out. World War One, that essentially European conflict, had actually given rise to more rhyme than ever. It was World War Two, which ushered in the American century and the Iowa Worskshop, which killed rhyme, and killed it most defiantly in college, as GI Bill students learned belatedly that rhyme was dead and Modernism, born in 1914, killed it—a complete myth created by the American University in the 50s and 60s when everyone was climbing into the van to taste the candy of free verse. Pound and Williams were resurrected, and seemed to have, by their own genius, murdered rhyme in 1922. But Pound and Williams were obscure failures as late-middle aged poets. The Writing Program (“come to Iowa! you, too, can be a poet!”) with its long runway from the 1930s to the 1980s, finally murdered rhyme. Iowa (born of the New Critics) made modernist poetry seem a wildly successful revolution which happened during the 1917 Russian one.

In his 1942 essay, “The End of the Line,” Jarrell called modernist poetry “romantic,” and so “evolutionary” is his answer.

The American World War Two behemoth of confidence, cunning and swagger is at the heart of modernist poetry.

Here’s how Jarrell’s essay begins:

“What has impressed everyone about modernist poetry is its differentness. The familiar and rather touching “I like poetry—but not modern poetry” is only another way of noticing what almost all criticism has emphasized: that modernist poetry is a revolutionary departure from the romantic poetry of the preceding century.”

Jarrell, back in 1942, is saying what no one says anymore—romantic poetry (still written in the 1930s by Yeats and Auden) is the default poetry; romantic poetry is that which the public understands as—poetry.

Modernist poetry hijacked poetry, and lured it into the van by promising poetry eclectically easy to write—stoned, hippie, free verse. Modernist poetry—though no one dared say it, so heroic did everything American seem in the 1940s—was a bullying, university-writing-workshop, American phenomenon. The New Critics’ textbook in all the schools praised Pound and Williams and kicked around Poe’s romantic rhythms in “Ulalume” by way of the futuristic novelist, essayist, (bad) poet and Englishman, Aldous Huxley—then peddling LSD—in California. America was suddenly the modernist magnet drawing everything in. The CIA was throwing money at Modern Art and Paul Engle. Communism threatened Europe. Rhyme hadn’t worked.

Here is Jarrell again, from that 1942 essay:

“Romantic once again, after almost two centuries, became a term of simple derogation; correspondingly, there grew up a rather blank cult of the “classical,” and poets like Eliot hinted that poets like Pound might be the new classicism for which all had been waiting.”

Somewhere in liberal, educated American minds, while Jarrell penned his essay in the first years of WW II, Pound and Eliot represented grandiose, over-educated, fascist, “classical” poetry which would triumph if Europe remained under Hitler’s control. Pound and Eliot both had an odd hatred of Russia—even before it became Soviet. But this does make sense. Pound’s “Imagism” piggy-backed on the world-wide Japanese art and haiku rage in 1905, due to Japan’s surprising win over Russia in the Russo-Japanese war. And Britain had been Japan’s ally in that war, the nation where Pound came to make his fortune.

The U.S.and the Soviet Union’s victory in Europe in 1945 signaled the end of Europe’s hold on American poetry forever.

World War One ruined Europe’s beautiful, romantic reputation—overnight Europe became a quaint shop for American dollars, as Hemingway and Stein lived cheaply in Paris.

But even after the romantic-destroying horrors of WW I, Europe kept on rhyming.

World War Two wrecked Europe a second time, American money was now worth even more, and this time around, romantic, rhyming finally stopped.

The old syllabus was torn up. Iowa was about to “make it new.” The 1914 Pound, who lost, (and was even humiliated by Amy Lowell) somehow, in 1945, won. This is how much the American century was turning things upside down.

Pound, and his two pals, Williams and Eliot, had made it. Rhyming was over.

Poe, who fought the British Empire in Letters a century earlier, could not have foreseen, nor would he have approved of, modernist poetry’s 1945, ruin-and-flames victory. Poe hated Britain’s might, not its poetry. Poe admired Keats, Shelley, and Tennyson; it was the British government and Britain’s clandestine designs against her former colony, which Poe called to account.

Jarrell reminds us the word “Romantic,” in poetry, was once a “term of simple derogation.” The Romantic poets once challenged the establishment, and were hated back in their day as irreverent youth—and now Eliot and Pound hated them anew. Was Modernism revolutionary or reactionary? The attack on the twenty-something Shelley’s love energy by the older, professorial Eliot is one argument for “reactionary.”

Randall Jarrell to the rescue. His solution was simple. Modernism was just an extension of Romanticism. He is correct, to some degree.

As he brilliantly observes, “all Pound’s early advice to poets could be summed up in a sentence half of which is pure Wordsworth: Write like prose, like speech—and read French poetry!”

In his essay, to prove modernism is an extension of romanticism—which can go no further, which is why he titled his essay, “End of the Line”—he lists qualities both modernism and romanticism share:

1. Experimentalism, Originality

2. Formlessness

3. Emotional, violent

4. Obscurity, inaccessibility, specialized

5. Lack of restraint or proportion

6. Emphasis on parts, not wholes

7. Preoccupation with sensation

8. Dreams, stream of consciousness, irrational

9. Irony of every type: Byronic, Laforguian, etc

10. Fauve or neo-primitive elements

11. Contemporary life condemned, patronized

12. Individualism, isolation, alienation

13. Dislike for science, industrialism, progress, preferring theological and personal

Lists are an insidious way of reasoning. Jarrell has merely complied qualities which don’t conform to classical poetry, letting the sheer number of qualities discover some over-lap between romanticism and modernism—and there are some. But even were this list completely true—perhaps it is—-qualities cannot really describe a poem. “Ode to A Nightingale” can have all sorts of qualities ascribed to it by any junior professor, and any average poem with enough detail in it can claim those qualities, as well. But do the poems have the same value?

Criticism would do better to throw out such lists and pounce on one quality, more important by far, than all the others: originality.

What is the one factor which make 99% of contemporary poetry unreadable to the educated reader, whether it is the romantic/religious poetry all over the internet, the platitudes of the political poets, or the meandering prose of workshop poets?

They lack originality.

Without originality, nothing else in a poem works.

Originality is as mysterious as the virgin birth.

How can a poet be original?

The educated, who are obsessed with valid sources and the truth of their work, are, by their very status as educated, made to copy and copy again, and nothing more.

Footnotes and citations alone make the educated real; an academic’s “poem” of a dozen lines requires a hundred footnotes if their work is to have real merit, approved by the scholars. Otherwise one is attempting to be a wit, like Oscar Wilde—who wrote how many well-known poems?

What do the amateurs, the romantics or would-be politicians of the slam bars and the world wide web do? They, too, like the educated, copy.

Instead of historical facts, the amateurs copy, over and over again, every platitude and mawkish, well-meaning sentiment which already exists, and are repellent to the educated, as lovely and earnest as they may be, for the very same reason: they parrot, they repeat, they plagiarize, they ape, they copy.

Originality is the prize which eludes them all—no matter their rank in learning, no matter what they choose to write on.

Then we have the professional musicians, who put “poetry” into their sometimes extremely popular ballads and rap songs.

The trouble with this kind of poetry is that either the video or the music gets in the way, or the lyrics are horribly bad. Occasionally a fragment, a chorus, will achieve a certain poetic beauty, and this is better than nothing, but finally a fragmentariness is the rule.

Or it becomes a parody, or a parody of a parody, like those rap songs whose topic and rhymes are so transparently over-used, ridiculous, and offensive to good taste, that Weird Al Yankovic is apparently the author. “Lick me like a lolly pop,” just to pick an appalling phrase at random—the ability to joke about sex (a topic which, on some level, everyone must take seriously at some point in their lives) is a bank with endless supplies of cash. “Lick me like a lolly pop” (and everything it rhymes with) is sexy if it’s true, but at the same time ridiculous (funny) as both linguistic construct and fiery (anti-) moral statement. It succeeds, then, in the song/poem category, for the vast audience of those who need what oddly amoral language is able to give them.

Often, with music fans, and other amateurs, it’s enough to get a taste of what something is—in this case, poetry—without having to go further—risking humiliation, distraction, or getting pulled away from the comfort of one’s shallow, yet practical, sheep-existence.

Modernist poetry’s greatest enemy is faux romantic poetry (rap, Instagram poetry, etc) such that good romantic poetry (who writes that, anymore?) is seen as the enemy, too.

The second greatest enemy for modernist poetry is itself. For two reasons. First, the modern art joke of Duchamp’s toilet-as-museum-art is a great joke—but can be only told once; it only works once. Unfortunately this does not prevent this joke from being told over and over again, whether it is “noise-as-“music,” “trash-as-art,” or “refridgerator-note-as-poem.” Most times the poet is not even aware that they are re-telling the Duchamp Joke—they convince themselves that their prose reflection is really a majestic poem, and swept up in the Program Era atmosphere, others agree.

To catch the elusive unicorn of originality, the modernist poet has his final recourse—in what Jarrell calls ” differentness.” This “differentness” is often just the retold Duchamp Joke, but sometimes it avoids even this, and with a great deal of cleverness and panache, heaping up as many fascinating broken images as possible, the modernist poet really does avoid the trite, the offensive, the clichéd, and the unoriginal.  But only to fall into the abyss of the profoundly trivial, the deeply obscure, and the sublimely inaccessible. Like visiting wintry crags in some far flung mountain range on the other side of the world, only the wildest and most insane imaginations (perhaps one in a million) go there, or care to, or can.

The poem both original and accessible is the only one worth writing.

The reason for modernism’s break from romantic poetry—if romantic poetry is assumed to be what poetry is for the general public—will permit anything in the name of that reason, including political sermons, and anything eliciting complaints of “that’s not poetry.”

Originality, however, can never be the reason for the break. The original poet is not allowed to cheat—not allowed to be original by producing something which is not considered a poem. This was already done by Duchamp. One is not allowed to do this again. Originality cannot be the reason for the shift from romantic to modernist.

The classical, romantic, modernist division consists, if valid, of original Classical, Romantic, and Modernist poems.

But true originality, the ultimate criterion, transcends historical divisions—an original poem written today cannot be an original romantic poem, or an original modernist poem—the original does not comprehend historical divisions, otherwise it would not be truly original.

Rhyme gives the poet more opportunities to produce an original poem. To say nothing of versifying harmony. Verse contains prose, and so verse is capable of being more original than free prose, not less. Verse has more possible moves on its chessboard than prose does.

If certain content is not considered romantic, and therefore not poetic, this has nothing to do with originality; barring from the poem certain kinds of content (“lick me like a lolly pop”) arises from how expectations of life informs and shapes the poem. This idea, that “life” writes the poem, is a truism for all poetry—some modernist critics have tried to own this truth exclusively for modernist poetry, since the modernist poem is more “impure,” but none of the three divisions has a monopoly on the ‘content censor.’ What cannot go in the poem sums up the content of a poem. The childish belief that ‘ here is what my poem is about and here are the details’ indulges in a false positive, and this is how any poet fails, whether romantic or modernist; for the truth is more severe—the genius excludes much more than he heaps up. There are fewer modernist geniuses for the sole reason that they are childishly “free,” and tend to put anything in.

To return to Mazer’s poem, which we quoted in Part One of “A Few Remarks.”

Mazer is not only an important poet; he is the escape.

Mazer, who is exquisitely modernist/romantic, is the ‘way out,’ (a small, trembling light, but visible,) from poetry’s 21st century crisis, the solution to Jarrell’s “end of the line” despair.

Ben Mazer, with his profound modernist/romantic originality, has scraped the bottom of poetry as it is understood as poetry in its Jungian, shadowy depths.  We sense the step upon the ancient rock, the slow, delicious, vibration in the ocean which signals the discovery of the walls of the room we know as the universe.

The holiday poem of his (a sketch, merely) which I plucked at random, quoted at the end of Part One of this essay, is illustrative of how the search for originality is hindered neither by subject nor common speech. Romantic tools (sensual, forceful, rule-based) aid poetic spirit and creative excitement.

A virgin snow remade the world that year

Is the first line which bursts upon the reader—the theme sings to us immediately; there is no prologue of pedantic delay—like a dear, familiar joke, or a winning card laid down, the effect is almost more than immediate.

Three kings had heard the rumor from afar

Continues the theme without delay—for the sake of immediacy, it’s a stock “three kings” image, with one important variation—“rumor” sounds modern. And the “r” sounds of “rumor” melt into the line’s “r” sound.

and wandered from the East by guiding star.

The third line’s iambic pentameter gives “guiding” wonderful movement. Mazer, in every one of his poems, does small things like this effortlessly. He has studied. He has read. He feels. In large measure, all.

The first three lines set up wonderfully the splendid:

The sacred place was frosted with the sheer

The “sheer” end-rhyme is perfect, after “far” and “star,” with line one’s “year,” and introduces the simple bass-line sublimity of

anticipation of a world to come.

A quick glance at these deceptively simple, first five lines is demonstration enough.

But to look at the final line. The last line makes a bold statement:

It was the most spectacular thing that’s ever been.

The pastness of the final line’s utterance is what is key. A million other poets would reject this line as untrue, or mundane, but Mazer understands one could sit around forever arguing about what is “most spectacular.” It is not meant literally—and yet it is. And herein lies the secret of the line. First, it’s in the past—the reader wasn’t there—so it can be stated as “true.” But Mazer was there, because he wrote the line, and so the self-conscious romantic individualist should say it, is forced to say it. Why? Because the god-coming-to-earth theme permits it. The idea of the divine Christ inspiring the divine poet permits it. And finally, the greatest secret of all for the line’s perfection—the last line is a divine and glorious boast: “it was the most spectacular thing that’s ever been” refers to the poem itself—even to the last line itself, which just at this moment, has slipped into the absolute and unreachable past.

Mazer, the modernist romantic—and classical, as well—has discovered the alpha and the omega.

The irreducible.

 

 

WHITMAN VS. MAZER—THE SENTIMENTAL POETRY MARCH MADNESS CONTINUES

 

Image result for walt whitman

The sentimental, as this 2018 March Madness Poetry tournament is finding out—as poems smash into each other in the particle accelerators of Scarriet’s aesthetic criticism—refers to any emotion at all, even anger.

Emotion, which the Modernists sought to distance themselves from—because the Victorians and the Romantics were too emotional in their poetry—is the beating heart of any poem; the poem cannot survive without emotion.

Are poems truth, as in scientific truth?  Even those who hate emotion, would not make such a claim (it would be an emotional one).

So if poems are not scientific documents, what are they?  They are sentimental documents—as much as feeling can be registered in a scientific (aesthetic, philosophical, psychological) manner.

The Modernists were fashionably reactive, but rather bankrupt philosophically and critically—the New Critics’ objected shrilly to the relevance of  the reader’s emotional response to a poem (yes, poems may make us feel something, they conceded, but this was not as important as the objective description of the poem as a thing).

T.S. Eliot, the father of New Criticism, famously  called poetry an “escape from emotion,” but he was confusing Poe’s formula that verse was 90% mathematical and 10% moral.

Poems can certainly be written, as Wordsworth said, in “tranquility,” even as powerful feelings flow between poet and reader.

The poem itself is not emotional.

The whole question of “escaping” emotion, or counting emotions bad in a poem, the way emotions are bad if one loses one’s temper in real life, is besides the point.

The mathematical is not emotional, and verse is largely mathematical—even prose poetry relies on rhythm, which is music, which is math.

But should the poet invent, and impart, emotion as part of the poem’s effect?

Yes, and this is a truism.

Aristotle says emotions can be “purged” by poetry. Aristotle was arguing with Plato, and looking for a way to praise emotions, but the “purging” idea is incomplete.  Let’s say a poem elicits disgust—how does this “purge” anything?  Does this mean we will never feel disgusted, again?  Of course not.  The poem has given us a feeling of disgust where there was none before, and whenever we remember the poem, we are disgusted.

The emotional content of a poem can include some “bad” emotions—fear or sorrow, for instance—disgust should probably be avoided altogether, but even disgust may be used, sparingly, perhaps—but the poem itself should do more than just produce an emotion, or a combination of emotions; the emotions of the poem must be accompanied with—what?  And here’s the mystery; here’s what the poet must decide with each poem.  All we know is that every poem should be highly sentimental, in the old, less pejorative, meaning of the term.

In the Fourth Bracket, the Sushmita Bracket, we feature some living poets, who don’t give a damn what contemporary critics think, and find joy and weeping in the poetic euphoria of grand, old, high sentiment.

Ben Mazer—one of the greatest living poets (tell us how he is not)—gives us a poem burning on emotional jet fuel.

As we have said, the “emotion” of a person and the “emotion” of a poem are two different things.

Personal emotion could indeed be something we would want to “escape” from, to tamp down, to control, etc.

A poem, however, understands no such social limits or niceties.

The more the poet understands this crucial distinction, the better the poet will be; those who do not understand this distinction produce poetry which is either purely dull, or purely offensive.

Number 5 (December Poems) –Ben Mazer

I was at the Nuremberg Rallies pleading with my wife,
I love you, I love you, more than anything in the world!
As she looked off to see the dramatic spectators,
she turned to me and said, you hate my guts.
I wept, I pleaded, no, it wasn’t true!
I only married you because I love you!
There is no force to plead with that can change her course,
now everything is quite its opposite,
and yet she said, “I wish that it were true,”
and would not answer “Do you love me?”
or contest “You do! You love me!”
What are we then? Man and wife
hopelessly lost and separated in strife
and worser grief than was known to despair
at using words like markers, no means yes,
when Jesus Mary Magdalene won’t you bless
the two true lovers, their heads to your thighs,
and let this nonsense out in bursts of tears and sighs.

The famous poem by Walt Whitman is Mazer’s opponent.  We copy the first stanza.

O Captain! My captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red.
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Many know and admire this poem, and Walt Whitman was embraced by the moderns—Pound put out a hand to Whitman (while ignoring Poe, and other important figures of the 19th century.)

Those who admire Whitman’s poem, when pressed, would probably not remember “But O heart! heart! heart!/O the bleeding drops of red.”

What respectable poet writes anything like this today?

And yet, “O Captain! My Captain!” is a great poem, a powerful poem, a memorable poem, with a wonderful rhythm—if Whitman had checked himself and said, “I can’t write nonsense like O heart! heart! heart!” who doubts but that the poem would never have seen completion, would never have been written at all?

The only drawback to Whitman’s poem is that it exhausts its theme in the first stanza, and the next two stanzas merely recapitulate the first.  It is a bold and lovely poem, however.

Ben Mazer, similarly, pours on the sentimentality in his poem—the poet is vulnerable in the extreme.  The hysterical and desperate nature of the poem is announced at once, with, “I was at the Nuremberg Rallies pleading with my wife.”  This alone, marks the poem as genius, and then Mazer presents the searing, simple words of an actual, intimate conversation, which adds to the drama, and then Mazer ends the poem with a direct, emotional plea at the highest possible pitch.

Mazer’s poem has four parts, with the poet’s position never wavering—the first part announces the setting and situation, the second part features a dialogue, the third part presents a key, yet hopeless turn in the dialogue, “I wish that it were true,” and in the last part, the poet seeks divine assistance, after beginning the poem with a reference to earthly power.

There’s no crying in poetry?

Yes there is.

Mazer wins.

MARCH MADNESS 2018 —SENTIMENTAL AND WORTHY

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This year’s Scarriet 2018 March Madness Tournament is a contest between great sentimental poems.

We use Sentimental Poems because sentimentality in the United States has long been seen as a great fault in poetry.

It is necessary we bring attention to a crucial fact which is so obvious many overlook it: In the last 100 years, it is considered a virtue for the poet to avoid sentimentality.

But poetry does not belong to the factual.

Ever since Socrates pointed out that Homer wasn’t trustworthy when it came to chariots, law, war, or government, the fact that poetry is not factual has been understood and accepted.

As science grew in stature, it was only natural that Plato was seen as more and more correct—science, the eyes and ears of discovery, made the imagination of lyric song seem feeble by comparison.  Entertainment, Plato feared, could take the place of truth—and destroy society, by making it tyrannical, complacent, sensual, and blind.

Plato’s notion, to put it simply, triumphed.

Homer was no longer considered a text book for knowledge.

Poetry was just poetry.

Religion and science—one, an imaginative display of morals, the other, an imaginative display of reason, became the twin replacements of poetry for all mankind.

Poetry still mattered, but it belonged to entertainment and song, the frivolous, the sentimental—as much as these matter, and they do.  The sentimental was not considered a bad thing, but it was never confused with science. Nor was poetry confused with religion. Religion, with its unchanging sacred texts, was society’s moral guide; a poem springs up suddenly in a person’s mind, a fanciful thing, a piece of religion for the moment—not a bad thing, necessarily, but ranked below science and religion.

Poetry sat on the sidelines for two thousand years.  Homer made it glorious, Plato killed it, and then Science and Religion, for a couple of millennia, were Homer’s two important substitutes.

For two thousand years poetry was sentimental, not factual.

Religion bleeds into poetry (quite naturally) —Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare, Milton—and in the rival arts, painting, and music—helps religiosity (high sentiment) to thrive and not be overthrown by science (fact).

Music and painting were especially glorious—we use the word without irony—(and religious) during the Renaissance, becoming almost scientific; musicians like Beethoven proved music is more than entertainment—it enriches the soul as much as religion.  Plato would certainly have approved of Bach and Beethoven, if not Goya and Shelley.

Poetry crept back into good standing (since being dethroned by Plato) through religion’s back door—as religion—especially during the Enlightenment and the 19th century—became more and more disgraced by science.

Modernism changed all that.

In the beginning of the 20th century, poetry (together with painting and music) decided it didn’t need religion or science.

Perspective (the mathematics of seeing), which developed in Renaissance painting, is science.

Cubism, Collage, (2-dimensional fragments) and Abstract painting’s color-mixing do not constitute scientific advancement.

Speech and versification enhance each other in poets like Pope and Byron—this has a certain scientific validity—poetry dribbling off into awkward prose, as it pretends to “paint” an “image,” does not.

Verse exists as written music.   Verse, like music, is a system of notation.  Beethoven’s notes do not float around experimentally on the page—Beethoven’s genius exists both in the notation, and in what the notation projects, with the sound of musical instruments. Beethoven’s genius also lies largely in the realm of the sentimental. Which is not a bad thing at all. Sentimentality occupies the battle-ground middle between religion and science—the genius of the modern is found more in artists like Beethoven and Byron, than in the more self-conscious “modernist revolution” of the 20th century—which was largely a step backwards for art and poetry, as talkers like Ezra Pound and John Dewey gained ascendancy.

Here’s an example of the pseudo-science which infested 20th century Modernism: Charles Olson’s idea that poetry is expressed as “breath,” and can be notated as such, on the page.  Yes, people breathe as they read verse, but “the breath” has nothing to do with verse in any measurable way.  A sigh is dramatic, sure. But a sigh isn’t scientific. Yet no one laughed at Olson’s idea. Modernists took it seriously.

And here in 2018, in the wake of Modernism with its sharp-pointed, experimental, unscientific irreverence, poets continue since 1900 to frown on anything sentimental, associating it with flowery, Victorian verse—when the sentimental belongs to the genius of great poetry.

Poetry is sentimental.

Bad poetry is sentimental only because all poetry is sentimental.

The damaging mistake Modernism made, dumping anything pre-1900, in its pursuit of the non-existent “new” (never really described or defined) was the insistence that sentimentalism was bad.

It was a logical mistake, as we have just shown: all poetry (since Socrates knocked off Homer) is sentimental, not factual; Modernism’s childish, fake-science, tantrum against the sentimental was a gambit against religion, which was already collapsing before the advent of science.

Modernism did not embody scientific glory—unless skyscrapers as architecture belong to science.

The 20th century engineers and physicists (far closer to Leonardo da Vinci than William Carlos Williams) were scientific; religion lived on in the lives of the poor, even as Nietzsche-inspired, 20th century professors said God was dead; and meanwhile the Modern poets dug themselves into a hole—rejecting religion, while proudly beating their chests (Modernism’s crackpot identity was male) before the idol of pseudo-science. Modern poetry fell into oblivion, where it still exists today—secular, unscientific, unsentimental, unmusical, without a public, or an identity.

Sentimental poetry did live on throughout the 20th century—poetry is sentimental, after all.  It continued to thrive, in popular music, but as poetry, it mostly thrived beneath the Modernist headlines.

To highlight this argument, Scarriet’s 2018 March Madness Tournament will feature great sentimental poetry.

Before we start, we’d like to define the issue in more detail.

We do not assert that mawkish, simplistic, hearts-and-flowers, unicorns-and-rainbows, poetry is good.

But tedious, pedantic, dry, prosaic poetry is not good, either.

We simply maintain that all poetry, and the very best poetry, is sentimental, rather than factual—despite what Modernist scholars might say.

It is necessary to point out that verse is not, and cannot, as verse, be somehow less than prose, for verse cannot be anything but prose—with the addition of music.

Verse, not prose, has the unique categorical identity which meets the scientific standard of a recognizable art, because verse is prose-plus-one.  Verse is prose and more.  Here is the simple, scientific fact of verse as an identifying category, which satisfies the minimal material requirements of the category, poetry.

The objection can be raised that the following two things exist

1. prose and

2. prose which has a poetic quality, but is not verse

and therefore, poetry can exist without verse.

But to say that prose can be poetic while still being prose, is really to say nothing at all; for if we put an example of prose next to prose-which-is-poetic, it only proves that some prose writing samples are more beautiful than other prose writing samples.

This still does not change this fact: Verse is prose-plus-one.  Prose can be enchanting for various reasons; it can have a greater interest, for example, if it touches on topics interesting to us—but the topic is interesting, not the prose; the content of prose can have all sorts of effects on us—secondly, and more important, prose can certainly appeal for all sorts of sensual reasons, in terms of painting and rhythm and sentiment, and this is why we enjoy short stories and novels. But again, verse is all of this and more; verse is, by definition, prose-plus-one.

To repeat: Verse is more than prose. Prose is not more than verse.

What do we mean, exactly, by sentimental?  Isn’t there excellent verse which is not sentimental at all?  No, not really, if we simply define sentimental as the opposite of factual.

We might be confused here, because a fact can be sentimental; a simple object, for instance, from our past, which has associations for us alone—there it is, a souvenir, a fact which can move us to tears.

Just as verse is prose-and-more, the sentimental is fact-and-more.  Poetry adds sentiment to the fact.

Here are two examples of good poems, and because they are poems, they are sentimental; they are not sentimental because they are good, or good because they are sentimental.  The sentimental is a given for the poem. And because facts come first, and sentiment is added, poems use facts, even though poems are not factual.

Think of Byron’s famous lyric, “We Shall Go No More A Roving.”  The sentiment is right there in the title. “No more!” Something we did together which was pleasantly thrilling will never happen again.  

If this Byron lyric not sentimental, nothing is.   But we can state its theme in prose.  The sentimentality can be glimpsed in the prose, in the preface, in the idea.  The verse completes what the prose has started.

Facts, and this should not be surprising, do a lot of the work in sentimental poetry.  One of the things which makes Byron’s gushing lyric gloriously sentimental, for instance, is the fact that it is not just I who shall “go no more a roving,” but we shall “go no more a roving.” This is a fact, and the fact contributes to the sentimentality; or, it might be argued, the sentimentality contributes to the fact.

Carl Sandburg, born in 1878, got his first break in 1914 when his poems were accepted by Poetry, the little Modernist magazine from Chicago—where Sandburg was raised. Sandburg was initially famous for his “hog butcher for the world” poem about Chicago, but the Modernists (including the academically influential New Critics) withdrew their support as Sandburg gained real fame as a populist, sentimental poet. Sandburg even became a folk singer; his poem “Cool Tombs” was published in 1918, and you can hear Sandburg reading this masterpiece of sentimentality on YouTube—and you can hear Sandburg singing folk songs on YouTube, as well.  What is sentimental about a “cool tomb,” exactly?  Is it the sound-echo of “cool” and “tomb?” The sentimental in poetry proves the sentimental is not always a simple formula.

Shelley’s “Ozymandias” might be preferred by Moderns, because on the face of it, this poem doesn’t seem very sentimental at all.  Shelley’s poem is factual: a traveler sees a ruin. Shelley describes the facts as they are—here’s what the traveler sees.  But upon reflection, one recognizes how powerful the sentiment of the poem is—a great thing existed, and is now gone.  And yet, what is gone was evil, and the poem mocks its loss, and the final image of the poem is simply and factually, “the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

However, and we don’t need to push this point more than necessary, the whole power of Shelley’s poem is sentimental.  The fact of the statue, half-sunken in the sands of a desert, is just that—a fact.  Were it only this, the fact would not be a poem—all poems, to be poems, must be sentimental; the sentiment is added to the fact.

The poet makes us feel the sentimental significance of the fact; this is what all poems do.

And now to the Tournament…

Our readers will recognize quite a few of the older poems—and why not?  The greatly sentimental is greatly popular.

Most will recognize these poems right up through “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot.

The half-dozen poems composed more recently, in the fourth and final bracket, will not be as familiar, since sentimental examples of verse no longer get the attention they deserve; we bravely furnish them forth to stand with the great sentimental poems of old.

“Sentimental” by Albert Goldbarth is not actually sentimental; the poem is more of a commentary on sentimentality by a pedantic modern, in the middle of the modern, anti-sentimental era.

“A Dog’s Death” may be the most sentimental poem ever written, and it comes to us from a novelist; as respectable poets in the 20th century tended to avoid sentimentality.

The poems by Sushmita Gupta, Mary Angela Douglas, Stephen Cole, and Ben Mazer we have printed below.

The great poems familiar to most people are sentimental—at the dawn of the 20th century, sentimentality was unfortunately condemned.

Here are 64 gloriously sentimental poems.

Old Sentimental Poems—The Bible Bracket

1. Western Wind –Anonymous
2. The Lord Is My Shepherd –Old Testament
3. The Lie –Walter Raleigh
4. Since There’s No Help, Come Let Us Kiss and Part –Michael Drayton
5. The Passionate Shepherd to His Love –Christopher Marlowe
6. That Time Of Year Thou Mayst In My Behold –William Shakespeare
7. Full Fathom Five Thy Father Lies –William Shakespeare
8. Adieu, Farewell, Earth’s Bliss –Thomas Nashe
9. The Golden Vanity –Anonymous
10. Death, Be Not Proud –John Donne
11. Go and Catch A Falling Star –John Donne
12. Exequy on His Wife –Henry King
13. Love Bade Me Welcome –George Herbert
14. Ask Me No More Where Jove Bestows –Thomas Carew
15. Il Penseroso –John Milton
16. On His Blindness –John Milton

Newer Sentimental Poems—The Blake Bracket

1. Why So Pale and Wan Fond Lover? –John Suckling
2. To My Dear and Loving Husband –Anne Bradstreet
3. To Lucasta, Going to the Wars –Richard Lovelace
4. To His Coy Mistress –Andrew Marvel
5. Peace –Henry Vaughan
6. To the Memory of Mr. Oldham –John Dryden
7. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard –Thomas Gray
8. The Sick Rose –William Blake
9. The Little Black Boy –William Blake
10. A Red, Red Rose –Robert Burns
11. The World Is Too Much With Us –William Wordsworth
12. I Wandered Lonely As  A Cloud –William Wordsworth
13. Kubla Khan –Samuel Coleridge
14. I Strove With None –Walter Savage Landor
15. A Visit From St. Nicholas –Clement Clarke Moore
16. When We Two Parted –George Byron

Still Newer Sentimental Poems—The Tennyson Bracket

1. England in 1819 –Percy Shelley
2. To ___ –Percy Shelley
3. Adonais–Percy Shelley
4. I Am –John Clare
5. Thanatopsis –William Cullen Bryant
6. To Autumn –John Keats
7. La Belle Dame sans Merci –John Keats
8. Ode to A Nightingale –John Keats
9. How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways –Elizabeth Barrett
10. Paul Revere’s Ride –Henry Longfellow
11. Annabel Lee –Edgar Poe
12. Break Break Break  –Alfred Tennyson
13. Mariana –Alfred Tennyson
14. The Charge of the Light Brigade –Alfred Tennyson
15. My Last Duchess  –Robert Browning
16. The Owl and the Pussy Cat –Edward Lear

Even Newer Sentimental Poems—The Sushmita Bracket

1. O Captain My Captain –Walt Whitman
2. Because I Could Not Stop For Death  –Emily Dickinson
3. The Garden Of Proserpine –Charles Swinburne
4. The Man He Killed –Thomas Hardy
5. When I Was One and Twenty  –A.E. Housman
6. Cynara –Ernest Dowson
7. Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock  –T.S. Eliot
8. Not Waving But Drowning  –Stevie Smith
9. Nights Without Sleep –Sara Teasdale
10. What Lips My Lips Have Kissed –Edna Millay
11. Sentimental –Albert Goldbarth
12. Dog’s Death –John Updike
13. Utterly In Love –Sushmita Gupta
14. I Wrote On A Page Of Light –Mary Angela Douglas
15. Waiting –Stephen Cole
16. Number 5 (December Poems) –Ben Mazer

Utterly in Love –Sushmita Gupta

Of all the remarkable,
Things and feelings,
In my life,
You are one.
And I guard you,
And your identity,
In the deepest,
Quietest corner,
Of my heart,
With a passion,
That some show,
For religion,
And if not religion,
Then they show it,
For revolution.
But me,
I am a mere mortal.
I only know,
To love you,
And love you secretly.
Secretly,
I melt in a pool,
By your thoughts.
Secretly,
I wish,
That you would,
Mould the molten me,
And give me,
A shape,
A form,
And eyes,
That twinkle,
Like far away stars.
And me,
With twinkling eyes,
And fragrant body,
From loving you,
Shall love you,
Even more.

I Wrote On A Page Of Light –Mary Angela Douglas

I wrote on a page of light;
it vanished.
then there was night.

then there was night and
I heard the lullabies
and then there were dreams.

and when you woke
there were roses, lilies
things so rare a someone so silvery spoke,

or was spoken into the silvery air that

you couldn’t learn words for them
fast enough.
and then,

you wrote on a page of light.

Waiting –Stephen Cole

I believe if She were here
She would tell me
The cold winds are departing.

The message delivered
Thoughtfully,
If only I was listening.

Comfort to the discomfort
With her warming words.
The void filled,
Recognized,
For what it lost,
Otherwise,
It could not be filled.

For Her,
The rules are absent by rules.
She always knows what to say
As only for the proper need,
She construes,
According to sidereal secrets
Of the long, long day.

Number 5 (December Poems) –Ben Mazer

I was at the Nuremberg Rallies pleading with my wife,
I love you, I love you, more than anything in the world!
As she looked off to see the dramatic spectators,
she turned to me and said, you hate my guts.
I wept, I pleaded, no, it wasn’t true!
I only married you because I love you!
There is no force to plead with that can change her course,
now everything is quite its opposite,
and yet she said, “I wish that it were true,”
and would not answer “Do you love me?”
or contest “You do! You love me!”
What are we then? Man and wife
hopelessly lost and separated in strife
and worser grief than was known to despair
at using words like markers, no means yes,
when Jesus Mary Magdalene won’t you bless
the two true lovers, their heads to your thighs,
and let this nonsense out in bursts of tears and sighs.

BEN MAZER: THE LAST MODERN

Image result for ben mazer selected poems

Selected Poems by Ben Mazer
Paperback, 248 pages
Madhat Press
Preface by Philip Nikolayev

T.S. Eliot was born in 1888. As Ben Mazer’s Selected Poems, with its T.S. Eliot heft, lands on America’s doorstep (as writing workshop and slam poet hives hum in every college town) this is the question a few may be asking: is Mazer a genius, or a copyist?

When we write in the ascendant style of an age, we position ourselves for greatness (think Beethoven atop Mozart), or neglect—a copyist the world doesn’t need.

W.H. Auden—younger, English-born, sassier than the somber American, T.S. Eliot—whom Eliot published, and who, after traveling to Berlin and China with Isherwood, subsequently moved to America and awarded John Ashbery his Yale Younger—is Auden Mazer’s fountainhead?

Are the following quotes from Auden or Mazer?

1.Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day/Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,/He got down to work

2. The flier, at the Wicklow manor,/Stayed throughout the spring and summer,/Mending autos in the drive

3. In a strange country, there is only one/Who knows his true name and could turn him in./But she, whose father too was charged with murder

4. Look, stranger, on this island now/The leaping light for your delight discovers

5. And move in memory as now these clouds do,/That pass the harbor mirror/And all the summer through the water saunter.

The insouciance of rhymes flung against the language of hard-boiled detective fiction. It’s Modernism longing to be Romantic, but finding it quite impossible.

1, 4, and 5 are Auden; 2 and 3, Mazer.

Shelley in army uniform, cynically resigned to domesticated Empire life—which pays better than it ought.

Ben Mazer is for, by, and about poetry which sings out the following historical paradox:

Shelley, the Romantic, is quick—look at him riding winds and swift ocean currents.

The Modern, with her machines and her anxiety, hasn’t got time for Romanticism singing Shelley, and, yet, the modern boredom and leisure which the modern affects, allows for poetry which goes deeper into the Shelley of Shelley than Shelley ever did.

If you give Mazer a few minutes (since a long poem doesn’t exist) he will pour more Shelley on you than you’ve ever known before.

The Mazer quoted above, in the comparison with Auden, is early Mazer.  The later Mazer is less like Auden and more like Eliot.  But these comparisons are not entirely fair. Mazer is Mazer.

Here’s an excerpt from Mazer’s “The Double:”

I remember chiefly the warp of the curb, and time going by.
As time goes by. I remember red gray green blue brown brick
before rain or during rain. One doesn’t see who is going by.
One doesn’t think to see who is going by.
One sees who is going by all right, but one doesn’t see who is going by.
The bright lights attract customers to the bookstore.
Seeing, chalk it up to that. The bitter looks of the booksellers,
as you leave the shop without paying. Rickety steps that will soon
be history. A ripped up paperback book with some intelligent inscriptions
in very dried out blue gray ink. Lots of dumpsters. And seagulls.
Or are they pigeons. They seem related, as the air is to the sea.
When it gets darker, or foggier, it is a really big soup
of souls, works of art, time tables, the hour before dinner,
theatrical enterprise, memories of things never happened, warnings
spoken in a voice familiar, a keen and quickened sense
of possibility glimpsed through windows.
Handbills, whatever to mark the passing time. And sleep.
I know it is good when the good of it is not noticed.
It is something you try and tell someone privately in a room
where the light is broken in October. Your sense of time
is the source of your charm with strangers,
who would accept you anyways.

Mazer’s accumulation of details—this is the first 22 lines of “The Double” (Poems (2010) in Selected pg. 9)—unlike the poetry of Ashbery, which explodes in non sequitur—narrows down to philosophy. With each additional observation, Mazer’s centripetal process pins down meaning; notice how the passage we have quoted is not just creating categories, but reflects on category itself: “They seem related, as the air is to the sea.” See (“seeing, chalk it up to that”) the subtle manner in which observations are linked throughout the passage: the ambiguity of the poet’s seeing-but-not-seeing-who-is-going-by is repeated in the “booksellers,” who by their very nature see-but-don’t-see visitors to the bookstore, since they want visitors (our poet) to buy books from their store—a store which has “rickety” steps, indicating not many people are buying books, and the store itself will become “history”—the bookstore itself will become a book. The poet embraces the trope of attracting customers (readers) himself—the poet comments on what makes poetry good (“I know it is good when the good of it is not noticed”) defines imagination (“memories of things never happened”) and the actual surroundings of the poet’s rambles (“lights, fog, handbills, dumpsters, gulls, bookstores, the hour before dinner) cunningly mingle with the walking-and-seeing poet’s thoughts on poetry: “try and tell someone privately…” “your sense of time” (poetry, a temporal art) “is the source of your charm with strangers”—and with “strangers” we are back to the booksellers—and the customers who don’t buy (“strangers” to each other) and readers of poems—the more successful, the more “charm” the poet has, the more readers (“strangers”) the poet will have.

The hidden meaning of “The Double” is the lonely enterprise of the seeing-but-not-seeing poet who strives to be successful—the background of urban poverty and charm denoting the modern is just one of its layers. There is a density of significance impossible to define, but Mazer’s poetry has it.  “The Double,” “Death and Minstrelsy,” and “The Long Wharf,” three longish poems which greet us in the beginning of Mazer’s Selected, should be taught in every writing class—these three poems alone ensure Mazer’s immortality.

We also think “Divine Rights,” Cirque D’ Etoiles,” “Deep Sleep Without Reservations,” “Monsieur Barbary Brecht,”  “The King,” (excerpted in Selected) and “After Dinner Sleep” fall into the “immortal” category, though there are shorter pieces (mostly sonnet-length) in the book of great charm, and even sublimity.

In Auden’s “The Partition,” quoted above, Auden was writing about the immensely real: the British Empire dividing up its conquests.

Mazer writes of the real, but almost religiously avoids current events.

Mazer writes of what is close—he is Romantic in nature.

The British Empire splitting apart requires the poets of that Empire to say something, to mourn, to capture.

The American Empire holding itself, remarkably, together, is impossible to speak, except in amateurish and splenetic bouts of boring and dubious prophecy. The best American poets are not historians. They enjoy being in the middle of a dream.

In the wider historical scope, it could just be this.

Mazer is properly, we think, poetry, not history.

Poetry, in a certain historic time and place, which tries to be history, fails.

Poetry of any sensuality, which doesn’t try to be history, tends to be Keatsian.  We don’t read the poetry of Keats to find out about English history.

Mazer, the neo-Romantic, might be called the Wordsworth of brick, but he is really closer to the sublime Keats than the more mundane and pedantic (though still good) Wordsworth. A Romantic urbanity thrills, and when a natural scene is glimpsed, it is all the more beautiful. To this extent, Mazer is Wordsworth.

Still more powerfully, Mazer carves out, half-self-consciously (there’s genius in that “half”) the leisure to travel wholly in Keatsian revery—into and around reality (we use “reality” in the plainest and most mundane way possible)—which makes Ashbery look like a mere manipulator of words, by comparison.

Ashbery’s prose-poetry might be said to resemble the Stars Wars trinity of prequel movies: Ashbery’s pyrotechnical ur-poetry attempts to modernize the nostalgic; Ashbery is a kind of hyper-contemporary of quotation and copying, done very well, but missing what makes the franchise (Poetry) great.

Every major contemporary critic, from Harold Bloom to Helen Vendler, acknowledges Ashbery—now the mourned, late Ashbery—as the contemporary master. But no one would say Ashbery is the future of poetry, or a reenactment of what makes the “old” poetry “great.” Ashbery took the franchise, Poetry, and inserted himself in front of it as a language machine which artificially generates poetry with a small “p.” The Ashbery “river” is like poetic consciousness, but without the Poem. Ashbery is (or attempted to be) the equipment of poetry without Poetry, without the poetry itself, without the ‘iconic poem.’

Ashbery also has a Jar Jar Binks quality, a silliness which condemns him before a certain more serious crowd.

William Logan, known for his critical rigor (and rancor?), isn’t fond of Ashbery. Logan, much younger, will outlive Bloom, Vendler, and Perloff, and so we’ll see.

Mazer may be the last Modern—his Modernism resembling Luke Skywalker’s lonely predicament in the currently much discussed, and much maligned, Last Jedi.

The High Modernism of T.S. Eliot is new, yet old, situated, in terms of politics and taste, somewhere between Dante and the new diversity.

Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi—and we might as well say it: Mazer is the last Modern.

Mazer gets his “Force” from the Tradition (in our crude analogy, the “Force” from the original Star Wars films)—Mazer’s work belongs to High Modernism, but if his poetry is “heroic,” (and we believe it is) the poetry is both nostalgic (timeless, longing) but also unique—when we read Mazer’s poetry, we care about the person in the poetry, and this is what gives the “great” poem an added, human, interest. The reader identifies with the poet on his quest, but also with the poem-significance of the quest, in terms of the bigger picture—Tradition, Poetry.  The great poem will use both elements in its appeal—1. this is a good poem 2. my heart is moved to pity and understanding by this poet who lives in this poem.

Mazer writes poems first, and secondly, poetry. Mazer’s poems will ensure his immortality—or not.

Ashbery wrote poetry first, and secondly, poems. Ashbery’s immortality depends on his poetry—as time rolls on and does its usual up-rooting and destroying.

A poem is probably a better shelter, but who knows how the future moves?

A review of a poet’s Selected Poems—retrospective by its very nature—would not be complete without some discussion of the arc of the poet’s career.

Critics love to talk of an artist’s phases, but most of this talk is speculation and half-truth; it is the fate of a poet to be a poet—never to be a poet in this or that phase.  Tennyson wrote about Crimea because Crimea happened—not because Tennyson was in a phase.

The quality which makes any artist significant is

1. recognized by the connoisseur immediately

2. transcends phases.

A long poem does not exist.  In the same way, a book of poems does not exist. Mazer’s Selected is hefty, but even if it were not, any poet’s Selected is for reading, at one’s leisure, a marvelous poem, or a series of marvelous poems. Eventually, the whole book may be digested and understood, and even memorized, but a Selected is not intended to be read straight through in one sitting.

The arc of any great poet’s career is: over a certain amount of time, they wrote poems.

And that’s it.

If a poem is successful, it escapes the circumstances of its writing.

We can say Dante was “exiled,” and this fact contributes to our understanding of the Divine Comedy.  Well, yes and no.

A biographical fact is good. The imagination of the poet rarely finds it useful, however.

But what happened to Mazer?  Don’t we care?  And shouldn’t his Selected Poems reflect this?

If you want to know, read the poems.

Keats, the most iconic Romantic, once complained of Wordsworth writing about Dover.  “Dover?” Keats groused, who would write on Dover?  The Moderns, of course, would laugh at this—why shouldn’t the poet write on anything he wants?  But Keats—no matter how much his advice may fly in the face of “freedom” and “common sense,” is correct.

No poet should write on Dover.  The poet uses his imagination to describe his own imagination.  Otherwise, the poet should be a photographer, a political writer, or a travel writer.

Mazer did write on New York. “Entering the City of New York” Selected, pg 84

It begins:

Entering the city of New York
is something like approaching Ancient Rome,
to see the living people crawling forth,
each pipe and wire, window, brick, and home.

The times are sagging, and it is unreal
to know one’s slice of mortal transient time.
We angle forward, stunned by what we feel,
like insects, incognizant of every crime.

We are so duped, who make up civilization
in images of emotions that we feel,
to know the ague of the mortal steel,
each one perched balanced at his separate station.

The graves are many, and their fields decay,
where nothing can be meant to stand forever.
No doubt in due course God will have his way,
and slowly, slowly, all our bonds dissever.

Mazer is obeying Keats’ edict, and not writing on New York City; these opening lines are certainly redolent of some very large city which a humble, rural, meditative stranger enters, but more importantly, an almost 18th century sublimity is expressed—the subject is not New York City, but the soul.

Mazer should be read for poetry, which vibrates to the times, to the reality—which surrounds all of us; and as we read, Mazer’s poetry frees itself of that reality, and then returns to it.  It’s the new return in the poetry which matters, not exactly what he is writing about. 

Even as the exact, in the winding, mossy ways of the poetry, is paramount.

If this advice sounds like a truism, it is, but it is a truism which is fading away, as Keats is fading away.  Mazer is Modernism returning (impossible!) to Romanticism, and not in a bookish sense, or a scholarly sense, but in exactly the way we have described it—it is poetry returning to poetry.

A minor drawback: Mazer reads his poetry aloud in a manner which does not do justice to its greatness; admirably, he speaks plainly, letting the poetry speak; at times, however, monotone eclipses music. The verse of Mazer’s Selected Poems Tour comes out of his body, which can barely know his mind, the latter being so vast as to have no affinity with mere lisp and gesture. (In person, Mazer tends to be very intense, and very quiet, rather than ebullient, but this makes his occasional joking and excitable nature all the more charming.)

In person, Mazer is a wit, one who does not waste words.

At one of his readings, there was a long question for Mazer, involving the structure of his poetry.

Mazer paused, and then said, “It all rhymes.”

The drama of the poems is missing in Mazer’s recitation, perhaps, because the drama is delicately locked within, guarded by the brain of the poet, which, when it comes to speaking its treasure, fails to properly spill outward the swells and currents of its majesty—in the ephemeral instruments devoted to breath.

We saw an anecdote, once, of Rupert Brooke reading his poetry so softly that he could only be heard in the front row. Mazer can be heard—he is certainly competent when he reads. Mazer is a talented musician, and his devotion to poetry (to the delight of poets everywhere) overtook his earlier interest in music.

Who are the great living poets today?

The audacity to seriously ask this question precludes, perhaps, an answer.

Should we say it?

At the top, or near, of the greatest living poets, is, without a doubt, Mazer.

THE LOVE OF ANNABEL LEE: SEX SCANDALS AND THREE ICONIC AMERICAN POEMS

The rose is no longer a rose?

There are three types of love/poetry/sentiment/politics.

Poe, Eliot, or Ginsberg.

All of us participate in these categories. The three types belong to all of us, to some degree.

Warning. This will not be an exercise in saying which is better.

Divide, we shall not.

This is not one of those “Which poet/lover are you?” exercises, in which a sad little person attempts to find out ‘who they are.’ Games such as these merely indulge human vanity. The question here is not “what are you?”

The question is, “what is it?”

What is love?

It is always better to be a scientist than a gossip—especially when gossip gets the upper hand.

Love has a number of elements:

1. Practical, or natural.

2. Moral, or sentimental.

3. Traditional, or cultural.

How is it useful? How is it personal? How it social?

Love is a wave—it has its own existence and reason for being.

The person is the particle in that wave; a person is unique, and is not the wave—but the wave nonetheless impacts the individual.

Whether a woman has children, or not, love—as it relates to children—will impact all women, and all human beings.

Nature, the mother of us all, has a great interest in reproduction.

Intimacy—or love—in its all phenomena, contributes to reproduction.

And further, Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ aspects (fighting, attractiveness, territory) intersect with reproduction, so nature interacts with love in ways brutal and rough, so that love finally sits with characteristics many do not consider loving at all.

So the first consideration—the practical, or natural one—defines love in such a complex manner that love hides, or lurks—and is manipulated by things we don’t recognize as love, at all.

This is why many scholars argue that love is a human invention.

Nature is interested in babies, not love.

But even if we accept that love is a human invention, belonging to society—the third consideration (customary, social) above—it would not make sense to pretend that the natural doesn’t impact society, or that the natural doesn’t matter in love.

Finally, we have the middle distinction: the moral or sentimental, and this is how love matters to the individual—how it makes us feel about ourselves, how it affects our feelings; in other words, matters “of the heart.”

So these are the three basic elements of love: nature, society, and the heart.

Society is what causes people to call certain aspects of love “weird, or perverted.” Society is what makes people “cry at weddings,” and makes people have weddings, and gives priests, or the state, authority to marry people. Society makes rules on abortion. Society has a great deal to do with love.

Society also has a great deal to do with “the heart,” and how individuals feel about love in their hearts.

Many feel “in their heart” exactly what society expects them to feel.

For many, the aspects of love we call, on the one hand, “society” and on the other, “the heart,” are precisely the same.

Further: since society—to a certain degree, successfully—reflects natural, or practical functions of love, there are many individuals who unite all three aspects of love—nature, society, the personal—in their hearts; love is their child, their husband, and their heart.

But love is not always so simple, or successful, or happy.

Love can be as simple as gravity—as relatively simple as the pull, or the dance, of the planets. Love, simple or not, operates in all human beings.

But navigating society, nature, and the heart, proves difficult for most of us, to say the least.

Biology is difficult, and biological reproduction involves sex; reproduction involves picking out whom to have sex with, and whom to reproduce with.

And to make things even more complex—and here we seem to leave the natural, or practical, realm altogether—sex exists for itself, and sex occurs a great deal without having anything to do with biological reproduction.

And society must ‘come to grips with’ this apparently random, and pleasure-or-power-driven, sexual activity—which seems to exist outside of the practical concerns of nature.

But speaking of “power-driven,” nature does care about power—and this is at the heart of Darwin’s view of nature—turf wars, mates competing for mates, and the whole martial aspect of nature belongs to all varieties of non-reproductive, sexual, and sexually-related, activity.  Sexual activity never stands on its own. It always has an object. This is true, whether we are talking about reproduction in marriage, a love sonnet, casual dating, rape, or purely-for-pleasure, kinky, sex.

Try as we might then, we cannot think of sex as somehow apart from nature, or apart society. Sex always belongs to the nature-society-heart formula, as does love, from which sex springs. Love does belong to one thing, then, as itself, within the three main considerations: nature at the top, influencing society, which then influences the individual.

Love should be seen, and can be seen, as one, with all its parts connected and related.

Love obeys nature, but how society views love can have a radical impact—think of Islam, versus the Modern West. The woman covered from head to toe versus the woman in a bikini. Or the Old South in the United States, when cousins married. Or ancient and not-so-ancient cultures with harems, or “child brides.” Homosexuality and the Non-Binary is accepted, or not, differently, by different cultures in different places and times. Society, attempting to reflect nature, manufactures how individuals feel about love—we are all caught in society’s web. Family, a microcosm of society and nature, also influences how individuals feel about love. Objectivity is nearly impossible; some look towards nature to find the objective truth of love; others cast away objectivity altogether, and listen to the vibrations of their hearts (which could mean testosterone hormone therapy).

Every radical and different view of love can be traced back in one direction to nature, and in the other direction to the heart. Love always connects to the three considerations: nature, heart, society.

How should men and women relate to one another? Nature created man, woman, and reproduction. But society created so much more, and society makes the rules. And in our hearts, we may agree, or not, with a part, or all of, society’s rules. But no matter how deeply love winds through our hearts, we cannot escape love defined by society, and, in turn, defined by nature. Conversely, no matter how strong nature and society are, the heart wants what it wants.

Poe’s “Annabel Lee” may be the most iconic love poem in existence. “Annabel Lee” represents a certain kind of love.

We all know the beautiful poem—“I was a child and she was a child.”

The Annabel Lee love is innocent, not worldly. It escapes nature—that is, reproduction—since a “child” is too young to reproduce. Society is present—we get the beloved’s full name, implying parenthood, genealogy and the record-keeping aspect of society. But children are not yet full members of society. So in that sense the beloved belongs to society, but not quite. Also, a child qua child belongs to nature—what is more natural than a child? But since the child has a name given to her by society, and she is not an adult, she doesn’t belong fully to nature, either.

The poet says “you may know” this maiden; and this “may know” is significant.  This situates Annabel Lee in the center of ordinary society—she is not famous (you “may” know her) but she’s not a recluse, or an unknown living in nature, either—precisely because you “may know her.” Or, Poe could be slyly implying that you, the reader, may be aware, or not, of the exquisite sort of love he is describing. Either way, it works. The poet needs society to speak, and be understood by others.

The “Annabel Lee love” belongs to society, and hopefully, to you.

“And this maiden she lived with no other thought/Than to love and be loved by me.”

Here’s the third element—the personal, the heart: “no other thought.”

Poe, in “Annabel Lee,” quickly sketches the trinity: nature, society, and the heart.

The poet takes care to establish the three as one: she is a child (nature), she has a name (society), and she “lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by me” (heart).

We do get introduced to her as a “maiden”—-before we get introduced to her as a “child.”

“Maiden” is more societal in terms of love’s rules, than “child,” and only when called a “child” in the second stanza (she is called a “maiden” in the first) do we get the transcendent passion blurted out: “but we loved with a love that was more than love.”

The impossible attempt to transcend, to escape, love—which is determined by nature and society—is seen in these two famous phrases from the poem: “no other thought than to love” and “loved with a love that was more than love.”

This attempt to transcend love, to be “more than love” leads to the elaborate trope which continues to the end of the poem: angels “coveted her and me.” Annabel Lee dies, envied and killed by the entire universe—“angels,” “kinsmen,” those “older and wiser”, “demons”, nature (a “wind” which “chills” her).

This transcendent love—what might be called the ultimate romantic love—all encompassing, pure, innocent, monogamous—fully existing in nature, society, and the heart—is tenderly hymned in a divinely beautiful, poem of ideal, musical expression. It belongs very much to the 19th Century, to High Romanticism.

Poe presents sweet, ideal, transcendent love, the kind which belongs to our dreams.

But the Annabel Lee love will inevitably lead to envy, disapproval, and death.

The tone of “Annabel Lee” is Shelley’s “sweetest songs tell of saddest thought.”

Melancholy, the sadness of idealism inevitably spoiled, hovers over “Annabel Lee.”

Yet, finally, the ideal—though it must die—is expressed, and finds its way into our hearts, and lives.

The tone of melancholy isn’t accidental, but primary—precisely because the ideal is placed, by the poet, in the world which destroys, and casts it out. The ideal doesn’t exist pristinely and abstractly on a blackboard—it suffers inevitable death and decay—and produces its natural result, melancholia—by facing its ridicule and downfall, in the actual world of brutal nature and envious kinsmen. Even the “winged seraphs of heaven” are jealous—the whole thing is even worse than we think. The established ideal envies new ideals which strive to be more ideal.

The ideal is always tragic.

Idealism is the most profound manner in which the horror of the real is known. The ideal can hide—but also reveals—the real.

There is no victory, no escape, in any attempt to be ideal, for ultimately it is vanity—songs and poems which are ideal are finally abstract and do live apart from reality (the final, true reason for the melancholy) and so it both is, and isn’t true, that the ideal “lives” in the poem and in our hearts, and does not die. The ideal always hits the wall, always disappoints, always sinks into despair and sorrow. But because it is ideal, we continue to seek it, even if it gives us sorrow—and the beauty which accompanies the sorrow becomes the one, real thing we do experience, and is valid, and gives lasting pleasure.

T.S. Eliot’s early 20th century poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and Allen Ginsberg’s mid-20th century poem, “A Supermarket in California,” follow directly in the footsteps of “Annabel Lee,” Poe’s mid-19th century masterpiece.

Eliot and Ginsberg’s poems, like “Annabel Lee,” despite being “modern,” are both melancholic, idealistic, iconic masterpieces on love.

All three poems feature characters with full names:

Annabel Lee. (Imaginary woman)

J. Alfred Prufrock (Imaginary man)

Walt Whitman. (Real man)

All three of these lyric poems end with the trope of water: forgetful, drowning, memorable water.

Romantic love is satisfied to provide a lovely sounding first name—but in these three poems love is examined in a larger context.

The Romanticism of Poe in “Annabel Lee” is a romanticism already a failure, albeit in a beautiful way.

But Eliot, a few generations, later, follows Poe naturally, with the hyper-sensitive male suffering a Hamlet-like indecision in the presence of…not Annabel Lee, but a number of women. Eliot originally called his poem “Prufrock Among The Women” and this seems to be part of the problem—there are too many choices, perhaps?

“And I have known the arms already, known them all…And how should I begin?”

Alfred Prufrock doesn’t form a union with Annabel Lee. There is no “Annabel Lee love” in “Prufrock.” In contrast to “Annabel Lee love,” Prufrock’s love is the modern situation of secret desires, without any love.

Allen Ginsberg, 100 years on from Poe, and 50 years on from Eliot, in his poem “A Supermarket in California,” describes heaven in the following manner:

“Tasting” item after item in a supermarket while “never passing the cashier.”

Like Prufrock, the narrator in “A Supermarket in California” is unlucky in love, but with Ginsberg, the issue of class is implied—perhaps if he wasn’t a poor slob, he could have Annabel Lee?

The Walt Whitman in Ginsberg’s poem is a less refined Prufrock, with a hint of the wandering, the predatory, the scandalous: “lonely old grubber…eyeing the grocery boys.”

Ginsberg presents us a picture of breeding nature as it relates to love: “Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!”

Despite this picture, the melancholy and the lonely prevail in Ginsberg’s poem: Poe’s melancholy amid the plenty. Prufrock’s sadness amid the salad.

“Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour.” Nature (“babies in the tomatoes”) is not enough; nor is society (“doors close in a hour”).  The restless, nocturnal heart needs some place to go.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets begins with “From fairest creatures we desire increase”—-in this dense phrase Shakespeare’s genius expresses love in the framework of nature/society/heart even quicker than Poe does in “Annabel Lee,” which, in its melodic melancholy, establishes love as hopeless ideal. In Shakesspeare’s Sonnet #1, “increase” is 1. nature, the “desire” for that “increase” is 2. society, and to “desire” the “fairest” constitutes matters of the 3. heart.

Is the healthy when all three are one?

The great rash of sexual harassment cases making headlines currently, are matters of nature (sex drive, power and dominance) and the heart (secret, squeamish lusts, and desires).

But while they reflect nature and the heart, they are making headlines precisely because they don’t fit societal norms.

But one might say they are making headlines because they do fit society’s “norms,” and this is precisely the problem—societal reform, which protects and respects women, is necessary.

Society is the focus in these current scandals—and how we as citizens/individuals feel about these sexual harassment cases.

Our reactions are filtered through our politics (as accusations hit those on the left or right), politics which significantly define many individuals.

The politics of the “cashier.”

The current political landscape, some argue, is why all these scandals have suddenly become public—they are driven by 1. frustration with the success of Trump, and 2. the hubris of Bill Clinton.

As individuals, we chiefly feel “glad it isn’t me,” and “let the courts and the individuals affected decide how to proceed,” and “hope this scandal brings down a politician I don’t like.”

But somewhere in our hearts we also perhaps bitterly realize that nature and the heart never change—the plethora of scandals will do exactly nothing to change the human heart and the laws of the jungle.

Society—as it rather ineptly attempts to mitigate the horrors, encourage the pleasures, and administer justice—is too large and corrupt to improve anything.

Many don’t finally trust that these scandals will make things better—even if secret, taxpayer-funded payoffs by congressmen are exposed.

A scandal always means an individual has been caught. A heart has been found out. The secret heart which is wrong has been seen—but too late, we feel, for prevention, for good to be done, even as we glory in selected shame and punishment.

What is normative in society, as it pertains to love, happens slowly over time—it doesn’t happen as a result of scandal. Scandal is not the cause, but merely the effect of what society at any given moment happens to see.

The case of Poe—was this southerner Roy Moore’s ideal?—in which a chaste and studious twenty five year old man marries a thirteen year old virgin—and both remaining happy in a faithful and artistic marriage, as long as they both live—is considered foul today.

The 21st century American citizen, who condemns Poe—lives by a code in which one has numerous partners, induces numerous heartbreaks and quarrels, divorces numerous times, and aborts offspring along the way—and this, in society’s eyes, is considered perfectly acceptable.

Scandal gets at a truth—but not the whole truth. And endless curiosity may get at a greater truth, or not.  Meanwhile, public opinion frets, the law acts, and the vulnerable continue to live in fear, and perhaps take risks to further themselves.

The truth of love lies in the endlessly complex interaction between nature, society, and the heart—as it plays out in different cultures, and local politics, over many thousands of years—the single thread of love twisting and turning, like a snake—partly in pleasure, partly in shame, and partly in agony.

 

 

POETRY BRACKET ROUND ONE: FANNY OSGOOD VERSUS JOHN DONNE!

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Fanny Osgood

There were many exquisite women poets in the 19th century, but since “modern” means more than “women” in poetry, very few of them are read anymore.  Dickinson, really. And that’s it.

In this contest the great John Donne takes on an American poetess from the 19th century, rumored (rumor only!) to have had an affair with Edgar Poe.  He supported her in reviews.

She spoke not—but, so richly fraught
With language are her glance and smile,
That, when the curtain fell, I thought
She had been talking all the while.

–Fanny Osgood

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

–John Donne

Why do we think these 19th century women poets were not modern?  They were.  And one can certainly see why they thought they were being “modern.”

Just compare the two—John Donne:

For those whom thou [a personified Death] think’st thou dost overthrow

to Fanny Osgood:

She [an actual person] had been talking all the while.

Fanny Osgood is a modern writer.  Why is she forgotten, then?

T.S. Eliot—part of the male Poetry & Criticism clique, with Pound, of High Modernism, (only Marianne Moore was allowed to join the club as a token)—championed the “Metaphysical Poets” (the term was actually coined by Samuel Johnson, who found fault with the same group) and Donne was one of these heralded ‘Metaphysicals’ for Eliot, who busily damned Shelley, Milton, and Shakespeare, and unlike Poe, seemed to find no female poets to his liking.

Donne, sounding like a school boy, tells someone named “Death” you’re not so “mighty” and you cannot “kill me.”

The whole thing is laughable, and really belongs more to Theosophical Wit than Poetry.

Donne is done in by his own logic; he says that if a nap is good, death must be better—and yet we wake up from a nap.

The chief secretary of the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal (Donne’s position for a while) also says that “our best men” end up with Death, but this, apparently makes Death bad, the same as when “desperate men” go with him.

And Death is apparently not “mighty” because he hangs out with “war.”

The real wit is achieved at the end, which basically says if we do wake up after we die, as with a nap, then, and only then: “Death, thou shalt die.”  Which is only to be expected.

Contrast this with Fanny Osgood’s passage in March Madness 2017.

According to Poe, this is the best kind of poetry, “breathing Nature,” with “nothing forced or artificial.”

Osgood describes beautifully a woman who speaks without speaking.

Here are the two quatrains which precede the one quoted:

Now gliding slow with dreamy grace,
Her eyes beneath their lashes lost,
Now motionless, with lifted face,
And small hands on her bosom crossed.

And now with flashing eyes she springs—
Her whole bright figure raised in air,
As if her soul had spread its wings
And poised her one wild instant there!

She spoke not—but, so richly fraught
With language are her glance and smile,
That, when the curtain fell, I thought
She had been talking all the while.

Fanny Osgood has defeated the immortal John Donne!  A mighty upset!  Death, art thou shocked?

FEBRUARY POEMS BY BEN MAZER, REVIEWED

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As the shadows lengthen on American poetry in the 21st century, one is naturally prepared to think there was a noisy, sunny noon of poetry with noisy, popular poets.

But there never was such a thing.

We had, in our early days, the British imitators: William Cullen Bryant, (friend to Lincoln) with his “Thanatopsis”; the splendid, dark Poe; dashing in his prose but solemn and brief in his poetry; Emerson and Thoreau asserting nature, not poetry, in due obeisance to the arrogant British idea that her late colony was still a wilderness; Whitman secretly reviewing his own poems, waving a private Emerson letter in the public’s face as way of validation, but Whitman was almost as obscure as Dickinson—no, America has had no sunny noon of poetry; Ben Franklin, the diplomat-scientist-founding father, representing our mighty nation of pragmatists, had little use for the muse.

To put things in historical perspective:

Emily Dickinson caught on with modern critics as a force to be reckoned with in the 1930s.

Billy Collins was born in 1941.

A few years after Billy Collins was born, Ezra Pound—friend to both anglophilic “Waste Land” and haiku-like “Wheel Barrow”—caused a brief stir as a traitor in an Allied cage. The New Critics liked Eliot, Pound, and Williams and gave them critical support, some notice. Otherwise they had probably died. And the canon would be ruled instead by the wild sonneteer, Edna Millay, the Imagist, Amy Lowell, perhaps the cute scribbler E.E. Cummings.

The New Critics, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and the Creative Writing Program Era, all began to flower in the late 1930s/early 1940s, around the time Collins was born—and, a few years earlier, you had Frost (discovered in England, not New England, right before the First World War, as Harriet Monroe was starting Poetry with money from Chicago businessmen—and help from foreign editor Ezra Pound) and then another generation back, you have the end of Whitman’s obscure career. And then a couple generations further back, the often disliked, and controversial, Poe, who mocked the somewhat obscure Transcendentalists—including Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Unitarian friend, William Greenleaf Eliot,  founder of Washington University in St. Louis, T.S. Eliot’s grandfather.

So not only is there no noisy noon of American poetry, no period when gigantic dinosaurs of American Verse ruled the earth, one could almost argue that we are still in the early morning of our country’s poetic history, way before noon—the noon has not even happened yet, as much as we often posit that American poetry is an abandoned field at sundown, where the 21st century MFA mice are playing.

Even if good poetry abounds in America today, it has no center, no fame, no visible love; Billy Collins, who sells a few books, was a teen when Allen Ginsberg, son of poet Louis Ginsberg, who knew WC Williams, achieved a bit of rock star fame through an obscenity trial. Allen Ginsberg has been dead for 20 years.

What of poets born after 1950?

Who knows them?

Where are the biographies and critical studies?

How can the greatest country on earth have no poets anyone really knows, for two whole generations?

Who is a young poet that we know?

Is the thread broken?  Is the bowl shattered? Will the sun never shine on this doorway again? What has happened to American poetry?

This sobering preface of mine (some might call it too sweeping and hysterical) is written by one who is proud to announce his critical study of the poet Ben Mazer is soon to be published by the noteworthy Pen and Anvil Press.

Who is Ben Mazer?

Born in 1964, he is the best pure poet writing in English today.

We use the word “pure” knowing the term is sometimes abused—Robert Penn Warren ripped Poe and Shelley to pieces in a modern frenzy of “purity” hating: sublime and beautiful may also, complexly, mean “pure.”  The heart has its reasons for loving purity—which all the Robert Penn Warren essays in the world can never understand (the essay we have in mind by Warren is “Pure and Impure Poetry,” Kenyon Review, ed. John Crowe Ransom, 1943—when Billy Collins was two years old).  If “beautiful and sublime” seem too old-fashioned, too “pure” for one’s taste, I assert “purity” as it pertains to Mazer means 1. accessible 2. smooth 3. not tortured.

Mazer has published numerous books of poems.

Mazer is also the editor of a number of important books, including the Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (a neglected, but extremely influential figure)—Mazer’s large book reviewed by Helen Vendler in the NYR last year.

February Poems is Mazer’s latest book of poems, following hard upon December Poems. The two are a pair—marking the sudden unraveling of an ideal marriage.

The first poem in “February Poems” goes like this:

The sun burns beauty; spins the world away,
though now you sleep in bed, another day
brisk on the sidewalk, in your camel coat,
in another city, wave goodbye from the boat,
or study in an archival library,
like Beethoven, and thought is prodigy.
Do not consume, like the flowers, time and air
or worm-soil, plantings buried in the spring,
presume over morning coffee I don’t care,
neglect the ethereal life to life you bring.
O I would have you now, in all your glory,
the million-citied, Atlantic liner story
of what we were, would time come to forget
being so rich and passing, and yet not covet.

This poem falls from the first word to the last with a temporal perfection not seen since Milton. One may recognize Robert Lowell, too, who was somewhat besotted with Milton—Mazer’s a better poet than Lowell, however.

Look at how in “The Sun Burns Beauty,” every line is packed with sublimity discretely spoken, none the less sublime for the discretion:

“The sun burns beauty.”  Lovely double meaning. Consumes beauty, but also is beautiful. “Burns” quickly gives way to “spins,” as the poem, like a heavenly orb, picks up weighty speed: “another day, brisk on the sidewalk…wave goodbye…” the stunning plea: “Do not consume…presume I don’t care…neglect the ethereal life to life you bring…” and the conclusion, worthy of a sun which is burning beauty: “O I would have you now…of what we were, would time come to forget being so rich and passing, and yet not covet.”  Magnificent.  How long have we waited for poetry like this?   It’s truly timeless in the tradition—a word we can use without any qualification or irony.

We mentioned purity above; another way of getting across what I mean is Mazer’s use of Eliot’s Objective Correlative.

Eliot’s Objective Correlative is not a blackboard term for Mazer; it lives in his poetry. Eliot asked that the poem’s emotion match the object. Eliot’s request is a simple one: the reader doubts the poem’s veracity if the poet is unduly excited by a mundane object.

The poet’s emotions tell him what to say; and it is with our emotions we read the poem.

Much is made in poetry (naturally) of the skill in using words—Mazer clearly has a wonderful vocabulary and all that; yet also, in Mazer’s poetry, fact does match feeling; it’s not a word-game—Mazer’s trajectory isn’t words.  Mazer understands the Objective Correlative.

T.S. Eliot represents the Modernist counter to the perceived hyperbolic imbalance of the Romantics: Wordsworth getting terribly excited by a flower, Byron yawning at the end of the world—it cuts both ways.

Eliot’s objective critical dictum was a correction—and Mazer, who, in many ways, is Romanticism redux, instinctively, now, well into the 21st century, obeys Eliot’s dictum—but flexibly.

We’ve got Wordsworth and his famous dictum from “Lyrical Ballads:” poetry helps us to see the mundane as extraordinary, using plain speech, which goes against Eliot’s rule—and Mazer is not only a Robert Lowell, an Eliot, but a Wordsworth.

Mazer sounds Modern.

As he revives Romanticism.

And, I dare to say, the Enlightenment—when the Metaphysicals provided poetry heft and light.

Revival is always open to the charge of retrograde.

But how many layers of post-modern experimentation are there?

Before the public gets bored?

Oh, yes, that happened about 75 years ago.  When Billy Collins was born. And critics were rising to an appreciation of Emily Dickinson.

John Ashbery, born in 1927, had a head start on Mazer—Ashbery added Romantic verbosity to Modern dryness, irony, archness, in a painterly, foggy mix of not quite making sense. Mazer, if it must be said plainly, is a little better than Ashbery. Mazer does make sense.

The poems in Mazer’s February Poems do not, for the most part, have titles—to the worshiper who would carry around this book of love, like a holy book of some sorts, the page numbers will suffice to identify the great passages within.

These lines which begin the poem on page 7 speak out plainly and passionately but with the greatest mystery:

All grand emotions, balls, and breakfasts,
make little sense, if nothing lasts,
if you should leave the one you love,
inexplicable as Mozart’s star above

This passage at the top of page 8, a new poem, may be a statement for the ages:

The living are angels, if we are the dead in life
and immaculate beauty requires discerning eyes
and to ask incessantly who you are
is both our strength and doubt in faith, to know
what we must appear within ourselves to know:
that we do love each other, that we know who each other is
by putting ourselves in the hands and the eyes of the other,
never questioning the danger that rides on words
if they should misstep and alter a logical truth,
or if they should signify more than they appear to,
whether dull, indifferent, passionate, deeply committed
or merely the embodiment of a passing mood,
some lack of faith in ourselves we attempt to realize
through the other who remains steadfast in all the flexibility of love.

This is stuff which could be read at weddings on top of mountains around the world.

The poem which resides at page 15 goes like this, (and observe how “love” in the first line both is invaded, and invades, the “fiercest passion”—as Mazer has crafted the syntax):

The fiercest passion, uncommon in love,
yearns to be understood, do incalculable good;
must penetrate the beloved’s eyes, give rise
to beauty unmatched anywhere above.

Note the lovely internal rhyming: “understood and good” in line 2, “eyes” and “rise” in line 3, are but two examples.

We’ll continue with the whole poem, “The fiercest passion, uncommon in love:”

Infinite stasis exploring tenderness,
substantially is the basis of all bliss,

“Infinite stasis exploring tenderness” !!

although ethereal, indelible,
not subject to the chronologic fall.
And yet vicissitudes will upset this,
and forces will keep true lovers apart
too many years, breaking the sensitive heart,
that pours its passion in undying letters,
while hope’s alive to break the social fetters,
incalculable agonies poured into great art.
Bribes the organist, locks the door,
unwilling to suffer any more,
must make his grand statement to the world,
all his grief, anger, and love hurled
back at the gods which all his genius spited;
his biography says love was unrequited.
We live in the shadow of his despair,
grief so great, where there is nothing there.

And here it ends. This is not egotistical…”We live in the shadow of his despair” refers to the “shadow” of the poem itself (its inky visage) living to the readers as they read, and the “grief” of the poet is “so great,” the poem disappears (“nothing there”)—the very opposite of egotistical; it is grief conveyed powerfully.

The entire book—February Poems—contains lines such as these—which belong to an expression of love poetry rarely seen.

The poems range from greatest bliss:

The moonlight is incomprehensible.
My lover’s lips are soft and rosy pink.
Who could understand love which transfigures night,
when night itself does the transfiguring?
She sleeps. Awake, I hold her in my arms,
so soft and warm, and night is beautiful.

…In sleep she moans and shifts, embracing me.
I can’t budge from where I lie, but am content.

(excerpt from poem on pg. 16)

To acute despair, not merely told, explained, but in the poetry itself, lived:

The vanishing country roads have vanished.
There, the steep descent into the new, different town.
We are together, and we look around.
What are these flags and trees that grasp and clutch
the infinite progress of our former selves,
of love so great that it must be put away,
not where we left it, but where we can’t reach;
why should eternity itself miss you so much?
The music of a thousand kinds of weather
seep into the trees, sweep into the leaves that brush
your shoulder lightly where I left my heart,
once, long ago, when we first made our start
to drive so many miles to here together.
But where is here? The place we are apart.

(poem, “Vanishing country roads,” pg 64)

To pure sublimity and beauty and joy:

The greatest joy known to mortal man,
shall live beyond us in eternity.
Catching you ice-skating in mid-motion,
cheeks flush, winter pristine in our hearts,
ineffable, permanent, nothing can abolish,
when the deep forest, buried in snow’s white
holds the soul’s eternal solitude,
when, melting coming in, each particular
that stirs the senses, is the flight of man
to unspoken urgencies, garrulous desire
continually fulfilled, the captured stances
that drift like music in the light-laced night,
shared words in murmurs soft as downy sky,
the stars observe with their immortal eye.
Furious, presto-forte homecoming
races into the eyes and fingertips,
confirming and commemorating bells
resounding with our vulnerable desire
in momentary triumph that’s eternal.
Life passes on to life the raging stars,
resonances of undying light.
All years are pressed together in their light.

(“The greatest joy known to mortal man” pg 17)

We wish for a whole generation of young readers to spring up, profoundly and happily in love—following in the footsteps of Mazer, in his growing fame, in his mourning—clinging fast to their torn and re-smoothed copies of February Poems.

 

 

T.S ELIOT AND ELIZABETH BARRETT—POETRY ROUND ONE IN THE MADNESS

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We know there’s something magical about Scarriet March Madness tournaments—the pairings so often feature uncanny resemblances without any conscious intent by those putting together the brackets.

Look at this one:

Two of the most famous lines in poetry.

Elizabeth Barrett’s “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

T.S. Eliot’s “I measure out my life with coffee spoons.”

There’s counting, or measurement, in each offering.

Poetry, of course, the poetry people love (we don’t know about that formless modern stuff) involves counting—the measurement of beats—what the professors call meter.

We might note here that Plato said “art” and “measurement” were exactly the same thing.  And even here in 2017, we kind of see what he means.

Anyway, is it any accident, then, that two of the most famous lines in poetry, one from 19th century England, and the other from 20th century America, involve counting?

T.S. Eliot’s family traces back to Massachusetts and a Unitarian grandfather who knew Emerson—Emerson and Poe were enemies, and Eliot excoriated Poe in “From Poe to Valery.”

Poe and Barrett were correspondents before Browning famously entered Barrett’s life, and Poe dedicated his Poems, 1845 to Barrett.

Do these facts “count,” when we study the poetry?

Barrett’s sentiment is an expansion of a singular love: how do I love thee? Let me count the ways is a glorious movement outward from the one.

True love is geometry.

Eliot’s moves in the opposite manner—Life (his life) is chopped up, subtracted, despairingly made smaller, even as there is an adding, a counting of the ways: coffee spoonful after coffee spoonful.

Fascinating, really, how two similar tropes work in completely opposite directions: the optimistic 19th century, the pessimistic 20th century.

We may as well throw in this quote from Eliot right here:

The essential advantage for a poet is not to have a beautiful world with which to deal; it is to be able to see beneath both beauty and ugliness; to see the boredom, and the horror, and the glory.

 We should allow Barrett to have her turn, too. She wrote the following:

If you desire faith, then you have faith enough.

Elizabeth Barrett is like a large, comfortable Victorian pillow.

T.S. Eliot is like a black-and-white horror film.

Eliot wins—only because the zeitgeist forces us to choose him.

SCARRIET MARCH MADNESS 2017: GREATEST WORDS OF ALL TIME

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SONG

1 Even little cuckoos in their clocks, do it. Let’s fall in love. –Cole Porter

2 We kissed in a field of white and stars fell on Alabama, last night. –Mitchell Parish

3  Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.  –McCartney

4  I was dancin’ since I was eight. Is it wrong to dance so late? –T. Rex

5  Will you miss me, Miss Misery? –Elliott Smith

6  Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in  –Cohen

7  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.   –Newton

8  Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.  –anonymous

9  This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.   –anonymous

10  Hear that lonesome whipporwill? He sounds too sad to fly. The midnight train is whining low. I’m so lonesome I could cry.  –Hank Williams

11 Bound for a star by an ocean, you’re so very lonely, you’re two thousand light years from home.  –Rolling Stones

12 Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.  –Sinatra

13 Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.  –Bowie

14 Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.  –Paul Simon

15  Send my credentials to the house of detention.  –The Doors

16 O say does that star spangled banner yet wave—o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?  –F. Scott Key

POETRY

1  Soft went the music the soft air along –Keats

2  For I have known them all already, known them all: Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons; I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.  –Eliot

3  Let the more loving one be me.  –Auden

4  Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me.  –Dickinson

5  Death, be not proud  –Donne

6  I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow –Roethke

7  He who mocks the infant’s faith Shall be mocked in age & death –Blake

8  There’s nothing worse than too late  –Bukowski

9  Two roads diverged in a wood and I—took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.  –Frost

10  Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying; blow, bugle, answer echoes, dying, dying, dying.  –Tennyson

11 Green dells that into silence stretch away  –C. Matthews

12 She spoke not—but, so richly fraught with language are her glance and smile, that when the curtain fell, I thought She had been talking all the while. –Fanny Osgood

13 As if the star which made her forehead bright Had burst and filled the lake with light –Read

14 And birds and streams with liquid lull Have made the stillness beautiful –Amelia Welby

15 How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.  –Barrett

16 So we’ll go no more a roving, So late into the night, Though the heart be still as loving, And the moon be still as bright.  –Byron

FILM

1  “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” –Gone with the Wind

2  “What seems to be the problem? Death.” –Blade Runner

3  “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” –Godfather

4  “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” –Chinatown

5  “You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?” –Sudden Impact

6  “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” –Wizard of Oz

7  “I coulda been a contender.”  –On The Waterfront

8  “Bond. James Bond.”  –Dr. No

9  “Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By.”  –Casablanca

10 “I want to be alone.”  –Grand Hotel

11  “Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.” –Dracula

12  “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”   –Jaws

13  “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  –Streetcar Named Desire

14  “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” –Hamlet

15  “Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.”  –King Kong

16  “Elementary, my dear Watson!”  –Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

PROSE

1 During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing along on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. –Poe

2  Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.  –Nabokov

3  It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. –Orwell

4  And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.  –F.Scott Fitzgerald

5  In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.  –Hemingway

6  Justice?—You get justice in the next world; in this world you have the law.  –Gaddis

7  The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.  –S. Crane

8  She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.  –Hawthorne

9  A loving heart is the truest wisdom.  –Dickens

10  He kissed her, and she quivered as if she were being destroyed, shattered.  –D.H. Lawrence

11  When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that all the dunces are in confederacy against him.  –Swift

12 The loss of one eye does not destroy the vision. The deafness of one ear does not wholly deprive us of hearing. In the same manner Tiedman reports the case of a madman, whose disease was confined to one side of his head, the patient having the power to perceive his own malady, with the unimpaired faculties of the other side. –Mrs. L. Miles

13 Always forgive your enemies—nothing annoys them so much. –Oscar Wilde

14 A dinner party is the last triumph of civilization over barbarism. Conversation depends on how much you take for granted. Vulgar chess-players have to play their games out; nothing short of the brutality of an actual checkmate satisfies their dull apprehensions. But look at two masters of that noble game! White stands well enough, so far as you see; but Red says, Mate in six moves;—White looks, —nods;—the game is over. –Oliver Wendell Holmes

15 I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  –M. L. King

16 Make America great again. –Donald Trump

Scarriet is proud to unveil another annual (is it our eighth one already?) March Madness Poetry Tournament—in the past, we have used Best American Poetry poems, contemporary poets’ lines, aesthetic philosophy, and now we have seized the populist moment by presenting what we call a “Greatest Words” contest.  Popular speech has its own reason for existing, and the poetry (and wit) is in the brevity, obviously, but also we note that words are so adept at pointing to other things; for instance, “Make America Great Again,” (too controversial?) has worlds of meaning within it—we can ask, “What is America?” and “what does it mean to make America great, and “great again?” etc etc  One does not have to see this as a ‘pro-Trump’ entry—though an entry, nonetheless.

Let the games begin!

REFINE THE BRUTE

When I’m asked for an opinion on modern American poetry, I want to do more than list poems and poets I like, though this is probably the only adequate response. Anything else will be sure to confuse as much as it enlightens.

But I cannot resist the injunctions, so fraught with discipline is my soul, even though it inhabits a bestial body.

Before poems are offered up, however, I have a desire to show my thoughts on what poetry is, and what it does, and what it is supposed to do, if it is worthy to be called, poetry, of which “modern” and “American” are even more hopelessly vague.

Surely poetry has a certain pedagogical use.

Verses and rhyme help us significantly in two ways: verse helps us to learn a language and helps us to learn to love a language.

Poetry can most simply be defined as language at play.

How can one love a language which is complex and unmusical?

Unless one is hopelessly misanthropic and affected?

Language can confuse more easily than anything else—because a chaos of meaning is more chaotic than chaos itself.

Language should never confuse—if it is worthy to be called language.

How can the most complex thing on earth do us good as a cheerful and loving guide?

This is the whole question, and poetry, in its beautiful robes, is always near, emerging elegantly from the shadows, with the answer.

Poetry, to cast away all pretense and confusion, then, is for the learning-book, the school lesson; poetry is the teacher of language.

Poetry is language for the child.

The child, who lisps wants and thoughts in the world of his mother, all at once enters the next phase—and grows slowly into a speaking and feeling citizen—with the help of poetry. 

At the end of this phase, perhaps harsh and complex and unmusical language awaits; but this middle path should be guided by simple and playful and happy versification, which fills the senses and the muscles of learning—with confidence and joy.

The student of poetry is the student of poetry for students.

For teaching is what poetry does.

Student, to some, is an unfriendly word; it implies anything but joy. We would prefer the poet as someone who learns from nature, outside the school’s walls.  Student implies shallow breathing and pitiless annoyance.

Student may have unfortunate institutional associations, but the athlete trains, the baby animal learns, the lover knows the beloved, and poetry casts knowing lovingly over all creatures who speak.

Poetry is a stream for all the speaking tribes.

Poetry is wisdom that is more than wisdom.

A student of poetry is the best thing to be—for once the adolescent has imbibed poetry’s waters, something divine will stay in him forever.

Poetry does not exist for itself, or to convey “truths” among sophisticated grownups—who need “news that stays news;” poetry is only very indirectly connected to the fussy things necessary to move among the trials and griefs of mature life. Poetry’s influence is wide and strong enough to trick sophisticates into thinking that poetry is a sophisticated enterprise. But the true poets know better.

Poetry can belong to “truths;” it can belong to, and be, anything; it is, for many, the speech of strangeness, the speech of estrangement, the speech of enormity, the speech of iconoclasm, the speech of vain maturity shot through with terrifying irony, and yes, speech which can dare to say anything.

Yes. The stream is the sea.

However, before it is any of these things, poetry is food for the student eternal.

Poetry should turn language into a beautiful instrument, both for exterior expression, and for inner thoughts of the highest enterprise and pleasure.

To be great, poetry must know where it belongs.

Poetry serves language.

Language does not serve poetry.

Poetry exists as a lover of language—not to “know things” or to express “knowledge,” though what it expresses can, obviously, relate to knowledge and knowing.  Knowing isn’t what it is—just as a stove is not heat.

A child will have plenty of opportunity to grasp things about the sordid, factual world.

Language—which poetry serves—is how we navigate the world. Language—which poetry serves—is not merely a repository of facts.

For the doubting adolescent, language, beautiful language, is the way to swim through the intellectual sea. The intellectual sea shouldn’t be poured into the novice’s mouth.

Since poetry is language, poetry makes both the mind and its objects beautiful—language which belongs to poetry appeals to both the sense and the senses. Language which belongs to poetry revels in fluency, revels in delight and a practiced ease, with which to contemplate and think.

As an example, we offer a recent poem of our own composition, which demonstrates how poetry belongs in language—not just in the macro-sense (to which we typically think poetry belongs, making sublime, insightful, emotional, grandiose observations and pronouncements, etc)—but in the micro-sense: poetry is, more than anything else, speech which punctures pretense, speech which spreads harmony, grace and civilization.

YOU SAW MY COMMA, YOU SAW WHAT I SAID WAS NICE

You saw my comma, you saw what I said was nice;

The shouting world that you see has nothing to do with me,

But I, at least, can prove to you, with the way I write,

That I am kind, nice to kiss, and safe—even sweet to be with at night.

It really is true that we have nothing to do with the world,

Although we are in it. The unseeing world

Has been manipulated against its will,

Or not: maybe the whole world meant to do it this way,

And the world is exactly as it should be, every day;

Though we don’t believe this, and I don’t believe this,

And please just kiss me—and do me a favor: don’t believe a single thing I say.

****

But to really be convincing, we offer an example of one of the greatest poetic speeches:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:/Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer…or to take arms…

Great old poetry from our mother tongue obviously throws its influence over contemporary American poets, though some, to be “more contemporary” push away the old—though every poet knows this is impossible. But if we look at this famous verse, immediately we see it appeals to the child: One or Zero. Either/Or. Binary language lies beneath computer language and a great deal more—difficulty, however, is not Shakespeare’s aim: child-like clarity and truth, rather. “The pangs of disprized love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office” is not the speech of long, tortured disquisition; it is the truth spoken quickly; now the mathematical simplicity of one or nothing is further complicated, but simply: the added issue is this: nothing is not really nothing—“but that dread of something after death…” But in the end, it still comes down to one or zero, because uncertainty is still zero.

And this is a truth which gives the lie to the “Difficult School,” and every kind of inadequacy and pretence which kills poetry in our day and makes it so unappealing to the public: “uncertainty is still zero.”

This is why William Blake’s lovely, child-like ballads to “Innocence and Experience,” mark the return of Shakespearian genius in the poets which came to be called “the Romantics” by critics who had no other word, just as “Modern” is no word at all to describe anything literary. Perhaps if we mean to say “stupid,” like that plum poem (Christ!) by Carlos Williams.

There is only good poetry.

There are no eras.

There is no liking poetry which is “about” something you like.

You’re not liking poetry, then.

There is no scholarship—especially the kind that exists to prove that Ezra Pound is more important than Edna Millay. Most people don’t care. A small percentage care, but most of that small percentage doesn’t get it. Poor poetry.

Intellectuals in the West chiefly care about “equality,” which translates into going backwards from their superior intellects into something worse—for the sake of that very “equality” they love.

The poor hate “equality,” which is why popular music, for instance, the entertainment of the poor, is so unequal: The “hit” songs get played over and over again. And for a simple reason, which no doubt goes over the intellectuals’ heads—on account of the intellectuals being so intellectual: Good songs are good because they sound good, and even better, with more listens.

So everything popular is not equal. Prose make all poems equal. That’s why prose-as-poetry appeals to intellctuals. This alone is the point. It isn’t that the intellectuals hate verse, or that the Pope hates naked women. Equality is solemnly the aim.

So to quickly review American poetry: ballads sung by the poor, evince a great deal of poetic genius, and this informs the great shadow poetry of America: popular music, which our Mother Country joyfully “invaded” in the 1960s, with phenomenal numbers like “House of the Rising Sun.”

Edna Millay is a great genius of American poetry (see her sonnets, etc).

Then there is the great counter-tradition, began in the 1930s at Iowa, in which American poetry lives entirely in the university—and two crucial things happen in the Creative Writing frenzy of the Writing Program Era: 1. Intellectuals take the “popular” element out of poetry in the name of what is largely pretentious “scholarship” and 2. Poetry is taken hostage by a business model which replaces disinterested learning of poetry with shameless ‘Be a Writer!’ institutional profit-share scheming.

The New Critics, the counter-tradition, institutional champions of mid-20th Century American poetry, awarded Iowa’s Paul Engle his early 30s Yale Younger Prize. A New Critic (Fugitive) was Robert Lowell’s psychiatrist when Lowell left Harvard to study with New Critics Ransom and Alan Tate and room with Randall Jarrell.

What about the Beats? The street-wise response to Lowell? The problem with the Beats is that they produced one famous poem, “Howl,” which no one reads to the end, and Robert Lowell, who was a Writing Program teacher at Iowa, and a Frankenstein monster of the tweedy New Critics, actually has more loony, real-person, “confessionalist” interest than the Beats do. Ginsberg’s “Supermarket In California” is easily his best poem, and it is probably no accident that this poem is an homage to Whitman—the canonized creation of Emerson (the prose of the Sage of Concord was stolen by Whitman and turned into poetry) and Emerson was 1. the godfather of William James (inventor of stream of consciousness and Gertrude Stein’s professor) and 2. friends with T.S. Eliot’s grandfather—and here are the roots of every leaf of American modern experimental poetry.

When I went to Romania this last month, I met David Berman, student of the late James Tate. Berman, an underground indie rock star (Silver Jews) and estranged from his millionaire right wing lawyer father—is a truly delightful person, as funny and smart a man as you will ever meet. James Tate won his Yale Younger in the 40s and has a Creative Writing degree from Iowa.

America poetry is Iowa. Quirky, intelligent, funny. Very, very conveniently in prose. This is the kind of poem you read once, are vastly impressed, but with each successive reading, all interest dissolves—because the intelligence has striven with billions of stars and trillions of grains of sand—and lost.

This is poetry that is really stand-up comedy.

John Ashbery, and his friend Frank O’hara, are also funny.

Ashbery, who was awarded the Yale Younger by W.H. Auden (talented Brit anointed by T.S. Eliot) in the 1950s, makes no sense, and so he is considered slightly better of the two (Ashbery, O’Hara) by intellectuals, since before Ashbery’s poetry everyone is equal (equally befuddled).  To think there was a time, not that long ago, when Byron complained he couldn’t understand Wordsworth.

Billy Collins, the best-selling American poet today, belongs to the James Tate/humorous/Iowa School. But since he is clear, although he is clever, and writes in prose, like every critically acclaimed poet in America, Collins is not appreciated by the intellectuals. His clarity bugs the intellectuals—who invariably confuse obscurity of expression with obscurity of subject, favoring the former, against all good sense.

I traveled to Romania with Ben Mazer, who is struggling to break the mold, who is perhaps the only American poet today seriously attempting to write verse in which verse writes the poetry.

Slinging words around in a half-comical or half-fortune cookie wisdom fashion, and avoiding all the excellences which the Romantics evinced, is the norm today—and one never bucks the norm, if one knows what is good for one. Unfortunately, avoidance of the past is bad. It prevents one from traveling to the future.

Then there is political poetry, which invariably falls into the category of poetry which is “about” something which the reader is already prepared to identify with, the political poet carefully avoiding any thing which might be called poetry to get in the way of what the “poem” is preciously and importantly “about.” This kind of poetry will always be written since poetry left poetry roughy 100 years ago, a time when, unfortunately, in America, the literary word “modern” began to be taken seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCARRIET GOES TO ROMANIA

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Sometimes it pays to be a poet.

Your friendly editor, Thomas (Brady) Graves, is thrilled to announce his invitation to a Romanian literary conference as Scarriet seeks to enlarge its international reputation.

The title of the conference is intriguing, isn’t it?

DISCUTIA SECRETA

Because of my curious nature, I cannot help but indulge my fancy on the nature of a secret.

The first observation which came to me was this:

There are secret things which do not want to be secret.

The poet wishes his poems were read.

And things which are not secret, but which do desire secrecy.

A look on one’s face, which to one’s horror, gives it all away.

Further, there are those things which demand secrecy—but which are not secretive things.

We consider it rude to peek at whatever one is writing or reading on their phone—even though what is on their phone is banal and of no import. (Though if we don’t see it, how will we know?)

One wishes to be secretive about what one is texting—despite the fact it is of no consequence.

Or, we might wish to be secretive because it is of no consequence—one always wants to assume one is owed secrecy—and one is polite if we grant them this secrecy, even if it is unnecessary.

Secrecy is powerful, and usually exciting.

Social interaction, then, is not just about communication.

It is about, in a very real sense, manufacturing the necessity of secrecy.

We believe secrecy is good-–and we show this publicly. Secrecy is a virtue, and the polite respect this virtue.

To communicate, we share—and why do we share? To combat secrecy.

The great paradox at the center of all communication: secrecy is continually both our friend and our enemy, changing from one moment to the next.

It is almost like breathing: each instant of our lives, secrecy good, secrecy bad, secrecy good, secrecy bad.

Perhaps this is why they say a secret will always come out.

It will also always go in.

And this ‘breathing’ is further complicated by the fact that secrecy can be superficial and trivial, or it can protect our very being.

They say, “the truth will set you free.” We typically think of knowledge, of information, of revelation, of telling as that which can save us.

And then one thinks of “Prufrock,” and the lines, “I shall tell you all” and the famous rejection: “That is not what I meant at all.”  The refusal to accept the telling of all is the ‘civilized’ voice in Eliot’s poem.

As a society: We want there to be secrecy.  We want not to know.

And yet—you, you alone who read this—burn to know everything.

 

ATTRACTION IS NEVER ATTRACTIVE: A DISCUSSION OF LOVE

The great dilemma love faces:

Attractiveness is admired more than anything—yet attraction is condemned.

The leer, or stare, is never attractive to anyone, no matter how attractive the person giving the hungry look.

We are not sure why this is, since attention to attractiveness must be of use to the attractive, and attraction must be the natural outcome of attractiveness.

Why should attractiveness and attraction be completely at odds?

Some would say they are not at odds, and the paradox I am conveying does not exist—it is only that attractive persons wish to attract the right person, and so it is not that attraction is condemned; it is just that attraction is highly selective.

I object to this objection:

First. Attractiveness is nothing if not universal; the more truly attractive, the wider and greater its effect. Narrow and selective use inhibits and counters its whole excellence.

Second. Let us take the example of a hungry look displayed by a very attractive person—certainly, in many cases, this sign of attraction would not be condemned; it would be welcomed.

In most cases it would not be welcomed, simply because public displays of attraction signal two things: desperation and rudeness; it implies that in some hidden manner the attractive one is not attractive—for the attractive, if truly attractive, attracts attention; they do not give it.

But further, even if the hungry look is treated positively and not with disdain, because let’s say the hungry look is presented tactfully by a person of overwhelming beauty, it is not the attraction which is welcomed. It is really the attractiveness—or, more accurately, the idea that possessing this attractiveness might be possible in the future, which is welcomed. For once the attractive is possessed, attraction vanishes. This situation, then—an attractive person giving us the eye—thrills us because it gives us hope that irksome, painful, hungry, hopeless, embarrassing attraction will  hound us no more, and we will be rid of this vain and sad aspect of existence forever.

But how can I be saying this? The attractive is real; real persons who are attractive really do exist, and we are attracted to them; how can I possibly say that yes, the attractive exists, and we derive great pleasure from looking at, and contemplating, the attractive, and yet somehow the attraction of this attractiveness is paradoxically rejected? How can the attractive be separated from attraction? We cannot take pleasure in the attractive if we don’t take pleasure in the attraction to the attractive, right?

Apparently it is the attraction which makes us unhappy, however. Why? Because attraction means we do not have something. We think attraction is pleasurable, but this is only an illusion involving the attractive; attraction is really the painful, lacking, sad aspect of the attractive. Attraction only exists when the attractive exists, and therefore this painful and unhappy state insinuates itself into the beauty of attraction itself. We are attracted to attraction itself—or believe we are; for it is only the attractive which truly gives us pleasure.

Think of it this way. We can see the attractive in a picture. But are we satisfied with a picture if we can’t have the real person? The attractive is seen in a picture. We are attracted to the picture, and yet we realize that by looking at a picture, attraction is at an end, for the attractiveness of the picture is utterly possessed by our greedy eyes. Or is it? Life forces us to look elsewhere. The picture remains an object of attraction, not merely an object of attractiveness. Further, we know there is more to what is depicted in the picture—somewhere the “real” exists and we are attracted to that. If attraction and attractiveness were simply two pleasant aspects of the same thing, we would all be happy with pictures, and love would die.

I find the picture attractive—and yes—yawn—by the way, I’m also attracted to it—but so what? Of course one is attracted to the attractive! They are two sides of the same pretty coin.

No. For this doesn’t explain why pictures are never enough, even as they are enough. Attraction is precisely that which makes a picture more than a picture—attraction is the three dimensional reality of flat attractiveness. Attraction is perspective, which requires space, which requires distance, which requires absence, which requires longing, which is sadness—so attraction ends up being the very opposite of the attractive picture.

We do not know whether it is the unfolding dimensionality which lives inside attraction, or whether attraction lives inside unfolding dimensionality—the idea is co-adaptive.

Now finally here we see that even though attraction is the very opposite of attractiveness—we don’t even know what the attractive is until the mechanism of three dimensional longing and movement begins to assert itself—and here is where the two, sad attraction and happy attractiveness, really co-exist: within moving perspective. The attractive exists only as a step in attraction’s journey. The desire for what is absent becomes the first and last sign of love, love which is always desire itself, love which is always at a loss before the merely attractive—since it is unable to show its attraction for it in a socially acceptable manner. The paradox we are contemplating in this essay is not only real, it is the key to everything.

We recently read a first-hand account in a quasi-public forum, of a wife and mother in India—a country where all the women seem gloriously feminine and all the males gloriously geeky—who confessed an affair to her husband, an affair which, apparently exists first, as an act of courageous free will on her part, and, second, as an affair distant and poetic and romantic—although the “other man” possesses ideal male attributes. Her husband, upset at first, has accepted the affair, and the two men have become friends.

What this means is that attraction requires distance, and with the advocate of the Internet, it is more and more possible for distantly chaste affairs to occur, conducted by those who are otherwise good and moral, who otherwise serve husbands and wives and children, affairs which use, more than anything else, the language of poetry. It is poetry’s new function to serve this new love of highly chaste and refined longing: passion as poetry meant passion to be.

Romanticism is not yet dead.

T.S. Eliot and the poetry of learned obscurity has run its course. For now.

Also dying out, for some reason, is the Brooklyn poetry of open mic rape and pussy frankness in front of brick walls.

The poetry which is now exploding is the poetry of Shelley and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

At least half the world consists of polite people in relationships without passion. Good people who sacrifice passion for stability. Common sense people who avoid the disappointing pitfalls of fantasy.

It is the desire of these people who will give the poetry of the future its dimensionality.

 

 

 

 

 

PHILIP NIKOLAYEV AND CHANA BLOCH IN EAST TUSSLE ON GOOD FRIDAY

We might observe on this Good Friday: we have a March Madness battle in which two poets bring lines springing up with a noticeable spiritual passion.

Philip Nikolayev wins every debate with his sword of logic, his shield of Aristotle, and his slippers sewn at Harvard University.

Nikolayev has a much better sense of humor than Waldo Emerson—and thank God Emerson remained frowning.  Had Mr. E. cracked a grin, the result would have been hideous. When Nikolayev laughs, it is all over for you: there’s nothing you can do.  Most American poets of note attended Harvard, as did Nikolayev—one listens attentively to the serious ones; the humorous ones, however, awe, and even intimidate us.  When T.S. Eliot tells a dirty joke, we are vaguely uneasy; what great poets do under the radar tends to stay under the rug, since greatness just will not be found there.

Nikolayev, now in youthful middle age (doesn’t it seem the world is getting younger?) found time a few years back to write a great “undergraduate” poem, with one part druggy danger, two parts innocence, and some sentimentality, and as we read this line on this day, it does advertise a certain spiritual largess:

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

Oh God. Beautiful.

But wait, here comes Chana Bloch, translator, professor, Judaic scholar, poet, with a line from a poem which was published in the 2105 Best American Poetry.  In the poem, the poet is observing a piece of pottery. The line soars with spiritual significance—how can you deny it?

The potter may have broken the cup just so he could mend it.

There is some poetry that puts you in church; you can’t help but think, poetry is just another way of being religious.

Which came first, the poem or the psalm?

Who can walk into a poem and not believe in it?

What makes the pleasing scent of a poem rise up into the air?

Is religion a shadow of poetry, or is poetry the shadow?

Is is possible for the poems of pagans to infect the holy, if the holy needs the poem—so the divine might sigh?

BLACK SUN PRESS AND THE SUPPRESSED, DIONYSIAN SIDE OF MODERNISM

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Millay: Official Modernism hated her: a leftist woman who rhymed and loved.

The revolt of Modernism in poetry against Victorian decorum was complex and extensive, and featured a great deal of sex.

So why is one tale told? The one dominated by the limp, morbid barrenness of sexless, Shelley-hating, T.S. Eliot—and that dry-as-dust, boring, petals-on-a-black-bough-red-wheel-barrow poetry?

Is this why poetry today finds itself in a cul de sac, without a public, in the ruins of a Creative Writing pyramid scheme which has collapsed into piecemeal, self-promoting, illiteracy?

Modernism in the early 20th century was dominated by powerful femme fatale poets—and yet the one female poet included in the accepted Story of Modern Poetry is: the brittle, spinsterish, Marianne Moore!

The revolt against the Victorian—as the Modern Poetry history has been written, codified, and solidified is so…Victorian.

Not that we care about sex, per se; we just find it interesting how things played out.

The Victorians—which the wild, crazy and free Moderns rebelled against (one can include Emily Dickinson as a Victorian, since she wrote and lived in that era, if one wants) —were actually bolder in their poetry than the Modernist rakes and waifs (Eliot, Pound, Moore, Stevens, Williams) who successfully overcame the now largely forgotten Victorian/Romantic influence, and succeeded them. The Victorians are far more enjoyable to read (and they sold much better in their day, too).

Maybe that’s the rub: enjoyable. Sexual excess, or enjoyment of any kind, wasn’t the ticket to become canonized in the schools: the Modernist revolution had to seem safely aesthetic—a topic for professors, in order to gain a footing in academia, since despite their “rebellious nature,” legitimate inclusion was what the successful ones were after. That meant the Moderns had to be writing a “new” kind of poetry. Even though it was boring, and the public didn’t care for it.

The fussy, heavily brocaded, Victorian, Elizabeth Barrett Browning—who wrote some really exceptional poetry which has been ignored and shut away for a century—became a wife in a secret elopement to Italy.

The leader of the Modernist rebellion, T.S. Eliot, a lifelong virgin, shut away his wife forever.

Here we have two stories presented side by side:

Modern poetry is not the story of a door opening; but of a door shutting—on so much of what was pleasing about the 19th century—but also on the alternative, Dionysian, Romantic side of 20th century modernism, too.

Eliot appealed to poets who couldn’t get laid.

True, Edna St. Vincent Millay got old.

And died.

But everyone gets old and dies.

There was a whole Modernist movement which exploded right after World War One, before, during, and after the publication of the morbid “Waste Land,” a different modernist movement which frightened guys like Eliot—led by brash young women and featuring Persian love and Poe and Hindu sex. (One of these types of women even married Tom Eliot, and—are we surprised?—it was a complete disaster.)

Here is the critic and Pulitzer Prize winner, Carl Van Doren, writing in Harper’s in the 1930s about America’s great moral transformation during the Age of High Modernism as WW I came to a close; he does not talk about Pound or Eliot. He talks about Edna St. Vincent Millay:

At home the old-fashioned family had broken up. The young could get into automobiles and almost at once be miles away. They could go to the movies and at once be worlds away. Dress and speech had become informal in the emergency of the War. The chaperon had disappeared. Boys leaving to be killed, it might be, had claimed the right to see their girls alone, and the sexes had drawn together in a common need and daring. After the War they were still not divided. The sexes would be comrades, they thought.

The early poems of Edna Millay are the essence of the Younger Generation.

How this genii—real Modernist poetry—was put away in its bottle is certainly a staggering historical fact, but something there is in us now that makes us want to let it out again.

To get a strong whiff from that bottle is just a google click away.

Search “Black Sun publisher Harry Crosby.”

You want real modern poetry?

Not Williams. Not Eliot. Not Stevens. Not those guys the clammy hand professors teach you in school.

You want the true modern poetry of that era? Take a swig of the drink, Harry Crosby.

The story of Modern poetry which has been sold to us: that Pound and Williams and Moore are the vital pieces, is without aesthetic merit, and its virtue is really that of a particular school program, and it exists as just that—a story—told by the critics and poets and historians who invested (and are still invested) in the Writing Program as the only viable institution of post-war pedagogy.

Government oversight of education, the publishing of textbooks, the editorship of periodical literature, the purse strings of grants and prizes and forums and money and awards, fell into the hands of the New Critics and their allies: John Crowe Ransom and T.S. Eliot both belonging to the same generation of early Modernism—and not just poetry, but art, music, fashion, government, war, the architecture/building trades, espionage, banking, international in outlook—and all the more effective because it was run by pals, a tight-knit group. Of course it is much too extensive to detail here. But very briefly then:

John Quinn, attorney, art collector, British intelligence, worked with Eliot and Pound to negotiate publication of “The Waste Land” (with pre-purchases) so Eliot would win the Dial Prize even before Pound had finished his edits—Quinn, the same individual most responsible (even getting an export bill passed in the U.S. Congress) for the Armory show, which brought Modern Art to America—Eliot wins, and meanwhile, purchase of the new art by insiders is highly, highly lucrative.  Who wouldn’t want to be in on all that phenomenal networking? Eliot and Pound certainly were. Without Quinn’s work behind the scenes, who knows if Americans would even know of Eliot, or Duchamp, or Picasso? Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom’s right-wing Southern Agrarian/New Critic associate, reviews “The Waste Land” favorably, helps start the Creative Writing program at Princeton. Paul Engle, the father of the Program Era at Iowa, is given his Yale Younger Prize for his MFA poetry book—by a judge who is a member of Ransom’s New Critic group from the early Fugitive magazine days at Vanderbilt. Robert Lowell, as Creative Writing teacher at Iowa, is the first “poet-teacher star” of the Program Era; Lowell’s psychiatrist happens to be another member of Ransom and Tate’s circle, who recommends Lowell leave Harvard to befriend Tate and Ransom, which he does. We see that all the annual Dial Magazine Prize winners in the 1920s become the canonized Modern poets: Eliot, Williams, Pound, Moore (and Cummings, who ends up running off with the Dial editor’s wife). Ford Maddox Ford, War Propaganda Minister during World War I in England, the first to meet Pound off the boat when the latter leaves America for England, will later cross the Atlantic to help start the Writing Program Era with Ramsom and Tate.

We do not present this information as some nefarious plot; the world was smaller then; we present it languidly, merely as a picture of the clever ambitions of the cleverly ambitious, who were in the right place at the right time, and who happened to possess a certain amount of talent: Eliot, in poetry, the most brilliant. John Crowe Ransom, just from his two essays which Ransom published in the 1930s, “Criticism, Inc.” and “Poets Without Laurels,”— a blueprint for universities taking up the official role of teaching the new writing, and the best explanation of amoral Modernism—was a close second.

But as we said, these were the brilliant architects who made themselves and their “new” Modern identity—an austere looseness, a dryness, a deathly cynicism—the accepted mode for the university, and it required tweedy, learned, respectability to make it happen, even as it was Shelley and Byron hating—which guys like Eliot and Tate and Ransom, with their brilliance, learning and inside track, provided.

But what of the vast majority of the Modernists, who impulsively did what true rebels do?

These “lesser” moderns crossed paths with the more successful ones, such as Pound—but they lived for the poetry, for the revolt, for the sex. These were the Moderns who wrote beautiful love poems and threw themselves off ships, as Pound and Eliot grew old and famous. What of these “lesser” moderns? Many of these “lesser” moderns, some more respectable and less feverish than others, kept writing poetry that rhymed, made sense, and repeated the great, old themes that never die. What of them? Should we continue to bury them?

And speaking of revolt, we are not simply advocating here for the resurrection of an alternative clique of poets who worked between the wars in the hectic days of the early 20th century. This is about more than that. It is about shedding narrow, modernist aesthetic bias and embracing great poems of all eras, and having the guts to call a bad poem a bad poem, even if it was written by William Carlos Williams. Look at this poem by the currently suppressed 19th century poet Elizabeth Barrett; the way she uses “revolt” is timeless, and will break your heart:

Little Mattie

Dead! Thirteen a month ago!
Short and narrow her life’s walk.
Lover’s love she could not know
Even by a dream or talk:
Too young to be glad of youth;
Missing honor, labor, rest,
And the warmth of a babe’s mouth
At the blossom of her breast.
Must you pity her for this,
And for all the loss it is—
You, her mother with wet face,
Having had all in your case?

Just so young but yesternight,
Now she is as old as death.
Meek, obedient in your sight,
Gentle to a beck or breath
Only on last Monday! yours,
Answering you like silver bells
Lightly touched! an hour matures:
You can teach her nothing else.
She has seen the mystery hid
Under Egypt’s pyramid.
By those eyelids pale and close
Now she knows what Rhamses knows.

Cross her quiet hands, and smooth
Down her patient locks of silk,
Cold and passive as in truth
You your fingers in spilt milk
Drew along a marble floor;
But her lips you can not wring
Into saying a word more,
“Yes” or “no,” or such a thing.
Though you call and beg and wreak
Half your soul out in a shriek,
She will lie there in default
And most innocent revolt.

None of Eliot’s “escape from emotion” here.

Poe said poetry was mostly mathematical—and he was correct, since rhythm is essential to expressive speech, whether metrical, or not—and mathematics is essential to quantity associated with rhythm. Eliot carried this formula further and mistranslated it to mean lack of feeling—quantity, after all, is not associated with feverish human emotion; but it is not emotion, but its expression which matters to the poet—so Eliot is only partly correct, and when his half-truth was received as a truth, it created a race of poets who turned their back on so-called “sentimental” poetry, such as this example of Elizabeth Barrett’s, a tender and beautiful poem banned by 20th century professors because of its excess “emotion” and “sentiment.” The schools are wrong. The amateurs are correct. The expression of feeling should not to be avoided in the art of poetry. More feeling isn’t better, necessarily, but it is never necessary that feeling (we mean its expression) be critically censored.

We think the best tradition for poetry is, first and foremost, the tradition of good poems—more than successful members of super-successful, networking cliques’ poorer ones.

For the truth is: Millay is a far better poet than not only Moore, but the guys, like Pound.

Certainly, “new” aesthetics can and should be studied (even if they haven’t done anyone a lick of good) but good poems written by the flesh and blood poets who lived in the same era as the better known, tweedy, experimental poets, deserve our attention, too.

Completely by chance today, as we perused old issues of Harper’s magazine, we came upon this poem by Archibald MacLeish. It is a love poem (horrors!). It was published in 1929, when Pound and Eliot were still nearly unknown, before they became famous as Axis defenders and post-WW II Modernist school subjects.

MacLeish, like the poets Frost and Millay, wrote poems people liked to read—and he was read. He was a wealthy friend of wealthy heir Harry Crosby, who—if you googled him by now—you know Crosby published MacLeish, Hart Crane, Poe, love poems, in exquisitely crafted books, a few copies at a time, and died at 29 with a young women in a suicide pact in a painter friend’s studio.

Here is a Modernist poem, the kind of poem which is now suppressed, just like Millay and Teasdale and Dorothy Parker and Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Elinor Wylie and countless other women poets are suppressed, locked away by the Moore/Williams /Pound Official Modernism professors. We close with the MacLeish poem:

To Praisers of Women

The praisers of women in their proud and beautiful poems,
Naming the grave mouth and the hair and the eyes,
Boasted those they loved should be forever remembered.
These were lies.

The words sound, but the face in the Istrian sun is forgotten.
The poet speaks, but to her dead ears no more.
The sleek throat is gone and the breast that was troubled to listen:
Shadow from door.

Therefore, I will not praise your knees and your fine walking,
Telling you men shall remember your name as long
As lips move or breath is spent or the iron of English
Rings from a tongue.

I shall say you were young and your arms straight and your mouth scarlet.
I shall say you will die, and none  will remember you;
Your arms change and none remember the swish of your garments
Nor the click of your shoe.

Not with my hands’ strength, not with difficult labor
Springing the obstinate words to the bones of your breast
And the stubborn line to your young stride and the breath to your breathing
And the beat to your haste,

Shall I prevail on the hearts of unborn men to remember.
What is a dead girl but a shadowy ghost,
Or a dead man’s voice but a distant and vain affirmation
Like dream words most?

Therefore, I will not speak of the undying glory of women.
I shall say you were young and straight and your skin fair—
And you stood in the door, and the sun was a shadow of leaves on your shoulders,
And a leaf on your hair.

I will not speak of the famous beauty of dead women.
I shall say the shape of a blown leaf lay on your hair,
Till the world ends and the sun is out and the sky broken
Look! It is there!

BEN MAZER’S THE GLASS PIANO AND THE POETRY OF INTELLECTUAL IMMEDIACY

Who walks here? Poe? Eliot? Mazer?

Just a glance at the titles of the poems in Ben Mazer’s new book, The Glass Pianoreleased Nov. 1 (Madhat Press) thrills this reviewer:

Lupe Velez with a Baedeker: Irving Thalberg with a Cigar
Autumn Magazines
My Last Dutchman
One dresses in the darkened gloom
Spread over the vast sinking town
Tonight my lover lies
Why is it some old magazine; like a wheelbarrow
The poet does his finest work in sin
Graves and waves are signified by rows

Pop culture is one thing; poetic, in the true sense of the term, is something else: the current swarm of poets in our Writing Program era often mix these two up.  Poetry can use pop culture; but amateurs aflame with various aspects of pop culture (or hipster culture) have it so that pop culture uses poetry, which is…ugh…so wrong.

In Mazer’s brief lyric, “Autumn Magazines,” poetry is using pop culture, not the other way around. It is difficult to pinpoint why, but Mazer, in his poetry, absolutely gets this distinction. In this poem, poetry asserts itself.

Autumn Magazines

The falling leaves of autumn magazines
are framed by nature. Frost said you come too.
Your gowns and sandals crown your nakedness,
Each season justifies all that you do.
The sidewalks spread out their appearances,
the towers and the gilding celebrate
the dates and calendars, commemorate
and underneath it all there’s only you.

The ending “you” is endearingly romantic and Romantic. Nearly all “serious” poets today avoid the gesture, fearing critical rebuke for its “pop song” component; such fear, however, dogs only the lesser poets, not poets like Mazer (we will be bold enough to point out Scarriet is the leading example of this style) who are in such command and control of their poetic gift that “pop” elements do not turn their poetry into “pop,” even when pop sentiments are used without irony.

The all-mighty “you” is a standard in sentimental song, sure, but this doesn’t mean the suave poet cannot borrow its mysteries and charms—charms, by the way, which belong to Dante and Petrarch (among others) and also belong to the trope no poet should do without: pronoun mystery—is the “you” the beloved, God, or the reader, etc etc?

Further, Mazer’s genius can be seen in the way he incorporates one of the greatest jazz standards, “Autumn Leaves,” into the idea of autumn magazines, (poets will be sentimental about magazine numbers, and why not Autumn?) beginning his poem as the famous song begins: “the falling leaves…” Then he introduces the idea of “framing nature,” a trope on a trope on a trope, and when he quotes Frost, another brief lyric is referenced, which references autumn leaves (“rake away…to clear a spring”) and Frost, in his lyric, also makes romantic use of “you.” Mazer’s poetic sensibility fills every bumper to the brim.

Now, the Difficult School, which we revile, rejects the immediacy of pop sensibility—but immediacy is actually what these two, pop culture and poetry, share.

This is why, in the titles of poems listed above, we can see immediately that Ben Mazer is a poet.

If one cannot see this, one should probably not try and read Ben Mazer; one will find oneself feeling like a yokel at the opera, or Ron Silliman before the throne of Poe.

If Lupe Velez with a Baedeker does not resonate with you; if you don’t feel the thousand feelings Autumn Magazines inspires; if My Last Dutchman does not bring a curious, appreciative smile to your lips, you have no business reading poetry. 

And to those who object that a a few words cannot prove mastery, we would ask, how many notes of Brahms’ first symphony does one have to hear before sublimity invades one’s soul?  Poetry is made of one thing: words—words which impress immediately if we are in the presence of the true poetic gift.  The Renaissance painters felt they were superior to the poets—they were, in as much they could depict immediately the face that the poor poet had to supply in pieces—but the poetic art has caught up with painting since the Renaissance, the poets coming to understand how a drop may intimate the sea. Of course, a fool may drown in a drop, but Mazer, who appreciates every drop, intimates oceans.

“Lupe Velez with a Baedeker: Irving Thalberg with a Cigar,” the first poem in the book, directly quotes T. S. Eliot’s “Burbank with a Baedeker, Bleistein with a Cigar” in its first two lines, and then we meet the name, Lupe Velez.

We shall not weigh down this review with references—Mazer’s poems are not weighed down with them; they float over our heads (or drift beneath our feet)—there is no need to “know” or “learn” as one reads a Mazer poem; one burns with it as one reads. Poems that weary us with their facts and their information—Mazer’s poems never do this, and not because Mazer doesn’t “know stuff;” he knows that poetry is not about that, thank God. He doesn’t let pedantry spoil his poetry—which so many otherwise brilliant poets do. He doesn’t allow the hiding of pedantry to spoil his poetry, either, which a smaller, more elite class of poets do; Mazer offers no pedantry, and this puts him almost in a class by himself. He uses what we know, or, more accurately, what we want to know, to entrance. Mazer lays the streets and paths and alleyways as if he were making a poem and then writing a poem in the one he has made—he creates the mind which reads the poem.  But he uses your mind. Many readers will find Mazer’s poetry uncanny in a familiar/strange sort of way, and this is the reason.

Why is Mazer such an important poet? Because he is a return to this impulse, the one voiced by Alexander Pope’s “what oft what thought, but ne’ver so well expressed” and the Romantic sublime, in which what we are able to feel, experiencing a world we all share, is the template, and we find our experiences to be breathtaking—thanks to the poet, who has not only done the work putting together his expression, but the work of joining his feeling to ours.

This remains true, even in the first poem in the book, if we have never heard, for instance, of Lupe Velez; the poem has much to do with her; the poem would not exist without her; no Mazer poem would exist without its unique underpinnings, and so, in that sense, the poet walks among us and is one of us; but the poem makes no effort to inform us of Lupe Velez—the poem is not made small, or trapped by this; reading The Glass Piano is not an exercise in learning, in the weary, worldly sense, but if one should gather the important facts of Lupe Velez—a Mexican actress who broke into U.S. Silent screen movies in the 1920s and successfully moved into sound—one will have learned something of Mazer’s poetic universe, not an isolated fact.  Mazer’s poetry is a symbol for a unique mind that is, itself, a symbol—one reads, literally, Mazer’s vision, of which the poems can only say so much—which is why, perhaps, he is prolific, and also why—too busy to “plan” in the ordinary sense—Mazer’s momentum builds in his longer poems, which seem to be planning themselves as they pitch forward, like life, so that suddenly turning off the main thoroughfare of patient exegesis (you are in an outdoor theater; movies are ghosts etc) you find yourself in a picturesque side path of discursive majesty, the words gaining weight as they fly, the vision really there and real. Mazer is almost like a scientist discovering his poems—and, as they are read, because one gets the idea that Mazer conceives them in the gentle heat of his brain (Mazer is gentle; he has a touch) with the same speed with which they are read, inspiration is able to feel the animal. The long poem (roughly 300 lines) which concludes the book, “An After Dinner Sleep” is immortal, and joins Mazer’s “Divine Rights” at the top of his winding stair.

Mazer chooses Lupe Velez (and Eliot) to begin his book, and says nothing about her, except in hints. (It is not necessary to read Velez’s heart-breaking suicide note.)  We quote in full the first poem of the book. Thalberg is another early figure in film, a producer of Grand Hotel (1932) and early monster/horror films. Mazer’s genius is perfectly content to feed on kitsch, populism, history, camp.

Lupe Velez with a Baedeker; Irving Thalberg with a Cigar

The smoky candle end of time
Declines. On the Rialto once.
With Lupe Velez. Prepared the crime.
But Irving’s valet was no dunce.

Had seen Tirolean dances there
before. And though she was no whore.
Perhaps was hired by the state.
Yet would not scare. And knew no fate.

Time’s thick castles ascend in piles,
The witnesses to countless mobs.
Each with intention, torches, throbs.
Bequeath the coming dawn their wiles.

Yet Irving was not meant for this.
He books the first flight to the States.
He suffers to receive Lupe’s kiss.
While all around the chorus prates.

There’s something does not love a mime.
Tirolean castles built to scale.
There was a mob. There is no crime.
These modernisms sometimes fail.

Mazer trusts the reader to “fill in” what is necessary; all great artists do this; some phrase from a favorite poet, for instance, reverberates in the mind; we recall the scene, the feeling, and yet, not all the words, and running to the book, we open it and find the passage: what? was it only these few words? Which depicted so much?  Indeed it was. Mazer has this gift: a few strokes of the brush: a world.

It is astounding how much this brief lyric conveys: we read each line like a chapter in a novel.  When was the last time we said a poem had “atmosphere?”  Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott?”  Poe’s “The Raven?”  Mazer’s poems have atmosphere (some more than others). Many poets have attempted to lay on atmosphere, but they fail, since atmosphere in poetry cannot be described or explained or accomplished with adjective—-poets are not painters; they cannot paint. The poet must find another way. Mazer finds another way. In “Lupe:” First, by using terse, yet dramatic speech. Second, referencing atmospheric templates (“Tirolean castles”). Third, finding the precise word, even as the other part of his brain is bringing the poem off in terms of beginning, middle, and end.

The narration is coolly involved in the action of the poem: the poet speaks with speech, not with emotion or personality, and this discipline is perhaps the most important “less-is-more” formula there is, and very hard to do. “These modernisms sometimes fail” comes to us from an uncanny place—there is no human, emotional, “straining after,” even though the poem as a whole is frightfully emotional.  It is as if the poem were so emotional that it could only speak without emotion.

The importance of the words is paramount; this is all the poet has, and Mazer is clever enough to know that none of the traditional tools of storytelling will make the words of the poem important: things like ‘a moral’ or ‘the story’ or ’emotion’ remove us from the importance of the words themselves; Mazer’s words seem like they are being spoken (or quoted) from some removed place—and what better way to make this impression than by a subtle, downplayed, insinuation of moral and story and emotion, so the action of the words themselves remain paramount?  And, secondly: hauling in familiar quotes and references from film and literature—the authority of feelings and experiences which belong to us, but lie beyond?  “Would not scare” echoes the ‘steely yet mournful night’ ending of Lowell’s “Skunk Hour.” “There’s something does not love a mime” intimates a “something” that wrecks walls, quoting Frost, with “mime’s” jokey alteration implying everything from silent film to the stoic reticence of Mazer himself.

To paraphrase Yeats, poems should be boldly designed, and yet appear design-less, and Mazer, who claims to compose unconsciously, his poems dictating themselves to him nearly complete, is able to revel in that inevitable surprise one (does not?) look for; one could almost say that the poetic is, by its very nature, unconscious design.

Who can argue with the unconscious, or Mazer’s stated idea in the book’s afterword interview with critic Robert Archambeau, that all composition is revision and all revision is composition?

There should be no conscious intent in poetry, according to this smooth-lake view—a view propounded by the New Critics, the ultimate Quietism of T.S.-Eliot-Learning-and-Conservatism, which defies 1. conscious Conceptualism and 2. conscious Ethnic/Ethical Poetry, these two Schools currently at war, as the School of Mazer (Romanticism, Frost, Eliot) makes its move.

Mazer eschews both the rattle of the gizmo avant-garde and the sloganeering of the ethnic/ethical.

Yet he has more to “say” than either.

Edgar Poe, the fountain of modern literature, quietly inspired T.S. Eliot, who, in the spirit of Anglo-American Modernism, publicly excoriated Poe, after he, Eliot, won the Nobel in 1948. Shelley was attacked earlier by Eliot, in the 1930s.

“These modernisms sometimes fail.”

Why not, as Mazer does in “Lupe,” rhyme like Percy Shelley, hint at Mary Shelley’s creature, and wrap it in an atmosphere of T.S. Eliot? Or Poe?

Why not force a wedding between Modernism and Romanticism?

This reconciliation is due, and Mazer, more than any living poet today, is showing the way. This may be, at the moment, his raison d’etre.

Ben Mazer, perhaps the most remarkable poet alive today, has in his bones that Poe, that poet of shadowy art, flowing into that Eliot of hedonist umber; Mazer struggling to emerge, newly, as that perfection which knows itself as such—latching onto the perfect atmosphere blindly, but perfectly blind—Mazer writing from the unconscious (the bones), not as an ‘automatic writing’ Ashbery, in the tradition of Harvard’s William James and his student Gertrude Stein, but in a tradition much less ‘laboratory,’ and more ‘organic.’ Ben Mazer—the Coleridge of Cambridge, shall we call him? Mazer inhabits the Harvard Square of Prufrock’s Eliot—not Longfellow (who lived there), or 100 years later, Ashbery (who studied there).

It’s a subtle thing, perhaps, but Mazer, who is sometimes compared to Ashbery, is far more Eliot: Eliot rejected the Romantic poets’ music reluctantly, with a frown; Ashbery did so completely, with a laugh.

The excitable, yet mathematical, purple of Poe (“organic” if nature is Platonically made of math) did flow into the tortured, beige suavity of Eliot—a fact difficult to detect not so much by the casual reader, but by the scholar—and in Mazer’s auditory onslaughts, his chaste intelligences, and his world-as-art acrobatics, Eliot’s prophetic Tradition-which-reveals-the-past-by-the-present has come true.

To demonstrate, we quote in full another poem from the new book. It is 13 lines. Most of the poems in this book, are in fact sonnets, 14 lines in length.

The title, “Spread over the vast sinking town,” (the poem’s first line) immediately puts us in mind of:

As if the towers had thrust aside
In slightly sinking, the dull tide…
Down, down that town shall settle hence…” (“The City in the Sea,” Poe)

The second line of Mazer’s poem, “Which winter makes seem half asleep” recalls Eliot’s “The winter evening settles down” from “The Preludes.” A significant word, “curled,” is found in both the Mazer and the Eliot poem.

Mazer has yanked together Eliot’s “Preludes” and Poe’s “The City in the Sea.”  Mazer’s poem begins:

Spread over the vast sinking town
Which winter makes seem half asleep

And notice, in the poem that follows, with what skill Mazer blends Poe’s melancholy spondaic/dactylic music with Eliot’s modern imagery couched in the merrier, yet ironic, iambic; initially the poem trips along in a nimble, 19th-and-20th-century mix, pausing for a moment at the precipice of what might become delicate sarcasm, before it settles into a work perhaps owing more to Poe—or is it Eliot?—but nonetheless achieving, in the end, a work poignant, uncanny, and original, even as it remains steeped in a strange, familiar, hybrid ambience.

Spread over the vast sinking town
Which winter makes seem half asleep
A bus begins its movement down
Across a bridge into the steep
Wide view of the familiar sights
The site of many rowdy nights
But now inhabitants have thinned
Discouraged by the winter wind
And one less one is in the world
Because our faith and will have curled
And folded on the mantel bare
To leave unborn without a care
One whom God’s glory wanted there.

“God’s glory…” Who, today, could invoke this, and be solemn and serious and reputable and true? Mazer may be the only one. The ticket, of course, is the music.

Mazer doesn’t always rhyme this methodically. Today it is almost considered critical suicide to rhyme, unless your name is A.E. Stallings.  As for truth: there is never a reason not to use punctuation, but there it is—occasionally poets feel the need to carve words alone in iron.

But as for rhyme: Poets do not rhyme for two simple reasons: 1. Contemporary fashion and 2. it is very difficult to do.

Mazer is steeped and skilled in the art—from both a practical and an historical perspective, both one and two do not trouble him; he is good enough not to care for contemporary fashion.

When Mazer does not rhyme, he does tend to sound like Ashbery, or a kind of Waste Land Ashbery—Old Possum is usually lurking behind the drapery.

In Glass Piano Mazer has bet heavily on rhyme.  And we are glad that he has.

Mazer’s poems are dreamy and contemplative; if there are two types of lyric, one, the conscious, busybody, Go Do Something, Mazer’s poetry fits I Am The Something; Mazer doesn’t plunder memory for the sake of finding things out, so much as drawing near to what one is wary of finding out. In the first kind of poem, morality often beats you with a stick. In Mazer’s poetry, morality is kind, and wears a cloak.

In the poem just quoted in full, whatever it is in the poem that is “folded on the mantel bare” hints at a memory of an abortion, perhaps? and oddly, other poems in the book which use the word “mantel” seem to hint at the same thing, but in a very delicate way. Mazer’s work is far too aesthetically layered to take any overt moral positions; here Mazer is like Shelley, who asked poetry to explore moral causes—not accessible, worldly, moral effects; below the surface in Mazer’s poetry there does seem to be a deep, ancient conservatism, one that is expansive in its nostalgia, an icy Weltschmerz, but one capable of skating on slippery levity; Mazer’s poetry is happy with the pluralism of existence, with its nostalgia—Mazer feels it, yes, but is not depressed or overwhelmed by it. Occasionally there is a wave of ticket-stub sentimentality, a feeling of poor old dad in his twilight study with the old-literary-magazine compendium, but Mazer never indulges in the merely rueful; there is a quickness to his melancholy.

The I Am Something poem, the one that says ‘Everything you need is here,’ does feature a passive poet—looking out windows, trapped in darkness—and, as a corollary, a passive reader, too–but we get an active poem; the Listen To Me! I Am It! Quietly! poem that, in itself, has everything we need. The passageways may be dark, but they are Mazer’s, and we travel them with trembling delight. We aren’t just reading words. We are moving in what they project.

Because of Mazer’s discursive and melancholy hyper-awareness of the fleeting struggling to cohere, those poems he knits with meter and rhyme (stitched to mingle and collide) tend to bring a happier result than his free-verse Ashbery ones.

Mazer makes quiet use of humor; we actually wish there were more of it in this book. Mazer’s subtle humor enriches the melancholy, instead of merely intruding on it.

A good example of Mazer’s sense of humor can be seen in the following poem, which we quote in full, and which exemplifies all we have been saying so far. Note the brilliant, philosophical ‘Phoenix’ joke. Jokes have designs on us.  Mazer’s genius is the receptive, unconscious kind.  His humor is quiet, and for that, all the more powerful, and brings out in him a related, yet different kind of genius, one we would like to see him pursue more often.

Meanwhile you come to me with vipers’ eyes
to ask, Is there one among us who never dies?
I look into the bottom of my pack of lies
and answer, The Phoenix, though Lord knows she sometimes tries.
You take my answer in your sort of stride,
and once again the stars align and ride
into our lives, upon the carpeted floor,
and the high mantle where you look no more
for evidence of what has gone before;
all stammers slightly,
and the evening closes up its door,
wrong or rightly; colorfully and brightly
some vestiges or trace of memory
falls on the wall; you close your eyes to see.

Mazer is obscure, but not hopelessly so, and because of the sad music, we never mind. We never feel, as we often feel with Ashbery, that there is some kind of parody going on, and Mazer is stronger for this.

All poetry, even—especially?—great poetry, has a shadow-self vulnerable to parody; “The Raven” was parodied upon its publication, immediately and often. One could say Modernism itself, in many ways, is a parody of the 19th century sublime—the spirit of Ashbery’s parody lives, partially hidden, in Eliot’s suffering heart. After all, Eliot anointed Auden and Auden, Ashbery. Is Mazer their successor?

Mazer is revolutionary, in our view, because, for the first time since Tennyson, poetry is once again allowed to be itself, to produce symphonies—with no need to parody, or feel self-consciously modern.

Mazer’s poems seem to say to us: Among all your sufferings, look! this lighted window really is for you. The couch of art, with its faint, sad music, belongs to everyone. You may all rest here.

Mazer is doing something wonderful and important. No one should resent this. Mazer is it. This review would have been better had we just copied his poetry.

We close with a passage from his magnificent poem, “An After Dinner Sleep:”

Now the two sisters have returned to London.
If one is done, the other must be undone.
You strain your eyes through columns, chance to see
the early return of the Viscount-Marquis.
Your monthly pension takes you on a spree
to Biarritz, Bretagne, Brittany,
and you will not be back till early fall,
and then again might not return at all,
the garish drainpipes climbing up the facades
all violently symbolic, and at odds
with simple pleasures countrysides bequeath
to girls with dandelions between their teeth.
There is no fiction that can firmly hold
the world afloat above the weight of gold,
but all your progress drains out to the lee
of million-fold eternal unity.

A WORD ABOUT LITERARY ACTIVISM

image

The white guys of High Modernism

“Literary activism” has taken center stage recently among the chattering classes, those academics and journalists whose job it is to tell the working class how to live.

Is music a supplement to speech, or is it anti-speech?

Well, it depends on whether you hum or sing.

Mere humming is music which is anti-speech.

Singing music, however, (and that would include wordless Mozart) is clearly a supplement to speech.

Poetry, in the 20th century, went from anthologized, lyrical quietism by the fireside, to avant formalism in the classroom.

Poetry went from singing to humming.

It went from the musical wit of Byron to: red wheel barrow in the wastes of white space.

Lyrical quietism, so named today, was universal, personal, political, as well as…lyrical.

Avant formalism was apolitical, abstract, elitist, and just happened to be…white and male.

To put it simply: the crazyites (as Edgar Poe named them) won, even as Pound was put in a cage.

The recent surge of “literary activism” marked by ethnicity, with all its accompanying buzzwords (“struggle” and “voices” and “change”) is nothing more than a passionate reaction (or correction) to the white elitist character of the Modernism (the Men’s Club of Pound, Eliot, Williams) which destroyed the Universal Poetry of the People (dubbed ‘lyrical quietism’ by the avants).

The new “subversive” academics, the highly ethical and ethnic voices of “literary activism,” currently making headlines in the textbooks and Blog Harriet (The Poetry Foundation blog of Poetry magazine—famous because of the right wing Pound and Eliot) are semi-literate and reactionary, like their masters, the white “subversives” of 20th century Modernism, who shook off the highly literate and song-worthy revolutionary spirit of accessible 19th century poetry heroes such as Keats, Byron, and Poe.

Literary Activism does not sing, it hums.  It doesn’t speak, it produces a tune to which everyone must dance, an easily understood music—yawn in the face of the Odes of Keats because their author is white and male.

Keatsian Aesthetics is the enemy of the Ideological State—because the State is in a continual mode of “correction,” the on-going communist/fascist revolution which never ends; the war against whatever is old—running continually.

The reactionary nature of an Emerson or a Pound is hidden as long as these men are identified (and they are) with change.

Emerson’s imperialist, neo-liberal, racist “English Traits” is ignored in favor of his “The Poet,” which (subversively) attacks the aesthetics of Poe—the essence of whom, beauty, is not hidden: the subversion of Emerson leads straight to Pound and his white, male avant inheritors.

The soul-crushing politics of literary activism produces poorly written odes against “capitalism.”

God forbid we buy and sell. The ideological State does not approve of exchange. It does not approve of singing, of words, of speech, which create mutual influences: this is why dialogue is such a powerful tool and why the first clue to a bankrupt human being (crippled by ideology) is how difficult it is to have a conversation of discovery with them; they immediately quarrel and disagree the moment they are confronted with having to think as they talk. They can only talk about what they already think—they will not tolerate true dialogue, and the anger displayed always surprises the innocent lover of wisdom.

Exchange has one drawback. It is morally blind. Slavery is an instance of this, and the State which made the moral choice to end slavery is a good, not an evil.

But slavery has its origins in economic inequality—the slave trade persisted as long as it was profitable; the slave trade did not operate because it was a moral or an amoral practice; in the same way, thievery will always exist if there is economic inequality—morals mean nothing to the starving man.  If there is no honest exchange, it is due to one reason and one reason only: too much dishonest exchange: but the fault is not with exchange (capitalism) but with morals, and here we see by the very term, “honest exchange” that the two elements are really the same. The whole Marxist separation is false, and the intrusion of morals, per se, a mere Victorian illusion. The intrusion of morals becomes, in fact, capitalist competition by other means.

The good State wants good exchange. Exchange (song, thought, trade, capitalism) is a good, as long as it fosters further exchange. Slavery is an evil precisely because it prevents (by reducing a person to a commodity) further exchange. By faulting exchange itself, however, we actually perpetuate an evil, even as this anti-exchange folly is morally sugar-coated by the Marxist.

The State mind doesn’t like the music of singing; it prefers humming that pre-made tune.

The ethnic character of literacy activism innocently demolishes the ‘whole’ human being—who is forced into the prison of perceiving itself chiefly as black or gay or female. Instead of offering highly literate females, it offers illiterate females praising females—which is hurtful to females and does not advance their cause at all. Yet this reactionary practice is considered progressive.

In this instance it is easy to see why.

It is precisely because “literary activism” today is an unspoken correction against the embarrassingly white, male, elitist (and fascist/communist) character of avant Modernism: which destroyed the glory of lyrical quietism—the glory of Enlightenment Byron and Romantic Edna St. Vincent Millay.

The new literary activism is amending ‘old fogey John Crowe Ransom white male Modernism’—but is unfortunately at the same time an unwitting extension of the avant trampling of true poetry.

Caveat Emptor!

THE END OF FORMALISM

“I would counsel Lysias not to delay, but to write another discourse, which shall prove the lover rather than the non-lover ought to be accepted.” –Socrates (The Phaedrus)

Wouldn’t you say, a thing can only be so strong when it is based on weakness?

For instance, intoxication can make us brave, but it does so because we are not brave, and so intoxication’s “bravery” exists because of weakness and so intoxication as a “good” will always be seen as a weakness and be understood as such.

Likewise, verse (poetry) adds to language a music above and beyond language’s meaning.  Since all would agree that conveying meaning is the highest purpose of language, and poetry is a good in that it makes it more entertaining to get meaning from language—the weakness announces itself to everyone: poetry feeds meaning the way intoxication feeds bravery.

The brave don’t need intoxication.

Good readers don’t need poetry—to entertain them and keep them focused in order to get meaning from a text.

We may or may not want to leave aside Socrates’ argument in the Phaedrus that the lover (mad) is a better life-partner than the friend (practical, sane). As Socrates points out, everyone (lover and non-lover) wants beauty and the lover/poet is finally better able to provide this than the practical type.

But just as Psychology has largely left behind Freud and Jung and literary invention that gave birth to Psychology itself—for psychotropic drugs and their practical effects, Plato is hardly studied any longer in school, and therefore it is safe to say that intoxication and verse are no longer seen as strengths at all.

Madness is the way we denigrate a thing, especially in our race to absolute reason in the realm of the humanities: women and earth have been dominated too long by “crazy” white males. So this is why verse has been abandoned. Its “intoxicated” aid to reading is rejected as unnecessary and insane: a weakness, a wrong, to be dispensed with.

For, yes, we should admit it—verse is a silly, entertaining thing that makes reading a greater amusement for a kind of mind easily bored by reading for meaning.

Verse exists because of a reading weakness—just as intoxication is sometimes necessary for bravery.

We dare not suggest here—but because we are crazy, we will—that bravery is nothing more than intoxication itself, or that verse enhances and elevates meaning and is closer to meaning than naked meaning itself is, at least in some select and really important instances.  But we’ll throw it out there nonetheless.

Verse is, obviously, formalism.

Today there are three ways critics and poets attempt to downgrade verse (formalism.)

One: They make sure we know that Socrates wore a toga. They make the whole question of formalism historical: form exists in forms and these forms: sonnets, heroic couplets, etc belong to certain historical periods with specific historical conditions.

And therefore we either cannot use these forms today or we must self-consciously subvert them.

An ABAB rhyme scheme is the equivalent of using “thou” and “thee.”

The stream of history in which all forms must exist carries them away.

So forms—all forms—formalism itself, in one simple (historical) step, is swept away.

Of course, despite the scholars’ opinion re: forms and history, we find formalism persists.

But where it does persist, the scholars simply point out that its persistence is not scholarly:

Rhyme belongs to hip-hop and other kinds of pop music. It doesn’t “feel right” in poems today that wish to be taken seriously, as scholarly works.

According to this anti-formalist approach, a poem cannot “work on its own terms;” it is always felt and understood in terms of historical conditions.

The “rules” for writing a sonnet are certainly legitimate, and verse does have a valid existence, but, according to the historical anti-formalist reading, only in a museum sort of way.

The “historical” downgrading of formalism is a very powerful way to downgrade formalism because it is both conservative and radical, since it simultaneously plays the “respect for history” card and the “now” card. Form is respected, but forms are obsolete, says the historical scholar.

The conservative New Critic John Crowe Ransom told his 1930s readers that writing like Byron was no longer possible. The “historical” view justifies every kind of experimentalism—even as it trumpets its tweedy respect for history.

Two: The scholars make form—not forms—the only thing that matters.  A highly abstract macro (form) kills the micro (forms).

This, too, is a very effective way to downgrade formalism:

This whole anti-formalism method can be summed up with T.S. Eliot, who wrote that even prose scans.

Even the loosest free verse has “form;” white space on the page has “form.”

This argument is far more insidious than number one above; so much so, that it resembles a CIA brainwashing tactic, and is probably the top reason for poets giving up on verse altogether—in a turn-about that courts insanity; destroying formalism in this manner argues that because white exists, snow cannot exist.

Form is what matters.  And form is such a naturally large category that the formless resides there. Formalism (the quality dismissed) merely concerns itself with various antiquated forms.

And here one notices how much this resembles the historical argument: The poet is expected to explore form itself as it applies to the present. Sonnets and Elizabethan England both belong to a formalism of the past.

So here’s a second reason not to write a sonnet.  First, the sonnet is relegated to the past. Second, form should be the focus; sonnets are merely forms.

And if that were not enough, there’s a third way.

Three: Avoid the subject altogether and make poetry all about content: form is expressed by what we say.

Just as the second reason strongly resembles the first reason—both emphasize form over forms—the third way that downgrades formalism resembles the second reason, for saying “form is nothing” is logically the same thing as saying “form is everything.”

Helen Vendler, obsessed with the “heterogeneity” and “stylistic originality” of poets like  Graham and Ashbery, is, in her essentially New Critical style, a mixture of Two and Three. She has written:  “Poetry not intelligible with respect to contemporary values of society could not be read.”

Surely, however, all critics like Vendler understand that a pure prose content purely isolated from all musical considerations cannot possibly denote anything poetical.

The poetical is prose meaning dipped in the coloring of musicality and moods. Content is always the ground from which we start, but it is not the poem itself.

Bravery (truth) is not intoxication (poetry).

To asset that ‘form is content and content is form’ is to lose both—is really to assert nothing.

Formalism is downgraded in three distinct ways, but it’s all the same pedantic strategy, a convincing but hollow set of deconstructions.

Listen in on any discussion of formalism and you get one or some combination of these three anti-formalist positions we have just presented: there is little else, except perhaps a kind of vague, well-meaning gesture towards “poems that work” in whatever manner happens to suit the historically grounded and socially acute poet. Virtues are slyly assumed to exist outside of formal properties, with the added assumption that “stylistic originality” and forms cannot co-exist.

But the truth is, there can be more “originality” in a sonnet than in all the works of Ashbery.

This is a truth which overturns all the abstract claims of heterogeneity in terms of form versus forms.

For we are always assuming that heterogeneity is going to be more original, but there is no basis for this belief at all.

New York City is a large complex place, but so long as we point to New York City in our minds as “heterogeneity,” able to stand as the ideal which transcends the petty, self-important enclosures of mere formalism, we miss the much larger point that New York City really consists of tiny neighborhoods, and all poetry, if not all reality, exists, and is accessible and knowable, in the city block, or the building, or the room: the reality is not a scholar pointing to abstract “form;” the reality is understood in what hides in a building in New York City—a sonnet, perhaps.

Yes, it actually makes more sense to look at all literature as a great string of sonnets than to wallow in pretentious abstractions (and billions of details merely elucidated for their own sake—or to fit into heterogeneity theories.)

Sonnet by sonnet is not the way to read, obviously, but the point is that this makes more sense than any of the methods advertised by the anti-formalist school.

Think of a literacy of the sonnet, rather than of the line, or the sentence, or the word, or the phrase.  What a literacy that would be!

Couldn’t the sonnet be the building block?  And wouldn’t it be a healthy mind who thinks in those terms?

Shelley’s great Ode (West Wind) is a short series of sonnets.

And one can read the Gettysburg Address—as four sonnets.

 

….

Now let us ask, after exposing the ravings of the anti-formalists, this more pertinent question: what is poetry’s purpose?

Flowers are not condemned to exist under glass, as the sonnet is—and why not?

The answer is obvious: because flowers serve a purpose.

Flowers attract bees—this attractive quality helps define for us what a flower is, and, although we are not bees, so powerful and overflowing is the flowers’ attractiveness, that we, bee-like, admire the flower for its flower-like qualities.

What if poetry is a language of dissemination which, like the flower, is attractive in order to disseminate?

And what if this attractive quality is timeless and demands cultivation and protection?

The gardener is not asked to admire the flower but protect, grow, and breed the flower, for all eternity.

If the gardener merely admired the flower and did not protect, grow, and breed the flower, in terms of what we understand a flower to be, we would call her a very poor gardener.

Further, if the gardener greatly admired flowers, but assured us that flowers had long since served their purpose as flowers, and now should exist in museums only, we should not only find this great admirer of flowers a poor gardener, but, despite their learned admiration, an enemy of flowers.

Those who downgrade formalism in the three ways outlined above—condemning traditional forms of poetry to sterility and “learned” curatorial irrelevance—are like the gardener who may admire flowers, but is their enemy and destroyer.

Poetry today is being destroyed, especially by those who currently study and practice it. A museum-admiration of poetry is an evil and insidious thing.

To seek for the elusive rationale or reason or purpose or use, of poetry can be compared to the search for a loved one in a crowd.

The similarities defeat us, not the differences.

“Is this the one you seek?” ask the ignorant but well-meaning searchers, and they bring us person after person, with face and arms and legs and every particular human quality—but no, this is not our beloved!

We are not looking for a type—we are searching for a unique quality.

Just as we look for a championship baseball team, celebrated through the ages, and are deterred most in our search, not because it hides beside an object like a fire engine, but rather next to a losing team—which also has pitchers who throw at 90 mph and hitters who can hit a ball 500 feet.

The poem’s reason that we seek, to the ordinary eye, looks very similar, in the great scheme of things, to a great deal of other writing.

Poetry’s purpose, ignored by theoretical moderns—blends in.  And—because we are blind to it, it can eventually kill us.

We scan the crowd for the one we love and die if we do not find her.

We search for: not forms, not form, not content, but attractiveness.

The pedants ignore the raison ultima because they fear it will be “a type,” thinking “type” itself is defined by form, but never content. But here they wildly err.

To specify poetry with formalism alone is to take poetry over to mathematics and music—and this is not 1) a general thing nor is it 2) anything to do with content—precisely because content is never specified (the purpose of poetry is never mentioned)—since we assume whatever is said can and will be said, heightened by the formal qualities, of course, but not determined by them. Yet how can the content of speech not be determined by its formal qualities in a systematic manner? Music does determine how speech speaks and once this is conceded, the poetry’s ultimate rationale must at last be acknowledged, for how speech speaks cannot but determine what speech speaks.

Yet we never hear in discussions of formalism what poetry must say.

We can discuss stocks and bonds in verse and never mention poetry’s purpose. We can allude to Eliot’s objective correlative and never mention poetry’s hidden purpose, since Eliot’s astute formula never escaped the blackboard to actually walk about. Eliot was using this formula to attack whole historic periods of poetry when, he felt, content and form were estranged; the tweedy Modernist condemned the Romantic poets this way—Eliot was finally downgrading formalism historically, not philosophically—and so an opportunity was missed: Eliot was essentially saying what the conservative Ransom was saying when Ransom said we can’t write like Byron anymore: Modernism ignoring poetry’s true purpose by saying “form, not forms.”

We are free to say anything in poetry now, said the 20th century Anglo-American Modernists, making the reason disappear in a general loosening of form to fit more and more varieties of content. But why the Modernists hated Byron, was that Byron said more interesting things while rhyming than the Modernists did in free verse.  This is why the chief Modernists like Eliot and Ransom tried to bury Byron (and Romantics generally).  Byron didn’t fit the Modernist formula.

Sure, many ruefully viewed the Modernist agenda as a simple mistake: poetry-turning-into-prose; well, everybody did, but no one had the pedagogical reasoning to stop it. Verse was the “metronome” and poetry-as-prose, the “musical phrase” was how crazy Pound cleverly put it. (“Prose scans,” in other words.)

No one stopped to think that a metronome was a perfectly useful tool for Beethoven, as he created profound “musical phrases.” Beethoven was hidden, like poetry’s reason, in the “room” of Modernist “verse.”

Robert Penn Warren, the New Critic co-author of the influential, mid-20th century Understanding Poetry textbook, wrote an essay defending “impure poetry” against “pure poetry,” another Modernist act in the drama of hiding poetry’s purpose. Poetic content was now, according to Warren: “all and any content not determined in the least by form.” The purpose of poetry was gone. Modernism had blithely killed it.

It wasn’t that form gradually loosened due to formal considerations; form wasn’t freeing up form—content was, in the sense of ‘anything goes,’ anything can now be said: the lyrics were eliminating the music, so to speak; this, and only this, is what was meant by “impure poetry” and its triumph. (Understanding Poetry included a savage attack on the attractively musical verses of Poe, even as it championed Pound and Williams; Warren’s essay savaged Shelley; Eliot impolitely attacked Shelley, as well: Poe and Shelley were wretched examples for Modernist delectation of scorned, “narrow purity.” Remember, the New Critics were considered “conservative” in their views. But chucking formalism was universally done in the Modernist era.  This is what the Pound clique did: they also attacked Edna St. Vincent Millay. (See Hugh Kenner’s nasty remarks on her).

But if formalism, as all must concede, has what must be described as legitimate formal qualities (to define it as formalism as such) what does it mean to say, as the anti-formalists said, that content can be whatever it wants in an “impure” triumph? Here is a “room” which has certain formal qualities, identifying itself as a “room” of poetry (as opposed, to say, a dinner menu) and yet, when content enters this room, the room itself only exists to leave the content untouched and free to express itself however it chooses, and any restriction upon the content is condemned as a backwards step towards an unwanted, old, and “pure” poetic practice.

Of course defenders of the “impure” never admit the absolute disconnection of form and content outright— in each specific poem, they say, form and content do their dance: both form and content are equally valuable; the “impurity” we defend is only to say (they point out) that formalism is no longer a straitjacket; formalism no longer is severe in its restrictions, no longer blindly formal in its dictates.

Poetry’s purpose remains hidden, however. What is said in the poem is said, and afterwards, the “everything is form” explanation is bent to the content’s will—this is the anti-formalist ‘explanation number two:’ making formalism a blindly obedient (and essentially nonexistent) shadow of content. Whatever facilitates the saying (or meaning) that is not the saying (or meaning) has an existence, in the same way that “prose scans;” but nothing that can be called art need exist at all—the poem speaks; the content speaks and asserts itself, and simply by way of formalistic properties manifesting themselves in a perfectly ordinary “grammatical or anti-grammatical” manner, this then becomes the “formal triumph” which mirrors the “ordinary” content speaking in its artless cunning, free of all artificiality, fulfilling the prophecy of Modernism’s expansive and articulate poetic quest.

There is no need to make any decisions about content; all that needs to be proclaimed, proclaim the anti-formalists, is that historically we are expanding our ability to provide content as formalism drops away: jettisoning all formalistic strategy, as content becomes all (and thus, nothing!) This is what Eliot meant by formalism hiding behind the drapery of loose poetry: historical poetry’s actual existence as such, is old Polonius—and the prying pedant is soon to be stabbed and killed in T.S. Eliot’s Critical Modernism’s play.

But how can the form of poetry—if it is really form-–not predetermine content? It must. Otherwise it is not really what we mean when we speak of poetic form. How can poetry as a formal practice not have a real existence as an actual piece of form and as an actual piece of content?

If we are true poets, we do not wish to blindly kill the beloved (poetry’s reason); we wish to find them in the crowd.

How will I my true love know from another one? —Ophelia, Hamlet

We listen to Beethoven and hear an actual musical content; the music inspires specific feelings—based on its formal qualities. To say that poetry does not do the same thing is to deny poetry’s existence altogether. Which is what we said earlier is happening in fact: poetry, in academia—where it now mostly resides—has become a museum exhibit in its formalism, an inconsequential exercise in its contemporary use. It does not matter that superior poetry is being written today in obscure quarters—the public simply does not exist for it, and so it does not exist.

We said that in recent history, formalist considerations never usher in the least interest in specific categories of content, with Eliot’s objective correlative formula the one major (ineffective) exception. But before Modernism, poetry’s purpose is acknowledged; poetry is given an identity based on what it does—and what it expresses in terms of content.  The greatest example in literature, perhaps, can be found in the dramatic dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus.

The modern lyric was called a “love letter” by Dante. Shakespeare made the sonnet a courting device for love and breeding—and thus was not far off from the “love letter” idea; the two greatest poets of all time (Eliot himself was explicit: “Dante and Shakespeare; there is no third”) have no trouble acknowledging the purpose of poetry which is now hidden: poetry, as much as it does exist formally, does yet have a use within, and obedient to, its purely formal existence.

The novel can be said to have originated as a series of letters (sonnets?) and the greatest fiction can be defined as an unfolding of love (or its opposite, hate: see the war-like Homer).

The sonnet—formalism—shall return.

Poetry, grown by philosophy and love, will be a living flower, once again.

 

WHAT IS POETRY? LISTEN TO ALEXANDER POPE

Pope: No awards or degrees. Self-taught. Banned from higher education in his native England for being a Catholic. World famous.

Alexander Pope was 20 when he wrote his rhymed “An Essay on Criticism.” This single essay contains more memorable poetry quotations than the entire 20th century produced.

We want to focus on one from that essay, which might save poetry from the wretched state it is currently in:

“What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.”

In their mania for “the new,” the modern poets (who have no public) constantly strive for what has never been thought before—and no wonder the results are sometimes pleasantly odd (at best) but mostly baffling, obscure, and unreadable.

Since thought and language are profoundly linked, any random combination of words, sentences or phrases will, in theory, produce “new thought.” If only this were true! We would all be poets, and all poetry magnet kits, Shakespeare.

It is easy to illustrate, with the help of Pope’s quote, this “new thought” folly, but this does not mean this folly has not been highly seductive.

Unfortunately, bad things seduce.

The Moderns, if anyone has any doubt, are to blame. We mean those men born in the latter part of the 19th century—Pound, Eliot, and William Carlos Williams.

Who has “thought” in white spaces on the page: how “oft” has that been thought before?  If you take this question too seriously, be careful; you might have the Modernist virus—which holds the utterly baffling “new” to be more important than common sense.

Pound’s Imagism, which led to his friend, Williams’ “no ideas but in things” further points to the insanity at issue; what sort of “thought” runs about in and between “things?” Isn’t it people (like Pope) who think?

If by “things,” the Modernists meant a sort of no-nonsense materialism (da Vinci on perspective or Poe on verse) than surely they would have said so (if they could actually bring themselves to do such a thing) but they didn’t; they really did mean things: a poem that reverently mentions a wheel barrow. This is really what it was all about. Yes, it really was crazy. A Duchamp conceptualist art joke. Ha ha.

T.S. Eliot represented the “serious/educated” fake side of Modernism, the counter-weight of gravitas in the Modernist scam.

Sexless, morbid Eliot—who hated Shelley—was like the sexless Ruskin and his “pre-Raphaelite” movement—eclectically raising certain art moments far above others: champion the Middle Ages at the expense of Raphael and the Renaissance: Ruskin—who famously and publicly attacked the great American poet, Whistler.

Eliot, when he was not whimpering about the end of his beloved British Empire in “The Waste Land,” theorized that Milton and the Romantics were saddled with a “dissociation of sensibility,” unlike the “Metaphysical poets.” It was actually taken seriously in some circles that Byron, Shelley, and Keats lacked fusion of thought and feeling, while Donne did not. Taking nonsense like this seriously was just what the Modernists did. Eliot attacked “Hamlet” and the work of Poe, for good measure. Modernism had to kill certain things before it, so it, itself, could be taken seriously. This is what it means to be “new” and “modern,” and Anglo-American, and teach in college.

The New Critics, the American ‘T.S. Eliot’ wing of Modernism, with their stern, tweedy advice that a poem was not something which could be “paraphrased,” was another weapon against “what oft was thought.”

Imagine the horror. Thousands and thousands of poets writing poems that cannot be paraphrased.

What could be paraphrased was too close to Pope’s “thought,” and the whole era of Pope and his Romantic Poet admirers had to be done away with: John Crowe Ransom (b. 1888) advised that we can’t write like Byron anymore, and the influential New Critic textbook, “Understanding Poetry,” held up as models little poems by Williams and Pound (on “things” and nothing else) and featured an attack by the Anglo-American Aldous Huxley against America’s Shakespeare, Edgar Poe.

Not only does casting aside “what has oft been thought,” cripple accessibility and thought, it also damages expression—since it leaves the poet nothing to express, a problem solved by Ashbery (given the Yale Younger by Auden, an Anglo-American friend of Eliot’s).  Ashbery—praised by the Poe-hating Harold Bloom and other academics—and his brand of refrigerator magnet poetry, is the natural result of the whole process, the decline which started when Modernism kidnapped the arts in the early 20th century—a decline from common sense to mystical snobbery.

Pope’s point: Expression should be new, not thought. This is poetry: new expression, not new thought.

The modern poet has been seduced by the idea that “If I don’t come up with new thoughts, I must be stupid!!”

But this idea is stupid.

Because here’s the secret: it really has all been thought before, and the most interesting thought is what has been running through the thoughts of everyone for centuries: you, as one poet, can’t compete with that. So don’t even try.

Don’t wreck yourself on expression trying to come up with original thoughts.

Original thoughts, which are truly that, are actual ideas which no one has ever entertained before. If one should be so fortunate to come up with one of these—if one is supremely lucky and fated to win the ‘idea lottery,’ why would one ever think that a ‘winning ticket’ like this should be inserted into a poem?  (Those things nobody reads anymore.)

Of course the reply might be: but according to you, Pope did, and you are spending this essay of yours defending Pope.

But Pope belongs to history, and here is where the picture of our essay gains its third dimension. We have spoken of 1) thought, 2) its expression—and the third, which is: ‘what has gone before,’ Pope’s “what oft was thought.”

We must assume that Pope’s advice—his thought—was “thought before”—Pope’s very idea, expressed in 1712, that what poetry really is, is whatever has been previously thought but now expressed in such a way that—what?

Had been thought before, but Pope crystallized it with his expression.

The message is this. Be humble, as the speaker for your tribe: take their thoughts and express them so that the thought is transmitted in the most efficient manner possible. Here is the essence of invention and beauty, for beauty, by definition, is that which expresses what it is immediately, and invention, in all cases, is nothing but that which takes our wants and brings them to us in less time. Beauty and invention do not create the wants, they serve them. Likewise, the poet does not create thoughts, but merely serves them.

A poem, as directly opposed to what the New Critics said, is not only that which can be paraphrased, but that which travels in that direction to an extreme degree.

Pope was—is—a crucial historical marker, and his “Essay” could not help but influence poetry that came after—not in the fake way that Modernism tried to usher in change and influence, with its influence of the thoughtless new for its own sake, sans want and sans beauty—for Pope had expressed a thought in such a way that gave that thought new currency, new force, new appreciation, for the sake of generations coming after, who need to understand anew the delicate ideas that fade away in utilitarian light.

There is a war, as Plato said, between philosophy and poetry, what is matter-of-factly good for the state and what is ecstatically good for the individual—“clean your room” (public projects) on one hand, and “what are you doing in your room?” (private desires) on the other—and this conflict is timeless, and its resolution is the secret of all human activity that can be called policy or art.

Pope’s admonition for poetry: “what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed,” is precisely a blockbuster quotation because of its efficiency in resolving the philosophy/poetry conflict for the good of humankind; poetry can err in one of two basic ways: it can be too didactic in a public-minded manner, or too creepily and anti-socially private (obscure). Poetry, because of what it is, must err in one direction or the other, always attempting and failing at a happy medium; Pope erred, as a poet, towards the didactic, and Poe and the Romantics were a correction in the other direction. Yet the greatness of Pope’s formula remains—a Platonic ideal, feeding with its ideality poets of all kinds, as they move with their poetry towards public/private gratification.

Modernism’s “progress” is merely a Shadow Movement, moving in a faulty direction, downwards, backwards, a mere reaction to the True Progress of Great Poetry—which expresses beautifully what we all in our hearts know.

J. ALFRED PRUFROCK GRADES PAPERS

Do I dare to give an “F”
To my student, Amber Luck,
Who does not give a fuck?
I’m always out of breath
When I lecture them on death,
And my eyes trail the floor
Discussing poems of amor.
Do I suggest an “Incomplete?”
Shall we privately meet
To correct the wrongs
She imposed on Song of Songs?
Do I consult the dean?
All four of them, and all green?
Who gives a fuck
About Amber Luck
Who cannot write?
And yet—when I lie in bed at night,
Letting poems run through my head
Amber is the name, instead.

Tomorrow I teach World War One,
And all the slaughtering that was done,
And how it afflicted the minds
Of brilliant poets like me,
Who pull down the blinds
And weep alone in the nursery.
The war inspired poets to write “fuck,”
And I will make it clear to Amber Luck
That her attitude belongs to history.
I don’t see her as a mystery.
I only see her as a student in my class,
Another chair and another ass,
As the dean of recruitment and enrollment says.

MARCH MADNESS FIRST ROUND—PLENTY OF UPSETS!

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The biggest upset?

Bracket Two: Elinor Wylie (b 1885) 16th seed, knocks off number one seed Shakespeare! “Let Me Not Admit Impediments…” fell to “I was being human, born alone; I am, being a woman, hard beset. I live by squeezing from a stone The little nourishment I get.” Good for you, Elinor. Women everywhere are now wearing Wylie T-shirts.

Another shocker in Bracket Four thrilled poetry fans: No. 1 Seed Homer (“Sing in me Muse”) was edged out by John Crowe Ransom’s “Practice your beauty, blue girls, before it fail. And I will cry with my loud lips and publish Beauty which all our power will never establish, it is so frail.”

Lines of a highly developed music are the successful ones so far.

Translations are at a disadvantage, generally. Michelangelo, however, advanced past Blake in another upset in Bracket One. Michelangelo is ignored as a poet, perhaps, simply because he was such a great artist.

Michael S. Harper pulled off the only upset in Bracket Three, where every higher seed advanced except Wilfred Owen, who lost to Harper’s

“Those four black girls blown up in that Alabama church remind me of five hundred middle passage blacks, in a net, under water in Charleston harbor so redcoats wouldn’t find them. Can’t find what you can’t see can you?”

A traditional sort of lyric beauty doesn’t always win.

But icons of yore did tend to prevail.

Milton, with his solemn music, for instance:

“The world was all before them, where to choose their Place of rest, and Providence their guide: They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow Through Eden took their solitary way.”

Did have trouble beating this by Patricia Lockwood:

“The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend. The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee. Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke.”

The Lockwood had a certain tragedy, strangeness, focus, and interest.

This by Byron, however:

“Though the night was made for loving, And the day returns too soon, Yet we’ll go no more a roving By the light of the moon.”

Had no trouble dispatching the following by Graham, which feels flat by comparison:

“On my way to bringing you the leotard you forgot to include in your overnight bag, the snow started coming down harder. I watched each gathering of leafy flakes melt round my footfall. I looked up into it—late afternoon but bright. Nothing true or false in itself.”

We will not reveal the precise score of the game, as we do not wish to embarrass Ms. Graham.

Joining Wylie in another upset victory for women, Gluck, 14th seeded in the Fourth Bracket, outlasted Pound.

Plath and Sexton did not advance, however, as Wordsworth’s “No motion has she now” proved too much for Plath’s “a man in black with a Meinkampf look” and Sexton’s “her kind” lost in what must be considered an upset to Ben Mazer’s “Harpo was also, know this, Paul Revere…”

The pure audaciousness and oddness of Mazer’s humor proved unique, and too much for Sexton to handle.

There is a certain lyric majesty and poignancy which sometimes can appear to take itself a little too seriously in a reader’s mind when it comes up against a certain clever type of opponent.

The momentary matchup means a great deal in terms of critical judgement.

And thus the thrill of Poetry March Madness.

Here are the 32 survivors after the first round of play:

Bracket One:

Marlowe (def. Auden), Michelangelo (def. Blake), Dowson (def. Von Duyn), Eliot (def. Swenson), Wordsworth (def. Plath), Merwin (def. Emerson), Arnold (def. Dunbar), Teasdale (def. Dickinson)

Bracket Two:

Wylie (def. Shakespeare), Coleridge (def. Stevens), Frost (def. Barrett), Keats (def. Raleigh), Poe (def. Whitman), Khayyam (def. Swinburne), Marvell (def. Seeger), Tennyson (def. Gray)

Bracket Three:

Milton (def. Lockwood), Byron (def. Graham), Shelley (def. Carson), Harper (def. Owen), Ashbery (def. Millay), Sassoon (def. Larkin), Parker (def. Rich), Bernstein (def. Reznikoff)

Bracket Four:

Ransom (def. Homer), Dante (def. Donne), Gluck (def. Pound), Chin (def. Longfellow), Mazer (def. Sexton), Pope (def. Pushkin), Rilke (def. Carroll), Williams (def. Ginsberg)

Congratulations to the winners!

 

 

 

SCARRIET 2015 MARCH MADNESS—THE GREATEST LINES IN POETRY COMPETE

BRACKET ONE

1. Come live with me, and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove That hills and valleys, dales and field, And all the craggy mountains yield. (Marlowe)

2. Every Night and every Morn Some to Misery are born. Every Morn and every Night Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night.  (Blake)

3. Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine; And I was desolate and sick of an old passion, Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head: I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. (Dowson)

4. April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. (Eliot)

5. No motion has she now, no force; She neither hears nor sees; Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course, With rocks, and stones and trees. (Wordsworth)

6. If the red slayer think he slays, Or if the slain think he is slain, They know not well the subtle ways I keep, and pass, and turn again. (Emerson)

7. The sea is calm tonight, 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. (Arnold)

8. When I am dead and over me bright April Shakes out her rain-drenched hair, Though you should lean above me broken-hearted, I shall not care. (Teasdale)

9. The soul selects her own society, Then shuts the door; On her divine majority Obtrude no more. (Dickinson)

10. We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile. (Dunbar)

11. This is the waking landscape Dream after dream walking away through it Invisible invisible invisible (Merwin)

12. I made a model of you, A man in black with a Meinkampf look And a love of the rack and the screw, And I said I do, I do. (Plath)

13. It is easy to be young. (Everybody is, at first.) It is not easy to be old. It takes time. Youth is given; age is achieved. (May Swenson)

14. There is no disorder but the heart’s. But if love goes leaking outward, if shrubs take up its monstrous stalking, all greenery is spurred, the snapping lips are overgrown, and over oaks red hearts hang like the sun. (Mona Von Duyn)

15. Long life our two resemblances devise, And for a thousand years when we have gone Posterity will find my woe, your beauty Matched, and know my loving you was wise. (Michelangelo)

16. Caesar’s double-bed is warm As an unimportant clerk Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK On a pink official form. (Auden)

BRACKET TWO

1. Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds Or bends with the remover to remove. (Shakespeare)

2. 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)

3. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. (Barrett)

4. Say to the Court, it glows And shines like rotten wood; Say to the Church, it shows What’s good, and doth no good: If Church and Court reply, Then give them both the lie. (Raleigh)

5. Helen, thy beauty is to me Like those Nicaean barks of yore, That gently o’er a perfumed sea, The weary, wayworn wanderer bore To his own native shore. (Poe)

6. Some for the Glories of This World; and some Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come; Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go, Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum! (Omar Khayyam)

7. Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other worlds and other seas; Annihilating all that’s made To a green thought in a green shade. (Marvell)

8. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea, The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me. (Gray)

9. 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 blowing! Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying, Blow bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying. (Tennyson)

10. I have a rendezvous with Death, At some disputed barricade, When Spring comes back with rustling shade And apple-blossoms fill the air. (Seeger)

11. I have put my days and dreams out of mind, Days that are over, dreams that are done. Though we seek life through, we shall surely find There is none of them clear to us now, not one. (Swinburne)

12. When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d, And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night, I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring. (Whitman)

13. O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, Alone and palely loitering? The sedge has withered from the lake, And no birds sing. (Keats)

14. Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village, though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow. (Frost)

15. If her horny feet protrude, they come To show how cold she is, and dumb. Let the lamp affix its beam. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. (Stevens)

16. I was, being human, born alone; I am, being a woman, hard beset; I live by squeezing from a stone The little nourishment I get. (Wylie)

BRACKET THREE

1. The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and Providence their guide: They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow Through Eden took their solitary way. (Milton)

2. Though the night was made for loving, And the day returns too soon, Yet we’ll go no more a roving By the light of the moon. (Byron)

3. I arise from dreams of thee In the first sweet sleep of night, When the winds are breathing low, And the stars are shining bright. (Shelley)

4. What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns. Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons. (Owen)

5. We have heard the music, tasted the drinks, and looked at colored houses. What more is there to do, except to stay? And that we cannot do. And as a last breeze freshens the top of the weathered old tower, I turn my gaze Back to the instruction manual which has made me dream of Guadalajara. (Ashbery)

6. Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives. Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives. (Sassoon)

7. Why is it no one ever sent me yet One perfect limousine, do you suppose? Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get One perfect rose. (Parker)

8. The shopgirls leave their work quietly. Machines are still, tables and chairs darken. The silent rounds of mice and roaches begin. (Reznikoff)

9. It’s not my business to describe anything. The only report is the discharge of words called to account for their slurs. A seance of sorts—or transport into that nether that refuses measure. (Bernstein)

10. I came to explore the wreck. The words are purposes. The words are maps. I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail. I stroke the beam of my lamp slowly along the flank of something more permanent than fish or weed. (Rich)

11. When I see a couple of kids And guess he’s fucking her and she’s Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm, I know this is paradise Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives (Larkin)

12. I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind: Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned with lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned. (Millay)

13. Those four black girls blown up in that Alabama church remind me of five hundred middle passage blacks in a net, under water in Charlestown harbor so redcoats wouldn’t find them. Can’t find what you can’t see can you? (Harper)

14. It’s good to be neuter. I want to have meaningless legs. There are things unbearable. One can evade them a long time. Then you die. (Carson).

15. On my way to bringing you the leotard you forgot to include in your overnight bag, the snow started coming down harder. I watched each gathering of leafy flakes melt round my footfall. I looked up into it—late afternoon but bright. Nothing true or false in itself. (Graham)

16. The rape joke is that you were 19 years old. The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend. The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee. Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. (Lockwood)

BRACKET FOUR

1. Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy. (Homer)

2. And following its path, we took no care To rest, but climbed, he first, then I—so far, through a round aperture I saw appear Some of the beautiful things that heaven bears, Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars. (Dante)

3. With usura, sin against nature, is thy bread ever more of stale rags is thy bread dry as paper, with no mountain wheat, no strong flour with usura the line grows thick with usura is no clear demarcation and no man can find site for his dwelling. Stonecutter is kept from his stone weaver is kept from his loom WITH USURA (Pound)

4. I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin. Oh, how I love the resoluteness of that first person singular followed by that stalwart indicative of “be,” without the uncertain i-n-g of “becoming.” Of course, the name had been changed somewhere between Angel Island and the sea. (Chin)

5.  Dreaming evil, I have done my hitch over the plain houses, light by light: lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind. A woman like that is not a woman, quite. I have been her kind. (Sexton)

6. I loved you; and the hopelessness I knew, The jealousy, the shyness—though in vain—Made up a love so tender and so true As God may grant you to be loved again. (Pushkin)

7. We cannot know his legendary head And yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside, like a lamp, in which his gaze is turned down low, burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life. (Rilke)

8. So much depends on the red wheel barrow glazed with rain water besides the white chickens. (Williams)

9. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night. (Ginsberg)

10. The Walrus and the Carpenter Walked on a mile or so, And then they rested on a rock Conveniently low: And all the little Oysters stood And waited in a row. (Carroll)

11. What dire offense from amorous causes springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things; Slight is the subject, but not so the praise, If she inspire, and he approve my lays. (Pope)

12. Harpo was also, know this, Paul Revere. And Frankenstein, and Dracula, and Jane. Or would you say that I have gone insane? What would you do, then, to even the score? (Mazer)

13. Come, read to me a poem, Some simple and heartfelt lay, That shall soothe this restless feeling, And banish the thoughts of day. (Longfellow)

14. So Penelope took the hand of Odysseus, not to hold him back but to impress this peace on his memory: from this point on, the silence through which you move is my voice pursuing you. (Gluck)

15. Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so: From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow. (Donne)

16. I lost two cities, lovely ones. And vaster, Some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster. The art of losing isn’t hard to master. (Bishop)

17. Practice your beauty, blue girls, before it fail; And I will cry with my loud lips and publish Beauty which all our power will never establish, It is so frail. (Ransom)

SCARRIET ROCKED 2014!

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Thomas Brady: the simpleton who writes it all

In the 365 days of 2014, Scarriet brought you half that many original items: poems of lyric poignancy, articles on the popular culture, essays of Literary Criticism, the occasional humor piece, and the Literary Philosophy March Madness Tournament—in which Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Freud, Baudelaire, Woolf, De Beauvoir, Marx, Maimonides, Wilde, Poe, Emerson, Wordsworth, Pope, Wollstonecraft, Butler, Rich, Frye, Mallarme, Adorno, and 44 others sought immortality against one another in an orgy of wit and game.

Without further ado, here (with publication dates) are the most notable of the past year:

1. The One Hundred Greatest Hippie Songs 2/13.  This wins based on numbers. Over 15,000 views for this post alone in 2014, and it is averaging 120 views per day for the last 3 months, with views increasing, nearly a year after its publication. It’s always nice when an article has legs like this. We’re not sure what ‘search engine magic’ has made 100 Greatest Hippie Songs so popular. Prophetically, in the piece, we wrote, “All American music is hippie music.”

2. This Novel Has More Information Than You Need 9/18.  An essay provocative and charming at once.

3. No Boobs! 11/27. Hilarious (part two) satiric commentary on the December issue of Vanity Fair

4. The Problem With Rhetoric 5/1. Pushing the intellectual envelope is perhaps what we do best. In this essay we argue that reason does not exist.

5. Integration of Poetry and Life 11/3.  Another nice essay of essential Scarrietesque provocation smoothly rendered.

6. Marjorie Perloff, Adam Kirsch & Philip Nikolayev at the Grolier 9/15. Wearing a journalist’s hat, we meet Perloff, debate her, win her over, and demolish Concrete Poetry for our readers, as well.

7. Poe and the Big Bang: “The Body and the Soul Walk Hand in Hand” 3/10. Poe does most of the lifting here; a crucial addition to Scarriet’s campaign to lift the slander-fog hiding the world’s greatest mind.

8. Badass, Funny, But Alas Not Critic-Proof 6/27.  Tough love for the poet/professor David Kirby. And for those who fret Scarriet is too rancorous, relax; ‘The Kirb’ is still a FB friend. We don’t flatter—that’s the secret.

9. Is Gay Smarter Than Straight? 2/3. Only Scarriet would dare to ask—and really answer this question.

10. Rape Joke II 6/14.  We delivered a true poem; it offended one of our loyal readers for not being feminist enough; even though our poem was true, it was somehow supposed as an insult against Lockwood. We stand by our poem which is true, if imitative. We value originality, but since when was art that imitates a bad thing? We also admit we wrote the poem to become well-known. We played it up on twitter. So what? Scarriet believes everyone deserves to be famous.

11. Poe v. Wordsworth 8/18. March Madness contests are always excuses for brilliant essays. We made use of a wonderful book: Michael Kubovy’s The Psychology of Perspective in Renaissance Art.

12. “I Still Do” 10/13 Nice poem.

13. Chin & Weaver at the Grolier 7/21. Meeting up with California-based Marilyn Chin at a reading becomes an excuse to write an essay on the laws of poetic fame.

14. Painters & Artists Need to Shut Up 6/23.  Usually we pick on the poets.

15. Rage In America 7/7.  A political corrective to Jim Sleeper’s Fourth of July essay.

16. Poetry Hot 100 10/8.  Scarriet releases these now-famous lists several times a year. Valerie Macon topped this one.

17. What Does The History of Poetry Look Like 12/2. We often bash T.S. Eliot and the Modernists; here we lay down a genuinely insightful appreciation of Eliot’s Tradition.

18. Valerie Macon! 10/6. The credentialing complex destroyed Macon. We did a radical thing. We looked at her poetry, after she graciously sent samples.  Memo to the arrogant: her poetry is good.

19. 100 Greatest Folk Songs 11/17.  Not just a list: an assessment aimed at revival. Don’t just reflect the world. Change it.

20. The Avant-Garde Is Looking For A New (Black) Boyfriend 11/8.  A popular zeitgeist post inspired by Cathy Hong, which got po-biz stirred up for a few days.

21. Religion Is More Scientific Than Science 12/15.  An interesting discussion of free-will. Yes, we take comments.

22. Poetry, Meta-Modernism, & Leonardo Da Vinci 1/6.  Da Vinci compares poetry and painting in fascinating ways.

23. De Beauvoir v. Rich 4/22.  Scarriet’s March Madness contest yields essay on Behaviorism and Feminism.

24. Sex, Sex, Sex! 10/19. An interesting essay (obviously) in typical Scarriet (Are you serious?? We are.) mode.

25. Philip Nikolayev 11/15.  An excuse to try out ideas while praising a poet and friend.

26. “Poetry Without Beauty Is Vanity” 10/17.  A lyric poem which ‘gets’ rap.

27. Harold Bloom v. Edmund Wilson 8/13. Wilson was a real force in March Madness and so is this essay.

28. Fame: Is It Really Hollow? 7/2.  An exciting essay using Scarriet standbys The Beatles and Poe.

29. 100 Greatest Rock Songs Of All Time 5/9. The definitive list. Another constantly visited post.

30. 100 Essential Books of Poetry 5/21. People love lists. We get it now.

31. “Not Everyone Is Beautiful” 6/5.  A lovely little poem.

32. All Fiction Is Non-Fiction 5/19.  Scarriet makes the counter-intuitive simple.

33. The Good Economy 12/30.  We nail a simple but brain-teasing truth which rules us all.

34. Fag Hags, Cock Teases, and Richard Wagner 11/11. A bitter essay on a complex topic.

35. 100 Greatest Jazz Vocal Standards 10/14. And the Scarriet hits just keep on coming.

36. Hey Lao Tzu 10/27.  Scarriet takes down the wisest of the wise.

37. Ben Mazer At The Grolier 10/20.  The Neo-Romantic genius gets the Scarriet treatment.

38. “A Holiday Poem” 12/14.  An offensive poem written from a persona; it’s not our opinion.

39. Misanthrope’s Delight 6/11. An amusing list which makes light of misanthropy.

40. “What Could Be More Wrong Than A Poem Stolen From A Song?” A lyric gem.

And that’s our Scarriet top 40 for 2014!!

Be sure to read these if you missed them!

Scarriet thanks all our readers!

And especially the great comments! You know who you are! Always welcome and encouraged!

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

WHAT DOES THE HISTORY OF POETRY LOOK LIKE?

 

Thomas Eliot set the old poetry world in order, by george, he did!

T.S. Eliot was correct to remind us that the Tradition—Works in Time that We Read Now—evolves constantly as a whole by every present addition, is a unique living creature, and is not simply a chronological collection, to be ‘got at’ in a haphazard (even if the ‘getting’ is rigorously chronological) manner; Eliot’s formula only works if we see the Tradition as a whole—not that we can really see it ‘all at once,’ because, of course, it is too big for that—which we grasp in its essence (characterized by its best examples going back to its hazy but finite beginning) as that which simultaneously enriches our present efforts as poets and is enriched by our present efforts. As Eliot points out—but it goes without saying—this is a major task: first, to read and be acquainted with the Tradition, and then to be good enough to effectively add to it. And nothing less than this is required if we take ourselves seriously as poets.

Two temptations face those who would somehow fight free of the Tradition.

It is tempting to say, here’s me, the poet, and here’s the world, and that’s enough; and the Tradition—which is over here, well, we can take it and toss it in the sea. Eliot, after all, was a conservative wretch, and making the Tradition, with all its weighty past, essential, was just his way of preventing change. We can toss the Tradition in the sea, but it will just emerge again; the Tradition is the Sea; the Tradition includes the very desire to erase itself, all for the sake of change; the temptation to destroy Tradition lives and breathes in the Tradition itself; as Eliot so pointedly observed, the past is what we are; Eliot’s is not a piece of advice—it is the primary literary fact. We are not standing on the shoulders of giants; we are the shoulders, and thus, the giants.

Another temptation is to treat more recent works in the Tradition as more essential, because they are closer to us in time. This is to fall into the chronological error: more recent works are assumed—within Eliot’s very definition—to be participating in Eliot’s formula: adding and altering the past with their novelty; but new works don’t succeed on their own; they only succeed in altering the Tradition—chronology does not exist in some worldly sense; we might read a 16th century work and the Whole Tradition grows a new limb for us; to bite off what is nearest to us in time is merely the world’s chronology, not the Tradition’s, nor ours. We are learning the Tradition, not where it “fits” in the world; to fit the Tradition “into” the world, even as we regard it with scholarly and historical respect, is to drift dangerously into the error of the First Temptation, above. The Tradition is not what we know; it is how we know, and we learn it to know both it and ourselves simultaneously—once we try and observe it objectively from afar, we are lost in that profound error of the egotistical scholar and the manic, irresponsible poet, publishing in a newspaper: the news, not poetry.

The progress of the Tradition and Us in Time is not a smooth or simple one. If this were so, it would be a lot harder to grasp. It is only possible to grasp the Tradition at all, precisely because it includes those authors who are of such primary importance that they obliterate, eclipse, swallow, subsume, assimilate, join, conquer, raze, and eat thousands of lesser scribblers, including the most advanced minds of our time: Shakespeare, for instance; once your professor has finished showing you what he or she knows of Shakespeare, your professor is eaten by Shakespeare, and Shakespeare now belongs to you, and Shakespeare of the Tradition now belongs, in a living, and ever changing sense, to you. The Tradition belongs to Shakespeare, not the other way around.

The Program Era is naturally a bit wary of the Tradition, for the Creative Writing Industry is driven by a more immediate and practical concern—training the student, for a price, to be a writer—and it naturally seeks a shortcut past the giant, devouring Tradition—which the Creative Writing student—the old “English Major,”—has neither the time, nor the inclination, to read.

There is also the matter of present politics—politics as it exists and is practiced in the present (“Current Events”)—not literally ‘present politics,’ the practice of reading, as much as possible, present works, regarding their recent existence as more important because more recent—which we already covered in the Second temptation, above, but those recent politics that puff themselves up with great importance, which of course has the advantage of appealing to contemporaneous minds embroiled in all sorts of specific moral issues of the day; but the danger is: in as much as these issues come to the foreground, poetry fades into the background, where it apparently still exists for those whose moral indignation is fed by an outside source without poetic qualities. The dynamic is a slippery and subtle one, but is sufficiently lawful to kill poetry completely. A moral skin, a moral appearance, hides the emptiness.

Poetry does not live in the abstract; it lives in poetry: “Ode On A Grecian Urn.”

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
       Of deities or mortals, or of both,
               In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
       What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
               What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
         Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
         For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
         For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
                For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
         That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
                A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
         To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
         And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
         Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
                Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
                Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
         When old age shall this generation waste,
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
         “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Poetry is not abstract. Even “the abstract” is not abstract. The abstract, by definition, is the boiled down essence of the forms, motions, shapes, speeds, accelerations, masses and vectors of the universe.

Useful abstraction aids the true understanding, which like Eliot’s Tradition, does not advance by accumulation of facts—which can make us dumber, loading us down with the mere puzzling plurality of the useless (the dull, wooly idiocy of the modernist gizmo school)—but rather by the shedding of facts, and so by careful elimination, the necessary necessarily enlightens the necessary.

The larger world, perceived by the mature person, has a use attached to every fact, and uses further attached to uses, in various and hierarchical ways. The best is not shied away from; transcendent inventions and breakthroughs are eagerly seized upon; poems are not treated as the learned expression of a scientist, nor as a scientific attempt at abstraction (the great error of Modernism) but rather as a great counter-expression to science and learning: otherwise the poem would drive the Tradition and not be driven by it; the poem and Tradition would not be distinct, and they must be, for either to properly exist; we study the Tradition, but not the poem—whose property is beauty, which can never be ‘got at’ by study. To miss this distinction is to miss everything.

We look at Keats’ Ode through the lens of the Tradition, and this is how we understand its greatness.

The person who does not find exquisite pleasure in reading Keats’ Ode certainly lacks those qualities that we look for not only in a poet, but in a human being; but this is not the same thing as reading the Ode through the lens of the Tradition, which we perform only in the aftermath of its beauty devouring us. The poets who attempt to reverse this process, by writing a Tradition-worthy poem before they experience the pleasure necessary to write a pleasurable poem, are barred from the glory which we find in Keats’ Ode.

The phrase “what maidens loth?” in the context of Keats’ Ode—the urn stands for the world in Keats’ poem, laid out before us, in mystery, in beautiful miniature (find another poem which replicates all existence as well)—contains a great deal: maidens pursued, maidens who resist this pursuit, the question, “what maidens?” as the misty yet clear world of the urn is gazed at, manifests greatness by saying a lot with a little.

The objective excellence belongs to the poem of the Tradition, but not to the poem—even though we feel what is objectively excellent as we experience the poem’s beauty.

Keats, feeling pure sentimental love (which the Moderns in their sophistication revile and ridicule and curse) dares to confront a great black hole of existence: maidens and the essence of maidenhood—which flashes at us quickly in the amoral, rolling-eye ecstasy of Keats’ ur-landscape, which offers sacrifice, rape, and love, and the stopping of a kiss (desire) which therefore preserves the lover’s beauty—the stoppage, ironically, driving the urn’s immortal journey through time; enabling the urn (and the poem!) to outlive us and our apparently more active life:—it is we who are stopped, while the poem/urn is that which, in an ironic reversal, moves, just as the delirious, metrical wonder that is Keats’ poem pitches forward with its music, and, in loving it, we move backward to read it again, our admiration turning the poem into an object of admiration that nonetheless constantly moves, imitating the ever-still, ever-moving universe, both beautiful/tragic in its stillness and beautiful/tragic in its moving. Did Keats consider all this before he wrote his poem? Obviously not; but surely the poet in him quickly fixed on the urn-idea for a poem; genius grasping and teasing out the many in an essential thing.

The simpleton, who sits passively in front of a film while it unpacks its frozen pictures to describe its story, finds it impossible to conceive how a poem merely sitting on a page could produce more insight and pleasure than a movie (with popcorn). Poor simpleton! The simpleton belongs to the world, not to the world and God. If we cannot appreciate a Keats poem and the Tradition, we are just like that simpleton, who may indeed feel as much pleasure as us, and in that sense, be as worthy. We cannot judge a simpleton or a poem; we bring about judgment (as we are doing here) only as we think with the self-consciousness of the Tradition.

 

THE AVANT-GARDE IS LOOKING FOR A NEW (BLACK) BOYFRIEND

Cathy Park Hong: “Fuck the avant-garde.”  But does she really mean it?

For its whole existence, Scarriet has hammered away at Modernism—and its Avant-garde identity—as nothing but a meaningless, one-dimensional joke (the found poem, basically) tossed at the public by reactionary, rich, white guys in order to make it ‘cool’ to stifle truly creative efforts accessible to the public at large.

The controversy surrounding Scarriet’s claim lies in this one simple fact: the Avant-garde (Ron Silliman, et al) identifies itself as politically Left.

In Leftist circles of the Avant-garde, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot are championed for their poetry, not their politics.

We might call this Pound/Eliot phenomenon the Art-Split: Bad Poet/Good Poetry.

By accepting this “Split,” the reactionary, white, male, Avant-garde is given license to dress in Left-wing clothing.

You have to believe, of course, that Pound’s poetry is important and good, and that Hugh ” The Pound Era” Kenner’s trashing of Edna Millay, for instance, was a good and noble effort to debunk old-fashioned “quietist” poetry, and not chauvinist, jealous bullying.

Leftist Ron Silliman has no taste for Edna Millay, and the “Split” allows this to appear perfectly normal.

The embarrassing and obvious truth: 1. accessibility to the public at large is democratic, 2. befuddling the masses is reactionary, gets a yawn, too—because of the “Split.”

The reason the “Split” works as an excuse is that it appeals to both Left and Right intellectuals: the greatest ‘am I an intellectual?’ test is if one is able to grasp (and embrace) the idea that a person can be bad but still write good poetry.

We do not believe this is true; we believe the opposite: one cannot be a bad person and write good poetry. If the poet is a truly bad person, the “good” poetry was most likely stolen, or written before the soul of the poet became  rotten.

And this is why Modernists hate the Romantics—because the Romantics were poetic individuals, while the Modernists (because of skyscrapers and aeroplanes and women getting the vote and other lame excuses) were not.

The “Split,” the source of so much modernist mischief, is a red herring.  The almighty “Split” even makes one think Ezra Pound must be a good poet: one must believe this is so to have intellectual, avant-garde creds—simply for the reason that for so long now, the “Split” has ruled over Letters.  The wretched, sophistical, school-boy “And then went down to the ship,/ Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and/ we set up mast and sail on that swart ship/” is somehow good because Pound is badAnd because it is wretched, it is avant-garde, and because it is avant-garde, it is wretched, and therefore better than, “What lips my lips have kissed and where and why.”  This is how those who think themselves very good judges of poetry convince themselves that Ezra Pound is a great poet.  Yes, it is truly frightening.

Despite the “Split,” rumblings about the reactionary nature of the Avant-garde were bound to start, as Scarriet does influence the culture it observes.

Witness the explosion of Left indignation in the latest Lana Turner Journal as the “Split”-fooled Left vaguely catches on.

We have Kent Johnson, an imaginative and brilliant man, in “No Avant-Garde: Notes Toward A Left  Front of the Arts,” reduced to the most pitiful, quixotic Old Leftism it is possible to imagine. In his essay, he imagines splendidly well, and he knows a great deal, but he’s very bitter, obviously, as the ugly truth—the Avant-garde is, and has always been, reactionary—sinks in.

We have Joshua Clover, in “The Genealogical Avant-Garde,” complaining in the same vein.

The current avant-gardes in contemporary Anglophone poetry make their claims largely by reference to previous avant-gardes.

The genealogical avant-garde is defined by a single contradiction. It has no choice but to affirm the very cultural continuity which it must also claim to oppose.

The “Split” is always rationalized.

The “Split” in this case, however, is not Bad Poet/Good Poetry, and in some ways it is far less problematic.

The “Split” now imploding due to common sense is: Bad Mainstream/Good Avant-garde.

The Avant-garde, as the progressive intellectuals finally understand it, is the Mainstream—and thus, bad.  Had they been able to see, 100 years ago, the nature of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, F. O. Matthiessen, and their New Critic allies, they would not have taken so long to understand the clever reactionary agenda.

But now they are finally getting it.

Cathy Park Hong (writing in Lana Turner no. 7) definitely wants a new boyfriend.  And it ‘aint Ron Silliman.

To encounter the history of avant-garde poetry is to encounter a racist tradition.

Poets of color have always been expected to sit quietly in the backbenches of both mainstream and avant-garde poetry. We’ve been trotted out in the most mindless forms of tokenism for anthologies and conferences, because to have all white faces would be downright embarrassing. For instance, Donald Allen’s classic 1959 and even updated 1982 anthology New American Poetry, which Marjorie Perloff has proclaimed “the anthology of avant-garde poetry,” includes a grand tally of one minority poet: Leroi Jones, aka Amiri Baraka. Tokenism at its most elegant.

Mainstream poetry is rather pernicious in awarding quietist minority poets who assuage quasi-white liberal guilt rather than challenge it. They prefer their poets to praise rather than excoriate, to write sanitized, easily understood personal lyrics on family and ancestry rather than make sweeping institutional critiques. But the avant-gardists prefer their poets of color to be quietest as well, paying attention to poems where race—through subject and form—is incidental, preferably invisible, or at the very least, buried. Even if racial identity recurs as a motif throughout the works of poets like John Yau, critics and curators of experimental poetry are quick to downplay it or ignore it altogether. I recall that in graduate school my peers would give me backhanded compliments by saying my poetry was of interest because it “wasn’t just about race.” Such an attitude is found in Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith’s anthology, “Against Expression,” when they included excerpts from M. NourbeSe Philip’s brilliant “Zong!,” which explores the late 18th century British court case where 150 slaves were thrown overboard so the slave ship’s captain could collect the insurance money. The book is a constraint-based tour-de-force that only uses words found in the original one-page legal document.  Here is how Dworkin and Goldsmith characterize Zong: “the ethical inadequacies of that legal document . . . do not prevent their détournement in the service of experimental writing.” God forbid that maudlin and heavy-handed subjects like slavery and mass slaughter overwhelm the form!

The avant-garde’s “delusion of whiteness” is the luxurious opinion that anyone can be “post-identity” and can casually slip in and out of identities like a video game avatar, when there are those who are consistently harassed, surveilled, profiled, or deported for whom they are.

Even today, avant-garde’s most vocal, self-aggrandizing stars continue to be white and even today these stars like Kenneth Goldsmith spout the expired snake oil that poetry should be “against expression” and “post-identity.”

From legendary haunts like Cabaret Voltaire to San Remo and Cedar Tavern, avant-garde schools have fetishized community to mythologize their own genesis. But when I hear certain poets extolling the values of their community today, my reaction is not so different from how I feel a self-conscious, prickling discomfort that there is a boundary drawn between us. Attend a reading at St. Marks Poetry Project or the launch of an online magazine in a Lower East Side gallery and notice that community is still a packed room of white hipsters.

Avant-garde poetry’s attitudes towards race have been no different than that of mainstream institutions.

The encounter with poetry needs to change constantly via the internet, via activism and performance, so that poetry can continue to be a site of agitation, where the audience is not a receptacle of conditioned responses but is unsettled and provoked into participatory response. But will these poets ever be accepted as the new avant-garde? The avant-garde has become petrified, enamored by its own past, and therefore forever insular and forever looking backwards. Fuck the avant-garde. We must hew our own path.

Yes, “fuck the avant-garde.”  But we might just add that it is the avant-garde that has always been the problem; in this case, the tail wags the dog.

The New Critics (ex-I’ll Take My Stand Old South reactionary agrarianists) got an “in” when they launched their textbook, Understanding Poetry in the late 30s—it praised Pound and attacked Poe.

Popular poets like Edgar Poe and Edna St. Vincent Millay were the Mainstream “good” ambushed by the clique of Eliot, Pound and the New Critics.

How blithely and unthinkingly Cathy Park Hong takes up the “quietist” definition of the avant-garde (and ostentatiously Left) Silliman.

Unfortunately, they will get fooled again.

100 ESSENTIAL BOOKS OF POETRY

 

EYE Don Share

Collecting is where material pride, wisdom and love uneasily sit, an endless pursuit which moves product, an endless boon to any enterprise.  To collect is to amass, to buy, to own, to bring into one’s circle the niceties of some industry for one’s own comfort and inspection. The collectable items should be unique, if not numerous, and if not unique, at least very rare.  Collecting is to break off pieces of some whole, but the item, when found, bought, discovered, possessed, is a shining whole to the collector, and compared to it, the universe is a sad jumble—such is the profundity of collecting.

Poetry anthologies spread wealth; poetry is centrifugal; it scatters itself outward freely.  Except where it overlaps with the ‘rare book collector,’ poetry, despite its fecundity, is not collectable; collecting is centripetal; it waits in vaults and rooms crowded with unique paintings, coins, and cars.  To know coins, one must darken them in one’s palm; to know poetry, one merely glimpses what every other person glimpses.

The following list is not a rare book list; increasingly, great old poetry, important translated poetry, and all sorts of rare poetry, simply lives on the internet.

This, in many ways, is a perfectly centrifugal list, readily available to whatever soul—no matter how mysterious, no matter how centripetal, no matter how hidden, no matter how curious—happens to want it.

Poetry is against collecting.  Poetry doesn’t  hoard; you can be deeply poetic for free.

These are books you could own, or read, or memorize, or teach, or learn, and probably already have.

Good translations are necessary, but impossible.  Old poems are necessary, but impossible.  Good, new poetry is necessary, but impossible.

The list below is mundane, but necessary.  This—mostly from the top of the list—is what you read if you want to know poetry.

It is everywhere, but it still must hit you.

 

1. SHAKESPEARE SONNETS, AUDEN INTRODUCTION  Modern poetry begins here. A definite sequence: 1-14 children as immortality, 15-28 poems as immortality, etc.

2. POE: POETRY, TALES, AND SELECTED ESSAYS (LIBRARY OF AMERICA) Iconic poems, tales of poetic quality, even criticism of poetic quality

3. VIKING BOOK OF POETRY OF THE ENGLISH SPEAKING WORLD, RICHARD ALDINGTON  H.D.’s husband, got Eliot out of the bank, solid anthology by this Brit wounded in WW I who knew all the Modernists and hated most of them (375 poets)

4. PLATO: THE COLLECTED DIALOGUES, BOLLINGEN SERIES, EDITH HAMILTON, ED  Poetry being born

5. THE ARDEN SHAKESPEARE, COMPLETE WORKS  With Shakespeare the best is just to read, and forget all the notes

6. THE DIVINE COMEDY, DANTE, JOHN D. SINCLAIR, TRANSLATOR (OXFORD U. PRESS)  Verse translation hopeless; take the prose Sinclair with Italian on the facing page

7. THE ILIAD OF HOMER TRANSLATED BY ALEXANDER POPE (PENGUIN)  The king of men his reverent priest defied/And for the king’s offense the people died

8. THE ODYSSEY OF HOMER TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH VERSE BY ALEXANDER POPE (MACMILLAN, 1911)  The man for wisdom’s various arts renown’d/Long exercised in woes, O Muse! resound

9. EDNA MILLAY COLLECTED, NORMA MILLAY (HARPER)  Tragically undervalued as Modernism came into vogue, Millay’s Collected is a must

10. PHILIP LARKIN THE COMPLETE POEMS, ARCHIE BURNETT  recently published master of the short lyric

11. LYRICAL BALLADS, WORDSWORTH, COLERIDGE  A shame Coleridge didn’t contribute more

12. WASTELAND AND OTHER POEMS, T.S. ELIOT  The one Modernist who could really write poetry (and prose).

13. LEAVES OF GRASS, WHITMAN (1855 EDITION) The first edition, before it got too long-winded

14. THE COMPLETE POEMS OF JOHN MILTON WRITTEN IN ENGLISH (HARVARD CLASSICS) You can’t go wrong with melodious Milton

15. UNDERSTANDING POETRY, BROOKS AND WARREN Textbooks are propaganda—this most used anthology in the 20th c. attacked Poe and elevated Pound/Williams

16. SELECTED POETRY & LETTERS, BYRON, EDWARD BOSTETTER, ED  Byron was very, very unhappy

17. POCKET BOOK OF MODERN VERSE, OSCAR WILLIAMS (1954)  Okay. Some of modern verse is good

18. A BOOK OF LUMINOUS THINGS, AN INTRODUCTORY ANTHOLOGY, CZESLAW MILOSZ  International poetry collections are good things

19. SELECTED POEMS AND TWO PLAYS, WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS, ROSENTHAL, ED  Yeats benefits from Selected as opposed to Collected

20. OVID, THE LOVE POEMS, A.D. MELVILLE, ED. And you can really learn something, lovers

21. THE BEST LOVED POEMS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, HAZEL FELLEMAN  Because these uncritical anthologies always have some gems

22. ROBERT BROWNING, THE POEMS, PETTIGREW, ED. 2 VOLS  Because it’s Robert Browning

23. A NEW ANTHOLOGY OF MODERN POETRY, SELDEN RODMAN (1938)   Great snapshot of poetry in the 1930s: lots of ballads of political anguish

24. 100 GREAT POEMS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, MARK STRAND, ED.  A very nice selection from a poet whose reputation is fading

25. POETRY OF WITNESS: THE TRADITION IN ENGLISH 1500-2001, CAROLYN FORCHE, DUNCAN WU, EDS   Poetry handles real horror

26. BEST AMERICAN POETRY 1988, LEHMAN, SERIES ED. ASHBERY, GUEST ED. The first volume in the series may be the best

27. ARIEL, SYLVIA PLATH  A whirlwind of rhyme and rage

28. PABLO NERUDA, TWENTY LOVE SONGS AND A SONG OF DESPAIR, DUAL-LANGUAGE EDITION (PENGUIN) Neruda may get you laid

29. GREAT POEMS BY AMERICAN WOMEN: AN ANTHOLOGY, SUSAN RATTINER (DOVER) Women once had a higher standing as poets

30. OXFORD BOOK OF LIGHT VERSE, W.H. AUDEN, EDITOR  Who said light verse was light?

31. PALGRAVE’S GOLDEN TREASURY, FRANCIS TURNER PALGRAVE (1861) Look out! Right-wing poetry!

32. LIBRARY OF WORLD POETRY, WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT Worth a peek

33. 100 POEMS FROM THE JAPANESE, KENNETH REXROTH  blossoms and other stuff

34. BLACK POETS OF THE UNITED STATES: FROM PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR TO LANGSTON HUGHES, JEAN WAGNER  Before rap

35. THE OXFORD BOOK OF NARRATIVE VERSE, PETER OPIE  A narrative poem does not exist?

36. A BOY’S WILL, ROBERT FROST  His first book, published in England while the 40 year old poet made contacts there

37. THE NEW AMERICAN POETRY 1945-1960, DONALD ALLEN   Dawn of the post-war avant-garde

38. BEST AMERICAN POETRY 1990, LEHMAN SERIES EDITOR, JORIE GRAHAM, GUEST EDITOR  Has that wonderful poem by Kinnell…

39. FIRST WORLD WAR POETRY, JON SILKIN, EDITOR  While being slaughtered, they wrote

40. SPANISH POETRY: A DUAL LANGUAGE ANTHOLOGY 16TH-20TH CENTURIES, ANGEL FLORES  Dual Languages are a must, really

41. THE HERITAGE OF RUSSIAN VERSE, DIMITRI OBOLENSKY  “From The Ends To The Beginning A Bilingual Anthology of Russian Verse” is available on-line

42. BEST AMERICAN POETRY 2007, LEHMAN, SERIES EDITOR, MCHUGH, GUEST EDITOR   One of the best volumes in the series

43. POETS TRANSLATE POETS, A HUDSON REVIEW ANTHOLOGY, PAULA DIETZ, ED.  Nice historical sweep…

44. ART AND ARTISTS: POEMS, EMILY FRAGOS (EVERYMAN POCKET LIBRARY)    Art really meets poetry; lovely poems

45. W.H. AUDEN COLLECTED POEMS Best poet of the 20th century; slighted by anthologies

46. POEMS 1965-1975 SEAMUS HEANEY  Never quite made it to major status

47. POEMS BEWITCHED AND HAUNTED, JOHN HOLLANDER, ED (EVERYMAN’S POCKET LIBRARY)  Some really darling pieces here

48. COMPLETE POEMS OF KEATS AND SHELLEY (MODERN LIBRARY) The two best—the best, the best

49. THE 20TH CENTURY IN POETRY, HULSE, RAE, EDS (PEGASUS BOOKS)   Wonderful idea: poems in close chronology throughout the century

50. VITA NOVA, DANTE, MARK MUSA, TRANSLATOR (OXFORD) A great book for so many reasons

51. CHAUCER: THE CANTERBURY TALES (PENGUIN) father of English literature, we hear

52. HYPERION; BALLADS & OTHER POEMS, LONGFELLOW (1841)  “Hyperion” is a very modern poem…

53. THE RAG AND BONE SHOP OF THE HEART: A POETRY ANTHOLOGY, ROBERT BLY, EDITOR  A lot of Rumi and Neruda

54. WORLD POETRY: AN ANTHOLOGY OF VERSE FROM ANTIQUITY TO THE PRESENT, WASHBURN, MAJOR, FADIMAN, EDS  The translations are terrible, the selections are generally weak, but kudos for the attempt

55. LES FLEUR DU MAL, BAUDELAIRE  Ah…Baudelaire!

56. VICTORIAN WOMEN POETS: AN ANTHOLOGY, LEIGHTON, REYNOLDS, EDS (BLACKWELL)  That backwards era when women poets sold better than their male counterparts

57.  IMMORTAL POEMS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, OSCAR WILLIAMS   Solid overview (150 poets) without too much emphasis on annoying moderns

58. ALEXANDER POPE, SELECTED (OXFORD POETRY LIBRARY) You could do worse than his verse

59. A TREASURY OF GREAT POEMS, LOUIS UNTERMEYER   Almost 2OO poets

60. AMERICAN POETRY: THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, HOLLANDER, ED, LIBRARY OF AMERICA   A good look around at two centuries ago

61. ANEID, VIRGIL, ROBERT FITZGERALD, TRANSLATOR  Poet of the silver age…

62. THE POETICAL WORKS OF ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING, RUTH M. ADAMS INTRO  She was the famous poet when Robert met her

63. THE ESSENTIAL RUMI, COLEMAN BARKS, ED  Passion pushed to the limit of wisdom

64. EUGENE ONEGIN BY ALEXANDER PUSHKIN, STANLEY MITCHELL (PENGUIN) The most modern of all epics

65. DYLAN THOMAS, COLLECTED, PAUL MULDOON, INTRO Too drunk to write many poems; this may be good or bad

66. POETRY OF DEREK WALCOTT 1948-2013, SELECTED BY GLYN MAXWELL  Between obligation and pleasure, we read…

67. BRITISH POETRY SINCE 1945, EWARD LUCIE-SMITH.  The poor modern Brits, neither old nor quite modern

68. THE PALM AT THE END OF THE MIND, WALLACE STEVENS, SELECTED POEMS & A PLAY  Pretentious rot, but fun

69. ROBERT LOWELL, COLLECTED  Most overrated poet of the 20th century, but has his moments

70  AMERICAN PRIMITIVE, MARY OLIVER  Our little Wordsworth

71. GORGEOUS NOTHINGS, EMILY DICKINSON, WERNER, BERRIN, EDS (NEW DIRECTIONS)  A really bizarre document

72. ELIZABETH BISHOP, POEMS (FSG)  Another one of those poets who wrote few, but good, poems

73. A CHOICE OF ENGLISH ROMANTIC POETRY, STEPHEN SPENDER (DIAL PRESS)  Rare, if you can track it down…(it’s at the Grolier in Hvd Sq)

74. CHIEF MODERN POETS OF BRITAIN AND AMERICA, 5th Edition, SANDERS, NELSON, ROSENTHAL  Can’t get enough of those chief poets

75. NEW AMERICAN POETS OF THE 80s, MYERS & WEINGARTEN Look back into the recent, recent past

76. BIRTHDAY LETTERS, TED HUGHES  The poetry isn’t good, but interesting historical document

77. TRANFORMATIONS, ANNE SEXTON, FOREWARD BY KURT VONNEGUT, JR. Modernized fairy tales—very influential

78. THE ESSENTIAL HAIKU, ROBERT HASS, ED (ECCO)  We forget Imagism sprang directly from haiku rage in West after Japan won Russo-Japanese War

79. THE DIVINE COMEDY, CLIVE JAMES, TRANSLATOR. This new translation is worth a read

80. PENGUIN BOOK OF FRENCH POETRY 1820-1950  Good translation anthologies are few and far between

81. ESSENTIAL PLEASURES: A NEW ANTHOLOGY OF POEMS TO READ ALOUD, PINSKY, ED  Reading aloud is good

82. THE RATTLE BAG, SEAMUS HEANEY, TED HUGHES, EDS  Conservative selection: Shakespeare, Blake, Hardy, Lawrence, Frost, etc

83. MODERNIST WOMEN POETS, ROBERT HASS, PAUL EBENKAMP, EDS   Not a large number of poets

84. COLLECTED FRENCH TRANSLATIONS, JOHN ASHBERY (FSG)  Not the most trustworthy translator, but we’ll take ’em

85. VILLANELLES (EVERYMAN POCKET LIBRARY)  These editions are available and lovely—why not?

86. BRIGHT WINGS: AN ILLUSTRATED ANTHOLOGY OF POEMS ABOUT BIRDS, BILLY COLLINS, ED  All the best poems are bird poems—it’s really true

87. THE ETERNAL ONES OF THE DREAM: SELECTED POEMS 1990-2010, JAMES TATE Iowa Workshop poem par excellence, poignant, miserable, and cute

88. GOOD POEMS, GARRISON KEILLOR  As accessible as it gets

89. THE MAKING OF A SONNET, HIRSCH/BOLAND, EDS (NORTON) There’s no best sonnet anthology, but this one is good

90. MOUNTAIN HOME: THE WILDERNESS POETRY OF ANCIENT CHINA, DAVID HINTON, ED  Includes the major poets

91. SELECTED RILKE, ROBERT BLY, ED  Amazing how well Rilke sells in the U.S.

92. KING JAMES BIBLE  Yea, poetry

93. WELDON KEES, COLLECTED POEMS, DONALD JUSTICE, ED  Somewhat creepy—as modern poetry truly ought to be?

94. BILLY COLLINS, AIMLESS LOVE: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS (RANDOM HOUSE)  Collins is America’s modern poet—get used to it.

95. JOHN ASHBERY, SELF PORTRAIT IN A CONVEX MIRROR  His tour de force

96. NORTH OF BOSTON, ROBERT FROST (1915, HENRY HOLT) Like Emerson, Whitman, and Melville before him, interest by the English was the ticket to fame

97. HOWL AND OTHER POEMS, ALLEN GINSBERG  A Hieronymous Bosch nightmare

98. TALES FROM THE DECAMERON OF GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO, RICHARD ALDINGTON (1930)  this 14th century writer considered a ‘novelist’ but influenced Chaucer

99. EROSION, JORIE GRAHAM  Such promise!  Then along came Alan Cordle

100. LUNCH POEMS, FRANK O’HARA  Not repasts; snacks; the virtue of O’Hara is that he’s funny

 

 

 

THIRTY TOP MASS APPEAL POETRY MOMENTS IN U.S. HISTORY

 

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1. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe is published in the New York Evening Mirror, January 29, 1845

2.  Robert Frost reads “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural, January 20, 1961

3.  Martin Luther King delivers his “I Have A Dream” speech, August 28, 1963

4. Dead Poets  Society, starring Robin Williams, released, June 9, 1989

5. Neil Armstrong’s moon landing speech, July 20, 1969

6. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” first played at flag-raising ceremony on Fort Warren, May 12, 1861

7. Lincoln’s “Gettysburg address,” November 19, 1863

8. Cassius Clay, boxer and poet, defeats Sonny Liston,  heavyweight champion, February 25, 1964

9. “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus recited at the Statue of Liberty’s Dedication, October 28, 1886

10. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan released, May 27, 1963

11. “The Star-Spangled Banner” first published, in Baltimore, September 20, 1814

12. Sylvia Plath’s suicide in England, February 11, 1963

13. Japan wins Russo-Japanese War, starting Haiku rage in the West, September 5, 1905

14. “Old Ironsides” by Oliver Wendell Holmes published in Boston Daily Advertiser, September 16, 1830

15. Jack Kerouac reads his poetry on Steven Allen show (with Allen on piano), November 16, 1959

16. James Russell Lowell delivers “Ode” at Harvard Commemoration, July 21, 1865

17. Mick Jagger reads Shelley’s “Adonais” at Brian Jones’ memorial in England, July 5, 1969

18. Ella Wheeler Wilcox publishes her most famous poem in New York Sun, the year she publishes controversial Poems of Passion, February 25, 1883

19. Dana Gioia publishes his essay, “Can Poetry Matter?” in The Atlantic, May, 1991

20. “Mary Had A Little Lamb” by Sarah Josepha Hale published, May 24, 1830

21. Actor Jimmy Stewart reads poem “I’ll Never Forget A Dog Named Beau” on the Tonight Show, making Johnny Carson cry, July 28, 1981

22. Ronald Regan’s Challenger Disaster Speech, January 28, 1986

23. Maya Angelou reads “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton inaugural, January 20, 1993

24. Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” published, November 10, 1855

25. Ezra Pound wins Bollingen Prize with NY Times headline: “Pound In Mental Clinic Wins Prize for Poetry Penned In Treason Cell,” February 20, 1949

26. “Rapture” by Blondie released, January 12, 1981

27. “The Music Man” by Meredith Wilson opens, December 19, 1957

28. Elizabeth Alexander reads “Praise Song for the Day” at Barack Obama’s inaugural, January 20, 2009

29. Publisher Horace Liveright makes offers for works by Pound, Eliot, and Joyce, January 3, 1922.

30. Favorite Poem Project launched by poet laureate Robert Pinsky, April 1, 1997

 

NIETZSCHE VERSUS T.S. ELIOT!

NIETZSCHE:

In some remote corner of the universe, flickering in the light of the countless solar systems into which it had been poured, there was once a planet on which clever animals invented cognition. It was the most arrogant and most mendacious minute in the ‘history of the world;’ but a minute was all it was. After nature had drawn just a few more breaths the planet froze and the clever animals had to die. Someone could invent a fable like this and yet they would still not have given a satisfactory illustration of just how pitiful, how insubstantial and transitory, how purposeless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature; there were eternities during which it did not exist; and when it disappeared again, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no further mission that might extend beyond the bounds of human life. Rather, the intellect is human, and only its own possessor and progenitor regards it with such pathos, as if it housed the axis around which the entire world revolved. But if we could communicate with a gnat we would hear that it too floats through the air with the very same pathos, feeling that it too contains within itself the flying center of this world. There is nothing in nature so despicable and mean that would not immediately swell up like a balloon from just one little puff of that force of cognition; and just as every bearer of burdens wants to be admired, so the proudest man of all, the philosopher, wants to see, on all sides, the eyes of the universe trained, as through telescopes, on his thoughts and deeds.

It is odd that the intellect can produce this effect, since it is nothing other than an aid supplied to the most unfortunate, most delicate and most transient of beings so as to detain them for a minute within existence; otherwise, without this supplement, they would have every reason to flee existence as quickly as did Lessing’s infant son.

As a means for the preservation of the individual, the intellect shows its greatest strengths in dissimulation, since this is the means to preserve those weaker, less robust individuals who, by nature, are denied horns or the sharp fangs of a beast of prey with which to wage the struggle for existence. This art of dissimulation reaches its peak in humankind, where deception, flattery, lying and cheating, speaking behind the backs of others, keeping up appearances, living in borrowed finery, wearing masks, the drapery of convention, play-acting for the benefit of others and oneself—in short, the constant fluttering of human beings around the one flame of vanity is so much the rule and the law that there is virtually nothing which defies understanding so much as the fact that an honest and pure drive towards the truth should ever have emerged in them.

Insofar as the individual wishes to preserve himself in relation to other individuals, in the state of nature he mostly uses his intellect for concealment and dissimulation; however, because necessity and boredom also lead men to want to live in societies and herds, they need a peace treaty, and so they endeavor to eliminate from their world at least the crudest forms of the bellum omnium contra omnes. [War of all against all] In the wake of this peace treaty, however, comes something which looks like the first step towards the acquisition of that mysterious drive for truth. For that which is to count as ‘truth’ from this point onwards now becomes fixed, i.e. a way of designating things is invented which has the same validity and force everywhere, and the legislation of language also produces the first laws of truth, for the contrast between truth and lying comes into existence here for the first time: the liar uses the valid tokens of designation—words—to make the unreal appear to be real; he says for example,  ‘I am rich,’ whereas the correct designation for this condition would be, precisely, ‘poor.’ He misuses the established conventions by arbitrarily switching or even inverting the names for things. If he does this in a manner that is selfish and otherwise harmful, society will no longer trust him and therefore exclude him from its ranks. Human beings do not so much flee from being tricked as from being harmed by being tricked.

What is a word? The copy of a nervous stimulation in sounds. To infer from the fact of the nervous stimulation that there exists a cause outside us is already the result of applying the principle of sufficient reason wrongly.

We believe that when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers, we have knowledge of the things themselves, and yet we possess only metaphors of things which in no way correspond to the original entities.

Every concept comes into being by making equivalent that which is non-equivalent.

Like form, a concept is produced by overlooking what is individual and real, whereas nature knows neither forms nor concepts and hence no species, but only an ‘X’ which is inaccessible to us and indefinable by us.

What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms, in short a sum of human relations which have been subjected to poetic and rhetorical intensification, translation and decoration, and which, after they have been in use for a long time, strike a people as firmly established, canonical, and binding; truths are illusions of which we have forgotten that they are illusions, metaphors which have become worn by frequent use and have lost all sensuous vigor, coins which, having lost their stamp, are now regarded as metal and no longer coins.

Human beings have an unconquerable urge to let themselves be deceived, and they are as if enchanted with happiness when the bard recites epic fairy-tales as if they were true, or when the actor in a play acts the king more regally than reality shows him to be. The intellect, that master of pretense, is free and absolved of its usual slavery for as long as it can deceive without doing harm, and it celebrates its Saturnalian festivals when it does so; at no time is it richer, more luxuriant, more proud, skillful, and bold.

 

T.S. ELIOT:

 

One of the facts that might come to light in this process is our tendency to insist, when we praise a poet, upon those aspects or parts of his work in which he least resembles anyone else. In these aspects or parts of his work we pretend to find what is individual, what is the peculiar essence of the man. We dwell with satisfaction upon the poet’s difference from his predecessors, especially his immediate predecessors; we endeavor to find something that can be isolated in order to be enjoyed. Whereas if we approach a poet without this prejudice we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously. And I do not mean the impressionable period of adolescence, but the period of full maturity.

Yet if the only form of tradition, of handing down, consisted in following the ways of the immediate generation before us in a blind or timid adherence to its successes, ‘tradition’ should positively be discouraged. We have seen many such simple currents soon lost in the sand; and novelty is better than repetition. Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labor. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his own contemporaneity.

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the form of European, of English literature will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past. And the poet who is aware of this will be aware of great difficulties and responsibilities.

Someone said: ‘The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.’ Precisely, and they are that which we know.

 

Friedrich Nietzsche’s wave after wave of pessimism exhilarates if it fails to drown; perhaps it is only the exhilaration of a gnat, but it is exhilaration.

The unsentimental Nietzsche appears to see through all illusion to bravely penetrate beyond words to the truth that lies in the abyss, but in actuality his pessimism is the merest and shallowest verbosity. Life is mere vibration, he says, but he never penetrates the miraculous nature of what he condemns.  Yes, life is a mere ‘vibration,’ but what a ‘vibration!’  Yes, we are only ‘gnats,’ but what extraordinary gnats we are!  His pessimism is easily reversed.

Eliot’s well-known formulation from “Tradition and the Individual Talent” may be his greatest piece of sustained writing.

Rhetoric, like painting and poetry, can have three dimensions, can have that “perspective” which Shakespeare, in his Sonnets, said was “greatest painter’s art,” and with which that other Renaissance titan, Leonardo, agreed. By invoking “dead poets,” Eliot achieves more than Nietzsche who, by comparison, two-dimensionally paints with words, and with all that bitterness which usually attends mere shows of learning. Not that Nietzsche does not present insights; he does; but they are largely Kant and Hegel’s pessimism exaggerated; Hegel turned into a cartoon.

 

WINNER: ELIOT

STEPHANE MALLARME AND JOHN CROWE RANSOM CLASH IN THE MODERN BRACKET!

A 19th century Frenchman of pure Modernism tries to win against a 20th century American university reformer.

MALLARME:


French readers, their habits disrupted by the death of Victor Hugo, cannot fail to be disconcerted. Hugo, in his mysterious task, turned all prose, philosophy, eloquence, history, to verse, and as he was verse personified, he confiscated from any thinking person, anyone who talked or told stories, all but the right to speak. Poetry, I believe, waited respectfully until the giant who identified it with his tenacious hand, a hand stronger than that of a blacksmith, ceased to exist; waited until then before breaking up.

Does the need to write poetry, in response to a variety of circumstances now mean, after one of those periodical orgiastic excesses of almost a century comparable only to the Renaissance, that the time has come for shadows and cooler temperatures? Not at all! It means the gleam continues, though changed.

That prosody, with its very brief rules, is nevertheless untouchable: it is what points to acts of prudence, such as the hemistich, and what regulates the slightest effort at stimulating versification, like codes according to which abstention from stealing through the air is for instance a necessary condition for standing upright. Exactly what one does not need to learn; because if you haven’t guessed it yourself beforehand, then you’ve proved the uselessness of constraining yourself to it.

The faithful supporters of the alexandrine, our hexameter, are loosening from within the rigid and puerile mechanism of its beat; the ear, set free from an artificial counting, discovers delight in discerning on its own all the possible combinations that twelve timbres can make among themselves.

It’s taste we should consider very modern.

The poet who possesses acute tact and who always considers this alexandrine as the difinitive jewel, but one you bring out as you would a sword or a flower only rarely and only when there is some premeditated motive for doing so, touches it modestly and plays around it, lending it neighboring chords, before bringing it out superb and unadorned; on many occasions he lets his fingering falter on the eleventh syllable or continues it to the thirteenth. M. Henri de Regnier excels in these accompaniments of his own invention as discrete and proud as the genius he instills into it, and revelatory of the fleeting disquiet felt by the performers faced with the instrument they have inherited. Something else, which could simply be the opposite, reveals itself as a deliberate rebellion in the absence of the old mold, grown weary, when Jules Laforgue, from the outset, initiated us into the unquestionable charm of the incorrect line.

Speech has no connection with the reality of things except in matters commercial; where literature is concerned, speech is content merely to make allusions or distill the quality contained in some idea.

Contrary to the facile numerical and representative functions as the crowd at first treats it, speech which is above all dream and song, finds again in the Poet, by a necessity that is part of an art consecrated to fictions, its virtuality.

 

 

 

RANSOM:

 

There are three sorts of trained performers who would appear to have some of the competence that the critic needs. The artist himself. The philosopher. The university teacher of literature.

Professors of literature are learned but not critical men. The professional morale of this part of the university staff is evidently low. Nevertheless it is from the professors of literature, in this country the professors of English for the most part, that I should hope eventually for the erection of intelligent standards of criticism. It is their business.

Criticism will never be a very exact science, or even a nearly exact one. But neither will psychology.

Rather than occasional criticism by amateurs, I should think the whole enterprise might be seriously taken in hand by professionals. Perhaps I use a distasteful figure, but I have the idea that what we need is Criticism, Inc., or Criticism Ltd.

The principal resistance to such an idea will come from the present incumbents of the professorial chairs. But its adoption must come from them too. The idea of course is not a private one of my own. If it should be adopted before long, the credit would probably belong to Professor Ronald S. Crane, of the University of Chicago, more than to any other man.

Crane argues that historical scholarship has been overplayed heavily in English studies.

The students of the future must be permitted to study literature, and not merely about literature.

At the University of Chicago, I believe that Professor Crane, with some others is putting the revolution into effect in his own teaching, though for the time being perhaps with a limited program, mainly the application of Aristotle’s critical views.

This is not the first time that English professors have tilted against the historians, or “scholars,” in the dull sense which that word has acquired.

The most important recent diversion from the orthodox course of literary studies was undertaken by the New Humanists.  The New Humanists were, and are, moralists.  Mr. Babbitt could make war on romanticism for purely moral reasons.  But this is certainly not the charge that Mr. T.S. Eliot, a literary critic, brings against romanticism. His, if I am not mistaken, is aesthetic, though he may not ever care to define it very sharply.

Following the excitement produced by the Humanist diversion, there is now one due to the Leftists, or Proletarians, who are also diversionists. Their diversion is likewise moral. Debate could never occur between a Humanist and a Leftist on aesthetic grounds, for they are equally intent on ethical values. But the debate on ethical grounds would be very spirited, and it might create such a stir in a department conducting English studies that the conventional scholars there would find themselves slipping, and their pupils deriving from literature new and seductive excitements which would entice them away from their scheduled English exercises.

On the whole, however, the moralists, distinguished as they may be, are like those who have quarreled with the ordinary historical studies on purer or more aesthetic grounds: they have not occupied in English studies the positions of professional importance. In a department of English, as in any ongoing business, the proprietary interest becomes vested, and in old and reputable departments the vestees have uniformly been gentlemen who have gone through the historical mill. Their laborious Ph.D.’s and historical publications are their patents. Naturally, quite spontaneously, they would tend to perpetuate a system in which the power and the glory belonged to them. But English scholars in this country can rarely have better credentials than those which Professor Crane has earned.

It is really atrocious policy for a department to abdicate its own self-respecting identity. The department of  English is charged with the understanding and the communication of literature, an art, yet it has usually forgotten to inquire into the peculiar constitution and structure of its product.

 

Mallarme (b. 1842) and Ransom (b. 1888) each represent the two primary modes of attack with which Modernism effected its gains against Philosophical and Literary Tradition in the last century and a half.

Mallarme is insouciant candlelight, the tremulous ecstasy of the “incorrect line,” fitting the informal student, or guest, with the intoxicating mask of “poet,” imbued historically with all that term signifies, so he or she, so fitted, might be invited to the masque.

That most of Mallarme is nothing but glittering surface, moustache-pedantry, and name-dropping does little to diminish the charm of its eleven-fingered poetic style, but how much more really intoxicating when elevated to a position of money and respect by the pedagogical behemoth of the American university system. This is what the Program era did, starting with a muddy patch called the University of Iowa, aided by ‘power point’ efforts of New Critics like John Crowe Ransom.

One can hear Ezra Pound’s faux aesthetics in the accents of Mallarme and recognize the excitable Ezra’s ‘outsider’ sneering at the old English professors in Ransom’s calmer approach.  The motives and goals were the same: Gates. Barbarians. Storm.  Pound, Eliot, Williams and the New Critics were the barbarians, and all were on the same page—not the silly aesthetic one, but the one that counted. They won. Mallarme’s masque now walks the quiet carpets of the university. English students, as Ransom wanted, no longer know anything “about literature.”  They do literature. And according to the Creative Writing Program poets who teach them, they do it well.

 

WINNER: RANSOM

 

 

MARCH MADNESS! POETRY! THEORY! MADNESS! HOLY MADNESS! REAL, ACTUAL MADNESS!

“Philosophy is the true Muse” —Thomas Brady

THE BRACKETS

CLASSICAL

1. Plato
2. Aristotle
3. Horace
4. Augustine
5. Maimonides
6. Aquinas
7. Dante
8. Boccaccio
9. Sidney
10. Dryden
11. Aphra Behn
12. Vico
13. Addison
14. Pope
15. Johnson
16. Hume

ROMANTIC

1. Kant
2. Burke
3. Lessing
4. Schiller
5. Wollstonecraft
6. De Stael
7. Schliermacher
8. Hegel
9. Wordsworth
10. Coleridge
11. Peacock
12. Shelley
13. Emerson
14. Poe
15. Gautier
16. Marx

MODERN

1. Baudelaire
2. Arnold
3. Pater
4. Mallarme
5. Nietzsche
6. Wilde
7. Freud
8. Saussure
9. Jung
10. Trotsky
11. Woolf
12. Eliot
13. Ransom
14. Heidegger
15. Benjamin
16. Adorno

POST-MODERN

1. Wilson
2. Burke
3. Lacan
4. Sartre
5. Brooks
6. De Bouvoir
7. Austin
8. Frye
9. Barthes
10. Fanon
11. Rich
12. Bloom
13. Derrida
14. Said
15. Cixous
16. Butler

THE TWO TRADITIONS

Thomas Eliot: He won!

There will always be two traditions. With the greatest philosophical rigor we claim this to be true, and  by the simplest possible mathematical reasoning, it is.

The Tradition will always be: those works that stick to each other as notable over time, comprising what cannot help but exist— due to both formal and imitative significance—as that which is definable as the—Tradition.

In poetry, these works are palpable and visible and real. This is not some abstract, theorizing gambit at work. Plato’s philosophy, Dante’s Commedia, Shakespeare’s plays, Pope’s essays, Shelley’s odes, Poe’s fiction, Dickinson’s poems, Eliot’s criticism are the Tradition— and this is a certainty, and not for argument.

This defining Tradition can only be opposed by one other tradition—the opposing tradition, which, because by definition only one tradition can exist, is not a tradition, but will be called one and will be believed (by some) to be one, as such, and exists, therefore, as a shadow exists next to a body.

There is one Tradition, one Body (made of actual works that comprise a recognized canon) and not two. We can see this logically: there is one universe and we can divide the universe up in any number of ways without violating the idea of one universe, and so, without quibbling about the fluctuating content of the Tradition, we acknowledge with simple logic the Tradition as definitionally one.

Waiting impatiently in the wings, of course, is the “other” tradition, waiting for its moment on stage, the anti-tradition, the new tradition, the different tradition, etc, etc, the inevitable shadow to the body.

Because the Tradition is, by definition, one, it cannot, without destroying its identity, admit another tradition. But just as a body may have a shadow, and just as there may exist both a thing and a desire for a thing, a Shadow or Desire Tradition has a shadowy existence which blooms in rhetoric and thought: and here is where tradition number two “exists.”

No further traditions can exist, even though “multiple counter-traditions” may dance on the tongues of a thousand professors.

Either a new work, or a new group of works, connects to the Tradition, or a new work or a new group of works desires to connect to the Tradition; in terms of what a tradition is, then, “multiple counter-traditions” is a mere shadow of a shadow, without any existence at all.

We hope the reader is following the logic of our theme and noting its iron-clad character.

We now turn to our specific case.

The canonical work has two things going for it: a formalist excellence as well as a content that enlightens or instructs in the way it reflects the world outside of it. The Tradition is not a series of works which comment and talk only to each other; art is not some place where artists speak a similar “art language” to one another; the Tradition is not a club or clique of self-imitators.

Poetry is precisely that which counteracts the ‘in-the-know’ coterie-mind and speaks to the newcomer. The word is like money: it does its job on everyone equally. One can narrow one’s appeal to a specific audience and it may elicit giggles and applause from a certain type, but playing to a type will inevitably keep one out of the canon, because the Tradition reflects the world at large and appeals to it as something immediately pleasurable— not as something one has ‘to get’ by having specialized knowledge. There is nothing wrong with specialized knowledge and universally popular art may contain specialized knowledge as one of its side features—which may be exploited by those who are endeared to that sort of thing— but it is never the source of its ultimate appeal.

The counter-tradition, as we pointed out above, is a desire to be a tradition, but a desire for a thing is not the thing, no matter how strong the desire and its rhetoric; this is why there is really only one Tradition. But the shadow Tradition can be a very convincing thing.

The most convincing and cunning shadow Tradition of all is the one constructed by T.S. Eliot in the beginning of the 20th century, the one outlined in his now iconic essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” in which he flattered the Tradition by saying it was self- aware, a living chain of succession that lives anew with each work that is added to it.

T.S. Eliot, however, was a flatterer and a liar. The Tradition is not self-aware. The Tradition is not a clique of self-imitators, a club in which only art-speak is spoken. If we buy Eliot’s premise, it follows that art is only about other art (the key to post-modernism) which is the great lie of the coterie-mind. Coteries and specialized knowledge do have their place, but the Tradition, if it is one, has no place for the temptations of coteries and specialized knowledge.

The Tradition is not a series of works aware of each other; every canonical work stands on its own, reflecting the world beyond art, even as it revels in formalist mastery.

Is there occasionally a self-conscious echo among works? Of course. But this is not the ruling animus of the works which make up the Tradition, as Mr. Eliot would have us believe.

The works themselves don’t know they are in a Tradition.

We are aware of the Tradition.

The Tradition, however, is not self-aware.

Unbelievable as this may sound, the Tradition was not waiting to be blessed by the addition of Modernism.

Modernism did not change the Tradition. Modernism is interesting only in that it existed, and exists, as a cunning attempt to join the Tradition.

We mentioned T.S. Eliot, whose brilliant attempt to enter the Tradition on behalf of himself and his Modernist friends is the defining moment of Modernism itself.

“The Waste Land,” with its numerous self-conscious echoes of canonical works in the Tradition, was the embodiment of Eliot’s earlier theory expressed in “Tradition and the Individual Talent:” works talk to each other. But of course they don’t.  Don’t tell T.S. Eliot that—that’s his ticket to the Big Dance.

Of course then there is the added bonus that Eliot is writing of a world ruined by post-world-war modernist calamity ostensibly never seen before, which the Tradition, hyper-aware of itself, in Eliot’s new view, will obviously welcome in order to move forward as a self-consciously historical entity.

History examines the Tradition from outside; the Tradition, however, is not itself self-consciously historical—this is the crucial difference which “Modernists” do not get.

Eliot’s theory pitches us forward into that state where art has no independent existence, but is only art talking to art, or, professors talking to each other, endlessly, in ivory towers.

This state of things—Eliot’s coup, we might call it—fortunately (for the Modernists) occurred with two other events: the take-over of literature by the university and the rise of modern art in partnership with modern poetry.

Pound and Eliot’s lawyer, John Quinn, who negotiated the book deal for “The Waste Land,” and secured Eliot the Dial magazine prize while Pound was still editing the soon-to-be-famous work, was the instrumental figure in making the Armory Show happen, the 1913 tour that made Duchamp famous and brought cubism and modern art to America. Quinn not only made the welcoming remarks at the show, he went to the U.S. Congress and successfully changed import/export laws to facilitate bringing European paintings to the U.S.

Painting witnessed content disappearing into technique as art became more abstract, a precise mirroring of what was happening to poetry in the reverse, poetry chucking its technique (metrical language) for the sake of content (imagery). The experiment simultaneously murdered the healthy fullness of both arts, but because the experiment was new, it appealed to the idea Eliot had advertised: the Tradition was not exemplifying the Best, but self-consciously unfolding the New.

Art, it was discovered, could be validated simply by hiring enough critics and building enough museums, with the added stimulus of huge profits gained in buying unknown Picassos which in a self-prophecizing frenzy, appreciated in value as the century progressed.

The Modernist scheme—academic, intellectual, aesthetic, monetary, institutional, ribald, exciting, fashionable—with the ordinary philistine masses sputtering and howling in ineffective protest—climbed heights after WW I which no one could have predicted.

Modern art successfully infiltrated modern life. Tall buildings and million dollar abstract art did some kind of Bauhaus dance which only the rich can understand.

Meanwhile, modern poetry toiled in university classrooms, gaining converts to Pound and Williams one student and one professor at a time, with help of the New Critic textbook “Understanding Poetry,” which extolled in its pages “The Red Wheel Barrow” and “A Station at the Metro.”

The New York School sealed the deal, as Harvard poets O’Hara and Ashbery, friends of modern art money, Peggy Guggenheim, mingled with abstract artists, writing poems secretly supplying what painting no longer had to offer.

Painting and poetry collapsed into each other. The Tradition wobbled. All fall down.

We read that Williams was an important counter-tradition to Eliot. Who could be more unlike than Williams and Eliot? But then we realize that Williams and Pound and Eliot all belonged to the same experimental, ‘make it new,’ Modern Art/Modern Poetry crash-the-canon clique.

If Eliot had not successfully crashed the Tradition, his friend Pound, and his friend Williams, would have lacked legitimacy—for all counter-traditions need a body in order to be its shadow.  All that we find in Eliot that we do not find in Williams, then, is precisely that which got Eliot into the Tradition.

Eliot made it into the mother ship; Williams throws rocks from below.

The excellent works of the Tradition have originality as one of their features; the new is worthy, but only if it is good.

In the new order established by Eliot, however, the Tradition, we are told, values the new over the good.

Poets cease using meter; this fact, becomes, by dint of time passing, a piece of the Tradition; but this is to confuse history with the Tradition; the latter demands excellence, the former does not.

The early 20th century Imagistes borrowed from haiku, which became the rage in 1905 in the wake of the stunning Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War.  This key aspect of Modernism was not new; nor was prose poetry new, either.   In this case history helps us to select the truly original as a criterion for the Tradition: which is nothing more than a collection of excellent models of literature—one of those excellent features being originality.

One of Eliot’s gambits was to write poems, like “Sweeney Among the Nightingales,” with references to “Agamemnon” and “The Convent of the Sacred Heart.”  This alone will not get you into the Tradition.

We now copy the work of four Modernist poets:

Two, by Hulme (a founder of Imagism who was killed in WW I) and Williams, are in the imagist tradition; Pound references, as Eliot did, old literature (the myth of Daphne and Apollo) and finally, we copy Eliot’s excerpt from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Note the dismal flatness of the first three poems; the Eliot is the only one that moves, the only one that has real interest.

“Autumn” by T.E. Hulme

A touch of cold in the Autumn night —

I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

“Approach of Winter” by W.C. Williams

The half-stripped trees
struck by a wind together,
bending all,
the leaves flutter drily
and refuse to let go
or driven like hail
stream bitterly out to one side
and fall
where the salvias, hard carmine–
like no leaf that ever was–
edge the bare garden.

“A Girl” by Ezra Pound

The tree has entered my hands,
The sap has ascended my arms,
The tree has grown in my breast –
Downward,
The branches grow out of me, like arms.

Tree you are,
Moss you are,
You are violets with wind above them.
A child – so high – you are,
And all this is folly to the world.

From “Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

The yellow fog that rubs it back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

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 patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees with dead, brown leaves 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, tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf One by one objects are defined- It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf But now the stark dignity of entrance-Still, the profound change has come upon them: rooted, they grip down and begin to awaken – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15536#sthash.lLrMAEX9.dpuf
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 patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees with dead, brown leaves 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, tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf One by one objects are defined- It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf But now the stark dignity of entrance-Still, the profound change has come upon them: rooted, they grip down and begin to awaken – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15536#sthash.lLrMAEX9.dpuf

Eliot was clever enough, with his fake Criticism, to knock down a few entrance-doors to the Tradition; but a few of his poems will keep him there.

The Tradition will finally welcome Eliot, but, as Eliot probably knew all along, it will not admit his friends.

Fragmenting counter-traditions finally become a crowd of shadows, with the dogs fighting it out in the dark, below those beacons of the influential and the blessed.

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