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?


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.



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.







The clocks are set apart
From what nature is.
Nature belongs to the clock,
Not herself: Birds sing in the cold.
The loveliest clock is a heart
Almost stopped by a kiss
Ages ago upon a rock
Before the lover and the world were old.
Our world hinges on a rhyme.
Everything resolves in time.

Nothing belongs to itself.
Time, time, time is the elf.

Time makes the distances
And the spaces, the essences
Of all colors, thoughts, and things.
Seeing is never enough;
My darling in the dark talks and sings
Of what is enough: love.


Why do I want to sleep? Is it the dreaming?

Aren’t dreams as real as life’s dreamlike seeming

And dreams more pleasant, and more uniquely mine?

Who wouldn’t rather sleep than listen to assholes all the time?

But sleep is not desire and I miss desire, too.

You are not a dream, are you?

That hankering in the blood under the sun

For what is real, the dream and the real all one,

I very much want that, too.

I will never forget when you said yes

And allowed me to nightly press

My hardness against your softness,

My brute and blind and stupid prick

Against you, wise and politic.

Did that joy only seem

To be real, like a dream?

Yes, yes, I have to say yes;

It was a dream, because it’s gone now, and you were not the one,

And do we confess

Desire like that beneath the real sun?



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!



The morning sky’s cloudy variety,
The horizon’s depth of yellow
With a mass of lights and darks nearer and slowly moving,
A painting filling the window,
Is the sacred work of the last star,
Beauty too close to be too far.

I took my trip around the universe
To make all past trips
Seem but a prelude
To an orbit which never says goodbye,
And found a light lighting a last star,
Beauty too close to be too far.

With the beautiful sequence
Of flowers and green streams of leaves
In dark woods too shadowy
For vanity to spot itself in dappled paths,
I put myself in the power of a last star,
Beauty too close to be too far.

Unlikely beauty! With hair
Half-covering the face with eyes
Almost too nice for a mouth surprised
By lips of a faint luxury,
A lamp turned slightly down within—
As if she and star were kin!
A light glowing like a last star:
Beauty too close to be too far.



Aduska, who has long hair on her arms,
And a face, intricate and fine,
Has vindicated the poet in me,
But I cannot write a line.

I want to love Aduska,
To kiss the soul in her face,
To kiss sweet Aduska in a sweet and hidden place.

I want to love Aduska, but things interfere—
Things which have nothing to do with love, but are here!

I want to love Aduska, but she’s gone to other things—
Love willingly waits; and when love is waiting, sings,
Or waits without a sound—
If that’s what Aduska wants—
As I sometimes found.

ELEGY: TO _____

“Pity the World” —Shakespeare

“Love interprets and conveys messages to the gods from us and to us from the gods, preventing the universe from falling into two separate halves.”



Take me with you, Melissa,
To that place you went—
Heaven is not an accident;
Heaven is where the angels belong
In light everlasting and song.

Take me with you, Melissa,
To that place you go—
We know what we hate,
Do we love what we know?
Do we love the place we all shall go?

Do we know, Melissa, that God has more worth
Than hate and all that crawls on the earth?
Do we know the love that resides with you—
Gone, gone, but still true?

Do I know where I am
If I don’t know where you are?
I love, but I get no nearer to the star.
Where are you, Melissa? Are you near or far?

I ask these questions, in ignorance, on earth.
I don’t know God, or God’s worth.
I am sad and limited and ignorant.
Take me with you, Melissa,
To the place you went—
Everything but love is an accident.


She is working late again.
The stars hang over the office,
Kind in their distance.

She is working late this evening
On an email that came from far.
We will carouse and we will drowse
But she is working late again
On an email that was written in a car,
In haste, on a cell phone.

Sometimes work brings us together
And sometimes we work alone
She is working late, in the company of a star,
On an email written on a phone
By a student’s parent in a car.

A credit was earned in another state
And that is why she is working late.
There is a freedom in working late
When the stars don’t see you home
But settle down beside you in the quiet of the evening
Where the computer glows
And the clock, broken by love, hardly goes.
Why does the lady work late?
For God and country and love?
Is it for the firm, for the education found
On the football field, on the cement ground?

You are working late this evening, lady!
Home is calling you.
The children and the grandchildren, too.
Everyone is worried now, and the cell phone
And the emails have that urgent tone
That we have known all our lives
When we lie awake at night and no matter who is there, we feel alone.
Work late, work late, my lady, work late, work late, my lady,
There was an email written from a cell phone
To you. She needed something. A flame beside her.

The committee has decided she will work late this evening,
That she will work for free
That she will work tonight on what pertains to you and me.

The director approves whatever loves;
Whoever loves, loves the lady,
Who now wears her love in regions shady
In regions known only by a star,
Dim star of God!
In the shadows we see our dearest lady.


When I am weary
And the world seems weary, too,
I think of the loveliness and lastingness of you.
You bring me the wisdom to love all things, even death.

When my days are weary
And the world is weary, and no happiness is able to stir,
And all things seem far away, and nothing seems able to last—
I think of the beauty and lastingness of her—
Who is here—not in the past.

The loving and the beautiful will last.
Forever is forever, and conquers the past.

The lady lives. For she was giving.
The lady is—continually living.


In the Italy in heaven where the lady now goes
Each river and stream with our tears flows—
Each of our tears, heavy with sorrow, drops,
On the Italian mountaintops
And freshens the Italian valleys.

The mountains, the sunlight and the greenery
Delight the lady in heaven, for our tears feed the scenery.

We are weeping.
She hears us not: Look! She thinks, This path needs sweeping.
We sit in darkness, our eyes, red.
She walks an Italian street, enchanted.
Then, when heaven opens for us (at last,)
She will thank us for each tear we shed in the past.

On her little street, surrounded by flowers,
Where after she first left us, she stood for hours,
By a tiny stream in her Italian heaven,
The lady will announce to us, with a smile like the sun:
Come to me! My friends! The tears are done!





A teen playing video games, watching TV, spoiled by his mom.
Here’s where patience comes in. Not the same patience as
When he was a baby and had that fever,
Or when he was loaded into the ambulance as a boy, with that terrible cough.
I prayed he would be okay and told God I would do anything please make him okay.
He doesn’t drive a car yet. He’s a nice boy—okay, a little spoiled—but he doesn’t worry me
The way I worried about him when he was young.
As a child he was joy itself, beaming.
Now my brown-haired boy’s a teen, with jokes and secrets.
What do I need patience for, now?  Am I waiting for him to become a man?
I remember always saying to myself, Children are not yours.
You “have” them, but they belong to themselves, to everyone.
Don’t get possessive.  Don’t worry too much about them.  They’ll be okay.

Edgar Poe had no children. He lived when babies were lost all the time—
Let Ralph Waldo Emerson tell you about that horror;
But no, stern Ralph said little;
Perhaps the less said about it the better.

I won’t lie.  I wanted my son to evince athletic skill, and when he dragged his feet
On the soccer field, it was sad to me, as when classical music
Not only bores him, it makes him sad and depressed. I would listen
To my father’s classical records with sweetness and awe. What is continuing
Here? What does he love that I love?  I find Pokemon inane.
He knows his way around a computer in a way that makes me look like an idiot.
He doesn’t want to go outside with me.  There’s no outdoor playground now
That interests him. I know there are things about life which I don’t know.
That I will never know. That I think I should know.  Should I know them?
What are they? A cake? Candles? Happy birthday?
Here’s to now.  Sweet now. And the future.  The sweet future.
Happy birthday, my dearest son.



I’m reading a novel that a friend highly recommended—she “couldn’t put it down” and “it made her cry in the end”—a “New York Times Bestseller” published about five years ago, a “chick novel,” a “journey” of “hope” and “love” the blurb says. It is packed with information—not surprisingly—because it is “historical fiction,” with real times and places, informed by actual historical events.

The research the author has done cries out to be noticed; the young heroes, who later, are old, demand to be loved; the historically-laced bigotry demands to be hated. Oh such demands.

I am still trying to understand what it is that makes so many people—who would never be considered literary, who never read poems, who never analyze anything, who don’t read philosophy, or literary criticism, who couldn’t articulate a literary or philosophical idea if their life depended on it, and who don’t know history at all—consume with relish literary/historical productions of  several hundred pages. Why do people spend so much time reading what is neither wise, nor strange, nor beautiful? The writing of a typical “best-selling” novel is plain, verbose, and matter-of-fact (always necessary for historical, realistic, and best-selling fiction) and takes perhaps weeks to resolve itself.  Why the hell do people read novels?

I am reading this novel, and plan to finish this novel, because I love my friend; I am on…page 120, almost half way through! I began the book two days ago. I’ve had to force myself to keep going, more than once; I find the experience, to be frank, terribly boring, as if forced to listen to a long-winded friend: Get to the point! What’s your point? Why do I need to know all this information?

I will admit three things: First, I know a little more about a certain time and place than I did previously. Second, when I was wakeful last night, reading 10 pages was a wonderful soporific. Third, reading a book recommended by a friend which, through, language, presents a coherent “world” of “a life,” past and present, calms me, and makes me less inclined to get drunk, or watch TV, or indulge in lonely, self-pitying thoughts. Admittedly, this is socially important.

Socially, very important.

Novels are sleeping pills. Calming drugs.  That’s what they really are, in terms of practical use.  It’s very similar to having a pet.  You ask your cat when you arrive home, “what did you do today, pumpkin?”  The cat doesn’t say, but you know the cat did something and you imagine what it was.  Similarly, we ask the novel we happen to be reading, “what were you doing today?”  The novel doesn’t answer, but someone (the author of the novel) has imagined it for you. And this inevitably involves the manners and habits of other people.  We are interested in other people, especially if we don’t really have to bother with them. This, too, is highly attractive.

I think all three of these are related: humans like to share information, participate in something larger than themselves, and feel calm and relaxed.

We are endlessly curious, like ants on an ant hill who, with wavering antennae, are bred with a need to know everything about their surroundings, and humans extend this to an extreme degree, curious about other times and places and things which have nothing—or perhaps because of language—seemingly everything—to do with themselves.

And this is why people read novels.

But I don’t like novels.  How many can one read, before one gets sick of them?  I can’t imagine becoming addicted to them, as so many people are.

I like beauty, and hate to be enslaved by curiosity, and trapped in an informational nexus of clichéd ideas and mere information for information’s sake.

I hate the ant-existence. I have no patience for ants, with their little antennae moving about, who read novels.

I prefer one sly smile to a million words.

I’d rather look at a beautiful face than hear a conversation.

I don’t need any other reason; I hate modern art because it’s—ugly.  I hate novels because the writing is—ugly, even as it’s evoking a tender sentiment.  I don’t care what you think. Give me beauty or give me nothing.

Call me misanthropic, if you wish. You will have to get to know me better to find out that I am not. Nor would I make you choose between humanity and me. I know I am part of humanity. I know I am an ant, too. I only hope you will show me a little patience as I write what must seem to you a misanthropic rant.

And I know what you, the self-righteous, are thinking. I know exactly what you think of me. And this is why I am so bored with you—and “New York Times Bestseller” novels.

I am not made of language. I am made of flesh. And I love poetry because it has flesh—which weak, matter-of-fact, informational prose does not. I want to live and die by what I really am: flesh.

But if I make a plea for poetry instead, I must admit that poetry has none of the practical and social attributes the novel has; poetry demands more; it does not comfort, at least for any length of time. Poets are weird, simply because they do not write novels—which do have all these practical comforts. Poets are too lazy to finish a novel. Poetry takes one away from real life into weirdness.  The poem hasn’t a chance against the novel. If a poem were a sweet little song, that would be one thing; it might be added to a reader’s menu: a little desert after dinner.  But poetry is too proud to be an after-dinner mint.  Unfortunately it wants to be more. The poem wants to call into question novel and history and cat and house and sleep.  Bad poem.  You should know your place.

It really was the novel that killed poetry.

Update: I have finished the novel my friend recommended. 

I liked the book.  It portrayed a lost love, lost to many years, and reading the book, I participated in this loss, triggered by historical events of war and prejudice and, fed by the romantic events and travails of youth and love and circumstance; historical events (was the history the food, or the sauce?) fed my mood-altered curiosity, too.

I experienced the appeal of the historical/romantic novel in all its unfolding glory: the early pages of “hard work” becomes a platform from which the invasion is launched, as the characters and their lives resolve themselves in the ongoing story—whose length allows nostalgia to seem “real” in terms of the work itself. A pretty neat trick is played. Young, chaste, innocent love is prevented from flowering, and the reader’s captured heart, sweetly indignant, races to the end of the book to see if there will be justice, or despair. We compare our bitter, and incomplete, and long life to the  model of similar aspirations; time–time–time is the fuel in which we, and the novel, burns.

By a ratio, similar, I would guess, to a falling object’s acceleration, I found myself reading more quickly and enjoying the book more with each chapter: I enjoyed the third quarter of the book twice as much as the first half of the book; I enjoyed the final quarter of the book four times as much as the third quarter of the book. There is something about getting near the end, and then reaching the end, of a novel, which gives the reader a pleasure aside from the book itself, a pleasure which is difficult to pinpoint, but which perhaps makes the reading of novels addictive.   Call it the ‘Falling Syndrome.’

The pleasure of looking at a painting—those old paintings which tell a story in a glance—is immediate; how different, the slow progress of reading a novel!  The effect is the same: a story is conveyed.  But with a novel, a thread is placed in our hand; we work our way through the maze until we get to the final room, where the Minotaur bellows, and the echoes, in the mazy distance, as we approach—clutching our winding thread—thrills.

The novel is a thread of sentiment; the matter of the novel is less important than the illusion that we are traveling in a little boat, with those we half-know, to our doom.


Not everyone is beautiful
Because beauty has less to share
Than confusion, pity, deformity,
Fear, and the heaviness of what is simply sitting there.

Not everyone is beautiful
And this is beauty’s fame:
Beauty is what we desperately seek
If only in a name.

For beauty has lips and eyes,
And everyone has those,
And I once knew a lover
Who loved his beloved’s nose.

Why is beauty rare?
If everyone has eyes?
If everyone has ears
To listen to the wise?


A tuneful melancholy
Whispers in my ear!
I wish for music,
But more, that you were here!

A tuneful melancholy
Teases my soul!
A wine for the tongue
That escapes the bowl!

A tuneful melancholy
Has me lingering
To play a song sweetly,
To learn the fingering.

A tuneful melancholy
Starts from far away.
When will it get here?
It will not say.

A tuneful melancholy
Whispers through the trees,
Not just pleasing me,
But pleasing these,

For trees love themselves,
As they stretch out sadly
Over the ruined turf,
Where I lie gladly—

As a tuneful melancholy
Forever and forever lost,
Listens for your breath,
And sighs across the moss.



I like it when I sleep,
A dreamy paradise of rest,
It blocks out all—
Including all I detest.
Indifference is sought
By those who would otherwise weep.
Gold can’t purchase love.
The heart can’t purchase sleep.
Sleep is found in the arms
Of a conscience, bright and clear:
Jealous, he followed me.
And found me sleeping here.


Should the poet ‘take positions?’ We say, invariably not, for partisanship always implies progress or improvement and such a position can never be timeless—since improvements always involve present problems. You don’t fix a leak in the roof with philosophy, symbolism, or beauty, and to write a poem out of some political position is just like assuming this.

The other problem with partisan behavior is that it forces us to adhere to a laundry list of associations with whatever we happen to support. For instance, if you support this good, it inevitably means you support, through a network of connections, that evil–and eventually this pins you down into a position fraught with embarrassment, and to be intellectually embarrassed is the worse thing that can happen to a thinker or an artist; it mars the artist’s contemplative solitude, it stalks with social frenzy the serenity the poet needs.  The poet is naturally irritable, because he is more sensitive than others; but to be defensive in the face of social embarrassment undermines the irritable poet’s inspiration and takes the naturally private poet wholly out of himself.

Do not, then, stoop to politics if you wish to make art.  Do not be political. Politics will not fix the leak or write the poem—it will hinder fixing the roof and writing the poem, because whatever aims to triumph in the realm of advice (the default rhetorical purpose of political discourse) hinders the artist (who is, if art is properly understood, not an advice-giver).

You must never attempt to triumph; the muse will have nothing to do with the artist who makes an attempt to win her.  The muse must already be yours.

The artist must be victorious before the game even begins; the great artist sees the game entirely before it starts; the poetic work is simply copying out the pre-seen result.  There must be no struggle, no harangue, no attempt to convince, no argument—for then the artist will be no artist at all, but a mere Emerson, a mere sermonizer.  The art must flash upon the consciousness like a piece of music, the argument hidden in the folds of the exquisite notes.

If the argument is key, leave it for a sermon—as I am doing now.

Oh, and even better than the sermon is the dialogue.  Allow comments on your blog.

Do not be like Poetry’s Blog Harriet or the blogger Ron Silliman.


Imagination is not just one thing we have—it is the only thing we have.

Imagination is how we experience the world. No other person or thing experiences it for us. Only we experience the world—which is the same thing as saying only we experience ourselves.

When someone is rude or short with us, or fails to meet our expectations, we feel pain beyond the rebuke itself because this is a glimpse into the truth that every soul is trapped in its own imagination: communication exists, but it is not communication with you. Even when someone loves you, they are not loving you—they are simply in an imaginatively loving state. None of us are capable of loving another, but some of us are able to love—by using our imaginations.

Individuality exists only so much as it feeds into a type. The imagination is able to combine types, but it cannot appreciate individuality, since imagination depends on universals, and universals depend on types.

These observations are only true of myself, and only so much as I am a universal, will they make any sense to you. The detail I invoke requires participation in a type for you to understand it.

Details are only experienced as they participate in a type. If a recognizable type is not acheived by the imagination, the detail will not be seen as useful, but will be felt as a waste or an annoyance.

This is easily demonstrated by song—a note is welcome as it contributes to the tune. One wrong note can destroy the loved and familiar musical phrase.

The imagination can re-work wrong notes into an improvisational framework or coloring—the variation on a theme relaxes this precision, yet improvisation takes skill, and notes will sound wrong if the governing spirit of the improvising musician is not doing its imaginative work. The imagination makes details disappear into a higher unity.

We can break it down morally.  Good aspires to a higher unity. Evil descends from higher unity into chaos. Stupidity has no idea of unity, or type, at all.

The imagination: there is no outside to it, and it is all we have.

An objection will arise: but the world outside is real and the world outside defines the imagination, etc

To this objection we respond: We are not defining the world, we are defining the imagination—and this is the only way to do it.

We can make a list of all the things in the world, but what can the actions of human beings possibly have to do with this list? Reality’s list is too large to have any impact. If reality is more than a word, we must acknowledge its bulk—a tiny part of it is enough to overwhelm. Reality filters into our imagination from a limited perspective in time and space—the imaginative reality is our only reality.

This is not to say that artistic consciousness is some kind of goal or ideal—it is not.  Given what has already been said, all of us are artists already. The worldly vanity of the artiste shall be safely ignored.  Poets need not prove they are poets—but that their reader is.

The poet should be involved in demonstrating imaginative skill, not attempting to convey what is real. Perspective in painting, for instance, as art history has demonstrated, is imaginative—the merely flat canvas is real.  Where should the poet’s desire lie?

Happiness belongs to our imagination.  Reality gives us food out of necessity—eating is pleasurable when it is social and imaginative, not when it is natural. Yes, sugar is a delight and is found in nature—but too much sugar makes us miserable.  The imagination, in its harmony and beauty, curbs all excess. The imagination requires no checks, as nature does, for imagination’s measure is beauty and happiness itself.

Material necessity has no claim on the imaginative.  As Da Vinci wrote in his notebooks, geometry is the basis of perspective in painting, and the point (which forms the line, etc) is the basis of geometry, and geometry’s point has no material existence.

If imagination suffers from being a mere isle in reality’s sea, it is the isle where we find all love, all harmony, all beauty, all happiness.

That, my love, is where I’ll meet you.


What the gods love most is their own face.

Greetings Votaries!

Tomorrow is the Day.

Today we’ll not quote from Lord Byron’s Don Juan or Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, or the writings of Shelley against marriage.

The best way to enjoy love the longest is in our thoughts—and what are thoughts made of, but words?  (No, not those kinds of words! Nice words, beautiful words, words that light our way to the sun.)  Poetry enables love to unfold beautifully in our minds all the time. This is why poetry and love will always be sisters, and why love is poetry’s highest calling.

One of the best ways to express love is in song.

Ashbery’s art might make us giggle, but Adele’s art will always have more followers, because she can make us cry.

Didn’t Sir Paul sing a brand new song at the Grammy’s last night, called “Valentine?”

The lyrics were simple but luv-ley.

Here is my attempt to write a famous, iconic love song.  The song has never been recorded, so the music exists in notes on paper sitting on my piano at home.

But the words to the love song follow.


Finally, your heart decides.
Finally, you try all the rides.
Finally, you love in the spring.

Finally, it all makes sense.
Finally, there’s no coincidence.

Finally, you jump right in.
Finally, you play to win.
Finally, you love in the spring.

Finally, it all makes sense.
Finally, there’s no coincidence.

Finally, you catch her eye.
Finally, your lips say “hi.”
Finally, you love in the spring.



When Thomas Brady, Alan Cordle, Christopher Woodman, and Desmond Swords were banned from Blog Harriet two years ago, there was no crying.

There was revenge.

Cordle sprang into action after the banning, creating a website called Scarriet—a well-deserved joke on the bumbling, mean-spirited site, Harriet, named after Harriet Monroe, the late 19th century blue-blood aesthete who raised enough money for a little poetry magazine, a toy in the very early 20th century of the idle rich who collected Asian art and swooned over haiku.

Monroe was fortunate to have an operator named Ezra Pound as her London editor, well-connected to the decadent ins and outs of the new art market machinations.  A great wave of calculated anti-Romantic, anti-Renaissance fervor was in the air:  Palgrave’s golden treasury was a great albatross around the neck of Progress; Plato’s measurement was being replaced by ‘blah blah blah,’ measured art was being replaced by art that said it was art, and art, like money, could now make money just for being whatever it was that someone said it had to be.

All this generated, as one might imagine, a lot of hustle and bustle.  Art that had value for the middle classes was relegated to reprints, art seeking value now became a process of the rich seeking to distance themselves from the middle class.  Imagism hopped on the back of haiku and Pound and Monroe were off and running.  Pound and Eliot threw in their lot with fascism while Monroe’s little magazine, safely ensconced in the Midwest, insinuated itself into the Modern Poetry graces of certain would-be poets, one being Ruth Lilly, who happened to have a fortune, and gave a lot of it recently to Harriet Monroe’s magazine.

Blog Harriet gave up on its great democratic experiment of allowing comments on its site about 6 months after banning the Now Famous Four.

Blog Harriet is now a dull cut-and-paste site (despite the Poetry Foundation’s millions) while the banned Brady writes the original bounty that is Scarriet, taking a true measure of poetry in all its aspects.

That’s our two cents.



How do we know the movie starts or the poem begins?
If we cheer the anti-bourgeois,
Do we do so because somebody sins?
If these fragments please us,
What mind or book
Shall eventually please the greedy advertisers?
Will unfaithful sex lead to good,
At least in the abstract?
Can all these vagabonds fit in this wood?
How long has my memory of Rimbaud been under attack?


The first time I read it,
It blew me away—
The next time I read it,
I said, yeah, OK. 

The third time I read it,
I skimmed it quite fast—
The fourth time I read it
Was probably the last.


Who was a bigger drinker, Ashbery or Poe?

Ashbery, easy.

Is Ashbery deep?

No. Dense, maybe, not deep.

By dense, do you mean difficult?

No. ‘Difficult’ implies a problem to be solved. Language allows you to load up a twenty pound vehicle with two tons of stuff. Language allows one to be problem-free. It’s magical, really. Ashbery takes a traditional poem and loads it up with excess prose. It’s playing with the magic of language, without having anything to say, or being too smart, or worldly, or sly, to have anything to say. It’s analogous to a businessman who plays with money and has no morals. That’s why Ashbery is dense, but not difficult. The wealthy businessman has no problems, no difficulties—he isn’t looking to solve a problem, just push money around. Perhaps he gambles with his investments, but that’s not ‘problem-solving,’ per se. That’s just playing with money. Maybe he could lose his shirt. But what he does is not solving a problem. But the world is full of gambling businessmen, and the world needs capital. Does poetry needs an Ashbery? Readers don’t need an Ashbery, but if poetry, as a metaphorical device, didn’t have an Ashbery, it would invent one.

You’ve said early Auden sometimes sounds exactly like Ashbery.

Yes, there’s a few poems Auden wrote as a young man which sound like ‘the Ashbery poem,’ the poem we read over and over with Ashbery’s name under it in the New Yorker, next to those wealthy ads, year after year.  It’s the poem that fakes curiosity and interest and then disappears into the smooth lake, a glass surface left in its wake, and if you as the reader complain, if you get the least bit ruffled, you lose, and the poem wins. We  see what a working-class cad you really are. The poem, by its mere being, has found you out. Similarly, if you ask what an abstract painting means, you are found out as a clod. It works the same way. Yea, so early Auden is like Ashbery, but then Auden had ideas, and was far more forthcoming with all sorts of opinions than Ashbery, and pretty quickly then, in the 30s, Auden’s poems, and of course his ballads, had lots of content. If Auden had remained with nothing to say, he would have become the first Ashbery.  But Auden ended up choosing the first Ashbery.

Auden anointed Ashbery with his Yale Younger ‘bring me that fellow’s manuscript who didn’t enter the contest, will you?’ choice.

Yea, and O’Hara was runner-up. Auden knew Ashbery and O’Hara were cartoons of himself; both poets were larks, clever, but they weren’t serious poets, he knew that. But Auden had started out just like them, and Auden had famously said a poet who likes to play with words will be better than someone who merely has ‘things to say,’ and this trope: ‘poetry is how you say it, not what you say,’ is the most important linguistic, artistic,  philosophical, political, rhetorical trope of the modern era. If matter is nothing but negative and positive charges, if communication is nothing but code, if political leaders triumph with style alone, if the secret agent is the true hero of his country and the double agent the true hero of the world, if William James and Wittgenstein were right, if the Language Poets are right, if secret handshakes mean much more than open ones on the count of secrecy alone, if foetry, not poetry is the rule, than certainly how something is said is more important than what is said.

But doesn’t this mean that aesthetics is more important than power?

Power is a given.  Power cannot be beautiful, for the two are distinct.  Beautiful art inspires, it empowers the audience, makes society more beautiful by making its art more beautiful, and there’s always room for more beauty, that problem of putting more beauty in the world, and making citizens more beautiful persons will never go away; the poem of power works quite differently; it takes away the free will of true response and makes the reader non-critical and acquiescent, which is not the same thing as being inspired by beauty, even in a passive way, because the critical response is always inspired when beauty is involved, since we judge beauty and power judges us. Before the abstract painting, or the Ashbery poem, one must rejoice in its lack of beauty and perspective and harmony or be ‘found out’ as a cad.  Modern art works like the secret police.  It finds you out as a worshiper of beauty or not, and knows you, thusly. This is power, because the art does not know anything itself, but it finds out what you know, how you feel, how you think, and thus who you are, in a purely binary way: are you one of us, or not?  In terms of power, in terms of political intelligence, in terms of political organizing, modern art is very, very important in how the world is run, in how the world is classified. Modern art is code.  Aesthetics has nothing to do with it.

But isn’t ‘how you say it” aesthetics, by its definition?  Poets who write with meter and rhyme, for instance, surely are more concerned with how they say it than with what they say.  But the formalist poet is the very opposite of Ashbery.

The formalist poet who only cares about sounds—of which early Auden was an excellent example—is like the Abstract painter who only cares about color. Aesthetics boiled down is abstraction.  The key to poetry isn’t code or abstraction or only ‘how it is said,’ or only ‘what is said,’ but a harmonious combination of all elements.  Power breaks down those elements.  Art and all the virtues are reduced to code where people can say, ‘we have to keep the riff-raff out,’ which is a residue of virtue, since keeping out what is bad is the residue of good, but now it’s coded and we all know what it really means, and the code can be thinned out until only the important people know what it means.

You see poetry as something that ought to match a good society.  But what if poetry isn’t supposed to do that?  What if poetry’s function is to go its own way and if it’s good for society, fine, and if not, well, it’s more important for art to be free to pursue its own path than having to fit into, or contribute to, a virtuous society?

I guess it does sound like I’m making a heavy-handed assertion, one that goes back to Socrates and follows a moral tradition, because it certainly appears that I’m saying that we can only read Ashbery through the lens of a harmonious, or potentially harmonious, society.  But isn’t that what we’re all saying?  Except that some defer the issue to a greater extent than others?  Those who say ‘art must be free’ do not say this because they think it’s a bad idea;  they think it’s a good idea—and ‘good idea’ means here what’s ‘good’ for society.  Even the person who says there should be no society is making an assertion based on the worth of a society.  So all opinions on the value of anything, really, are backed up by the implicit understanding we’re talking about ‘the good’ in the Socratic, ‘Plato’s Republic,’ sense.  Those who would make a fetish of art would deny this bit of common sense: society or ‘the good’ have nothing to do with it, and will never have anything to do with it, they say. The New Critics will claim it only matters if the poem ‘works’ as a poem, and the Ashbery school will essentially say it only matters if it ‘doesn’t work’ as a poem, which is the logical next step, but the phrase “as a poem” can’t possibly have any meaning separate from society, since “as a poem” is a term that implies distinction between ‘poem’ and other things, and, in addition, the “as a” part of the phrase implies the person who intellectualizes that distinction, and once you posit an intellectual person, society quickly follows.

Do you think poetry can be a window into scientific experiments, so in that way it is free of what you are talking about?

I can’t think of any poetry that can be classified that way.  Is there an obscure poem somewhere, beloved of scientists, and no one else?  I can’t think of such a poem, unless perhaps the essay “Eureka,” which Poe called “a poem.”  But this was not the bogus science of a Charles Olson.  Poe can be forgiven for his misnomer, only because his science was real; it concerned the stars, the planets, the nebulae, gravity, light, and the miraculous physics of the heavens.


Not kisses, me.  —N. Cissus

The sentence is no longer necessary.
We’ll need God, the universe, the earth, the sea,
And my poems, of course, in a book marked me.

The van is outside humming!
They’ve come to take my punctuation.
Take my commas!  I pause no longer.
My reflection…my heart is thrumming!
Plato asked: can music dionysian
Ruin a nation?
The answer, by the way, must come from me.

I stare.  I no longer hear.
I look at the violin.

My art is flat.
I have nothing to put my soul in.
I’m only myself when I’m just this near.
I look in my eye—where you spat.
I’ll need to borrow your semi-colon;

My sentence will no longer be.
My point of view has won.
What was that wooing noun doing looking at me?


My burning is my burning, but it is also the world’s flame.
My breathing is the world’s breathing, the world breathing the same.
The body is a body, but this world is a name.

In my fit is the world’s anger and spasm;
Sitting in it is a secret knowledge: a thrum.
Tell me to speak, I am deaf; tell me to listen, I am dumb.
The science fiction always springs from scientific fact.
The story is the memory, torn, as it walks back.
When the storm comes to my window, in frozen rivulets of snow,
Buried in that multitude of flakes is one separate thing I used to know.
The burying is my knowledge, burying my knowledge,
White roads, sky, pregnant with snow; the announcement closed the college;
Everything is blocked, and for the sake of getting a look,
I am reassembling my sorrow, sorrowfully, in a book.
Here is my poem; you can go to it right now.
We can stay up all night; this much love will allow.


When I saw her, she looked lovely,
So I looked, so I looked, once again.
I went down the garden stairs toward her.
Nothing like her in all the world of men!
I greeted her with a common phrase.
She replied in whispered tones so fair!
She had sandals on her feet, there was a wedding,
But all she seemed to be concerned with was her hair.


Four guys know a girl,
Only one can have her—
She’s a sister to them all—
Each one her friend, her brother,
Yet all want to be her lover
Or smile still, or joke with her, or fall
Into hell, where fire flames up from every beauty in the world.


My Mary danced her luckless way
By the roses,
My Mary danced her feckless way
In between the roses.
In my dream she poses
In a fragrant dream of roses.
My Mary was—but I shouldn’t say.

My Mary sang, “Away, away!”
By the roses,
My Mary sang, “Away, away!”
Hidden in the roses.
She undid them all that way
By the bright and rolling roses.
My Mary was—but I shouldn’t say.

My Mary caused some disarray
By the roses.
My Mary caused someone to say,
“You’ll suffer losses!”
“You’ll suffer losses!”
Only I know what the loss is.
And Mary, too—but I shouldn’t say.

My Mary loves her roses
In outer space.
My Mary flies with roses
In outer space.
Where is the man who talked of losses?
Who talked and talked of losses?
There’s not a trace.

If the roses, the roses
Are here, you might think Mary is close—
Because the odor of the roses
I couldn’t go that way;
I couldn’t breathe
When Mary danced by the roses,
Is what I’m trying to say.


That summer we were devoted to baseball
And counted dexterity highest of all things.
Under high trees we learned what we could do on our feet
With the wiffle ball—make it soar or run and with its curve
Baffle both the left handed and the right handed batter.

Our umpire was the venerable Henry Wadsworth Longfellow;
On Brattle Street in Cambridge,  Longfellow’s house stands,
Between it and the Charles River, Longfellow Park;
A dozen stone steps on either side descending to the river
Frame a monument fifteen feet high, featuring the bust

Of Longfellow, with his fictions carved in low-relief
On the wall behind him; the base on which his bust sits
Is a pedestal forming a strike zone perfect in width,
The wall a fine back-stop to the field of play, formed by
A three foot stone wall enclosing the infield, lamposts

Perfect foul poles just beyond the short wall’s two corners;
Three stone steps opposite the statue twenty feet away
Lead to the grass outfield and a curved path: homerun.
Two is all that’s needed; one bats, one pitches.
Singles need to clear the three foot stone wall,

Doubles are any hit which hits an outfield tree on the fly,
Triples those hits which on a fly strike the distant path,
Homeruns those which clear the path, sixty feet away.
Home is the vertical area behind the batter,
Under Henry’s beard.  He watched the called balls and strikes

We threw against his pedestal all summer.  My fastball
Was okay, but then I changed speeds—she’d lunge at the ball
Before its anticipated arrival; that was the change-up,
My best pitch.  She threw hard and learned a spot
Where I just couldn’t hit it and threw it there all day;

She shut me out once; we’d play nine innings
And we took it seriously.  We fell in love with the game;
We hated to stop when tourists came by to peek at Henry,
Or when it rained, or grew dark, or when lovers
Were there ahead of us, sighing in our perfect field.


Van Gogh (d. 1890) Japanese influence due to U.S. Navy’s trip to Japan in mid-19th century, thanks to Poe’s friend, Joseph P. Kennedy, sec. navy.

Tom, I dare not say.
Little review, I’m afraid you’ll go away.
A light rain might interfere with the sun
In terms that might upset you, or anyone,
Gliding past an ordinary World War One day.

I’m afraid you’ll go away.
The rain dissolves near the mist-resembling sun.
Clouds were bright last night, and I see every magazine is done.
Is it possible to be published? Will I be kissed?
Is it wise to duck the sun?

Haiku was all the rage in 1904
Due to the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japan war.
Imagism and “objective correlative”
Would soon follow.
Ezra Pound insisted, but Tom’s father wouldn’t swallow.

Perhaps aeroplane and typewriter
Made poems go
where they didn’t want to go.
Futurism was a gas—funny and slow.
Is light in the eyes of the crowd the light of night or day?
Are we closer to each other now?   Stein’s secretary,

Tom, I dare not say
Why there’s no ideas but in things,
For things work better in painting,
Not in poetry, where things do not stay;
Do you remember the stars?  The wide bay…



We, the vain and beautiful,
Are the most unhappy of our race,
Because we are unhappy at heart,
Being interested in only the face
And the things which adorn mere nature
To make her more beautiful still,
When the mouth is an ooze of blood,
And seeing releases the will.

Is life a jumble of rude sensations?
What good is ugliness, per se?
We did not dream of trench warfare,
Or of sending the different away.
Our single criterion is beauty,
And then simple worship of the same
In whatever we find beautiful,
Without note of number or name.


i flew over.jpg

I flew over the round world, round-eyed,
Spying what the raven who first rode westward spied:
Three ravens, who sat, like the ballad, in a tree.
The ballad did not mean a thing to me.
I sang that ballad because my voice was smooth,
Samita! of all things done with the mouth I loved,
I loved to sing, and make vowels and consonants move,
That I might please, simple as daylight sighted
When black in the forest is first removed
As day inside the wood is first lighted
By an ancient, or maybe, modern, sun,
The same one, Mediterranean-whited,
Who blues the wave, now in this mossy wood,
Spilling sun-change on shadow, day-improved,
As each shadow plays upon the day,
Turning around to look at itself, day’s shadow,
Wanting to inhabit music, luxury, and play
In spots between trees, dying into harmony
As song finds that a small misunderstanding pleases.

I find the raven inside every shadow—
The world does not allow absence.
The philosophy was “Everything exists.”
Do you hear my song as it invades the day?
As I watch the stretched earth all day changing,
Hated, not for blindness, but for being near-sighted,
As officials ask for fur, for my impressionism;
Hollow inside, my answer is low and murmuring:
“There is only you, there is no impressionism.”
The light takes time, as time, always away, takes.
The prose is the photograph the sly poem takes,
The prose who lived years ago somewhere else;
The prose is someone else’s. It surrounds my house.
The sun inhabits the fire that inhabits the sun.
The many beautiful prevent us from loving one.


Poetry is where you tell all.
It takes no talent or skill.
Make yourself small
By telling all.

Poetry does not take learning.
It is but a fury, a burning,
A passion which makes you small
By telling all.

You enter rooms watching your back,
Your life in place, your pride intact.
But you must burn, crash and fall
By telling all.


I was trekking nostalgically through Youtube, as I occasionally do, last weekend and Cat, you made me cry three times.   “Tea for the Tillerman” was one of those iconic records I heard in my adolescence and your intense, yet gentle singing style really knocked me out.  I think it was my sister’s record, not mine, but I grew to really like it.

Now that I have a young son and daughter, there’s an added emotion for me to the songs “Father and Son” and “Wild World” (the latter is about a girlfriend, but it could almost be about a daughter) and as soon as I heard these two songs: instant tears.

It’s a good thing my kids didn’t see me blubbering at the computer—I don’t know what they would have thought.  My sentimental music tastes freak them out enough, already.

Then I decided to watch Yusuf Islam, a much older Cat Stevens, play “Father and Son” to a gathering of Muslims, and that, too, made me cry.  Maybe because he was older and singing the same song, maybe because he was singing it to a different people who were enjoying the same song in the same way, but it really got to me.

Cat Stevens, you bastard.

But, unfortunately, the pedant in me would like to say a little more.  The lyrics of “Wild World” and “Father and  Son” have parental, moral, and sentimental strains which are the basis of all art—and all religion.

Every impulse in both art and religion has some kind of parental or authoritative guidance, and this is inescapable.

The poet who has no morals is still a moral lesson.  Art is trapped in morality; to be a poet is to be a priest: from this there is no escape.

In the lyrics to “Wild World,” the narration quickly moves from the painful Petrarchan trope  of the indifferent beloved (she’s leaving him) to tender, paternal guidance and concern; the poet escapes from the hell of disappointment into the heaven of care.  Amor’s resentments and regrets are quickly transformed into a kind of selfless agape.

Now that I’ve lost everything to you
You say you wanna start something new
And it’s breakin’ my heart you’re leavin’
Baby, I’m grievin’
But if you wanna leave, take good care
Hope you have a lot of nice things to wear
But then a lot of nice things turn bad out there

Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world
It’s hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world
and I’ll always remember you like a child, girl

You know I’ve seen a lot of what the world can do
And it’s breakin’ my heart in two
Because I never wanna see you sad, girl
Don’t be a bad girl
But if you wanna leave, take good care
Hope you make a lot of nice friends out there
But just remember there’s a lot of bad and beware

Imagine if such passionate advice-giving took this form:

So much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

This little poem seems a radically different address; and yet, would equals speak to each other like this?   No.   If your friend turned to you and said, “So much depends upon a red wheel barrow…” you would laugh in his face. The power, if it has any, of this poem is in its moral guidance.  There is an implicit authoritative voice (religious, if not poetic) speaking to a child or devotee or follower:  here is my wisdom.

The “Wheel Barrow” wisdom is not the wisdom of “Wild World:” be a good girl, beware of a__holes, but rather: be attentive, don’t forget mere things are important, too.

Even though “Wild World” and “Wheel Barrow” seem to be very different, they are not.  Both rely on:  the advice of some kind of authority. They are both highly moral.


“the world never wrote to me”  –Emily Dickinson

Had I been asked,
I would have done so much.
Had I been asked—
But I wasn’t, and yes, yes, I knew
I wasn’t going to be asked.
I was too much in love with you.

I knew when I saw you I wanted to go with you,
So I studied you for a sign
But I didn’t want you to see me staring,
Thinking, “Oh God! I wish he were mine!”
I kept my passion masked.
I waited to be asked.

I knew, early on, how much life requires
That we stifle our desires,
That, instead, we write poetry, or reach for a gun.
Despite the fact I fell in love with you
I kept my passion masked.
I waited to be asked.

I knew you would be perfect for me.
But I didn’t talk to you. I stared at TV.
I read books on every subject, looking for a sign
From the world that one day you would be mine.
I kept my passion masked.
I waited to be asked.

Oh! It was sublime! The hours I took, the time, the time,
I printed out footprints of purple and red sublime,
I constricted my breathing in the dark,
Watching love movie after love movie for a spark.
I kept my passion masked.
I waited to be asked.

Had I been asked, I would have taken off this mask.
I would have laughed, puffed, flicked an ash
And taken you to task
For making me wait a thousand years
To the tune of my own tears,
To the tune of so many tears.
I would have laughed and said, “Is that all it was?
A million years?” How absurd it would have seemed.
And then there would have been no tears.


A bird in the hand.jpg

It is a talking and a whispering,
That’s all poetry is, and a door
To where we talked as we walked along
Where we don’t walk along anymore.

It is feather warning feather of imminent death,
That’s all poetry is, for the door
Creaks and the cat
Will kill us before
We have taken a breath.

Speech, when its singing, is singing
Inside singing, not a precise command,
Not right or wrong,
Loving pretending a loving that is wending
Its way into syllables saying a seven-syllable-song.

Poetry is how beauty recognizes
Beauty truly, for foot and eye
Don’t speak, and what doesn’t speak
Doesn’t like to speak and when it finally speaks
Will likely lie.

Remember the trees where we walked along
Where we don’t walk along anymore?
No, you don’t, for I was writing a poem in my head.
I was a terrible bore.

We can’t see right from wrong
Unless another die.
Singing birds are hopping and flying
Darkly, cleverly avoiding dying.
Poetry has made a song,
But song made poetry, why?



Thomas Graves, a.k.a., Monday Love, a.k.a. Thomas Brady–poet & oxygen-sucking blogger.

Alan Cordle was the mind of Christopher Woodman was its heart.  Monday Love was its soul.    Monday Love’s anonymous poems on have received over 74,000 hits–and counting.   The impulse of the true poet–who cares who wrote them?

The following poem, in which ‘telling all’ destroys the poet, is more than just a confessional poem; in the new post-foetry climate, the paradoxical reigns: self-pity turns into a boast; anonymity is the way to be more revealing.


…..Poetry Is Where You Tell All

…………Poetry is where you tell all.
…………It takes no talent or skill.
..……….Make yourself small
…………By telling all.

…………Poetry does not take learning.
…………It is but a fury, a burning,
…………A passion which makes you small
…………By telling all.

…………You enter rooms watching your back,
…………Your life in place, your pride intact.
…………But you must burn, crash and fall
…………By telling all.


Filipinos jpeg

So here’s a really big one, Barbara Jane Reyes. Isn’t the looseness in the creative souls of your Filipino poets, the flexibility, the disorder even in their language, isn’t that actually an advantage? And don’t they get that freedom precisely by being part of a marginalized, deracinated culture? Isn’t that their big reward as artists?

When you’re shut out, can’t you also feel liberated by not having to make sense in the eyes of the establishment? Can’t you even survive better by realizing you’re your own Cirque Soleil, and the sky is your tent and anything you say way up on a very high, and very shaky, high high wire?

Like Cockney humor when London was such a God-awful place to be a worker, or Puerto Rican street talk when so-called ‘Latinos’ were just a Westside Story? Or Gypsies anywhere in Europe, even now, or the really great Yiddish in the Ghetto. None of those people wanted to be understood, their language was their hidden treasure!

And isn’t the creative nonsense-genius you get in English from Latinos, Cockneys and Filipinos just the opposite of Flarf, for example, or Stephen Burt’s  ‘New Thing,’ both of which are so studiously the product of too much money, too much leisure, too much education, too much self-regard, and cultural cabin fever?

I hope you’ve had a chance to read Thomas Brady’s two essays on the Not A Radical Treatise thread (click here, and here). Isn’t the role of what he calls “Limits” applicable to all ‘overly-racinated’ cultures, not just mainstream American poetry — bound feet in China, for example, what a heart-breaking limit that was? And if you begin to feel too privileged with Franchisement, might you not begin to affect Disenfranchisement today, pretend to be a Revolutionary, and start another very self-conscious, very rarefied, very hard to understand and therefore very deep New Movement? (I almost said “fake” there, but the tragedy, of course, is self-delusion. Yes, it’s “new” alright,  but so what? The question is, is it genuine? Does it have any genuine human value?)

And the real thing, the diamond, Desmond Swords, isn’t he just the opposite of a Stephen Burt? I hope you’ve read Desmond too — he writes about his struggle as a working class Irish poet to get accepted by the British blog establishment (click here). He also reflects specifically on his experiences on Blog:Harriet  (click here)  and goes international on the Guardian Blog — quite a read, including the flabbergasted responses!

So what do you think it did to Desmond’s voice when he found out it was just being read as “blather,” Or getting booted off The Poetry Foundation’s site for that matter? How much pleasure did that give him do you think? How high did that make him fly?

Or even in a tiny little way, the three of us here on Scarriet, Tom, Des and myself, uprooted from Harriet and cast adrift by The Poetry Foundation of America? Aren’t we sort of lucky?

Christopher Woodman

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