TOO MUCH TALK RUINS LOVE

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Too much talk ruins love.

Does she let you keep talking?

Be quiet. Or you’ll be walking.

If you unfurl all you have to say

Love, who looks, who loves looking, will silently turn away.

Love is wordless.

Look more. Speak less.

Love is the deer in the shade.

Love is not what a man with a camera made.

Love is not the swelling music and the try.

Love is the deer who in silence ambles by.

Love is not something you did.

Love is not how you lecture, or kid.

Love is the mist of ignorance

Where she laughed once and you haven’t seen her since.

Love is the shape hidden in a book

Taking her gaze. And there, for a long while, she will look.

The eye is the avenue of love.

And what travels down that avenue

Is her face, when she turns away from you.

 

LOVE ONLY LOVES

Image result for the mountains in renaissance painting

Darling, describe your stubbed toe,

Not your success. Your success everyone will know.

Talk to me about your minor pains,

The sad ones no one understands.

Love only loves when it is low.

Your smile and your goodness belong

To the world. Look at all your photos.

The world has written you a song.

Darling, I will listen to your saddest woe,

The smallest mishaps which make your sadness grow.

The festivities are over. You’re famous. Let’s go

Into the mountains where no one is famous.

There is fresh air

Where none care.

Kiss me. Don’t mention your success.

Or my success. No one needs to know.

Love only loves when it is low.

 

 

 

SEX ROBOTS GO TO WAR

Image result for CYBORGS BLADE RUNNER

I’d rather have a Paper Doll to call my own than a fickle-minded real live girl

“Paper Doll” —Lyrics written by Johnny Black 1915, recorded by The Mills Brothers 1942

Get this. The song “Paper Doll” (“when I come home at night she will be waiting, she’ll be the truest doll in all the world”) was composed during WW I and recorded during WW II—two of the more famous international wars of mechanical ferocity—which killed people in great numbers on one hand, and killed chastity in a great number of people on the other—in the western, 20th century disruption of simple, misty, village existence.

The automobile, the cinema. Also hordes of young, robust male soldiers far from home occupying men-depleted foreign towns.

Wars promote murder—and sex.

The man who sleeps with many women, or who desires many women, is not looking for the elusive one, for you don’t need to search for love sexually.  The man who sleeps with many women is escaping the heartbreak of losing “the one.”  “The one”—love and sex living together in one person.

Men all want one love—after the mother, the wife.  All men treasure monogamy with the woman of their dreams.

It is often said humans are not monogamous. This is a falsehood. They are monogamous. They always behave monogamously, even when sleeping around.

The Casanova is a former saint—whose heart was broken by a “fickle-minded real live girl.”

Men, then, are monogamous, and faithful marriage, reflecting what men want, is not a prison, but a paradise.

Unfortunately, war—promoting murder and sex—invades the garden and ruins the dream.

Women, angels who pity and care for men as part of their love for all, mercifully do what they can—to improve the lot of males crushed by circumstance.

Some women genuinely pity males—those males whose ideals have been ruined and who cry out for “paper dolls.”

Or, as we hear in the news today, not “paper dolls,” but “sex robots” (!!) which are said to be just around the corner, if not already here. (!!)

Seductions—by real women, paper dolls, robots, fantasies in the head, or pictures on the wall.  It really doesn’t matter. These are merely the effects of the tortured, miserable, heart-broken male.

Women, for the sake of these devastated men, invented Fickle-ism, a set of accepted behaviors in which women get to be fickle, and not virtuous.

Fickle-ism was invented to save men’s pride: “she left you, not because of your shortcomings, but because women are like that—they are fickle, they can’t be true, they sleep around, they have the attention span of a child. So don’t blame yourself. Go ahead and sleep around yourself. Hurt a woman, in turn. It’s okay. People sleep around. They like sex. That’s what they do.”

Fickle-ism soothed the male ego, a male ego crushed by ruined idealism—the belief in faithful marriage and monogamy.

If the ideal—the “woman of your dreams”—is impossible, at least salvage a little pride for those boys, those idealists, those good men, who really did want love, and who have tasted profound despair.

Fickle–ism often goes by another name.

Feminism.

This month two important Feminist Zeitgeist books have arrived on the market:

Camille Paglia, a pro-porn, anti-feminist, warhorse (the genders are different—Rousseau is wrong: nature, not society is the most important trope when it comes to genders—feminism wrongly makes women “equal” to men while at the same time pushing them into danger) has published a new book (a collection of old essays, actually) called Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender and Feminism

Laura Kipnis is a film professor at Northwestern, who recently got into some Title IX trouble where she teaches.  Her just-released book, Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes To Campus, documents today’s “sexual paranoia on campus.”  According to Kipnis, women on campus are being turned into helpless victims, into easily-triggered children, and feminism, which seeks to empower women, is, in the name of advancing women’s rights, actually turning back the clock to an era of women as helpless damsels in distress—-and she pins much of the blame on the Department of Education’s hyper-feminist Title IX funding reality (no school will bite the hand that feeds it) expanded to a hyper-sensitive degree in 2011 by the Obama administration.

Kipnis points out that males are fighting back, in court, with lawsuits, against current, repressive, paranoid, feminism in the universities.

Kipnis is a Freudian. She believes in repression as Freud defines it. Taboo sex with siblings and parents is something she’ll explore in her classroom. She admits to sleeping with “a professor or two” as a student. All part of student life, as she sees it.

Kipnis thinks it’s okay for professors and students to have sex.

A male professor at her university lost his job—he got drunk with a female student (who was below the legal drinking age) on an art gallery “date” and the student stressed out afterwards (she ended up at his apartment) and brought a complaint.

Kipnis defends the professor.

The stories by professor and student of what happened on the night in question differ. But both agree they were at a jazz club, at midnight, and they were drunk, and kissing. Kipnis spends a lot of time on minor details of the evening and feels the student lied about some things.

The basic facts, however, clearly point to a professor’s behavior not in keeping with the idea of a university.

It’s a mystery how anyone can condone professors drinking, or sleeping with, students.

Let’s ask: What is a university?

Simply it is this: Professors assigning work and grading students for that work.

There is no university worth the name if professors don’t do this job.

A student may attend college and not do school work. That’s her choice. The university still exists if a student attends, and chooses not to be studious.

But if the professor drinks with the student—what is that?  That’s no longer a university.  It’s something else.  And if a professor has sex with a student?  That’s not a university, either.  How can a transcript of grades from that university be trusted? How can we trust any grade the professor awards that student?

As a Freudian, Kipnis believes there’s always a danger to forbidding something—you make it more alluring.  Perhaps murder (or sleeping with your mother!) has a certain attraction for some, because it’s forbidden—but that’s no reason not to have laws against it.

Kipnis writes that it was not until 2012—very recently—that her school forbid professors from dating students.  This is pretty shocking.  Should it be okay for professors to date students?  Really?  And Kipnis doesn’t like the new rule.  She thinks college students are old enough to date whom they choose, and that young women should not be treated like vulnerable, helpless creatures. Kipnis, believing herself a good feminist, doesn’t think women need to be protected from men, except, of course, when the man is a criminal rapist.

Paglia is different.  She believes all men are rapists at heart. This is how nature made them. Paglia believes women do need to be careful.  She believes women are powerful femme fatales with sexual allure. They are not, nor should they try to be, just like men.  Paglia laughs at the idea that gender is a social construction.  Nature, red in tooth and claw, rules the night, according to Paglia.

On college campuses, the following is definitely on the rise: a woman (often drunk) will sleep with a guy, and then decide he “raped” her, and accuses him—and the guy’s life is destroyed.

Kipnis believe this is what happened to the professor—in the case she examines in her book, Unwanted Advances, the case which she referenced earlier in a Chronicle of Higher Education article—which brought feminist protests against her, fueling the eventual publication of Unwanted Advances.  Kipnis is reasonable—she concedes the professor made some poor choices, and can see why the university had to let him go; but she does go to a lot of trouble, a great deal of trouble, it seems, to defend him, and makes the case that a troubled, man-hating, feminist student used the college rules to destroy him.

Kipnis believes the feminists who hate men and cry rape at every chance are out of control.  No one would disagree that false cries of rape and abuse are wrong.

As a feminist, Kipnis believes feminism has gone too far, and is making women weak.

Kipnis thinks women should be strong, independent, curious, and ambitious—and sleep and drink with whomever they want.

Paglia would say this is naive.

There are three things at play here.

One, Actual rape, or whatever is objectively and measurably criminal—which everyone condemns.

Two, Sex, and the whole range of regrets, recriminations, doubts and misgivings which might come to light afterwards—and the question of who is having sex with whom.

And finally, Institutional Integrity.  Which cannot exist if professors sleep with students.

Number two (Sex)—and, with Kipnis,  Number three (Institutional Integrity) is where Fickle-ism, or Feminism strongly gets involved, and tends to mess everything up.  Women are feminist—that is, they are fickle.  Free and unpredictable.  Just like guys.

People tend to be free and unpredictable.  Sure.  Agreed.  But this is not the point.  Free to do what?  Unpredictable in what ways?  Only the context makes the “free” good or bad.

The fickle is never, in itself, good.

To repeat.  Women were being good to men when they invented Feminism—or Fickle-ism.

Fickle-ism, as we’ve seen, salvages men’s pride.  You got your heart broken? She left you? Don’t feel bad.  Women are free agents. Women are not passive flowers for men’s enjoyment. They have their own minds. They are wanton, indecisive, free, and fickle.

But men don’t need this.

Men need to accept it if they are rejected by a woman.  There’s always a good reason why.  It’s not because women are fickle. Or stupid. Or bad.

Not that men and women will not be fickle sometimes, make bad choices, or make cowardly choices.  But when it comes to laws and rules, feminism and fickle-ism should never be a factor.  Laws should not promote bad behavior, but good behavior.

Bad people making mistakes and bad choices will always be a problem.

But bad laws are far worse.

Kipnis is correct to push back against the excesses of police-state feminism.

She is utterly wrong, however, to object to the rule which forbids professors from sleeping with students—and therefore her entire argument collapses.

Fickle-ism will tend to do that to any argument.

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THE FALL FALLS

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The fall falls and the leaf is dry.

All your reflected beauty, Cynthia,

Is beautiful, but will die.

Look! The mist drowses.

The breeze blows your belief back into your eyes.

This is love—if you let me lie.

All the mists that sit upon the hill

Are drowsy, slumbering, and still.

The evening holds you, Cynthia.

The day is bright, but has no will.

The night should be peaceful

If you take the precarious pill.

The fall falls and the leaf is dry.

Love was always convincing the eye

While lips were content to lisp and lie.

Love was always convincing the face

Love is water, and has no place.

You have decided

The world was right when it derided.

You have desires none can fulfill.

Look at the mist on the misty hill.

Look at the sunset going down in the grasses.

The fall falls.

What is beautiful is beautiful, but eventually passes.

ANY SONG

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Any song you hear with him

You can hear with me.

Any thought you have,

Any connection or memory

You have with him you can have with me.

The favorite things you count on, or like to do

Are yours. They belong to you.

And my studied indifference and his are the same.

You can be angry with him, or have me to blame.

We can erupt into laughter, or you can laugh with him,

You can kiss the cloudy pink darkening rim

Of the evening the way the horizon kisses the sun.

It’s not really you. But you decide which one.

 

 

THE CHARMS OF WOMAN

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The charms of woman are not that many

And are easily bought—by a pretty penny.

If they have charms, they are human charms:

Conversation, eyes, comforting arms.

If you want to insult a woman

Praise her as a female human,

Ass, tits, cunt: things common to her

Are insulting and vulgar.

How can insults be praise?

Whether steamy nights or plain days?

So what are the charms we find?

There’s no such thing as a female mind,

Since all humans have them; none

On earth could see without the sun

Or think without a mind.

To say “the sun is male” would be unkind,

And “the mind” has no gender exactly the same;

So “female mind” is just a term to blame.

What is a female charm?

Can we say? Without doing harm?

Children have charms, soft things have charm, true,

But these insult. Littleness won’t do.

The soprano ability to sing

Might be the only thing,

But even that is done by a man;

Whatever she can do, he can.

Female animals are needed on a farm,

But how can we name a female charm?

We cannot say anything at all.

And finally, they love men. Ah. Ironic fall.

 

 

YOUR DISAPPOINTMENTS AND YOUR TEARS

Smile that gleams like a star.

Smile that seems to be everything you are.

I knew you before I loved you,

And then my loving grew,

My love became pleased at all my imagination could do:

To walk by your side, even though I didn’t know you, in the past,

With perfect admiration, not worrying whether things would last.

Love was easier when the first quiet admiration knew

To build a world and a place for it and a sky

And love, lovely in its wings, tumbled with ease after flying very high.

To be lighter than air

Was the aim of my love, to dwell softly in your soft hair,

To be shadow and light—kissing you everywhere.

Did I know you long ago, in those sad years,

When you lived in your disappointments and your tears?

 

Smile that gleams like a star.

Smile that seems to be everything you are.

I loved you before I knew you

After seeing you in a picture or two.

I felt I knew everything. I was pleased at what your eyes and smile could do.

My heart departs in an hour,

I am in, and I’m looking forward to meeting you;

Were I to hold you, and understand your power:

To make everything seem immediately new,

I would not feel the need to go

Into the inner regions. And your poem tells me: you know.

I admire you, living inside your beauty,

And I love, with certainty,

Your smile—as I know you smiled—smiling in all those years

Despite your disappointments and your tears.

 

Smile that gleams like a star.

Smile that seems to be everything you are.

I decided to love you madly.

Was it because every time you smiled, you smiled somewhat sadly?

The smile that smiles sadly is the smile that sees me.

You saw me with your smile, your paintings, your poetry,

And I felt, though it wasn’t, your smile looking directly at me

And without a thought whether it was wrong or right

I found myself thinking of you before I fell asleep at night,

And waking up, in love, the morning entirely new.

I am in love with you.

Your smile confronts my enemies and my years—

Your smile ends my disappointments and my tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL ROUND ONE PROSE BRACKET BATTLE IN MADNESS: DICKENS VS. HAWTHORNE

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The young Nathaniel Hawthorne. He aged quickly.

Empires are obsessed with money.

Their colonies are obsessed with sex.

The greatest author of the British Empire, Charles Dickens, invented Scrooge.

The first great prose writer in America, Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote a famous book about adultery, The Scarlet Letter.

Religion handles the problem of sexual misconduct—the poor, with their suffering, often find their only real pleasure in sex; the rich have many pleasures, and sex might be one of them: money buys all.

Dickens was immensely popular in England, (the first serialized fiction writer; like TV before TV) but due to international copyright laws, his works were published at no cost in the United States—Edgar Poe complained vociferously of this, because U.S. authors were slighted, since American publishers would rather print British works for free than take a chance on an American author.  Poe, gentleman that he was, cared for money, fame, and country (he did not write about sex).  Dickens agreed with Poe, and on a tour of America in 1842, Dickens collected and delivered to the U.S. Congress signatures of American authors who were against the international copyright laws which hurt both Dickens and Poe.

Hawthorne was a strange, reclusive man, whose ancestor was a Salem witch trial judge, and he married an artistic, reclusive woman.  They did have three children, and Hawthorne was certainly a man of the world, but his fiction deals with madness and secret desires.

Dickens wrote from the Christian, domestic center of an expanding worldwide empire and his morals were sunny and simple—despite London nearly ruling the world, London was full of the wretchedly poor, and Dickens wrote for them.

And this line sums up Dickens quite well:

A loving heart is the truest wisdom

When Hawthorne was a boy living in Salem, two events darkened his life: first, his sailor father died of yellow fever at sea, and second, president Thomas Jefferson imposed a shipping boycott—a response to Great Britain’s piratical belligerence in the early 19th century—which crushed maritime Salem’s economy.

Hawthorne died when the American Civil War was still raging. Pictures of him in his 50s (he died at 59) show a very old man. He was first recognized as a great author by Poe, with some reservations, since Hawthorne belonged to the Transcendentalist clique Poe disliked; Poe theorized brilliantly on the short story while reviewing Hawthorne’s tales—the Scarlet Letter was published after Poe’s death, and there’s whispers Hawthorne’s most famous work was based on the rumored affair of Poe and Fanny Osgood.

Hawthorne wrote, not for an Empire, but for an incestuous, puritan village.

Dickens’ characters had funny names.  Hawthorne’s characters had funny souls.

Here is Hawthorne’s line in the March Madness contest:

She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.

Who is the greater genius?

The soaring, sentimental Dickens?

Or the burrowing, burning Hawthorne?

Purgatory puffing a pipe?

Or hell awake under a stone?

 

 

 

SCARRIET SUCCESS

We are busy at Scarriet—publishing new posts on almost a daily basis: original essays, poems, epigrams, Scarriet March Madness Poetry contests—in its 8th year, going on right now, Scarriet Poetry Hot 100’s, you tubes of poem readings, and even song compositions.  And one day we would like to repeat our successful Scarriet Poetry Baseball Leaguein 2010 (when I was teaching English Composition as an adjunct professor and working full time at my real job) Blog Scarriet ran an entire season with 16 teams of all-time poets with entire lineups, pitching staffs, trading deadlines, statistics, pennant races, and a world series—Philadelphia Poe defeated Rapallo Pound.

Scarriet Poetry Hot 100 allows us to bring attention to poets who are not famous yet, but who have written wonderful things: Daipayan Nair, Stephen Cole, Sushmita Gupta, Payal Sharma, Mary Angela Douglas, Nalini Priyadarshni, Philip Nikolayev, Paige Lewis, Valerie Macon, George Bilgere, Kushal Poddar, Joe Green, Cristina Sanchez Lopez, Merryn Juliete, Chumki Sharma, Stephen Sturgeon, Simon Seamount, Lori Desrosiers, and Noah Cicero.

This is a personal note to just say THANK YOU to all our readers—as we head towards a million views since our founding in 2009.  “The One Hundred Greatest Hippies Songs Of All Time” (published in February 2014) still gets over 2,000 views a week.  “The Top One Hundred Song Lyrics That Work As Poetry” (published in 2013) still gets 1,000 views a week.  And posts like “Yeats Hates Keats: Why Do The Moderns Despise The Romantics?” (published in 2010) are constantly re-visited.

A poet (who I’ve never met) on Facebook, Linda Ashok, originally from Kolkata, today requested her FB Friends share “what’s happening to your poetry” and, without thinking, I quickly wrote a post—and realized your friendly Scarriet Editor has been up to quite a lot, lately, and Scarriet readers might as well hear about it:

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Shohreh Laici  who lives in Tehran and I are working on a Persian/Iranian poetry anthology—in English.   (See Laici’s translations of Hessamedin Sheikhi in Scarriet 11/26/16)

My critical study of the poet Ben Mazer will be published by Pen & Anvil Press.

My review of Dan Sociu’s book of poems Mouths Dry With Hatred  is in SpoKe issue 4

Also in SpoKe issue 4: is my review of the Romanian poetry scene (after attending Festival de Literatura, Arad, 9-12 June 2016, Discutia Secreta)

Thanks to poet and professor Joie Bose, I participated in Kolkata’s Poetry Paradigm Coffee for a Poem on World Poetry Day, March 21, in Cambridge MA.

Charles River Journal will be publishing chapters of my Mazer book.

Facebook and Scarriet is where it all happens: so I’m actually not that busy—the literary world comes to me!

Below: the new family dog.  If I don’t walk her, she pees in my bed.  Seems fair.

Image may contain: people sitting, dog, living room, table and indoor

 

 

THE MADNESS CONTINUES. STEPHEN CRANE VERSUS D.H. LAWRENCE

 

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Stephen Crane. 1871–1900  Red Badge of Courage ponders the American Civil War bloodbath.

This prose bracket contest features war (Crane) and  love (Lawrence)—and it probably doesn’t get any better than this.

Ironically, (of course—what do you expect with war and love?) the war passage is peaceful, and the love quotation is warlike.

The horror of war, the beauty of horror, the resting aspect of war, the natural inevitably of war, is captured for all time by Stephen Crane:

The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.

Meanwhile, D.H. Lawrence, for whom love and passion was a religion (why is this not true of all of us?  Perhaps it is), injects horror into love—which makes it real love, unfortunately.

He kissed her, and she quivered as if she were being destroyed, shattered.

The glimpse into truth carried by words always has an irony for us—since words are removed from reality.

Aren’t they?

 

THE LIQUID BLACK

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I remember her face,
Classical and long,
Like a Mediterranean song.
I remember her neat lips
Always had a faint smile,
For she knew I wanted her all the while.
I remember her nose.
Any woman going to a plastic surgeon would cry
“I want one of the those.”
My praises didn’t lie.
Her breasts I pressed against
Could not be fenced.
When I praised her, she would half-agree;
My praises brought out a dull modesty.
She was not a poet; the praises I spoke
Would produce from her, at best, a self-effacing joke.
She wouldn’t love me back
In the same way.
A few times she blurted out
Her love. The rest of the time I was in doubt.
Why was she unsure? I cannot say.
I remember her head flung back,
The divine liquid black
Which made her face divine,
Failing for a moment to cover
Her face gracefully, a sign
She could be ugly,
The first sign: I didn’t love my lover.

 

I SURRENDERED

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I held my breath under the New England trees.
The grass was soft where I bent my knees,
By the broken twigs and flowers, and I wept openly in the park
Until large buildings were immersed in the evening and the puddles after the rain were dark.

A thought came into my heart difficult
To forget. Could I forget what I felt?
I couldn’t. I couldn’t forget cold numbers or the old address,
Or what it seemed to be, and loosely what it was attached to, historically, or less.

I made my way into a patch of woods
Where the shadows had hidden us. The moods
Of love are many, and some of those moods are pain.
I walked with a fistful of flowers out of the woods to the lane.

I remember thinking I remembered
That I had been good, though I couldn’t remember,
And I made inside myself a thousand pacts
That I would be good and safe: my remembrances, my acts.

You want me to surrender. But I surrendered long ago.
You wonder if I love you. Was it so difficult to know?

PROSE BATTLE IN MADNESS: WILLIAM GADDIS AND JONATHAN SWIFT

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The post-modern novelist William Gaddis

To be post-modern is to be self-referencing in a despairing sort of way, and who has time for the egotistically bleak?

Gaddis said the writer was the “dregs” of his work and the work was all-important. But he protested too much, for post-modernism is where “dregs” is the “work.” OK, this defines modernism, but post-modernism was the most superficial attempt imaginable to escape modernism, this being the whole point. “Modern” and “post-modern” talk was mostly legitimized by over-serious scholars marking “eras” for  convenience for textbooks for modern art classes. University taking a vocational turn towards fashion.

We don’t have time for William Gaddis, but to be kind to him, we have even less time for post-modernism. Time has no time for it, either. It’s already past, and will leave Warholian personality quirks as its mark. Modern was already post-modern: Duchamp’s urinal (1917) became Warhol’s Brillo boxes (1964). Ironic branding existed in 18th century peasant fashions. Post-modern is the attempt to pretend Modern—or Modernism—was ever “modern” at all. I almost said “in the first place,” but “at all” is better. Post-modernism is merely the continuation of Hamlet’s winking madness. A gang of anti-corporate artists: The Weavers? The Beatles? Or the Velvet Underground?

The mischief makers of anti-corporate sincerity inevitably are killed by legal sharks. Upon the stone barriers of bottom line legality flying imagination crashes. Idiots want what they want; those who attempt to wake up the idiots end up as some definition of the criminal. One wonders why the world is full of dumb fucks and the answer is simple: happier to be a dumb fuck with everyone else than be a miserable lone fuck at odds with all the dumb fucks. Happiness is a law.

Which brings us to the words of William Gaddis in our Scarriet Madness Prose bracket:

“Justice?—You get justice in the next world; in this world you have the law.”

Does it have a chance against an 18th political pamphleteer and Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Jonathan Swift?

We don’t think it does:

“When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that all the dunces are in confederacy against him.”

We vastly prefer the Swift.

But the law might feel differently—especially if the dunces are using it.

 

 

 

MAKE ME WANT YOU

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Make me want you, but don’t give in

To my poetry, my poetry of desires;

The best poems burn with helpless fires;

A poem wins if the poet doesn’t win.

For my poems as poems to grow

Lead me on and on and then say no.

Let me see your twinkling breast,

So in my mind I get no rest.

Let me see your face

So I slow down my pace.

Give me your sweetest laugh

So I make gaffe after gaffe after gaffe,

And finally, in a sweat,

Write a poem they can’t forget.

Get me into my swimming head

By keeping me out of your bed.

Lure me down countless, countless roads

Covered by vegetation, thick and green,

Snaking along turbulent waters by lighthouses unseen,

Where barking Brahms harmonies call in secret codes,

And the passing night is punctuated with fog and mist.

Leave me on a Saturday,

So that I ponder for a week that’s grey.

And if we did, deny we ever kissed;

Get me to believe you will never

Hold me or kiss me, again, ever, ever;

Or much better, please don’t ever kiss me

And get me, when you see me, to think

You might possibly get on to me;

Get me believing the possibility there might be a link

To a figure made of cloth, gems, or stone,

Who cannot think, but thinks it thinks, when it is alone,

Turning in its orbit as if hope lived yet

To hope. Be disdainful, but not too cold. Get

Me to feel my fond desire for you

Could be a long series of poems. Resist. That’s all you have to do.

I think about you day and night.

You didn’t know?  Now you know why poets write.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE PROSE BRACKET MADNESS: HEMINGWAY VERSUS MRS. MILES

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Poetry was going down the tubes fast in 1936.

Mad Edna Millay (“what lips my lips have kissed and where and why…”) was about to be replaced by a grey suit…

Paul Engle, with his Iowa Masters Degree (for a book of mediocre poems) and his Yale Younger Poetry Prize (for the same book of mediocre poems) was launching the Iowa Writer’s workshop, which would change the poetry landscape forever—millions of students and professors rushing in where Shelley (a drop-out) feared to tread.

In the 19th century Byron performed physical acts of daring.

In the 20th century, there was no Byron. There was Wallace Stevens—who got beat up, by Hemingway, a prose writer.

The poets were not swimming the Hellespont. They were becoming professors.

Blame it on the Russians, if you want.

College loans (for bad poets) in the United States began with Sputnik.

Paul Engle raised money—for his Iowa Workshop, and later, for his International Writing Program at Iowa—from the Rockefeller Foundation, to fight communism.

Engle writing to the Rockefeller Foundation in 1960, in the wake of the successful Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957:

I trust you have seen the recent announcement that the Soviet Union is founding a University at Moscow for students coming from outside the country…thousands of young people of intelligence, many of whom could never get University training in their own countries, will receive education … along with the expected ideological indoctrination. 

Poetry training in the United States became “indoctrination,” too.

But it was different.

The CIA funded Modern Art to counter Soviet Realist Art—this is crazy, but it happened.

Engle’s “indoctrination” was of a perfectly harmless kind: an anti-indoctrination indoctrination in the unique American way:

Earn a degree and become a poet! Teach others, so they can earn a degree and become a poet! Poetry! Freedom! Freedom! Money! Poetry Workshops! Freedom! Poetry! Money! Poetry! Freedom!

It was exciting. I knew the extrovert Paul Engle—in person.  Poetry! Freedom! Money! is precisely the kind of energy he gave off.

Here in the 21st century, the faucet cannot be turned off.  Trained university poets, training, granting, publishing, are now a flood. The game is on. Fame and poetry are hidden away. If money is like water, poetry is being written on it.

Hemingway (informally tutored by the crazed and clever poet, and modern art collector, Gertrude Stein) was the muscled prose writer who enjoyed vast fame—as poetry was dancing its strange, crooked dance into the university.

This is what the public thought they wanted. Hemingway:

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.

Real simple prose is almost like poetry sometimes.

Something was going on here.

Prose, simple as a fist, is poetry?

Poetry can easily rush into complexity, and the temptation is great for poets to fling themselves upwards in a funeral pyre of words—but the funeral is theirs.

Poetry is anti-complex.

Hemingway was a poet—(when he wasn’t writing badly, which he often did)–if simplicity is poetry.

And when pretense and experiment is the only other game in town–-it is.

Up against Hemingway, in the 2017 March Madness contest, is Mrs. L. Miles.  Yes, that was her moniker when she published her book on phrenology in 1836.

This is not poetry.  This is real prose, extraordinary for what it says:

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.

Certainly this applies to the twin vision of poetry and prose, and we think it explains why millions, without poetry in their souls, can fool us into thinking they love us, and are sane.

 

 

PORN IN MINIATURE

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John Ashbery has been fooling around with girls on the side.
Do you believe this? Decide. Decide.
If you need attention,
It pays to be outrageous and get a mention
In whatever forum supplies
Notice to paint brushes, arms or eyes.
They will end up asking where you have been,
Maybe even ask about the tears your tears have been splashing in.
Life can be sentimental and real
But poems need to be reticent, and not really show how you feel.
The gypsy can stomp and shout,
But please don’t tell the modern reader what your poem’s about.
Otherwise, you know, the charge
Of sentimentality will be leveled at your Cleopatra on the barge;
Her look, as you’ve described it here,
Is too much like a diamond shining in a diamond-shaped tear.
So look to your necklace, your locket, your phone
Which is calling you now, in a frail, low moan.

 

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD AND OSCAR WILDE FACE OFF IN THE PROSE BRACKET SCARRIET MARCH MADNESS 2017

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F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Great Gatsby is a beloved American novel—a short novel—almost like a long poem.  The writing is delicate, sensitive; the narrator is reflective, sad, moral, demure—not really part of the action; an innocent, bemused witness.  The trope is similar to Watson observing Sherlock Holmes—a trope lifted from Poe’s invention of detective fiction: the teller of the tale tells the reader what is just beyond the teller’s comprehension.

The theme and lure of Gatsby is America’s freedom—freedom that’s wicked: wealth of a dubious nature—beautiful wealth growing from the soil of crime.  And love of a dubious nature—the freedom of adulterous love.

Nick Carraway is us—when we are young, and try our first novel: what’s this big, grown-up, world all about, anyway?  Ugly, seedy, wrong.  But the author will make it beautiful.  Or, sublimely ridiculous, that so amid the tragedy you can (holding the understanding author’s hand) almost—laugh.  And Gatsby is also us—that’s what finally makes Fitzgerald’s book great; we identify not just with the narrator, but with Gatsby.

Fitzgerald succeeds in making his story beautiful, as well; before he was destroyed by alcohol, F. Scott Fitzgerald had high ideals; Fitzgerald rhapsodized over the poet, Keats (who also won highest accolades from Poe as “always a poet of beauty”) and The Great Gatsby achieves a beauty, as we see in the very last line of the book:

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

Oscar Wilde had a sharp wit—he was plying the same trade as Fitzgerald: making the tragedy of life palatable with a mind that greatly understands.

Wilde, like any genius, fights for happiness—genius is a defense against all the meanness of the world.

One can see him winking when he says:

Always forgive your enemies—nothing annoys them so much.

Christ told us to forgive our enemies—and the pleasure-seeking brute in us protests—“forgive our enemies?  That’s no fun!

The admonition to forgive our enemies robs us of energy in a desire for justice, and cheats us out of the pleasure of defeating our enemies.

But not so fast, Wilde says.  When you forgive your enemies, “nothing annoys them so much.”

And here, in a single stroke, Wilde restores the passion and the energy of justice—while remaining true to Christ’s suggestion.

The Great Gatsby does this, and a certain kind of fiction does this—it presents “enemies”—characters, whom, if we met in real life, we would fear, or hate—and the author attempts to make it possible, even as we shudder at their wrong, to forgive them.

 

 

THE PROSE BRACKET: HOLMES VS. ORWELL

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Eric Blair changed his name to George Orwell to hide from Stalin. 

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

–George Orwell

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

George Orwell is famous for expounding the truth of government control: lying that blatantly misleads and so breaks the will of resistance.  It’s a two step process. A lie—so obviously a lie, that it is also a form of oppression. The imposition of totalitarian thuggery on a sovereign nation—the Soviet state, in the modern era of advanced communication—and spying—caught the attention of an eccentric, rough-and-ready-yet-awkward, British Empire civil servant, who was born in India, and who served in Burma in the Imperial Police: yes, that’s right— George Orwell himself was an Orwellian Policeman who worked for the British Empire.

George Orwell was working towards a British identity in a H.G. Wells/Bertrand Russell free love, atheistic, homophobic (he called friend and associate Stephen Spender a “pansy”) socialist-but-watch-out-for-the-Soviet-Reds, keep-a-patronizing-eye-on-the-English-working-class, whip-the-school-boy-when-necessary, ramble-in-the-woods, tinker-in-the-garden, blow-up-a-chemistry-set, play-a-prank-or-two, good-cup-of-hot-tea-and-milk, traditional England, sort of way. He loved London. He hated Moscow. Orwell is a great deal simpler than he might seem. To be an eccentric Englishman is to be, quite matter-of-factly Orwellian, through and through—if you haven’t met one of these types, already.

Orwell is that special kind of hero to every western, post-War intellectual—the anti-Stalinist Leftist. He wrote two classics exposing, first in a fairy tale, and then in a dystopian thriller, totalitarian, ideological, mind control, Soviet-style, Communism—or, the CIA Deep State, if you like. He was deeply involved in working class, leftist, journalism and politics, and his two famous books were probably good because, in both, he was able to take a holiday and write fiction to indirectly say what he otherwise strenuously and directly said, and lived: shot in the throat by a sniper in Spain while fighting against Franco, threatened and decried by Stalinists, fighting for socialism, surviving the blitz, writing non-fiction, working part-time jobs, falling ill a lot, chasing women, traveling, and playing a tramp (spying) in poor districts as a journalist.

Writing Animal Farm must have been a lark for this non-stop, chain-smoking, frail, driven, adventurous, wreck of a man who died at 46.

He wrote the Alice in Wonderland of the 20th century about the Soviet Union.

He updates the Victorian classic with absurdism still the underlying trope:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (1984)

Oliver Wendell Holmes, a Fire Side Poet who knew Emerson, who lived in Massachusetts, a physician and man of letters, is the American 19th century liberal, ready to join the English and punish the Russians and Germans. Checkmate is moves away, but as certain to come as high tea. Holmes is the brilliant 19th century, free-thinking American—not quite the same thing as an early 20th century, free-thinking, British eccentric, but close. We assume there is much too much evil in the world—so no need to play out the chess match. Accept the match is over.  The U.S. and Britain are to rule the world.  Haven’t you heard?

But what is this? Neither Red nor White have surrendered!

They are still playing!

After numerous overtimes, steady Holmes edges eccentric Orwell!

FROST AND BUKOWSKI: POETRY ROUND ONE

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Charles Bukowski goes up against Robert Frost in this final Round One Poetry Bracket contest.

These are 20th century poets, so don’t expect beautiful poetry.

Bukowski is essentially the child (whoring and drinking whiskey) who utters homely truths which the educated are forced to admit are true.

There’s nothing worse than too late

And there you go.  Who can deny this?  Isn’t he right?

Robert Frost, like Emerson, Melville, and Whitman, first found fame in Great Britain, which, until World War Two, was the World’s English Professor for those seeking literary fame.

The American poet Amy Lowell was visiting London at the same time, fighting with Ezra Pound and his buddy, Ford Maddox Ford—who wanted Amy’s America to join the bloodbath against “the Huns” in the approaching Great War, and Amy would have none of it. Frost, who had a curmudgeon loner streak, kept away from this fight.

Frost’s first two volumes of verse were published in London in 1913 and 1914, just as England was crying for war and it was getting underway.

Then while the genocide was occurring, in 1915, Frost slipped back to America, at the age of 40.  Frost won the first of his four Pulitzer Prizes in 1924, and began teaching at Bread Loaf in 1921, helping to pioneer America’s dubious yet successful Writing Program industry.

Bukowski was born in Germany in 1920—to a German-American sergeant in the American army occupying a defeated Germany after WW I.

Growing up in Los Angeles, a socially withdrawn Bukowski was ridiculed as a boy for his German accent, and frequently beaten by his unemployed father.

Frost goes against Bukowski with his famous

Two roads diverged in a wood and I—took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” was inspired by Edward Thomas, a English poet and walking companion when Frost lived in England; Frost thought Thomas was too fussy about what road they took on their rambles around the English countryside.  Thomas died in the slaughter of World War I.

The wars of the 20th century throw long shadows over all, even these two poets, Bukowski and Frost, who were not soldiers themselves.

The kid who was ridiculed as a kid for his German accent wins.

 

BLAKE AND TENNYSON ROUND ONE BATTLE IN POETRY BRACKET, MADNESS 2017

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William Blake, the Romantic Era painter and poet (1757–1827) is the author of many famous lines of poetry.

He seeks the crown of this season’s Scarriet Poetry March Madness with this one:

He who mocks the infant’s faith
Shall be mocked in age & death

But he’s up against a monster!

Alfred Tennyson’s

Blow bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

Poetry participates in sound.

The Modernists make the absurd claim that poetry can be prose—which implies that prose cannot be poetic.  But. Yes. Prose can be poetic—-in every manner in which the Modernists define poetry—and so we see the complete absurdity of the Modernist definition of poetry—which is no definition at all.

If there are no rules for baseball, there is no baseball, there is chaos, and there is already plenty of chaos in the universe.  But if there are rules for baseball, we have baseball, which adds to the world’s enjoyments.  Rules add. Freedom subtracts. One should celebrate definitions and rules—for they produce bountyScarcity, anxiety, and boredom come about when definitions and rules are destroyed.

We love the sentiment of Blake’s couplet, and the strange and marvelous “infant’s faith.”

But the Tennyson is pure poetry of the highest kind.

Blake’s is the impulse for poetry.

Tennyson’s is poetry.

Tennyson wins.

 

 

MORE MADNESS PLAY IN THE POETRY BRACKET: ROETHKE’S FOE 19TH CENTURY POET CORNELIUS MATTHEWS

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The poet Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)

The American poet, Cornelius Mathews, has made his way into the Scarriet 2017 March Madness Tournament (immortalizing him forever) by way of a notice by Edgar Poe, who otherwise thought his poetry (at least in a review of Mathews’ long poem, Wakondah) was “trash.”

But this line, as Poe has pointed out, is sublime:

Green dells that into silence stretch away

makes for a very strong entry by the obscure poet Cornelius Mathews, who wrote romances, as well.

We are not sure how to approach this line.  The crowds cheering for it are certainly vociferous and rowdy.  What can one say about this line, except to cheer exuberantly and exultantly, and hope the author wins?

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow

Is a somewhat famous 20th century line by Theodore Roethke, a large man, a manic sufferer, a formalist, less urbane than Robert Lowell—Roethke’s father was a German immigrant who owned a green house.  Roethke is the author of a few “hit” poems: “Papa’s Waltz,” “In A Dark Time,” “Elegy for Jane,” and “I Knew A Woman.”  We love these poems. Roethke is a very, very fine poet.

The Roethke fans are screaming loudly, as well.

And the game is played.

The picturesqueness of the Mathews blows away the bloated, faux-mystical, egotistical, oration of the Roethke.

Can it be any wonder that

Green dells that into silence stretch away

wins?

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?

ROUND ONE POETRY MADNESS CONTINUES—DICKINSON VS. READ

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Who has heard of the poet Thomas Buchanan Read?

None, is our guess.

Poe called Read “the echo of an echo,” a “copyist of Longfellow.”  “His sin is imitativeness.”

We love this line, however:

As if the star which made her forehead bright
Had burst and filled the lake with light.

Poe also called Thomas Read, “one of our truest poets,” and praised his “fancy,” “tenderness” and “subdued passion.”

But Poe, always on the look out for plagiarism, felt Read may have seen this by James Russell Lowell: “As if a star had burst within his brain.”

The lovely effect of Read’s couplet is a simple matter of what poetry does best: it lays movement over meaning.

The word “burst,” because the ‘r’ and the ‘s’ and the ‘t’ are all pronounced, stops the progress of our reading with an “explosion.”  The result of the explosion is replicated in the steady iambic rhythmic of: “and filled the lake with light.”  The ‘l’ sound of “lake” and “light” makes for beauty, just as “bright” and “burst” do—it is the brightness of the star which is bursting and creating the image of a lake filled with light—rhyming with bright. 

Anyone who doesn’t appreciate this, and who does not believe this belongs to the highest aspiration of poetry, is not human.

Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just ourselves—
And immortality.

Dickinson, in her famous line, is doing the same thing: Because I could not STOP (same iambic rhythm, same pause—instead of Read’s “burst,” we get Dickinson’s “stop.”  And the charm is when Dickinson repeats the word in the line: Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me.  And “stopped,” pronounced on our lips, is literally more of a stopping than the word, “stop,” since with “stopped,” we have to pronounce more letters—which is appropriate, for we are dealing with the stop, absolutely—death.

Dickinson’s line continues, “the carriage held but just ourselves—and immortality.”  This is brilliant, because who wants to be immortal inside a carriage (coffin)?  It reminds one of Hamlet’s line, “I could live in a nutshell and be a king of infinite space…”  Immortality inside a coffin, infinity inside a coffin—a crucial difference.  Or perhaps not. How would it be, if there are two lovers, in love forever? Inside a coffin?  A common theme: Love and death.  But the Madness 2017 features words, not whole poems, so let’s not get distracted.

Personifying death is artificial and labor-intensive, although it awakens a certain primitive thrill, this courting scene which Dickinson (like the old German artists) sets up.

Read’s “star” is finally more purely thrillling than Dickinson’s “death.”

Read—narrowly—upsets Dickinson.

 

 

 

 

 

FILM, ROUND ONE, MADNESS 2017

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The film bracket consists of famous one-liners heard from the movies.

Memorable poetry was murdered by Modernism in the early 20th century; but it remained alive in America in popular song and popular film. Keats was taught in American colleges until the English professor was gradually replaced, from the middle to the late 20th century, by the Creative Writing professor.

Poetry isn’t poetry if it isn’t memorable.

By this definition, a line from a film, a line which everyone knows, is poetry in the consciousness of a nation.

So here we go with round one action:

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn versus. Elementary, my dear Watson

“What seems to be the problem?” “Death.” versus Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.

I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse. versus To be or not to be, that is the question.

Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown versus I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk? versus You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore versus Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.

I coulda been a contender versus I want to be alone.

Bond. James Bond versus Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By.

 

Here’s 8 contests—the greatest movie lines of all time.

Is objective judgment possible here?

Is there too much associative baggage, too much context in each line, for any true objective aesthetic judgment to be made?

There are many who say no objective aesthetic judgment can ever be made.

However, one does not have to read Plato or Kant to understand that truth is not understood by something outside itself—the truth of something is how it presents itself to us from the inside out.  Measurement, for instance, is a thing’s extension, or an event’s duration—and length or brightness or size can be, but is not, subjective; however, we don’t need “inches” or “seconds” to make something “true.”  The truth is already in the measurement-potential.  And the thing determines how it is measured, not the other way around. The thing in this case is a movie line—which has a real existence in the real world and makes an impact on the real world as much as any solid object we might want to “measure.”

So objectivity is possible—we just need to ascertain how this is to be measured.

First, poetry’s success is largely determined by its rhythm.   If all else is equal, the more interesting rhythm must prevail in terms of movie lines, as well.

Second, movie lines—with their context—can evoke more or less, depending on the lucidity, interest, and focus of the ‘film scene’ they are from—the imagery, drama, or character of the movie line itself should be considered.

And third, we have language. Language can move inward towards specific definition and outward towards general truth—and speech which does both of these at the same time in a coherent manner, is certainly a sought-after quality.

And this pretty much covers it.  This is how we “measure” the aesthetic excellence of move lines.

“Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By” has a more interesting rhythm than “Bond. James Bond,” though both are strong.  Everything else is pretty much equal.  “Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By” evokes more of a specific scene, too.

But why does this movie line get misquoted all the time as “Play it again, Sam?”

How can so many people hear something incorrectly into popularity?

How is there “room for error” when we are talking about a very short phrase in the minds of millions?

Does this automatically call into question the popularity, or the aesthetic quality of “Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes By?”

It could, but we don’t think a popular line should be punished because it is misquoted.  The original phrase, as spoken in the film, is still responsible for launching the success.

Sam beats James.

 

 

 

WHEN YOU EXPRESS YOURSELF LIKE THIS

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When you express yourself like this,

What can you say to me?

I guess all I can do is kiss

You and hug you and let you sleep.

Everyone reads your poetry.

Looks at your paintings divine.

You make men pause and women, weep.

There is no bottle that holds such a wine.

There is no city that contains

A gift I could give you. I go outside. It rains.

I march around between ten and two

And maybe some people wonder what I do,

Or wonder if there is a moon in the sky

That’s also a sun, and can I explain why

The revolution in the mountains

Has not spread to the sea.

When you express yourself in art,

What can you say to me?

 

 

 

 

 

THE MADNESS CONTINUES! AUDEN BATTLES WELBY!

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Here’s another classic poetry battle between the 19th and 20th centuries in the Poetry Bracket, Round One:

W.H. Auden, the well-connected, gay, British poet, became American in 1940.

T.S. Eliot, who helped Auden first get published in 1930, went from American to British in 1927.

Auden traveled to Iceland, Germany, and China (with Christopher Isherwood, who ended up, like Aldous Huxley, in California); Auden rather famously called the 1930s that “low, dishonest decade.”

Auden also wrote a well-known elegy on Yeats—who died at the end of that decade.

Auden knew Stephen Spender—who secretly got CIA funding for his literary magazine, Encounter.

Auden taught at Michigan, gave John Ashbery the Yale Younger Prize, and spent most of his life as an American in New York City; he was a chain-smoker, and it was said of the Jungian W.H. Auden that he “smelled like shit.” Actual shit.

Auden wrote rollicking poetry ballads, similar to Kipling (whom Eliot loved) and Auden converted to Christianity (he knew C.S. Lewis at Oxford) around the time he crossed over to America; Auden also edited an anthology of Light Verse, wrote somewhat admiringly on Poe, and had a few interesting, but ultimately misguided things to say about Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

He’ll be remembered for a few poems.

Auden’s entry is from a later poem of his:

“Let the more loving one be me.”

This sums up his personality: a witty, somewhat cynical, romantic, puppy dog.

Auden’s line sounds very 20th century, in its hippie pleading in the face of that era’s spectacular wreckage of hatred and violence.

Amelia Welby is a 19th century poet, another one of those women poets championed by Poe—whom the 20th century, fueled by the insanity of Ezra Pound, forgot.  The moderns were even contemptuous of Edna Millay; 20th century women poets like Dorothy Parker, Amy Lowell, Sara Teasdale, and Eleanor Wyley were overshadowed by the brittle Marianne Moore—because Moore, not the others, belonged to the 1920s Dial clique of Pound, Williams, and Eliot.

Welby’s line has music, not morals:

“And birds and streams with liquid lull Have made the stillness beautiful”

But Welby’s beauty is moral.  A idea which, unfortunately, completely disappeared in 20th poetry.

Twilight At Sea

The twilight hours, like birds, flew by,
As lightly and as free,
Ten thousand stars were in the sky,
Ten thousand on the sea;
For every wave, with dimpled face,
That leaped upon the air,
Had caught a star in its embrace,
And held it trembling there.

Welby (1819-1852)

Most moderns read a poem like this and sneer at its pretty sentimentality.

But it’s not sentimental at all.  There’s no expression of morality in Welby’s poem.  It’s sensual only.

“Let the more loving one be me” is sentimental, and a little egotistical, too.

It’s the august beauty of “Twilight At Sea” which scares moderns away—because words that bend to beauty seem to them to give up way too much.  They want words to do more.  Which they can, in prose.  But, the moderns want poems, too, to sound like prose; the moderns don’t want the meal (prose) and desert (poetry) to be separate. Ever.  Table manners in the 20th century suffered a blow.

The “lull” in Welby’s line is not the noun, meaning a break in activity, but the verb, which means soothe with sound.

Sound echoes sense in the Welby.  The “stillness” is the unified dignity of the line, describing natural beauty—whose natural beauty invades itself in the line’s insouciant “lull.”

Auden’s line is a good one, too.  Psychologically, people tend to believe that in every love relationship, imbalance or inequality inevitably appears, grows, and ruptures the bliss—and Auden insists on being the lover, “the more loving one,” even if the beloved, like a silent star, is indifferent to human love.

We like this contest.  We like both sides.

Welby, the more loved “stillness,” wins.

PROSE ROUND ONE MADNESS: NABOKOV, MARTIN LUTHER KING, LOLITA VS. I HAVE A DREAM

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JFK, Lincoln, Lennon, MLK, all murdered in America, suddenly, in a public manner. Reagan, almost killed in the same way. Poe, most likely assassinated, too, found on the streets in Baltimore, where newly president-elect Lincoln, 11 years later, was disguised as an old women by Pinkerton’s police on route to the U.S. capitol to be sworn in.

Why do those who improve the United States, who give it unity and hope, in a grand, profound, public manner, die in America in the public square—murdered by those lurking in the shadows?

Because the United States thwarted a world Empire—deep-state-on-a-global-scale—on the verge of  world conquest in the late 18th century—a world conquest based on war, law-bending, subterfuge, royalty, monetary manipulation, criminality, free trade, immorality, opium; the British Empire—a far-reaching, press-controlled, business-as-usual, divide-and-conquer globalism.

There are Romes within Rome.

Rome hates nothing more than the springing up within it of a greater and grander and freer Rome.

To the Rome that was the British Empire, America became a Greece, and floated away.

From the ruins of the American Civil War (Russian fleets in SF, NY harbors reminding superpowers France and Britain not to invade the U.S. on behalf of the Confederacy), the 1860-65 bloodbath, the U.S. gradually became the world’s Rome, the announcement made fully with the loud bombs dropped on Japan—Britain’s former ally and brutal Chinese invader. The savagery of the 20th century was the ferocious, big-tech-driven, reaction of London bridge massively falling down.

President LBJ, whose window of fame was between the JFK assassination in 1963 and the MLK assassination in 1968, was a U.S. Southern Democrat, repairing the image of the Democratic party’s historic racism, as he bombed the hell out of Vietnam—a cynical, 1960s, consolidation of that “deep-state, Ivy League, uni-party” which ruled the U.S. from the summer of 1850 until November, 2016.

Martin Luther King was, like everyone else who goes into politics, a political pawn, but he gave a really good speech in which he said what should matter in Plato’s Republic is character, not the color of one’s skin.

Vladimir Nabokov, who spoke French, English and Russian in a privileged childhood in Russia, first fled the Soviets and later in Paris, the Nazis. His Jewish Russian wife prevented him from burning the manuscript of Lolita—written while he was teaching literature at Cornell and collecting butterflies. One of Nabokov’s siblings knew Ayn Rand. As a professor in the U.S., Nabokov, known as a sexist, disliked the American left.

Plato’s Republic would have banned Lolita. Good literature is about sin.

Color of skin, sin, and character.

It’s the complex middle term above—sin—which makes the other two impossible to reconcile; although it should be easy, right? Character. Yes. Skin color. No.

Nabokov wins.

 

 

 

 

 

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 better than Robert Lowell—who, as a poet and a man, was seldom sane or honest, and was, frankly, a creep. Mazer, I know, will gladly accept the Lowell comparison; but as his critic, I assert Mazer is a more genuine person, and is quite a bit better as a poet.

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.

 

 

POE VERSUS TRUMP: PROSE— ROUND ONE—MADNESS

This contest should evoke much amazement and laughter, as it pits the greatest writer to ever perform in English—Edgar Allan Poe—against Donald Trump, in Scarriet’s 8th annual March Madness Tournament, in which the playing is performed by Great Historic Words—which are what? The words themselves? Or the vast realities behind them?

This is not a play on words. We are playing with words. For high stakes. Like playing with fire, almost.

“Make America great again” does contain great meaning. America was once a David, a hero who conquered the British Empire—of which it was a part—and now America, run by an emotionally fed, corrupt, uni-party, “Deep State,” is in danger of becoming another British Empire itself, a mischief-making giant dragging after it misery, chaos, and pain.

Poe (1809-1849) belonged to the fiercely cunning and pragmatic America—mesmerizing poetry was only one part of Poe’s weaponry. Poe defied the British—the world’s superpower, then, and not always friendly to America—circles in Great Britain had secret designs to destroy her upstart colony.  Poe helped create both science fiction and detective fiction—thought, curiosity, cunning, for the masses. Poe, in all he wrote, was the Ben Franklin of American Letters.

Franklin wrote, “Write with the learned. Pronounce with the vulgar.”

Poe wrote: “I will not be sure that men at present think more profoundly than half a century ago, but beyond question they think with more rapidity, with more skill, with more tact, with more of method, and less of excrescence in the thought. Besides all this, they have a vast increase in the thinking material; they have more facts, more to think about. For this reason, they are disposed to put the greatest amount of thought in the smallest compass and disperse it with the utmost attainable rapidity.”

Yes. Get to the point.

Now, more than ever.

Good advice.

“Watch how I get to the point” is reserved for Mozarts, for really good poets. Maybe for an Oscar Wilde giving an after-dinner speech. The rest of us should just get to the point. Quickly.

Poetry is occupied for its beautiful effects in its paying attention to the sweet immediacies of rhythm—the short story, on the other hand, has truth as its goal, by the very ratio in which artificial, formal, beautiful, and mathematical considerations are abandoned. This was Poe’s chief decree.

And yet. Just as Plato banned poetry from his Republic—in itself, a poem, to those who can read the great philosopher in the original Greek—so Poe’s prose nonetheless has a kind of beauty:

“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 alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.” Poe (1839)

In a way, this famous prose passage of Poe’s does “get to the point.” The narrator of “The House of Usher” arrives at that house in the first sentence. Lesser authors would spend a page, or two, describing the countryside, the horse, the rider, the rider’s thoughts, the previous day’s journey, and so on.

Poe, with the long sentence, gives us a sense of length, duration—since the tone is melancholy, length is proper; brevity would give us a completely different mood: “So there I was. Riding to Usher.”

But the genius of Poe gives us seeming length—in one sentence—for Poe has also, in getting right to the point, brought the reader, in a sad and drugged, melancholy state, to the House of Usher—by the end of the very first sentence of his tale.

We don’t know about women in pink hats, but we think Poe himself would admire “Make America Great Again,” or MAGA, as a political slogan, as it says a lot in a few words—the brevity itself adding urgency to the plea.

“Make”

Making is better than talking. Manufacturing is better than blather.

“America”

Nice. You’re running for president of ___.

“Great”

Sound-wise, it chimes with “make” and “America.” Meaning-wise, it signals a go-for-broke, dominating, expansive, winning attitude. Great has just the right ultra-confident vibe; after all, America is often called the “greatest nation on earth.”

“Again.”

Recalls history, tradition, destiny, while implying “America is tarnished and requires a certain amount of urgent restoration.”

Should Poe win, who was being read in Russia before he was being read in France?

Should Poe win, who was a maverick, and thumbed his nose at MSM?

Should Poe win, who is an MFA Writing Program all to himself?

Should Poe win, the last real literary genius, who was a scientist, as well?

Poe wins.

Make America great again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL ROUND ONE BATTLE IN SONG BRACKET

Image result for sometimes i feel like a motherless child

Sad to think we have already come to the end of the 2017 Scarriet March Madness first round in the Song bracket with this contest.

How fleeting life is!

“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from home…”

There isn’t a sadder lyric than this in all of song.

Except, perhaps, from “A Horse With No Name:”  “After two years in the desert sun, my skin began to turn red.  After three years in the desert sun, I was standing by a river bed. And the story it told of a river that flowed made me sad to think it was dead.”  Well, no, actually.  “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” is much sadder.

It goes up against another anonymous folk/spiritual lyric: “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine,” which is one of the happiest. Exuberant, one might say.

Both involve parenthood.

We wonder how many, who really don’t have a mother, could sing “Motherless Child” without collapsing in tears?  Are the song’s words for the sad, but not the truly afflicted? Melancholy we can tolerate. Depression we cannot.

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” rolls off the tongue very nicely—a great example of alliteration and assonance.

“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” is dominated by that lone long “e” sound in feel.

Why do folk songs depict sorrow and pain of the most realistic kind?  Family sorrow. Murder. Tragedy.

And why is the popular, by contrast, so fluffy and romantic and escapist?

Both folk music and popular music are for “the people.”

So why are they so different?

Opera, which is highbrow, is also concerned with great tragedy.

Therefore folk music, with its sorrow, is closer to high culture—yet “folk songs” are as close to the earth as you can get.

In the middle realm are the smiling musicians, well-presented, jingling and jangling their pretty songs of effusive romance.  Melancholy, these songs may be, but they go down easy.

The highbrow is salt, not sugar. (Though genius often mixes the salt and the sweet.)

Who wins this contest?  The sorrowful “Motherless Child” or the joyful “This Little Light of Mine?”

Who can possibly say?

These two poles—the sad and happy child—stretch outward to infinity.

AMAZING GRACE VERSUS I’M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY

Image result for hank williams

The song “Amazing Grace,” perhaps the most popular spiritual in the West, makes its song-like point explicitly—“how sweet the sound which saved a wretch like me.” It is the song itself, the very sound of the song itself, which “saves” the wretched listener—a fully secular message—that even an atheist can understand—as well as a profoundly religious one. Religion’s going to convert you—with a secular trick, with a song. Is a singing a religious thing? Does it matter? When is a partnership an invasion?

Finally, what does poetry have to say about all this? And the poetry critic—which is finally what Scarriet represents?

“Amazing Grace” makes us think of singing, not poetry. Poetry and song belong to each other, and yet song will more easily go off and serve religion. Poetry isn’t sure.

Music makes me lose my mind. Poetry finds it, again.

If the “sound” saves the wretch, the good songwriter exactly matches the sound with the words, and if both sound and words are necessary, the narrower sound logically should call the shots, since the smaller set always commands the larger one, in any successful endeavor.

If the army told the general what to do, the war would be lost, not because the general is smarter than the army, but because the general is one, and the army is many.

Words will always be the army, since words and their multiple combinations and denotations are a vast universe; music is a simple hurdy-gurdy moan by comparison. Acrobatic words are a circus, a city, a world. Music is the lone troll hiding under the hill.

The music is the lesser, so the music is the commander of the words.

Especially, and this defines poetry—in that war, that mission, that conflict, which we call poetry.

The sound saves the wretch. The sound, not the words, is the general, the God.

You are saved by the troll hiding under the hill.

The genius of Hank Williams, like all great songwriters (and poets) is that the words, taught and led and infected by the music, become a kind of music in themselves, which in turn, re-infects the sound, until music is poetry and poetry is music, and the army is God and the army is commanding itself, and religion and belief and secularism and nature and humans and music and words and sorrow and escape-from-sorrow are one.

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill? He sounds too sad to fly. The midnight train is whining low. I’m so lonesome I could cry.

To analyze this would be to damage it. The beauty of it should be apparent without explanation. We trust, with the faith of a believer, that it is.

We only might remark that an educated voice might object that Hank Williams, the poet, sentimentally imposes a human quality—“lonesome” on the bird; but “lonesome” can mean simply “lone” or “one,” and yet, who does not believe that beasts can feel lonely—if not inanimate objects like trains? When the poet boldly and ingeniously uses the word a second time, it does slide over into the more human—and into our hearts.

Williams wins.

 

LEONARD COHEN AND THE ROLLING STONES: MORE MADNESS 2017

Image result for rolling stones two thousand light years from home

These two acts, Leonard Cohen and the Stones, facing off in a Round One contest in the Song bracket, represent that era in popular Western music when singers with poor singing voices became immensely successful because of catchy melodies and beats, but also because of good poetry.

This is where poetry went—into music—when it was killed off by the Writing Programs in the mid-century, disappearing on the “any scribble can be poetry” prose-train of William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound and Robert Lowell-teaching-and-drinking-at-Iowa. Poetry, ever resourceful, escaped into popular music and flourished on the lips of Frank Sinatra, Syd Barrett, Arthur Lee, Donovan Leitch and Marc Bolan.

Leonard Cohen, a small, tone deaf man with a two note singing range, became one of the greatest and respected pop singers of all time. He was a poet above all else.

As with Bob Dylan, female singers with lovely voices, like Judy Collins and Joan Baez, swooped in to create sweetness out of Cohen’s songs and words. Poetry transcends musical sweetness, however, for poetry is the music itself. Shhh. Don’t tell this to the modern “poets.”

Bob Dylan was a gigantic influence in the mid-60s—that wonderful window of intellectual and poetic ferment, extolled today by Camille Paglia, pitiful dinosaur! But it’s true, the 60’s was an amazing time for poetry, such that Dionysian, phenomenally successful, rhythm and blues acts like the Beatles and Stones chucked their blues for invention, jumping on the cool bandwagon of Dylan’s poetry.

Ironically, Dylan wasn’t really that great as a poet—far more facile than great, but definitely good—but he absorbed folk and protest poetry in a highly authentic and skilled manner, and pushed it into the rock mainstream in a manic, overdone, hyperbolic, LSD, sort of way in 1965, just when the zeitgeist was waiting for this to happen, apparently, and poetry sprung up everywhere in the music business, as amateur poets, often better than Dylan himself, began to infuse poetry unapologetically into the immediacy of their extremely popular music, which already had a boomer audience of millions hanging on their every word.

So this battle represents that: one of the lyrics is from the 1967 Rolling Stones, when these English white boys, exploiting “black” music, returned to their own “roots” of “white” English “poetry.”

“Two Thousand Light Years From Home” by the Rolling Stones  is the first great “lonely outer space” symphonic rock song, which no doubt influenced what is arguably the best songs ever produced by David Bowie and Elton John—“Space Oddity” and “Rocket Man.”

“Bound for a star by an ocean” is beautiful poetry—by the Rolling Stones! Sure, why not. Their large audience at that time, not yet fully crushed by corporate, dumbed down, entertainment, wanted and expected poetry. It was the 60’s, remember. Poetry’s revenge.

Leonard Cohen’s entry is from a later composition, “Anthem,” (from the 90s, from Leonard Cohen as a wise old man—Cohen established himself in the 60s as a romantic Dylan and Donovan type singer-songwriter).

Bells are cracked, and everything is broken, and that’s how the light gets in.

Cohen’s lyric is too clever, too precious, too abstractly sentimental in its—yes—scientific profundity—breakage is the key to progress and spirituality—Cohen would absolutely win if scientific wisdom were the sole criterion.

But “you’re two hundred light years from home” is more fully poetic, as true poets will understand.

The Rolling Stones advance.

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.

ELLIOTT SMITH AND FRANK SINATRA BATTLE IN SONG ROUND ONE

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Who could be more different—different people, different music, different eras, different sensibilities: Frank Sinatra and Elliott Smith?

A world war two era mensch against a grunge era diffident.

And yet, like a chemical reaction, these two in meeting each other, explode, and a third is created—the product being an insight into poetry itself.

Many have no interest in poetry, profess not to “get” poetry, are intimidated by poetry, hate poetry, but nonetheless adore songs.

What the hell is up with that?

Doesn’t this prove that people don’t really know what they think, or what they like?

You cannot take the poetry away from “Will you miss me, Miss Misery?” and still have the song artist, Elliott Smith, and in the exact same way, the poetry of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly me to the moon and let me sing among the stars I want to see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars” relies on poetry—which millions of Frank Sinatra fans “don’t like.”

And we need to say that by “poetry,” we refer to poetry in the absolute definition of it—we’re not using the term in some ironic “popular culture” sense; no, we mean poetry.

And the more poetry you get, the more misery; this is what lyricism is—it’s sadness, the only emotion truly worthy of art and religion.  We turn the light up to see.  We start a fire to warm ourselves.  But the minor light of sadness is art: this is the realm it occupies, at an exact number of lumens.

An impractical amount of lumens is art.

Smith crams every syllable with sound-resemblance in “miss me, Miss Misery.” The line is depressed into an even more minor key because it’s a question “will you miss me, Miss Misery?,” and the ‘zzz’ sound drag on the more fluid ‘sss’ sound, in the word “misery” adds even more melancholy.

This is poetry working.  This is what poetry does.

Frank Sinatra isn’t quite the wreck Elliott Smith is, so he won’t be caught asking such a pitiful question; instead he’s making demands: “fly me to the moon.” But the poetic lyricism, despite inhabiting the solar system, occupies a box nearly as small as Smith’s: the impossible “stars” and “Mars,” together with “sing” and “spring” trap the lyric impulse in poetic sound-resemblance, the enclosed space holding but a little light, and less heat: spring on Jupiter.

Both songs are pitiful pleas for true love—and sound-resemblance is poetry’s truth.

It’s pathetic, really.

Song, poetry.

Poetry, song.

In true pathetic fashion, Elliott Smith wins.

IF YOU VISIT ME

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If you visit me, I will kiss you with music and compliments;

Not real kisses, for those belong

To her, nor can I give you actual song,

For I am no Mozart mathematician,

Or his modern variation, Beethoven,

Who can build and smoothly confer

Pleasure—as pleasing as kisses from her.

But you will get compliments from me,

On your learning and your beauty,

In the form of the kindest poetry

If you visit me.

I will compliment your beauty

Which only compliments like mine,

As they remove all doubts, affirm

Thoughts which will otherwise die.

If you visit me

Poetry will come, without even having to try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE IS THE MADNESS OF YESTERDAY?

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Another first round battle in the Song Bracket features a fated match.

Paul versus Paul.

“Yesterday” versus “Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?”

As the poet Shelley said, “our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”

Paul McCartney and Paul Simon wrote some of the sweetest, most unforgettable tunes ever—and they both know that in song, sadness catches the sweet.

What’s sadder than a bright, but fading yesterday? Death isn’t sad. Getting old is sad.  Yesterday is sad.

Sweetness surrounds the dying to ease the pain.

With Paul and Paul into the pain we go, and ripen, and feel the sweetness flow.

So who wins this contest?   It comes down to “I’m sad now because I was happy” versus “We (a nation) are sad now, because we were happy.”

Paul McCartney wins—because he took a word—Yesterday—and made it a song almost by itself.

By comparison, the Paul Simon song is a history lesson of some kind.

The song, “Yesterday,” is quicker poison.

Yesterday advances, it’s giant shadow covering Joe DiMaggio.

 

ROUND ONE IN POETRY: KEATS VERSUS BYRON

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Byron

It is fitting somehow, that Lord Bryon faces off against Keats in Scarriet’s Poetry Madness—these are the two greatest poets, in English, perhaps, and their vast differences bespeak of Man’s two extreme personalities: One, manly and mercurial, the other feminine and consistent.

Here is Byron reacting rather egotistically, and coldly, to Keats’ death, remarking that Keats was killed by a bad review, but he (Byron) wasn’t:

Is it true, what Shelley writes me, that poor John Keats died at Rome of the Quarterly Review? I am very sorry for it, though I think he took the wrong line as a poet, and was spoilt by Cockneyfying, and Suburbing, and versifying Tooke’s Pantheon and Lempriere’s Dictionary. I know, by experience, that a savage review is Hemlock to a sucking author; and the one on me (which produced the English Bards, etc.) knocked me down — but I got up again. Instead of bursting a blood-vessel, I drank three bottles of Claret, and began an answer, finding that there was nothing in the Article for which I could lawfully knock Jeffrey on the head, in an honourable way.

Byron was cruel and sentimental, cold and warm, by turns, a man of the world, who loved and hated, risked and lost, ranted and wept; where Keats, perhaps the slightly higher genius, was satisfied to live in a cottage and love the maiden next door; Keats was never sentimental, never cruel—but burned with a glow, everlasting.

This is not quite true.  Even Keats had his anger and his petulance.

Any good poet—as Poe pointed out—is irritable; reaching after perfection, one will naturally be annoyed at times.

And yet Keats’ bad moods must have resembled the bad moods of a flower.

The aesthetically critical mind can be argumentative, and still gentle.

Look at this sneering sonnet Keats wrote (he sounds like Byron!):

The House of Mourning written by Mr Scott,
A sermon at the Magdalen, a tear
Dropped on a greasy novel, want of cheer
After a walk uphill to a friend’s cot,
Tea with a maiden lady, a cursed lot
Of worthy poems with the author near,
A patron lord, a drunkenness from beer,
Haydon’s great picture, a cold coffee pot
At midnight when the Muse is ripe for labour,
The voice of Mr Coleridge, a French bonnet
Before you in the pit, a pipe and tabour,
A damned inseparable flute and neighbour —
All these are vile, but viler Wordsworth’s sonnet
On Dover. Dover! — who could write upon it?

It sneers, yes.  But it’s a sonnet.

It is one of the more interesting poems by Keats—because it reveals so much about him.  He liked coffee, etc.

“The House of Mourning” is not a well-known poem.

Nor is this line of Keats’s well-known either, “Soft went the music the soft air along.”

Connoisseurs of poetry will recognize instantly the genius and beauty of this line—chosen for the 2017 Madness.

“Soft went the music the soft air along” has no sentiment.  The line has beauty only.

The famous Byron line is beautiful—and also sentimental.

“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.”

Keats wins.

MADNESS GLAM IN THE FIRST ROUND!

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David Bowie (real name Jones) went on to be a world famous superstar of glam rock—but Marc Bolan (of the band T. Rex), who was killed at 29 in a driving accident, his wife at the wheel (her name was Jones) originated the genre.

What was the genre glam rock?  It was basically blues rock with more feminine flamboyance, camp, and glitter, a natural outcome of “hippie music,” a natural extension of something a little looser on top of a pronounced beat.

The evolution of all music follows this path—expanding rhythmic, harmonic, vocal, melodic, intangible and lyrical interest; there is nothing particularly outrageous or rebellious here, as we look back on it.

Let the psychologists and the sociologist wax on the gender and moral questions, but the theatricality of glam rock was simply jumping on what was already done in the psychedelic mid-60s, which also was just adding, in minor ways, to rather simple ‘rock and roll’ templates.

Theatricality is how all music evolves—towards it, or away from it.

Crescendo is a key element in music—another word for climax—and music which is sexy in an unapologetic manner, such as glam rock often is, when it’s not coarse or disgusting or boring, is naturally very appealing.  Those chased away by the amoral elements may miss out on some truly good music.

Space Oddity is a great song—Bowie’s masterpiece, with the famous “Can you hear me, Major Tom” (around this time the Who would release “Tommy Can You Hear Me?) continues what the Rolling Stones did in the studio with “Two Thousand Light Years From Home,” the mellotron, an electronic keyboard instrument first built in 1963, allowing bands to sound like Richard Wagner.

The combination of transcendent strings with rock beats was a godsend for popular music. Space Oddity is not sexy, per se, but makes great use of a rocket launching into space, with the same melancholy mood inspired by the Stones “Two Thousand Light Years From Home,” and, in addition, we get the fortuitous blending of the song’s theme of technological alienation with the electronic instrumentation of the song itself.

Cosmic Dancer by T. Rex also blends rock instrumentation, melancholy, and a lush and swelling string sound.

The strummed guitar, the jolting percussion, the unsentimental banging, when combined with sustained, sentimental strings can be a real delight.

The Marc Bolan lyric is strange, but perfect, “I was dancing since I was eight. Is it wrong to dance so late?”  It’s fanciful, making no sense, really—and yet evokes a self-conscious feeling of indefinite delight.

The Bowie lyric refers to the heroic, lost astronaut at the heart of his wonderful, tragic song: “Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.”

Does it matter who wins this—how can we choose?

We have a soft spot for Marc Bolan, who died tragically at 29.

Cosmic Dancer advances.

THE MADNESS EXPLODES: ROUND ONE

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We love it—who doesn’t?—when a few words express a great deal.  Who has time for novels?  Let’s extract wisdom from words in a minute, and live.

In Scarriet March Madness Round One in the Song bracket, we have this great piece of work from the Doors:

Send my credentials to the house of detention.

Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the band, who passed away at 27 in Paris, is no doubt their author, though the group often gave “The Doors” songwriting credits.

But how perfect is this!

“Send…”  I’m too lazy to do it myself.

“Credentials.” The key to societal advancement.

“House of detention.”  Send my credentials there.

No wonder Morrison died early.  The work the Doors produced in their brief life made Jim Morrison immortal.  He is still as popular fifty years later. He knew it.  There was nothing left to do.  Credentials were no longer needed.  There was no longer any need to be detained.

The Doors lived in an age of increasing license, where being loose and dirty was not yet completely acceptable—the truly thrilling vector they were on was the breaking open of everything.  Morrison couldn’t turn back and simply delight in the joys of Alabama, for instance.  The Alabama Song by Brecht/Weil, yes.  The Doors covered that song.  (“O show me the way to the next whiskey bar/pretty girl”)

But not this one.

We kissed in a field of white. And stars fell on Alabama. Last night.

In 2002, “Stars fell on Alabama” was put on Alabama license plates.  There was an actual meteor shower in 1833 which inspired the lyrics.

“Last night” is a concept beyond Morrison.  For him, and the Baudelaire 60s, everything was now.

Last night someone sent my credentials to the house of detention.

That doesn’t work.  This does:

Send my credentials to the house of detention.

The Doors advance.

A smattering of stoned applause.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE MADNESS: ROUND ONE

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We attribute to every sporting contest a rivalry which may, or may not, exist.

We think we see love.  Which may not exist.

Most opponents are paired up by chance. The rivalry isn’t real.

In an arranged marriage, where love is the object, a thousand considerations and judgments will arise, as two people, forced into a relationship of love, are forced to overcome a potential horde of disgusts and dislikes, in order to love.

If one isn’t feeling the love, it isn’t going to happen; if a heavily romantic atmosphere is not artificially created, with a certain genius for love-design, given that most human beings are not exactly gods and goddesses, love of mutually strong attractiveness is, in fact, an extremely rare thing.

In combat, however, the randomly matched will have no problem working themselves up into a feverish madness to win; a great egoistic desire to vanquish the other, as if an overwhelming rivalry had existed for a lifetime, is easily attained.

The competitive conquers love—the hated is instantly fashioned; combat can be had for nothing. True love belongs to only the most miraculously fortunate.

The first thing we do when we land on the site of this year’s Scarriet March Madness tourney is wash ourselves in the simple outdoor shower, the rich jungle of the tropical isle stretching out from us in all directions.

The opening ceremony’s camaraderie is helped by symbols (mostly edible) and drink, and also the music from the loudspeakers—composed long ago by the early founders of the Madness.

This year we have songwriters, bands, poets, filmmakers, actors, and writers.

There are four brackets: song, film, poetry, and prose. The greatest words, expressing every aspect of human history: love, war, beauty, history, and rivalry.

Reproduction is not love; animals pair up, and reproduce, and yet—human love is mysteriously tied up with animal reproduction—this idea is wittily and breezily celebrated by Cole Porter in his famous song Let’s Do It—Let’s Fall In Love.

The Star Spangled Banner has an equally vital and universal theme: the landscape of a country, the bravery of its defense, the patriotic celebration of its freedom—no embarrassing love material in this song!

Is it ironic that the first team mentioned in our first contest features a song about “pairing up?”

Will Cole Porter win, or lose, against star spangled patriotism—a pairing of citizen and country?

These two songs. They don’t write them like this anymore. They don’t.

The Star Spangled Banner wins.

“Let’s do it” has met its match.

In the sunshine of this year’s Madness isle.

Where crowds of visitors gather in large numbers for the thrill.

Rivalry behind every tree.  Love on the top of every hill.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

WRITE HER POEMS

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The woman is offended, and the man cannot come near.

The man remains alone to cry his unmanly tear.

The woman is offended and must remain apart

As the man penetrates in sorrow the caves of his sorrowful heart.

The woman is offended, and would be offended more

If the man wept, ashamed, a little distance from her door.

The man must never show his repentant, weeping face.

The loving man fades—and the lawyer takes his place.

Understanding tears will not water the garden again.

The profit of the lawyer needs women—to hate men.

The gardens of love, with their flowers divine,

Are watered by love, but a lawyer draws the line:

The woman is offended, and the man cannot come near.

The man remains alone and cries his unmanly tear.

Love—wise but fragile, life’s glory—is easily ended.

It ends. In pain, she remains—forever offended.

Innocent heart. Write her poems. Make them good.

Young lover! Worship her! But walk carefully in this wood.

 

 

 

 

WHY DON’T YOU?

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The filthy meaning of woman’s love

Ostracizes me. When I was a boy, a boy a boy could shove;

I never touched a girl—as evil as the male, maybe more,

Kissing, not kissing—provoking men to war.

The weak is what we love:

Tender. Delicate. Wayward. A cooing dove.

When you have children, you see

A girl is not really dainty.

That’s the illusion which the illusion is permitted, as an illusion, to mock.

But nothing is soft, only moving; every single heart is shale, granite, rock.

Child mortality makes females strong.

Women are practical. It’s the man who sings the heartbroken song.

The greatest strategy of the strong is to appear weak.

She will produce children, poetry—and the strong are unable to speak.

In the weak position, the offended take revenge.

Her poetry has vanished. Out of the mist, Stonehenge.

Here is the religion which washes up on the shore,

Asking for submission. And more. And more.

Tell me I am weak, because I write verse,

And I will write verses even more.

I’ll write a thousand poems and send them off to war.

 

 

 

 

 

THE LOST CHILD

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Because you are gone, lost to love and all,
And not even your shadow remains,
I must talk to everyone when I talk to you, little one.
You and I both belong to remembrance:
You, remembered, I, the one who remembers,
The saddest thing the living do,
The mourner walks in a sorrowful trance towards you.
Your little grave is larger than a star
Which holds me, and our planet, and all we are
In its starry burning;
Time, the world turning,
And that motion
The thing that started things, not time.
Because you do not move I must move towards you in my rhyme.
You no longer die. I do.
I am false unless I die towards you.
Down into the unfathomable, I ride,
Like the ancient heroes who swam in hell’s tide,
The shadowy undersea light of Hades
With wavering shadows of dead souls on every side.
Strange valley that waves under the sea
Under the growth of death which cries
Like the crying of cries in luminosity.
But you are not there.
Only the seaweed which waves like softly drifting hair.
Only the darkness which runs
Like fish running, a million underwater suns.
Only a fear
Which is merely a tear.
Only the folly
Of falling citizens who are still jolly.
Only the partially gone
Who wander on.
Only the listening ear
Of a little one forced to hear my song,
Who is not here.

 

THE BUSINESS PROFESSOR

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The business professor has been talking of things

Understood by the businessman in the pit.

Government money flows freely.

Only after the student graduated, did he get it.

Now you see him hanging around the school.

He has an investment strategy designed for the fool.

The working class pays for liberal arts at the college,

Liberalism distorting debt and knowledge.

Psychology courses are embarrassing, private, thin.

Admissions wants you. Later you’ll understand why you got in.

The deans are worried. They need more deans.

The plan is for more money.  Soon you’ll see what that means.

 

 

 

THE BEAUTIES ARE ASLEEP

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The beauties are asleep; lone, tired,

Having, at length, succumbed to love,

In some late, moonlit hour, when sweet defense

Fell. The early part of the evening was tense.

Old loves were argued and renewed half-heartedly

As if they could live again, but always the past is mired,

Always the old waves look documented and strange,

Once looking fresh and new, the sea

A painting now, quiet, unsure of its range.

But here in the café at eight in the morning I remember something new

And confident because of that, the moments

Moving into each other. Or, isn’t that you?

That was you; gravity, yes, but something else is changing you.

This one always looks the same, and yet, by slow degrees

Love creeps on, but this one renews her look ingeniously,

Until, when she looks her best, I fall utterly.

But these are passing observations. Why can’t I say

What is literary and meaningful? I can spend an entire day

Irritated with others, needing to work on my poetry alone;

Solitude is especially attractive after the hunt,

When the environment was controlled by a river breeze,

The attractive types smiling in the early evening

Before the onslaught of quiet disappointment, more grief

Than the giddy ones were prepared to feel

When the facts of the littered park stood out in contrast

To the drunk’s swelling, failed, embittered, belief

That it really is okay, it is okay,

ah, intoxication! But now it’s another day,

And the swarms of highly unattractive and loud

Women are ordering breakfast, the café

Is ruined, old men with silly hats have so much to say.

But the beauties are asleep, except this waitress,

Dressed simply in black; she is awake,

Patient and beautiful, for everyone’s sake.

HATE IS BETTER THAN LOVE

Image result for abstract painting hate

Mad with desire, madly in love, hungry, unable to keep still,

Love makes me restless and unhappy,

Thanks to love, I lack accuracy and will.

Love makes me pitiful, sad, unmanly, creepy, sappy,

Untrustworthy, discontent, unable to sleep.

Love? It sends me to the ends of the earth. To weep.

All wisdom tells us love is better than hate,

But the wise are not even partially right—they are wrong.

And in love, and loving love, I excoriate love in my song.

My beautiful love, the one whom I love, is angry every day.

Her hatred makes her content; sick of my desire, she feels

The emotion which triumphs in itself; because she hates,

She doesn’t need, or want, the crushed lover, who waits.

She hates the lover, the lover’s needs, hates his desire,

And therefore her hate is a steady, patient, fire

Which desires nothing, for love is desire;

Anger, her steady, calm, bright, and purging fire.

In her anger, she is happy to close the door and be alone.

Hate is the army playing cards, the queen blessed, the solid throne,

Anger, the triumph of the warrior, the male winning his way

Into the valley of the dark which hides the redundant day.

Love whines and cries, pins all on hope, and is too lazy to pay his bills.

Love is poverty and debauch and it’s love, not hate, who, furious with desire, kills.

 

 

 

 

THE CURTAIN

Image result for the entrance curtain

“I learn from people” —Socrates, The Phaedrus

Of one thing I am certain:

The secret to life is the curtain.

In the blizzard of facts

You have to notice how the person acts.

Love and desire depends

On the curtain, and when love ends

With its union, the curtain’s division,

The fact between here and there broken,

Clothing comes off and we see what’s there,

Behind the curtain, pleasurable, embarrassed sighs,

The secret, delicate hair.

The allure of what’s hidden by the curtain

Drives everything that’s mysterious, and finally, certain.

In triumph, we part the curtain and walk

Into the mystery. And then we talk,

And in our talk, more curtains arise,

Curtains in the world and curtains in the eyes,

Until the couple who thought they had become one

Find their passionate, unified love is cruelly undone;

Suddenly all that was loved, is hated.

We broke the curtain. But these holy, happy ones? They waited.

THE FLOWER WILL THINK

Image result for flower by the painter chardin

The flower will think itself a stem.

The flower will cling to roots—and listen to them.

The flower will fear the light

And let the message of the stem ignite

Fear and trepidation, as the role

Of different parts confuses the whole.

The way your stem sways

Is a boon to my days.

The gathering your roots do

Is surely a benefit to you.

But I want your flower to see

How beautiful your flower is to me.

Your flower, in the light,

Is better than the root and its night.

Your face is the reason for nothing but clothes,

The reason for every root and every stem—

Your face is much better than those.

Your beautiful face embarrasses them.

 

 

 

THOUGHTS ON LOVE

Image result for abstract painting fire engine red

My love sent 20 fire trucks when I burned the toast.

My love hunted me down and jailed me when I crossed the border by accident.

My love sent me from the university when I wrote the wrong word.

My love arranged to have me married to her.

My love blew herself up after crying out in adoration my holy name.

My love waited in the dark, ambushed me and imprisoned me to stare at me.

My love aborted me for a good reason as I cried out in the dark.

My love had me, held me up to the light, and then devoted her life to me.

Afraid I might be hit by a fire truck, I told my love goodbye.

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