Image result for percy shelley in cavern in painting

Who could have wed

Those images of fragile life to this poet, now dead?

The slender poet, who died at sea,

Who called you a midnight cloud?

Who, despairing of himself, courted natural scenery,

Sun, cloud, moon, mountain, sea?

Cavern, with stream in it, dark and loud?

All readers found

This poet’s death more than profound.

It almost makes me want to die,

Before I’ve crossed my last “t,”

And dotted my final eye.

Is love mutability, too?

Is all porn ephemera?

Is it all acting for the camera?

Or is this couple, panting and kissing, like you and I,

In love for all eternity,

Infinite and true?




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Linda Ashok believes poetry is a way forward.

Linda Ashok is a poet from India with a deep and abiding interest in poetry being heard and felt around the world. English, fortunately for English speakers, is a window into Indian poetry (and India) which any lover of poetry (and humankind) would be wise to use.  She has been kind enough to send Poetry Mail our way, of which she is founder and president, and this number is organized around “read  7 Indian poets a month” (84 Indian poets, through January 2019).

We could not resist.

Curiosity will never be satisfied, but Criticism, its enemy, can produce, selfishly, moments of satiety and rest, as the Critic deludes himself into thinking perhaps poetry, in pieces, and as a whole, can be grasped and explained and understood in a somewhat satisfactory manner.

What follows is a brief Criticism of the February 2018 Poets—the First Seven, as chosen by Linda Ashok, and now altered, every so slightly, forever, by Scarriet

1. Aryanil Mukherjee
HarperCollins Indian Poetry in English (2011), Indian poetry issue of TLR, engineer, lives in Cincinnati.

A scientist, Mukherjee, writes scientific poems—what is a scientific poem?—alas, there is no such thing.

Mukherjee writes poems like a scientist—or, more accurately, writes poems for scientists who might think this is the way a scientist should, or would, write a poem.

Can poetry be brainy?

It can be. But poetry tends to rebuff smart. The smart will not be placated, however. If a poet is smart, why should they let mere poetry tell them what to do? They are much too smart for poetry. The whole modernist tendency, which impacts so many, is to eschew grammar and use simple juxtaposition of words to generate interest. This wields tremendous power—too much power, which is the problem, which is why there is so much tedious and obscure poetry by otherwise extremely smart people, and why this type of poetry is always best in small bites. We will quote a single stanza of a longer poem by Mukherjee. The phrase “blue liberty” is a poem in itself.  Note the lack of punctuation marks. It is all about putting “liberty” next to “blue.”

how much of yourself do you reflect in this wood
how many mirrors have you seen
the apple under sky was expected to be blue
wasn’t it?
is blue liberty? what does the atom say?

We don’t know what the atom says, but we will think about it for a very long time.

2. N Ravi Shanker
Lives in Palakkad, Kerala. His book, Architecture of Flesh, was published in 2015 by Poetrywala.

We love his strange poem, “Bullet Train,” which opens, “The Shinkensan Model accelerates to 217 miles per hour, cutting journey time to 3 hours from Ahmedabad to Mumbai,” and ends in the following haunting manner:

This train now will pass through
Under skin arteries and veins and nerves
Tunneling through bone marrow and muscles
Till it comes to rest on a magnificent spine bridge,
perched like a toy train in a full moon night
till the slightest breeze causes the compartments
to topple into a depth less soul, one by one.

3. Kazim Ali
MFA from NYU, born in UK to Muslim parents in 1971.

We quote the following short poem, “Autobiography,” in full—lack of grammar (sense) is the poet’s artful use of suggestion—the lack of direct meaning and grammar (including punctuation) is the poetry.  Indian poets writing in English have been swept up by Anglo-American Modernism as much as anyone else.  Poetry which tells nothing, and only suggests what it means, strives to satisfy the most important criterion of the New Criticism—poetry is that which cannot be paraphrased. Ali’s poem, “Autobiography,” more than meets this critical standard.

we didn’t really speak
my summer wants to answer
the architecture doesn’t matter
this is not my real life
when I am here I want to know
why do I believe what I was taught
a storm is on the way
close all the windows
begin at the earliest hour
is there a self
It is what Ali’s poem doesn’t say which makes the poem powerful.  How is it possible to speak about a poem which doesn’t say anything?  Is “Autobiography” the kind of poem which ends all Criticism, making the critic astonished, and mute?  Modernism was ushered in with Imagism, and the reticence of the image played a great role in moving on from the oratory of the 19th century. However, (up speaks the Critic) in this poem we notice that there’s very little imagery, but in fact a great deal of activity in terms of stage direction/speech/action: “speak,” “answer,” “believe,” “storm on the way,” “close all the windows,” and “begin.”  The Indian poets are not resigned. They don’t rest.  And yet, a modernist minimalism is still at work.

4. Binu Karunakaran
Online journalist from Kochi, India

To quote Karunakaran’s poem “The Railway Platform Weight and Fortune Telling Machine” reveals how much he fits into what we have been saying about the previous poets.  There is a marked fascination with everything artificial, presented as both comforting and strange—as if modernity were destined to be friend and enemy.  Is this kind of poetry sensible? Or schizophrenic?  I assume the latter, since no one really wants to read “sensible” poetry, do they?  Of course a smart person is usually sensible, and the Indian poets all seem particularly brainy. Is technology a horror, a toy, or a comfort?  We aren’t really sure.

looks like a casino sun
flowering in the night, full
of calibrated science, flashing
coloured lights and a Newton’s
disc that refuses to stop
spinning until the last pollen
of weight left by that moth
of a man before me is blown
away by the wind from the train
that passes. After a throated
clang it spat out a cut cookie-
coloured card on which is
written your lucky number
and a hooking line about fate
in proportion to your weight
in the world.

5. Nandini Dhar
Teaches at Florida International University and also lives in Kolkata.

“Map Pointing At Dawn,” by its very title, throws us immediately into the modern Indian theme: science bumping up against nature—it obviously consumes the modern, educated poets.  Here’s the first 8 lines.

When we tear the petals of polash with the edges of our fingernails,
we are claw-marking our ways into a history of rust, from which

the little girls are to be kept buttoned up. A night-storm is carving
the polash-petals; manipulating the effulgence of a bruised sun

to fashion its crimson. Ghost Uncle is a calligrapher who cannot hold
a pen between his fingers. This is just a sentence in this history of rust

we are trying to creep in. This history of crimson petals illustrated
with upturned nails, secret rooms at the back of a police station:  interrogation.

Dhar’s style is matter-of-fact; she does not choose to jettison grammar and punctuation, but the fragmentary syntax, the fragmentary meaning, is the same.  Social commentary replete with horror is indirectly stated; good poetry is indirect.

6. Sumana Roy
Lives in Siliguri, India and has published in Granta and Prairie Schooner.

Roy’s poem, “Root Vegetables” gathers together a theme and puts it on the table for you—all these poems so far have been tangible, material—not flighty, or airy; the Indian poets are smart, observant, grounded and serious; and this poem is no exception, though it is less fragmentary, and can be paraphrased.

Root vegetables are less beautiful and more profound than plants which grow above ground—“just so, that taste, the righteousness, of vegetables/that grow below the earth, hidden from light.”

Roy gives us a clever but blatant contrast with light: “The dew on green each morning is politically correct, being equalist, and only a gesture. For darkness drinks less water than light.”

The rather grandiose “pathetic fallacy” argument of the poem ends appropriately enough: “When, at last, they are forced out of the ground…they discover fire and utilitarianism,/And knowing both, realise that life is as ordinary as food.”

The Indian poets bend over backwards to appear rational, sane, and grounded in common sense.  The ‘standing about’ prose style of modernism adds to this grounded sensibility, such that it almost seems modernism was invented for what the modern Indian poets are trying to say. This is sometimes a good thing. It is not always a good thing. The facile is not always good for poetry.

7. Mihir Vatsa
Is from Hazaribagh, India. Winner of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize.

“My Mother Visits A Beauty Parlor” is another poem which combines the natural (mother) with the artificial (beauty parlor), the overwhelming theme of the new Indian poets.

The story of the poem—Vatsa’s poetry is more discursively intimate than most, which is good, since poetry, after all, is speech—does not end well.  The poet wants to go to a restaurant, but his mother insists on the beauty parlor, where the poet waits outside, “counting scooters.” The panorama of businesses catering to women’s vanity depresses him, and when his mother emerges from the parlor “with shorter hair and sharper eyebrows” he’s not pleased, and she does not speak to him “for the next two days.”  The poet, while waiting for his mother, reflects: “I remember the many TV commercials with smiling women speaking about freedom and other liberating nouns.”  This is a depressing description of freedom, a freedom cancelled by the most material limitation one could imagine—freedom is a noun.  The noun joke is clever, but terribly depressing, somehow.  Trapped in the thing-ism of a noun. This seems to sum up the modern Indian sensibility—stuck in a melancholy, materialistic modernist style, which walls itself up in a perfected type of Imagism (I’m thinking of the English World War One poet, T.E. Hulme) which the Indian poet knows too well, almost too well, so that it slows them down. I would not speak to this particular noun for two days, either.

—The Scarriet Editors



Image result for spanish lady in renaissance painting

Seductive simple phrases:  Are you free?

You learn the direct and the polite, which is how you’ve always dreamed the seductive is.

The rest is chatter. Or filling out forms.

Where do you live?

A new language seduces you.

With her pronouns.

She approaches you mysteriously.

In that dress. By the mango grove.

People really speak that language. They sing that language in songs.

Why is it all your lovers have been bilingual?

The second language is the mother of romance and song.

Why didn’t you see it before?

She loved the new language, not you.

We are the language. Not ourselves.

Learning a new language is blunt and polite and mysterious all at once.

The promise of a kiss is only the promise of a newer, simpler language.

Simplicity is the seduction. What we call fate sometimes.

Life is simple after all. The genius of ease is all.

That is that. Speech. Translation. Love. That is that.

You are that and new in this new language.

That. That is new.

But noche is something you knew.

Try pushing your tongue forward a little sooner.

Seduction is limited to a few simple phrases;

After that, you are completely on your own,

And it will become very uncomfortable.

Enjoy it while you can. It really is the same old thing.

That is new. This is not.

Are you busy? Will you walk the streets of dark poetry with me?

Lesson number two. Are these your hands?

Lesson number three. How old are you? Can you give me money?  Can you give me a home?

Lesson number fourteen. Here is the world. Here is heaven. They said we can do it.

Are you hungry?

No, my love. I am very, very tired.






If a critic came from outer space,

With criticisms of the human race,

Criticisms listing vanity or helplessness or sin,

Would be attentively heard—but criticism from within,

Would not be heard—the human race would not be free

To listen—they would nail the critic to a tree.

With rage against the critic spent,

The rage itself would not relent,

But live in the symbol of the tree:

“Do not dare to criticize me.

My only king is gravity.”

Gravity has no voice. Gravity has no face.

Newton’s gravity, invisible, odd,

Suffocates the scientist who dares believe in outer space,

Who dares believe in God.




Image result for toothache in renaissance painting

Only a dentist can fix your teeth.

Only a professional instrument

Can find the disease lurking beneath.

Only a bank knows the worth of your home.

Ask the movie star where your girlfriend went.

Only a famous poet can write a famous poem.

Beethoven is too sentimental.

The mass shooter is not.

LSD is good for mind control,

As Ovid and wine worked for Rome.

The best story is absent of moral and plot.

Only a famous poet can write a famous poem.



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Are you saying I cannot say what I see?

What I’m seeing happened a long time before I began writing poetry.

I’m making this poem as obscure as I can;

I don’t want you to think this poem is the same as the man

Who wants you to see what the poet is telling you to see—

After all, if I tell you what I see,

You’ll confuse the telling with the poetry.

You might say you cannot see what I see.

There is none as beautiful as she,

And from all distances and angles,

But what do I praise, if I assume visibility?

You are right to condemn this poem,

For, of course, you cannot see

Her, and further, she happened a long time ago,

When I first dreamed how poetry

Would depict her in her individual actions—

When I first thought of poets, and their lives, and their factions.



Image result for abstract painting sunset

Here is the future,

For those who don’t like the past.

Days and nights which go too slow,

Days and nights which go too fast.

The sun climbed the sky deliberately,

And the direction and speed

Of the universe was a mystery;

But it was you, and your only need.

Life was nothing but, “how fast?”

So here it is, the future!

For those who don’t like the past.

And you, who loved the past?

Even its agony and fear?

Who love and cling to the past?

The future, too, is here.



Image result for abstract painting husband and wife

My wife offends.

The police and courts cannot help;

Her offense is too small.

But love is spied by all.

A drop of rain which falls on my head

Feeds the industry of bad weather.

The models in their rain gear

Are beautiful and pleased.

At first, my wife teased

Me about the arrival of rain,

And when I lost my umbrella, she teased me again.

The leaking ceiling will drive us mad,

But the courts do not consider this bad.

Who said her love was innocent?

She was happy, but known to complain;

Offensive humor, sadness, rhetoric, argument, and pain,

The symbol which clouds over reason,

The rain that drips down the face of the old,

Above the muddy pit. Shakespeare had dreams

Of this. The weak can breed sympathy;

Weakness can breed resentment, too. The drip, drip, drip

Of doubt does not kill. My life doesn’t break. It bends.

I need to tell someone. My wife offends.

Her insult was too small

To hurt love. But love is surrounded by all.




Image result for abstract painting black heart

Do you want love?

You already have love,

It’s yours—you cannot give it back.

Love is always yours. Love is a lack.

When you dare to hold another,

And dare to tell them you’ll be true,

That’s when love flies away;

That’s when love looks strangely at you.

“Who is this, with skin and hair,

With eyes and flaws? Who lives here?”

Desire is all you are.

You are a window with a morning star.

You are a hand unlocking a door

Patiently for centuries.

Be patient some more.



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I want your love, or I will go mad;

First, missing your love; second, mad;

That’s doubly sad! Which is worse?

Love is precious, madness a terrible curse;

And you will never love me if I’m mad.

Yet this is why I’m mad,

Because you won’t love me; it’s sad

That love always turns into madness,

But love perhaps is mad from the start?

No. Love lives in the gentle heart,

And desires to kiss and bless

The sweet and dear beloved.

When I was first, by you, sweetly moved

To love, you sweetly changed me.

The madness is this. You cannot kiss a tree.

You cannot kiss a dog or cat.

I’m a man. I cannot love like that.

I need your lips, similar to mine.

I need love, kisses, a sprinkling of wine.

Without your love, I will go mad,

Kissing anything. Pathetic. Crazy. Sad.

Rejected only once, everything is bad.


No one is as smart, or as beautiful, as you think.

Smile at peace with yourself, with this knowledge.

After getting a degree, you stay, and end up working at the college;

What makes these things is safer than dancing with these things on the brink.

A brush with fame at the commencement ceremony,

A nice feeling stayed with you all summer,

Surprised at how good you felt from the second drink,

The nice things he confided made him seem like a fool,

But you let a tipsy compliment flatter,

Intrigued that he would soon be teaching at the school;

His foreign policy creds garish and suspect,

A family friend once owned a condo in Trump Tower,

Some talk of Syria. His handshake was nice when he had to go.

He claimed to know about Putin. On his phone was a joke about Brigitte Bardot.





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There are two kinds of errors:

Those we make in hate.

And those we make in love.

Every mistake looks different from afar.

Some fail, like an unnoticed star,

Pining alone up there in the black,

A faint blip of light which wants its girlfriend back.

Someone else uttered something cruel,

Forever a fool,

Thinking it was a joke.

A joke! A joke! God help me, it was only a joke!

That mistake looks like a distant swirl of gray smoke.

A life can be destroyed by a single piece of cake.

How lavish, how sweet, how delicious life sometimes is, how fake!

The jokes and the lies everyone is giving

Are too numerous to count. This is how we are living.

Mine was a mistake in love.

I was thinking about how much I loved you.

You remember? My action which seemed like hate?

It wasn’t hate at all.

Hate is the error itself.

Love is what explains the mistake of its making,

Which is how we slip through the wall.

When you walk to my mistake from the valley,

Going north along the river,

It still stands. The monument I carved

From the woods for you,

When the whole valley was ours,

And trees hoisted their branches in so many different directions!

In the valley, what I did looks like hate, but when you go by

In a plane, it looks like love from the sky.




Image result for apollo and love's eye

We fall in love so frequently,

We begin to think falling

In love is a random calling,

As common as looking at a face

In the market, a train, or anyplace.

I only admit secretly to my eye

How easy love is. Women say goodbye

To a roving eye. The insult is

Love’s a look. Unfortunately it is.

Women are touched by looks and story.

They love a little more sensibly,

But loving for them is easy, too.

To love is easy. All that mattered was being loved by you.



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As one who loves science and prose meaning,

I defend poetry in this way:

A poem doesn’t have anything to say

Except that it seems profound

Merely on account of its sound.

Poetry experimented long ago

With utterance as a way to know,

As sound which helps us know where to go,

As sound which is beautiful, and can see,

With sound, you hiding in silence,

Alone, unloved, and without science.

A poet is a piece of curiosity

Who asks, did God make a sound? Did you love me?




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During a warm evening,

The grass visible, somewhere behind tall buildings, the sun,

In the privacy of a park bench in a small park,

I sit in languid thought; I think sweetly upon

You, and everything associated with you,

Musing sweetly upon those things, too.

They are sweet, and all my poem brings

Is sweet because of you; you make sweet these things.

There are times when I don’t know what to write—

I prefer to sleep in the middle of the night,

But if you wake me, I snap on the light,

And take up my trembling pen

And write to you, as if our love were new, again.

I prefer to drowse in the middle of the day,

But if you come into my thoughts,

I say hello to you, as if you hadn’t gone away,

As if you were smiling there in all your beauty,

Listening to exactly what I had to say.

I prefer, in winter, the crystalline sleep,

When the frozen, and the freezing, find it difficult to weep,

But if, by the fire, in anguish, you cry

Dimly in my thoughts, in my thoughts I comply,

And by candlelight write a rhyme and then why.

But during warm evenings,

When I sit in the park,

Where we used to sit until it got dark,

Poems are easy; you arrange the things

As if you were writing the things for me,

In love and for love. The poem sings,

And sings with alacrity.

A rising moon brings poems and love.

There it is. Do you see it, love?



I can no longer praise you.

The whispering crowd is the enemy.

Love is only love in secrecy.

I died when I found out what they knew.

Damn my passivity, and when ambitious men

Make my passivity seem self-satisfied again.

You are wanted when men want you—

Men know I love you, so they love you, too.

Finding love, gangs repeat it,

And once known, fame

Kills the secret,

Removes love from love,

And stamps it with a name.

Why marriage? When I took your hand

Love knew love has no secret plan.

The law to love is a law to ban.

And I can’t prevent it. No one can.

From love’s dream, one of us, in hate, woke.

A thought, once spoken, cannot speak again.

The moment I spoke

You gave your life to other men.





Image result for naked under a mink coat marilyn monroe

I wish, like a coat, I could wear

The impressions my letter created,

When you read my love’s apology, alone,

And you ran to me, in grateful tears.

But when we express what we feel,

It plays along the nerves, and tickles along the love invisible—

The faintest light, which ends its dying flight in evening mist, is more visible,

And the same with my poetry.

You grew into a collection—resented, and lugged home

By students, lost in documents, who ridiculed,

“Here is the best knowledge kept in parchment for the young.”

Coldly my quiet poet’s name became known,

But this fall day, with new chills in the air,

The tickling chill tickling the hairs up and down my arm,

And you somewhere—would you appear?

The weather, the cafés, the people, the boulevard, about the same,

Or never, this was already—was it long ago?

And you, my feelings, and you, and you,

The jacket, or a coat? something you and the world might see,

Is it here, and what else to you might be pertaining to me?



Image result for flowers in renaissance painting

We keep on wanting this.

Even reality gives up after a while,

Unable to conform to our thoughts.

Reality, random thief, enters the home,

Never welcome in the poem.

Facts have no idea what they’re looking for.

And it’s hard to exit through another person’s door.

The art of conversation is dead.  We complain.

We say nothing.  We talk around the stain.

Nature gives up on us, too.

Nature gives sweet flowers to me to give to you,

But winter kills fast.

We want the poem of personality to last,

But it never will—

In every case, to keep talking means you’re an imbecile.

The song must have an end; they all end.

Did you notice this?

A pop song ends, perhaps slowly in a fade,

But it ends. No matter how wild or elaborate its parade.

A symphony ends. The timpani ends. The composer wants to get paid.

What do we want, then?  This or this?

Millions of rain drops quit, as well.

Heaven is great, but not if it lazes into hell.

The bottom grins from the bottom of the cup.

In my beautiful dream the most beautiful face

Was mine to endlessly kiss—

But my dream gave up.

There is only one thing we really want.

To keep on wanting this.





Image result for venus and mars in renaissance painting

We are what we are not.

The pleasure of kissing

Pursued. When?  How?  Why?  We forgot.

The warm chill you were feeling

When she wanted your face,

When hers hovered over yours,

Hidden, the time, the reason, the place;

You drank her in, it was drinking,

When you licked her on all fours;

Neither time, nor space,

Explains what you were,

When, in light, you were kissing her.

You were both what you were not

Because you kissed each other a lot.

The genius, to be a genius, must forget

Anxieties and troubles. He is loving you yet.

All pain he walls off

When he forgets to worry and forgets to cough,

When he forgets to see

You, he sees you in eternity.

You did hurt him. He did fall.

In the pleasure of the present’s idle wing

He forgets all

By remembering.







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I perfected myself when I was alone;

All that makes me worthy was secretly made.

Common things grow in the sun,

But winter hides genius in the deep, cold shade.

You didn’t see what I was—in my behavior,

My speech, or my designs.

All you saw was false.  Obviously,

You can’t ignore the obvious—

But you never saw what was going on in the mines.

You added things up, but couldn’t understand

How my pleasure was the largest sum.

You didn’t see how often I denied myself

Before I whispered to you, “of course, my darling, I will come.”








Image result for kesha

The problem is this: the smarter a person is, the more aggressive and creepy they are.

You can’t have smart without creepy.

The smart, the talented, the perceptive—these are highly prized and necessary for the ingenuity and force which builds a comfortable society. But unfortunately, the smart, the talented, and the perceptive, are not, as a rule, nice.

The tales and sentiments of woodsmen, who reject society, and monk-like, tread the wilderness, appeal because this is one solution to the dilemma—raw nature cancels out the unnatural.

But in the cities, in the electronic boulevards of society, the unnatural breeds and flourishes, for the aggressive qualities of the talented have no outlet and exist in exaggerated ways, separated from the virtuous qualities which serve that very society. Forceful energy, on one hand, and rapidly efficient intelligence, on the other, which combine to burn with a lively, successful, flame, also go, when the work is done, in two different directions: As virtuous intelligence helps, and earns praise, its jealous brother, the necessary energy of pitiful desire, pursues avenues garishly lit.

War and love share qualities—and this sharing overthrows human happiness.

Efficiency and intelligence are synonymous. The efficient is the same as the smart within temporal/spatial existence. The efficiency of time-saving is the soul of every invention.

Love, by its very nature, doesn’t fight—war must fight for love, condemning both to exist, always.

Love and war, as a twin necessity, finds, as this unfortunate twin necessity, an unfortunate life in the hearts and minds of the intelligent—the efficient—as the same activity: love and war at the same time.

Love and war are practiced simultaneously by the intelligent, because of its efficiency, which is all the smart really know, and this is the reason why creepy and rapey are common in refined and respectable society, in the otherwise successful institutions and practices of civilized life. Women who are assaulted by the creepy are being assaulted by war and love at once, in the name of efficiency. Men are trained to fight, and they fight women in the name of love, just as they love men in the name of war (deceive men, by “loving” them, since deception is the most efficient weapon in war).

This is the number one problem facing society—how can we have intelligence without the creepy?

The intelligent, we would think, would be “intelligent enough” or “smart enough” to know not to be creepy.

But this is to confuse intelligence with refinement—they are not the same at all, and we confuse them at our peril. As explained above, the smart is efficient only, not virtuous or decorous.

So the sad truth is, that the man who, without ceremony, hits on women, is displaying intelligence, and the successful man will tend to be creepy in the same ratio as his intelligence.

But can’t refinement and virtue live with intelligence?


They are opposite qualities.

The refined, by deferring pleasure through art and manners, is highly inefficient.

Virtue, by deferring pleasure through self-sacrifice, is also highly inefficient.

This is why the religious, who put their faith in repetitious iconography and ceremony, are viewed as stupid by highly efficient and crafty intelligence—crafty intelligence which does whatever it takes to win.

This is why women, who traditionally guard against the immediate gratification of pleasure by aggressive males, for the sake of pleasure-deferring childbirth, and serve a higher purpose divorced from the smart, the intelligent, the efficient, and the crafty, are mocked by society as stupid.

We mentioned at the beginning of this essay the man of nature, living ingeniously outside of society, as one solution to the problem.  The “off-the-grid” sensibility is inefficient—like those who are religious, or fashionable, or poetic—and in the religious, the fashionable, and the poetic, we find the ignorant, who are holy and sweet and kind and nice.

The woman, who is condemned to be virtuous—as a counter to aggressive male intelligence practicing the efficiency of love and war at once—is protected by clumsy and artificial societal constraints—clumsy, because society further punishes the woman when it keeps her from the dangerous territories where intelligence/efficiency aggressively dwells; society condemning her further to her ignorant female existence, and also clumsy because in a “free society” women are victims of love/war creepiness and aggression.

All that a woman is—protected as the virtuous receptacle of pleasure-deferring childbirth; or somewhat protected, by law and rules of decorum; or not protected at all as a complete person free to integrate herself into love/war intelligence and cunning—makes no difference to society. Society does not give a fig for nature or woman qua woman, and never will; society will always be a walled fortress against nature, the very efficiency which nature cannot, and does not, understand.

Nature, out of necessity, forms woman as the central child-providing device.

Society, in a moment of ingenuity, will bring men together as lovers, who adopt, taking up into their care, in double fatherhood, unwanted babies—or any combination society efficiently desires.

Society is too clever and ingenious for the natural to withstand.

Society laughs at the cow-like stupidity of all that is natural, and this includes the “living-to-serve-mankind-as-a-mother” woman, who, in taking seriously this role, is inevitably religious—and the religious is always mocked by sophisticates and progressives as backwards and naive. Precisely. The virtuous, in society’s eyes, is always ignorant—which is the tragic state of things we are attempting to elucidate in this essay, as forcefully and as simply as we can, by pointing out that the smart is efficient and unkind, and this is always so. Intelligence and creepiness always co-exist.

The religious essentially imitates the time-honored precepts of nature—which is why it is mocked, victimized, and betrayed whenever society reaches a certain level of love-as-war and war-as-love sophistication.

In the same manner, aesthetes—whether in fashion or art—also imitate nature, as they reproduce natural qualities found in colors (flowers), order (perspective), romance (birdsong) and the sublime (mountains, oceans). As with the religious, in the artist we often find virtue and naïveté and all those sensitive qualities which at first may attract us, but which society finally mocks and condemns.

The virtuous poet and the virtuous woman fall in love: she is rich in maternal qualities, ablaze in physical and spiritual loveliness—he is docile and sensitive, with a sweetly unsophisticated freedom in his humble expression and shy desire—both belong to nature; he, in the worship of all that is orderly and beautiful; she, in the obedience to divine child-birth, and in her love for all that contributes to a happy family.

But this relationship cannot survive in society—an outburst of laughter, a single whispered word, destroys it forever.

Destroyed, it lives on in refined and outdated books, but not in the city—where knowledge reigns in a glance, and millions of men and women hurry anxiously to and fro.





You were resisted at every turn, learning

To understand not only you, but everyone is turning,

And the moon still is,

Serene in its mathematics,

And the chemistry of the sun, burning

Hasn’t changed either, but you

Are now losing the ability to renew,

And they didn’t teach you this,

Otherwise, you would have begat

Before you learned to kiss.

But fashion and technology exploded just like that

With everything contrary and different from what it seemed;

The big thing dreaming was just something a little dreamer dreamed.

Love is liking what you are not supposed to like.

Young in the shadows, youth crashed the bike.

Hate is not liking what you wish you could like.

Come on, let’s get out of here. Do you think we can?

I’m still working on this poem. Let’s see your plan.



Image result for mozart

The justification of myself is complete.

I believe in myself, and this belief is sweet

Against my tongue, in my thoughts, tomorrow and today,

The whole world conspires to feed me and show me

I am the author, the actor, the audience, and the play.

If I don’t get it, the world—not me—is guilty of delay.

The forest exists, because I am the tree,

And the tree grew, and knew

To grow into a forest, flowering around you.

Can you point to some other tree

To prove that the whole forest is not me?

I am the whole forest; I am not a part

Of anything. Love, love me with every trick used by art,

Faking the real, exposing the fake—my whole heart

Is every single piece of the world, and more,

More faithful than the wife, more beautiful than the whore,

More open than the mind, which opens, closes, decorates, the door.

Here’s my taste, my sight, my judgment. Mozart, listen to me! I will soar

For the sake of you. The poem is the world.  This is what the world is for.



Image result for philip sidney

Time is long. We can use some of this.

The physical founding of spirit is rare.

Not too shy to thrust—but too shy to kiss.

Hardware is more important than software,

Though software talks—and talks—and talks

And tries to convince us otherwise.

The Republicans are wise and stupid.

The Democrats are stupid and wise.

Before he writes a poem he walks—and walks—and walks.

Not your poetry, it was your eyes.

But the poetry, if you want to know the truth,

Bored me to tears. Sidney’s lies.

Philip Sidney defended poetry against Socrates:

When you admit you lie, you can’t lie, but this was just a tease.

The voice always tries to speak for its skin,

Never knowing what kind of trouble the love song will get it in.

I want love. I don’t what trouble.

Software turned my hardware into rubble.

Trouble was the raging sea. Love was a bubble.

I thought I could love. But love was trouble.


Where God hides, there is a certain delight—

Light mingles with water and water mingles with light.

God is the day hiding in the day,

A glory ashamed, and trying to get away.

Fairy tales of fairies hiding gold in a stream

And every story told, which is only a dream

Is God, the hidden, hiding,

Secretly behind the secrets, secretly abiding.

What you thought was magical and completely untrue

Is the God who knows there is nothing magical in you.

God knows you are mortal, and fragile, and you will die,

And that is why He is glorious, but hidden, that is why.

He cannot face your death, so He hides in the leaves,

In the water, in your face, and the dark, which hardly grieves.




I wish I could repair

Your beautiful arms, your beautiful hair.

I wish I could make better

Your old, favorite sweater.

I wish this argument would end.

It seems real, but it’s only pretend.

I’m not going to impress you with candy.

The grownup only needs a sip of brandy.

I wish I could go into my favorite store,

And purchase, until there wasn’t anymore,

And take it all home and be

A store, myself, in sad satiety.

I wish I could win with words.

I can’t. I don’t like words. I do like words. I don’t like words.

This wants you to have sex immediately.

Immediately it wasn’t me.

The whole collection of event-chains

Never falls apart, even when someone is sick, or it rains.

I wish I could be nice and tell you what is wrong

With being nice for so long.



This conductor is an actor,

Enjoying the sound of his “ladies and gentlemen” voice

Booming to the end of the car.

But this conductor is as quiet as a mouse;

And we barely glimpse the engineer—this train is his house.

We can throw ourselves into our seat and forget everything

And it really doesn’t matter if the train conductor wants to sing

Or the stop is announced, or the sun

Is pouring through your window as the train curves around the swamp.

It doesn’t matter who is sitting next to you,

Or if you lose your gloves. The performance

Will soon be over. Tired of him and his lovemaking,

You’ll need to tell him what you begin to rehearse in your mind

Without thinking, a thoughtless performance—

Or, with thought reviewing thought, so you won’t seem too unkind.


Image result for aziz ansari

How do we protect women? Shame the dick-mind. Shame it good.

The Evil Empire of the Rapey Male is pushing back against the Me Too movement.

First, let’s admit that every mass movement, such as Me Too, is going to have excesses.  And yes, it is absolutely true that accusations can be slanderous—and this will always be true, and we all need to watch out for this, vigilantly, and always take this into account. Absolutely.

Rape is wrong. Slander is wrong. And between these two is a sea of accusations, traditions, manners, desires, loves, hates, power plays, court cases, and confusions.

The good of the Me Too movement, however, is making things uncomfortable for a certain type of person, one who secretly applauds the world of Harvey Weinstein—but now the energized Weinstein creeps are fighting back on all fronts.

If the Me Too movement is saying anything, it’s saying: “Don’t be a creep.”

But creeps will be creeps.

The case of Aziz Ansari has the creeps cheering.

Why? Because here is a case, not of rape, but of a famous man, and his female admirer, on a date gone bad, written up on a feminist site, with “feminists” protesting.

The Ansari case is “proof,” to the creeps, that the Me Too feminists have gone “too far.”

For the creeps, the Ansari case is the Waterloo of Me Too.

The Ansari story is important for the creeps because this is how the creeps think:

It wasn’t rape, so shut up.

You women want to be equals, but then you cry when a man is boorish.

And worse, you feminists are trying to make everything look like rape, and creating a climate of crackdown and fear.

In the Atlantic, and now more recently in the New York Times, the Ansari story is being used to ridicule and shame Me Too feminists—and the whole Me Too movement.

It is often said that the victim of stupidity is the victim of—yes, their own stupidity—and this is true, and it’s always neat and easy to blame stupidity on one stupid person; in this instance, the young trusting female.

Yet we, who blame, are always stupid when we victim-blame—while failing to see stupid overriding systems of behavior and thought, as we fail to recognize our own victim-blaming stupidity.

There’s two people involved here. Just as with Harvey Weinstein, and his victims. Grace (not her real name—she is not a public figure like he is) and Ansari.

To blame Grace, and only Grace, is stupid.

Don’t blame Ansari.

But then don’t blame her, either.

And, even more stupid: why blame the Me Too movement?

Have any opinion about Ansari’s lousy date you want.

But don’t use it to attack Me Too.

Do you think Ansari should blame his failed date on Me Too?

What kind of stupid, pathetic man would he be if he did that?

There’s a whole spectrum of women as victims. There’s brutal, physical rape by a stranger.

What Grace suffered was far more nuanced. But she’s still a victim.

It’s not that we need to destroy Ansari.  But neither should we use Grace to dilute Me Too.

Me Too is valid, and it will always be valid, and it doesn’t need to apologize for less offensive things on the spectrum to the point where they seem: silly immature women behaving unwisely. Silly immature women behaving unwisely is still part of the wider problem. We should still care, and not scornfully assume this is not on the spectrum and part of the whole problem. Perhaps we are being too hyper-sensitive and hyper-chivalrous, but we doubt it.

Ansari was trying very hard to “close the deal,” whether she wanted to or not. That’s a rape-mind, if not actual rape. You are not allowed to violate someone just because it’s in your apartment. The whole thing is too close to Harvey territory. He should have waited for a second date. Not poured her another class of wine, after she verbally objected to him moving too fast, and said, ” this is the second date.”

She does sound naive. But respect that, then. Don’t take advantage of it. That’s the point of civilized society, isn’t it?

The Weinstein creeps are rushing in, and their opening is that unlit gap between rape and boorish behavior.

The Weinstein backlash against Me Too reasons from the lowest possible place: 1. listen creeps, don’t get in trouble with the law and 2. listen, creeps, don’t get falsely accused.

But being a creep is fine.

And if you object to the creepy, you are a creep. Because, you know, men are always horny, and they will be disgusting, but that’s just too bad, and it can be funny and charming—look at movies! Look at TV! Look at comedians! Ha ha ha!  In fact, respectable films (the kind of Harvey Weinstein might produce) portray all sorts of creepy behavior—but who are we, stupid old-fashioned, butt-ugly, feminist, nitwits, to judge? Right?

Well, we can judge. And we are going to judge.

We owe it to ourselves, as a society, when we have a discussion like this, which affects everyone in society, no matter what age or gender, to focus on more than just rape and sex. The “enjoying sex without breaking the law” part and the “being safe” part are important—and we expect these two things to always be in the forefront, but every aspect of human happiness should be considered.

The synopsis of the story is: Ansari and the anonymous woman known as “Grace” agreed to go on a date; they started at his apartment with a glass of wine, went to a fancy restaurant, he hurried through the meal to take her back to his apartment, they got naked and kissed, he wanted to take it further, but backed off when she said no, they put their clothes back on and watched some TV, and she ended up being upset, and told him, in tears, “You men are all the same,” and left.

The date was detailed on a feminist website called Babe—provoking sympathy for Ansari and anti-Me Too outrage in the larger media.

The latest anti-Me Too cry is from the animal rights activist and famous French actress from the 1950s, Brigitte Bardot, saying Me Too actresses are just “looking for attention.”  And…the creepy backlash continues.  The great backlash of 2018 seems to be coming mostly from boomers and older folks.  Who should know better.

Let’s be truthful for a moment: it’s heartbreaking to find out a man only wants to have sex with you. Women want men. As complete partners. 

It’s heartbreaking—and what is commonly called a “broken heart” is a psychological trauma, and we are not talking about a “bad breakup” here or there, but the reality that the majority of women in society, from a young age, live with broken hearts their whole lives, because the creepy man is accepted as normal.  And, men, too, will suffer, because if women are deeply unhappy, men will be unhappy, too.

Here’s the thing. A long conversation over dinner, with wine, in a nice restaurant is the most wonderful experience in the world.

To want to rush into sex right away is Weinstein-like.

It is entirely correct for women to protest this.

When all things are said and done, the heart is finally more important than fun.

The attitude “it wasn’t rape, so shut up,” is part of the general problem. If we don’t care about the heart, we create the climate of the creepy in the first place.

This does not mean we get out the torches and pitchforks and run Ansari out of town.

So far, Ansari has only apologized to her, and that’s good.

We agree it’s not rape, or the worst thing ever, by any means.

But here’s the thing: to scorn the woman in this scenario puts you on a Weinstein slope.

Poor Ansari!

He just wanted to have a little fun!

This, in our view, is the most significant aspect of this story:

Creeps are using the Aziz Ansari story to creep back to acceptable creepiness.





Image result for the offended in renaissance painting

The biggest asshole is the one who insincerely takes offense.

To be offended, as wrongs go, is a relatively harmless thing in itself, and often earns the offended party points for virtue—and here lies the insidious nature of the insincere who are always offended: their bad spreads and increases, inspired, and under the cover of, the apparent good—which makes the insincerely offended impossible to stop simply and virtuously.

To take offense is to give offense—the offended shame the other by being offended by them, even though the “offense” is harmless—and sincere. And here the insincerely offended strike an even greater and more insidious blow against sincerity: when they insincerely take offense at something which is offered sincerely.

The asshole’s insincerity—because it hides behind virtue—is protected, increasing the truth of its insincerity. The asshole’s bad—which hides behind the good, is, for that very reason, is even worse, as all that is insincere (and called good) gradually chases out all that is sincere (and called bad).

This common, yet applauded, wrong, is able, like an infection without a cure, to spread harm and mischief vastly, and incalculably.

Justice longs, like any pressure, or force, to manifest itself in some way—for it would not be justice otherwise.  The more wrong and the more torture the faculty of virtue suffers, the greater likelihood of a dramatic reversal of the state of things—perpetuated over time by insidious wrong which hides itself inside the good.

Murder, and other truly criminal, brazen and anti-social acts, don’t happen out of the blue, but we are nonetheless often puzzled by the sudden and seemingly unexplained ferocity and evil of human behavior. These terrible offenses, replete with horror and irrationality, come about, very often, from the far less harmful, but constant, behavior of the assholes—who are able to seem good as they constantly shame and torture others.

The insincerely offended asshole is the root of all evil.

The good person is made to feel bad—even as they know themselves to be sincere.

The good person sees the bad person winning, as a seeming good person—and there is nothing the good person can do about it. Good is defeated by the bad, as all the good is sucked out of the room.

Good can, and will, suffer, in silence, knowing itself to be good.

Good, however, in a weak moment, may take offense itself, because of the insincere strategy of the bad who are offended, and good, now offended in turn, and rightly so, transitions to the idea that all offense taken is insincere, and bad is all—good succumbs to the atmosphere of bad, believing there is no more good, since being offended is the only reality, whether it is sincere, or not.

Since taking offense sincerely is actually a more helpless order of being than taking offense insincerely (the latter perceived to be more clever and ambitious and socially successful) good falls in line with the prevailing bad behavior—which ambitiously and insincerely takes offense.

The bad perpetuates bad as normal, and the bad flourish in their status quo status, insincerely offended by every means and manner one can think of—since the world is imperfect in every way, there is an infinite store of things which offend. “To be offended” becomes not only the de facto normal and safe position, but the strong and superior position.

This is how, in a normal and self-perpetuating manner, the bad grows and flourishes, always on the offended end of things, while the just and the good either convert to the bad-and-insincerely-offended normal, or, the good ineffectively fight back, either violently or pitifully, committing more harm, and looking truly bad, and becoming truly bad, in the process. The good is not only defeated by the bad; the good ends up becoming even worse, making the triumph of the bad even more certain and inevitable.

But take heart.

Build a house–or a poem—which doesn’t fall down.

You are good.

It is them, not you.

The world is more creepy, unfair and crazy than you ever dreamed.

But we’ll find a way out of this.

I promise.



If the introvert is really so,

Where can the introvert go

To escape public notice—their fear and doom?

They just slip into the bathroom.

Whether in a public place, or at home,

There’s a place where the introvert can truly be alone—

Better than the living room, or even hiding in bed,

Where someone else might lurk, the introvert’s dread—

Is a private room where the introvert really spends their life.

Look around. Where is your moody wife?

You might speak to them as they half-listen, half-hidden by their hair;

You might even make them angry. They aren’t really there.

You might feel fortunate to get them on the phone.

The truth is, the introvert is always alone.

The introverts, silent ghosts, climb inside their walls,

As Churchill’s voice looks for them, echoing in the stalls.



Image result for entrance with blue pillars

The entrance is all.

The entrance allows you to enter,

Unless it is locked, or too small.

This entrance seems meant for you,

And, as you go in,

You hear the sounds of love,

And feel the grip of sin.

The entrance had blue stone

Pillars on both sides

And marble for miles

Which no one derides.

The entrance is expensive

And when you entered it, you were

Different afterwards. But don’t ask her.

She is the queen of entrances.

She is official. She knows

Death is the entrance

Every palace shows.

This entrance, however, is so tall

You don’t see it. The sky

Seems to beckon.

But you are too small.

At the beginning of the entrance you die

To get out. She knows why.

You signed up with the others.

They waived the entrance fee.

And now you’re in a submarine

At the bottom of the sea.




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His love was great—but I always hated that word.

Word associations are true, though they seem absurd.

The expression “great with child,” disgusted me;

I hated the word, “great;” men were obsessed with it especially;

“I’m great,” or “that’s great”—and I would roll my eyes.

I learned eventually everything great was everything that lies.

He did love me, and I found him difficult to resist;

He had such beautiful hands, and I never saw him make a fist;

He would have died for me, though melody and poetry

And beauty made him die.

I worked at loving, but he didn’t have to try.

His love was great. And that’s when I realized the lie.

He was gallant and romantic and tall.

But he loved me too much. So I chose not to love him at all.









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Selected Poems by Ben Mazer
Paperback, 248 pages
Madhat Press
Preface by Philip Nikolayev

T.S. Eliot was born in 1888. As Ben Mazer’s Selected Poems, with its T.S. Eliot heft, lands on America’s doorstep (as writing workshop and slam poet hives hum in every college town) this is the question a few may be asking: is Mazer a genius, or a copyist?

When we write in the ascendant style of an age, we position ourselves for greatness (think Beethoven atop Mozart), or neglect—a copyist the world doesn’t need.

W.H. Auden—younger, English-born, sassier than the somber American, T.S. Eliot—whom Eliot published, and who, after traveling to Berlin and China with Isherwood, subsequently moved to America and awarded John Ashbery his Yale Younger—is Auden Mazer’s fountainhead?

Are the following quotes from Auden or Mazer?

1.Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day/Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,/He got down to work

2. The flier, at the Wicklow manor,/Stayed throughout the spring and summer,/Mending autos in the drive

3. In a strange country, there is only one/Who knows his true name and could turn him in./But she, whose father too was charged with murder

4. Look, stranger, on this island now/The leaping light for your delight discovers

5. And move in memory as now these clouds do,/That pass the harbor mirror/And all the summer through the water saunter.

The insouciance of rhymes flung against the language of hard-boiled detective fiction. It’s Modernism longing to be Romantic, but finding it quite impossible.

1, 4, and 5 are Auden; 2 and 3, Mazer.

Shelley in army uniform, cynically resigned to domesticated Empire life—which pays better than it ought.

Ben Mazer is for, by, and about poetry which sings out the following historical paradox:

Shelley, the Romantic, is quick—look at him riding winds and swift ocean currents.

The Modern, with her machines and her anxiety, hasn’t got time for Romanticism singing Shelley, and, yet, the modern boredom and leisure which the modern affects, allows for poetry which goes deeper into the Shelley of Shelley than Shelley ever did.

If you give Mazer a few minutes (since a long poem doesn’t exist) he will pour more Shelley on you than you’ve ever known before.

The Mazer quoted above, in the comparison with Auden, is early Mazer.  The later Mazer is less like Auden and more like Eliot.  But these comparisons are not entirely fair. Mazer is Mazer.

Here’s an excerpt from Mazer’s “The Double:”

I remember chiefly the warp of the curb, and time going by.
As time goes by. I remember red gray green blue brown brick
before rain or during rain. One doesn’t see who is going by.
One doesn’t think to see who is going by.
One sees who is going by all right, but one doesn’t see who is going by.
The bright lights attract customers to the bookstore.
Seeing, chalk it up to that. The bitter looks of the booksellers,
as you leave the shop without paying. Rickety steps that will soon
be history. A ripped up paperback book with some intelligent inscriptions
in very dried out blue gray ink. Lots of dumpsters. And seagulls.
Or are they pigeons. They seem related, as the air is to the sea.
When it gets darker, or foggier, it is a really big soup
of souls, works of art, time tables, the hour before dinner,
theatrical enterprise, memories of things never happened, warnings
spoken in a voice familiar, a keen and quickened sense
of possibility glimpsed through windows.
Handbills, whatever to mark the passing time. And sleep.
I know it is good when the good of it is not noticed.
It is something you try and tell someone privately in a room
where the light is broken in October. Your sense of time
is the source of your charm with strangers,
who would accept you anyways.

Mazer’s accumulation of details—this is the first 22 lines of “The Double” (Poems (2010) in Selected pg. 9)—unlike the poetry of Ashbery, which explodes in non sequitur—narrows down to philosophy. With each additional observation, Mazer’s centripetal process pins down meaning; notice how the passage we have quoted is not just creating categories, but reflects on category itself: “They seem related, as the air is to the sea.” See (“seeing, chalk it up to that”) the subtle manner in which observations are linked throughout the passage: the ambiguity of the poet’s seeing-but-not-seeing-who-is-going-by is repeated in the “booksellers,” who by their very nature see-but-don’t-see visitors to the bookstore, since they want visitors (our poet) to buy books from their store—a store which has “rickety” steps, indicating not many people are buying books, and the store itself will become “history”—the bookstore itself will become a book. The poet embraces the trope of attracting customers (readers) himself—the poet comments on what makes poetry good (“I know it is good when the good of it is not noticed”) defines imagination (“memories of things never happened”) and the actual surroundings of the poet’s rambles (“lights, fog, handbills, dumpsters, gulls, bookstores, the hour before dinner) cunningly mingle with the walking-and-seeing poet’s thoughts on poetry: “try and tell someone privately…” “your sense of time” (poetry, a temporal art) “is the source of your charm with strangers”—and with “strangers” we are back to the booksellers—and the customers who don’t buy (“strangers” to each other) and readers of poems—the more successful, the more “charm” the poet has, the more readers (“strangers”) the poet will have.

The hidden meaning of “The Double” is the lonely enterprise of the seeing-but-not-seeing poet who strives to be successful—the background of urban poverty and charm denoting the modern is just one of its layers. There is a density of significance impossible to define, but Mazer’s poetry has it.  “The Double,” “Death and Minstrelsy,” and “The Long Wharf,” three longish poems which greet us in the beginning of Mazer’s Selected, should be taught in every writing class—these three poems alone ensure Mazer’s immortality.

We also think “Divine Rights,” Cirque D’ Etoiles,” “Deep Sleep Without Reservations,” “Monsieur Barbary Brecht,”  “The King,” (excerpted in Selected) and “After Dinner Sleep” fall into the “immortal” category, though there are shorter pieces (mostly sonnet-length) in the book of great charm, and even sublimity.

In Auden’s “The Partition,” quoted above, Auden was writing about the immensely real: the British Empire dividing up its conquests.

Mazer writes of the real, but almost religiously avoids current events.

Mazer writes of what is close—he is Romantic in nature.

The British Empire splitting apart requires the poets of that Empire to say something, to mourn, to capture.

The American Empire holding itself, remarkably, together, is impossible to speak, except in amateurish and splenetic bouts of boring and dubious prophecy. The best American poets are not historians. They enjoy being in the middle of a dream.

In the wider historical scope, it could just be this.

Mazer is properly, we think, poetry, not history.

Poetry, in a certain historic time and place, which tries to be history, fails.

Poetry of any sensuality, which doesn’t try to be history, tends to be Keatsian.  We don’t read the poetry of Keats to find out about English history.

Mazer, the neo-Romantic, might be called the Wordsworth of brick, but he is really closer to the sublime Keats than the more mundane and pedantic (though still good) Wordsworth. A Romantic urbanity thrills, and when a natural scene is glimpsed, it is all the more beautiful. To this extent, Mazer is Wordsworth.

Still more powerfully, Mazer carves out, half-self-consciously (there’s genius in that “half”) the leisure to travel wholly in Keatsian revery—into and around reality (we use “reality” in the plainest and most mundane way possible)—which makes Ashbery look like a mere manipulator of words, by comparison.

Ashbery’s prose-poetry might be said to resemble the Stars Wars trinity of prequel movies: Ashbery’s pyrotechnical ur-poetry attempts to modernize the nostalgic; Ashbery is a kind of hyper-contemporary of quotation and copying, done very well, but missing what makes the franchise (Poetry) great.

Every major contemporary critic, from Harold Bloom to Helen Vendler, acknowledges Ashbery—now the mourned, late Ashbery—as the contemporary master. But no one would say Ashbery is the future of poetry, or a reenactment of what makes the “old” poetry “great.” Ashbery took the franchise, Poetry, and inserted himself in front of it as a language machine which artificially generates poetry with a small “p.” The Ashbery “river” is like poetic consciousness, but without the Poem. Ashbery is (or attempted to be) the equipment of poetry without Poetry, without the poetry itself, without the ‘iconic poem.’

Ashbery also has a Jar Jar Binks quality, a silliness which condemns him before a certain more serious crowd.

William Logan, known for his critical rigor (and rancor?), isn’t fond of Ashbery. Logan, much younger, will outlive Bloom, Vendler, and Perloff, and so we’ll see.

Mazer may be the last Modern—his Modernism resembling Luke Skywalker’s lonely predicament in the currently much discussed, and much maligned, Last Jedi.

The High Modernism of T.S. Eliot is new, yet old, situated, in terms of politics and taste, somewhere between Dante and the new diversity.

Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi—and we might as well say it: Mazer is the last Modern.

Mazer gets his “Force” from the Tradition (in our crude analogy, the “Force” from the original Star Wars films)—Mazer’s work belongs to High Modernism, but if his poetry is “heroic,” (and we believe it is) the poetry is both nostalgic (timeless, longing) but also unique—when we read Mazer’s poetry, we care about the person in the poetry, and this is what gives the “great” poem an added, human, interest. The reader identifies with the poet on his quest, but also with the poem-significance of the quest, in terms of the bigger picture—Tradition, Poetry.  The great poem will use both elements in its appeal—1. this is a good poem 2. my heart is moved to pity and understanding by this poet who lives in this poem.

Mazer writes poems first, and secondly, poetry. Mazer’s poems will ensure his immortality—or not.

Ashbery wrote poetry first, and secondly, poems. Ashbery’s immortality depends on his poetry—as time rolls on and does its usual up-rooting and destroying.

A poem is probably a better shelter, but who knows how the future moves?

A review of a poet’s Selected Poems—retrospective by its very nature—would not be complete without some discussion of the arc of the poet’s career.

Critics love to talk of an artist’s phases, but most of this talk is speculation and half-truth; it is the fate of a poet to be a poet—never to be a poet in this or that phase.  Tennyson wrote about Crimea because Crimea happened—not because Tennyson was in a phase.

The quality which makes any artist significant is

1. recognized by the connoisseur immediately

2. transcends phases.

A long poem does not exist.  In the same way, a book of poems does not exist. Mazer’s Selected is hefty, but even if it were not, any poet’s Selected is for reading, at one’s leisure, a marvelous poem, or a series or marvelous poems. Eventually, the whole book may be digested and understood, and even memorized, but a Selected is not intended to be read straight through in one sitting.

The arc of any great poet’s career is: over a certain amount of time, they wrote poems.

And that’s it.

If a poem is successful, it escapes the circumstances of its writing.

We can say Dante was “exiled,” and this fact contributes to our understanding of the Divine Comedy.  Well, yes and no.

A biographical fact is good. The imagination of the poet rarely finds it useful, however.

But what happened to Mazer?  Don’t we care?  And shouldn’t his Selected Poems reflect this?

If you want to know, read the poems.

Keats, the most iconic Romantic, once complained of Wordsworth writing about Dover.  “Dover?” Keats groused, who would write on Dover?  The Moderns, of course, would laugh at this—why shouldn’t the poet write on anything he wants?  But Keats—no matter how much his advice may fly in the face of “freedom” and “common sense,” is correct.

No poet should write on Dover.  The poet uses his imagination to describe his own imagination.  Otherwise, the poet should be a photographer, a political writer, or a travel writer.

Mazer did write on New York. “Entering the City of New York” Selected, pg 84

It begins:

Entering the city of New York
is something like approaching Ancient Rome,
to see the living people crawling forth,
each pipe and wire, window, brick, and home.

The times are sagging, and it is unreal
to know one’s slice of mortal transient time.
We angle forward, stunned by what we feel,
like insects, incognizant of every crime.

We are so duped, who make up civilization
in images of emotions that we feel,
to know the ague of the mortal steel,
each one perched balanced at his separate station.

The graves are many, and their fields decay,
where nothing can be meant to stand forever.
No doubt in due course God will have his way,
and slowly, slowly, all our bonds dissever.

Mazer is obeying Keats’ edict, and not writing on New York City; these opening lines are certainly redolent of some very large city which a humble, rural, meditative stranger enters, but more importantly, an almost 18th century sublimity is expressed—the subject is not New York City, but the soul.

Mazer should be read for poetry, which vibrates to the times, to the reality—which surrounds all of us; and as we read, Mazer’s poetry frees itself of that reality, and then returns to it.  It’s the new return in the poetry which matters, not exactly what is he writing about. 

Even as the exact, in the winding, mossy ways of the poetry, is paramount.

If this advice sounds like a truism, it is, but it is a truism which is fading away, as Keats is fading away.  Mazer is Modernism returning (impossible!) to Romanticism, and not in a bookish sense, or a scholarly sense, but in exactly the way we have described it—it is poetry returning to poetry.

A minor drawback: Mazer reads his poetry aloud in a manner which does not do justice to its greatness; admirably, he speaks plainly, letting the poetry speak; at times, however, monotone eclipses music. The verse of Mazer’s Selected Poems Tour comes out of his body, which can barely know his mind, the latter being so vast as to have no affinity with mere lisp and gesture. (In person, Mazer tends to be very intense, and very quiet, rather than ebullient, but this makes his occasional joking and excitable nature all the more charming.)

In person, Mazer is a wit, one who does not waste words.

At one of his readings, there was a long question for Mazer, involving the structure of his poetry.

Mazer paused, and then said, “It all rhymes.”

The drama of the poems is missing in Mazer’s recitation, perhaps, because the drama is delicately locked within, guarded by the brain of the poet, which, when it comes to speaking its treasure, fails to properly spill outward the swells and currents of its majesty—in the ephemeral instruments devoted to breath.

We saw an anecdote, once, of Rupert Brooke reading his poetry so softly that he could only be heard in the front row. Mazer can be heard—he is certainly competent when he reads. Mazer is a talented musician, and his devotion to poetry (to the delight of poets everywhere) overtook his earlier interest in music.

Who are the great living poets today?

The audacity to seriously ask this question precludes, perhaps, an answer.

Should we say it?

At the top, or near, of the greatest living poets, is, without a doubt, Mazer.


Image result for impressionist painting bright day

The days you hate come fast,

Taking the days you like, the days you love, the days you want, with them into the past.

This day, for instance, which is blurry and cold.

It is moving and sunny. The moon

Wants days to love, at least a few, before time grows old.

The day is for flirting, for making eye contact, and soon

Night welcomes your tide of regret and sorrow.

All these days!

Tonight these regrets dive down—

Before rising up to ruin what you love tomorrow.



The world has not gone crazy.  The world is the same. The idea of progress is vanity. Human happiness is zero sum.

But the news, these days, is definitely crazy.  And maybe even hopeful, as cracks in the old arguments begin to appear. Certain prominent narratives are flipping.

And poetry, which belongs to change and tradition, is news

So here we go:

1. Garrison Keillor   Accused!  No more Writer’s Almanac poems!

2. Jill Bialosky  Plagiarist! Norton editor. 72 poets, many published by Norton, have defended her.

3. William Logan  Critic and poet, exposed Jill Bialosky’s widespread plagiarism—which he as a reviewer discovered in her memoir, Poetry Will Save Your Life.  Logan’s review, in Tourniquet Review, was picked up by AP and the NYT.

4. Robert Pinsky  Poet Laureate of the U.S. (1997 to 2000). Published by Norton, and one of 29 signatories in letter to Times defending Jill Bialosky.

5. Ben Mazer His Selected Poems just published  (Madhat press). Three poems early in the volume, “The Double,” “Death and Minstrelsy,” and “The Long Wharf,” ensure his immortality.

6. Kevin Young  New Yorker poetry editor! now that Paul Muldoon is retiring. Studied under Seamus Heaney at Harvard with Mazer.

7. Valerie Macon Briefly N. Carolina poet laureate, forced to resign because she lacked academic credentials, has new book.

8. John Ebersole  Questioned for writing an in-depth, honest, but less than flattering review of a poet’s book—see no. 9.

9. Kaveh Akbar Calling A Wolf A Wolf released in 2017 by Alice James Books gets pummeled in Tourniquet Review.

10. Dan Beachy-Quick “I don’t know how to sing” closes his poem in December Poetry issue. Well, damn right. Most contemporary poetry cannot.

11. Forrest Gander “You who were given a life, what did you make of it?” After obscure parts, occasionally contemporary poetry tries to sound frank, and accessible and wise. As in Gander’s “What It Sounds Like” in December Poetry, it fails.

12. Angie Macri has a poem in December Poetry, “What pleasure a question,” which gives us some drama and psychology on Adam and Eve: “It was the first time she had/something to give, what/the man couldn’t take, the first time/the man said please: please let me have a bite.”

13. Cornelius Eady has a poem in December Poetry titled, “All the American Poets Have Titled Their New Books ‘The End'”, leaving open the question whether this is foolish, or not. Contemporary poetry never shows its hand, for then it would fail.

14. Valzhyna Mort makes a rather obvious point in her “Scene from Medieval War,” published in Poetry for December, with her first line, “When God appears before me he is a burning woman tied to a bush.” Poetry still aims for the High Modernism of Eliot and Yeats, but fails.

15. Kristen Tracy strives to update Tradition in the December Poetry: “she died there. Stuck. Like a tragic Santa.”

16. Paul S. Rowe the young college professor, poet, translator, and editor of Charles River Journal, is serially publishing Thomas Graves’ book on Ben Mazer.

17. Billy Collins must do something controversial soon, or we’ll forget him. No. Who could forget “The Lanyard?”

18. Jorie Graham who married into the Washington Post Graham family, has won the 2017 Wallace Stevens award, with a stipend of $100,000. She commands a chair at Harvard, and about 10 years ago was caught cheating as poetry contest judge.

19. Ed Roberson is the recipient of the 2017 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, worth $25,000.

20. Patrick Rosal has received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, worth $25,000, for his book Brooklyn Antediluvian (2016). Rosal teaches Creative Writing at Rutgers.

21. sam sax has won the James Laughlin Award, worth $5,000 and a one-week hotel stay in Miami.

22. Piotr Florczyk in 2017 received the Harold Morton Landon Tranlation Award, worth $1,000.

23. Thomas E. Peterson was awarded the Raiziss/De Palchi Fellowship for English translations of modern Italian poetry, worth $25,000.

24. Frances Revel an MFA student at Cornell, won the Aliki Perroti And Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award, worth $1,000, for her poem, “Hymn for the End of Drought.”

25. Rayon Lennon is the 2017 $10,000 prize winner of the Rattle Poetry Prize for his poem, “Heard.”

26. James Henry Knippen has won the 2017 Discovery/Boston Review Contest with “Poem,” in full: “I wanted to rescue the moon/from our hopes. I wanted/to rescue our hopes from hell./I wanted to rescue hell/from existence. I wanted/to rescue existence/from itself.”

27. Stephen Cole puts one in mind that poetry is a sounding-leaf which needs a tree—the great and kindly interest in love and philosophy; the leaf is artificial, otherwise. Cole, who lives in Kansas, doesn’t artificially hoard for acclaim; his prolific output goes right on the Internet.

28. Sushmita Gupta is wise, but poetry declares itself in the homely passions; she is Cole’s poetry-as-natural-as-breathing, female equivalent: vulnerable simplicity of expression, sorrow never feeling sorry for itself, shining on the World Wide Web.

29. Sharon Olds won the Pulitzer a few years back—one of the best living poets, her skill lies in creating domestic, intimate scenes that flash upon the reader like an old master’s painting or drawing.

30. Philip Nikolayev is a poet, philosopher, and linguist, who belongs to Ben Mazer’s Harvard/Boston University brat-pack-genius circle of neo-Romanticism—which is genuine because it pursues so many things; he is currently translating Sanskrit into English and Ben Mazer into Russian; his Facebook discussion threads attract the best minds online.

31. Steph Burt is the critical heir to Helen Vendler at Harvard, a de-centered, eclectic, whirlwind, part of the 21st century movement of American poetry outward from Harvard, where Emerson/William James/Gertrude Stein/Santayana/Wallace Stevens/TS Eliot/Bly/O’Hara/ Ashbery/Bishop/Lowell/Heaney/Mazer sometimes eked out a living. Harvard is poetry’s center no more, as Slam, Creative Writing and the internet pull it apart.

32. Steven Cramer hides out at Lesley University, which is next to Harvard in Cambridge, and exemplifies the truth that poetry is not about geography, but where minds gather; American poets in the 19th century crossed the ocean just to visit Wordsworth—the poet god no longer exists; “The Hospitals” by Cramer is one of America’s best poems.

33. David Lehman is the Series editor of Best American Poetry (1988 to present) the volume poets hate  each year when they see they are not included; Lehman desperately, recklessly, felt compelled to include the late Ashbery in annual volume after volume—like a drowning man clinging to the rope of poetry’s decreasing importance; in his general introduction Lehman always protested too much, crying out, “poetry is well.” But the Series has served.

34. Derrick Michael Hudson Years from now, when BAP is no more, this will be, no doubt, the one incident in its history talked about the most—a white male poet achieved much better publication success when submitting poems to journals using the psuedonym of a Chinese woman. Sherman Alexie, BAP guest editor, chose the poem, discovered the trick, still published it, and was excoriated.

35. Joie Bose is a poet from India; a wife and a mother; she traveled to Japan alone, just for the delicious poetic hell of it; she personifies the poet as restless spirit, and belongs to that great, international, Romantic trend in poetry which one can see on the internet, but which few have bothered to document or record.

36. Bob Dylan made as little as possible, it seems, of his Nobel Prize in Literature. Is this because “rock star” means so much more than “writer?” Sell records and get the girl. “Prize?” “Writing?” Fuck that.

37. Amber Tamblyn is an actress who has published poetry—no American good at anything else has ever been revered as a poet; Michelangelo—yes, that one—wrote great poetry, but no American knows it. Poe dared to write great short stories, too—and to this degree, professional American poetry critics, such as Vendler and Bloom, cannot admit Poe is a good poet—it’s an iron law. What of Wallace Stevens? This proves the point—he had a job—but had it been excelling in another area of the arts, his poetry would be forgotten.

38. W.S. Merwin is America’s most time-honored, living, iconic male poet with the passing of Ashbery and Wilbur—not that these guys were household words—but Merwin, who knew Robert Graves, has little star power, somehow. The famous American poet is not a dying breed. It’s a dead one.

39. Ron Padgett has some hoary prominence—he wrote a few poems for the recent movie, Paterson, starring Adam Driver. England had Lord Byron and Lord Tennyson. The U.S. doesn’t like lords—or their kind of poetry much anymore—though it’s still good.

40. Claudia Rankine was the poet who clashed with Tony Hoagland and his ‘watching tennis’ poem over race before she became big with her race book, Citizen. The Victorians (beneficiary heirs of the slave trade, created by the British Empire) had children as their poetic subject. 21st Century Americans (victim heirs) have racism.

41. Mary Angela Douglas should be discovered. She writes lines of real beauty. She is unknown, like a basketball player sinking a number of thirty-foot shots in a row, in some empty stadium.

42. Mary Oliver is a national treasure. We’re glad she’s still around. She proves to us nature poetry doesn’t really exist. All poetry is of nature, and never gets beyond it, if we are honest, and if we turn off the blurbing trumpets.

43. Donald Hall is about the same age as Merwin. He has written harrowing poetry and should not be forgotten.

44. Terrance Hayes has a lot going for him: major prizes, sensitive poetry, alive to the times, and he’s young. He’s 46. Which in American poetry today, is young. A hundred years ago, 26 was young; fifty years ago, 36 was young; today, 46 is about right. One needs time to get that MFA, or two.

45. Eminem is not considered a poet, and no hip hop artist will ever be considered a poet. There’s a hierarchy, and it goes something like this: Prose poetry difficult to understand is first, prose poetry which is politically correct, a close second. Rhyme, quietism, slam, and hip hop are kept in cages.

46. Rachel McKibbens is a feminist poet and mother who writes of sexual assault and abortion with a fervor which challenges poetry which repels subject, and cares only for poetry.

47. Joanna Valente is a poet who belongs to the post-post-post-Feminist Wave which is not so much pro-woman, as we-are-going-take-the-whole-concept-of-woman-away-from-men-entirely. This is the right of every non-binary creature. There’s an epidemic sweeping across our land of daughters wholly estranged from mothers which poets like Valente, striking out into the unknown, represent.

48. Ron Silliman belongs to an old SUNY Buffalo/L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E/Charles Bernstein/anti-Quietist  School which has nothing more to say. Like so many similar movements, it arose out of a fetish sensibility—which inevitably condemns itself to irrelevance, since it enacts newly what was never really new, but merely odd, and with the passage of time and any success at all, there is the attempt to be more than what was odd at first (normalcy is greedy in all of us at last) causing the radical impulse to die.

49. Dan Sociu is a Romanian whiz kid poet who now must be taken seriously on the English speaking stage thanks to the publication of English translations of his urbane and sensitive work by Ana-Maria Tone.

50. Richard Howard is the living tradition (he’s of the generation of Donald Hall and W.S. Merwin) of James Merrill, the highly learned, lavish, baroque—which enhances, but sometimes gets in the way—of American poetry.

51. Patricia Lockwood wrote a date rape poem a few years ago which went somewhat viral on Twitter. She was “me too” before that became famous. Prophet is probably too big a word. Perhaps poets may serve as the canary in the mine?

52. Collin Yost is an Instagram “dude” poet who was critically savaged in an offhand remark (and then re-tweeted) by a feminist woman for his naively bad “dude” poetry.

53. A.E. Stallings is the last gasp of New Formalism—which attempted to make rhyme critically respectable and failed, because formalism has nothing to do with formalism and everything to do with the rare great poet who inhabits it and validates it.

54. Rupi Kaur is selling, but there’s always a catch, when it comes to poetry—and this is certainly poetry’s fault, and we shouldn’t blame Rupi Kaur.  Her successful book, Milk and Honey, is full of trite advice, the “inspirational” mode of truly fake poetry, passing itself off as wisdom—but which makes people feel good, so the critics and poets (are they wise?) remain wrapped in silence.

55. Frank Bidart is the poet (his Collected won National Book Award in 2017) who exemplifies sociology and psychology in dramatic guise; he’s known for highly personal, ALL CAPS pronouncements in his poems. Once a poet gets inside not just language, but font, and is able to make it a bit strange, together with ‘everyman’ observations, a certain amount of success is assured.

56. Eileen Myles has a nice combination of things going: well-reviewed novel and poems, a museum presence, a cool, older lesbian presence, a Boston, Catholic background; shrewd, nice, but with a loner vibe, as well.  Such things probably happen by accident—but poetry, which is never an accident, does well with it.

57. Paige Lewis is a very young poet who has already written two great poems: “You Can Take Off Your Sweater, I’ve Made Today Warm” and “The River Reflects Nothing.” But American poetry has no apparatus to make good poetry known. So what is a poet to do? Ginsberg’s fame arose from obscenity charges. The last legitimately known poets, Frost, Cummings, Eliot, were born in the 19th century.

58. Tyehimba Jess of sensitive Jim Crow era passions and historiography, beat out Adrienne Rich’s Collected for the 2017 Pulitzer: Living Black Male Slam 1, Dead White Lesbian Book 0.

59. Marjorie Perloff is like those other experienced, learned poetry critics, Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler: hoary American Criticism generally likes Pound, without looking at his writings very specifically, and generally dislikes Poe, without looking at his writings very specifically—this respectable but odd opinion towards the hyena and the lion is a terrible drag on American Letters.

60. Frederick Seidel belongs to the Scorched Earth School of American poetry. The older poets today are far more eccentric than the young—for about a million reasons.

61. Wendy Cope is brainy, English, and funny. She uses rhyme to “win” arguments. Which is sort of what rhyme is supposed to do. Of course, she’s poison to those who practice “serious” poetry in the United States. The British poets used to matter in the United States. They no longer do.

62. Daipayan Nair belongs to the English speaking avalanche of Indian poetry on the Internet. He is a master of the very short form—his mind is so complex that compositions of any length tend to misfire; he can say more in a few words (I am a poet/I kill eyes) than most can say in a book.

63. Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong, named after Marilyn Monroe; she landed as a child on the west coast, found her way to the University of Iowa, is now a well known Chinese American poet; her best known poem: “How I Got That Name.”

64. Dana Gioia was chair of the NEA under George W. Bush, a New Formalist who champions Longfellow. New Formalism arose during Reagan, and has managed to assure that rhyme is used even less by critically acclaimed poets today. One cannot just impose rhyme on trivia. What the New Formalists did not understand (and the free verse advocates do not understand, either) is that good rhyme does not elevate expression; it humbles it. Humbling the trivial is boring.

65. Diane Seuss was Pulitzer Poetry runner-up in 2016, an extroverted feminist with a new book coming out this spring.

66. Charles Simic is another respected, older American poet who may not wish to go gently from America’s poetry landscape, but probably will. Simic belongs to the late Mark Strand school of European surrealism.

67. Kay Ryan writes clever, dryly humorous, brief poems, was U.S. Poet Laureate for awhile, and perhaps should be better known than she is.

68. Kenneth Goldsmith lived and died by the ‘found poem’; “poetry that stays news” was taken a step further (or backwards) by Goldsmith to “poetry that is, literally, the news.” Michael Brown’s autopsy was his downfall.

69. Cathy Park Hong destroyed Ron Silliman’s white Modernist avant-garde with one short, racially outraged, f-bomb essay.

70. George Bilgere is perhaps the best current example of the Carl Dennis/Stephen Dunn/Dean Young/Billy Collins/James Tate school of wise-acre, poignant, middle-aged, dude poetry.

71. Rita Dove did very well to stay above the fray when Vendler and Perloff blasted her anthology for being too black.

72. William Kulik toils away as America’s prose poem Dante.

73. Louise Glück does not have Sharon Olds’ powerful Adele vibe, but as an influential and respected female poet of American Letters, she’ll do.

74. Vievee Francis won the greatest poetry prize in 2017—the Kingsley Tufts Award. It’s worth $100,000. Her poetry appears in BAP, 2010 and 2014, and the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry.

75. Sonnet L’Abbé edited Best Canadian Poetry 2014 and is highly engaged in decolonial projects and erasure poetry. Her name comes from her father, Ja-son and her mother, Ja-net.

76. Lisa Robertson has won the new C.D. Wright Award for Poetry, worth $40,000.

77. Jennifer Reeser is a poet’s poet: a high quality formalist, praised by X.J. Kennedy, translated into Persian and Hindi, she has four books; and can be found in anthologies such as Phoenix Rising: The Next Generation of American Formal Poets. She also engages with Native American literature.

78. Terence Davies directed a sensitive movie on Emily Dickinson, A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon, released in the spring of 2017.

79. Saheli Mitra is a highly interesting poet one can read on the Internet. There’s a certain tension these days between poets one can read (and see) freely on the web, and the more “respectable” poets—who provide links for purchase of their books, but it is difficult to read a single one of their poems. The poem, and the way it is presented, will always be divided—and very much related. The critic must discern. Readers will gush—or not.

80. Don Mee Choi recently published an autobiographical book of poems about the American wars in Vietnam and Korea called Hardly War, which gets a thoughtful review in The Margins by Sukjong Hong.

81. Matthew Zapruder currently enjoys a critical perch in the NY Times. In his July 10, 2017 column he opines what Scarriet has been saying for years: a poem is not a riddle which deliberately hides its meaning, or is “difficult” on purpose to impress. Zapruder faults Harold Bloom for keeping this fallacy alive. Good. But then Zapruder concludes poetry is meant to bring “language back to life again” in the “machine” of the poem. This is wrong, too. Language is far bigger than anyone’s poem-as-machine. Zapruder has traded one mumbo-jumbo for another.

82. Timothy Donnelly has one of those poems, “Unlimited Soup and Salad” in the November 27, 2017 New Yorker—the trending kind of poem made of breathless facts and extremely long sentences.

83. Don Share is Poetry editor and chair of the Kingsley Tufts Award finalist judges—the Kingsley Tufts Award ($100,000 prize) has nothing to do with Tufts University; Kingsley Tufts was a wealthy LA shipyards executive who published poems in The New Yorker, Esquire, and Harpers.

84. Gary B. Fitzgerald will remind you his poetry is Taoist, not Zen.

85. Ellen Bass writes poetry accessible, poignantly honest, and self-effacing. Her poem, “Indigo,” in the October 16, 2017 New Yorker, about seeing a tattooed man she wishes had been the father of her child is an example. It begins, “As I’m walking on West Cliff Drive…”

86. Ada Limón was a 2017 Kingsley Tufts Award runner-up for her book Bright Dead Things (milkweed). We would be depressed for a long time if we just missed winning $100,000. Perhaps this prize thing is out of control? Aren’t poets anxious enough? Can one imagine Shelley or Dante writing for a gigantic pile of cash?

87. Leila Chatti appears in the anthology, 2017 Best New Poets (series editor Jeb Livingood) with her poem “Motherland,” chosen by guest editor Natalie Diaz.

88. Taylor Swift is, according to Carrie Battan this past year in the New Yorker, “the most consistent singer and songwriter of her generation.” More from the magazine: “The album [“Reputation”] tries to nail down the center of pop at a time when such a thing hardly exists.”

89. Osama Alomar has two books published by New Directions in the United States. A Syrian exile, he is a poet of simplicity and power.

90. Kim Addonizio is receiving a lot of praise for her latest book, Mortal Trash.  It’s published by Norton. We like this line from it: “We believe in the one-ton rose”

91. Shohreh (Sherry) Laici is a young performance artist, poet, and translator from Tehran, who is beginning to get published in the U.S. and belongs to the Iranian Miracle which began on November 8, 2016. She confirmed for us Jimmy Carter’s State Department did in fact help put the current, corrupt regime of 1979 into power.

92. Dylan Krieger has a book of poems which is one of three to make the NY Times 100 Best Books of Fiction/Poetry of 2017. It is ” obscene and religious” and titled Giving Godhead. The others are by Jorie Graham, who writes of “ecological crisis,” and Layli Long Soldier, who is of Sioux heritage. The new faces should be easy to remember: think of the two best American music acts of the 20th Century, Dylan, the folk/rock/”Blowing in the Wind” Nobel, and Krieger, guitarist for the Doors who wrote Light My Fire. Long Soldier should be easy to remember. But, really. What the hell does the New York Times know about poetry?

93. Alan Cordle is a name you need to know. He changed poetry forever with by exposing crooked prizes and contests—the under-the-radar academic money flow which modern-poetry-which-nobody-buys needs—to have any “official” contemporary visibility at all.  Of course dishonest puffery still rolls on—and the general reading public has little confidence that quality in poetry matters at all. True critics wanted—it’s the only real solution.

94. Kushal Poddar belongs to the English speaking India poetry Renaissance taking place around the world, which has yet to gain the attention it deserves—it is too spontaneous for the MFA/New York publishing route; Poddar is especially deft and subtle, more than enough for editors at Norton, or professors at Iowa.

95. Tracy K. Smith was selected as the 22nd Library of Congress Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in June. She is the winner of a Cave Canem and a Pulitzer poetry prize. She was born in 1972. She has an MFA from Columbia.

96. Rae Armantrout continues her smart assault with this from her poem, “Project,” published in the New Yorker in August: “Your clock’s been turned to zero,/though there is no zero on a clock.”

97. Daniel Swift is the author of  2017’s The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound (FSG) a look at the poet who made more than 200 radio broadcasts from Rome during the Holocaust and World War Two, supporting Hitler and the Nazi liquidation of Jews. In 1949, his “insanity” having allowed him to escape hanging for treason, T.S. Eliot and Robert Lowell thought it would be a good idea to issue Pound a major poetry prize—which they did. 1949 was also the year T.S. Eliot won his Nobel Prize for Literature, and published an attack against the American poet Edgar Poe. Remind us who won World War Two, again?

98. Simon Armitage is currently the Oxford Professor of Poetry, following in the footsteps of Matthew Arnold (“Dover Beach”), W.H. Auden, Geoffrey Hill, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, James Fenton, and Robert Graves—who, from that venerable position, in the 1960s, recommended eating psychedelic mushrooms. William Logan, the American critic, reviews Armitage’s latest book, The Unaccompanied, in The New Criterion, and Logan calls Armitage’s “whimsy…a touch labored” and, in this spirit, the Yank punishes the Brit in the Logan way, accusing him of “premature ejaculation of style…his bullish charm is everywhere undercut by the constant smirking and cutesy quirkiness,” as the reader can’t help but laugh and shout, “Hurray, Criticism.”

99. Nathan Woods may not be a big prize winner right away, having recently discovered, as a young poet, Scarriet, but we trust he will enjoy himself all the same.

100. Robert Tonucci is an invaluable Scarriet editor, as it enters its 10th year—Happy New Year, Nooch!!


Life is a troubled dream, and all that is written,

And recorded, and published, is wrong.

The poet studies notes because notes are seen,

But never by the ear which hears the song.

The paper is presented; the scholars nod, and walk away

Into misty decision.

All that was perfected and built,

Falls in the middle of derision.

Innocence will admit its guilt

To the assembled, or be silent, and be guilty, anyway,

Tomorrow, in worry, or in joy the next day.

She, with the deepest sigh,

A wife, deeply conflicted,

Lets the kiss stay, and life go by.

She can go into the public places,

Hear the music and see the faces,

And what they report later will be false.

In the moment Lily came near me,

Her eyebrows were all I wanted:

A shape in a moment hides for eternity,

Belonging to a bright world by a dark poem haunted.






Everything is spoiled.

Young flowers are having sex.

Your adorable first love has a powerful ex.

The jokes you think are funny

Are not, and they are old—

The young’s mocking variations are soon to be told.

All the insights you thought you had,

Are reversed in the tongues of others

And they prove you are bad.

The ignorant and the bossy will always be the same.

The supervisor is calling your name.

Everything is spoiled.

All for which you surrendered, and toiled.

What you thought was new is faded around the edges.

A beautiful suicide you envied

Blabs your secrets on ledges.

Now up for ridicule, all you adore.

All not trending is trash in your favorite store.

Your heroes and hobbies are no longer on the shelf.

Surprised by the mirror, you are someone else.

The old and the feeble tell you what to do.

You triumph. In that moment you’re replaced by the new.

Everything which ran to you, now runs away,

Because you got older in a single day,

And the one you thought was pure and true

Loves someone even uglier and more ignorant than you.


I was yours when you loved me,

But ownership in love is no guarantee

Love stays—but here is ownership

Still—your breast, your arm, your lip

Are no longer mine to touch; but you live

In me, and “mine,” “yours,” words we give

To ownership, still apply.

Our love existed, and it will never die.

You hate me now, but I am yours.

Love cannot shut, once we enter the doors.

I am yours, and if I live inside your mind,

You belong to me; love is not kind or unkind;

Love’s a bridge which connects two,

The bridge is ours; nothing else belongs, or is true.

Just so, the doubtful truth of God. The thinking

Is ours, even as all the hates and loves are sinking.

If God speaks to you—they will call you mad;

Love the insanity of love; for only doubt is bad.

Believe in God, which you must do.

The mind is doubt; what loves your mind is true.










The fools move too fast—

But the wise see the fools were wise at last.

The wise shudder to find their wisdom was sick,

And healthy is foolish, for life is quick.

Life, in a moment, fades away.

The wisdom of years is blind to the day.

The sun rose and she let something show—

And calmly you stood there, as she slowly turned to go.

The wise scans the poem, and strives to see

What the fool, laughing, perceived instantly.

The wise talks on, holding your arm.

The fool slept, but still heard the alarm.


Do you exist tomorrow?

I think you do,

But I don’t see tomorrow.

I only see today, and today, sorrow.

I see sadness because it doesn’t see tomorrow.

I hear madness because it doesn’t heed tomorrow.

I only see today, and hysteria, and a lack of care.

Hysteria was frozen before it was dancing there.

Does today have an obligation?

Does today have a choice?

On the calendar I see tomorrow’s teeming nation,

Without an understanding, or a voice.

Today, they say, has a choice.

Tomorrow wants to say something, too.

How somber the ear which hears tomorrow!

Tomorrow writhes and anguishes, suffering with old sorrow

Because I didn’t listen to you.



Deep State, you’re no Jack Kennedy. 

“He told me to talk to the Russians.”  Flynn on Trump.

If the Russians had invaded, and now occupied Florida, this might be an issue.

Trump is the new Reagan.  It’s pretty simple.  History repeats.

One could argue the tax rate is the heart of the matter.

Govt (high taxes) vs. the People (low taxes). This may be simplistic. Maybe not.

JFK was for lower taxes. After he was murdered, we had napalm dropping LBJ and the “Great Society” and the Deep State became entrenched.

Nixon was Deep State, and his overthrow was Deep State deception to make the media look like heroes.

Nixon creates the EPA.

Then Jimmy Carter, friendly on the outside but Deep State all the way: Pol Pot and Iran 1979 supported by Carter’s State Dept.

Jimmy Carter also made war on atomic energy, as Save-the-Planet-politics became another means to tax and control The People.

Then the “Reagan revolution” based on the simple “high taxes vs. low taxes” formula mentioned above.

Reagan laid out the simplicity for the American people to see and the High Tax Democrats knew they were had.

Amazingly, we read that Trump’s tax bill is the first major tax lowering legislation since 1986.

Capital investment, which lifts all boats, had to wait 30 years, and an election miracle, and by the slimmest all-GOP margin, to get a boost.

What an irony if the U.S had defeated the Soviet Union, and then became the Soviet Union! Defeats communism—and then, wut? becomes communist.

Obviously it’s not quite that simple. The U.S. defeated the British Empire, and has gradually become the British Empire.

Divide and conquer. The British Empire: deceptive. Not nice. Ambitious as hell.

The Democrats, since 1986, found a marvelous rhetorical trick: Democrats abandoned their tax raising principles in a very clever ruse: the Democrats became tax-cut Republicans for “the middle class” only. But you either believe less taxes will improve the economy or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways. The Democrats have had it both ways for 30 years, and nobody has called them on it.

Who can forget the “read my lips” liar, Deep State, CIA, RINO George Bush Sr.—and then Bill (me too) Clinton, the Democrats’ savior (who needed Ross Perot to get 19% of the vote to win his election)?

That’s when the Democrats became creepy and mean: the Clintons. (If we forget LBJ and the earlier KKK Democrat party).

So here we are, with Hilary Clinton fuming and blaming “the Russians” as Reagan—oops, sorry, Trump—presides over an improving economy.

If you want to talk history, during America’s greatest boom in the 1790s when Salem merchants (whose ad hoc navy captured 450 British vessels, helping to win the revolution) were among first to trade with Far East, producing the first millionaire, the Custom House where Hawthorne worked, was how taxes were raised. There was no income tax. There weren’t a lot of taxes, really.

Then Jefferson’s embargo ruined the Salem economy. We backed down to the British pirates. Then follows the War of 1812, the Civil War (Brits clandestinely back the Confederacy) and the Deep State is born.

Dante, in his Inferno, puts traitors—those who betray their country—in the Ninth Circle—the deepest place in Hell.

But who, these days, even understands what a traitor is?

Democracy vs. Deep State might be a good place to start.

Happy holidays.


Image result for man singing renaissance painting

The end of the year is a good time to reflect; the top 100 list is the most attractive way to put reflections and reveries into an easily accessible and memorable form.

The following list is a zeitgeist of iconic phrases from popular song. “Greatest” is a huge exaggeration. This is merely a populist snapshot. But Scarriet is fast becoming the master of these zeitgeist lists; we occasionally do web searches of these attempts by others, and generally find no criteria whatsoever: a presentation of narrow musical taste, compounded by highly personalized choices—trees entirely without a forest.

Scarriet’s criteria are based on the moral, the historical, and the popular, and the excitement of what a few words can do.

We avoid fixating on some intricate series of words—by an artist we like—simply because we find it personally pleasing. We don’t eschew the intricately cool, but more important to us are lyrics that vibrate, resound, or agitate the popular consciousness, for whatever reason; we don’t see how this can not be an important criterion. We use this criterion, naturally, within the widest possible array of tastes applied to the widest possible audience (in English) in both time and place.

The moral criterion is crucial—it contributes to popularity, certainly, but it also engages judgment in a way that makes it more trustworthy, and also good—if we may use that word in the widest possible sense. This is why “Let it be” is number one on the list; without indulging in a lecture, this fountain of wisdom seems to us to be the best ‘moral high ground’ advice which, in our highly fraught and frenetic times, it is possible to make, in the vehicle of song. It is even better, we think, than “All you need is love,” and almost as popular.

We like “She loves you” and “Mrs. Brown, you have a lovely daughter”—these two examples rise above the “I love you” two-person formula, adding characters, charm, and interest.

To illuminate another crucial criterion: The simple phrase “paint it black” is on the list mostly for this reason: the phrase emerged in 1966, before the great tidal wave of darker material transformed popular music from “June/moon” to Black Sabbath/death metal, etc. This phrase (from a Brian Jones era Rolling Stones song) is presented as an historical indicator.

Intro over. Enjoy the list.


1. Let it be.

2. One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small, and the one that mother gives you doesn’t do anything at all.

3. Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.

4. All you need is love.

5. Good night, Irene, good night, Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams.

6. It’s only a paper moon over a cardboard sea, but I’ll believe in make believe if you believe in me.

7. What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away?

8. This land is your land.

9. She loves you.

10. How does it feel? To be on your own? A complete unknown? With no direction home? Like a rolling stone?

11. Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike, they’ve all gone to look for America.

12. Where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find me.

13. I knew a man Bojangles and he’d dance for you in worn out shoes.

14. She’s buying a stairway to heaven.

15. We shall not be moved.

16. O’er the ramparts we watched the twilight’s last gleaming.

17. And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills

18. I will survive

19. Imagine there’s no heaven

20. I will follow you into the dark

21. You can’t always get what you want

22. You broke my will, but what a thrill, goodness, gracious great balls of fire.

23. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, all over this land.

24. Some say this town don’t look good in snow; you’re gonna go, I know.

25. Nights in white satin, never reaching the end; just what you want to be, you’ll be in the end.

26. I walk the line.

27. Have you ever seen the rain, coming down on a sunny day?

28. You’re living in your own private Idaho.

29. I did it my way.

30. The times they are a changin’.

31. This is the end, beautiful friend.

32. Boxes, little boxes, and they’re all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same.

33. Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

34. Here comes the sun.

35. Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills, and everywhere.

36. The thrill is gone.

37. I put a spell on you.

38. How will I my true love know, from another one?

39. Blue moon, I saw you standing alone.

40. Yesterday, all my troubles were so far away.

41. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.

42. Don’t you want somebody to love?

43. We don’t get fooled again.

44. Paint it black.

45. Stopped into a church I passed along the way; well I got down on my knees and I began to pray. Well you know the preacher’s like the cold—he knows I’m gonna stay.

46. Yonder stands your orphan with his gun, crying like a fire in the sun.

47. O Maybellene, why can’t you be true?

48. Put a ring on it.

49. Stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper I love you.

50. The man who invented the stream drill, he thought he was mighty fine; but John Henry drove fifteen feet and the steam drill only made nine.

51. Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry, go to sleep my little baby; when you awake, you shall have cake, and all the pretty little horses.

52. Fly me to the moon, and let me dance among the stars; I want to see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.

53. This is ground control to major Tom; take your protein pills and put your helmet on.

54. Don’t let the sun catch you crying.

55. What’s goin on?

56. Mrs. Brown you have a lovely daughter.

57. Why must I be a teenager in love?

58. Hello darkness my old friend

59. The moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup, I say a little prayer for you.

60.  That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.

61. Well I heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord but you don’t really care for music, do you?

62. Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.

63. Wild thing, I think I love you.

64. Is that all there is?

65. So you think you can tell heaven from hell?

66. Imagine I’m in love with you.

67. No phone no pool no pets, I ain’t got no cigarettes.

68. Stop in the name of love.

69. I’ll find you in the morning sun; and when the night is new, I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you.

70. Everybody dies but not everybody lives.

71. On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair

72. I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king

73. Oh mother tell your children not to do what I have done, to spend your life in sin and misery in the House of the Rising Sun

74. Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, til you find your dream.

75. Out here in the fields I fight for my meals

76. You don’t own me.

77. When you’re a Jet, you’re Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying day.

78. It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside

79. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.

80. Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before; I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war.

81. There was a lofty ship, and she put out to sea, and the name of the ship was the Golden Vanity.

82. Did you bring me silver, did you bring me gold—or did you come to see me hang from the gallows pole?

83. Hey Jude, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better.

84. I’m going to lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside

85. There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief.

86. If you don’t know me by now you will never, never know me.

87. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord; he is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.

88. You can’t hurry love.

89. To the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left.

90. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.

91. Where do you go to, my lovely?

92. My dear lady Anne, I’ve done what I’ve can, I must take my leave, for promised I am.

93. Look at the stars, look how they shine for you, and everything you do.

94. Never mind, I’ll find someone like you.

95. Oh the sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home, and the young folks roll on the floor.

96. If you go away on this summer day, then you might as well take the sun away.

97. Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

98. Eleanor Rigby, wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door.

99. They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad.

100. Cry me a river, ’cause I cried a river over you.



Image result for green in renaissance painting

Acting in the beginning is real in the end.
So love, ritualized and slow,
Now, with me always,
At first, always made excuses to go,
And was sometimes seen,
Creeping with her. It seemed fruitless to send
Overtures of love into the tangled green,
Where she and the other moved,
But I did, and if she loved,
I knew it only when, once, she claimed:
“Custom and ritual defend
The best of love,” and she whispered I would soon be named
As one who loved in the end.
I was named. So, send, send.

Real in the beginning is acting in the end.
So death, which seems everywhere,
In deeds and thoughts,
Waiting, and always there,
Is yet, never seen,
Except where letters vanish, because to end
Love, we send love to where it’s always green,
Where love after love moves.
In fear, everyone loves.
I knew death best through hope, which claimed:
“Custom and ritual defend
The best of love,” and she whispered I would soon be named
As one who loved in the end.
I was named. So, send, send.


Image result for the lover swoons in renaissance painting

You made me crazy.

You made me sick. Sick at heart.

You put your smile in a dart.

Love thinks a lot. Love isn’t lazy.

I hope to never be rid of this.

Well, yes—maybe I do.

Let me go away.

Into the land of your kiss.

You made me crazy. Congratulations, you.

Survival is simple: Drink water. Stay out of the sun.

Be careful. Do what’s right at all times.

Don’t trust anyone.

But survivors don’t dream in rhymes;

Survivors don’t write rhymes for another;

Survivors don’t string their days with songs—

Lullabies learned from mother.

Forgive me love, for these wrongs.

You put love inside a letter

And sent that love to me.

I hope I never get better.

But has anyone hoped so bitterly?




No one likes to be beloved of insults.

No one likes free speech when something goes wrong.

No one likes freedom when freedom is free

To interrupt your song.

The news has a point to make—

Which, because it is news, is slanderous and wrong—

And makes it quickly in large letters

Before you have a chance to turn away—

Stay, poetry, stay—

Seeking better advice from your betters.

Old religions conflate loyalty, God and beloved—

In this, only, find the truly true.

Your lover came looking for you

But, you, an addict, wanted privacy—

You want this moment to hide from the last;

Addiction wants privacy—the privacy of now erasing the past.

Too much pain dwells there:

Hate. Terrible hate. And his love, of which you were hardly aware.




There isn’t anything in the Constitution

Or in your heart or in these inscriptions

Discovered carved in rock by a lost sea

Which interests me.

There isn’t anything in the Sunday Times

Or in a doomed poet’s obscure rhymes

In a dusty room long locked without a key

Which interests me.

There isn’t anything in the sad story

Told by art and dance and everybody is sorry

As you turn yourself into a community

Which interests me.

I do what I want to do. I don’t care

What’s inside myself. Or inside there.

I am the outward life,

I can handle guitar, ship, knife.

Yes, I know. The unhappy wife.


A very thoughtful person

Told me everything was physical.

The universal is material, he said,

And vibrates with song.

One moment his face was beautiful

And then ugly, and I found this very beautiful.

He was ugly because he was afraid.

He preferred Edgar Poe and whole milk.

He unsettled me the way he disagreed

With smart people in funny ways.  And yet he was agreeable to me

In a closed personal space; I never knew the personal could hold such bliss.

When we broke up I told him, his face streaming with tears, “you can’t worship me like this.”



Image result for beautiful face with malice in painting

What does it mean when I want to cry

But I have no idea why

And I can’t, and heavily sigh

For a whole dull and dark cold day?

The release of crying would be a joy,

My tears like a penetrating ray,

Loosening the gloomy air,

Curing the darkness; feeling saving feeling

From a feeling of despair,

My crying, like a spring rain,

A harbinger of winter’s demise.

Will my tears be made of joy or pain?

Will joy joyfully render my cries?

I don’t know. Pain and joy, there is a lot—

But then I see a face

Beautiful with malice—not grace—

And I know why I want to cry, but cannot.



Image result for death in renaissance painting

If the wise don’t praise

Heartbreak and cold,

Death, and getting old,

Who will? I count the days

From my beginning to my end.

Indifference will not make me bend.

A child in the womb not wanted must die.

A lover, without warning, turns cold

And waste and dark and gravity

Oppresses; the new becomes old

So death can make room for the new.

Who is wise who doesn’t praise you?






Image result for low sun in cloudy winter sky

More welcome than the summer sun,

You sun of December.

You simmer in my slumber.

Summer sun repeats the world

But the sun of December

Is the sun I remember.

Waking in cold dark,

There are no peaches outside my window growing, no lark.

The December shroud

Has made the crooked day

Esteemed far away.

I wake, and my fearful thoughts speak out loud

To no one in the dark.

There are no peaches outside my window growing, no lark.

No nightingale is singing.

Soon the sun will climb mistily into its seat

Where my life and dull December meet.

It’s just another cloudy day.

Estimation estimates summer far away.

The sun of December

Is the sun I remember.


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