|Gwendolen MacEwen (1941-1987)
MacEwen was a teenage polymath & autodidact; wrote plays, novels & lyrics. She wasinterested in mythology as well as mysticism by way of T.E. Lawrence. Her verse has to do with roots & power as opposed to female disempowerment, anger, etc. Her formal & shorter poetry is better than her free verse & longer poems. (nominated by Everett Goldner)
Appendectomy Daleth/The Door Manzini: Escape Artist The Drunken Clock The Garden Of Square Roots
it's interesting how you can brag about a scar;
I'm fascinated with mine; it's diagonal and straight,
it suggests great skill, great speed,
it is no longer or shorter than it needs to be.
it is good how it follows my natural symmetry
parallel to the hip, a perfect geometry;
it is not a wound; it is a diagram
drawn correctly, it has no connection with pain.
it's interesting how you can brag about a scar;
nothing in nature is a straight line
except this delightful blasphemy on my belly;
the surgeon was an Indian, and beautiful, and holy.
sand-paralleled I reach the house
where is dense white room
and my self hangs humid from the walls.
(straighten this bent daleth:)
pillars to prop the soul's lame body
prop this roof, and I've a heart
such braided knot, no light
would finger through
get the pulse, grease
the hinged pulse
behind the door...
for I wish width, the door of self
mouthed open. Let broaden,
let the heart groan its scarlet
and split the red air wide
Manzini: Escape Artist
now there are no bonds except the flesh; listen
there was this boy, Manzini, stubborn with
gut stood with black tights and a turquoise
leaf across his sex
and smirking while the big
brute tied his neck arms legs, Manzini
naked waist up and white with sweat
struggled. Silent, delinquent, he
was suddenly all teeth and knee, straining slack
and excellent with sweat, inwardly
wondering if Houdini would take as long
as he; fighting time and the drenched
muscular ropes, as though his tendons were worn
on the outside
as though his own guts were the ropes
encircling him; it was beautiful. it was thursday; listen
there was this boy, Manzini
finally free, slid as snake from
his own sweet agonized skin, to throw his entrails
white upon the floor
with a cry of victory
now there are no bonds except the flesh,
but listen, it was thursday, there was this boy,
The Drunken Clock
The bells ring more than sunday; eve,
orchards and high wishes meet the bells
with grace and speed. The staggered
clocks only cousin the bells; after
the timed food, the urgent breakfasts,
we lean to other seasons. Season
of the first temple
of a basic babel
of meek amoeba
Clocks count forward with craze, but
bells count backwards in sober grace.
Tell us, in the high minute after they
sing, where the temple is; where
the bell's beat breaks all our hour-
glass; where the jungled flesh
is tied, bloodroots.
The Garden Of Square Roots:
and then the rattlesnake spines of men distracted me
for even they, they people were
as Natajara was, who danced
while I was anchored like a passive verb
or Neptune on a subway
and from the incredible animal i
grew queer claws inward to fierce cribs;
I searched gardens for square roots,
for i was the I interior
the thing with a gold belt and delicate ears
with no knees or elbows
was working from the inside out
this city I live in I built with bones
and mortared with marrow;
I planned it in my spare time
and its hydro is charged from a blood niagra
and I built this city backwards and
the people evolved out of the buildings
and the subway uterus ejected them
for i was the I interior
the thing with a gold belt and delicate ears
with no knees or elbows
was working from the inside out.
and all my gardens grew backwards
and all the roots were finally square
and Ah! the flowers grew there like algebra.
Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982)
A 3-time Pulitzer Prize winner when the award actually went to good poets. Adept in many styles, MacLeish has never gotten his full due.
Hebrides The Reef Fisher The Snowflake Which.... White-Haired Girl You, Andrew Marvell
Old men live in a life
as the Gaels in these ocean islands,
a croft by the sea and a wife
and sons for a while;
afterward wife and croft
and the sound of the sea and the thought of it,
children and all gone off
over the water;
even the eldest son,
even the youngest daughter,
all of them vanished and gone
by the way of the water.
A man and his wife, those two,
left on the ocean island:
they talk as the old will do
and they nod and they smile
but they think of their sons, how they laughed,
and she calls but it's not for them-
"she'd rather a kitten to have
than a child to remember."
You can live too long in a life
where the sons go off and the daughter
off over sea and the wife
watches the water.
The Reef Fisher
for K. MacL.
Plunge beneath the ledge of coral
But fear that weed , as though alive,
Where the silt of sunlight drifts
Like dust that settles toward a floor-
As slow as that: feel the lifting
Surge that rustles white above
But here is only movement deep
As breathing: watch the reef fisher hover
Dancing in their silver sleep
Around their stone, enchanted tree:
Stoop through the wavering cave of blue:
Look down, look down until you see,
Far, far beneath in the translucent
Lightlessness, the huge, the fabulous
Fish of fishes in this profound gulf:
Grip your stickled spear to stab
And sink below the shadowy shelf-
That lifts and follows with the wave:
The Moray lurks for all who dive
Too deep within the coral cave.
Once tooth of his has touched the bone
Men turn among those stones to stone.
The Snowflake Which Is Now And Hence Forever
Will it last? he says.
Is it a masterpiece?
Will generation after generation
Turn with reverence to the page?
Birdseye scholar of the frozen fish
What would he make of the sole, clean, clear
Leap of the salmon that has disappeared?
To be, yes!- whether they like it or not!
They also live
But not to last when leap and water are forgotten,
A plank of standard pinkness in the dish.
Who swerve and vanish in the river.
Le conte de Beaumont carrying my daughter
(C'est un amour!) on the flat of his two
hands like an infant Buddha on a leaf-
she was four years old that August: white
hair, black eyes, exquisite.
This was on the Plage des Anges
with the Maritime Alps to the east and the Mediterranean
dazzled and dazzling in the sun.
At four she never smiled: she looked at you.
At five she was in love with Ernest.
She addressed him in grave French,
allowed him to walk with her.
Nothing he could do was wrong,
even the young black beard he had grown in Switzerland,
even the murdered birds.
wakened on Conway Hill and carried down,
everything went wrong. She ran to him,
stopped, looked, screamed. It wasn't Ernest!
wasn't Ernest! wasn't...
She raced up the stair.
He knuckled his hard, small hands. "You see!"
You, Andrew Marvell
And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth's noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:
To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow
And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change
And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass
And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on
And deepen on Palmyra's street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
high through the clouds and overblown
And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls
And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land
Nor now the long light on the sea:
And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on . . .
Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938)
The poet who seems almost translator-proof. Whoever translates him gets a good poem. His status as Stalinist martyr unfortunately often obscures his work- read all you can of him.
I'll whisper.... This is what.... Where can I....
I'll whisper it- in outline.
Its hour has not yet come.
The chess game of measureless heavens
is mated with sweat- and wisdom.
Under purgatory's transient sky
we grow forgetful- forgetting
that greatest heaven-vault on high...
a limber, everlasting kingdom.
This is what is most wanted:
With no recognition
to soar in a light
behind what I have left.
And for your shine there,
in that sphere, no joy
is greater- to learn
from a star its light.
A star is just star,
A light is just light,
its whispers warm.
its mumblings strengthen.
I say to you-
it is by mumbling
that I bring you light.
Where can I put myself this January?
The city, exposed, is extravagantly stubborn . . .
Am I drunk on doors that lock me out?
The catches and fastenings make me want to roar.
Screaming alleys stretch like stockings,
Streets tangled as in an attic,
And cornered creatures crawl into corners
And scuttle outward slyly.
I slither into a pit, into the callused dark,
Towards the iced-up pump-house,
And, stumble, munching dead air,
As the febrile rooks rise up.
I gasp after them, hammer
some frozen wood-pile:
Just a reader, someone to speak with, a doctor!
A conversation on the mangled stairway!
Glyn Maxwell (1962- )
One of Britain's neo-Formalists, Maxwell is a poet to be reckoned with verse steeped in memory of the common folk & day-to-day exigencies that alot of poets find boring. Free of alot of Confessionalism's dreck, his verse shows great potential.
Dream But A Door Drive To.... Rare Chat.... Rumpelstiltskin
Dream But Door
Dream but a door slams then.
Your waking is in the past. The friend
who left was the last to leave and that
left you, calm as a man.
Wash in a slip of soap belonging
only a week ago to a girl but
yours now and washed to a nothing.
As you and she, friends and not.
Eat to the end as toast,
the loaf she decided on, only last
Saturday last. The crust is what
you said you'd have. So have.
Stop by the calendar, though,
and peel. The colour today
is yellow, and you will never remember
what that means -'J'.
Drink to the deep the coffee, down
to the well of the dark blue cup.
The oaf with the nose of steam is alive
and well again. Look up.
Drive To The Seashore
We passed, free citizens, between the gloves
of dark and costly cities, and our eyes
bewildered us with factories. We talked.
Of what? Of the bright dead in the old days,
often of them. Of the great coal towns, coked
to death with scruffy accents. Of the leaves
whirled to shit again. Of the strikers sacked
and picking out a turkey with their wives.
Of boys crawling downstairs: we talked of those
but did this: drove to where the violet waves
push from the dark, light up, lash out to seize
their opposites, and curse to no effect.
Rare Chat With The Red Squirrel
No even now, when your
once astonished, once muttering, once
blurting, lastly listening faces group
and drey in a demi-circle in this home-garden,
I can surprise you.
Not with my rare colour,
-you protest at 'rare', you who had, yes you,
pinned me down on your recto 'Extinct in England',
and you who scribbled 'hoax' when you even saw me,
manning the riddled elm,
or after, at my capture,
sniffed round me like a wine-sharp, or a
buyer about to nudge his honey and show her
'you see this is painted on' -but even then
you wouldn't have it:
you merely substituted
'common' then, like it made you less the wrongdoer,
envisaging squads of us and I the ringleader
swiftly nailed. You wouldnl't believe a murmer
on my bushy red honour.
Nor when the grey,
fresh from his walnut elevenses,
bared his teeth at the bars till the cops inferred
yes, I was that victim and made me feel so
as he was handled away,
and I said 'You dig, that wasn't the actual grey
who did my nutkin over -he was another,
and I'd know his red eyes anywhere, 'cause
hell, I'm in them', no,
you caged me again,
and locked and stood and pondered what I did.
It was sodding dark in there with my surname's red
uncaught by light, so nothing. I cocked my head
for one measly eureka
but the way it went was, like,
a burning bath to see if my red would leak,
an X-ray into what was making me talk,
a bastard prod to see what made me not talk,
a mugshot, an APB-
fine, fine way to love me.
But gentlemen, ladies, that is the better-left-
unsaid past you notice I always say.
You would too, but let us enjoy this day.
Everybody looks grey
who waits in the oaks
and ashes for that time when with my eyes
hurt on a text, and nuts beside my nut-tray,
Nature takes her run-up and I'm quick with love
but not quick enough, so,
in the long mean time,
listen only to how the noise you hear
in your wide language differs in no respect
from what you heard when I first happened on a nut,
or burst from the grey horde
who got the rest, for I know
you listen to me not for a new wisdom,
nor music nor aloneness in my England,
and nor for what remains of my red coat,
nor that you thought me dead,
though that perturbed you
maybe a little, no? You know it's only
my bound, hic and squeak when I rub my eyes.
Beats me why, cross my heart, but it's a song
you should recognise.
'Your name is Rumpelstiltskin !' cried
The Queen. 'It's not,' he lied. 'I lied
The time you heard me say it was.'
'I never heard you. It's a guess,'
She lied. He lied.: 'My name is Zed.'
She told the truth: 'You're turning red,
Zed.' He said: 'That's not my name!'
'You're turning red though, all the same.'
'Liar!' he cried: 'I'm turning blue.'
And this was absolutely true
And then he tore himself in two
As liars tend to have to do.
E.L. Mayo (1904-1979)
Lacking vision, but deft at minute subversions, Mayos verse is very taut & lacks flab. Definitely a thinking poet, Mayo is not the typical Academe; although his main sources & tropes are Classical.
Deity New Hypothesis The Bowl
When I go back
; but the rockfall
spoiled all that, the air unbreathable
and the tunnel crammed, stuffed with so much
indubitably rich rubbish, rubbish still
all but impenetrable. But yet note down, Pencil
of light I write by, neither weak nor strong
but narrowly sufficient, having paused
long enough by this low wall to see:
that every moment bears the next moment
out of a womb that snaps like a trap, as hard
as the adamant around us and that God
is dead in history (perfect) and daily dies
more minutely in all backward eyes;
that only at this end of the passage is
(The wombs being closed that bore us) Deity.
For the vast quietness between the stars
The ugly tables and the rickety chairs
Comfort us; and till the universe
Yawns in its sleep, and lo! we are no more
We shall explore-
Opening and closing yet the soft pine door-
The mystery of better and of worse.
We should expect no better, we suppose:
Slapped cheeks, the giggled laugh, the throes
Of after liquor teach us to expect
Hard laughter, the shrugged shoulder, neglect
In age; yet hungry, crooked, or remiss,
The knowledge of the new hypothesis,
Cool in the stars, burns in our forehead bones:
That human life might be better than this.
There was a certain Zero, and he was
A listener at night to childrens cries
And so grew witness to the open space
At center of all such peripheries
Where swims a goldfish in a narrow bowl-
Six colored pebbles and a glaucous weed
For all the world, the daily crumb of bread
Drifting from somewhere down to his mouth-hole.
This is the size of it. But not the praise,
Los replies, attired in gray and rose
At the east window, I at once assay
Nothing and all: goldfish in a goldfish bowl
And I in my blue O alike assume
A great reckoning in a little room.
Tom McGrath (1916-1990)
"Tommy the Commie" was, after Kenneth Rexroth, the best known of the Depression-WW2 era "Red" poets. Adept at many styles his verse overcomes its occasional bathos.
In Early Autumn When We Say Goodbye Winter Roads
In Early Autumn
On a day when the trees are exchanging the cured gold of the sun,
And the heavy oils of darkness in the rivers of their circular hearts
when desperation has entered the song of the locust;
When, in abandoned farmsites, the dark stays longer
In the closed parlor;
a day when exhausted back-country roads,
Those barges loaded with sunlight and the bodies of dead animals,
Disappear into the Sand Hills under a swollen sun;
A day, too, when the sizzling flies are fingering their rosaries of blood
In the furry cathedrals of spent flesh, the left-over
Gone-green goners from the golden summer-
Then I know a place with three dead dogs and two dead deer in one
I feel the displacement of minerals,
The stone grown fossils,
Under this hill of bones that calls my flesh its home.
When We Say Goodbye
It is not because we are going-
It is because, beyond distance, or enterprise
Though the sea may begin at the doorstep, thought the highway
May already have come to rest in our front rooms...
And beyond the lies and surprises of the wide and various worlds,
Beyond the flower and the bird and the little boywith his large questions
We notice our shadows:
-slowly, but going,
In slightly different directions-
Their speeds increasing-
Growing shorter, shorter
As we enter the intolerable sunlight that never grows old or kind.
In the spring thaw
The winter roads over the cold fields
In front of the last sled.
All summer they sleep
Hidden and forgot
Under the green sea of the wheat.
Now, in autumn,
Out of the golden stubble.
They arch their backs in the sun
And move slow and crooked across the fields
Looking for winter.
Claude McKay (1889-1948)
This Jamaican-American giant of the Harlem Renaissance is little read today- even by blacks. But his If We Must Die- written during the 1919 race riots in America- was used by Winston Churchill to rally the spirits of the British during the blitzkriegs of The Battle Of Britain.
December, 1919 If We Must Die The Harlem Dancer The White City
Last night I heard your voice, mother,
The words you sang to me
When I, a little barefoot boy,
Knelt down against your knee.
And tears gushed from my heart, mother,
And passed beyond its wall,
But though the fountain reached my throat
The drops refused to fall.
'Tis ten years since you died, mother,
Just ten dark years of pain,
And oh, I only wish that I
Could weep just once again.
If We Must Die
The Harlem Dancer
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes
And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway;
Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes
Blown by black players upon a picnic day.
She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,
The light gauze hanging loose about her form;
To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls
Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,
Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;
But looking at her falsely-smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.
The White City
I will not toy with it nor bend an inch.
Deep in the secret chambers of my heart
I muse my life-long hate, and without flinch
I bear it nobly as I live my part.
My being would be a skeleton, a shell,
If this dark Passion that fills my every mood,
And makes my heaven in the white world's hell,
Did not forever feed me vital blood.
I see the mighty city through a mist--
The strident trains that speed the goaded mass,
The poles and spires and towers vapor-kissed,
The fortressed port through which the great ships pass,
The tides, the wharves, the dens I contemplate,
Are sweet like wanton loves because I hate.
Thylias Moss (1954- )
No relation to UPGer Don Moss, but probably the best Black poet publishing in America currently. Neologisms & filmic imagery make her poems a relief from contemporary poetic blandeur.
One For All.... The Rapture.... Tornados
One For All Newborns
They kick and flail like crabs on their backs.
Parents outside the nursery window do not believe
they might raise assassins or thieves, at the very worst.
a poet or obscure jazz Musician whose politics
spill loudly from his horn.
Everything about it was wonderful, the method
of conception, the gestation, the womb opening
in perfect analogy to the mind's expansion.
Then the dark succession of constricting years,
mother competing with daughter for beauty and losing,
varicose veins and hot-water bottles, joy boiled away,
the arrival of knowledge that eyes are birds with clipped wings,
the sun at a 30° angle and unable to go higher, parents
who cannot push anymore, who stay by the window
looking for signs of spring
and the less familiar gait of grown progeny.
I am now at the age where I must begin to pay
for the way I treated my mother. My daughter is just like me.
The long trip home is further delayed, my presence
keeps the plane on the ground. If I get off, it will fly.
The propeller is a cross spinning like a buzz saw
about to cut through me. I am haunted and my mother is not dead.
The miracle was not birth but that I lived despite my crimes.
I treated God badly also; he is another parent
watching his kids through a window, eager to be proud
of his creation, looking for signs of spring.
The Rapture Of Dry Ice Burning Off Skin As The Moment Of
The Soul's Apotheosis
How will we get used to joy
if we won't hold onto it?
Not even extinction stops me; when
I've sufficient craving, I follow the buffalo,
their hair hanging below their stomachs like
fringes on Tiffany lampshades; they can be turned on
so can I by a stampede, footsteps whose sound
is my heart souped up, doctored, ninety pounds
running off a semi's invincible engine. Buffalo
heaven is Niagara Falls. There their spirit
gushes. There they still stampede and power
the generators that operate the Tiffany lamps
that let us see in some of the dark. Snow
inundates the city bearing their name; buffalo
spirit chips later melt to feed the underground,
the politically dredlocked tendrils of roots. And this
has no place in reality, is trivial juxtaposed with
the faces of addicts, their eyes practically as sunken
as extinction, gray ripples like hurdlers' track lanes
under them, pupils like just more needle sites.
And their arms: flesh trying for a moon apprenticeship,
a celestial antibody. Every time I use it
the umbrella is turned inside out,
metal veins, totally hardened arteries and survival
without anything flowing within, nothing saying
life came from the sea, from anywhere but coincidence
or God's ulcer, revealed. Yet also, inside out
the umbrella tries to be a bouquet, or at least
the rugged wrapping for one that must endure much,
without dispensing coherent parcels of scent,
before the refuge of vase in a room already accustomed
to withering mind and retreating skin. But the smell
of the flowers lifts the corners of the mouth as if
the man at the center of this remorse has lifted her
in a waltz. This is as true as sickness. The Jehovah's
Witness will come to my door any minute with tracts, an
inflexible agenda and I won't let him in because
I'm painting a rosy picture with only blue and
yellow (sadness and cowardice).
I'm something of an alchemist. Extinct.
He would tell me time is running out.
I would correct him: time ran out; that's why
history repeats itself, why we can't advance.
What joy will come has to be here right now: Cheer
to wash the dirt away, Twenty Mule Team Borax and
Arm & Hammer to magnify Cheer's power, lemon-scented
bleach and ammonia to trick the nose, improved--changed--
Tide, almost all-purpose starch that cures any limpness
except impotence. Celebrate that there's Mastercard
to rule us, bring us to our knees, the protocol we follow
in the presence of the head of our state of ruin, the
official with us all the time, not inaccessible in
palaces or White Houses or Kremlins. Besides every
ritual is stylized, has patterns and repetitions
suitable for adaptation to dance. Here come toe shoes,
brushstrokes, oxymorons. Joy
is at our tongue tips: let the great thirsts and hungers
of the world be the marvelous thirsts, glorious hungers.
Let heartbreak be alternative to coffeebreak, five
midmorning minutes devoted to emotion.
Truth is, I envy them
not because they dance; I out jitterbug them
as I'm shuttled through and through legs
strong as looms, weaving time. They
do black more justice than I, frenzy
of conductor of philharmonic and electricity, hair
on end, result of the charge when horns and strings release
the pent up Beethoven and Mozart. Ions played
instead of notes. The movement
is not wrath, not hormone swarm because
I saw my first forming above the church a surrogate
steeple. The morning of my first baptism and
salvation already tangible, funnel for the spirit
coming into me without losing a drop, my black
guardian angel come to rescue me before all the words
get out, I looked over Jordan and what did I see coming for
to carry me home. Regardez, it all comes back, even the first
grade French, when the tornado stirs up the past, bewitched spoon
lost in its own spin, like a roulette wheel that won't
be steered like the world. They drove me underground,
tornado watches and warnings, atomic bomb drills. Adult
storms so I had to leave the room. Truth is
the tornado is a perfect nappy curl, tightly wound,
John G. Neihardt (1881-1973)
spinning wildly when I try to tamper with its nature, shunning
the hot comb and pressing oil even though if absolutely straight
I'd have the longest hair in the world. Bouffant tornadic
crown taking the royal path on a trip to town, stroll down
Tornado Alley where it intersects Memory Lane. Smoky spirit-
clouds, shadows searching for what cast them.
Critically abused for his epic poem Cycle Of The West, Neihardt could dazzle with shorter lyrics, although best known as the author of the classic Black Elk Speaks.
April The Maiden Easter L'Envoi Let Me Live.... The Lyric The Morning Girl
April The Maiden
Longings to grow and be vaster,
Sap songs under the blue;
Hints of the Mighty Master
Making his dream come true.
Gaunt limbs winter-scarred, tragic,
Blind seeds under the mold.
Planning new marvels of magic
In scarlet and green and gold!
O passionate, panting, love-laden,
She is coming, she sings in the South--
The World's Bride--April the Maiden--
With the ghost of a rose for a mouth!
Once more the northbound Wonder
Brings back the goose and crane,
Prophetic Sons of Thunder,
Apostles of the Rain.
In many a battling river
The broken gorges boom;
Behold, the Mighty Giver
Emerges from the tomb!
Now robins chant the story
Of how the wintry sward
Is litten with the glory
Of the Angel of the Lord.
His countenance is lightning
And still His robe is snow,
As when the dawn was brightening
Two thousand years ago.
O who can be a stranger
To what has come to pass?
The Pity of the Manger
Is mighty in the grass!
Undaunted by Decembers,
The sap is faithful yet.
The giving Earth remembers,
And only men forget.
to The Poet's Town
Seek not for me within a tomb;
You shall not find me in the clay!
I pierce a little wall of gloom
To mingle with the Day!
I brothered with the things that pass,
Poor giddy Joy and puckered Grief;
I go to brother with the Grass
And with the sunning Leaf.
Not Death can sheathe me in a shroud;
A joy-sword whetted keen with pain,
I join the armies of the Cloud,
The Lightning and the Rain.
O subtle in the sap athrill,
Athletic in the glad uplift,
A portion of the Cosmic Will,
I pierce the planet-drift.
My God and I shall interknit
As rain and Ocean, breath and Air;
And O, the luring thought of it
Let me live out my years in heat of blood!
Let me die drunken with the dreamer's wine!
Let me not see this soul-house built of mud
Go toppling to the duska vacant shrine.
Let me go quickly, like a candle light
Snuffed out just at the heyday of its glow.
Give me high noonand let it then be night!
Thus would I go.
And grant that when I face the grisly Thing,
My song may trumpet down the gray Perhaps.
Let me be as a tune-swept fiddlestring
That feels the Master Melodyand snaps!
Give the good gaunt horse the rein,
Sting him with the steel!
Set his nervous thews a-strain,
Let him feel the winner's pain,
Master-hand and -heel!
Fling him, hurl him at the wire
Though he sob and bleed!
Play upon him as a lyre--
Speed is music set on fire--
O, the mighty steed!
Hurl the lyric swift and true
Like a shaft of Doom!
Like the lightning's blade of blue
Letting all the heavens through,
And shuddering back to gloom!
Like the sudden river-thaw,
Like a sabred throng,
Give it fury clothed in awe--
Speed is half the lyric law--
O, the mighty song!
The Morning Girl
Listen! All the world is still;
One bleared hour and night is gone.
See the lonely moon-washed hill
Lift its head to catch the dawn!
In the east the eager light
Sets the curtained dusk a-sag;
And all the royal robe of Night
Frays cheaply -- like a rag!
Once I felt a lifting joy
When I saw the day unfurl,
Watching, just a laughing boy,
For the Morning Girl.
Oft I met her in the dew
Face to face, her sapphire eyes
Burning on me through the blue
Of the morning skies.
Then her pure and dazzling breast
Made with joy my senses swoon,
As she burned from crest to crest
Upward to the noon.
Now no more I seek her shrine,
Seek no more her golden hair
Sparkling in the morning shine
And the purple air.
Comes no more the Morning Girl,
Glows not now her golden head,
When the clouds of dawn unfurl --
Purple, yellow, red.
Now the waning of the night
Means another day is near;
Just a haggard splotch of light,
A turning of the sphere!
Would that in the coming hour
I might be that boy who knew
Fragrant import of the flower,
Lyric impulse of the dew!
Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970)
Far superior to her Objectivist counterparts- Niedecker did something they rarely did: wrote well. Best under 12 lines her verse glimmers like the animals in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie.
Easter Old man.... Springtime's wide.... The Graves
A robin stood by my porch
Old man who seined
to educate his daughter
sees red Mars rise:
Cold water business
now starred in Fishes
of dipnet shape
thru his arms.
but the field
You were my mother, thorn apple bush,
armed against life's raw push.
But you my father catalpa tree
stood serene as now- he refused to see
that the other woman, the hummer he shaded
for his purse petals falling-
his mind in the air.
Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)
Another "Red" poet, and the "other Kenneth", Patchen was a master of colloquy & declamation. Some of the best & grandest monologues since Shakespeare were written by this man. They are "soliloquies in search of a play".
Irkalla's White Caves Let Us Have Madness The Cowboy Who Went.... The Hangman's Great Hands
Irkallas White Caves
I believe that a young woman
Is standing in a circle of lions
In the other side of the sky.
In a little while I must carry her the flowers
Which only fade here; and she will not cry
If my hands are not very full.
Fiery antlers toss within the forests of heaven
And oceans plaintive towns
Echo the tread of celestial feet.
O the beautiful eyes stare down
What have we done that we are blessèd?
What have we died that we hasten to God?
And all the animals are asleep again
In their separate caves.
Hairy bellies distended with their kill.
Culture blubbering in and out
Like the breath of a stranded fish.
Crucifixion in wax. The test-tube messiahs.
Immaculate fornication under the smoking walls
Of a dead world.
I dig for my death
in this thousand-watt dungheap.
There isnt even enough clean air.
To die in.
O blood-bearded destroyer!
In other times...
(soundless barges float
down the rivers of death)
In another heart
These crimes may not flower
What have we done that we are blessèd?
What have we damned that we are blinded?
Now, with my seven-holed head open
On the air whence comes a fabulous mariner
To take his place among the spheres
The air which is God
And the mariner who is sheepI fold
Upon myself like a bird over flames. Then
All my nightbound juices sing. Snails
Pop out of unexpected places and the long
light lances of waterbulls plunge
into the green crotch of my native land.
Eyes peer out of the seaweed that gently sways
Above the towers and salt gates of a lost world.
On the other side of the sky
A young woman is standing
In a circle of lions
The young woman who is dream
And the lions which are death.
Let Us Have Madness
Let us have madness openly.
O men Of my generation.
Let us follow
The footsteps of this slaughtered age:
See it trail across Time's dim land
Into the closed house of eternity
With the noise that dying has,
With the face that dead things wear--
nor ever say
We wanted more; we looked to find
An open door, an utter deed of love,
Transforming day's evil darkness;
but We found extended hell and fog Upon the
and within the head
A rotting bog of lean huge graves.
The Cowboy Who Went to College
There was a cowboy went to college,
Where somebody spilled ink on his horse.
He went to the dean in charge of such things
And was told that the gentleman
Had just popped out to the can again.
"Oh, he has, has he!" cried the cowboy;
"And me thinking it might be an accident
"Why, hell, its part of the damn curriculum!"
The Hangman's Great Hands
And all that is this day. . .
The boy with cap slung over what had been a
Somehow the cop will sleep tonight, will make
love to his
Anger won't help. I was born angry. Angry that
my father was being burnt alive in the mills;
Angry that none of us knew anything but filth,
and poverty. Angry because I was that very one
somebody was supposed To be fighting for
Turn him over; take a good look at his face...
Somebody is going to see that face for a long
I wash his hands that in the brightness they will
We have a parent called the earth.
To be these buds and trees; this tameless bird
Within the ground; this season's act upon the
fields of Man.
To be equal to the littlest thing alive,
While all the swarming stars move silent
through The merest flower
. .. but the fog of guns.
The face with all the draining future left blank. .
. Those smug saints, whether of church or
Stalin, Can get off the back of my people, and
stay off. Somebody is supposed to be fighting
for somebody. . . And Lenin is terribly silent,
terribly silent and dead.
Hyam Plutzik (1911-1962)
A combination of intellectualism & lyricism make this now nearly-forgotten poet a good read. Whether formal or free verse Plutzik excelled at most of what he attempted.
An Equation Entropy If Causality....
For instance: y-xa+mx2(a2+i)=o
Coil upon coil, the grave serpent holds
Its implacable strict pose, under a light
Like marble. The artist's damnation, the rat of time,
Cannot gnaw this form, nor event touch it with age.
Before it was, it existed, creating the mind
Which created it, out of itself. It will dissolve
Into itself, though in another language.
Its changes are not in change, nor its times in time.
And the coiled serpent quivering under a light
Crueler than marble, unwinds slowly, altering
Deliberate the great convolutions, a dancer,
A mime on the brilliant stage. The sudden movement,
Swifter than creases of lightning, renews a statue:
There by its skin a snake rears beaten in copper.
It will not acknowledge the incense on your alters,
Nor hear at night in your room the weeping....
I have seen the wound that matter makes in space,
The hole in the blank sheet of white paper.
On a day the name of no dead demon could hold
I saw the tension of Being in all things,
Bearing them up against the tightening spring
Of infinite number and the fires of nebular torment
Till the last day, when they lie crushed like a moth
In a child's hand, or a thing under the sea.
If Causality Is Impossible, Genesis Is Recurrent
The abrupt appearance of a yellow flower
Out of the perfect nothing, is miraculous.
The sum of Being, being discontinuous
Must presuppose a God-out-of-the-box
Who makes a primal garden of each garden.
There is no change, but only re-creation
One step ahead. As in the cinema
Upon the screen, all motion is illusory.
So if your mind were keener and could clinch
More than its flitting beachhead in the Permanent,
You'd see a twinkling world flashing and dying
Projected out of a tireless, winking Eye
Opening and closing in immensity-
Creating, with Its look, beside all else
Always Adamic passion and innocence,
The bloodred apple or the yellow flower.
Jessica Powers aka Sister Miriam (1905-1988)
Springy, intricate formal schemes make the stories of her poems rise above their obssessiveness & lack of originality in theme.
Decoys Souvenir, Wisconsin River The Garments Of God The Tear In The Shade Track of the Mystic
Make decoys he told me, The chaste dovelike virtue,
set them on the blue; whiteness to allure
then observe the wild ducks One Who is a Spirit,
flying down to you. infinitely pure,
Wild ducks do not charm me Loves decoy, the fire bird
save for beautys sake. that, when God shall se
But decoys of the spirit the Winged Flame of heaven
these I strain to make. may come down to me.
The decoy of silence, Let him have his wild ducks,
hopes unuttered sigh, green and blue and brown.
that the Ultimate Silence My decoys are fashioned
drift down from the sky. to bring heaven down.
Souvenir, Wisconsin River
Mindful of you by love, I think to send you
token of this enchantment that I see
when v-shaped sparkles dance on wind-rushed water
in the suns path. Insanities of glee
delight when light here, there and everywhere
shines, disappears, re-shines- a fantasy
no words could capture save in small wild fragments
v v v
The Garments Of God
God sits on a chair of darkness in my soul.
He is God alone, supreme in His majesty.
I sit at His feet, a child in the dark beside Him:
my joy is aware of His glance and my sorrow is tempted
to rest on the thought that His face is turned from me.
He is clothed in the robes of His mercy, voluminous garments-
not velvet or silk and affable to the touch,
but fabric strong for a frantic hand to clutch,
and I hold to it fast with the fingers of my will.
Here is my cry of faith, my deep avowal
to the Divinity that I am dust.
Here is the loud profession of my trust.
I need not go abroad
to the hills of speech or the hinterlands of music
fir a crier to walk in my soul where all is still.
I have this potent prayer through good or ill:
here in the dark I clutch the garments of God.
The Tear In The Shade
I tore the new pale window shade with slightly
more than a half-inch tear.
I knew the Lady would be shocked to see
what I had done with such finality.
I went outside to lose my worry there.
Later when I came back into the room
it seemed that nothing but the tear was there.
There had been furniture, a rug, and pictures,
and on the table flowers in purple bloom.
It was amazing how they dwindled, dwindled,
and how the tear grew till it filled the room
Track of the Mystic
There was a man went forth into the night
with a proud step I saw his garments blowing.
I saw him reach the great cloud of unknowing.
He went in search of love, whose sign is light
From the dark night of sense I saw him turn
into the deeper dark nights of the soul
where no least star marks a divine patrol.
Great was his torment who could not discern
this night was God's light generously given,
blinding the tainted spirit utterly
till from himself at last he struggled free.
I saw him on the higher road to heaven:
his veins ran gold; light was his food and breath.
Flaming he melted through the walls of death.
Jeremy Reed (1951- )
One of the "Young Guns" of contemporary British verse, Reed's poetry is populated with all the accoutrements of pop culture: rock stars, cyborgs & hairdressers, all might find a way into Reed's verse- even his vaunted erotica!
Commend This Broken Man Moon-Tanning The Establishment
Commend This Broken Man
for John Wieners
Where do they go, like rubies in the dust
deposited by a hailstorm
and left to sparkle in the aftermath,
those lyric poets broken by demand,
the State etc., and today my mind
retrieves John Wieners, builds an image round
his solitary foray into the streets,
a gay club where the diva dies on stage,
and where is there to go, please tell me where,
his eyes are fixed on diamonds in displays
the luxuries he can't afford
from a lifetime of enduring hotels,
one nighters, all the endless solitude
of writing poetry against the wall.
His books are legends to the few who know
that sacrifice, and how the word transforms
the deepest pain into something that's shared.
Commend this broken man, this name,
may he be touched by angels and the light
isolate him a moment in the crowd
before the wolves bay hungry in the night.
She slips into a silver bikini
on warm nights and feels the moonshine
polish to a cool tan
a blue luminosity on her skin
that's travelled as reflected light
so far she has to think of it
as a near mirror, and she bares her breasts
by day so absorbent of the sun
to feel them touched silver
a surf-line off in the distance
minting a shine out of the dark
She is quite naked now receiving light
on a blue towel and turns over
as though for a lover
Later she'll go back in, draw the curtains
to emphasize her body's glow
slip into bed and feel his force
create a fluent pearl in her.
They inhabit another continent.
all sheep, no wolves, a huddled mediocrity
that looks to the collective to shelter
dead impulses. All birds on that island
have stone wings and can never lift and know the sky's
blue spaces or the generosity
that lives in the creative. They are flat
like their grey buildings; equally as flawed
as stucco fissures mapped on a highrise.
Their dead books shuttle to the fire
of a crematorium's oven.
Their fraudulent public faces don't see
beauty or how originality
animates the image to poetry.
I sit, back to the wall in a basement.
I write and five purpletulips instruct
me love and the word are evident;
I, and my life as an outsider, free.
Laura Riding (1901-1991)
More well known for her sexual relationships with writers, such as Robert Graves, & her famous statement that she was giving up writing poetry- when at the height of her powers- for she "had nothing more to say", Riding's poems have alot of little psychological 'hooks' & seem to be a precursor of a poet as Plath- she being Protoceratops to Plath's Triceratops.
The Poet's Corner The Quids The Simple Line
The Poet's Corner
Here where the end of bone is no end of song
And the earth is bedecked with immortality
In what was poetry
And now is pride beside
Here is a battle with no bravery
But if the coward's tongue has gone
Swording his own lusty lung.
Listen if there is victory
Written into a library
Waving the books in banners
Soldierly at last, for the lines
Go marching on, delivered of the soul.
And happily may they rest beyond
Suspicion now, the incomprehensibles
Traitorous in such talking
As chattered over their countries' boundaries.
The graves are gardened and the whispering
Stops at the hedges, there is singing
Of it in the ranks, there is a hush
Where the ground has limits
And the rest is loveliness.
Death has an understanding of it
Loyal to many flags
And is a silent ally of any country
Beset in its mortal heart
With immortal poetry.
The little quids, the million quids,
The everywhere, everything, always quids,
The atoms of the Monoton--
Each turned three essences where it stood
And ground a gisty dust from its neighbors' edges
Until a powdery thoughtfall stormed in and out,
The cerebration of a slippery quid enterprise.
Each quid stirred.
The united quids
Waved through a sinuous decision.
The quids, that had never done anything before
But be, be, be, be, be,
The quids resolved to predicate
And dissipate in a little grammar.
Oh, the Monoton didn't care,
For whatever they did--
The Monoton's contributing quids--
The Monoton would always remain the same.
A quid here and there gyrated in place-position,
While many essential quids turned inside-out
For the fun of it
And a few refused to be anything but
Simple, unpredicated copulatives.
Little by little, this commotion of quids,
By threes, by tens, by casual millions,
Squirming within the state of things--
The metaphysical acrobats,
The naked, immaterial quids--
Turned inside on themselves
And came out dressed,
Each similar quid of the inward same,
Each similar quid dressed in a different way--
The quid's idea of a holiday.
The quids could never tell what was happening.
But the Monoton felt itself differently the same
In its different parts.
The silly quids upon their rambling exercise
Never knew, could never tell
What their pleasure was about,
What their carnival was like,
Being in, being in, being always in
Where they never could get out
Of the everywhere, everything, always in,
To derive themselves from the Monoton.
But I know, with a quid inside of me,
But I know what a quid's disguise is like,
Being one myself,
The gymnastic device
That a quid puts on for exercise.
And so should the trees,
And so should the worms,
And so should you,
And all the other predicates,
And all the other accessories
Of the quid's masquerade.
The Simple Line
The secrets of the mind convene splendidly,
Though the mind is meek.
To be aware inwardly
of brain and beauty
Is dark too recognizable.
Thought looking out on thought
Makes one an eye:
Which it shall be, both decide.
One is with the mind alone,
The other is with other thoughts gone
To be seen from afar and not known.
When openly these inmost sights
Flash and speak fully,
Each head at home shakes hopelessly
Of being never ready to see self
And sees a universe too soon.
The immense surmise swims round and round
And heads grow wise
With their own bigness beatified
In cosmos, and the idiot size
Of skulls spells Nature on the ground,
While ears listening the wrong way report
Echoes first and hear words before sounds
Because the mind, being quiet, seems late.
By ears words are copied into books,
By letters minds are taught self-ignorance.
From mouths spring forth vocabularies
To the assemblage of strange objects
Grown foreign to the faithful countryside
Of one king, poverty,
Of one line, humbleness.
Unavowed and false horizons claim pride
For spaces in the head
The native head sees outside.
The flood of wonder rushing from the eyes
Returns lesson by lesson.
The mind, shrunken of time,
Overflows too soon.
The complete vision is the same
As when the world-wideness began
Worlds to describe
The excessiveness of man.
But man's right portion rejects
The surplus in the whole.
This much, made secret first,
The knowable, which was
Thought's previous flesh,
And gives instruction of substance to its intelligence
As far as flesh itself,
As bodies upon themselves to where
Understanding is the head
And the identity of breath and breathing are established
And the voice opening to cry: I know,
Closes around the entire declaration
With this evidence of immortality--
The total silence to say:
I am dead.
For death is all ugly, all lovely,
Forbids mysteries to make
Science of splendor, or any separate disclosing
Of beauty to the mind out of body's book
That page by page flutters a world in fragments,
Permits no scribbling in of more
Where spaces are,
Only to look.
Body as Body lies more than still.
The rest seems nothing and nothing is
If nothing need be.
But if need be,
Thought not divided anyway
Answers itself, thinking
All open and everything.
Dead is the mind that parted each head.
But now the secrets of the mind convene
Without pride, without pain
To any onlookers.
What they ordain alone
Cannot be known
The ordinary way of eyes and ears
But only prophesied
If an unnatural mind, refusing to divide,
Of too plain beauty
Foreseen within too suddenly,
And lips break open of astonishment
Upon the living mouth and rehearse
Death, that seems a simple verse
And, of all ways to know,
Dead or alive, easiest.
Edwin Rolfe (1909-1954)
Perhaps the most consistent of the great "Red" poets, Rolfe is barely remembered today. But an acid wit cannot hide the power of his stellar verse.
Asbestos Little Ballad.... Soledad
Knowing (as John did) nothing of the way
men act when men are roused from lethargy.
and having nothing ( as John had) to say
to those he saw were starving just as he
starved, John was like a workhorse. Day by day
he saw his sweat cement the granite tower
(the edifice his bone had built), to stay
listless as ever, older every hour.
John's deathbed is a curious affair:
the posts are made of bone, the spring of nerves,
the mattress bleeding flesh. Infinite air,
compressed from dizzy altitudes, now serves
his skullface as a pillow. Overhead
a vulture leers in solemn mockery,
knowing what John had never known: that dead
workers are dead before they cease to be.
Little Ballad For Americans- 1954
Brother, brother, best avoid your workmate-
Words planted in affection can spout a field of hate.
Housewife, housewife, never trust your neighbor-
A chance remark may boomerang to five years at hard labor.
Student, student, keep mouth shut and brain spry-
Your best friend Dick Meriwell's employed by the F.B.I.
Lady, lady, make you phone calls frugal-
The chief of all Inquisitors has ruled the wire-tap legal.
Daughter, daughter, learn soon your heart to harden-
They've planted stoolies everywhere; why not in kindergarten?
Lovers, lovers, be careful when you're wed-
The wire-tap grows in the living room, in auto, and in bed.
Give full allegiance only to circuses and bread;
No person's really trustworthy until he's dead.
Nothing respects your solitude. The planes
like exhibitionists cavort all season long,
stabbing the sky, sky-writing as they dart
like insects on the surface of a summer pond.
Autos outside you windows do not roll
in rhythm natural to man. The brakes
grate even against ears accustomed now to noise
of plane and engine and the bombs of war.
Silence is something lost, something forgotten,
known only as things are known in memory.
Silence and solitude, the two wings of the bird
of contemplation, flap on the turning spit
while the man with the slobbering lips looks on
and grins, and eyes them with an idiot's stare.
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