These Old Poems #83:
Poems of the Dead White Davids: A TOP Poetasterama!
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 2/7/04

  The term Dead White Male came in to vogue in the mid 1980s when disaffected PC Elitists (mostly of the capital F Feminist & capital O Oppressed Minority bent) decided to rail against the good old boys network that ruled access to publication in this country. Unfortunately the brain dead PCEs squandered their potential political leverage by NOT going after the ruling White Male Elitists (technically, still Live), rather attacking truly dead Dead White Males like Billy Shakespeare, John Milton, John Keats, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, etc. Not a good move. The PCEs were smacked back into their corners easier than they thought. Reactionary morons like Helen Vendler & Harold Bloom pitbulled their asses like Bull Connor’s boys at an NAACP meeting. It was NO contest. The PCEs were dumbfounded. It was not until people like myself started attacking truly living Dead White Males like Donald Hall, Robert Bly, Mark Strand, Gerald Stern, etc. that the PCEs caught on & the term morphed into an appellation (or acronym- DWM) for the bland purveyors of pap that regularly appear on NPR & its ilk. Not uncoincidentally, the term’s effectiveness was enhanced manifold as a political weapon.
  As 1 of the leading lights of that terms revival let me introduce you to a subset of that glorious term- the ‘Dead White David’; that is, 1 of a few dozen white male poetasters that are currently infecting university writing classes like AIDS in a bathhouse. Here then is a 6 pack of some of the worst offenders: David Citino, David Rivard, David Ignatow, David St. John, David Whyte, & Dave Smith. Just for fun I also take on a 7th member emeritus (for he recently truly died)- David Gascoyne. I could also legitimately add honorary white man wannabe David Mura- then I already gave him his very own TOP.
  1st up on the chopping block is David Citino. Why 1st? Why not? He’s certainly bad enough. The requisite (& ubiquitous) online bio:

  This bio has been interrupted by a necessary recitation of laurels! Continue: About DC’s The News and Other Poems:

  "This is high entertainment by a poet who possesses honesty and playfulness in equal measure and who is an expert at deploying the line and boxing the stanza." -Billy Collins

  Excuse me- but is not deceit an integral part of playfulness, coyness, silliness, & the like? & how does 1 box a stanza?

  "Pound said that literature is news that stays news and the distinguished poet, David Citino, has taken this observation from the wittiest reinvention of current events all the way to the Great Tabloid of the inexpressible. The News and Other Poems is funny, remarkable, and profound." -Carol Muske-Dukes

  She was married to a Z-grade actor once. Just thought you’d like to know!

  "The strength of this book resides in its vivid mixture of the sacred and the profane. The real 'news' of these poems is that here is a person alert to all our profane and post-modern predicaments, and yet who still finds within himself the stirrings and yearnings toward whatever we can dimly perceive of the sacred." -Fred Marchant

  If you have any sense of what the described poems are like, then treat yourself to a prostitute.

  "These vivid topical poems try wryly to come to terms with human depravity, with 'the grim, thorny symmetry/of war,' 'the usual apocalypse' of people drowned or killed in meaningless accidents. But this is not a dark book. Citino's wit and passionate love of life sparkle throughout. Speaking through Sister Mary Appassionata, he declares, 'there is a place where it all in makes sense.'" -Maxine Kumin

  Maxine Kumin is a poet who makes nice draperies. On to the ‘poem’.

A Brief History Of Fathers


Do we miss a thing we love
less if, in going away from us,
it grows beautiful? It rained


all weekend, and the leaves
this morning are going
from brown and tan to crimson.


The splendor flaming from
these trees compensates us,
nearly, for what autumn takes


leaf by leaf, the lined white face
of a father growing noble
the angrier, more confused


he goes, rain like angry bees,
his empty eyes, a cold wind
coming on like dementia. 

  There is nothing here that would establish that DC is an individuated person. There is nothing Citinovian about this poem. This is as perfect a bad workshop poem (i.e.- a ‘good’ poem to workshoppers) as can be. It tries to be deep, establishing that with the title- or so DC thinks. Instead, it merely announces DC’s utterly generic writing style beforehand. Stanzas 1-3 are banal descriptors & scene setting, only to set up the string of clichés that end the poem in the last 2 stanzas. You know the clichés- I trust you. I won’t even mention that this is wholly prosaic writing- in all the senses of the word. Here’s the revision:

A Brief History Of Feathers


The splendor from these

trees compensates us,
nearly, for what autumn takes

leaf by leaf, the lined white
goes, rain-like, angry
eyes, coming.

  The original was so bland I merely cut this poem, & added a letter to the title which gives the poem a much more jarring effect, even though all the same words appear as in the original. here the history of feathers makes for an odd thought, which then segues to an odd posit, & ends with an emotion we cannot reckon intellectually, yet- intuitively- we feel ‘something’ & want to reread. That we get something of depth is debatable- but the fact that we want to reread this version is undeniable. No one who has ever read DC's version once has gone back for more. Trust me. The tally:

Final Score: (1-100):

David Citino’s A Brief History Of Fathers: 40
TOP’s A Brief History Of Feathers: 65

  Next up on the Dead White David Hit Parade is David Rivard. Be silent, o reader, & read:

  David Rivard was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1953. He is the author of Bewitched Playground (Graywolf Press, 2000); Wise Poison, which won the 1996 James Laughlin Award; and Torque (1987), which won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and was published by the Pitt Poetry Series. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including New England Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and TriQuarterly. Mr. Rivard's other honors include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and fellowships from the Massachusetts Arts Foundation and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He has also received the Celia B. Wagner Award from the Poetry Society of America and a Pushcart Prize. David Rivard is Poetry Editor at the Harvard Review and teaches at Tufts University and the Vermont College M.F.A. in Writing Program. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  He MUST be good- no? NO! Read this ‘poem’ & note the concision:

God The Broken Lock

I've died enough by now I trust
just what's imperfect or ruined.  I mean God,
God who is in the stop sign
asking to be shotgunned, the ocean that evaporates even
as we float.  God the bent nail & broken lock,
and God the hangnail.  The hangnail.
And a million others might be like me, our hopes
a kind of illegal entry, a belief in smashed windows,
every breakage
like breaking & entering into a concert hall,
the place my friend & I crawled into an air shaft, & later
fell asleep.  After breakage
there is always sleep.
We woke to gospel hymns from the dressing room
below, songs commending
embrace to the fists, & return to the prodigal.
And hasn't my luck always been a shadow, stepping out, stretching?
I mean I trust what breaks.
A broken bone elicits condolence,
and the phone call sounds French if the transmission fritzes,
and our brains--our blessed, desirable brains--are composed
of infinitesimal magnets, millions of them
a billionth-of-a-milligram in weight, so
they make us knock our heads against hard walls.
When we pushed through the air vent,
the men singing seemed only a little surprised,
just slightly freaked,
three of them in black tuxes, & the fourth in red satin,
crimson, lit up like a furnace trimmed with paisley swirls,
the furnace of a planet, or of a fatalistic ocean liner
crisscrossing a planet we've not discovered yet,
a fire you might love to be thrown into.
That night they would perform the songs half
the country kept on its lips half of every day.
Songs mostly praising or lamenting or accusing some loved one
of some beautiful, horrendous betrayal or affection.
But dressing, between primping & joking about
their thinning afros, they sang of Jesus.  Jesus,
who said, "Split a stick, & you shall find me inside."
It was the winter we put on asbestos gloves, & flameproof
stuck our hands in the fireplace, adjusting logs.
Jesus, we told them, left no proof of having sung a single note.
And that, said the lead singer, is why we are all sinners.
What he meant was
we are all like the saints on my neighbors' lawns--
whose plaster shoulders & noses,
chipped cloaks & tiaras, have to be bundled
in plastic sheets, each winter, blanketed
from the wind & the cold.  That was what he meant,
though I couldn't know it then.

  The rewrite:

God The Broken Lock

That was what he meant,
though I couldn't know it then.

  How have I improved this poem? I have. But the manifestness of how should be evident. Actually there was more than the 1 big way, so I’ll give you a smaller key- enigma. The title actually gathers meaning by playing off the body of the poem. I’ve made an overly dull & overly long plaint poem (another archetype of the workshop) into a bon mot of philosophy. The score:

Final Score: (1-100):

David Rivard’s God The Broken Lock: 30
TOP’s God The Broken Lock: 55

Final Score: (1-100):

DWD’s Cumulative: 35.0
TOP’s Cumulative: 60.0

  The next DWD was actually a poet who may have been good had he followed his earlier arc. But he’s here, so what odds do you lay that he heeded my assessment? As they say:

  David Ignatow was born in Brooklyn, and has lived most of his life in New York. He has published sixteen volumes of poetry and three prose collections. Included in these are Poems, The Gentle Weightlifter, Say Pardon, Figures of the Human, Earth Hard: Selected Poems, Rescue the Dead, Poems: 1934-1969, Facing the Tree, Selected Poems-1975, Tread the Dark, Whisper to the Earth, Leaving the Door Open, Shadowing the Ground, Despite the Plainness of the Day: Love Poems-1991, Against the Evidence, and I Have a Name. He has taught at Columbia, the New School for Social Research, the University of Kentucky, the University of Kansas, York College of the City University of New York, New York University, and Vassar College. At various times he has worked as an editor for the American Poetry Review and Beloit Poetry Journal

  The National Institute of Arts and Letters has presented to Mr. Ignatow an award "for a lifetime of creative effort." His work has been recognized also with the Bollingen Prize, two Guggenheim fellowhips, the Wallace Stevens fellowship from Yale University, the Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, the Poetry Society of America's Shelly Memorial Award, and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is president emeritus of the Poetry Society of America and a member of the executive board of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association. His current home is in East Hampton, Long Island.


  In truth, DI is a lesser version of Stanley Kunitz who, despite his own TOP, was a good poet in his heyday. The same cannot be said of DI:


For My Daughter In Reply To A Question  

We're not going to die.
We'll find a way.
We'll breathe deeply
and eat carefully.
We'll think always on life.
There'll be no fading for you or for me.
We'll be the first
and we'll not laugh at ourselves ever
and your children will be my grandchildren.
Nothing will have changed
except by addition.
There'll never be another as you
and never another as I.
No one ever will confuse you
nor confuse me with another.
We will not be forgotten and passed over
and buried under the births and deaths to come.

  Nice sentiments, but nothing vaguely poetic until we get to the last line or so. How to improve this cringing mess? [Note I’m not gonna even tell you what the question is- ain’t I respectful of your intellect?]

For My Daughter In Reply To A Question

We'll not laugh at ourselves ever.
Except by addition.
There'll never be another I.
No one ever will confuse me
with another under the births and deaths to come.

  This is a totally distilled version, sans the redundancies & mawk. So, why did not DI write his version this way? Probably because he actually WAS writing this for a young girl, & not a mature audience. Thus what happens ewhen ‘art’ is not the main reason for art! The tally:

Final Score: (1-100):

David Ignatow’s For My Daughter In Reply To A Question: 50
TOP’s For My Daughter In Reply To A Question: 60

Final Score: (1-100):

DWD’s Cumulative: 40.0
TOP’s Cumulative: 60.0

  The next DWD is 1 of the most laughable- especially when you look at his four-eyed mug shot on the back of any of his editions of doggerel. DSJ mistakes prolixity for depth & prolixity for skill- am I being redundant? My God. he’s worn off on me! Read:

  David St. John was born in Fresno, California, in 1949, and educated at California State University, Fresno, where he received his B.A. In 1974, he received an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. He is the author of six books of poetry, including Prism (Arctos Press, 2002), Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems (1994), No Heaven (1985), and Hush (1976). His awards include the Discover/The Nation prize, the James D. Phelan Prize, and the prix de Rome fellowship in literature. He has also received several National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. St. John currently teaches in the English Department at University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

  This makes him an almost archetypal member of the 1st generation of Workshoppers. It shows:

Vivian St. John (1881-1974)

There is a train inside this iris:

You think I'm crazy, & like to say boyish
& outrageous things. No, there is

A train inside this iris.

It's a child's finger bearded in black banners.
A single window like a child's nail,

A darkened porthole lit by the white, angular face

Of an old woman, or perhaps the boy beside her in the stuffy,
Hot compartment. Her hair is silver, & sweeps

Back off her forehead, onto her cold and bruised shoulders.

The prairies fail along Chicago. Past the five
Lakes. Into the black woods of her New York; & as I bend

Close above the iris, I see the train

Drive deep into the damp heart of its stem, & the gravel
Of the garden path

Cracks under my feet as I walk this long corridor

Of elms, arched
Like the ceiling of a French railway pier where a boy

With pale curls holding

A fresh iris is waving goodbye to a grandmother, gazing
A long time

Into the flower, as if he were looking some great

Distance, or down an empty garden path & he believes a man
Is walking toward him, working

Dull shears in one hand; & now believe me: The train

Is gone. The old woman is dead, & the boy. The iris curls,
On its stalk, in the shade

Of those elms: Where something like the icy & bitter fragrance

In the wake of a woman who's just swept past you on her way

& you remain.

  Too long & drivelly. Are any of the stanzas powerful enough emotionally, or good enough technically, to stand alone. No- but the overall metaphor of the poem is better than the prior dreck. Still, time to cut & compress. The flower/woman link is established so early in the poem, yet DSJ is so untrusting of his audience that he needs to hammer this into the reader to prove he can be metaphorical. The end of the poem is so predictable & trite. Let’s give this poem verve & pep:

Vivian St. John (1881-1974)

There is a train inside this iris:

The prairies fail along Chicago. Past the five
Lakes. Into the black woods of her New York;
I see the train
Drive deep into the gravel
Of the garden path
Of elms, arched, gazing
A long time
Into the flower: The train
Is gone. Of those elms:
Who's just swept past you on her way
Home. Remain.

  The images now are more alive- the train’s drive in to the gravel is far more arresting than going in to another heart- of a stem notwithstanding. The poem’s end is now a command, or at least an entreaty. The poem is active, beckoning. Oh my- it’s got real emotion! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Now that we’ve shown DSJ his way out of the workshop, let’s grade him- & By the way; d’ja notice a few of the other little added stuff I left you, the reader, in the revised version? Go ahead, find’em while I grade this out:

Final Score: (1-100):

David St. John’s’s Iris: 50
TOP’s Iris: 70

Final Score: (1-100):

DWD’s Cumulative: 42.5
TOP’s Cumulative: 62.5

  The next DWD brags of being able to actually make money as a ‘poet’. Well, no. He’s a corporate whore who deludes guilt-ridden executives who want to give their meaningless, soulless existences worth a reason not to end it all, but stay on & oppress the less fortunate a little bit more. Let’s see- encouraging life in these maggots is bad, but scamming them for their money is good, since it’s justice since those bastards did the same to the rest of us. OK, I’ve established that David Whyte is a wash ethically. Poetically- well….

 David Whyte grew up among the hills and valleys of Yorkshire, England. The author of four books of poetry, he is one of the few poets to take his perspectives on creativity into the field of organizational development, where he works with many American and international companies. He holds a degree in Marine Zoology, and has traveled extensively, including working as a naturalist guide and leading anthropological and natural history expeditions. He brings this wealth of experiences to his poetry, lectures and workshops.
  In organizational settings, using poetry and thoughtful commentary, he illustrates how we can foster qualities of courage and engagement; qualities needed if we are to respond to today’s call for increased creativity and adaptability in the workplace. He brings a unique and important contribution to our understanding of the nature of individual and organizational change.
  In addition to his four volumes of poetry, David Whyte is the author of The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, published by Doubleday/Currency, an audio cassette lecture series, and an album of poetry and music. His new book of prose, "Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as Pilgrimage of Identity" was published by Riverhead Books in March, 2001. He lives with his family in the Pacific Northwest.

  I got this all from his own dreadful website. Go Google him if you want to read more. Here, I also culled the poem in question:

Loaves And Fishes

This is not the age of information.
This is not
the age of information.


Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.


This is the time
of loaves
and fishes.


People are hungry,
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.


  This is not even a workshop bad poem, but a ½ hearted cutesy attempt to be socially relevant. It is not a poem- trust me. Yet, here’s my ¼ hearted rewrite- yet STILL I improve it!:


Loaves And Fishes


This is not

one good word
for a thousand.


  Almost a haiku. Before I score this dreck I just gotta give you another snip from his website:

  The poet lives and writes at the frontier between deep internal experience and the revelations of the outer world. There is no going back for the poet once this frontier has been reached; a new territory is visible and what has been said cannot be unsaid. The discipline of poetry is in overhearing yourself say difficult truths from which it is impossible to retreat. Poetry is a break for freedom. In a sense all poems are good; all poems are an emblem of courage and the attempt to say the unsayable; but only a few are able to speak to something universal yet personal and distinct at the same time; to create a door through which others can walk into what previously seemed unobtainable realms, in the passage of a few short lines.

  He uses the terms ‘the poet’, ‘deep’, ‘revelations’, ‘unsaid’, ‘new territory’, ‘difficult truths’, ‘all poems are good’, ‘courage’, ‘unsayable’, & ‘realms’ all in 1 paragraph. I swear- read it for yourself! Then read this after you quit heaving into the bowl:

The Well Of Grief

Those who will not slip beneath
           the still surface on the well of grief.

turning downward through its black water
              to the place we cannot breathe

will never know the source from which we drink
         the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering
            the small round coins
                     thrown by those who wished for something else.

  What would the DWDs be without David Whyte? The tally:

Final Score: (1-100):

David Whyte’s Loaves And Fishes: 40
TOP’s Loaves And Fishes: 50

Final Score: (1-100):

DWD’s Cumulative: 42.0
TOP’s Cumulative: 60.0

  On to the most generically named of the DWDs: Dave (not ‘nom de plumically’ David) Smith. The expected:

  Dave Smith (David Jeddie Smith- pseudonym Smith Cornwell) was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on December 19, 1942. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Virginia in 1965, his M.A. from Southern Illinois University in 1969, and his Ph.D. from Ohio University in 1976. He served in the United States Air Force from 1969-1972, reaching the rank of staff sergeant. Smith began his career as a high school teacher of English and French and football coach in Poquoson (VA) High School (1965-1967) and has taught English and creative writing at Christopher Newport College, Thomas Nelson Community College, the College of William and Mary, Western Michigan University, and Cottey College. From 1976 to 1980 he was director of the creative writing program and associate professor of English at the University of Utah. He taught creative writing at the State University of New York, Binghamton (1980-1981) and University of Florida (1981-1982). In 1982, he returned to his native state as a Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Since 1990, he has been Professor of English at Louisiana State University. Smith has also given lectures and readings at many colleges and universities.

  In the late 1960s, Dave Smith began a distinguished literary career. He began publishing poetry in numerous little magazines and journals. After publishing several volumes of collected poetry, Smith gained critical recognition as one of the most significant poets to emerge in the United States during the 1970s. Although originally known primarily as a regional poet of his native Virginia, Smith has broadened his settings to encompass midwestern and far western locales. The publications of Goshawk, Antelope (1979) and Dream Flights (1981) confirmed that he is one of the best poets of his generation. Dave Smith said, ´of style in my writing, it might be said to be based on the assumption that anyone's life is a series of haphazard events each one of which potentially reveals a common and ultimate reality.´ (World Authors, 1980-1985, p.781) He has published 16 collections of poetry; one novel, Onliness (1981); and a book of essays, Local Assays: On Contemporary American Poetry (1985). He is also co-editor of: The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets (1985) and New Virginia Review Anthology Four.

  Besides all this, Dave Smith was an editor of Sou'wester magazine, (Edwardsville, Illinois, 1967-1968); a founding editor of Back Door magazine (Poquoson, Virginia and Athens, Ohio, 1969-1979); a poetry editor of Rocky Mountain Review (Tempe, Arizona, 1978-1980); and a columnist for American Poetry Review (Philadelphia, 1978-1982). Since 1990, he has been co-editor of the renowned Southern Review (Baton Rouge, Louisiana).

  Dave Smith was twice runner-up for Pulitzer Prize in Poetry (1979, 1981) and one of five finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Prize (Poetry, 1979). He received an award for excellence from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1979 and a Virginia Prize in Poetry, 1989. He was also awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976 and 1981, from the Guggenhein Foundation in 1981, from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 1976, and was a Lyndhurst Fellow in 1987. Dave Smith was a Board Member of Associated Writing Programs (AWP), 1979-1981 and became Vice-President in 1981. He is included in World Authors, Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Literary Criticism, and American Poets Since World War II.

  Still there? You may wonder why I have not seen fit to include the similarly laxly named Dave Etter, or the more up[tight Davids Wagoner &/or Wojahn in this TOP essay? Simple- I WILL need more poetasters to keep this series going, won’t I? Back to DS, however. The poem:

Old Friend

Tortured, killed, MIA? I recall you gentle
in years of teenage aches, giggles, wrong turns.
Now your letter spills the words I can’t hold
when I lift them again and again: two tours
in Vietnam, the MIG beaten, Top Gun School.
You’ve become the warrior I wanted to be,
and four fine children to host a coming age
of real tall tales with fists of good booze.
When did we meet last? Before my college rage
swarmed me to marches, placards. Who rules?
I enlisted to escape, my adding machine
quick, angry, those four years I did. We’re old
uniforms now. Life sucks. Who among us wasn’t fooled?

  Of the DWDs seen DS is the best- both in this poem & in general- although the unseen David Wojahn’s mediocre sonnets might make for a pitched battle with DS for the title of ‘The Only DWD That Does Not Totally Suck’. Still, this poem is not his best, & could have been written by any of the 100s of white male poets of his day who wrote poems about Vietnam. All the hallmark regrets are there, as well the end sentiment. Let’s give it a go:

Old Friend

When did we meet last? Before
the marches, placards?
I enlisted to escape.
We’re old uniforms now.
Who among us wasn’t fooled?

  All that has been cut is retained- but by implication- the marches & placards can only mean Vietnam, which can only mean regrets, etc. We need not be told life sucks- the speaker would not be engaging us in this way if he did not believe that. It’s the raison for the poem. I’m tempted to switch the placement of the last 2 lines in the rewrite, but I left it because it leaves a little invitation for the reader to imbue, rather than get the pat imagery of the penultimate line fed last. The tally:

Final Score: (1-100):

Dave Smith’s Old Friend: 55
TOP’s Old Friend: 65

Final Score: (1-100):

DWD’s Cumulative: 44.16
TOP’s Cumulative: 60.83

  But, enough with the gaucheness of numeric demarcation. I will not grade this ‘bonus doggerel’ from truly DWD David Gascoyne. Who was he? Read:

  David Gascoyne was born in 1916 in Harrow, Middlesex, and educated at Salisbury Cathedral School and the Regent Street Polytechnic, London. His first collection of poetry, Roman Balcony and Other Poems was published when he was sixteen, and in 1933 Cobden-Sanderson brought out his novel Opening Day. Both books are remarkable achievements for an adolescent, and they were followed by the equally striking poetry collections Man's Life Is This Meat (1936) and Holderlin's Madness (1938), which established his reputation as one of the most original voices of the 1930s. Gascoyne was among the earliest champions of Surrealism: in 1935 his A Short Survey of Surrealism was published, and in the next year he was one of the organisers of the London International Surrealist Exhibition. From this period, and during his time living in France in 1937-39, date his friendships with Dali, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Paul Eluard and Pierre Jean Jouve. As well as becoming internationally celebrated as a poet - especially after publication of his Poems 1937-1942, with its Graham Sutherland images - Gascoyne became highly regarded as a translator, notably of Holderlin and of the leading French Surrealists.

  After the war Gascoyne again lived in France (1947-48 and 1953-64), partly in Paris and partly in Provence. He consolidated his reputation with A Vagrant and Other Poems (1950), and with Night Thoughts (1956), commissioned by Douglas Cleverdon for BBC Radio. His Collected Poems, published by Oxford University Press in 1965, were reprinted six times. In 1994 Enitharmon published a substantial volume of Selected Poems.

  David Gascoyne lived with his wife, Judy, at Northwood on the Isle of Wight. In 1996 he was made a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture for his lifelong services to French Literature. He died November 25, 2001.


  A champion of Surrealism? Maybe. But not a Surrealist. Than God. But, still a bad poet. See:


The Cage


In the waking night
The forests have stopped growing
The shells are listening
The shadows in the pools turn grey
The pearls dissolve in the shadow
And I return to you


Your face is marked upon the clockface
My hands are beneath your hair
And if the time you mark sets free the birds
And if they fly away towards the forest
The hour will no longer be ours


Ours in the ornate birdcage
The brimming cup of water
The preface to the book
And all the clocks are ticking
All the dark rooms are moving
All the air's nerves are bare


Once flown
The feathered hour will not return
And I shall have gone away.


  Fairly dull. Think the ‘c’ word. Concision!:


The Cage


Your face is marked upon the clockface.
The hour will no longer be ours.
The brimming cup of water.
Dark rooms are moving.


Once flown
I shall have gone.


  Better, if only because the images ram against each other more directly, & because we end with a little less frilliness. Which puts me in mind of this plainspoken American tradition: Goodnight Dead White Davids. Goodnight Mary Ellen.

Return to TOP

Bookmark and Share