This Old Poem #87:
John Amen’s Ghosts Of Spring
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 3/20/04

  A few months ago a fan of Cosmoetica’s emailed me that he had found an interesting website that people could review other sites on. It also gave relative rankings of sites that your browser would be on. I was delighted to find out that 1) Cosmoetica has made its way into the top 150,000 sites out there- quite a feat for a site with no Academic connections nor commercial ambitions. That only a dozen or more of the most well-funded poetry websites (dependent upon orgs & grant money) get more hits & readership than Cosmoetica is a surprising testament to the site’s entertainment & education value. But what surprised me even more than the upsurge in readership over the last year (both raw & relative to other poetry sites) was the fact that 2) Cosmoetica has been getting almost across the board 5 out of 5 star ratings while many of the other poetry sites get 1 or 2 (at best). Either Cosmo has a more devoted readership, or the reading public has a real desire for well-written poetry & essays that are not being met by the institutional mags & websites.
  Nonetheless, it was pleasing to find some of the more ribald comments that abounded about other websites. 1 such owner of terrible poetry websites is a sad sack named John Amen. Jessica 1st stumbled across him as she was emailing around her poems to magazines a couple of years ago. JA is a classic literary rectal prober- his poetry sucks, but he exchanges publication credits with other poetasters, just so he can puff up his resumé. In virtually every magazine run by a poet he publishes you will find a JA ‘poem’. I’m tempted to call this essay ‘The 1000 Sticky Fingers of John Amen’. The utter quid pro quo of it all is so manifestly- shall I say- ‘poopy’ that it’s almost- no, it is- laughable.
  JA has his own personal website- where readers will find out all about him:

  John Amen is a writer, musician, and artist. His poetry and prose have appeared in numerous publications, and he was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His first collection of poetry, Christening the Dancer, was released by Uccelli Press in February 2003. Five poems from this collection ("Ghosts of Spring," "The Ontology of Dying," "A Calling," "Christening the Dancer," and "After the Exhaustion") are included in the Books & Writings section of this site.
  Amen has traveled widely as a musician, both with a band and as a solo act, and has released three musical recordings: Wild but Willing, Eat Mine, and Four Forty Four. Another recording is scheduled for release in mid 2003. Three songs are included in the Background Audio Player (above) and can be heard by downloading the Flash Plug-in.
  John Amen is an artist, working primarily with acrylics on canvas. Samples of his work can be viewed in the Art Gallery section of this site.

  Don’t be impressed by his Prize List. Anyone (literally) can be nominated for a Pushcart Prize. As for his other art ventures- I guess you could say he’s better at them then poetry, but then lice beat mites, no? The actual website where JA does most of his ass-sucking is his own little website- which to my surprise Cosmoetica dwarfs- Even better were some of the comments by readers who reviewed the site. Here are 2: someone calling themselves Wilde (as in Oscar), on 11/8/03, gave both sites 1 out of 5 stars, titled the review ‘Amen’ & stated ‘is the modern Bosie- jeesh!’. Whether this was meant to reflect JA’s lack of poetic skill, sexual tastes, or both, I don’t know- but then JA does have photos out in which he so self-consciously apes Henry Miller in attire it is utterly bizarre. 6 days earlier someone named Analsniffer also gave JA’s sites 1 star out of 5, titled the review ‘Radio’ (as in the recent film about a black retard), & opined ‘Amen/Radio: separated at birth?’ How heartening it is to see that not all the people online are idiots along the lines of the many assholes who have harassed me & other Cosmoetica contributors over the years.
  Of course, JA is a formidable incompetent. Not only does he fail as an artist, but he bombs as an editor of his own Pedestal magazine as well. JA once refused to publish 1 of Jessica’s best sonnets & instead chooses to publish doggerel. Don’t believe me? Let’s do a comparison of 1 of JA’s rejects from Jess, & a poem he decided to publish:

In the Tightness of my Sonnet  

Rings the stillness of my verse. That, or worse,
is a mind-chanted intersperse
of lakeshore sprays that mock and disperse
from sounding scenes that wend toward song, circulating inverse
proportions. Thick diction is how one reaches what is coerced
and swift upon this planet; while some adverse
parallel’s dwelling amongst assured verse
energizes the fifty or one hundred or one hundred and fifty years that reimburse
the mild waves from where I walk. No differently, I and you submerse
underfoot where ebbs rustle and rehearse
in poised frolic. While leaves glitter in drifts and immerse
scarcely elsewhere, the seizing globe gathers in diverse
fury, points as the mind points to poetry. Once properties traverse
into me, the mind we become, as I am, is universe.

Copyright Ó by Jessica Schneider



Don't paint me in a corner, I told him,
the sum of its bricks and mortar:

I want to be set
in foliage--
jewelweed on one side
nettles on the other--

between the toxin
and its remedy.

I posed--
a marble sculpture
of myself,

but he painted me
as a mermaid
with moonstone eyes

and fins

like kelp, streamers
flowing behind;


then he placed

that wild woman-fish
in a bathtub.

He excluded my blemishes
when he painted my picture,
and I want to know why.

If I were an artist,
I'd sketch him
in black and white,

the way he looked when he first
read "fuck me hard"
in one of my poems.


Copyright Ó by Andrea Defoe


  Jess’s is slick & musical, AD’s is puerile & trite, Jess’s is- oh, fuck it! If you do not see what a moron JA is by this selection then read his own crap:

Ghosts of Spring

Each year kudzu rampages,
wielding its spear of breath,
its infallible verse,
the rattle of my elders.


In the heart of the rose,
my mother dies,
each unfurled petal
cradling in its red palm
her last muffled scream.


My father convulses
in the stamen of the iris.


The monster of May
shakes its fragile crib,
learns to walk
in the gauntlet of the dead.

  I underlined the clichés of stanza 2, the whole arc of the poem is bathetic & clichéd, & the title is terrible. What more does the poem add to the title? Is there a blessed thing in the poem’s body that plays 1 iota off of the title? No. This is- in short- an almost archetypal workshop poem. Yet, JA makes much of the fact that this garbage was first published in 2River View. They should be shot; embarrassed, then shot; no, urinated upon, embarrassed, then shot; or- all 3 in any order will suffice. A major strip-down is needed

The Stamen Of The Iris

Each year kudzu rampages,
wielding its spear of breath,
its infallible verse,
in the heart of her

last muffled scream.


My father convulses
in the monster of May
shaking its gauntlet.

  Instead of the trite invocation of the dead in the original the title now takes on some heft. Stamens are the male reproductive parts of flowers, so we now have a masculine element for the rampage. The mother is not just a women but, perhaps, a symbol of nature. As we leave nature assaulted we then end with the stamen/father transformed by reproduction & fearing the future. Is this a particularly deep poem? No. But, at least with minimal snipping we’ve turned the Sahara into- well, Death Valley. But that’s a little improvement, no?  

Final Score: (1-100):

John Amen’s Ghosts Of Spring: 30
TOP’s The Stamen Of The Iris:  45

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