Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Who Killed Poetry?


I write as an occasional verse writer and constant poetry lover. Also one-time teacher of poetry in a writing course. Further, poetry reciter of great distinction according to my wife, though not given sufficient opportunity to display it. But what I am most concerned with is the state of poetry at present and the future it may or may not have.

And what exactly is its current state? Very sick, if you ask me. You see, I don’t believe
in free verse, too freely practiced in indiscriminate fashion as it nowadays is. I realize that mine may not be a majority position, but as a former film critic and persistent drama critic, I am used to being a minority voice.

What for me killed poetry is the reckless use of free verse, sometimes even written out as prose. But don’t get me wrong, I freely concede the rare but genuine ability of some to make poetry of free verse, and that in the theater, in good hands, it may prosper. My further point is that although many poetasters mistakenly think that anything in rhyme and meter is automatically poetry, and still more misguided souls think that their free verse is, as self-proclaimed, poetry. Most, though not
all, real poetry makes use of those wonderful devices, meter and rhyme.

Let me state who some of my favorite poets are. In Britain, Robert Graves, Louis MacNeice, Dylan Thomas, Edward Thomas, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, William Butler Yeats, Ernest Dowson, D. H. Lawrence, Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney,  Harold Monro, Hilaire Belloc (with his splendid “Tarantella” and books of verse for bad children). Also the unjustly neglected Humbert Wolfe, John Pudney and A. S. J. Tessimond.  In America, it is Richard Wilbur, E.E. Cummings, John Crowe Ransom, Ezra Pound, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Frost, James Dickey, James Wright, W,D. Snodgrass, plus an amazing array of women including Emily Dickinson, Elinor Wylie, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sara Teasdale, Louise Bogan and Elisabeth Bishop. Also the unjustly neglected Kenneth Patchen.

There may be others who do not leap to my mind; may they or their ghosts forgive me. Some of the above wrote very good free verse when it pleased them, but most wrote formal verse as a rule. Ah, yes, rules. Whence my preference for formal verse? It’s like tonal versus atonal music. You probably know Frost’s famous definition of free verse as playing tennis without a net. It is true that some types of constraint benefit poetry, namely rhyme and meter. I could also compare formal verse versus free verse with elegant conservative clothes versus the kind of play or gym clothes that most people nowadays wear even in places where one didn’t use to.

Let me add that formal verse has the advantage of being easier to memorize, and certainly more fit for public declamation such as many  Russian poets lustily go in for. Think also of how many English poems are memorized and on occasion recited thanks to those aide memoires, rhyme and meter. I recall how during my brief military stint in the wartime barracks, after lights out, I was able to recite and hold the attention with poems by James Joyce and Sara Teasdale (interesting collocation). But, I can’t repeat it often enough, doggerel is doggerel, no matter how much meter and rhyme it flaunts, whereas at its best, free verse can score, as I have scored with two masterpieces.

One is Kenneth Patchen’s “Do the Dead Know What Time It Is?” A barroom scene in which the poet fantasizes his dead mother being welcomed by God, while  a homeless girl approaches him and wants to be taken home by him, but he himself doesn’t own a place he could take her to. The mastery of the poem lies in the way the two story lines interplay to form something bigger than the sum of the two individually touching parts.

The other is Tennessee Williams’s “Life Story,” about two gay guys on a one-night stand in a hotel, each obviously craving solace in sex, but each getting mostly a self-indulgent monologue from the other telling his boring life story, about which the hearer couldn’t care less. It is both grotesque and pathetic, and it’s all there, down to the wheezing elevator just outside.

But two  poems don’t make a spring, not even if I throw in a third, James Dickey’s “Falling,” based on a true event, a stewardess falling out of an airplane. Let me however come now to my real subject: Who Killed Poetry?

It all begins with the ‘’good gray poet” Walt Whitman, somewhat fewer than at most twenty shades of gray. He more or less invented free verse, with French poets called vers-libristes, such as Gustave Kahn and Francis Viele-Griffin,  emulating him even before Americans like Vachel Lindsay and Carl Sandburg climbed on the bandwagon. Sometimes Walt does hit it, though, notably with a couple of anthology pieces , “O Captain! My Captain!’” and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” but there are not that many lilacs among all those endless wilted leaves of grass. Yet it was enough for his form—or formlessness—to engender countless stillborn—or boisterous—progeny still with us. Just open “Leaves of Grass” at random and read a few pieces, and see where it gets you.

And now here comes the major modern poetry killer, John Ashbery, hailed, worshiped and emulated the world over. I knew him, reader, back at Harvard, if only slightly. The closest I came was years later, when I ran into a common friend of ours who was off to visit John in the hospital and persuaded me to tag along. I forget what Ashbery was ailing from that had bedded him, as well as what may have been said in that threesome.

More perpendicularly, he proved amiable but distant the rare times we may have crossed paths, as amiable, I imagine, as when he smilingly murdered poetry. This September 4, it was his turn to check out, and the Times obituary began on the front page and continued inside, with a full page and pictures on both. The headline read “Pulitzer-Winning Poetic Voice Often Echoed , Never Matched,” and the glowing text by David Orr and Dinitia Smith quoted some of his poetry as follows:

All things seem mention of themselves
And the names which stem from them branch out to other referents.
Hugely spring exists again. The weigela does its dusty thing
In fire-hammered air. And garbage cans are heaved against
The railing as the tulips yawn and crack open and fall apart.
And today is Monday. Today’s lunch is: Spanish omelet, lettuce and tomato salad,
Jell-O, milk and cookies. Tomorrow’s: sloppy joe on bun,
Scalloped corn, stewed tomatoes, rice pudding and milk.
The names we stole don’t remove us:
We have moved on a little ahead of them
And now it is time to wait again.

Which is worse: the menu or the poetry? No wonder Ashbery has told us he would be writing a poem when getting a phone call for some gossip, whose content he would blithely insert into the poem. So what do we have here?

Of course all things seem mention of themselves, what else can they seem? But their names branch out to other things. How do they branch out and what are these other referents? So spring is hugely here, but is it so in space or in time?? And why the dust on the weigela, a deciduous shrub, and just what is its thing? Holding up the dust? And what is fire-hammered air? Perhaps hot air, of which this poem is full? And who heaves the garbage cans against what railing, and why? Is it the railing around the tulips? And why are they already shedding just when the weigela is doing its thing? Have they been whacked by the heavy garbage that perhaps was partly heaved over the railing?

And what is the significance of Monday and Monday’s meal?  Hardly digested, must we already also get the Tuesday menu? Not very appetizing. What names have we (we?) stolen and why? Stolen from whom?  And how could any names, stolen or not, remove us?  Then how could we have managed to move ahead,  past them, even a little? And how long will we have to wait for those slowpokes to catch up? Or for whom the hell else?

So this, you see, is great poetry. And what do reviewers say? In the Times Book Review, Steven Koch calls Ashbery’s work “a hushed, simultaneously incomprehensible and intelligent whisper with a weird pulsating rhythm that fluctuates like a wave between peaks of sharp clarity and watery droughts of obscurity and languor.” Try to visualize, never mind comprehend, that. How is the incomprehensible intelligent, and how is a watery drink (drought) made up of  obscurity and languor, two irreconcilables and neither of them potable. The reviewer as disciple and imitator?

Gibberish, I say. And on goes the obituary: “It is often easier to say what an Ashbery poem feels like than what it is about," i.e., it feels terrific but I have no idea what it means.  “And Mr. Ashbery relishes that uncertainty,” i.e., leading us by the nose. A British poet and reviewer, James Fenton, speaks of times when “I actually thought  I was going to burst into tears of boredom [does boredom produce bursting tears?]” and, while respecting the talent, “not the resort to sad shadows,” so shadows have feelings, too. These reviewers sure sound influenced by the reviewee.

Another poet, Louis Simpson, was not amused  “to see a poet sneering [apropo their concern with the Vietnam War] at the conscience of others,” to which Ashbery replied that he didn’t. But obscurity risks painful misunderstanding. He said he was “ always trying to get back to this [which?] mystical kingdom.” But don’t expect much lucidity from a poet on whom the atonal compositions of John Cage “had a lasting influence.” Also one according to whom “the ocean makes grasses, and in doing so refurbishes a lighthouse.” What some oceans will do!

Two days later, on September 6, the Times published an Op-Ed tribute to Ashbery by Rae Armantrout, a poet and professor. Ashbery’s poems, she writes , “are like involved daydreams from which, as with real dreams, there is no obvious exit.” Awakening, I would say, is a pretty obvious exit from both dreams and daydreams.  “Ashbery is the one poet who can somehow be simultaneously elegiac and playful, even goofy. . . . If you could find the impossible space where Franz Kafka overlapped with the Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, John would be sitting there happily grinning like the Cheshire cat.” Aren’t these words something that could come directly from an Ashbery poem? There “the action is always in transit, always hovering somewhere between the last line and the next in a sort of quantum superposition.”

Well, isn’t that space between lines exactly where John could sit and grin? A quantum superposition, to put it a bit more obscurely. And Rae quotes something that she avers could be a fitting epitaph.

I still remember
How they found you, after a dream, in your thimble hat,
Studious as a butterfly in a parking lot.
The road home was nicer then.
Dispersing each of of the Troubadours had something to say about  how charity
Had run its course and won, leaving you the ex-president
Of the event . . .

This could be an epitaph? It may be that the stuff would make more sense in context, if a context weird enough could be found. Who is wearing the thimble hat and is studious as a butterfly? And how studious can a butterfly get if it seeks enlightenment in a parking lot?  And who were these dispersing troubadours on a  nicer road? When and to what home? Each of them had something to say about what race that charity had won? Since when was charity a racer? And what race has a presidency, of which one can be left the ex-incumbent? Perhaps it would make more sense on a tombstone if only it could fit on it.

To quote Professor Armantrout [what a Wagnerian moniker!]: as also for Whitman, “nothing was too incongruous” for John. I could suggest something: one of his poems. Or what poetry has brcome,  nonsense being as good as death,

50 comments:

  1. In the US, it was The Beatniks in the 1950s( Ginsberg, Corso,Ferlinghetti, et al ). From there, the Black racists( James Baldwin, Leroi Jones, Maya Angelou,et al ), the Hippies, all Leftist Radical, all anti-Intellectual, all logorrhea and verbal diarrhea,and other sophistry,all mirages of substance, when the endgame was utmost nastiness and destruction - and succeeded they have.

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    1. This is unsparingly well-said.
      I agree and I invite you to read my poem about
      The great "Imamu" Amiri Baraka:

      https://connecthook.wordpress.com/mine/various/lines-for-imamu/

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    2. I loved this poem, Drew. Great job.

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    3. @Unknown, 'Howl' is a great poem. Dang it!


      Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo, [etc.}

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    4. James Baldwin, taken almost at random: "Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor."

      Imagine a fresh expression on one of history's most profound and intractable plights. One does not dismiss such a writer with snark. His was a powerful mind. And his stylus was sharply brilliant.
      And notice the capital-lettered "Leftist Radical" remark. Such dripping contempt. This is second-rate Chicago School dismissal -- and by the way where are the Chicago guys now? The only one who matters today is Bellow, and his politicals and even critical opinions were secondary, unimportant even to himself most likely.

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  2. William Butler Yeats ... Britain???
    Are you mad or just ignorant?

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    1. Hold on, Gary. You are largely right, but only up to a point. Of course Yeats should be called an Irish poet, but Shaw was Irish, too. And he was clearly British in some respects. Yeats perhaps less so. But a glance at wiki shows that until 1922 Ireland was part of the UK. Is this correct? And if so, can not someone be forgiven when speaking of Britain, especially as the "British Isles" can be said to include the Hibernian people and place.
      But I am half-saying and half-asking. I'm a Yank and don't want to get punched in the nose.

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    2. Technically correct, however this was due to military subjugation which is WHY there was a war that resulted in Irish independence in 1922.
      If you're going to call the Irish British then, in this context, Indians, Pakistanis and Americans are "British" too (as are Australians, Kenyans and Palestinians.

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    3. If Shaw was an Irishman, he was a very bad one. He left Dublin in 1876 and lived the rest of his life elsewhere, and remained a British subject until his death in 1950. Can you point to anything particularly "Irish" in his plays?

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  3. You disparage free verse but E.E.Cummings is one of your favorites???
    Are you ignorant or just mad?

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  4. As to the subject, you should look at Ashbery's poetry as a kind of Rorschach test.

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    1. My comments above made with tongue firmly in cheek. However, I will say that to call an Irishman British is fairly unforgivable.

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  5. Whitman was a genius, that is, one who some people like Simon just don’t get and never ever will. Just like some people don’t get and never ever will James Joyce. But it is not fair to blame Walt for a hack like Ashbery. The anthology pieces Simon mentioned are among Whitman’s worst poems. Try CROSSING BROOKLYN FERRY if you want one of his best.

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  6. Thoreau with all that

    The verse of Richard Brautigan
    Was fun, and so was his prose,
    A good compromise for those
    Who prefer the other or one.

    To get higher we held our breath,
    We felt we were on the brink
    Of something, but turned to drink,
    And Brautigan sipped to death.

    It was fun while it lasted but
    you have to grow up eventually
    and get a job and be responsible
    and start thinking of other people
    and quit being such a dick

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    1. "It was fun while it lasted but
      you have to grow up eventually
      and get a job and be responsible
      and start thinking of other people
      and quit being such a dick"

      Worthy of Don Marquis' archy!

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    2. Richard Brautigan popped into my head as a free verse poet I enjoyed. I read some online. Still sounds good. Don Marquis did not ring a bell. I remembered I have an anthology by Gene Shalit called "Laughing Matters." Turns out Don Marquis is included. I see the similarity.

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    3. Here's one by archy/Don Marquis pulled from the website devoted to D.M.'s work:

      THE LESSON OF THE MOTH

      By Don Marquis
      From “archy and mehitabel,” 1927

      i was talking to a moth
      the other evening
      he was trying to break into
      an electric light bulb
      and fry himself on the wires

      why do you fellows
      pull this stunt i asked him
      because it is the conventional
      thing for moths or why
      if that had been an uncovered
      candle instead of an electric
      light bulb you would
      now be a small unsightly cinder
      have you no sense

      plenty of it he answered
      but at times we get tired
      of using it
      we get bored with the routine
      and crave beauty
      and excitement
      fire is beautiful
      and we know that if we get
      too close it will kill us
      but what does that matter
      it is better to be happy
      for a moment
      and be burned up with beauty
      than to live a long time
      and be bored all the while
      so we wad all our life up
      into one little roll
      and then we shoot the roll
      that is what life is for
      it is better to be a part of beauty
      for one instant and then cease to
      exist than to exist forever
      and never be a part of beauty
      our attitude toward life
      is come easy go easy
      we are like human beings
      used to be before they became
      too civilized to enjoy themselves

      and before i could argue him
      out of his philosophy
      he went and immolated himself
      on a patent cigar lighter
      i do not agree with him
      myself i would rather have
      half the happiness and twice
      the longevity

      but at the same time i wish
      there was something i wanted
      as badly as he wanted to fry himself

      archy

      http://donmarquis.com/

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  7. RE: Who Killed Poetry?

    Octosyllabic rhyme was killed.
    Her epitaph I chisel here…
    so face the book and feed your twit;
    while I the rhythmic record clear.

    The sad remains of Lyric Wit
    are here interred—no more to rise
    (lest poets’ brains be forced to think
    and plummet from post-modern skies).

    You phonies scrolling Twitter-blink
    and scribblers with advanced degrees
    look up, and hearken to these words
    while feigning your conceited ease.

    The academic gallows-birds
    reviewing chap-books, high on fluff
    make darker the sepulchral gloom—
    as if it wasn’t dark enough.

    The verdict’s in and all assume,
    as measured meaning leaves the court,
    he meant to kill her (Poetry).
    Life sentences are written short.

    The killer, grinning artlessly
    in blank-verse handcuffs, void of rhyme,
    composes abstract lines: the dull
    memoirs of his poetic crime.

    The prosecution’s notes are full
    the case is made, the jury hears
    his guilt made evident, at least.
    The victim’s mother melts in tears

    He murdered her himself, the beast.
    then dumped her: a deflowered rose.
    His incoherent imagery
    dismembered her like slaughtered prose.

    She met her end lamentably;
    He did her in and cut her down
    thus shortening her metered day.
    (murderous, evil, free-verse clown!)

    Behold her grave—where grass turns hay
    as poets’ bones subside to dust;
    her soul with God to reconvene
    (or wander in bemused disgust).

    Her grave-site paints a pastoral scene,
    poetic fodder: life from death…
    and calves shall fatten near her tomb.
    Oh coward reader: take a breath !


    (Come visit: http://tinyurl.com/yatxq4hp )

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  8. Simon’s problem with free verse is much like his problem with abstract painting. But free verse did not eliminate other types of verse any more than abstract painting eliminated other types of painting. And are the definitions even clear? Some scholars view DOVER BEACH - a poem all including Simon consider seminal - as the first free-verse poem in the English language. Others see it otherwise. Anyway for every bad free-verse poem Simon names, I can name a good one. Such as:

    The Layers
    by Stanley Kunitz

    I have walked through many lives,
    some of them my own,
    and I am not who I was,
    though some principle of being
    abides, from which I struggle
    not to stray.
    When I look behind,
    as I am compelled to look
    before I can gather strength
    to proceed on my journey,
    I see the milestones dwindling
    toward the horizon
    and the slow fires trailing
    from the abandoned camp-sites,
    over which scavenger angels
    wheel on heavy wings.
    Oh, I have made myself a tribe
    out of my true affections,
    and my tribe is scattered!
    How shall the heart be reconciled
    to its feast of losses?
    In a rising wind
    the manic dust of my friends,
    those who fell along the way,
    bitterly stings my face.
    Yet I turn, I turn,
    exulting somewhat,
    with my will intact to go
    wherever I need to go,
    and every stone on the road
    precious to me.
    In my darkest night,
    when the moon was covered
    and I roamed through wreckage,
    a nimbus-clouded voice
    directed me:
    "Live in the layers,
    not on the litter."
    Though I lack the art
    to decipher it,
    no doubt the next chapter
    in my book of transformations
    is already written.
    I am not done with my changes.

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  9. I can't believe Simon forgot Auden.

    One Evening

    As I walked out one evening,
    Walking down Bristol Street,
    The crowds upon the pavement
    Were fields of harvest wheat.

    And down by the brimming river
    I heard a lover sing
    Under an arch of the railway:
    ‘Love has no ending.

    ‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
    Till China and Africa meet,
    And the river jumps over the mountain
    And the salmon sing in the street,

    ‘I’ll love you till the ocean
    Is folded and hung up to dry
    And the seven stars go squawking
    Like geese about the sky.

    ‘The years shall run like rabbits,
    For in my arms I hold
    The Flower of the Ages,
    And the first love of the world.'

    But all the clocks in the city
    Began to whirr and chime:
    ‘O let not Time deceive you,
    You cannot conquer Time.

    ‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
    Where Justice naked is,
    Time watches from the shadow
    And coughs when you would kiss.

    ‘In headaches and in worry
    Vaguely life leaks away,
    And Time will have his fancy
    To-morrow or to-day.

    ‘Into many a green valley
    Drifts the appalling snow;
    Time breaks the threaded dances
    And the diver’s brilliant bow.

    ‘O plunge your hands in water,
    Plunge them in up to the wrist;
    Stare, stare in the basin
    And wonder what you’ve missed.

    ‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
    The desert sighs in the bed,
    And the crack in the tea-cup opens
    A lane to the land of the dead.

    ‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
    And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
    And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
    And Jill goes down on her back.

    ‘O look, look in the mirror,
    O look in your distress:
    Life remains a blessing
    Although you cannot bless.

    ‘O stand, stand at the window
    As the tears scald and start;
    You shall love your crooked neighbour
    With your crooked heart.'

    It was late, late in the evening,
    The lovers they were gone;
    The clocks had ceased their chiming,
    And the deep river ran on.

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    1. This is one of my favorite poems !

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    2. Mine too. Auden is a heck of a poet. Notice his meter and rhyme are right on. He could do this entire poem in free verse, but dang gone it, ain't it better the way it is? Allow me to answer that for you >>> Yes.

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    3. Forgot Auden how? This is not free verse at all in the way that Simon meant it.

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    4. Simon listed his favorite poets. I'm 95% sure he just forgot Auden. The problem may be Simon listed his favorite American poets, and then his favorite British poets. Auden is a little bit of both. Maybe he was unsure which side of the pond to plant the great man.

      Wystan's ghost will surely forgive him.

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  10. To Simon, free verse is like to poetry what experimental film makers (David Lynch, etc) are to movies. God forbid if every film isn't exactly like 'Bicycle Thieves'.

    Free verse seems like it would be easier to write, however. Just about any schmuck can write free verse. Meter and rhyme take some thinking. You can't just rhyme "ball" and "fall" and get yourself a hunk of Shakespeare down on paper. You might have to think for a couple of hours to get that EXACT right word.

    Forced rhyme is worse than free verse, however. Yes, bad conventional poetry is worse than bad free verse.

    One of my favorites is Anne Sexton.

    Wanting to Die

    Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
    I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
    Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

    Even then I have nothing against life.
    I know well the grass blades you mention,
    the furniture you have placed under the sun.

    But suicides have a special language.
    Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
    They never ask why build.

    Twice I have so simply declared myself,
    have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
    have taken on his craft, his magic.

    In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
    warmer than oil or water,
    I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

    I did not think of my body at needle point.
    Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
    Suicides have already betrayed the body.

    Still-born, they don’t always die,
    but dazzled, they can’t forget a drug so sweet
    that even children would look on and smile.

    To thrust all that life under your tongue!--
    that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
    Death’s a sad Bone; bruised, you’d say,

    and yet she waits for me, year after year,
    to so delicately undo an old wound,
    to empty my breath from its bad prison.

    Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
    raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,
    leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

    leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
    something unsaid, the phone off the hook
    and the love, whatever it was, an infection.

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  11. "To a Progressive Poet"

    Your poems read as staggered prose;
    the rhythm of the words escapes you.
    One assumes, un-mused, you chose
    a free-verse prison to run into.

    You are modern. And it shows
    in lack of structure, meter, beat.
    Your emperor, set free of clothes
    meanders on unsteady feet

    exposed as naked, fending blows
    from anarch subjects bored to tears
    by cryptic, existential woes
    and dreary imagery. One hears

    within the verbiage you compose
    a load of godless free-form tripe.
    The lyrical ebb achieves new lows;
    the scent is somewhat over-ripe…

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. What wonders what JS removed. He is an honorable man, fully ready to take on all comers like Richard III on the ramparts (he was on the ramparts, wasn't he? Or was that MacBeth?). So it must have been something beneath contempt.

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    2. The comment was deleted by the "author". That would be Gary. Sorry for butting in here. None my bid-ness, really.

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    3. U.K., are you a Camille Paglia fan? Here's her take on Hugh Hefner and his works:

      http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/camille-paglia-hugh-hefners-legacy-trumps-masculinity-feminisms-sex-phobia-1044769

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    4. Hi, Nooch. I read it. I don't know much about her. I like the photos in Playboy, but I don't really read it. I'm also not up on social mores involving sex and modern society. She seems to know a lot. The whole Hefner in pajamas thing always seemed a little ridiculous to me. I'd like to go to the mansion for a party just to check it out. Maybe I'd get laid.

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    5. Thanks, U.K. I e-mailed Paglia at the U. of the Arts in Philly, where she works, and expressed interest in being her personal assistant, but she said she's never had a P.A. and never will. She's pretty much the only person I'd love to work for as a P.A. How about you, is there any person you'd love to work for as a P.A.?

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    6. Nooch, I'd have to go with a film director. Woody, Tarantino, Polanski. In the past it would have been Welles or Hitchcock.

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    7. As a P.A. for living directors, I'd choose to work for Bertolucci or Lina Wertmuller (better brush up on my Italian!). In the past, it would have been Ken Russell or Bryan Forbes or Peter Yates.

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    8. I've heard Lucas is a hard guy to work for, and I'd bet Spielberg is the same. Coppola would be my choice of the three.

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    9. Fran or Sophia? Sofia may be the better director. These days at least.

      And Russell would have been great to work for. Anyone who directed Ann Margret's "beans scene" from Tommy is okay by me.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChGxwRq3YcI

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    10. Yes, Francis or Sofia, exactly! I think I'd rather work for the old man, it would be a freaking trip just to be in his presence, just as it would be with Mel Brooks. Hey, P.A. for Mel Brooks, that's the gig I want!

      That Ann-Margret scene from 'Tommy' is legendary! (BTW, the Brits are more inclined than Yanks toward "sploshing" as an element in the S&M experience.) Here's a good popular press piece on Ann-Margret's ordeals during that scene:

      http://ew.com/article/2011/11/28/ken-russell-tommy-ann-margret/

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    11. U.K., speaking of Sofia, are you interested in her remake of 'The Beguiled'? I just viddied the 1971 original, and don't think it could be bettered.

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    12. I am. I've seen the first, but it's been awhile.I have to believe Eastwood would be hard to beat. Colin Farrell plays the role in the new one? I don't know. I loved him in that last one from the Greek guy. Name of Lothimos. Not Arbogast. Forgot the name of it. I'll get back to you.

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    13. Sorry, dude's name is Yorgos Lanthimos. Fantastic director. Did some good films with Farrell. The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Check him out.

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    14. I'll check those out. Last night I viddied 'Shivers' (1975), a/k/a 'They Came from Within', David Cronenberg's first feature-length film. It's a pretty good Joe Bob Briggs Drive-In type movie, and it's free to viddy if you have Amazon Prime:

      https://www.amazon.com/Shivers-Paul-Hampton/dp/B00O8NPCQW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508669315&sr=8-1&keywords=shivers+cronenberg

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    15. U.K., have you ever looked at the 1970 book 'The Film Director as Superstar' by Joseph Gelmis? It's a wonderful collection of interviews with a varied lot of filmmakers, to include Kubrick (discussing his plans to make a film on Napoleon), Polanski, Coppola, De Palma, Richard Lester, John Cassavetes, Arthur Penn, Norman Mailer, Andy Warhol, Robert Downey Sr., Jim McBride, Roger Corman et al.

      https://www.amazon.com/Film-Director-As-Superstar/dp/0385022298/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1508687122&sr=1-1&keywords=the+film+director+as+superstar

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  13. Going Selectric

    Poetry by whom was killed
    And to whom was it billed
    The suspects are profuse
    The first one we accuse
    Who let the sheaves amass
    Lying with leaves of grass

    Then those who further toke it
    The grass began to smoke it
    Wolfing each other's spit
    Every howl recording it
    Tapping the ancient negro
    Stroking their modern ego

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  14. I did, indeed, delete my comment above, which was just an off the cuff poem in defense of John Ashbery. Then I decided to let the man rest in peace.

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  15. Nooch, the reply button isn't working for me today.

    Love Shivers. I have it in Uncle Kirky's Top 100 films of all time (#98). In fact, I have four Cronenberg films in my Top 100. The Brood (#100), History of Violence (#72), and Maps to the Stars (#49). He has three other films in UK's "honorable Mentions" as well. I consider him a top twenty director of all time.

    And, I have the book you're talking about. Excellent.

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    Replies
    1. I love 'The Brood', after 'Dead Ringers' it's my fave Cronenberg of what I've so far seen. Samantha Eggar said she got the idea of licking the infant brood-child's head from her girlhood days on the farm, seeing cows do it to newborn calves.

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  16. Simply pointing to an example, here or there, where "free Verse" works doesn't disprove John Simon's point. Free verse, like Abstract painting, or atonal music, is an artistic dead end. That some Genius - now and then -has made it work, doesn't obviate the main point. Artistic Genius can make anything work, one time.

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  17. One last comment. Poetry, among average educated college educated Americans is dead. I don't know anyone who cares, and not 1 person in a 100 can tell you who the Nobel Prize winners in poetry were in the last 50 years. Probably the "beat poets" like Ginsberg or maybe Thomas Dylan were the last ones anyone in the General public cared about.

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